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Old Thursday, August 28, 2008
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Default Allama Mohammad Iqbal

Allama Mohammad Iqbal

Dr. Mohammad Iqbal, the Islamic poet-philosopher who played such a vital role in the birth of Pakistan, was the first to advocate the formation of independent Muslim state for the subcontinent. In 1930, in his capacity as President of the Muslim League, Iqbal was the first to use a political platform to launch the concept of a separate homeland for Muslims. We have researched, selected, and annotated a few links below for you to learn more this profound thinker:

Allama Iqbal's Biography


Iqbal was born in the Punjab on February 22, 1873. His ancestors, who were Kashmiri Brahmins, had embraced Islam two hundred years earlier. Iqbal’s own father was a devout Muslim with Sufistic bent of mind.

Primary Education

He received his early education in Sialkot. After passing the entrance examination, he joined Intermediary College. Mir Hassan, a great oriental scholar, had a special aptitude for imparting his own literary taste and to his students. Under his influence, Iqbal was drawn towards Islamic studies, which he regarded to be an outstanding favor that he could not forget it all his life.

Higher Education

Passing on to the Government College of Lahore, Iqbal did his graduation with English Literature, Philosophy and Arabic as his subjects. At the college he met Prof. Arnold and Sir Abdul Qadir. Iqbal’s poem, Chand (moon) and other early poems appeared in the journal (which belonged to Sir Abdul Qadir) in 1901 and were acclaimed by critics as cutting a new path in Urdu poetry.

It did not take him long to win recognition as a rising star on the firmament of Urdu literature.

In the mean time he had done his MA in Philosophy and was appointed as a Lecturer in History, Philosophy and Political science at Oriental College, Lahore. He then moved to Government College to teach Philosophy and English Literature.

Wherever Iqbal worked or thought his versatility and scholarship made a deep impression on those around him.

In Europe

Iqbal proceeded to Europe for higher studies in 1905 and stayed there for three years. He took the Honors Degree in Philosophy and taught Arabic at the Cambridge University in the absence of Prof. Arnold. From England, he went to Germany to do his doctorate in Philosophy from Munich and then returned to London to qualify for the bar. He also served as a teacher in the London school of Commerce and passed the Honors Examination in Economics and Political Science. During his stay in Europe Iqbal not only read voraciously but also wrote and lectured on Islamic subjects which added to his popularity and fame in literary circles.

Back in India

Iqbal returned to India in 1908. The poet had won all these academic laurels by the time he was 32 or 33. He practiced as a lawyer from 1908 to 1934, when ill health compelled him to give up his practice. In fact, his heart was not in it and he devoted more time to philosophy and literature than to legal profession.

He attended the meetings of Anjuman Himayat-I-Islam regularly at Lahore. The epoch making poems, Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa, which he read out in the annual convention of it one year after another, sparkled with the glow of his genius and made him immensely popular. They became the national songs of Millet.

Iqbal’s other poems Tarana-e-Hind (The Indian anthem) and Tarana-e-Milli (the Muslim Anthem) also became very popular among masses and used to be sung as symbols of National or Muslim identity at public meetings.

The spirit of Change

The Balkan wars and the Battle of Tripoli, in 1910, shook Iqbal powerfully and inflicted a deep wound upon his heart. In his mood of anger and frustration, he wrote a number of stirring poems, which together with portraying the anguish of Muslims were severely critical of the West.

The spirit of change is evident in poems like Bilad-e-Islamia (the lands of Islam), Wataniat (Nationalism), Muslim, Fatima Bint Abdullah (who was killed in the siege of Cyrainca, Siddiq, Bilal, Tahzib-e-Hazir (Modern civilization) and Huzoor-e-Risalat Maab Mein (in the presence of Sacred Prophet).

In these poems, Iqbal deplores the attitude of Muslim leaders who lay a claim to Islamic leadership and yet are devoid of a genuine spiritual attachment to the blessed Prophet.

