Over the years through his poems and philosophy, through his speeches and writings, his letters and lectures, Allama Muhammad Iqbal laid a great influence on cultural, social, political and social disputes of the Muslims and Non-Muslims of the sub-continent. He promoted ideas of Muslim unity, shedding of national differences and Islamic political cooperation.
The 18th century Europe witnessed new concepts including the idea of nation-state. According to this concept people living in a particular state are a nation irrespective of their faith or religion. This concept gave birth to Secularism, a philosophy which declared religion outside the purview of state. Accordingly religion has to be confined to private life only. Allama Iqbal rejected these concepts and came up with his idea of state which was in conformity with Islamic Ideology. For the Muslims of subcontinent who were struggling to get rid of British imperialism, he gave the idea of ‘Two Nations theory’.
After being elected as the president of the All-India Muslim League in 1930, Allama Iqbal coined the idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the sub-continent with clear demarcation of the sub-continent. “I would like to see, Punjab, Sind, North West Frontier Province and Balochistan, merged into a single state, to me self-government within the British Empire or outside the British Empire, the creation of an independent Northwest Indian Muslim state is the fate of the Muslims, at least of North West India” he said.
Allama Iqbal saw the era of former feudal culture and contemporary capitalism. Because of the place of his origin, his education, and his journey to Europe, he was able to weigh and measure the advantages and deficiencies of both eras. Indeed he was primarily a poet by nature, who observed and reacted to the stillness of the Muslims and the inner calamity which confronted Islam. He had a high regard for the attainments of the West, its energetic spirit, academic custom, and scientific advancements. But at the same time he condemned the imperialism of European colonial rule, the ethical decline of secularism and the economic exploitation of capitalism. Allama Iqbal therefore supported the idea to revert to the basics of Islam so as to create an Islamic substitute for contemporary Muslim culture.
The 20th century undertook generally the whole Islamic world, more specifically Indian-subcontinent, into a politically decisive moment. Consequential to a wide period of colonial reign, Muslims brought up a series of mounting struggles to respond to the political and cultural domination of the West. Cherishing the centuries of unmitigated history of Islamic supremacy and influence in the lives of the Muslims, Islam contributed a momentous role in Muslim response and retort to Western imperialism.
This stimulated the advancement of Islamic modernism, and was an issue to instigate Muslim independence and nationalist movements. Fascinated with their Islamic legacy and tradition, Islamic reformers wanted to bring back Muslim pride and self-confidence to restore Muslim society politically and communally. Their formation of Islamic reconstruction called for a fresh interpretation, a development of Islam that could bring about harmony between Islam and modernity.
Iqbal was not merely a preacher and philosopher. He stood for courage and action, perseverance and self-reliance, and above all faith in Allah and devotion to Islam. In his person were combined the idealism of the poet and the realism of the man who takes a practical view of things. He had an unflinching faith in Islamic principles, and success in life meant to him the realisation of one’s ‘self’ and to achieve this end the only means was to follow the teachings of Islam. His philosophy essentially revolves around the issue of the progression of human being. Iqbal argues that ‘self’ is the root of all existence, an entity which may appear to be perishable but which can attain immortality. The human ego has the potential of achieving permanence as an element in the constitution of the universe provided that it adopts a certain mode of life. The ego can evolve, progress, and succeed as well as degenerate, atrophy, and fail.
Iqbal‘s most important contribution was his restoration of a conscious energetic spirit of Islam. He was symbolic to Muslims whose Islamic principles that needed a fresh spirit to their Islamic society. He rebuilt the basic ideals in his poetry that could rouse Muslims, educated and uneducated, to an intuition of what ideal they ought to have, and blaze their intellects with a longing to discover means of seizing such ideals. To have clothed his insights in poetic form and thus to have fired hearts and minds of millions to pursue and implement these ideals is an extraordinary achievement, one which more than justifies great esteem that Allama Iqbal had enjoyed.
According to Soviet biographer of Allama Iqbal, N.P. Anikoy“Iqbal is great for his passionate condemnation of weak will and passiveness, his angry protest against inequality, discrimination and oppression in all forms i.e., economic, social, political, national, racial, religious, etc., his preaching of optimism, an active attitude towards life and man’s high purpose in the world, in a word, he is great for his assertion of the noble ideals and principles of humanism, democracy, peace and friendship among people”.
Although a great poet and philosopher he was no less a practical politician. With his firm conviction and faith in the ideals of Islam, he was one of the few who originally thought over the feasibility of carving out of India such an Islamic state in the North-West and North-East Zones which are historical homelands of Muslims.Notwithstanding Iqbal’s advocacy of Indian nationalism on the basis of Islam, the overwhelming majority of the Indian Muslims adopted path of a separate Muslim nationalism as the only way leading to their salvation. Less than two years after his death, All-India Muslim League resolved to struggle for the creation of separate Muslim homeland on the ideological foundations laid by their poet-philosopher, Allama Muhammad Iqbal.
After Allama Iqbal’s death in 1938, Quaid-i-Azam recalled Iqbal as a staunch believer of Islam, a true philosopher, strong advocator of Muslim unity and an untiring political supporter and worker who stood like a rock by him. Allama Iqbal, Quaid-i-Azam said, was not only a great poet who had a permanent place in the history of the world’s best literature, he was a dynamic personality who, during his life time, made the greatest contribution towards rousing and developing of Muslim national consciousness. In the western political thought and history, Allama Iqbal is being presented as a poetic, philosophical and political luminary. Due to his poetic and literary charisma, Allama Iqbal is equally compared with great literary figures like Milton and Shelley.
— The writer is PhD scholar, working for the federal government in Islamabad.