By Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam
02 June, 2015
Poet of Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal is popularly known for his Philosophy of Khudi (ego) and his symbol of Falcon for a true Muslim. His ideas and philosophy had brought about a revolution in the Muslim literary and academic circles in the twentieth century.
He was a poet who had a great influence on the politics of his own time as his religio-political ideas influenced the Muslim psyche of not only the twentieth century but also of the world Muslim community of the next generation. He wanted the reawakening of the Muslim community as after his deep study of the world philosophy and literature, he had come to the conclusion that Sufism, particularly the branch of Sufism called Wahdat ul Wujud (Unity of existence) had rendered great damage to the Muslim psyche instilling into them a sense of inaction, aversion to the world and despair. He felt that Sufism encourages man to become aloof from the world and his society seeking only union with God. Because of this, he thought, Muslims had lost their identity as a nation and community and had become subjugated by the powerful nations of the world. They had lost their sense of dignity and self-respect or ego.
To reawaken the feeling of dignity and ego among the community, he formed the philosophy of Khudi or ego and said that a true Muslim is similar to the falcon in nature. The concept of Khudi that he propounded advocated nourishing and developing Khudi or ego instead of annihilating it as is prescribed in the philosophy of Wahdat ul Wujud. In this branch of Sufism widely practiced in India and Iran, the Sufis strive to annihilate the sense of his own existence and being in order to unite with the Supreme Being.
The philosophy believes that Man and all the other manifestations of the world and Universe are all Maya (illusion) and a reflection of the Absolute Being called God. So by eliminating his own existence, he can unite with the Supreme Being. According to Iqbal, if man negates his own being, the question of action does not arise. Therefore, man becomes a walking dead body. That’s why he advocated that Khudi was actually developing man’s manhood on the lines of Islamic teachings so that he can attain a distinct identity in the world and can contribute to the growth of humanity and to the construction of a world envisaged by the Quran.
Experts on Iqbal, after comprehensive research on his thoughts and ideas present in his poetry and prose have drawn the conclusion that Iqbal was influenced by Nietzsche, Fichte, Rumi, Bergson and other European and Eastern philosophers. However, surprisingly they left out one name either out of ignorance or deliberately of the great Pak-Afghan poet, warrior and thinker Khushhal Khan Khattak who influenced Iqbal in the formation of his ideas and philosophy. Khushhal Khan Khattak was a part of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s sultanate and belonged to a family of warriors. His father Shahbaz Khan was also associated with the court of Akbar the Great. Khushhal Khan was a great Pashto poet whose ideas and philosophy reverberate so distinctly in the poetry of Iqbal that one can easily discern the similarities and resemblances in the poetry of both in terms of ideas and style and diction. Here are the translations of some of his couplets:
This is the fault of your short-sightedness
There are other worlds beyond the horizon
Expand further your sight and you will see
There are many more earths and heavens
Harken, o Man older than the heavens
In the dust of wisdom, there are many caravans
If you lose Khudi, you will also lose God
If you reclaim Khudi, you are not separated from God
Now we present English translations of Iqbal’s couplets saying almost the same thing:
There are many more worlds beyond the stars
There are many more trials and tests in the path of love
You are a falcon destined to fly higher
You have newer heavens to reach for before you
(Sitaron Se Aagey Jahan Aur Bhi Hain
Abhi Ishq Ke Imtehan Aur Bhi Hain)
Khushhal Khan belonged to the present day Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas. He was formerly associated with the court of Shahjahan but during the reign of Aurangzeb his relations with the emperor soured and due to some misunderstanding or conspiracy, Aurangzeb incarcerated him for two and a half years. This incarceration which he said was totally unjustified as he had done nothing wrong had turned him against the Mughals. After his release he became a bitter enemy of the Mughals and left the court of Mughals for good to free Afghanistan from the Mughals. He formed his own army and defeated the Mughal army in many combats. Finally, Aurangzeb himself took the lead against him and fought and defeated Khushhal Khan. Thereafter, Aurangzab played diplomacy and realpolitik to break the unity of Afghans by luring them with wealth, posts and jagirs. This caused split in Khushhal Khan’s ranks and even his own son became his rival. This disappointed Khushhal Khan in his old age and finally he died leaving the will that his grave should be made at such a place where even the dust of the feet of Mughal soldiers did not reach. This was the height of his hatred for the Mughals. He says,
When my folk bury me
They should keep my will in mind
They should dig my grave at a place
Which is safe from the Mughal soldiers
Iqbal was influenced by the ideas of Khushhal Khan. This is not a mere a guess but Iqbal himself has expressed his awareness of Khushhal Khan’s poetry in his collection of poetry, Bal-e-Jibril. In this book he has written a poem titled ‘Khushhal Khan ke afkar’ (Khushhal Khan’s views) In which he echoed the views of Khushhal Khan expressed in the above mentioned couplet. Iqbal writes:
My friend, let me speak my heart
Khushhal Khan likes a grave
Where the winds of the mountains
Cannot bring the dust of the feet of Mughal soldiers
Iqbal has also written a note below this poem:
“Khushhal Khan was a famous nationalist poet of Pastho language who formed an army of Afghan tribals in the border areas to free Afghanistan from the Mughals. Among the tribals only the Afridis remained with him till the end. In 1862, the English translation of his 100 poems was published from London.”
In fact, it was Iqbal who introduced Khushhal Khan to the Urdu world.