The turning point in Iqbal’s Life

Iqbal was shaken by the tragic events of World War I and the disaster the Muslims had to face. The genius had passed through the formative period. He had attained maturity as a poet, thinker, seer and crusader who could read the signs of tomorrow in the happenings of today, make predictions, present hard facts and unravel abstruse truths through the medium of poetry and ignite the flame of faith, Selfhood and courage by his own intensity of feeling and force of expression. Khizr-e-Raah (The Guide) occupies the place of pride among the poems he wrote during this period. Bang-e-Dara (The caravan bell) published in 1929 has held a place of honor in Urdu poetry and world poetry.

Iqbal preferred Persian for poetic expression because its circle was wider than that of Urdu in Muslim India. His Persian works, Asrar-e-khudi (Secrets of the self), Rumuz-e-Bekhudi (Mysteries of Selflessness), Payam-e-Mashriq (Message of the East), Javed Nama (The Song of Eternity) belong to the same period of his life. And so is Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam, which was extensively appreciated and translated into many languages. Academies were set up in Italy and Germany for the study of Iqbal’s poetry and philosophy.


In 1927 the poet was elected to the Punjab Legislative assembly. In 1930, he was elected to preside over at the annual session of Muslim League. In his presidential address at Allahabad, Iqbal for the first time introduced the idea of Pakistan. In 1930-31, he attended the Round Table conference, which met in London to frame a constitution for India.

In Spain

While in England, Iqbal accepted the hospitality of Spain. He also went to Cordoba and had the distinction of being the first Muslim to offer prayers at its historical mosque after the exile of Moors. Memories of the past glory of Arabs and their 800-year rule over Spain were revived in his mind and his emotions were aroused by what he saw.

Meeting with Mussolini

In Italy Iqbal was received by Mussolini who had read some of his works and was aquatinted with his philosophy. They had long meetings and talked freely to each other.

The Universities of Cambridge, Rome and Madrid and the Roman Royal society organized meetings in his honor. On his way back he also went to Jerusalem to attend the International Conference of Motamar-i-Isalami.

In Afghanistan

At the invitation of King Nadir Shah, Iqbal visited Afghanistan in 1932. The king received the poet with great honor and met hi privately, as well during which he laid bare his heart. The two talked and wept.

Iqbal’s Death

The last phase of Iqbal’s life was embittered with constant illness. But as regards his creative activities this product was most productive. He kept in touch with every question of the day and continued composing beautiful verses.

A few minutes before his death he recited these touching lines:

The departed melody may return or not!

The zephyr from Hijaz may blow again or not!

The days of this Faqir has come to an end,

Another seer may come or not!

Although Iqbal’s was long and protracted the end was sudden and verypeaceful. He breathed his last in the early hours of April 21, 1938, in the arms of his old and devoted servant, leaving behind a host of mourners all over the Islamic world. There was a faint smile playing on his lips, which irresistibly reminded one of the last criterions, which he laid down for a truthful Muslim.

I tell you the sign of a Mumin-

When death comes there is smile on his lips.

Note: The above biography is a summarized version from Glory of Iqbal by Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi


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Mohammad Iqbal: A Voice of His People

As a poet Iqbal represented in perhaps the most sensitive manner, the collective consciousness of his people during a certain period of their history. He was able to do so because he maintained a constant and direct contact with his audience at all levels. In the old days the institution of the 'Mushaira' helped the poet to maintain such a contact. But the 'Mushaira' was an exclusive club of the literary and the social elite. By the time Iqbal appeared on the seene poetry was no longer the monopoly of a tiny minority. Iqbal was not a poet of the 'Mushaira'. He was instead a poet of the 'Jalsa'. His participation in the annual general meeting of the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam-a great forum for all the eminent Muslims of those day-was a regular feature for many years His audience was not the social elite but the common folks. Unlike the modern Urdu poet who followed him, Iqbal was not writing for a public he did not know, nor was his public listening to a poet it did not understand. There was excellent rapport between Iqbal and his public.

New middle class
Basically, Iqbal's public was the rising middle class of the Muslim community of the sub-continent, particularly the new intelligentsia-a product of the Aligarh Movement. This new middle class and its intelligentsia was deeply conscious of the separate entity of Muslims as a minority community. The feeling of separate entity had its foundations not only in religion and culture but also in history because Muslims generally identified themselves as inheritors of the traditions of Muslim supremacy for more than 700 years.

The Hindus who constituted the majority community organized themselves politically under the banner of the Indian National Congress, and developed the concept of composite nationalism which was supposed to be broadly Indian embracing all religious communities, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and the rest, However, Muslim separateness in the cultural sphere was recognized even by the so-called nationalist Muslim who accepted the theory of composite Indian nationalism at the political level. This is apparent from a book of Prof. Mr. M. Mujeeb of the Jamia Millia, Delhi, "The Indian Muslims" written some 20 years after the partition of the sub-continent.

This is not the place to go into the history of Hindu-Muslim relations during the 90 year period, 1857-1947. Suffice it to say that the mass of Muslim community did not accept the concept of composite Indian nationalism. Iqbal was perhaps the single major influence in sharpening the feeling of Muslim separateness on the basis of religion, history, tradition and culture. He gave his community a massage of faith hope and struggle. He believed in a dynamic rather than static view of life. Activism, which was the corner stone of Iqbal's philosophical thinking, had a direct relationship with the aspirations of the rising middle class of the Muslim Community.

As the years passed by the conflict between the Hindus and Muslims became more and more acute. In fact it became the central problems for the Muslim community. Iqbal's involvement with his community was far too deep for him to ignore this problem. He always had his finger on the pulse of the national sentiment. He, therefore, considered it his bounded duty to give a lead.

Iqbal gave the lead in his presidential address to the annual session of the All-India Muslim League at Allahabad in December 1930. He argued that the principle of European democracy could not be applied to India without recognizing the fact of communal groups. He voiced the demand for a separate Muslim state because "The life of Islam as a cultural force in this country(India) very largely depends on its centralization in a specific territory." He specified the territory by saying: "I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India."

Iqbal was at pains to explain that the creation of a separate Muslim state was in the best interests of India and Islam. For India it means security and peace resulting from a balance of power for Islam an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian imperialism, was forced to give it, to mobilize its law, its education's its cultural and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times".

Two fold purpose
It is apparent from the above that the purpose for the creation of a separate Muslim state was two-fold. It was to end the Hindu-Muslim conflict and also to enable Islam to play its role as a cultural force. Iqbal believed that Islam as a world fact had a commitment to history. In the context of the Indian sub-continent this commitment could only be fulfilled by the creation of a separate Muslim state.

It may be of interest to recall that Iqbal was greatly impressed and inspired by Kemal Ataturk's Turkey. In his lecture on "The principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam" which forms a chapter of his book. "The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam", Iqbal paid glowing tributes to modern Turkey and approved its freedom of Ijtihad with a view to rebuilding the law of Shariat in the light of modern thought and experience. He wrote: "The truth is that among the Muslim nations of today Turkey alone has shaken off its dogmatic slumber, and attained self-consciousness. She alone has claimed her right of intellectual freedom: she alone has passed from the ideal to the real."

Iqbal thought that most Muslim countries "are mechanically repeating old values, where as the Turk is on the way to creating new values." He than goes on to observe: "If the renaissance of Islam is a fact, and I believe it is a fact, we too one day, like the Turks, will have to re-evaluate our intellectual inheritance.

So in Iqbal's view Modern Turkey was the only Muslim country which was trying to fulfill Islam's commitment to history. She could serve as a model for us also. It would, there fore, quite valid to suggest that the inspiration that Iqbal received from Modern Turkey was perhaps responsible for his demand for a separate Muslim state in North-West India.

