Commemorating Muhammad Iqbal


The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) organized a seminar in Jeddah to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the death of Muhammad Iqbal, who was a Muslim poet, philosopher, politician, statesman and great economist. Through his prose and poetry, he played an important role in raising national awareness among Muslims in the Indian subcontinent.

The seminar was attended by leaders of the Pakistani community. It began with verses from the Holy Qur’an, after which a number of poets read some poems that commended and praised the qualities of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), followed by selected poems written by Iqbal. A number of speakers described Iqbal’s qualities as being extraordinary and exceptional, noting that he was a very knowledgeable, educated and learned leader. They were right. He was a renowned philosopher, prominent economic expert and eloquent lawyer.

He exerted strenuous efforts to found a state for the Muslims of the subcontinent, who lived under British rule. However, he did not live long enough to see his dream come true and did not see the creation of Pakistan. It is said that it was Iqbal who chose “Pakistan” as the name of newly created state. But even if it was not him who chose the name, he did urge Muslim leaders to exert more efforts to establish a state to shelter Muslims and protect them from the English and Hindus.

The speakers at the seminar called for finding a solution to problem of the Pakistanis who have been stranded in Bangladesh since the separation of Eastern Pakistan and the establishment of Bangladesh. They stressed that those Pakistanis supported the unity of Pakistan and its army, and as a result, some were killed and some have been forced to live in desolate and miserable camps in Bangladesh. Those Pakistanis have been waiting to be repatriated since 1971 and they want to return to the country they chose as their home country from the beginning, for which they sacrificed everything. However, all elected Pakistani governments have failed to perform their duty and bring those 250,000 stranded Pakistanis home.

In my speech, I thanked the PRC and the organizers of the event for inviting me to speak about the great Muslim poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal. I focused on the works that made him famous not only in Pakistan and the subcontinent but all over the world. I read an article written by Khadija Jafar, a columnist of Al-Hayat newspaper, in which she mentioned a number of Iqbal’s poems and prose works, around 18 books and collections of poems. They are:

(1) Knowledge of Economics, published in 1903.

(2) Development of Metaphysics, published in English in 1908.

(3) Secrets of the Self (1915).

(4) Mysteries of Selflessness (1918).

(5) Message of the East (1923).

(6) The Call of the Marching Bell (1924).

(7) Message of Immortality (1932).

(8) Traveler Collection (1936).

(9) What Should We Do, O Nations of the East? (1936).

His collections also include “The Rod of Moses,” “The Wing of Gabriel” and others. One of the most important books he authored was “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” which was published in English in 1930 and translated into several languages.

A number of academies have been named after Iqbal in different parts of the world, the most important is the one in Pakistan, which publishes a periodic magazine in several languages and gives an award to the best works written about Iqbal and his poems.

At the end of my speech, I talked about the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh who live in poor camps and I reiterated my calls for the Pakistani government to act responsibly toward these people.

I also called upon the government to re-enforce the actions of the Rabita Endowment, which was established in the era of General Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq in cooperation with the Muslim World League’s then secretary-general Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef. The Rabita Endowment was supposed to transfer and repatriate the stranded Pakistanis and it raised money for this purpose but nobody knows what happened to that money.

I called upon the government to issue passports to the stranded Pakistanis so that they can move around and stop depending on Pakistani government allocations. I also called upon the government to implement the programs that were suggested by the PRC to transfer the stranded Pakistanis and then let them work in Pakistan and repay the costs of their repatriation.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at