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Dr. Allamah Iqbal
Iqbal, Allamah
After `Ghalib' had left the world and signed his name on the chair of poetry, few believed that there would ever be another poet of his level again. When the sun went down for Urdu poetry for a while, it rose in a small city, many miles away from Delhi, the center for Urdu poetry then. Sir Doctor Muhammad Allamah Iqbal, son of a Kashmiri merchant Sheikh Natthu and Begum Imam Bibi, was born on February 22, 1873 in Sialkot. Iqbal started a revolution, with which ushered a new era in Urdu poetry. We count Iqbal for inheriting the throne after `Ghalib'. A small fire was lit in the age of darkness and will keep shining as long as the world will last.

The facts of Iqbal's life can be briefly stated. He finished his early education in Sialkot and migrated to Lahore in 1895 for higher studies. In Sialkot he was lucky to have as his teacher Shamsul-Ulema Mir Hasan, a great Oriental scholar. This great man did not take long to recognize the perspicacity of his young pupil's intellect, and encouraged him in every possible way. At Lahore, Iqbal came under the influence of Sir Thomas Arnold. Sir Thomas Arnold's company introduced him to all that is best and most noble in Western thought, and at the same time initiated him into the modern methods of criticism. Iqbal graduated from the Government College, Lahore , in 1897, with English Literature, Philosophy and Arabic. In 1899, Iqbal took his M.A. degree in Philosophy. As advised by Sir Thomas Arnold, Iqbal went to Europe for higher studies in 1905 and got his Doctorate in Philosophy from Munich University in 1908 . Iqbal also qualified for the Bar in this interim. The Governor of Punjab, impressed by Iqbal's poem on the death of Queen Victoria, conferred knighthood upon him in 1922.

In Europe, Iqbal began to see the larger horizon of things and to move in spacious realms. He stayed there for three years, and these years played a great part in the development of his thought. It was not a period of deeds but one of preparation. His outlook on life underwent two important changes about this time: he got a n utter dislike for narrow and selfish nationalism which was the root cause of most political troubles in Europe, and his admiration for a life of action and struggle became more pronounced.

One simply cannot set a definition on Iqbal, as he was able to convert everything in poetry. There is no subject he hasn't debated upon in his poetry: Politics, life, love, religion, philosophy, literature, West, East, countries, legends, history, etc. The list is longer as one goes deeper and deeper in Iqbal's poetry - not least discovering that Iqbal beheld the true meaning of poetry, whereas his ambitions and abilities to move the masses were yet still indiscussable subjects. There was never any doubt why he got the title: "Shayer-e-Mashrik" - the Poet of the East.

To the Indian nationalist he appears a fervent nationalist who wrote, `Of all the countries in the world, the best is our Hindustan' (sarey jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara), exhorted Hindus and Muslims to come together, build new shrines where they could worship together and who regarded every speck of dust of his country as divine. Iqbal exhorted the peasantry to rise against its oppressors, uproot the mansions of the rich and set fire to crops which did not provide sustenance for them.
It could be said that Iqbal sang in many voices: he was a nationalist as well as an internationalist, a Marxist revolutionary as well as a supporter of traditional Muslim values and a pan-Islamist. Whatever he wrote was born of passion and executed with the skill of a master craftsman. Few poets of the world have been able to cram so much erudition and philosophy in verse; and fewer still use words both as colors on an artist's palette to paint pictures as well as deploy them as notes of a lute to create music. He was fired by a creative zeal which could only be explained as divinely inspired. Three years in Europe (1905-1908) brought about a complete reversal in his beliefs. The world became real; life had a purpose to serve; latent in every man was a superman who could be roused to his full height by ceaseless striving to create a better world. This post-European phase has been designed as Iqbal's philosophy of khudi. As used by Iqbal what comes closest to khudi is assertive will-power imbued with moral values. This is apparent from these oft-quoted lines:

 Endow your will with such power
That at every turn of fate it so be
That God Himself asks of His slave
'What is it that pleases thee?'

What exactly did Iqbal want human beings to strive for? Obviously towards some kind of perfection. But he does not care to spell it out in any detail. It would appear that for man ceaseless striving was not to be for material gains in this world or with an eye on rewards in life hereafter. Thus to Iqbal a man who inherits wealth without having striven for it is worse than a beggar, while a poor man who works for the good of humanity is truly rich. Iqbal writes:

 In man's crusade of life these weapons has he:
Conviction that his cause is just;
Resolution to strive till eternity;
Compassion that embraces all humanity.

However, Iqbal did not accept the Hindu belief in predestination and assured man that he could be the master of his fate and make the world what he wanted it to be:
'Tis how we act that makes our lives; We can make it heaven, we can make it hell. In the clay of which we are made Neither light nor darkness (of evil) dwells.

Iqbal would have had little patience with the current obsession with meditation (transcendental or otherwise) to induce peace of mind, because he believed that anything worthwhile only came out of a ceaselessly agitated mind:

 May God bring a storm in your life;
The sea of your life is placid, its waves devoid of tumult.

In the introduction to his Persian work, Asrar-i-khudi ('Secrets of the Self'), Iqbal writes: 'Personality is a state of tension and can continue only if the state is maintained.' What was true of the individual Iqbal believed to be equally true of races and communities. According to him the real sign of vitality in races is that their fortunes change everyday:

 In every age this alone marks a vibrant race
That every morn and eve its fortunes change.

So far as Iqbal was concerned, from now onwards there was complete accord in his thought, the goal was clear and the future lines for his work were well-defined. The task that Iqbal had set himself was gigantic and lesser people would have quailed at the immensity of the mission which involved shaking millions of people out of moral inertia that had been paralyzing their spirits for centuries. He flung a challenge to the forces of reaction, inertia, and stupor in unmistakable terms, and never faltered in his mission.

Think of thy country, O thoughtless! Trouble is brewing,
In heavens there are designs for thy ruin.
See that which is happening and that which is to happen,
What is there in the stories of olden times?
If you fail to understand this, you will be exterminated, O people of India!
Even your story will not be preserved in the annals of the world!

It is ironic how beautifully these words apply to every Indian today and tomorrow. There is no doubt that Iqbal fought for freedom with his words: a freedom that started with self-realization and finished with ceaseless striving.

Sir Dr. Allamah Iqbal died on April 21, 1938.

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