FEATURE: Allama Iqbal — the spiritual father of Pakistan
By Amna Nasir Jamal
In 1857, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan presented the concept of ‘Two-Nation Theory’, the basis of Muslim struggle for independence. The partition of the sub-continent was based on this theory. But Hindu reaction to the theory was hostile; they criticized and raised infinite questions about the ideological basis on which the Muslims should be considered a separate nation. Their allegiance to the Indian soil and some other questions with reference to the Two-Nation Theory were also questioned. But Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher answered all these questions in his presidential address, delivered at the annual session of the All- India Muslim League, at Allahabad on December 29, 1930.
Iqbal, through his life and work brought revolutionary changes and awakened the Muslims of the subcontinent and led them to independence. He believed that it was time to do so as the Muslims had long been suppressed by the colonial expansion of the West. That’s why Iqbal is regarded as the ‘poet of the East’.
In 1876, when Iqbal was born, the Muslims of un-divided India were cruelly subjugated by the British and the Hindus.
Iqbal’s poetry of love for his native India made him a popular figure throughout the country and he emerged as a nationalist poet. His poetry kindled a new spirit and inspired the downtrodden people. From 1908 onwards, his poetry focused on a separate and distinct Muslim identity.
The gradual transformation of his political beliefs was activated during his stay in Europe, as a student of philosophy. It was during this time that his political thought was moulded. The German philosophers left significant influence on him and developed Iqbal’s philosophical themes. He was highly impressed by European poets specially Milton, Dante, Wordsworth and Shelley. At Trinity College (Cambridge), his teachers of philosophy, John McTaggart and James Ward, influenced him a lot. He assimilated many elements from western philosophical and scientific thought, for example Kant’s critique of pure reason, Hegel’s concept of man and history being ‘man’s own work’, Einstein’s four dimensional time-space continuum, and others. He was fascinated by the West and willingly acknowledged material and technical progress, but he also condemned its moral and religious decay.
The European experience had aroused in Iqbal a new spirit of understanding about Islam. He discovered that both idealist and materialist philosophies of the West were largely irrelevant to the social and ideological predicaments of the people of his own land. He discovered the true spirit of Islam after leaving his land. He believed that the authority of Islam, sanctions of its own sanctified traditions and the life of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) truly validated his message embedded in his poetry.
The key principles which impressed Iqbal deeply were: oneness of God, prophecy, Islamic equality, Islamic brotherhood, and Islamic freedom. He stressed that the entire Muslim community could benefit from these golden principles.
After his return from Europe he felt aggrieved over the deplorable social and economic condition of Indian Muslims. His heart ached for the plight of the Muslim nation. He wanted the Muslims to become a dominant force in the world.
F. K. Durrani writes in his book The Meaning of Pakistan (1946, Lahore): “Iqbal emphasized the ‘Muslim Nationality’ and rejected the notion that India was a social unity. India is an Asia in miniature. India is a continent of human groups belonging to different races, speaking different languages and professing different religions....”
In his Allahabad address, he, in an unapologetic manner, rejected the western concept of a composite Indian nationalism and unambiguously articulated the concept of a separate Muslim nationalism which annoyed the Hindus and the British. The then British prime minister was highly displeased by his views.
S.M. Ikram writes in his book entitled Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan (1950): “The climax of Iqbal’s political career came in 1930, when at the annual session of the All-India Muslim League, he set before the Indian Muslims, the national goal of what later came to be known as Pakistan.”
His Urdu poem Abdul Qadir Ke Naam (To Abdul Qadir) signifies the adoption of a new concept of the millat i.e. Muslim unity, and renunciation of the concept of composite Indian Nationalism:
Arise! See that a new darkness has engulfed the Eastern horizon/ Let us spread light with the flames of our voice. Look! In the holy land/ the lover’s way of life has been renounced/ Let us inspire other Qais (the lover) with new dreams.
He persuaded Muhammad Ali Jinnah that there should be a separate homeland for the Muslims. Because of Iqbal’s deteriorating health, letters were the only mode of communication between the two leaders. Iqbal had pinned all his hope on Jinnah.
Jinnah was the first person who acknowledged Allama Muhammad Iqbal as the spiritual father of Pakistan. On Allama’s death, the Quaid-i-Azam described him as his “friend, philosopher and guide.” On April 21, 1938, the Quaid issued a statement (Sub Ras, Iqbal Number, Hyderabad, Deccan, 1938) in which he said that Iqbal stood like a rock with him during the darkest periods of the Muslim League. He did not waver even for a moment during the times of trial and tribulation. The Quaid described his death as an irreparable loss to Muslim India.
Rashida Malik writes in Iqbal and the Concept of Pakistan: “Iqbal was a pragmatic statesman with poetic vision, who articulated and presented the ideology of separate Muslim nationalism at Allahabad address. From I930 to his last breath he never skipped any opportunity to enlighten and inspire Muslim youth for translating his vision into reality. Iqbal died in 1938. The All India Muslim League was finally led to adopt Iqbal’s concept of Pakistan as its political programme in 1940, launched the movement for Pakistan, created Pakistan in 1947, and acclaimed Iqbal as the ‘Spiritual Father of Pakistan.”