Allama Iqbal is widely considered one of the ideological founding figures of Pakistan and also holds the status of national poet of the neighbouring country. However, a specific group of Muslims in India—the Ashraaf—continue to hail the Pakistani icon as a true nationalist, a patriot and a bearer of our mixed culture of the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. Celebrating his birthday as Urdu Day is a clear attempt to establish him as a hero in India. How can a figure who is supposed to have given the vision for the founding of Pakistan be a heroic personality in India? Here, we analyse the views and/or opinions expressed by Iqbal through his works. The idea is to know whether he was truly an icon of this mixed culture or not.
Exponent of the two-nation theory
Allama Iqbal propounded the two-nation theory and the ideology of Pakistan Tehreek at a time when even the biggest of the Ashraaf leaders did not have the courage to publically make a case for Partition of India. This is evident from his address at the Muslim League session at Prayagraj (Allahabad) on 29 December 1930. Iqbal, while laying out the initial outline for a Muslim nation, said: “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.”
Iqbal was a staunch Muslim League supporter and an anti-Congress. He, just like Maulana Thanvi renowned Deobani cleric, was of the opinion that it was harmful for both Islam and Muslims if the later chose to join the Congress party without any condition. (Page 88, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi and Tehrike Azadi, Prof. Ahmed Sayeed, Majlise Siantul Muslimeen Lahore, Nafees Printing Press Lahore, 1984) and (Page 223, Anware Iqbal, Bashir Ahmed Dar, Iqbal Academy Karachi, 1967)
Iqbal believed that the Ulemas (maulana) belonging to the Congress ideology were committing a big mistake by supporting the Hindus, they did not understand that if the people supported it, its result would be fatal for them. (Page No. 91, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi and Tehrike Azadi, Prof. Ahmed Sayeed, Majlise Siantul Muslimeen Lahore, Nafees Printing Press Lahore, 1984) and (Page 256, Iqbal K Huzoor by Syed Nazir Niazi, Karachi 1971)
In one of his famous poems, Wataniyat, Iqbal glorifies the large-scale migration that would result from the Partition of the country, linking it with the migration of Prophet from Mecca to Medina.
Hai tark–e-watan sunnate mahbube ilahi
De tu bhi nabuvat ki sadaqat ki gavahi
(Leaving your country is the conduct followed by Allah’s beloved (Muhammad), you should also witness the truth of this Prophethood, that is, to be ready to leave your country like him.)
Although a sense of patriotism is certainly reflected in Iqbal’s poems from his initial years, his later renditions explicitly reject the idea of nationhood and advocate for the cause of a global Islamic State.
In Taza Khudaon men sabse bada watan hai,
Jo pairhan uska hai wo mazhab ka kafan hai
Bajzu Tera Tauhid ki kuwat se kavi hai
Islam tera desh hai tu mustfavi hai.
Najjara-e-derina zamnae ko dikha de
E mustafvi khak me is but ko mila de.
(Among these new gods, nation is the biggest one. Its attire is like the coffin of religion. Your hands are powerful because of the strength bestowed by the monotheism, Islam is your only country because you are a follower of Mustafa (another name for Prophet Muhammad. Show this old and empirical philosophy to the entire world, O followers of Muhammad, vanquish this idol (nation) into the soil.)
(Chin-o-arab hamara, hindostan humara
Muslim hai ham watana hai sara jahan humara)
(China and Arab and ours, so is India, we are the Muslims and whole world is ours)
Iqbal describes the whole world as the country of Muslims, keeping Indian patriotism secondary.
Bando ko gina karte hain taula nahi karte
(Democracy is a style of government where the persons are counted only and not evaluated properly)
In a democracy, every person’s vote is equal, irrespective of his social and economic status. Iqbal was much too perturbed about this. He mocked this form of democracy and questioned as to what kind of system was this where people’s personal reputation were being neglected.
Banaye hai khub aajadi ne fande,
Miyan najjar bhi chile gaye saath
Nihayat tej hain Europe ke rande.
(Page 250, Bang-e-Dara)
In lines above, Iqbal says the idea of democratic freedom is like the death of society. Elections, membership, council etc, according to Iqbal, are restrictive components in a democracy.
In a reference to the underprivileged working class, Najjar (carpenter), Iqbal says such people have also been washed by the modern ideas of Europe such as democracy, freedom, education etc. He sees the impact these ideas on the working class as the latter’s loss. Ironically, it is the deprived and oppressed classes who have gained most from the modern ideas.
Iqbal’s son Javed Iqbal, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, writes on Page 21 of the biography of his father, Zinda Rood, that the poet was a Kashmiri Brahmin from an ancient family whose gotra is Sapru.
Iqbal writes, exalting his status as a Brahmin:
Aaba mere lati va manati
Tu saiyyad-e-hashmi ki aulad
Mere kaf-e-khaq brahmanjad
Iqbal had written this poem to a Sayyid’s son. He proudly describes the social status of his ancestors, saying: “I am one of the descendants of those who were the priests of Somnath as well as the Arabic deities like La and Mana. If you are progeny of one of the children of Hashmi Sayyed, then I am also not a lesser being, I am also a Brahmin offspring.”
In a Persian couplet too, he flaunts his Brahminical origins:
Barahman jadaye ramz aashna-e-rum va tabrej ast
(Look at me and you will not find another one like me. I am a Brahmin’s progeny who is well acquainted with the mystiques of Maulana Rum and Shams Tabrez.)
(Page 30, Iqbal Shanasi, Ali Sardar Jafri)
Yun to saiyyad bhi ho mirza bhi ho afghan bhi ho
Tum sabhi kuch ho, batao kya musalman bhi ho?
Here, Iqbal limits his references to Muslims belonging to Ashraaf castes, talking about solidarity between them. It appears that Iqbal, much like Sir Syed, never considered the Muslims of Indian origin as true Muslims. What else explains the absence of their mention?
Utha ke fenk do bahar gali men
Nai tahzib ke ande hain ye gande.
(Page 250, Bang-e-Dara)
As is evident in these lines, Iqbal was staunchly opposed to modern ideas of democracy, education and culture even though he sent his son abroad to receive modern education.
The following lines clearly illustrate the anti-women views of Iqbal:
Na parda, na taleem nai ho ki purani
Niswaniyaten zan ka nigahban hai faquat mard
(No veils, be it new style of education or old, Only the male is protector of women’s feminine instincts)
Us quam ka khurshid bahut jald hua zard
(The community that does not acknowledge this universal truth is destined to doom sooner than later)
Jis ilam ki taseer se zan hoti hai bezan
Kahte hain us ilm ko arbab-e-najar maut
dhoond li quam nein falah ki rah
ravish magrabi hai madd-e-nzar
waz-e-mashriq ko jante hain gunah
yah drama dikhayega kya scene
parda uthne ko muntajar hai nigah.
(Girls are learning English, and the society has discovered the path of well-being. The western style has primacy, the eastern way now a sin. What scene would this drama show, eyes wait for the curtain to lift)
The above description confirms the notions of Allama Iqbal’s bias towards the two-nation theory, and his undemocratic, anti-national, anti-modern, casteist and anti-women views that establish his identity as an Ashraafist ideologue.
Dr. Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie is a Writer, Translator, Columnist, Media panelist, Social worker and Physician by profession.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)