was born on November 9, 1877, at Sialkot, Punjab. His grandfather Shaikh Rafiq,
a Kashmiri, had joined a wave of migration to Sialkot, where he made a living
peddling Kashmiri shawls. Shaikh Rafiq had two sons, Shaikh Ghulam Qadir and
Shaikh Nur Muhammad, Iqbal's father.
With the defeat of the Sikhs in Punjab by the British army, Western missionaries
wasted no time in establishing centres of learning in Sialkot. One of these, the
Scotch Mission College, founded in 1889, offered courses in the liberal arts,
several of them in Arabic and Persian, although by this time English had
supplanted Persian as the medium of instruction in most schools. This was where
Iqbal had his first secular education.
It was also in 1892 that Iqbal was married off to Karim Bibi, the daughter of an effluent Gujerati physician. According to some sources, this was the beginning of many years of unhappiness. They separated in 1916, but Iqbal provided financial support to Karim Bibi until he died. The couple had three children.
In 1885, after completing his studies at Scotch Mission,
Iqbal entered the Government College in Lahore, where he studied Philosophy and
Arabic and English Literature for his Bachelor of Arts degree. He was an
excellent student, graudating cum laude and winning a gold medal for
being the only candidate who passed the final comprehensive examination.
Meanwhile, he continued writing poetry. When he received his Master's degree in
1899, he had already begun to make his mark among the literary circles of
Iqbal studied in
Europe for three years from 1905 and acquired a law degree at Lincoln's Inn, a
Bachelor of Arts at Cambridge and a Doctor of Philosophy at Munich University.
At Cambridge, he crossed paths with other great scholars who further influenced
his scholastic development. Under their guidance, Iqbal refined his already
considerable intellect and widened his mental horizon.
Upon his return from
Europe in 1908, Iqbal embarked on a career in law, academics and poetry, all at
once. Of the three pursuits, he excelled in what was his true calling and first
love--poetry. There is a widely held belief that had the Government College in
Lahore been more generous with their monthly stipend and academic freedom, he
would have been as brilliant an academician as he was a poet. In fact, it was
financial considerations that forced him to relinquish his assistant
professorship in 1909 to take up a fulltime law career.
In 1931, Iqbal
made a second visit to Europe to renew old acquaintances and make new ones and
to reflect and write. He attended conferences in Britain and met various
scholars and politicians, including the French philosopher Henri Louis Bergson
and the Italian dictator Mussolini. A visit to Spain inspired three beautiful
poems, which were later incorporated into a major composition, Bal-I Jibril
In the West, Intellect is the source of life,
In the East, Love is the basis of life.
At last the silent tongue of Hijaz has
announced to the ardent ear the tiding
The lion who had emerged from the desert and
had toppled the Roman Empire is
You the dwelles of the West, should know that
the world of God is not a shop (of yours).
Your civilization will commit suicide with its
The caravan of feeble ants will take the rose
petal for a boat
I will take out may worn-out caravan in the
pitch darkness of night.
For Iqbal it was a divinely inspired insight. He disclosed this to his listeners in December 1931, when he was invited to Cambridge to address the students. Iqbal was in London, participating in the Second Round Table Conference in 1931. At Cambridge, he referred to what he had proclaimed in 1906:
It should be stressed that Iqbal felt he had received a spiritual message in 1907 which even to him was, at that juncture, not clear. Its full import dawned on him later. The verses quoted above show that Iqbal had taken a bold decision about himself as well. Keeping in view that contemporary circumstances, he had decided to give a lead to the Muslim ummah and bring it out of the dark dungeon of slavery to the shining vasts of Independence. This theme was repeated later in poems such as "Abdul Qadir Ke Nam," "Sham-o-Sha'ir," "Javab-i Shikwa," "Khizr-i Rah," "Tulu-e Islam" etc. He never lost heart. His first and foremost concern, naturally, were the Indian Muslims. He was certain that the day of Islamic resurgence was about to dawn and the Muslims of the South Asian subcontinent were destined to play a prominent role in it. Iqbal, confident in Allah's grand scheme and His aid, created a new world and imparted a new life to our being. Building upon Sir Sayyid Ahmed's two-nation theory, absorbing the teaching of Shibli, Ameer Ali, Hasrat Mohani and other great Indian Muslim thinkers and politicians, listening to Hindu and British voices, and watching the fermenting Indian scene closely for approximately 60 years, he knew and ultimately convinced his people and their leaders, particularly Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah that:
Many verses in Iqbal's poetry are prompted by a similar impulse. A random example, a ghazal from Zabur-i Ajam published in 1927 illustrates his deepseated belief:
The Guide of the Era is about to appear from a
corner of the desert of Hijaz.
