An overview on Allama Iqbal (The Urdu Poet, Philosopher and Thinker)

(Arif Kisana, Sweden)

By Dr. Asuf Allymamod – Senior Lecturer & Former Head,
Dept of Urdu Studies, Mahatma Gandhi Institute, Mauritius

Allama Iqbal, the great Urdu poet was also a philosopher who has left his imprints in the world of literature and is considered to be one of the most important figures who inspired the Pakistan Movement. He is therefore called Mufakkir-e-Pakistan, meaning "The Inceptor of Pakistan." Pakistan officially recognizes him as its "national poet". He is admired as a prominent Urdu poet by connoisseurs of literature and many of his Urdu verses are randomly quoted in many instances. For example his most often quoted verse is:
Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer se pehle
Khuda bande se khud poochey bata teri raza kya hai

Allama Mohammad Iqbal had a very good command of both the Urdu and Persian languages and he has left a huge literary legacy in both languages. Yet his magnum opus lies in his Urdu poems. Allama Iqbal is also known as Shaair-e-Mashriq (Poet of the East). In Iran and Afghanistan he is famous as Iqbal-e Lahori (Iqbal of Lahore), and he is most appreciated for his Persian work. Iqbal's poetic works are written primarily in Persian rather than Urdu. This is worth noting that in his approximately 12,000 verses of poetry, about 7,000 are in Persian. More so, Iqbal’s works have been translated into many languages and in this way He is considered to be among one of the most well known poets and philosophers across the globe.

In Persian, his works are known as Asraar-e-Khudi, Rumuz-e-Bekhudi, Payaam-e-Mashriq and Zaboor-e-Ajam. In Urdu his poetical masterpieces comprise books such as Baang-e-Dara, Baal-e-Jibril and Zarb-e Kalim. Besides his Urdu and Persian poetry, Allama Iqbal has various lectures and letters in Urdu and English which have been very influential at cultural, social, religious and political levels. His book written in English, The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, had earned him a Doctorate degree in Philosophy at the University of Munich submitted in 1908. This implies that although Allama Iqbal was mostly known as a poet, he was also praised as a modern Muslim philosopher. His philosophy is prevalent in his poetry and the most common themes treated are: Khudi (Self), Mard e momin (the believer), Mard e mujaahid (the fighter), Mard e Kaamil (the complete man), Life and Death amongst others. Iqbal believed in the concept of Amal (action) and accentuated the idea of one’s perpetual strive and struggle to achieve whatever he wishes in life:
Amal se zindagi banti hai jannat bhi jahannam bhi
Ye khaaki apni fitrat mein na noori hai na naari hai
By action life may become both paradise and hell,
This creature of dust in its nature is neither of light nor of fire.

Roz-e- Hisaab Jab Mera Pesh Ho Daftar e Amal
Aap Bhi Sharamsaar Ho Mujhko Bhi Sharamsaar Kar
When the roll of my deeds is brought up on the Day of Reckoning,
Be ashamed as You will shame me

Allama Iqbal, made use of poetic beauty so perfectly coupled with symbolism to express his ideas and thoughts. As symbolism he used shaaheen (eagle) thus referring to its power and strength, vision and far-sightedness, independent nature and selflessness, flying and nesting high up etc. Moreover, the poet used Laala (tulip) to indicate that the beauty of this flower is in its blooming and growing independently. Iqbal wanted the common man to possess such qualities as depicted through his symbolisms.

