Helpless Spectators, Hapless Victims
Do you think, maybe that is why we are no longer permitted by Allah to run the affairs of his world? Do you think, maybe that is why we have been reduced to the status of helpless spectators and hapless victims of the events and actions that unfold in Allah’s world before us?
I don’t know, I am just asking. Remember, I am more of a question-man than an answer-man, even though Allah has been merciful enough to bless me with one or two little answers to one or two small questions?
That is partly why I write these E-Letters to you -- to share some of those answers with you, if I may, and to throw a lot of these questions in your lap, so you can wrestle with them and come up with your own answers.
Who in the World Is or Was Iqbal?
But I also wanted to share with you some thoughts on Iqbal. People today ask: Who in the world is or was Iqbal? A lot of “very good” Muslims among them. I have trouble believing my ears when they tell me they don’t know Iqbal or they never heard about him.
And they ask about Iqbal. Among them Muslims and non-Muslims. Among them Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs and others. Among them educated and uneducated people. Among them people of a wide range of Aqeedahs and Maslaks and Madh-habs and organizations. They all ask: Who is or was Iqbal?
And I say: Is Saadagee Pay Kaun Na Mar-jaa-ay Ai Khudaa? How naive and uninformed can we be?
Who in the World Are You?
Well, let me put it to you this way: Who in the world are you? In other words, you tell me who you are and I will tell you who or what Iqbal is or was.
Are you a Muslim? Are you a Pakistani or an Indian or a Bangladeshi? Are you an Arab or an Iranian? Do you have anything to do with the United Kingdom? Are you in some shape or form connected with Europe or any other part of the Western world? Are you from just about any part of what people call the Muslim World -- from Chechnya to Arabia and from Morocco to Malaysia?
Are you an educated person? Are you one who appreciates literature and poetry, science and philosophy? Are you tantalized by the miracle of human language and expression? Are you at all moved or mesmerized by the magic that words hold?
Motionless Majesty of the Mountains -- Their Imperturbability as Jawahar Lal Nehru Called it
Does the motionless majesty of the mountains, the churning of the surf in the sea, the soaring of the birds in the sky, the whispering of the winds in the branches of the trees and the dancing of water drops in pearly brooks and silver streams stir and awaken your mind and sooth and soften your soul all at the same time?
Can you appreciate design, symmetry and color in things you see in nature, and in human artistry and creativity, and recognize rhythm and balance and cadence in the sounds you hear?
Are you one to be intrigued by the power of ideas and to be dazzled by the wonders of human reason, logic and imagination? Are you one who cares about culture and civilization and about some of the higher and finer forms of human expression and achievement?
Are you a lover of humanity? And are you passionate about such nobler ideals of human life as truth, justice, freedom, fairness, equality and human dignity and decency?
Do You Love Islam and Muslims -- And Allah’s World and Your Fellow Human Beings?
Do you love Islam, Muslims, Qur’an, Hadith, Allah and Rasulullah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam? Are there moments in your life when you find yourself thinking and wondering about what the real message of Islam and the Qur’an is to the world, and what the wonderful model of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was all about?
Are there times when you lie awake at night asking yourself what it was that propelled the Muslims with such spectacular rapidity to the pinnacle of power, wealth, virtue and glory in the world, and how it is that they seem to have descended in our days to the bottom of the pit of ignominy, humiliation, destitution, helplessness, crisis of character and powerlessness?
Or are you, at a more basic and rudimentary level, a human being who in some form or fashion cares about your fellow human beings? And is there in your heart a drop or two of what Shakespeare calls the milk of human kindness?
Then Iqbal Is Your Man!
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you must know Iqbal, because Iqbal is your man. You must know who he was and what he did. And more importantly what he said.
That is right, Iqbal’s life is not about what he did, but about what he said. For, it was in what he said, in his poetry, that Allah appears to have elevated him over a lot of others in the world and made him a very special manifestation of his power and glory on earth.
Allah says in the Qur’an that he not only has elevated, exalted and honored the human race in a special way, but among the children of Adam themselves he confers greater exaltation and glory on some relative to some others.