I have observed the kingly majesty on the
faces of the slaves.
Life laments for ages both in the Ka'bah and
The laments that burst forth from the breasts
of the earnestly devoted people.
Take this harp from my hand. I am done for.
My laments have turned into blood and that
The five couplets quoted above are prophetic. In the first couplet Allama Iqbal indicates that the appearance of the Guide of the Era was just round the corner and the Caravan is about to start and emerge from "this" valley. Iqbal does not say that the awaited Guide has to emerge from the centre of Hijaz. He says he is going to appear from a far flung valley. For the poet the desert of Hijaz, at times, serves as a symbol for the Muslim ummah. This means that Muslims of the Indian sub-continent are about to have a man who is destined to guide them to the goal of victory and that victory is to initiate the resurgence of Islam.
In the second couplet, he breaks the news of the dawn which is at hand. the slaves are turning into magnificent masters. In the third couplet he stresses the point that the Seers come to the world of man after centuries. He himself was one of those Seers. In the fourth couplet he refers to some ideology or principle quite new to the world which would effect the conscience of all humanity. And what else could it be, if it were not the right of self-determination for which the Muslims of the sub-continent were about to struggle. After the emergence of Pakistan this right became a powerful reference. It served as the advent of a new principle and continues to provide impetus to Muslims in minority in other parts of the world such as in the Philippines, Thailand and North America.
In the fifth couplet Iqbal indicates that he would die before the advent of freedom. He was sure that his verses which epitomized his most earnest sentiments would stand in good stead in exhorting the Muslims of the sub-continent to the goal of freedom.
These thoughts crystallised at Allahabad Session (December, 1930) of the All India Muslim League, when Iqbal in the Presidential Address, forwarded the idea of a Muslim State in India:
The seed sown, the idea began to evolve and take root. It soon assumed the shape of Muslim state or states in the western and eastern Muslim majority zones as is obvious from the following lines of Iqbal's letter, of June 21, 1937, to the Quaid-i Azam, only ten months before the former's death:
There are some critics of Allama Iqbal who assume that after delivering the Allahbad Address he had slept over the idea of a Muslim State. Nothing is farther from the truth. The idea remained always alive in his mind. It had naturally to mature and hence, had to take time. He was sure that the Muslims of sub-continent were going to achieve an independent homeland for themselves. On 21st March, 1932, Allama Iqbal delivered the Presidential address at Lahore at the annual session of the All-India Muslim Conference. In that address too he stressed his view regarding nationalism in India and commented on the plight of the Muslims under the circumstances prevailing in the sub-continent. Having attended the Second Round Table Conference in September, 1931 in London, he was keenly aware of the deep-seated Hindu and Sikh prejudice and unaccommodating attitude. He had observed the mind of the British Government. Hence he reiterated his apprehensions and suggested safeguards in respect of the Indian Muslims:
It must be kept in mind that since Maulana Muhammad Ali had died in Jan. 1931 and Quaid-i Azam had stayed behind in London, the responsibility of providing a proper lead to the Indian Muslims had fallen on him alone. He had to assume the role of a jealous guardian of his nation till Quaid-i Azam returned to the sub-continent in 1935.
The League and the Muslim Conference had become the play-thing of petty leaders, who would not resign office, even after a vote of non-confidence! And, of course, they had no organization in the provinces and no influence with the masses.
During the Third Round-Table Conference, Iqbal was invited by the London National League where he addressed an audience which included among others, foreign diplomats, members of the House of Commons, Members of the House of Lords and Muslim members of the R.T.C. delegation. In that gathering he dilated upon the situation of the Indian Muslims. He explained why he wanted the communal settlement first and then the constitutional reforms. He stressed the need for provincial autonomy because autonomy gave the Muslim majority provinces some power to safeguard their rights, cultural traditions and religion. Under the central Government the Muslims were bound to lose their cultural and religious entity at the hands of the overwhelming Hindu majority. He referred to what he had said at Allahabad in 1930 and reiterated his belief that before long people were bound to come round to his viewpoint based on cogent reason.
In his dialogue with Dr. Ambedkar Allama Iqbal expressed his desire to see Indian provinces as autonomous units under the direct control of the British Government and with no central Indian Government. He envisaged autonomous Muslim Provinces in India. Under one Indian union he feared for Muslims, who would suffer in many respects especially with regard to their existentially separate entity as Muslims.
