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.
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.
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.