A Lover of His Land -- and His People
At the same time, Iqbal was also a simple and ordinary lover of his land and his people. But which land was his land, and which people his people? What a question indeed. If only the world would stop to think about it for a moment.
How much of the conflict in the world -- and how much of the devastation suffered by the world and how much of the pain and anguish heaped upon how many billions of human beings all over the world -- will be diminished, if not completely removed, if only the world took a deep breath and pondered the true meaning and significance of that question: Which land is truly your land and which people are truly your people?
Iqbal was anything but a mindless worshipper of territory, geography, language, race, culture, color, nationality or ethnicity.
On the contrary, Iqbal was a man whose brilliant mind had been touched by God’s mercy, grace and glory and illumined and expanded by the divine light that shines through heaven and earth to take in the entire universe. As a result, to Iqbal all land was his land, for it was his God’s land:
“Har Mulk Mulkay Maast,” he said, “Ki Mulkay Khudaa-i Maast.”
No one said it better or more clearly or forcefully.
So also for him all people were his people, for they were his God’s people -- whom God had created with his own two hands from a common ancestor, Adam.
A Muslim -- Plain, Pure and Simple
As a result, Iqbal was a lover of all humanity and of all the world of Allah. And he sang about it all with a love, tenderness, power, eloquence, authority, pain, exuberance, joy, insight and passion that set on fire the souls and minds of countless millions upon millions of those who ever read or listened to his poetry.
And above it all, Iqbal was a Muslim -- plain, pure and simple.
And he was most unapologetic about his love for his Deen -- and for his God; and for the Qur’an; and for the noble messenger of God, Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. And for the spirit of liberty, truth, equality and justice they inspire. And for all humanity and all of the creation of God, which he saw as candidates for God’s unbounded love, grace and mercy.
And Iqbal wore this love on his sleeve. And he wrote and sang about it with a voice, energy, insight, sincerity, devotion and enthusiasm that are matched by few before him or since.
And Iqbal was a Muslim who loved and respected all Muslims, regardless of their Madhaahib and Masaalik -- regardless of whether they were Bareilvis, Deobandis, Ahle Hadith, Hanafis or Shafi-is. And regardless of their racial, national and ethnic labels such as Sayyid, Shaikh, Afghan, Irani or Toorani. And regardless of their party or organizational connections.
Breathing a New Life in Muslim Ummah
Iqbal chided Muslims for their narrow-mindedness and bigotry; for their factionalism, divisions and strife; for their laziness, ineptitude and incompetence; for their ignorance of their Deen, their heritage and their culture as well as for their ignorance of their Dunya; and for their social, economic, educational and political backwardness. And he warned them, in the starkest terms, against becoming worshippers of the idols of race, tribe, country, class, wealth and power.
Iqbal was there, painting a powerful message of liberation, dignity, education and awakening on the horizon of Islam and Muslims, before a lot of others were there -- standing tall and almost alone, right at the turn of the century -- Ala Ra’si Kulli Qarn, as Allah’s beloved Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, once put it.
Iqbal was there before there was Hasanul Banna; or Abul Kalam Azad; or Muhammad Ali Jauhar; or Muhammad Ali Jinnah; or Maududi. If I got my history right that is. If I got the dates mixed up, Iqbal’s place in the service of Islam, Muslims and the world is still secure and safe. For, the point I am making is that and not the chronology of events.
Before all these people made their mark on Muslim history, there was Iqbal. And Iqbal’s thinking, understanding and elucidation of the role of Islam and Muslims in human life and history blazoned the pathway for others to follow. Right at the top of the 20th century -- ‘Ala Ra’si Kulli Qarn -- Iqbal valiantly, and almost single-handedly, tried to breathe a new life into the battered body and faltering spirit of the Muslim Ummah.
All Deen, All Dunya: All at the Same Time
As I said earlier, Iqbal was a man who loved Allah, and Allah’s Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and the Qur’an, and Muslims -- and the world and all the people that Allah created. All at the same time.
At one level, Iqbal was all Deen, all Qur’an, all Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, all Haqq, all Aakhirat -- the next world. At another level, Iqbal was all humanity, all Muslim, all practical everyday Islam, all Dunya -- this world. All at the same time and in the same breath.
