Is Allama Iqbal relevant in today’s politics?

Published: April 16, 2012

We do Iqbal no service by reducing his whole life down to one political aspiration borne of circumstances which have long since ceased to matter. PHOTO: FILE

In our national conscience, Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal occupies that lofty post of being the first person to have conceived the idea of Pakistan. The second thing that we know about him is that he wanted an Islamic Pakistan.

Nobody has ever bothered to go beyond this simple fact to ascertain the reasons for this, and it is noteworthy that mostly we have only read about the part where he supports the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims. The official narrative has erased Iqbal’s advocacy of a unified India and presents only his later ideas.

The point of this article is not to delegitimise Iqbal’s legacy for the state he envisioned; it is merely to assert that things are never as simple as they are presented and to understand the reasons behind the demand Iqbal so passionately made. It is an attempt at providing as much of his ideas as possible in a limited space. In doing so, it also becomes pertinent to ask whether Iqbal and his political legacy are relevant in today’s Pakistan.

The fact is that Iqbal was initially in favour of a united India. He even wrote a poem extolling the virtues of that geographical region, the ‘Tarana-e-Hind,’ better known today as ‘saray jahaan say acha Hindustan hamara.’ (Our Hindustan is better than the rest of the world).

At this point, it is clear that he was a nationalist; Annemarie Schimmell even described him as a “patriot in the western sense” in her book Gabriel’s Wing: A study into the religious ideas of Sir Muhammad Iqbal. 

Furthermore, he could not think about partitioning his beloved Punjab, and it was here, with a roughly equal numbers of Hindus and Muslims, that his early nationalistic poetry took on a sense of urgency. This was an era where he firmly believed that multiple religions could coexist in India “with Muslims and Hindus living side by side like brothers.” The year was 1904- one year later he would sail to England and Germany, from where he would return a completely changed man.

The vitality he witnessed there shook him. He marvelled at people who had “the confident restlessness whereby if they did not like a thing, they changed it.” He viewed the democratic dispensation of these countries very favourably, and lamented that the British did not extend the same rights to their subcontinental subjects.

He returned in 1908, and saw that all around him Hindus were being educated, while Muslims lagged behind. He noticed lingering resentment in the Muslim population as a result of the uprising of 1857, and after seeing the hypocrisy of the democratic England’s treatment of its own citizens as opposed to the citizens of its colonies, he resolved to work towards the goal of “a federal India with a strong emphasis on provincial autonomy” – a goal which would later turn into a struggle for outright freedom.

Sometime later, he also altered his original poem “Tarna-e-Hind” to “Tarana-e-Milli” in which he glorified the global Islamic community. By this time it was clear that he believed that the only way to resolve the downfall of the Muslims was to create an Islamic State, but yet again, listening to his utterances and speeches, we can only guess as to what his true vision for the new state.

On the one hand, he called pan-Islamism the “political goal of the Islamic world” and on the other, he told Hindus not to fear as Pakistan “would not have a religious rule.” By now, he also referred to western nationalism as a “sham” and “idolatry”, this being the same nationalism that, not many years ago, he championed for the subcontinent.

Thus there is no clear answer as to what his vision was, but if one looks at his speeches and his ideas in The Reconstruction of Political Thought in Islam, it is not wrong to conclude that these seemingly contradictory sayings reflect the confusion that Iqbal himself felt when he saw the decay of the Muslim community.

Even in 1927, when the Iqbal touting Islamic Pakistan had truly arrived, he had this to say:

“The talk of a united nationalism is futile. In this country, one community is always aiming at the destruction of the other community.”

This statement, more than anything else, shows his concern for the rights of the minority – in this case the Muslim minority – rather than a yearning for an Islamic state. It is also telling that Iqbal pointed out Jinnah as the undisputed leader of the Muslims of the subcontinent, even after Jinnah very publicly dismissed Iqbal’s appeals for an Islamic homeland.

The fact of the matter is that Iqbal can be used by people as varied as liberals, conservatives and reactionaries in their favour, but his ultimate abandonment of the democratic idea came about when he witnessed its true potential abroad and derided the managed version of that political ideal in India. As said before, he viewed a true democratic system quite favourably. Thus, his pining for an Islamic state, when viewed in consideration of its entire context which gave rise to this demand, becomes moot.

Additionally, two things are to be noted here: firstly, he was aware that creating a country on the basis of religion was impractical in the extreme and that such an entity could not even exist, as a religiously defined unit cannot be constrained by territorial boundaries.

Secondly, he did not see democracy as anti-thetical to Islam. When responding to Hindu fears of a potential religious rule in Pakistan, he replied by remembering the democracy of the period of the first four caliphs.

A fitting conclusion would be the realisation that an increasing passage of time always confers a certain uniformity regarding historical facts, especially when such efforts are backed by state elements – which has been the case with so many personalities in this country’s past. Allama Iqbal is but one example of this phenomenon. We do him no service by reducing his whole life down to one political aspiration borne of circumstances which have long since ceased to matter.

Did he want an Islamic polity? Yes. Is it possible he was wrong? He himself admits to this fact, even though we are not made aware of this. Do the conditions which gave rise to this demand exist today? No, neither did they exist once independence was achieved – Bangalsdesh’s creation further gave credence to this notion.

And the final question; is Iqbal relevant in today’s politics? Surely not.

Read more by Ahmad here.


Is Allama Iqba's ideology for Pakistan relevant in today's politics?

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Ahmad Sultan

Ahmad Sultan

A graduate of Haverford College in 2010 who studied economics.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Torrent

    The only thing we’ve been discussing for the past few years is Zaid Hamid’s ideology. Good piece.Recommend

  • Zara Mazhar

    Exactly my thoughts!
    I respect Allama Iqbal a LOT. But I think the reason he wanted Pakistan was for us to be NOT like India was, to be a free democratic state. But look at us today, we are worst off than the indians were when it comes to minority rights. How are we any better? We are just worst.
    Look at Bangladesh! They have come a LONG way, we need to learn a thing or two from them. Quaid’s Pakistan was a free country, like he said ‘You may belong to ANY religion, caste or creed. That has NOTHING to do with the business of the state’.
    Bangladesh remains a ‘People’s republic’ while we call ourselves, now, the Islamic republic. Really we know NOTHING about our leaders, our history and our religion.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    Allama Muhammad Iqbal was trully great thinker and when he return from germony he saw and understand the true face and democracy of English Raj so he demanded seprate country
    for muslims and he may be saw the all looted and stolen stuff of india and muslims land so
    i think it changed him but again i think Hitler rahm allah is the reason for freedom of all the
    ocupy colonies.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    The problem that I see is that no one in the Islamic world takes a different stand, because you need to justify your point-of-view based on some past ideal that exists in history because someone else chose to glorify it – and so you have a Jinnah’s Pakistan, an Iqbal’s vision, a Prophet’s religion, a Caliph’s democracy and so on. Every single point that you mention has been retold/ rewritten by sycophants and/ or worshippers. When you quote actual references (like those of Iqbal) they present any number of views – and there again you pick and choose, so that it fits in with the pre-defined concept. The delicious irony is that anyone who chooses to present a different point of view is considered an apostate and subject to some fatwa or the other – in a religion that operates as a Hotel California (you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave). Who cares about the Quaid’s or Iqbal’s Pakistan? What you have is what you’ve got – make the best of it instead of trying to recreate an ideal world from someone else’s imagination.Recommend

  • geeko

    Great article, but just one thing : MA Jinnah too fought for an United India until the Nehru report in 1928, I’m sure that a lot across the borders think that he (or perhaps both) “hated” Hindus but their demand from Pakistan was the product of complex social factors, not some irrational hate for a religious community.
    MA Jinnah returned, disillusioned of the Congress, to England, and it was Iqbal who summoned him back to India and they practically began the Pakistan tehreek.

    The spirit of both these great men are still relevant.Recommend

  • hassan

    Every now and then, some guy, clutching at straws, takes a pleasure trip into the past and returns with some nostalgic, wistful stuff about our founding father’s vision and this Allama Iqbal’s dream.

    It’s time we stopped this retrospective rationalization and admitted the fact that those worthy guys have nicely sold us a big lemon which we are still sucking. Allama Iqbal was no Locke or Kant or Russell. If you look closely, he wasn’t even an original.

    Give him a break, he was just a poet !Recommend

  • Mazher Arshad

    Iqbal said in his poetry, a poem “Iblees Ka Farman Apne Siasi Farzandon Ke Naam”:

    Woh Faqa Kash Ke Mout Se Darta Nahin Zara
    Rooh-e-Muhammad Iss Ke Badan Se Nikal Do

    Fikr-e-Arab Ko De Ke Farangi Takhiyyulat
    Islam Ko Hijaz-o-Yaman Se Nikal Do

    This shows the ideology of Iqbal that he advised Muslims not to leave their Islamic values if they want to succeed. Recommend

  • obscurantist

    @Ali Tanoli:
    as if when he left for germany he was a lil kiddo who did not know anything about the english or the english policiesRecommend

  • Zaid Hamid

    You just gave Zaid Hamid & Co a facebook status update…Recommend

  • Anoop

    I hate, not really, to burst the bubble, but Iqbal was NOT the first one to give the idea of Pakistan, it was Rehmat Ali.

    The reason nobody talks about him is because he is a Religious nut. Its not that romantic to admit that such a person had actually thought of Pakistan first, is it!

    He published a pamphlet in 1933 calling for the creation of ‘Pakstan’. I will quote part of the pamphlet here.

    “At this solemn hour in the history of India, when British and Indian statesmen are laying the foundations of a Federal Constitution for that land, we address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKSTAN – by which we mean the five Northern units of India, Viz: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan.”

    Here, is the copy of the pamphlet:

    Do care to note the communal tone of the message. I would also like to point out that the name was retained but slightly by adding an ‘I’ for Islam to Pakstan. Are you still proud?

    So, will you correct your blog and write the fact please, or will you continue to believe in untruths just because it suits your purpose?

    Its not such a great appreciation to Iqbal and Jinnah that they agreed with a Religious nut, is it! But, it also tells you why Pakistan turned out the way it did. Recommend

  • Anoop

    The political and Religious inclinations of a man is static throughout his life? No, they are subject to change.

    Is it too uncommon for liberal/rational minds to suddenly turn towards Religion at the end of their lives? Not really. Its all too common.

    Jinnah was a liberal, secular and a promoter of unity, yes. But, not all his life. So, goes the same with Iqbal.

    People change. You cannot classify them as black and white. Humans are imperfect after all. Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Allama Iqbal was the light that freed the minds of Muslims, filled them with hope and faith again, and shone the path of the truth. He recognized what was clear to everyone but nobody had the courage to say – in India Hindus had always been planning the destruction of Muslims. Nothing has changed even today. When you see Kashmiris being tormented by Hindus, when social works like Hafiz Saeed are hounded without a shred of evidence against them, when mass murderers who used state machinery to orchestrate pogroms against Muslims are let off by Hindu courts, then nobody can say that Allama Iqbal is not relevant to Pakistan anymore.Recommend

  • Iqbal73

    Iqbal was a philosopher as well a poet. How many Indians find inspiration in the philosophical “experiments” of Gandhi (whose accounts span dozens of volumes) relevant today? How many Americans are even aware of John Dewey, who was their greatest political philosopher of first half of 20th century–much less know of John Rawls who was probably the World’s greatest political philosopher in 2nd half of 20th century (1 in 5,000)? French at least take their philosophers seriously (20,000 showed up at Sartre’s funeral) and Italians and Germans are also good at honoring their thinkers, but in the mercantile Anglo-American world (of which South Asia’s intellegentsia is also a part of, at least mentally) deep thought is frowned upon and barely educated CEOs such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson are treated as sages.Recommend

  • Anuj Agrawal

    As for Zaid Hamid…. Long Live Hamid… With him on your side ,do you think India needs weapons? He amongst other people like him will press the SELF DESTRUCT button themselves…. Leave behind religion, work for peace…
    Indians and Pakistanis have long been separated….Help in bringing them together(not in a nation) but in minds..Recommend

  • Mir Agha

    “And the final question; is Iqbal relevant in today’s politics? Surely not.”

    Maybe that’s the issue.Recommend

  • Noise

    Iqbal ceased to be relevant after 1971Recommend

  • Noise

    @Ali Tanoli
    If Hitler “rahm allah” had his way you as a member of the slave races would been worked to death for the benefit of the master race. They would have though you funny, but still wouldn’t have spared you despite all your sycophancy. Hitlers goal was a pure aryan world. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Interesting and forces one to ponder a bit.
    It is important to debate the how, what, why of those times, but today it is much more important to look at, correctly analyse and boldly act on events unfolding around us, as we speak. Recommend

  • Ahmad


    I am sorry to disappoint you, but I have written the fact as it is. Allama Iqbal proposed the idea in his Allahbad Address. Note the date: 29/12/1930.

    “I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.”

    So, in your own (slightly altered) words:

    I hate, not really, to burst your pompous, arrogant bubble. Now why don’t you brush up on your history a little bit, eh?Recommend

  • humble muslim

    Iqbal may have praised western nationalism in his early days but he wasn’t one of those who idealized western democracy, the concept of a separate homeland for muslims was merely a prediction made by Iqbal but the kind of state that he wanted to see was not a typical nation-state based on geographical piece of land.
    The concept of a nation state is very much similar to idolatry in Iqbal’s eyes because in such a state the state is the sovereign entity and one submits himself to the state, as a result the state’s interests become unquestionable regardless of any moral or ethical implications. The definition of a nation state in Iqbal’s eyes was very much the same as the definition of an idol.

    He did call for a separate homeland for muslims BUT if you take a closer look at his poetry you could clearly see that apart from his political aspirations he calls for the Mard-e-musalman to get his act together, in jawab-e-shikwa it is clear that he points out the faults that are responsible for the downfall of muslims, if one understands Iqbal correctly it is obvious that the creation of Pakistan was only the beginning of his dream.
    Iqbal wanted to see Pakistan as a model state for the world, as a welfare state that was not bound by geographic or ethnic lines, one that would stand on the firm pillars of justice, equality and accountability, which were the hallmarks of the Islamic society in the time of Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) and the righteously guided caliphs.He had a very close connection with the Quran and he believed that with quran as the source of guidance one could do away with all the ills of a society, just like Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) did with arabia, it was a land that had almost all the problems that we face today and he brought peace to the land.
    What we see in Pakistan today is the exact opposite of what he had envisioned. We need to understand that Islam takes a bottom-up approach towards society building, from individual to society and from society to governance.Islam surely does have a role to play in politics but it is a positive role and it doesn’t mean blindly following maulana fazl-ur-rehman. this article would better explain why
    If there is anything thats common between the people of Pakistan from north to south, its Islam, you take Islam out of the equation and you have people that have entirely different cultures, different lifestyles and even different languages. We need to understand that Islam comes with a culture of mutual-help, self-sacrifice, humility and universal brotherhood which is quite the opposite of what we are following today, so, I ask you if we get hold of such values again would Pakistan still be the same as it is now? Iqbal’s message was to revive the true muslim-the ideal human-being, it was to give hope to the youth, to wake them up from their slumber, to take hold of their destinies, to revive their true spirit. If you ask me if Iqbal is still relevant today, I say NO! he is central to Pakistan’s vision even today.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    At the risk of puncturing that rather large-sized balloon, Iqbal was dead in 1940, bro.
    Sorry to puncture your balloon too – it is arrogance to imagine that Pakistanis do not know anything about Iqbal or Rahmat Ali. Iqbal was one of the first to propose a single muslim state in NW India in the 1930 Muslim League meeting in Allahabad (it did not include Kashmir and roughly corresponds with today’s Pakistan); Rehmat Ali merely created a catchy acronym (and the Pakistan declaration); and by including Kashmir in it, gave everyone unending grief. Pls also note that the i was added for pronunciation and not for Islam.Recommend

  • faraz

    Iqbal was as irrelevant before partition as after. His idea of establishing a grass root party was discarded by Jinnah was who opted for an alliance with feudals. Only 4 percent population of Pakistan understood Urdu; outside the educated elite, people didn’t even know who he was. He died before the Lahore resolution and had no role in the events that led to partition. His idea of Islamic socialism was ill defined and never seriously considered by JinnahRecommend

  • Sohail

    This Blog is irrelevant. Iqbal always remain relevant whatever the case may be.
    You are saying this as you have said “that you haven’t understand Iqbal”. So contact Prof. Fateh Muhammad Malik..Rector IIU Islamabad. He will very much explain you the ideology and politics of Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal.Recommend

  • Siddiqui

    Iqbal wasnt original? WTH…
    So wasn’t Locke… wasn’t his work on self and development an adaptation of centuries old work of an Arab Philosopher? I think you don’t know but that’s how knowledge develops… inspiration from and old thought, adding your own flavour and senstivities and you have an idea which is fresh… Recommend

  • syed al zia jaffery

    good pieceRecommend

  • http://none Mikek

    @Anuj Agrawal:

    Hindus and Muslims are divided with their religions and cannot come close with
    their minds. Do not even try that. We are muslims and Islam is unique. Recommend

  • http://none Mikek

    @Mir Agha:

    Maybe you are ignorant about Iqbal’s poetry. First read about Iqbal poetry then comment.
    If anyone say Iqbal is irrelevant that means Islam is irrevelant in a muslim’s
    life which is totally unexeptable. Recommend

  • alicia

    Iqbal did not support democracy. His son javed Iqbal has said it in many of his interviews. He thought democracy was against IslamRecommend

  • alicia

    To follow islam you need to follow Allah and his prophet(P.B.U.H) not allama Iqbal.
    If we follow your advice than all the muslims in Malaysia, Indonesia, Middle East have thrown Islam out of their lives becasuse they hardly know who Iqbal was.Recommend

  • omer bin abdulaziz

    And how is Locke, Kant or Russell relevant to Pakistan?Recommend

  • Observer’s Eye

    That’s really an excellent article, a balanced one! I have great respect for Iqbal but on realistic grounds Iqbal was not a messenger of God so we have all the right to disagree with him- Hails to a Democratic and a Progressive Pakistan! Recommend

  • Zoaib

    Iqbal’s ideology is very clear to those who want to understand it and not try to fit it into their own pre-conceived ideas and “labels” such as the “left”, “right”, “secular” etc. Iqbal wanted an Islamic Welfare State, but why do we assume such a state will not be progressive and will persecute the minorities? According to Iqbal, such a state will have a “spiritual” character to it i.e. not based on greed of capitalist systems and will aim at the welfare of the less privileged in the society. But in essence, it will be Islamic, because all of these things (including democracy, accountability etc.) are inspired from the rule of the Caliphs (RA). Islamic in no way means that Muslims will persecute the minorities or that they’ll have no place in society.

    We should come out of the artificial divides we have in our society and Iqbals ideology can help us…Recommend

  • Ovais

    i know that … that was the point dude. .. re read it …Recommend

  • Silent Observer

    After reading the article, I felt that I have arrived at the root cause of the problem plaguing Pakistan. We all know that Allama Iqbal dreamt of Pakistan that’s why he is called the “Thinker of Pakistan”. Based on this dream, Jinnah founded Pakistan. Now, if one happens to read Iqbal’s poetry, one clearly gets an impression that Iqbal never dreamt of Pakistan to become a secular state. Having said that, I am not of the opinion that Jinnah wanted a secular state either. But if we believe what the author says that Jinnah wanted a secular Pakistan, then the nightmare we are experiencing nowadays is not, in any way, the result of the dream once envisioned by Iqbal. In other words, Pakistan today is the product of dichotomy between dream and reality.Recommend

  • abhi

    looks like iqbal’s ideology was very close to Imran Khan’s ideology.Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @hassan: Bhai, when people build nations, they do no look too closely at their available heroes. Yes, he was not a traditional philosopher like Locke, Kant or Russell, but he had, as Pakistanis have been told umpteen times, a vision, not only of Pakistan, but also a politically united Ummah. His comparison should be with Che in terms of vision, or with Tagore in terms of visualizing a country (as in Punjab Sindh Gujarat Maratha Dravida Utkal Banga etc.). If Pakistan still wants to look towards the political Ummah, Iqbal would be extremely relevant. However, visions of the founding fathers alter. Here in India, Gandhi’s whole focus on truth, simplicity, and village economy has been easily discarded, and, perhaps, that’s how India got it current whatever progress. The better question is: what to do with Iqbal’s vision – adopt or discard?Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    Germans never had colony and its just a propaganda because he start war in Europe and against white how he is aryan but not others… and if that war was not happend that time u think colonies ends it i bet its not that easy….Recommend

  • http://- Abid P. Khan

    Jamaluddin Afghani floated the idea of “Ummat”
    Friedrich Nietzsche developed the concept of Ubermensche, which was Islamised by Iqbal as Shaheen/Marde Momin. Under Hitler, Ubermensche took the shape of Aryan hero.

    Though it is not a very scientifically sound study but it does indicate persons who could be interested in the works of these persons.

    Search engine query provides this result

    50,300 hits for Jamaluddin Afghani
    965,000 hits for Dr Allama Iqbal
    11,200,000 hits for Jean Paul Sartre
    15,700,000 hits for Friedrich Nietzsche
    20,900,000 hits for Bertrand RussellRecommend

  • kaalchakra

    Dee Cee

    That is most likely the first time anyone has compared the visions of Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Dee Cee

    That is most likely the first time anyone has claimed that the visions of Iqbal and Tagore were similar. But brother/Sister Dee Cee, in all your other posts you make sure to clarify that you are an Indian Hindu. Was there any reason why you didn’t make that claim in this post? Regards.Recommend

  • Ali Manzer

    We still need to think like Umma, we still need to have self esteem, we still need to go through self realization, we still need to shun West as ‘The Standard’.

    We still need to actually read Iqbal and grasp his philosophy. The specifics that you have mentioned, although twisted may change with time but his lofty ideals would not. They will always be inspiring and motivating. It’s very naive for one to say that his ideas are no more relevant. They are, more than ever because we as an Ummah are in deeper issues due to the same old reasons.Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Iqbal’s greatest original contribution was that he took the popular philosophy of his time and showed to his Christian professors in Germany how everything belonged to the Quran and Islam.

    Alicia, Iqbal said nothing that was not in the Quran. If you read and follow the Quran, you don’t really need to read/follow Iqbal, except for pleasure.

    Iqbal will remain inspirational and relevant until such time as people find the Quran inspirational and relevant to their lives.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    Every thing happend for some reson and by the will of god and Allah said in Holy Quran he
    change the power between peoples of earth so they dont become a aggressor or pharoh of the time and the real power is allah he is forever.Recommend

  • http://- Abid P. Khan

    Germans did have colonies.

    Check this link to Wikipedia. It is better to find out yourself than repeat something you have heard from some other ignoramus and keep on repeating it.

  • yousaf

    Iqbal desired of partition of India on the bases of religion or not is besides the point here.He was a great visionary person who could say “garaan khawab cheeni sambhalne lage” long before any one could think about China what she is today.As for Muslims,all he wanted was to come out from inhibit inertia of which Muslims had become accustomed.Iqbal through his poetry wanted to jostle Muslims up out of their deep slumber and wanted them to rise to the situation prevailing around them and to see what is coming-up in future.His soul is still waiting to see when Muslims listen to his words of concern.I think he never in his wildest of dreams ever wanted Muslims of the sub-continent to be divided in three separate entities Recommend

  • Wise man

    From a well-wisher

    “What irks me so much about that piece is that the writer pretends to be criticizng the popularly accepted beliefs on the basis of superior knowledge when that is not the case.

    From ‘Tarana-i-Hindi’ published in 1904, the writer derives the conlusion that Iqbal was clearly a nationalist in those days. Further he quotes from the well-meaning but ill-informed and too-naiive-to-be-good Annemarie Schimmel that Iqbal was a patriot in the Western sense in those days.

    I have got just one question for these smarty-pants: would they like to tell us the title of a prose article by Allama Iqbal published in the same issue of the magazine in which Tarana-i-Hindi was first printed in October 1904? And whether in that prose article Iqbal proposed a nation based on Indian nationalism or a nation based on religion?

    Just to correct some glaring errors of the writer: Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal is not the correct name, because that would mean that he was called Sir Allama by his British peers according to the normenclature. He was in fact Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal (and hence Sir Muhammad in short jargon). Allama was a title that was used only officially for him since 1916 onwards (or perhaps earlier, but I haven’t yet seen an evidence from earlier).

    Secondly, it is ‘Tarana-i-Hindi’ and not ‘Tarana-i-HInd’. But, by the way, that name was given to the poem much later. It appeared with a different title when it was first printed in 1904.”Recommend

  • kaalchakra


    I am not sure why you think Muslims were ‘asleep’ a hundred years ago, or are asleep now, or whether you imagine them to be habitual sleepers – except during the blessed time of the Holy Prophet (PB.U.H.).

    Iqbal was not asking Muslims to ‘wake up’ like ordinary people but to fly high and proud like the great Shaheen, using its power to take what belongs to it. It was not like some Hindu (Raja Rammohan Roy) trying to ‘wake up’ Hindus. It was a call from the follower of the Quran to realize their rightful ownership of the place that Allah has assigned to a Muslim among all others.

    There is a huge difference here.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    In case Dee Cee doesn’t reply, allow me to – I am pretty sure that he/ she is an Indian (given the ease with which the national anthem was quoted) – whether Hindu or not is beside the point; Iqbal’s main contribution to today’s Pakistan is the two-nation theory and this ummah fixation that (only) you people have – both of which create an external locus of identity. Second, I too don’t see the comparison with Tagore except as two great poets – Tagore did not pretend to be a philosopher, and Iqbal (as Abid P Khan indicates above) said nothing original either.Recommend

  • Anoop


    Iqbal wanted a loose-federation. Rehmat Ali wanted a separate state and coined the name ‘Pakstan’, long before Iqbal changed his mind.

    Rehmat Ali Pakstan’s boundaries correspond to what constitutes of Pakistan today.

    So, I give him credit for Pakistan.

    His communal mindset then spread to others and the rest is History. Recommend

  • Tanu

    You got your pakistan. It took you 24 years to push out the majority of your brothers. Next forty years you have done everything possible to self destruct. Look at the state you are in; at war with the world and your own people.

    Wonder what Iqbal must be thinking in his grave.

    Time to take a different path before the rest of what is left of pakistan is destroyed by Hamid guls and Zaid Hamids.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    @Wise man:

    I could go point by point disproving most of what you have said, but suffice it to paste the following here:

    To quote a single line from it:

    “No Indian Muslim with any pretence to sanity contemplates a Muslim state….”

    These are Iqbal’s own words when he found out that people saw his demand as tacit support for Chaudry Rehmat Ali’s very much religious demand for a state. Need I say more?Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @kaalchakra: Glad you noticed! :) BlackJack correctly identifies that my being Hindu is incidental and of no major consequence to my citizenship. However, while commenting here, I usually clarify my limitations so that readers perhaps pardon my unintentional mistakes arising from lack of knowledge about things that are “not Hindu” and “not Indian”. This time, I felt confident on the subject as I have read both Tagore and Iqbal, Tagore more extensively than Iqbal. Iqbal’s treatise on political islam, “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”, helped me understand a little bit about the current and historical political discourse in Pakistan. My point of comparison between the two was “visualizing a geography and giving that visual a political currency.” The concept of Bharatvarsha preceded Tagore by millenia, and the concept of Ummat was not invented by Iqbal either. But both these poets, with their eloquent evocation of a united geography, created a “vision” that was quite political. I disagree with BlackJack about Tagore not being a philosopher; in fact if that statement is adopted in the Indian constitution, West Bengal will secede and join Bangladesh! :) And, btw, it’s bhai, bhai Dee Cee! :)Recommend

  • AN

    To you Indians, only two people exist. Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul. Who are they? Who follows them? They are nobody. Get out of your delusion.

    same way you have stereotyped the whole nation that “stop following Bal Thakerey and concentrate on your own country. Quit your obsession with Pakistan and do us a favour.” Thank you!Recommend

  • yousaf

    @Kaalchakra : Sorry for having commented on the thoughts of Iqbal without knowing any thing about his shaheens.I am also sorry for saying that Muslims are sleeping whereas they are quite awake and kicking.I also do not know anything about “Ummah” which played dumb at Salala check-post incident and are silent on Kashmir issue and fall-of-Dhaka etc.etc.We on the other hand are self-appointed thekedars of whenever any thing happens anywhere in the world except when something happens in our own country,nor does “Ummah” speak for us.Please,if you may,brief me on this attitude of”Ummah” because I in my ignorance think that Sultan-Rahi like baraks are doing us no good.May be I am wrong?do enlighten me please Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    A Caliph’s democracy? What?
    Anyways, Iqbal, Jinnah, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, they were all progressives, who advocated Muslims should embrace science and modern-day principles, unlike Gandhi, if I am right. They all saw that the times were changing and Muslims should not stay rooted in some glorious history or whatever and should embrace modernity. Iqbal and Sir Syed believed that Islam should be reexamined and reinterpreted in the context of the modern day. Gandhi’s may have been very fashionable, but Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Allama Iqbal were true thinkers, who brought Muslims of the subcontinent into the modern age.Recommend

  • Bilal Jahanzeb

    Clearly by distorting Iqbals ideology have gotten us no where, it’s time to re-think Pakistan.

    Excellent piece Ahmed Sultan I am looking forward to more :) Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Dee Cee Bhaijaan

    Allama Iqbal’s Islamic nationalism one can very well understand because it is part of Islam, but Tagore a nationalist of any sort – geographical or otherwise – would be a bit odd! Indian philosophers have no tradition of nationalism of any variety, and Tagore was most unlikely to break from that tradition.

    You may want to investigate this a little further –

  • Glenn Ryall

    Every year some one or the other writes a post on Iqbals ideology, we read it, comment on it, curse the Government and speak about its inefficiency and get back to our normal lives. Though i am a strong believer of what you speak is the right way my friend. but the truth is this really does not imply here in Pakistan and is not needed, Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @kaalchakra: I am sorry, but I did not understand the concept of Islamic or geographical nationalism being relevant to our discussion. Nationalism has been defined in terms of nation states, which originated in the West. Tagore was an avowed internationalist, and sometimes did not support boycotting the British even. His Ghare Bairey is a testament to his unease with nationalism, an unease he puts in great detail in the PDF you shared. That is a seminal essay taught in Indian political science classes. However, nationalism is not what I meant by the concept of Ummat or the Indian National Anthem. I am sure we understand that Ummat is incompatible with the concept of nationalism that prizes nations (linguistic/political groups) over religious ones. I repeat, both Iqbal and Tagore had a poetic vision, which became intensely political later on. I am not planning to separate the poetic from the political, but I want to stress that, with reference to our original discussion point, in my opinion, Iqbal’s vision was not that of an academic philosopher. Rather, his vision was poetic, like Tagore, and observant of united human destiny (Iqbal finds unity till Andalusia, Tagore confined himself to the sub-continent). Recommend

  • Arif Hussain

    Today’s Pakistan has drifted a long way from what it was intended to be. Allama Iqbal saw the issues Muslims faced as the minority, and that led to his vision for a country where minorities and the majority had equal intrinsic worth. Pakistan was meant to be a country for everyone, regardless of their religion. Islamic foundations were used as the building block, and had we interpreted them to their true meanings, a lot would be different. Various set-backs and negligence on our part, in fields such as education, has led to the misinterpretations that define today’s Pakistan, where tolerance does not exist, or if it does, it’s not seen. Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Dee Cee:
    Allow me to clarify; Tagore was primarily known as a poet extraordinaire, a literary collossus and a towering epitome of the Bengali renaissance that produced many other great thinkers. During this period he also espoused political views that were of a strong nationalistic flavor, while remaining in most part a humanist. His spirituality was not captive to the narrow boundaries of a book and a prophet (although there is content to show that he appreciated the humanist element in these as well); his works consistently depict this spirituality – which can be considered as a philosophical point of view. However, the fact remains that there is no unique contribution to philosophy by Tagore (or by Iqbal) – and their primary role is that of litterateurs and poets.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Mustafa Moiz:
    Read the article that we are all commenting on for further info on the apparent connection between democracy and the first four Caliphs.Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Dee Cee Bhai

    We are all human beings. In that group of creatures, Allama Iqbal sang of Muslims – in a clear political sense, of Muslim power, of Islamic civilization, its attainments, achievements, its past and future positions with respect to others – the West, the Chinese, the Indian, and so on so forth.

    How about Tagore? What did he sing about with respect to whom else? Whose glories did he celebrate?Recommend

  • Anoop

    @Mustafa Moiz:

    Nobody except Pakistanis give a damn about any of the people you sing praises about.

    Richard Attenborough didn’t make an Oscar winning movie on Sir Syed but on Gandhi. Einstein didn’t praise Iqbal, but he sang laurels about Gandhi. It was Gandhi who inspired Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, not Jinnah.

    If you think people like Sir Syed, who were more loyal to the British throne than the Britishers themselves, then I can only blame your twisted history books and the reasoning in them. Britishers were supposed to be the occupiers and you admire a person who admired the occupiers. Wah!Recommend

  • Umer

    Is Allama Iqbal relevant in today’s

    When was he ever relevant? He died in 1938, and in 1937, last elections before his demise, Muslim League had only one seat in the whole of Punjab. That’s how much influence he had in his native province, what to say of other places.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    @Mustafa Moiz:

    Yes Mustafa, don’t you know? Don’t you know that anoop was caught stating a pretty blatant lie just to disagree with anything that he doesn’t like, and now needs other irrelevant things to point out just to feel superior?Recommend

  • Gupt Rogue

    People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just becquse they’re not on your road does not mean they are lost– dalai lamaRecommend

  • Aasim

    I agree to the writer and the comment from Zara Mazhar at the top. Indeed Allama Iqbal wanted harmony and Minority rights to prevail in the state. The fact that we do not adhere to these today makes Allama Iqbal more relevant to Politics and even our civic life. When something goes wrong, its not because the ideology was erroneous, its us who did not adhere to it. Solution is to be sought within the basic idealogy instead of negating it altogather.Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    I think Sir Syed was a progressive and was enlightened enough to understand the importance of education and embracing modernity for Muslims. Gandhi was a dogmatic reactionary.
    And you can’t brush aside every argument by claiming the other person has a twisted mindset for every view they hold.
    By the way, the Tribune is editing comments, so this might not reach you in full.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Anuj Agrawal
    Two states, two nations & two minds. Nothing common. Far apart not to come closer.Recommend

  • Anoop

    @Mustafa Moiz:

    I am not debating about his beliefs in modern. I respect them as well. What I am actually miffed about is the fact that he sided with the invaders, the occupiers.

    Not only that, he didn’t side with them to benefit his Countrymen, no. He wanted benefits for Muslims, a thoroughly communal demand. How can any self respecting son of a soil do that?

    In 1857 revolt he sided with the British! In 1866 he founded British Indian Association to promote loyalty to the Crown among the Indians, and in 1878 after a long struggle the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (which later became, Aligarh Muslim University) was founded at Aligarh.

    Are non-Muslims not Humans do deserve good education? Only a communal-minded person will think like that and actually defend it.

    Gandhi has said many times he belongs to all faiths. That man has done more for the Humanity in the 20th Century than any other. You can convince yourself that Gandhi is the bad guy, but not non-Pakistanis, who see Gandhi for what he really was and is- Human with imperfections, but far less than any other Human they have known.Recommend

  • ayesha khan

    @Ahmad: “I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State”.
    In India provinces were called States at tha time (and still are. Iqbal was referring to an empowered province wihin an Indian federal structure at that time. He was not proposing a separate country.Recommend

  • ayesha khan

    @BlackJack: “I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. ”

    He propsoed a separate state like states are in India or provinces are in Pakistan. He did not propose a separate Nation state. The context of his speech makes it fairly clear.Recommend

  • Ahsan Nisar

    Allama Iqbal was a true visionary. He almost predicted the Balochistan crisis in 1936 which we are witnessing these days in one of his poems in “Armaghan-e-Hijaz” titled “Bhudday Baloch ki nasihat betay ko”

    Duniya ko hai phr muarkay rooho badan pesh,
    Tehzeeb nay phr apnay darindon ko ubhara
    ALLAH ko hai pamardiye momin pe bharosa,
    Iblees ko europe ki machinon ka sahara,
    taqdeere umam kya hai koi keh nahi sakta,
    Momin ki farasat ho to kafi hai ishara.

    Today, on his 74th death anniversary, the need to decode his poems could not be emphasized further.Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Ahsan Nisar

    Brilliant. Allama Iqbal mean that not only for Balochis but also for Pakhtoon, in fact, for all Muslims. Just like the Quran, Iqbal’s poetry has infinite amount for wisdom for the Muslim world waiting to be decoded and adopted.

    P.S.: I am still amazed that some people would equate such a civilizational visionary to a simple poet like Rabindra Nath Tagore!Recommend