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Islamic Personalities ( 6 May 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Allama Iqbal: Great Poet and Philosopher of Islam



By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

07 May 2014

Pakistanis and a large number of Muslims from other countries recently commemorated the 76th death anniversary of Pakistan’s thinker, poet and philosopher Dr. Allama Mohammad Iqbal. He was widely known as the “Poet of the East” and the “Philosopher of Islam.” Allama Iqbal is also famous as the architect of the two-nation theory upon which the state of Pakistan was founded.

According to some people, it was Iqbal who first coined the name Pakistan but others believe that it was Choudhry Rahmat Ali and his classmates at Oxford University who were the first to use the name. At any rate, there is no doubt that it was Iqbal who publicized the name and gave it a philosophic touch. He was successful in convincing Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and other Muslim leaders in the Indian Subcontinent to endorse this name for the new state. However, the name only received final approval two years after Iqbal’s death when the leaders of the Muslim League took a historic decision at the party’s annual conference held in Lahore in 1940. The conference passed the Pakistan Resolution or the Lahore Resolution.

The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) recently organized a symposium in Jeddah to mark this historic day as well as to commemorate the death anniversary of Allama Iqbal, a versatile genius who enriched poetry with his poems and philosophy with his philosophic ideals. Senior politicians considered him to be a great politician, and lawyers called him a legal expert. Speakers at the function paid rich tribute to Allama Iqbal by recalling his remarkable achievements, literary works, activities and positions on major issues. Some poets recited poems eulogizing him while others chose to recite his selected poems.

The participants also used the opportunity to speak about the pathetic condition of Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh and called for urgent steps to repatriate and rehabilitate them in Pakistan. They reemphasized that there is no justification for leaving these people to languish in squalid camps, where they have been fighting hunger, poverty and disease for more than four decades.

The organizers invited me to address the gathering as the guest of honor. In my speech, I stressed the point that Allama Iqbal is the great pride not only of Pakistan but also of the entire Islamic Ummah. I drew attention to the greatness of his poem, titled “Shikwa Jawabe Shikwa”, which was translated into Arabic by the famous Egyptian poet Al-Sawi Shaalan, and was sung by the renowned Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum. According to some literary critics, it is one of the most beautiful poems in the world of poetry.

I also spoke about the role of Allama Iqbal in visualizing the two-nation theory from which the Muslim state of Pakistan came into being.  I asked the audience: “If Allama Iqbal was alive today, would he have accepted the plight of patriotic Pakistanis stranded in Bangladeshi camps for over 40 years? I am sure he would not have accepted it.”

The stranded Pakistanis have twice made great sacrifices. Firstly, when they abandoned their wealth, property, friends and relatives in India and migrated to East Pakistan during the partition of the Subcontinent, and secondly when they stood with the Pakistan army to protect the unity of Pakistan during the period of secession of East Pakistan and formation of the new state of Bangladesh. As a result of their position against secession, they were subjected to killing, looting and displacement. They were forced to languish in squalid and overcrowded refugee camps in anticipation of their repatriation to Pakistan.

I reiterated that it is the duty of the Pakistan government and nation to resolve the problems of these people, and only then will the soul of Iqbal rest in peace while we are commemorating his death anniversary. “Now that Nawaz Sharif has become prime minister for the third time with Allah’s blessing, he must address this issue as a matter of priority. I am sure Allah will definitely reward him and his team for this noble work.”

Returning to Allama Iqbal, I think it is essential to shed some light on various aspects of his personality, activities and achievements. Born in Sialkot in the Punjab province of Pakistan, Allama Iqbal received his primary education there studying the Arabic and Persian languages apart from Urdu. He then moved to Europe where he studied philosophy in Germany and law in Britain. He later returned to the then undivided India. He was appointed professor of philosophy at the Government College of Lahore, and at the same time, he began practicing law at the courts in Lahore. Allama Iqbal was recognized as an inspiring poet, prominent philosopher, successful lawyer and an experienced politician.

In the 120-line poem “Shikwa”, which was composed in 1909, the poet complains to Almighty Allah about the plight of Muslims after the end of Muslim rule that lasted for several centuries in the Subcontinent. Boldness and fearlessness are the underlying tone of the poem and that infuriated some scholars who protested against Allama Iqbal, to the extent of labeling him as infidel. This prompted him to compose another poem titled “Jawab Shikwa” (Reply to the complaints) in the year 1913. In the 140-line poem, Allama Iqbal explained that Muslims are responsible for their pathetic condition. This forced scholars to change their opinion and come forward seeking reconciliation. The popular Arab song “Hadeeth Arrouh” (the talk of the soul) was sung by Umm Kulthum, who took the words of this song from “Shikwa Jawabe Shikwa.”

Famous Arab musician Riyad Al-Sunbati also composed a song based on this poem and he sung it together with a group of 20 singers. It became one of the most famous songs of the Arab world with its unique religious and historic features. People used to listen to it during religious occasions like the holy month of Ramadan and the Haj season.

There is no doubt that this poem contributed tremendously to the creation of the state of Pakistan as well as to its history, art and literature. Allama Iqbal was well-known for his prominent role in boosting the motivation of Muslims, reminding them of their history and encouraging them to take pride in it.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. Source: