By SYED KHALID HUSAIN
Uqabi Rooh Jab Baidar Hoti Hai Jawanon Mein; Nazar Aati Hai Unko Apni Manzil Aasmanon Mein.” (When a falcon’s spirit awakens in young people; / They see their luminous goal beyond the starry heavens.)
Nahin Tera Nasheman Qasr-e-Sultani Ke Gunbad Par; / Tu Shaheen Hai, Basera Kar Pahadon Ki Chatanon Mein. (It’s not among the domes of the empire’s palaces that your abode lies; For you are falcon, so make then your abode among the high peaks of the lofty mountains.)
Tundiye Baad-e-Mukhalif Se Na Ghabra Aye Uqaab; / Ye To Chalti Hai Tujhe Ooncha Uranay Ke Liye. (You don’t get frightened of these furious, violent winds, O falcon! / These blow only to make you fly higher.)
These philosophical, thought-provoking and inspiring expressions are from the poetry of Sir Dr Mohammed Iqbal, one of the most outstanding poet-philosophers of the modern era. In these couplets, Iqbal addresses the Muslim youth, likens them to the falcon that flies tirelessly in the skies, and motivates them to create in themselves the qualities of the eagle-like bird.
Iqbal was born in Sialkot (Punjab), Pakistan in 1877. He died in 1938. Commonly known as the Poet of the East and Hakeem-ul-Ummat (sage of the global Muslim community), Iqbal’s works in Urdu, Arabic and Persian are considered to be among the greatest of the modern era. A doctorate in philosophy, Iqbal was knighted in 1922 by King George V, who conferred on him the title of “Sir”.
Referred to as Allama (scholar), Iqbal was a strong proponent of the spiritual and political revival of Islamic civilization and culture. He encouraged the creation of a “state in north-western India for Indian Muslims”, which ultimately gave birth to Pakistan where he is formally recognised as the “national poet”. In India, Iqbal is best known for his patriotic song Tarana-e-Hindi (Indian anthem), Saare Jahan Se Achchha Hindostan Hamara… (Better than the entire world is our India…) Although Iqbal later disavowed the song, which he had originally written for children, it has remained popular in India for over a century.
Iqbal was educated initially by private tutors in languages and writing, history, poetry and Islamic studies. He became proficient in several languages and the skill of writing prose and poetry. Iqbal entered the Government College in Lahore where he studied philosophy, English literature and Arabic, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1892, graduating cum laude.
While studying for his master’s, Iqbal came under the wings of Sir Thomas Arnold, a scholar of Islam and modern philosophy at the college. Sir Arnold exposed young Iqbal to Western culture and ideas, and served as a bridge for him between the ideas of East and West. At Sir Thomas’s encouragement, Iqbal travelled to and spent many years studying in Europe. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College at Cambridge in 1907, while simultaneously studying law at Lincoln’s Inn, from where he qualified as a barrister in 1908. The same year he returned to India.
While in Europe, Iqbal started writing poetry in Persian as well. Throughout his life, Iqbal would prefer writing in Persian as he believed it allowed him to fully express philosophical concepts, and it gave him a wider audience.
Iqbal’s thoughts in his work primarily focused on the spiritual direction and development of human society, and centred on experiences from his travel and stay in Western Europe and the Middle East. He was profoundly influenced by Western philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson and Goethe, and soon became a strong critic of Western society’s separation of religion from state and what he perceived as its obsession with materialistic pursuits.
The poetry and philosophy of Maulana Rumi, a 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, jurist, theologian and sufi mystic, bore the deepest influence on Iqbal’s mind. Deeply grounded in religion since childhood, Iqbal would begin intensely concentrating on the study of Islam, the culture and history of Islamic civilization and its political future, and embraced Rumi as “his guide”. Iqbal would feature Rumi in the role of a guide in many of his poems, and his works focused on reminding his readers of the past glories of Islamic civilisation, and delivering a message of a pure, spiritual focus on Islam as a source for socio-political liberation and greatness. Iqbal denounced political divisions within and among Muslim nations, and frequently alluded to and spoke in terms of the Ummah.
FOCUS ON THE YOUNG
Iqbal was deeply concerned with the Muslim youth of that time. He was very much clear to the fact that if the young had focused on their real destiny, then they could have led the Muslims of the subcontinent out of the danger of destruction earlier than they did.
Iqbal’s youth is True Muslim, Mard-i-Mu’min (Perfect Man of Faith), Mujahid (always struggling in the way of Allah), Man of Khudi (the Self), and Optimistic.
He says: Mohhabbat Mujhe Un Jawanon Se Hai; / Sitaron Pe Jo Dalte Hain Kumand. (I have love for those youngsters who pull the stars down.)
Iqbal’s youngster is a creative youngster. He is the falcon who hunts and then takes. Iqbal says: Wohi Jahan Hai Tera Jis Ko Tu Kare Paida; / Yeh Sang-o-Khisht Naheen Jo Teree Nigah Men Hai. (Your world is (only) the one which you create yourself, / Not these stones and bricks, which are in sight.)
The youth provide the leadership that leads the nation to the heights of self-determination. Iqbal’s notion of leadership is best exemplified in his concept of Mard-i-Mu’min when he says: Narm Dame-e-Guftugu, Garm Dame-e-Justujoo; / Razm Ho Ya Bazm Ho, Pak Dil-wo-Pak Baaz. (He (mu’min) is mild in speech and wild in action; / Be it battlefield or the assembly of friends, he is pure of heart and action.)
He further says: Afraad Ke Haathon Mein Hai Aqwam Ki Taqdeer; / Har Fard Hai Millat Ke Muqaddar Ka Sitara. (The destiny of nations is vested with the individuals. /Similarly every person belonging to the Muslim Ummah is its destiny’s star.)
In Iqbal’s sight, the youth represent the nation, not only the current nation but also the nations to come, i.e. they will set a stage for next generations. Iqbal’s youngster is a Muslim leader and a Mujahid, who is equipped with the qualities of a leader mentioned in Surah Al-Baqarah of the Holy Qur’ān. He says if the youth are True Muslims and have these qualities then the nation can prosper, and if it is otherwise then nothing can stop it from being ruined.
Iqbal wants his youth to have the best knowledge – the knowledge of the Qur’ān. This idea is more clearly expressed in a Persian Qita’a (quartet), which means: Keep the Qur’ān as a mirror before you. / You have completely changed, (and) run away from yourself. / Fix a balance for your deeds [so that you may be able to], / Stir a commotion which your forbears stirred in the past.
Iqbal wants the Muslim youth to stop living a life of indolence and accept the challenges of life. He wants them to stay away from the glittering culture of the West, which he says is a blend of matter and material pleasure where lust, selfishness and many other wrongs are prevailing. Therefore no good could be expected from them.
Iqbal inspires the youth thus: Nawa Pera Ho Ae Bulbul Ke Ho Tere Tarannum Se; / Kabootar Ke Tan-e-Nazuk Mein Shaheen Ka Jigar Paida. (Burst into song, oh nightingale! so that from your melody / The spirit of the royal falcon may arise in the delicate body of the dove!)
The most significant and certainly the best known image in Iqbal’s poetry is that of the falcon. He says: “Live in the world like an eagle, and like an eagle die.”
Iqbal is optimistic about the Muslim youth when he says: Nahin Hai Na-Umeed Iqbal Apni Kisht-e-Weeran Se; / Zara Nam Ho To Ye Mitti Bahut Zarkhaiz Hai Saqi. (But of his barren acres Iqbal will not despair: / A little rain, and harvests shall wave at last, O Saqi!)
And, finally, Iqbal prays to Allah: “(O Allah), Jawanon Ko Soz-e-Jigar Bakhsh De; Mera Ishq, Meri Nazar bakhs De.” (Oh God, Bestow on the youth my warmth of feeling; / My unbounded love, and my vision.)
And: Jawanon Ko Meri Aah-e-Sehar De; / Phir In Shaheen Bachon Ko Baal-o-Par De; / Khudaya! Arzoo Meri Yehi Hai; / Mera Noor-e-Baseerat Aam Kar De. (Give the young, O Lord, my passionate love for Thee, / And give them an eagle’s force to fly and to see; / O Lord, I pray that Thou vouchsafe to them / The power of vision that Thou hast given me.)
[The writer, a Singapore-based journalist and editor, was with Radiance from 1977 to 1981. He can be contacted at email@example.com.]