BASHEER Ahmed Dar (1908-1979), a researcher and expert on Iqbal, has drawn an interesting conclusion about the political struggle of the Muslims of the subcontinent and their three leaders — Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Iqbal and Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He says that this is a strange coincidence that the political lives and the thought pattern of these three leaders have similarities. Sir Syed began his work as a believer in Indian nationalism but ended with the preaching of a Muslim identity. Iqbal sang of a united Indian nationality in the beginning of the 20th century but later he stressed a separate Muslim identity. The Quaid-i-Azam, in the early part of his political career, was a supporter of Indian nationalism but later concluded that the Muslims had a separate identity. This, he says, was an outcome of the frustrated efforts of these leaders for Hindu-Muslim unity.
Dar sahib had pointed out this resemblance in his preface to Mohammad Hamza Farooqi’s book ‘Safarnama-i-Iqbal’, first published in 1973. In the preface he also mentioned that Iqbal was a staunch supporter of the concept of a Muslim nationhood that transcended geographical boundaries and this was the reason behind Iqbal’s participation in the meeting of Motamar al-Alam al-Islami, or the World Muslim Congress, in 1931. The book records the details of Iqbal’s travel from India to Europe and some other destinations such as Egypt and Palestine. It is an authentic account of where Iqbal went, what he did, and said during this journey. It is based on rare historical sources that Hamza Farooqi has been sifting through.
Bazm-i-Iqbal has published Safarnama-i-Iqbal’s new edition, the fourth of the book. Rarely does it happen that an Urdu book — that, too, on a topic like Iqbal’s travelogue and its political background — runs into a fourth edition. Mohammad Hamza Farooqi, a researcher and Iqbal-scholar, has been updating the book and this edition also is revised and has some new information.
In the beginning, Mr Farooqi lets us know the political background that had prompted Iqbal’s journey to London and elsewhere. He says that Tehreek-i-Khilafat’s sudden and unplanned end had left the Muslims and their leaders bewildered as the dream of Hindu-Muslim unity did not come true. The British India’s government had convened The First Round-Table Conference in 1930 to consider the solutions to constitutional problems facing British India. Iqbal was not invited to that conference but he presented his famous presidential address at the Muslim League’s annual conference in December 1930 at Allahabad that envisioned a separate homeland for the Muslims as a solution.
When the British government decided to hold The Second Round-Table conference in London in October 1931, it invited Iqbal, with Maulana Shaukat Ali, Maulana Shafi Dawoodi, Sir Agha Khan and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Maulana Ghulam Rasool Mehr, the distinguished writer and journalist and one of the editors of ‘Inqilaab’, was sent to cover the conference. According to Hamza Farooqi, Iqbal left Lahore on Sept 8, 1931, for Delhi. From there he went to Bombay (now Mumbai) and on September 12, 1931, sailed to London.
On board, a correspondent from ‘Bombay Chronicle’ interviewed Iqbal and Iqbal narrated how the term ‘Pan-Islamism’ was coined by a French journalist to portray Islam as a new threat to the western world. When Iqbal reached London, ‘Times’ published a letter, accusing Iqbal’s Allahabad address of instigating “a Pan-Islamic conspiracy”. Iqbal promptly wrote a rejoinder. During his stay in England, Iqbal met some prominent figures from Islamic countries and addressed some congregations, says Mr Farooqi. After the lengthy deliberations at the round table conference, Iqbal left for Italy. There he visited historical places and met some prominent figures, including Mussolini. From Italy, Iqbal went to Egypt. He visited historical sites and met journalists, scholars and some politicians. On Dec 5, 1931, Iqbal and Ghulam Rasool Mehr left Cairo for Palestine. The next day they arrived at Jerusalem where Muhammad Amin Al-Husseini, the grand Mufti of Palestine and the leader of Palestine Muslims, and others received them. After attending the congress, Iqbal and Mehr left Jerusalem and reached Bombay on Dec 28. Iqbal reached Lahore on Dec 30.
Mr Farooqi has retold this entire journey of Iqbal’s with the help of Iqbal’s letters, his speeches, accounts of his fellow travellers, newspaper reports and the firsthand information as given by Maulana Ghulam Rasool Mehr. It is an interesting read. Some portions of the travelogue are literally written by Iqbal as Mr Farooqi has reproduced his letters written and speeches given during this journey. The scholarly annotations and references make this an authentic account.
In the foreword, Farooqi sounds a bit sarcastic to those ‘researchers’ who have plagiarised from this book. He has advised them to revise their books and research papers as Farooqi has added new information which the plagiarist have either missed altogether or got it wrong.
The critical acclaims that the book has won is evident from the fact that it is the fourth edition but true recognition of Hamza Farooqi’s hard work and research had come from Ghulam Rasool Mehr, an eyewitness to Iqbal’s travel, when he wrote a letter of appreciation to Mr Farooqi after having gone through the script of the book. Mehr’s letters appreciating the work have also been included.
One feels that the price of the book (Rs350) is exorbitant considering that it has only 225 pages and, as mentioned, has been published with the cooperation (read: financial grant) of the department of information and culture government of Punjab.