Allama Iqbal is most famous in India for penning ‘Saare jahan se achha’, but it was also on the basis of his 1930 speech that the two-nation theory was formed.

New Delhi: Muhammad Iqbal, widely known as Allama Iqbal, is best remembered in India as the man who penned one of the most patriotic songs ever written, ‘Saare jahan se achha Hindostan humara’.

But in neighbouring Pakistan, Iqbal has achieved much more fame for an altogether different reason — he is regarded as the spiritual father of Pakistan, because it was on the basis of his speech that the two-nation theory was formulated.


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Philosophical transition

Born on 9 November 1877 in Sialkot, now in Pakistan, Iqbal was descended from a Kashmiri Brahmin family which had converted to Islam a few generations ago.

He wrote ‘Saare jahan se achha’ — titled ‘Tarana-e-Hind’ — in 1904. It quickly became an anthem of opposition against the British Raj.

However, Iqbal’s philosophy soon transformed from a secular, Hindustan-first one to a religion-first one. In 1910, he wrote the ‘Tarana-e-Milli’ (Song of the community). The poem, written in the same metre and rhyme scheme as ‘Saare jahan se achha’, opened with the lines:

Cheen-o-Arab humara, Hindostan humara
Muslim hain hum, watan hai saara jahaan humara.

By the time he delivered the Allahabad address as president of the Muslim League in 1930, Iqbal had a fear, shared by many Muslims, that India’s Hindu-majority population would crowd out Muslim heritage, culture and political influence.

Iqbal suggested that there could be no peace in the country unless Muslims got their own, separate nation in the north-western part of undivided India. This was to become the basis for the two-nation theory that eventually led to the creation of Pakistan after Independence.


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Besides politics

Politics was far from Iqbal’s primary occupation. He was a poet, philosopher, barrister and academic scholar, who was conferred the title ‘Allama’, an honorific given to learned, knowledgeable men.

Apart from the two famous taranas, Iqbal wrote a lot of poetry in Persian and Urdu, with some of the most prominent works being Asraar-e-Khudi, Rumooz-e-Bekhudi, Bang-e-Dara, Bal-e-Jibreel, Payaam-e-Mashriq, Zaboor-e-Ajm, Javed Naama, Zarb-e-Kaleem, and Armughaan-e-Hijaz.

One of his most famous poems is ‘Khudi ko kar buland itna’, which is not only oft-quoted in the subcontinent, but has also been set to music by many different artistes.

Two English language books are also credited to him — his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Munich turned into the treatise The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, while a collection of his lectures was published as The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam.

Death and legacy

Iqbal died after an illness in Lahore on 21 April 1938. His tomb is located near the Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort.

Upon the formation of Pakistan, he was honoured as its national poet, as well as earning the titles ‘Mufakkir-e-Pakistan’ (thinker of Pakistan), Hakeem-ul-Ummat (sage of the Ummah), and Shayar-e-Mashriq (poet of the east).

His birthday, Iqbal Day, is observed as a public holiday in Pakistan.

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  1. Iqbal’s politics is routed through his soul-stirring poetry. In his epic poem shikwa, like Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations, he frames the world exclusively in terms of us-versus-them and the superiority of one civilization over all others. His pan-Islamic mard-e-momin belongs to the ummah and this perfect human aspires to martyrdom: shahadat hai matloob o maqsood-e-momin. Like a falcon, the mard-e-momin is a fighter and above worldly desire: tu shaheen hai basera kar paharon kee chatanon main. These verses can be found in Pakistan Army magazines, on its recruiting banners, and are sung with great fervour.
    Iqbal, unlike Sir Syed, leaves the gap between science and religion unbridged. He takes no explicit position on miracles. On the contrary, he asserts that, “Classical Physics has learned to criticise its own foundations. As a result of this criticism the kind of materialism, which it originally necessitated, is rapidly disappearing.” But no real physicist can take this statement seriously. Even with the discovery of quantum physics — which superseded and improved upon classical physics — the description of observed physical phenomena requires nothing beyond material causes.
    It is to be seen whether the panacea for Muslim in India lies in Sir Syed’s rational approach or in Allama’s clarion call on emotive reasoning. Iqbal said what people wanted to hear — and his genius lay in crafting it with beautifully chosen words. Is Iqbal’s prescription not leading to Muslims in digging their graves as his mard-e-momins are no else but a bunch of Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists? It seems that day by day Jehadi Takfiri Talibani Ideology of Iqbal has won over scholarly, Golden-Age-of-Islam inspired, reasonable ideology presented by Sir Syed and as a result abrupt and ubiquitous Jihadi factories, and bigoted, hypocritical population and establishment dominates.
    Moreover, Iqbal wanted a revival of jihad and he always preferred the sword to the pen. A fact remains that both were the favourites of the British masters. There is a letter/application by Iqbal to the British masters to increase his monthly stipend as he could not make ends meet. A man recognized and on the payroll of British masters giving us lessons of khudi and soar like shaheen cannot a true scholar. On the other hand Sir Syed established the first Muslim University acting as an incubator for most future Muslim politicians, bureaucrats, leaders and reformers. Sir Syed actually woke Muslims and educated them in the true sense rather than giving them stories and past history.
    It is also a fact there was not just one Iqbal, Iqbal has been a Marxist, a secularist, a mullah hater, a mullah sometimes, a sufi, a Democrat and an alcoholic in the same lifespan. His writing In English was often the opposite of whatever little he wrote in Urdu.
    Dilemma of nouveau riche petite bourgeoisie is they are penchant for generally accepted narratives without paying heed to strong and neutral historical references. Death to “Folie de grandeur” death to “le roi est mort, vive le roi”

  2. Firstly let me correct a notion repeatedly quoted that it was Allama Iqbal who gave the idea of two nation theory.Please research and research this aspect. The poetry of Iqbal was more based on development of a muslim more on the lines of teaching of Islam and in that there he didn’t want a young muslim to become a mullah.Understanding his poetry needs a well versed person in the religion of Islam.So a respected person like Mr Anil can not comprehend his poetry in right perspective.Regarding two nation theory,what he had said that there should have a been a real muslim nation ,practicing and implementing the rules of Islam in right spirit so that world at large and other muslims nations could emulate .By this he was not referring to creating a new nation from unpartitioned India but referring to existing muslim nations who had abandoned the islamic way of life.
    Anybody who understands the personality of Iqbal through his poetry will never accept that he would called for partition of India or a separate nation for muslims.space and times constraint is asking me to stop here.

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