Allama Iqbal's statement explaining the attitude of Muslim delegates to the Round-Table Conference issued in December, 1933 was a rejoinder to Jawahar Lal Nehru's statement. Nehru had said that the attitude of the Muslim delegation was based on "reactionarism." Iqbal concluded his rejoinder with:
Allama Iqbal's apprehensions were borne out by the Hindu Congress ministries established in Hindu majority province under the Act of 1935. Muslims in those provinces were given dastardly treatment. This deplorable phenomenon added to Allama Iqbal's misgivings regarding the future of Indian Muslims in case India remained united. In his letters to the Quaid-i Azam written in 1936 and in 1937 he referred to an independent Muslim State comprising North-Western and Eastern Muslim majority zones. Now it was not only the North-Western zones alluded to in the Allahabad Address.
There are some within Pakistan and without, who insist that Allama Iqbal never meant a sovereign Muslim country outside India. Rather he desired a Muslim State within the Indian Union. A State within a State. This is absolutely wrong. What he meant was understood very vividly by his Muslim compatriots as well as the non-Muslims. Why Nehru and others had then tried to show that the idea of Muslim nationalism had no basis at all. Nehru stated:
Who could understand Allama Iqbal better than the Quaid-i Azam himself, who was his awaited "Guide of the Era"? The Quaid-i Azam in the Introduction to Allama Iqbal's lettes addressed to him, admitted that he had agreed with Allama Iqbal regarding a State for Indian Muslims before the latters death in April, 1938. The Quaid stated:
Furthermore, it was Allama Iqbal who called upon Quaid-i Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to lead the Muslims of India to their cherished goal. He preferred the Quaid to other more experienced Muslim leaders such as Sir Aga Khan, Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Nawab Muhammad Isma il Khan, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Nawab Hamid Ullah Khan of Bhopal, Sir Ali Imam, Maulvi Tameez ud-Din Khan, Maulana Abul Kalam, Allama al-Mashriqi and others. But Allama Iqbal had his own reasons. He had found his "Khizr-i Rah", the veiled guide in Quaid-i Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who was destined to lead the Indian branch of the Muslim Ummah to their goal of freedom. Allama Iqbal stated:
Similar sentiments were expressed by him about three months before his death. Sayyid Nazir Niazi in his book Iqbal Ke Huzur, has stated that the future of the Indian Muslims was being discussed and a tenor of pessimism was visible from what his friends said. At this Allama Iqbal observed:
Matlub ul-Hasan Sayyid stated that after the Lahore Resolution was passed on March 23, 1940, the Quaid-i Azam said to him:
But the matter does not end here. Allama Iqbal in his letter of March 29, 1937 to the Quaid-i Azam had said:
According to Allama Iqbal the future of Islam as a moral and political force not only in India but in the whole of Asia rested on the organization of the Muslims of India led by the Quaid-i Azam.
The "Guide of the Era" Iqbal had envisaged in 1926, was found in the person of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The "Guide" organized the Muslims of India under the banner of the Muslim League and offered determined resistance to both the Hindu and the English designs for a united Hindu-dominated India. Through their united efforts under the able guidance of Quaid-I Azam Muslims succeeded in dividing India into Pakistan and Bharat and achieving their independent homeland. As observed above, in Allama Iqbal's view, the organization of Indian Muslims which achieved Pakistan would also have to defend other Muslim societies in Asia. The carvan of the resurgence of Islam has to start and come out of this Valley, far off from the centre of the ummah. Let us see how and when, Pakistan prepares itself to shoulder this august responsibility. It is Allama Iqbal's prevision.
The Holy Prophet has said
Although his main interests were scholarly, Iqbal was not unconcerned with the political situation of the, country and the political fortunes of the Muslim community of India. Already in 1908, while in England, he had been chosen as a member of the executive council of the newly-established British branch of the Indian Muslim League. In 1931 and 1932 he represented the Muslims of India in the Round Table Conferences held in England to discuss the issue of the political future of India. And in a 1930 lecture Iqbal suggested the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims of India. Iqbal died (1938) before the creation of Pakistan (1947), but it was his teaching that "spiritually ... has been the chief force behind the creation of Pakistan."
His first book Ilm ul Iqtisad/The knowledge of Economics was written in Urdu in 1903 . His first poetic work Asrar-i Khudi (1915) was followed by Rumuz-I Bekhudi (1917). Payam-i Mashriq appeared in 1923, Zabur-i Ajam in 1927, Javid Nama in 1932, Pas cheh bayed kard ai Aqwam-i Sharq in 1936, and Armughan-i Hijaz in 1938. All these books were in Persian. The last one, published posthumously is mainly in Persian: only a small portion comprises Urdu poems and ghazals.
