Allama Muhammad Iqbal: An Exceptional Poet, Philosopher And Scholar


Today we are celebrating a hundred and thirty-eighth birthday of Allama Iqbal. Iqbal is not just a man’s name but an ideology, an element of inspiration and the name of a path that leads to illumination. Usually the greatness of a man is measured by the size of his legacy and many are of the view that Pakistan i.e., a separate homeland for South-Asian Muslims is the biggest legacy of this legendary figure. The list of Allama Sahab’s feats is tedious but the most important feat which completely changed the political scene of pre-partition India was the creation of political, religious and spiritual awareness among the Indian Muslims and specially among the middle-class Muslim youngsters through his poetry. Resultantly, Freedom Movement and Pakistan Movement in particular proceeded with vigor and achieved its goal.

In order to comprehend a man like Iqbal, we need to understand the things which he stood for first. There are many people who have immensely researched on Iqbal, have written books on him but I’m pretty certain that they have not covered all the dimensions of his flawless personality and teachings, they might have been able to convey the essence of his ideology but not every aspect of it– because such lofty was his approach.

Iqbal was more of a scholar and less of a politician. With great intellectual powers he gave some very basic yet highly substantial  concepts which revolutionized the thinking of Indian Muslims in such a way that they got a  dream to hold on to,  a strong motive to struggle for and a cause worth sacrificing themselves. It was like, a dying withering garden started receiving all necessary attention and care which made it blooming and lively all over again. We can find the word khudi (self-hood) quite often in his poetry. This mind-blowing concept of khudi is not confined to any particular field but is very vast, if one truly understands the meaning of this concept, he would be able to lead a pious, successful and a merry life. This khudi is basically the quality which constitutes ones individuality, by acquiring this, one can build up a separate identify for himself.

His another world famous concept is of Shaheen (falcon). He advised the Indian Muslims to adopt the qualities of the bird falcon. The specialty of this bird is that it always flies high in the sky, lives in higher places like mountains and  lives a royal life. Iqbal here meant that we should live a royal life not in the materialistic sense but in a noble manner. His strong opposition of materialism can be witnessed in the following address which he gave to the students of Cambridge University in 1931:

“I would like to offer a few pieces of advice to the young men who are at present studying at Cambridge …… I advise you to guard against atheism and materialism. The biggest blunder made by Europe was the separation of Church and State. This deprived their culture of moral soul and diverted it to the atheistic materialism. I had twenty-five years ago seen through the drawbacks of this civilization and therefore had made some prophecies. They had been delivered by my tongue although I did not quite understand them. This happened in 1907….. After six or seven years, my prophecies came true, word by word. The European war of 1914 was an outcome of the aforesaid mistakes made by the European nations in the separation of the Church and the State.”

The main crux of Iqbal’s teachings is that religion; Islam is everything. There is no religion as perfect as  Islam. This splendid religion holds solutions to all the problems and if we practice its principles, we can lead a righteous and contended life. He ad nuance advised the Muslims to hold on tight to Islam if they really wanted to get rid of their deplorable state in British India. It was Islam that had protected the Muslims in difficult times and not the other way round.

Iqbal’s insight is second to none. Years ago he anticipated the source of the West’s downfall and he stands vindicated today. Though the West is still enjoying its prime time but the signs of its decline are visible. Iqbal says:

Your civilization will commit suicide with its own daggers
A nest built on a frail bough cannot be durable

There would have been no Pakistan without Iqbal. Doubtlessly he was more of a philosopher and  a poet but if it weren’t for his famous Allahabad address , his charming personality which made Quaid e Azam stand steadfast with the Muslim League and resoluteness which guided the Muslim League during dark times, we  wouldn’t have been breathing in a free country. His 1930’s Allahabad was a piece of art.  His clear and adept perspective is evident from these four beautiful lines:

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

Though Allama Iqbal died 9 years before the creation of Pakistan but every fiber of Pakistan is attached to Iqbal.

He was knighted by the British and was honored with the title of “Sir”. Today, there are schools, colleges, libraries and universities named after him. There is a study center in Italy which particularly teaches the teachings of Iqbal. Germany has built a memorial in a park called Habsburgerplatz  to pay  tribute to Iqbal. A prominent street in Heidelberg (Germany) has been named after him. And recently Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany Syed Hasan Javed revealed that an Iqbal Museum would be set up soon at the house in Heidelberg, where Allama Iqbal stayed for his PhD studies.

Many of his predictions and prophecies have been proved right and many are yet to be proven. His legacy can only be passed on if we tread upon the golden path advised by Iqbal. The problems which the Muslims were facing at that time are the same which we are facing today. The solutions proposed by him then are the ones which can take us out of our misery today. If we truly start practicing Islam, there is no worldly power which can hinder our success and we can claim our lost glory back like that we did in 1947. May Allah rest his soul in peace (Ameen).

Zahabia is an aspiring journalist pursuing a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Karachi. She tweets @zkmotorwala and can be reached at

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