Fight against feudalism
Iqbal was an ailing man when he assumed the leadership of the Punjab Provincial Muslim League in the midthirties. He operated from his sick-bed. This again is a proof of his intense feeling for his community and his deep involvement in its affairs. The most notable thing about the last two years of Iqbal's life, 1936-1938, as brought our and emphasized by an eminent historian of the period. Dr. Ashiq Hussein Batalvi, is how Iqbal fought against the domination of the feudal landlords in the Provincial Muslim League. He represented the rising middle-class and in fact the mass of the Muslim community. He was acutely conscious of their problems. The Great Depression of the 1930's had its terrible impact on the people of the sub-continent. It, therefore, not surprising to observe that Iqbal was perhaps the first Muslim leader to draw attention to the economic problem of Muslims as a community. In his letter to Jinnah, Iqbal highlighted his concern for the problem on more than one occasion. In his letter of May 28, 1937, he says. "The problem of bread is becoming more and more acute. "The question, therefore, is how is it possible to solve the problem of Muslim poverty? And the whole future of the league depends on the League's ability to solve this question. If the League can give no such promises I am sure the Muslim masses will remain indifferent to it as before."

Having posed the question in such candid terms Iqbal goes on to observe: "After a long and careful study of Islamic Law, I have come to the conclusion that if this system of Law is properly understood and applied, at least the right to subsistence is secured to everybody. But the enforcement and development of the Shariat of Islam is impossible in this country without a free Muslim state of states. This has been my honest conviction for many years and I still believe this to be the only way to solve the problem of bread for Muslims as well as secure a peaceful India".

In the same letter Iqbal discusses socialism or social democracy. He use these two terms synonymously. He argues that Jawaharlal. Nehru's socialism could not be accepted by the caste-ridden Hindus society. "For Islam the acceptance of social democracy in some suitable form and consistent with the legal principles of a revolution but a return to the original purity of Islam. goes on to reassert that in order to make it possible for Muslims India to solve modern problems, poverty being one of them, "it is necessary to redistribute the country and to provide one or more Muslim state with absolute majorities."

It may be recalled that Iqbal had originally specified the territory of the proposed Muslim state as consisting of the provinces of the Punjab, Sind North-West Province and Baluchistann. But in the above passage Iqbal also refers to one or more Muslim states with absolute majorities. In his letter of June 21, 1937, Iqbal mentions the other Muslim majority area, Bengal, along with North-West India and raises the Question as to why it should not be considered as a nations "entitled to self-determination just as other nations in India and outside India".

Iqbal then goes on to plead for holding the session of the League in Lahore because this would give a fresh political awakening to the Punjab Muslims. he repeated this request in his letter of August 11, 1937, by saying that it would prove to be "a turning-point in the history of the League and an important step toward mass contact".

Mass contact
As a man of the people Iqbal was deeply concerned about the political awakening of the people. Hence his emphasis on mass contact.

The League session was not held in Lahore but in Lucknow Iqbal did not attend it but in his letter of October 7, 1937 he reverts to the me of mass contact and makes the following suggestion.

"The Palestine question is very much agitating the minds of the Muslims. We have a very fine opportunity for mass contact for the purposes of the League. I have no doubt that the league will pass a strong resolution on this question and also by holding a private conference of the leaders decide on some sort of a positive action in which masses may share in large numbers. This will at once popularize the League and may help the Palestine Arabs. Personally I would not mind going to jail on an issue which affects both Islam and India. The formation of a Western base on the very gates of the East is a menace to both".

Iqbal's mind was agitated on the Palestine question because the question was agitating the minds of the Muslim people. It is poignant to observe that an ailing Iqbal, barely six months before his death, was prepared to go to jail on an issue which he thought was a menace both to his religion and his country.

In summing up one could say that in the Pakistan of Iqbal's concept Islam was to play its role as a cultural force and fulfill its commitment to history. The new country was to solve modern problems by exercising the freedom of Ijtihad and in accordance with the original spirit of Islam and the spirit of modern times. The problem of poverty was to be solved by the acceptance of social democracy in a form consistent with the legal principles of Islam. Finally Iqbal's concern for mass contact underscores his faith in the people's power and in their right to participate and share in the shaping of their destiny. It also implies that power should rest where it belongs.
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Iqbal's Thought and Contributions

When Prophet Muhammad (s) was about to return to his Creator in 632 C.E., he said he was leaving only the Qur’an and his way of life (Sunnah) for his followers’ eternal guidance. Islam is unique among the world’s great religions that since the Prophet’s demise no person could claim to be the absolute, infallible authority to interpret the Qur’an and Sunnah. At every time and place, whatever a majority of the Muslim community members agreed upon, under the advice of the knowledgeable people, became the accepted doctrine and injunction of Islam for that time and place. However, while interpreting the Qur’an and Sunnah concerning any particular issue, it will be very egotistical to ignore the thought of great learned men of the last 1400 years.

