Allama Muhammad Iqbal

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Allama Muhammad Iqbal (9 November 1877 – 21 April 1938), was a South Asian Muslim writer, philosopher, and politician, whose poetry in the Urdu language is among the greatest of the twentieth century, and whose vision of a cultural and political ideal for the Muslims of British-ruled India was to animate the impulse for Pakistan. He is commonly referred to by the honorific Allama.

Born and raised in Sialkot, Punjab in an ethnic Kashmiri Muslim family, Iqbal completed his B.A. and M.A. at the Government College Lahore. He taught Arabic at the Oriental College, Lahore from 1899 until 1903. During this time, he wrote prolifically. Among the Urdu poems from this time that remain popular are Parinde ki faryad (A bird’s prayer), an early meditation on animal rights, and Tarana-e-Hindi (The Song of India) a patriotic poem—both poems composed for children. In 1905, he left for further studies in Europe, first to England, where he completed a second B.A. at Trinity College, Cambridge and was subsequently called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn, and then to Germany, where he received a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Munich. After returning to Lahore in 1908, he established a law practice but concentrated on writing scholarly works on politics, economics, history, philosophy, and religion. He is best known for his poetic works, including Asrar-e-Khudi – after whose publication he was awarded a knighthood. Rumuz-e-Bekhudi, and the Bang-e-Dara. In Iran, where he is known as Iqbāl-e Lāhorī (Iqbal of Lahore), he is highly regarded for his Persian works.

Iqbal was a strong proponent of the political and spiritual revival of Islamic civilisation across the world, but in South Asia; a series of lectures he delivered to this effect were published as The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Iqbal was elected to the Punjab Legislative Council in 1927 and held a few positions in the All-India Muslim League. In his 1930 presidential address at the League’s annual meeting in Allahabad, he formulated a political framework for Muslims in British-ruled India, Iqbal died in 1938. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, he was named the national poet there. He is also known as the “Hakeem-ul-Ummat” (“The Sage of the Ummah”) and the “Mufakkir-e-Pakistan” (“The Thinker of Pakistan”). The anniversary of his birth (Yom-e Welādat-e Muḥammad Iqbāl), 9 November, is a public holiday in Pakistan.

Background

Iqbal was born on 9 November 1877 in an ethnic Kashmiri family in Sialkot within the Punjab Province of British India (now in Pakistan). His family was Kashmiri Pandit (of the Sapru clan) that converted to Islam] in the 15th century and which traced its roots back to a south Kashmir village in Kulgam In the 19th century, when the Sikh Empire was conquering Kashmir, his grandfather’s family migrated to Punjab. Iqbal’s grandfather was an eighth cousin of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, an important lawyer and freedom fighter who would eventually become an admirer of Iqbal. Iqbal often mentioned and commemorated his Kashmiri lineage in his writings. According to scholar Annemarie Schimmel, Iqbal often wrote about his being “a son of Kashmiri-Brahmans but (being) acquainted with the wisdom of Rumi and Tabriz.”

Iqbal’s father, Sheikh Noor Muhammad (died 1930), was a tailor, not formally educated, but a religious man. Iqbal’s mother Imam Bibi, a Kashmiri from Sambrial, was described as a polite and humble woman who helped the poor and her neighbours with their problems. She died on 9 November 1914 in Sialkot. Iqbal loved his mother, and on her death, he expressed his feelings of pathos in an elegy:

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