More so, Iqbal used similes, metaphors and personification excessively in his poems which create a vivid image in his audience's mind. Imagery is one of his major weapons to mesmerize his audience. In his poem Ek Aarzu, the aesthetic beauty of the nature is so well portrayed that no one can deny Iqbal’s command on imagery. Some excerpts along with translation in English are cited below:
Shorish Se Bhaagta Hun, Dil Dhoondta Hai Mera
Aisa Sukoot Jis Par Taqreer Bhi Fida Ho
I seek escape from tumult; my heart desires
The silence which speech may ardently love
Marta Hon Khamushi Par, Ye Aarzu Hai Meri
Daman Mein Koh Ke ik Chota Sa Jhonpra Ho
I vehemently desire silence, I strongly long that
A small hut in the mountain’s side may there be
Lazzat Surood Ki Ho Chiryon Ke Chehchehon Mein
Chashme Ki Shorishon Mein Baaja Sa Baj Raha Ho
Birds’ chirping may give the pleasure of the lyre
In the spring’s noise may the orchestra’s melody be
Gul Ki Kali Chatak Kar Paighaam De Kisi Ka
Saaghar Zara Sa Goya Mujh Ko Jahaan Numa Ho
The flower bud bursting may give God’s message to me
Showing the whole world to me this small wine‐cup may be
Ho Haath Ka Sarhaana, Sabze Ka Ho Bichauna
Sharmaaey Jis Se Jalvat, Khalvat Mein vo Ada Ho
My arm may be my pillow, and the green grass my bed be
Putting the congregation to shame my solitude’s quality be
Saf Baandhey Donon Jaanib Bootey Harey Harey Hon
Naddi Ka Saaf Paani Tasveer Le Raha Ho
Avenues of green trees standing on both sides be
The spring’s clear water providing a beautiful picture be
Ho Dil Fareb Aisa Kohsaar Ka Nazzaara
Paani Bhi Mauj Bann Kar, Uth Uth Ke Dekhta Ho
The view of the mountain range may be so beautiful
To see it the waves of water again and again rising be
Aaghosh Mein Zameen Ki Soya Huwa Ho Sabza
Phir Phir Ke Jhaariyon Mein Paani Chamak Raha Ho
The verdure may be asleep in the lap of the earth
Water running through the bushes may glistening be
Paani Ko Choo Rahi Ho Jhuk Jhuk Ke Gul Ki Tehni
Jaise Haseen Koi Aaeena Dekhta Ho
Again and again the flowered boughs touching the water be
As if some beauty looking at itself in mirror be

Iqbal was very much influenced by Western philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson and Goethe but he admitted that Mawlana Rumi’s poetry and philosophy had the deepest influence on his mind and he would thus feature Rumi in the role of guide in many of his poems. Iqbal has written for almost all categories of people ranging from children to adults, from the riches to paupers, from layman to intellectuals, from simple workers to politicians, thus classifying him as one of the rarest poets to have encompassed almost all the facets of life through poetry. He has also written poems on famous personalities such as the Prophets Adam (RA) and Mohammad (SAW), Hazrat Bilaal, Umar and Fatima (RA), Ram, Swami Ram Teerath, Guru Nanak, Abdul Qadir Jeelani, Lenin, Shakespear, Ghalib, Dagh Dehlvi, Sir Syed, Shibli, Hali, Sir Thomas Arnold amongst others.
The poetry of Iqbal comprises a multitude of themes such as humanity, religion, life, death, animals, insects, brain, intellect, flowers, birds, fountains, rivers, mountains, lakes, boundaries, moon, sun, mornings, afternoons, slavery, secrets, love, enthusiasm, energy, loneliness, heaven, spheres, divinity, patriotism, prayer, spirituality, values, self and many other topics encompassing our daily life.
Iqbal also wrote two books on the topic of The Development of Metaphysics in Persia and The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam and many letters in English language. He discussed about the Persian ideology and Islamic Sufism in the way of his view that real Islamic Sufism activates the awkward soul to superior idea of life. He also discussed philosophy, God and the meaning of prayer, human spirit and Muslim culture, political, social and religious problems.
Iqbal is widely commemorated in many countries across the world know as Iqbal Day. His Taraana-e-Hind is widely used in India as a patriotic song speaking of communal harmony. Iqbal is also the namesake of many public institutions and roads in many countries. In brief, Iqbal can be said to be a poet not only for Urdu language of for a specific community but a poet for the whole humanity who preaches the message of peace and love coupled with brotherhood and secularism.

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