The Prophet’s person (s) was so predominant and overwhelming that even after his demise, for about 70 years when the last of his companions lived, we don’t have any record of even one person’s thought that was independent of the Prophet’s traditions. Then the five great jurists – Jafar al-Sadiq (699-765), Abu Hanifa (699-767), Malik bin Anas (711-796), Shafii (767-820), and Ahmed ibn Hanbal (780-855) – compiled their interpretations of the Qur’an and Sunnah to delineate the Islamic creed and practices. Among more than one billion Muslims of the present time, there are many millions who follows the fiqh (jurisprudence) of each of these jurists. Then came other towering scholars with great followings like Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111), Fakhr al-Din Razi (1149-1209), Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi (1564-1624) and Shah Waliullah (1703-1763). Every one of these and many other scholars have been the focus of learned studies and dissertations. The development of Islamic through cannot be traced without studying what they held to be the authentic beliefs and injunctions of Islam.

Some people argue that the decline of Muslim political power in the world was caused by the demise of the Rightly-guided Caliphate with the martyrdom of the fourth caliph Ali in 661 C.E. and its substitution by absolute dynastic rule of the Umayyads, Abbasids and subsequent emperors. Such monolithic governance never lets human potential of a society flourish. The Magna Carta, on the other hand, was signed in 1215 C.E. restricting the powers of the kind of England and 500 years later the industrial revolution started from the same country. In about three centuries, the Western European nations became so powerful that they colonized the huge continents of North and South America, Africa and large parts of Asia. The last great empires of the Muslim world, the Moguls and the Ottomans, became so weak that by 1857 Mogul rule in India broke up like a house of cards. It was not the overwhelming Hindu majority of India which replaced the Muslim emperors of Delhi. Surprisingly, it was the British traders of the East India Company who steadily spread their control from the coastal cities inland and finally made India a jewel of the British crown. After 1857, Muslim intellectuals and scholars were in a state of shock, too numb to figure out how God Almighty could replace believers by infidels and heretics to rule over large continents. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan of India (1817-1898) followed by Jamaluddin Afghani of Iran (1839-1897), Mufti Muhammad Abduh of Egypt (1849-1905) and Rashid Rida of Syria (1865-1935) held the position that, as Qur’an says: ‘Say, are those who know equal to those who do not know? (39:9), if the collective acquisition and creation of knowledge among Muslims is at a very low level, their understanding of God’s will as enunciated by the Qur’an and Sunnah would be equally inadequate. This explanation still holds true after over 100 years.

By 1918, the Ottomon Empire also succumbed to the Europeans in World War I and vast areas of the Muslim Africa and West Asia came under their colonial rule. After many centuries this was the worst time seen by the Muslims around the world. Iqbal (1877-1937) was designed to be the pre-eminent thinker of the time and initiator of a new movement of ideas which has held sway for the last 80 years. He was the greatest synthesis of both eastern and western thought of his time. Besides Iqbal, the thinkers of this new movement – Said Nursi of Turkey (1873-1960), Abul Ala Mawdudi of Pakistan (1903-1979), Malek Bennabi of Algeria (1905-1973), Hasan Al Banna (1906-1949) and Syed Qutb (1906-1966) of Egypt, Muhammad Natsir of Indonesia (1908-1993), and Ali Shariati of Iran (1933-1977)- had a new focus: revival of the Islamic civilizational heritage. As a result, we have witnessed struggles for the establishment of an Islamic social order, creation of an Islamic republic, and organizing an Islamic economic system. The recency of these struggles is such that the jury is still out of their more resilient outcomes.