His first book of poetry in Urdu, Bang-i Dara (1924) was followed by Bal-i Jibril in 1935 and Zarb-i Kalim in 1936.
Bang-i Dara consist of selected poems belonging to the three preliminary phases of Iqbal's poetic career. Bal-i Jibril is the peak of Iqbal's Urdu poetry. It consists of ghazals, poems, quatrains, epigrams and displays the vision and intellect necessary to foster sincerity and firm belief in the heart of the ummah and turn its members into true believers. Zarb-i Kalim was described by the poet himself "as a declaration of war against the present era". The main subjects of the book are Islam and the Muslims, education and upbringing, woman, literature and fine arts, politics of the East and the West. In Asrar-i Khudi, Iqbal has explained his philosohy of "Self". He proves by various means that the whole universe obeys the will of the "Self". Iqbal condemns self-destruction. For him the aim of life is self-relization and self-knowledge. He charts the stages through which the "Self" has to pass before finally arriving at its point of perfection, enabling the knower of the "Self" to become the viceregent of Allah on earth/Khalifat ullah fi'l ard. In Rumuz-i Bekhudi, Iqbal proves that Islamic way of life is the best code of conduct for a nation's viability. A person must keep his individual characteristics intact but once this is achieved he should sacrifice his personal ambitions for the needs of the nation. Man cannot realize the "Self" out of society. Payam-i Mashriq is an answer to West-Istlicher Divan by Goethe, the famous German peot. Goethe bemoaned that the West had become too materialistic in outlook and expected that the East would provide a message of hope that would resuscitate spiritual values. A hundred years went by and then Iqbal reminded the West of the importance of morality, religion and civilization by underlining the need for cultivating feeling, ardour and dynamism. He explained that life could, never aspire for higher dimensions unless it learnt of the nature of spirituality.
Zabur-i Ajam includes the Mathnavi Gulshan-i Raz-i Jadid and Bandagi Nama. In Gulshan-i Raz-i Jadid, he follows the famous Mathnavi Gulshan-i Raz by Sayyid Mahmud Shabistri. Here like Shabistri, Iqbal first poses questions, then answers them with the help of ancient and modern insight and shows how it effects and concerns the world of action. Bandagi Nama is in fact a vigorous campaign against slavery and subjugation. He explains the spirit behind the fine arts of enslaved societies. In Zabur-i Ajam, Iqbal's Persian ghazal is at its best as his Urdu ghazal is in Bal-i Jibril. Here as in other books, Iqbal insists on remembering the past, doing well in the present and preparing for the future. His lesson is that one should be dynamic, full of zest for action and full of love and life. Implicitly, he proves that there is no form of poetry which can equal the ghazal in vigour and liveliness. In Javid Nama, Iqbal follows Ibn-Arabi, Marri and Dante. Iqbal depicts himself as Zinda Rud (a stream, full of life) guided by Rumi the master, through various heavens and spheres and has the honour of approaching Divinity and coming in contact with divine illuminations. Several problems of life are discussed and answers are provided to them. It is an exceedingly enlivening study. His hand falls heavily on the traitors to their nation like Mir Jafar from Bengal and Mir Sadiq from the Deccan, who were instrumental in the defeat and death of Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula of Bengal and Sultan Tipu of Mysore respectively by betraying them for the benefit of the British. Thus, they delivered their country to the shackles of slavery. At the end, by addressing his son Javid, he speaks to the young people at large and provides guidance to the "new generation".
Pas Cheh Bay ed Kard ai Aqwam-i Sharq includes the mathnavi Musafir. Iqbal's Rumi, the master, utters this glad tiding "East awakes from its slumbers" "Khwab-i ghaflat". Inspiring detailed commentary on voluntary poverty and free man, followed by an exposition of the mysteries of Islamic laws and sufic perceptions is given. He laments the dissention among the Indian as well as Muslim nations. Mathnavi Musafir, is an account of a journey to Afghanistan. In the mathnavi the people of the Frontier (Pathans) are counseled to learn the "secret of Islam" and to "build up the self" within themselves.
Armughan-i Hijaz consists of two parts. The first contains quatrains in Persian; the second contains some poems and epigrams in Urdu. The Persian quatrains convey the impression as though the poet is travelling through Hijaz in his imaginatin. Profundity of ideas and intensity of passion are the salient features of these short poems. The Urdu portion of the book contains some categorical criticism of the intellectual movements and social and political revolutions of the modern age
Allama Iqbal's contributions are numerous and it is not possible to give even a glimpse of his work here. A brief outline of Allama Iqbal's life and achievements is presented below: