By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) recently organized a symposium to mark the 79th death anniversary of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the great Muslim poet, philosopher, thinker and lawyer. Allama Iqbal is widely known as the Poet of Islam or the Poet of the East. Several prominent figures from the Pakistani community in Jeddah attended the symposium, which began with the recitation of a few verses from the Holy Qur’an. Some poems glorifying Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were recited on the occasion.
A host of speeches were delivered and poems recited to commemorate the extraordinary talent and genius of Allama Iqbal in a wide range of poetry, philosophy, law, economics and politics. When I was invited to deliver a speech about this versatile genius and icon, I started by thanking the PRC for holding such an event. I pointed out that it was impossible for me to do justice to Allama Iqbal when speaking about him either as a poet or philosopher or expert in law and economics or politician or social reformer. In each one of these categories, his contributions were immense and magnificent, and, therefore, it was difficult to describe them all in a speech.
Hence, I told the audience that I would focus on a few highlights of the multifaceted personality of this great Muslim genius. Allama Iqbal was born on 9 November 1877 in Sialkot city in the western part of Punjab Province of British India, which is now part of Pakistan. Iqbal received his early education from his father Sheikh Noor Muhammad. While a child, Iqbal was once reading the Holy Qur’an, and his father asked him what he was doing? His reply was that he was reading the Holy Qur’an. His father asked the same question on several similar occasions. Then, Iqbal asked his father what prompted him to ask that question? The father replied, “I wanted to explain that you should read the Holy Qur’an as if you were listening to it from Almighty Allah.” From that time, Iqbal started reading the holy book with deep understanding and reflections of its meaning and implications.
Sheikh Noor Muhammad wanted to see his son specialize in religious studies. However, his friend, Syed Mir Hassan, advised him not to restrict his son to studying at an Islamic seminary but instead enroll him in a regular school. His father listened to this advice and subsequently Mir Hassan became Allama Iqbal’s teacher and guide. He learned Persian, Arabic and Urdu and was admitted to Scotch Mission College in Sialkot where Mir Hassan was a professor of Arabic language. He received a diploma from Murray College Sialkot and later obtained his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, English literature and Arabic from the Government College Lahore. He received his Masters of Arts degree from the same college. By that time, he was well versed in composing poetry. Allama Iqbal was influenced by the teachings of Thomas Arnold, his philosophy teacher at Government College Lahore. Arnold was also a professor of Arabic literature at the School of Oriental Studies in London.
After obtaining a Masters degree, Allama Iqbal worked as a teacher at the Government College for some time. Then, he traveled to Europe to pursue his higher education and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from a German university. He became well known as a philosopher and was often compared with the great philosophers of Germany such as Goethe and Nietzsche. He spent some time traveling in different parts of Europe. In response to an invitation from Benito Mussolini, he visited Italy where he delivered a lecture on the “Difference between European culture, Communism and Islamic culture.” He also visited Spain and the Mosque of Cordova. Allama Iqbal wrote some poems that dealt with the lost glory of the Muslims in that country. On his way back to the Indian subcontinent, he passed through Egypt and visited Jerusalem. He composed some poems at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest mosque in Islam and the first qibla of Muslims.
Allama Iqbal was one of those who called for a separate nation for the Muslims of the subcontinent. It was said that he chose the name of Pakistan, but whether he chose the name or not, he worked hard to achieve that goal through his prose and poetry. In the beginning, Quid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah stood for keeping India united. But eventually, Jinnah came to realize that the position of Allama Iqbal was right as far as the new nation of Pakistan was concerned. He then worked hard to realize the dream of the majority of Muslims in the subcontinent that ended up in the creation of Pakistan.
Unfortunately, Allama Iqbal did not live to see his dream come true. He died before the partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan. But he had no doubt that Pakistan would one day come into being and that it would include all of the Muslims of the subcontinent.
He also did not live to see that some of those who made sacrifices for Pakistan and chose to live in the new nation would have the misery, which has been experienced by the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh ever since the secession of East Pakistan and the creation of the new state of Bangladesh. It is the responsibility of the Pakistan government to repatriate and rehabilitate these hapless people in the country of their choice. I appeal to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to complete the work that he started in the past by reviving the Rabita Endowment, which was created to resolve the problem of the stranded Pakistanis.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org