The Iqbal Academy was established in 1951 with the objective of publishing and spreading his poetry and thought. In 1962, it became a statutory body of the government and was renamed as 'Iqbal Academy Pakistan'. Its offices were located in Karachi but a little before Iqbal's centennial in 1977, the institution was moved to Lahore.
Of late, there have been many efforts on the part of a lobby bent upon tarnishing the image of the great philosopher and Poet of the East but such activities only increased the academy's significance all the more and took it to the forefront of the every counter offensive against the malicious campaign. It is quite heartening to note that the academy has been quite active and prolific for the past few years and has published a large number of books on Iqbal's life, poetry and thoughts.
Of the latest books that have been published by the academy, many deserve a mention. Muhammad Suheyl Omar's book 'Dar-e-aaina baaz hai', for instance, contains some very interesting and thought-provoking articles. The author has drunk deep from the fountain of philosophy, both oriental and western.
'The reconstruction of religious thought in Islam', perhaps Iqbal's one of the most talked-about books that invoked some criticism too, was the topic of Suheyl's MPhil dissertation and ever since then he has been looking for new dimensions and meanings of the book that still eludes many because of its philosophical and theological premises. In his book, Suheyl has raised many questions highlighting the mental agony of the modern educated Muslims torn between 'traditionalism' and 'modernism'.
Dr Hafeez Malik is a veteran scholar and, at presently, a professor of political science at the Villanova University, Pennsylvania. His book 'Iqbal in politics' is an English translation of the third volume of 'Zinda rood' — a three-volume biography of Iqbal penned by his son Javed Iqbal. Dr Malik says “In the process of translating it, I edited this volume extensively, shuffled paragraphs and chapters and added the material which is a part of my research on Iqbal... I have turned this biography into strictly a political study.”
Another book that personally interests me much is 'Stray reflections the private note book of Muhammad Iqbal'. The name 'Stray reflections' was given by Iqbal himself to his personal notebooks. Some of his 'stray thoughts' (the name Iqbal had chosen while starting writing them on April 27, 1910 but changed it by replacing 'thoughts' with 'reflections'), can be quite helpful in understanding the making of the genius known as 'Iqbal' “I confess I owe a great deal to Hegel, Goethe, Mirza Ghalib, Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil and Wordsworth. The first two led me into the 'inside' of things; the third and fourth taught me how to remain oriental in spirit and expression after having assimilated foreign ideals of poetry, and the last one saved me from atheism in my student days.” Edited and published by Javed Iqbal some 25 years after Iqbal's death, the book has now been revised and annotated by Khurram Ali Shafique and also contains some text discovered by Afzal Haq Qureshi in 1983.
The tradition of Iqbal Studies began in 1901 with an editorial note published with Iqbal's poem 'Himalaya' and the next hundred years saw the tradition grow into a Himalaya of scholarship. 'Iqbaliyaat ke sau saal' is a gigantic collection of articles on Iqbals' life, poetry, art and thought written between 1901 and 2000. Co-edited by Rafiuddin Hashmi, Waheed Ishrat and Suheyl Umar, the book presents a selection of articles by some great scholars of Iqbal Studies.
Another interesting book is 'Allama Muhammad Iqbal ki Urdu shaeri intekhaab'. The interesting part, in addition to the selected Urdu poetry of Iqbal, is that the text has been given in Urdu as well as in Devanagari script. A few years ago, Mirza Ghalib's Urdu poetry was published in Devanagari script by a Delhi publisher which proved to be a smashing success. One hopes that Iqbal's entire Urdu poetry would be published in Nagri and made available to poetry buffs in India.
Incidentally, there is a brief intro of the academy at the back of the book mentioned above. It informs the readers, among other things, that an 'Iqbal Award programme' had been undertaken by the academy. Though one knows about this award but one wonders when and to whom these awards are given and why proper announcement about the recipients is not made. What is so secret about them? An insider at the academy told this writer “The awards are given every year but information to the media is not released since the academy is a government body and only the minister concerned is supposed to make an announcement.”
As our beloved ministers are too busy with other important tasks, such as making political statements, they do not bother to attend the ceremony. Since announcing the award by someone else could be perceived as an encroachment on the minister's prerogative, the academy quietly gives away the awards as if committing a sin.
One can only hope that this attitude would change.