Nature gives birth to great philosophers and poets
when the need arises. Natural calamities, wars, epidemics, storms and
earthquakes etc causing human sufferings have always given birth to
creative minds. Plato was born in 420 BC when his country had almost
been ruined as a result of Peloponnesian war. Iqbal was born in 1877 AD
when the inhabitants of India were suffering from miseries and deaths
while struggling for the Independence of their country from British
The people of Muslim community of India were the worst hit. They were
being crushed ruthlessly. At that time Iqbal’s poetry played miraculous
role. It awakened the people from slumbering hopelessness, made them
stood on their own feet. They were united and then fought courageously
for Independence with the result that they achieved a free homeland for
them within a few years time.
This means that despite being a creative thinker, Iqbal was addressing
the situation at hand. The ideas he enunciated, though intrinsically
creative in themselves and abiding in appeal beyond a particular time
and place, were yet primarily meant to salvage the bleak Muslim
situation in India and the world at large. This makes Iqbal, in a sense,
oriented towards the Indian Muslim psyche and situation.
This framework makes his periodic forays into discussing and suggesting
solutions to the problems of the Muslim world at large and his consuming
concern with the ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ (1930) -
a logical extension of his role as a modern Muslim ideologue, attempting
to analyze and, see Muslim India’s problems and predicament on a wider
canvas and in a total context. After all, Iqbal regarded India, if only
because of the Muslim numerical strength, as ‘the greatest Muslim
country in the world’, to quote his own words. These tasks, both
critical and onerous as they were, he fulfilled squarely.
His emotion-leaden and soul-lifting poetry was the medium Iqbal chose to
bring his people a new awareness of the depths of degradation to which
they had fallen, to diagnose their ailments, their predicament and the
prime cause of their decline and to warn them of the dire consequences
if they failed to mend themselves in good time. A more effective medium
he could not have possibly chosen.
For one thing, poetry is the most powerful medium for touching the
deepest emotions of people and for driving a message into their
subconscious. For another, the Indian Muslims had been among the most
poetry-oriented people in the wold, with a long tradition of readily
taking to heart what was written in verse. Political orations may stir
and audience into action, but their impact is bound to be restricted to
a particular audience and dissipate with time and events. In contrast, a
poetic message seeps through the ethos of a nation, working on its
psyche all the while.
Hence Iqbal achieved through his poems what a thousand speeches could
not. But for the silence mental preparation that had gone on for long
decades, the people would not have responded to the call of political
leaders - in this case, especially of Jinnah during the 1937-47 epochal
decade. No wonder, the pandals of the League sessions from Lucknow
(1937) onwards were plastered with Iqbal’s couplets, calling on Muslims
to rise and take their destiny in their own. Iqbal was quoted oft and on
to rouse Muslims to a new awareness of their destiny. All this had an
electrifying effect on the audience since Iqbal, though generally
complex and couched in an appropriate idiom, was, straightforward and
yielded clear guidelines.
Besides being a poet of extraordinary merit, Iqbal was a thinker of a
high order. Thus, while Syed Ahmed Khan, Maulana Mohammed Ali and Jinnah
provided political leadership to Muslims, Iqbal took upon himself the
task of setting the intellectual tone for Muslim thought and action.
(Previously, this was done by Sir Syed’s, writing and the Aligarh
school). In addressing himself to this task, Iqbal brought a revolution
in Muslim thinking at various levels, he also made a significant
contribution to keeping them stolidly anchored to their pristine
ideology and historical legacy.
His role in awakening the Muslims to a new consciousness began in 1899
when he recited a poem at the annual session of the Anjuman-i-Islam,
Lahore. His moving ‘Nala-i-Yatim’ was symbolic of the echoing cry of the
faceless masses of the Indian Muslims, who had long felt themselves
What pained him most was the impact of nationalism on various Muslim
countries, eroding the pan-Islamic concept, enfeebling the Muslim world
and laying it open to European aggression and exploitation.
To the ailments the Muslim world was afflicted with, Iqbal found the
solution in Islam and its message. In order to reach the innermost
recesses of their consciousness, he invoked the past glory of Islam,
telling Muslims of the accomplishments of their ancestors. In so doing,
he tried to fight off the prevalent slough of despondency, raising
drooping spirit of Muslims and replacing it with a sense of soaring
Message of hope
Next, he gave them a message of hope. He told them that they could still
redeem themselves if they could only recapture their soul and regain
their pristine moral and spiritual values.
He emphasized the imperative need to develop human qualities and the
right type of character. He attributed their degeneration to their
taking to a life of passivity and resignation for several generations.
That debilitating trend could be reversed by opting for initiative and
endeavour which, he believed, Islam stood for. To him, an active,
struggling non-believer was preferable to a sleeping Muslim.
But if Muslims were to be beckoned to a new destiny, they must first be
confirmed as Muslims and they must own up their pristine values. This
was all he more necessary in the context of the rise of positivism and
skepticism, which posed a serious challenge to the modern Muslim.
To Iqbal, the task before the modern Muslim is to re-think the whole
system of Islam without completely breaking with the past. And this
crucial task he undertook in a series of lectures since compiled as ‘The
Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ (1930). In these he argued
that Islam represented a philosophy of action, for faith without action
was a life bereft of any significance. Seldom does a poet exert such
profound influence on the course of history and in changing the destiny
of a nation. But Iqbal did because his accomplishments extended far
beyond the realm of mere imagination and into the sphere of objective
realities, because in the final years of his eventful life he donned the
mantle of an ideologue, besides being a national poet. And, to be sure,
all of Iqbal’s efforts throughout the whole span of his active life were
directed towards the regeneration of Muslims and the resurgence of
The question, ‘do we need Iqbal today?’ The reply is a clear ‘Yes’. It
is a need of the time, because the honour of humanity is at stake. The
preachers of human rights are abusing humanity. Masses of men are being
trampled ruthlessly under the heavy feet of the powerful. There is
dearth of love in the world these days. Iqbal is a messenger of love.
His message of love is universal... the humanity needs him.. we do need
him without any doubt.