Kumail sat quietly in the television lounge, a little worried.
“What is the matter with you?” his grandpa asked him with a smile.
“I have to give a speech at school on Allama Iqbal, in three days time and I don’t know how to go about writing it.”
“It is not that big a problem. I will help you write it. But first you have to tell me what you do know about Allama Iqbal.”
“Well, all I know is that he is our national poet and he was born on November 9, 1877, in Sialkot. His poetry motivated the Muslims of the subcontinent to demand and struggle for independence and a separate homeland. He is considered a great poet and has works in Urdu and Persian. He was also part of the All-India Muslim League and its active member. He was a colleague of Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and helped him in his leadership of the political movement of the subcontinent’s Muslims. He died in 1938 and his tomb is in Lahore, near Badshahi Mosque.”
“Well, I am glad that you do have the basic knowledge about him. But there are many aspects of this great person. He excelled in many areas, more prominent among them being poetry, politics and philosophy. So I will be stressing on these areas. Iqbal’s poetic works are in Urdu and Persian languages,” Kumail’s grandpa added.
“As a result of his Persian work, he is also well-known in Iran and Afghanistan. His Urdu poetry is widely acclaimed and considered one of the most prominent in Urdu literature. In his poetry, he stresses on Muslims of the subcontinent of his time to have faith and belief in themselves. He motivated them through his poetry to develop a patriotic spirit, and strive for independence and a separate country. Apart from patriotism, his poetry touches other areas as well, such as mysticism, politics, democracy, communism, socialism, capitalism and many other topics.”
“Iqbal’s Urdu books include Bang-e-Dara (Call Of The Marching Bell), Bal-e-Jibril (Wings of Gabriel), Zarb-e-Kaleem (Powerful Strike); and Persian ones include Asrar-e-Khudi (Secrets of the Self), Ramuz-e-baykhudi (Hints of Selflessness), Payaam-e-Mashriq (Message of the East), Zabur-e-Ajam (Persian Psalms), Javed Nama (Book of Javed), Pas Chih Bayad Kard ay Aqwam-i-Sharq (What Are We To Do, O Nations of the East?) and Armaghan-e-Hijaz (Gift of Hijaz).”
Kumail’s grandpa took a pause and then continued, “Closely related to his poetry work is his reputation as a great philosopher. His philosophy, mainly through his poetry works, touches on aspects of Sufism (spirituality). His stance is that only by improving one’s spiritual side, one discovers secrets and new realities about his existence and the world. Only in this way, as he recommends, one can become complete and have a proper meaning about life and how to live it.
“He strongly negates the view of western philosophers prevalent at his time, that there is no life after death. According to him, a person passes from one stage of life to another after his/her physical death in this world. Western philosophers also proclaimed that the world around us is not real but rather an illusion or a mirage. But, according to Iqbal, this world is real to the extent that it is a stage for people to struggle for and improve on their spiritual side; while balancing the worldly matters simultaneously. He also gives the idea of Khudi — staunch belief in one’s God-given abilities to achieve anything one likes or wants.
“… And as a politician, Allama Iqbal became a member of Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1926. He was an active member of Muslim league and put forward the idea of a separate country for Muslims of the Indian subcontinent at the 1930 session of the All-India Muslim League in Allahabad.
“Iqbal said: ‘I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated Northwest Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of Northwest India.’ He was of the opinion that it is in the best interest of the Muslims that a separate homeland be created for them. For this reason, he is called the ideological founder of the state.
“A close friend and ally of Quaid-i-Azam, he was the one who convinced Quaid-i-Azam to take over the presidency of Muslim League. It was Iqbal’s brilliance that he could see that only Quaid-i-Azam was a leader worthy of leading the Muslims in their demand for separate homeland and succeeding in this regard. He maintained close correspondence Quaid-i-Azam. In one of his letters, Iqbal said to him:
‘I know you are a busy man but I do hope you won’t mind my writing to you often, as you are the only Muslim in India today to whom the community has right to look up for safe guidance through the storm which is coming to North-West India and, perhaps, to the whole of India.’
“Iqbal’s political status can be judged from the following message that Quaid-i-Azam, the then President of All-India Muslim League, sent to Iqbal’s son after his death:
“‘To me he was a friend, guide and philosopher, and during the darkest moments through which the Muslim League had to go he stood like a rock, and never flinched one single moment.’
“Iqbal’s other achievements include being knighted by the British King, George V, in 1922. He also has literary works in English. He wrote books in English language named The Development of Metaphysics in Persia and Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam. He had a formal education from England and was a guest speaker at prominent British universities. His speeches mainly focused on religion and spirituality.
“During the early part of the 20th century when he became famous, Iqbal’s poetry was translated into many European languages. Apart from having the title of National Poet, he is also known as the Shair-e-Mashriq (Poet of the East), Muffakir-e-Pakistan (The Thinker of Pakistan) and Hakeem-ul-Ummat (The Sage of the Nation).
“I hope this information is enough for writing your speech. In case you need more help, then let me know,” grandpa concluded.
“Sure grandpa, I will do that,” replied Kumail. He was very pleased to have got great insight into the brilliant man that Allama Mohammad Iqbal was.