137th birthday: What Allama Iqbal’s poetry has taught me so far
“Maqsood-e-hunar soz-e-hayat-e-abdi hai
Ye ik nafas ya do nafas, misl-e-sharar kia” -Iqbal
(The real aim of any form of art should be to develop the longing for an ultimate life.
It’s not art if all it does is to spark the feelings for a moment or two and then subside – Iqbal)
Iqbal’s poetry, beyond doubt, goes in line with the above definition of art (hunar). Though I am just beginning to discover Iqbal myself, it is indisputable that his poetry has proven to be a truly transforming force. Some of his verses had an unprecedented and enlightening impact on me, helping me become a better person and Muslim.
As an example, I will quote the following verse by Iqbal which, for me, transcended the boundary of poetry simply for the sake of poetry.
“Farigh tou na bethey ga mehshar mein junoon mera
Ya apna garey ban chaak ya daman-e-yazda’n chaak”
(My frenzy would not let me sit idle even on the Day of Judgement.
Either I would tear my own self or else I would contend with the Mighty God)
I first heard this verse on Iqbal’s last birth anniversary, in a documentary shown by Geo TV and it took me some time to comprehend what it meant. But slowly, it became part of my inner being.
I personally think that this couplet is the epitome of Iqbal’s philosophy of constant struggle. The message that it sends about always doing something and never wasting a moment sitting unproductive, completely changed my way of thinking.
It was because of this verse that I formed a method of judging myself, questioning whether the day I spent added value to what I was yesterday. If the conclusion was contrary to what I hoped for, I would strive to make my following day more valuable in terms of learning.
Iqbal’s role as a teacher, whose words transformed the hearts of his students, is proficiently remembered by Khurram Ali Shafique.
“We tend to find a definite ideology in his writings, whereas he is more of an educator. His philosophy is a tool for training the minds for looking into the conscience of nations and humanity.”
My instructor at LUMS, Dr Tehseen Firaqi, had spent some time in Iran and narrated some of his experiences of living there.
During the 1979 Iran revolution, which unseated Shah and led to the formation of Imam Khomeni’s government, Iqbal’s poetry would be written on banners to inspire the people. His message of using each day to make the world a better place has been a motivation for many. Just as Iqbal provided spiritual rejuvenation to the Indians in the events that led up to independence in 1947, his words played a similar role in the 1970’s in Iran. This captures the magical prowess of his words.
Dr Tehseen recalled one of the social gatherings that he attended, where it was a norm to start the proceedings with Iqbal’s verse. The people in Iran held Dr Tehseen in high regard when informed that he was from the city of ‘Iqbal-e-Lahori’.
Iqbal’s message can be used to solve the problems of today, from everyday struggles to collective consciousnesses and revolution.
Up until a year or so ago, I used to see November 9 as a holiday in remembrance of a man whose only contribution was a dream of an independent state for Muslims.
Truth be told, it was Imran Khan who introduced me to Iqbal through his book ‘A Personal History’. It was after reading the last chapter ‘Rediscovering Iqbal: Pakistan’s symbol and a template for our future’ in it, that I realised that I have been missing out on a lot by not knowing about one of the greatest Muslim scholars born in the past few centuries.
Irrespective of one’s political inclinations, I would recommend everyone, especially the young generation, to read this particular chapter of the book, if not the whole book.
I will be ending this piece with the words of Dr Nomanul Haq, an imminent scholar of humanities, who portrays Iqbal message across in the most inspiring way.
“Don’t try to go for the message in the first place. Just read his poems. Enjoy and appreciate the literary and poetic devices used, and fall in love with the words.”
The ‘message’ part will follow suit.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.