Born in November 1877 in Sialkot, Punjab (now Pakistan), Iqbal achieved high proficiency in Arabic and Persian languages at an early age. After completing graduate studies in philosophy, he became a college lecturer in Lahore at the age of 24. Later he moved to Cambridge, England for higher studies and earned Ph.D. from Munich University, Germany at the age of 30. He became barrister-at-law in 1908 and returned to Lahore to practice law. He was actively involved in the Muslims’ cultural and political strivings and was elected in 1920 a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly. He was an outstanding and highly popular poet of Urdu and Persian languages and also delivered scholarly addresses at various occasions. A collection of his six (later seven) addresses was first published in 1930 titled Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. The same year, he delivered a historic address proposing creation of a Muslim homeland by partitioning British India when it achieves independence. He said in this country Islam would have an opportunity to ‘mobilize its law, its education, its culture, and to being them into closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times.’ (Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, p 11) Nine years after he passed away in April 1938, Pakistan came into being in August 1947.

Although many compilations of Iqbal’s poetry also deliver his message very eloquently, his foremost book Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam was intended to ‘secure a vision of the spirit of Islam as emancipated from its Magian overlayings.’ (p.114) He says, ‘far from reintegrating the forces of the average man’s inner life and thus preparing him for participation in the march of history,’ this Muslim mysticism ‘has taught man a false renunciation and made him perfectly contented with his ignorance and spiritual thralldom (or servitude).’ (pp.148-49) One cornerstone of Iqbal’s thought is his keen understanding of the profound significance of the supreme idea of finality of prophethood looked at from the view point of religious and cultural growth of man in history and also looked at from the viewpoint of ‘man’s achieving full self-consciousness’ as bearer of the ‘Divine promise of a complete subjugation of all this immensity of space and time.’ Iqbal assumes this idea of the finality of prophethood to be ‘a psychological cure for the Magian attitude of constant expectation.’ He says with the revelation of this idea of finality, one of the greatest that dawned upon the prophetic consciousness, ‘all personal authority claiming a supernatural origin came to an end in this history of man.’ (p.101) He tells us that ‘the constant appeal to reason and experience in the Qur’an and the emphasis that it lays on nature and history as sources of human knowledges are… different aspects of the same idea of finality.’ Iqbal asserts that the ‘birth of Islam is the birth of inductive intellect.’ (p. 101)

If we agree with Iqbal’s thesis, we must believe that revelation as a source of knowledge discontinued after 632 C.E. and the only source of knowledge now available to us is sense perception and reasoning by which we can both understand God’s will as enunciated in the Qur’an and Sunnah and create new knowledge to predict and control the natural and social phenomena for purposes of better survival of the humankind. Unfortunately, many Muslims, presumably out of anger towards their recent colonial past, want to discard all modern knowledge, labeling it as ‘western’, and strive to dig out a certain prescription for all our social ills through religious intuition or extra-sensory perception – an obsurantist and obviously futile effort.

Another unique contribution of Iqbal to the contemporary Islamic thought is his bracketing modern science with ‘God-consciousness’ which he considers more precious than mere belief in God. He equates the scientist’s observation of nature with seeking a kind of intimacy with God, a kind of mystic search in the act of pray. (pp. 45, 73) He asserts that ‘scientific observation of nature keeps us in close contact with the behavior of Reality (God), and thus sharpens our inner perception for a deeper vision of it.’ (p.72) ‘This alone will add to his power over nature and give him that vision of the total-infinite which philosophy seeks but cannot find.’ (p.73)

If Muslims had heeded for the last 70 years Iqbal’s advice and considered scientific advancement as an act of prayer, the road map of world power today would have been very different. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the nuclear scientist of Pakistan, and his team seem to be the only significant exception in this regard. Of course scientific inquiry is limited to material, objective and verifiable reality. But Qur’an forbids us from striving to know the metaphysical and supernatural reality that it refers to in the verses not entirely clear which are searched for their hidden meanings only by those in whose hearts there is a deviation. (3:7) Allah has required of us only belief in the unseen. (2:3) Iqbal was despaired with the Muslim religio-philosophic tradition of his time, which he called a ‘worn-out and practically dead metaphysics’ with its peculiar though-forms and set phraseology producing manifestly ‘a deadening effect on the modern mind.’ (pp.72,78). He intended to write a book on the system of Fiqh (jurisprudence) in the light of modern knowledge which would have been another ‘work of reconstruction’ on the legal thought of Islam. To this second work of reconstruction, the present book would have been, in his own words, a prelude. Death at the age of 60 precluded his writing this greatly important book, but this idea signifies his will to the posterity.