Just like Islam really is -- both Deen and Dunya at the same time.
In terms of geography, Iqbal was a child of that lovely land that so captivated the heart of the Mughal emperor Babar and which we all know as Kashmir -- but he was also from Punjab, the noble land which Hazrat Baba Farid made his home. Iqbal was not a Pakistani -- for he died before the creation of Pakistan -- but he was the man who is said to have dreamed the dream that later became Pakistan.
Muslim Parents, Brahmin Roots: Gathering All of Humanity Under the Shade of a Giant Tree
Iqbal had wonderful Muslim parents but he never forgot his Hindu and Brahmin roots.
Iqbal’s thought and poetry embodied the advice Hazrat Baba Farid is reported to have given to his Murid and Khalifah, Hazrat Khawja Nizamuddin Auliyaa of Delihi: Be like a big tree under whose shade vast multitudes of humanity can gather and find rest and comfort.
If it sounds too much like a chip of the old block of Rahmatul Lil-Aalameen, that is not by coincidence. That is how it is supposed to be. That is how Allah’s Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was. And that is how Hazrat Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali were -- may Allah be pleased with them all.
And the miracle of the Rahmat of Rahmatul-Lil-Aalameen continues till the end of time. In every conceivable form and shape. In every single age and place. Now as Iqbal and now as someone and something else!
Islam and Muslims: Feeling the Pain of All of Allah’s Creation
Allah’s Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was a man who felt the pain of all of Allah’s creation. He even felt the pain of the bird whose chicks had been stolen from its nest. He ordered the offending individual to restore the stolen chicks to the nest of the grateful bird.
He was the man, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, to whom an abused, malnourished, poorly tended and overburdened camel complained and cried for help. He ordered the owner of the beast to lessen the camel’s burden and increase and improve his care and feed.
And he was the man, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, who interrupted his Khutbah and climbed down the Mimbar to comfort a bereaved and bawling tree trunk in his mosque on which he used to lean to give Khutbah before the construction of his new Mimbar.
What a Rasul he was -- Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. And what a personification of compassion -- Rahmat -- to all of the creation of Allah he was -- Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
That is how good Muslims of any kind were in any part of the world throughout history. They cared deeply about their fellow human beings. And about the entire creation of Almighty Allah.
And that is how Iqbal was too: Like a giant tree that provided shade for all.
And I hope -- and pray -- that is how all of us will be: a solution to the problems of the world and not a problem for the people of the world.
Voice of the Qur’an
More than anything else, Iqbal said so himself, his ideas and words were a reflection of the Qur’an. “Humiliate and dishonor me on the Day of Judgment!” he begged Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, “If my words contain anything other than the Qur’an.”
His words in Farsi were something like this -- I think: War Ba-Harfam Ghair-e Qur’an Muzmarast … Roozi Mah-shar Khaar-o-Ruswa Kun Mura …
Who in their right mind would say something like that unless they really believed it?
More than anything else, Iqbal was the voice of the Qur’an. Nothing less, nothing more.
Admirers and Friends of Iqbal
Iqbal’s admirers have conferred upon him the title of Shaa’ir-e-Mashriq, as if his poetry was limited to the East. And as if the West had a greater poet than him!
Those who look at him from the point of view of Islam and Muslims would call him Shaa’ir-e-Islam, or Shaa’ir-e-Ummat, or Shaa’ir-e-Deen, or Shaa’ir-e-Qawm or Shaa’ir-e-Millat.
But those who would consider his work in the light of the work of everyone else in the world, and would consider the breadth, reach and universality of his vision and his concerns, would accept nothing less than Shaa’r-e-Aalam or Shaa’r-e-Kaa-inaat?
Personally, when I read the Qur’an and then I read Iqbal’s poetry, I ask myself, isn’t his work really Qur’an in poetry? And shouldn’t we all be calling him Shaa’ir-e-Qur’an?
This becomes clearer when we understand why it is that some people find difficulty navigating Iqbal’s poems. It is not because his language is difficult, which it is in some ways, but because his poetry is full of borrowings from Aayats, passages, events and expressions from the Qur’an -- something not too many Muslims seem to be familiar with these days.