Wa Laqad Karramnaa Banee Aadam: We exalted and honored the children of Adam
Faddalnaa Ba’adahum Alaa Ba’ad: We exalted and honored some over some others.
Maa Faddalallahu Bihi Ba’adakum Alaa Ba’ad: How Allah has exalted and honored some of you over others.
That would imply Allah creates different people -- at different times and in different places -- with different talents and gifts. Some he gives the gifts of action; some he gives the gifts of thought, observation, analysis and understanding; and some others he gives the gifts of speech and expression.
It is all part of the larger divine scheme of Wa Tilkal Ayyaamu Nudaaviluhaa Bainannaas: That is how we alternate the days among people.
If Sayyidina Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was the perfect human embodiment of all of the above, Iqbal was part of the short list of those blessed by God with special powers of thought, analysis, understanding and expression. The kind humanity so rarely sees -- in any language, culture, time or place.
He was part of the glory of Allah that bursts out of the Aayats of the Qur’an: Arrahmaan, ‘Allamal Qur’an. Khalaqal Insaan. ‘Allamahul Bayaan. Paraphrase: the most merciful and loving one; taught the Qur’an; created the human; taught him expression.
And the glory that shines through the blessed words attributed to our beloved prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam: Inna Minal Bayaani La-Sihra! Paraphrase: Surely, some expression is like magic.
A Lover of Humanity
Iqbal was a lover of Islam, Muslims, humanity and the world -- all at the same time. He was blessed by God with an amazing understanding of Islam and of the world, and with an equally brilliant ability to express that understanding in the form of some of the most powerful and imaginative poetry ever produced by the human mind -- in any language or culture.
Iqbal was a lover of humanity regardless of race or religion, color or creed, class or gender, history or geography, Maslak or Madh-Hab, Aqeedah or Jama’at. His soul danced and sang at humanity’s many triumphs. And he cried tears of fire and blood for the sad fate of human beings in this world.
Consumed by the majesty and power of God’s glory in his creation, Iqbal wrote and sang passionately and powerfully of that majesty and glory.
Those who knew him, or are familiar with his work, will easily call him superman -- Mard-e-Kaamil. The kind his own eager and pained eyes were searching for in people like Raza Shah the Iranian and Mustafa the Turk.
A bewitched and grateful Ummat conferred upon him the tiles of Mowlana -- even though he was, for the record, no Moulvi -- and ‘Allaamah.
Yet he was merely a beardless, mustachioed man, sometimes in a three-piece suit, and with a Ph.D. from Heidelberg, Germany. And with an understanding of Islam, Muslims and the world and a command over Arabic, Farsi and Urdu that defied comprehension or description.
A Heart on Fire
And yet his heart, mind and soul were on fire by a book that the Archangel Gabriel, God bless him and all those angels that are close to God, brought to an Unlettered Man, Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, in Arabia, 1400 years ago.
The Qur’an that was most glorious not only in everything that it was, but also, not the least, in the most miraculous manner in which it was a continuation and affirmation of the earlier books that the same angel --Hazrat Jibraeel, Alaihis Salaam -- had also brought to Moses and Jesus, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them. Qur’an itself calls itself that book -- Dhaalikal Kitaab.
That Book -- Dhaalikal Kitaab
Iqbal was held in thrall by that book -- Dhaalikal Kitaab -- the Qur’an. Iqbal was mesmerized by that book -- Dhaalikal Kitaab -- the Qur’an.
Iqbal was both tongue-tied as well as energized, galvanized and empowered by that book -- Dhaalikal Kitaab –– the Qur’an. A book that on the one hand rendered him dazed and speechless out of sheer awe and wonderment and which, on the other hand, conferred upon him near-superhuman powers of thought, observation, analysis, understanding, speech and articulation.
As a result, Iqbal wanted the whole world to know about that book –– the Qur’an. He wanted the whole world to see the wonders of that book even as he himself was able to see them. As he had been shown them by God Almighty whom he loved with a passion greater than all the powerful and consuming passion with which he loved the creation of God Almighty.