A Day In the Life of Allama Iqbal

An Interview with Mian Ali Bakhsh

Q. When did Iqbal usually get up in the morning?
A. Very early. As a matter of fact, he slept very little. He was keen on his morning prayer. After the prayer he read the Qur'an.

Q. In what manner did he read the Qur'an?
A. Before his throat was affected, he used to recite the Qur'an in a clear and melodious voice. Even after he got the throat disease he used to read the Qur'an but not loudly.

Q. What did he usually do after he had finished his prayer and recitation?
A. He used to sit in an easy-chair. I would prepare his "hookah" and place it before him. He would study the briefs of cases which were to come up in court that day. Now and then, while still at his files, he would have moments of poetic inspiration.

Q. How did you know when he was in his poetic mood?
A. He would call me and say: "Bring my note book and my pencil." When I brought these, he would write down the verses in pencil. Now and then, when he did not feel satisfied with his composition, he was extremely restless. While composing he would often ask for the Qur'an to be brought to him. Even otherwise he called for the Qur'an a number of times in the day.

Q. What time did he usually go to court when he was practising at the bar?
A. He used to leave 15 or 20 minutes before court time. As long as he lived in Anarkali [his house, which is no longer in existence, was where the New Market, Lahore, is now] he used to go to court in his horse carriage. Later, he bought a car.

Q. How long was he active as a legal practictioner?
A. He was in practice until he got his throat disease which was around 1932 or 1933.

Q. What did he do on return from court?
A. Before doing anything else he used to ask me to help him take off his court clothes. He was never fond of formal dress and used to put it only for the court and that also with effort.

Q. What did he do after changing his dress?
A. He composed verses whenever he felt like it.

Q. Did he sleep in the afternoon?
A. Not usually, but he did so now and then.

Q. At what time did he take his meals?
A. Between 12 and 1 o'clock in the day. He ate only one meal. Normally he did not eat in the evening.

Q. What were his favourite dishes?
A. He was fond of pulao, mash-ki-daal seasoned with ghee, karela stuffed with minced meat, and also khushka.

Q. Did he like many dishes at his meals?
A. No, there were only a few dishes at a time. He was a poor eater.

Q. Did he take any exercise?
A. In the early days, he did. In those days he used dum-bells, and performed dand [a stretching exercise].

Q. Was he interested in games and sports?
A. He was interested in watching wrestling matches.

Q. Was he in the habit of going out in the evening?
A. Getting out in the evening was almost an impossibility with him. In the earlier days when he was living inside Bhati Gate [where he lived before going to Cambridge, England in 1905], he would sometimes walk as far as the platform outside the house of Hakim Shahbazuddin [a close friend of the poet]. Once in a while Sir Zulfiqar Ali [of the ruling family of Malerkotla; author of book on poet 'A voice from the East'] would come in his car and take him out.

Q. When did he go to sleep in the evening?
A. In the evening a number of friends and visitors used to call on him. These sittings went on till 9 or 10 o'clock. After this he sat alone with Ch. Mohammad Husain and recited to him the verses he had composed during the day.

Q. How long did Choudhry Sahib normally stay?
A. Up to 12 or 1 o'clock in the night. After this Doctor Sahib would go to bed, but would get up for his Tahajjud prayer after he had hardly slept for two or three hours.

Q. And after the Tahajjud?
A. He used to lie down for a short time until it was time for the morning prayers.

Note: The above extracts are from an interview with Mian Ali Bakhsh, the life-long domestic assistant of Allama Muhammad Iqbal. It was conducted by Pakistani man of letters Mumtaz Hasan on 23 September 1957. It's from "Tribute to Iqbal" by Mumtaz Hasan, collected and edited by M.Moizuddin


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