During his stay in Europe, Iqbal had read the English translation of Khushhal Khan’s poems and was very impressed by his poetic thought because Khushhal was also more or less bearer of the same ideas that were developing in Iqbal’s mind. Through his poetry Khushhal preaches continuous struggle and prefers the life of a dervish like that of a falcon who does not build a nest and does not feed on others’ prey. In many of his couplets, he expresses his ideas and philosophy which later reverberate in the poetry of Iqbal:
A true man is one who remains engaged in struggle
He does not know what luxury and comfort is
Music is associated with the nightingale
The falcon is completely averse to it.
He also says:
Deeds are the essence of life
Deeds and efforts are the dignity of life
Amal Se Zindagi Banti Hai Jannat Bhi Jahannam Bhi
Ye Khaki Apni Fitrat Me Na Nuri Hai Na Nari Hai
(It is the deeds that make the heaven and the hell
In essence man is neither light nor soil.)
The word Khudi has been used by Urdu poets only in the context of the philosophy of Wahdatul Wujud. All the major poets of Urdu like Wali, Dard, Sauda etc use the word in the same context. They speak of annihilating the khudi (Self) in order to unite with the Supreme Being. Mirza Ghalib is in the top league of the poets having faith in this philosophy. But contrary to it, Iqbal has used the word in totally different meaning. He believes that man can attain the highest spiritual realization not by annihilating his self but by nourishing and developing his self on Islamic foundations. There are many couplets of Iqbal which give out this message. One such famous couplet is this:
Khudi Ko Kar Buland Itna Ke Har Taqdeer Se Pehle
Khuda Bande Se Khud Puchey Bata Teri Raza Kya Hai
Now we come to Khushhal Khan’s couplet on Khudi already quoted above. The Urdu translation of the couplet reads thus:
Khudi Ko Khoya To Phir Jaan Le Khuda Bhi Nahi
Khudi Ko Paya To Us Zaat Se Juda Bhi Nahin
In this couplet the same meaning of Khudi has been taken which later Iqbal took. That is, Khushhal also advocates nourishing the khudi like Iqbal and not annihilating the khudi like the Urdu sufis. Therefore, we can say that Iqbal’s idea of Khudi is inspired by the idea of khudi of Khushhal Khan which he presented in the 17th century.
Probably, Khushhal was the first poet in the Indian subcontinent to use the word Khudi in his poetry. Wali the first Urdu poet with his collection of poetry used the word but in the context of Wahdat ul Wujud and while speaking of annihilating the ego. Khushhal Khan was his predecessor. Khushhal Khan died in 1689 while Wali was born in 1667. Therefore, it can rightly be said that Khushhal Khan used the word Khudi in the 17th century in the same context Iqbal used it in the twentieth century.
The concept of Mard-e-Momin (ideal man) Iqbal presented in his poetry was also inspired by similar concepts presented by other philosophers. In his article, “Khushhal’s concept of an ideal man”, Niaz Muhammad Ajiz writes:
“Man philosophers have visualized their own concepts of an ideal man.In this regard Al Jibillis’s “Perfect Man”, Iqbal’s “Mard-e-Momin” and Nietzche’s “Superman” are quite famous.”
He further writes:
“Al-Jibilli in his book “Perfect Man” presented the concept of a perfect man. He presented his concept in the light of Islamic Teachings. That is why in some qualities his perfect man is close to Iqbal’s Perfect Man. But still his image is not as clear as Iqbal’s Mard-e-Mo’mi, Khushal Khan Khattak is also one of these philosophers who also had a concept of an ideal man whom he called Nangyal.”
Khushal’s Ideal Man is Nangyal. His concept of Ideal Man has been developed in the light of Islamic teachings. This is why Iqbal’s Mard-e- Momin is close to Khushal’s Nangyal. His Mard-e-Momin covers all the qualities of Khushal’s Nangyal but as a whole, Khushal’s Nangyal is brimmed with the spirit of Nang (Honour), and due to this quality, he called his ideal Man Nangyal.”
Pashto poet and writer Ajmal Khan Khattak also writes about Iqbal’s Khudi and Shahin and Khushhal’s Nangyal:
“Khushal Khan Khattak for the first time introduced the concept of perfect man, Khudi or Selfness and used the symbol of Shaheen for his ideal man. Dr.MuhammadIqbal, it appears, has taken over these ideas from him and put it in the modern Urdu poetry.”
Khushhal Khan belonged to a tribal mountainous area and so observed the nature and life of falcon birds very closely. He even wrote a book called Baz Nama on the life, nature, and food habits etc of falcons or Shahin in the form of a poem. Iqbal seems to have learnt about the nature and food habits of his Shahin from this book. Khushhal Khan’s father’s name was Shahbaz Khan and Khushhal named one of his sons Baz (falcon). This speaks of his liking of the bird.
Khushhal Khan uses the word Baz, Shahbaz and Shahin in his poetry more often. His poetic thought revolves round this bird. He calls himself Shahin in one of his couplets. Also, while expressing romantic ideas too, he uses the simile of falcon to describe the killing beauty of his beloved. While describing the victory of his young soldiers over the army of Aurangzeb he calls his soldiers Shahbaz and Shahin.
Iqbal has used Shahin as the symbol of his ideal man (Mard-e-Momin) but this symbol was used before him by Khushhal Khan for his ideal man or Nangyal.
Therefore, as Iqbal was inspired and influenced by European, Arab and Iranian poets and philosophers in during the formation of his poetic ideas, he also was influenced by the ideas of the great Pashto poet Khushhal Khan. However, though a lot or research has been conducted on the intellectual sources of Iqbal’s thought, much research remains to be done on the intellectual and ideological proximity of Iqbal and Khushhal.
Aftab Ahmad is a columnist for New Age Islam. He has been studying the Holy Quran for some time.