Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal, known as Allama Iqbal, was a poet, philosopher, theorist, and barrister in British India.
He has been called the “Spiritual Father of Pakistan” for his contributions to the nation.
Iqbal’s poems, political contributions, and academic and scholarly research were distinguished.
He is considered a renowned figure of Urdu literature, although he wrote in both Urdu and Persian.
Iqbal is admired as a prominent poet by Indians, Pakistanis, Iranians, Bangladeshis and other international scholars of literature.
Though Iqbal is best known as a poet, he is also an acclaimed “Muslim philosophical thinker of modern times”.
His first poetry book, The Secrets of the Self, appeared in the Persian language in 1915, and other books of poetry include The Secrets of Selflessness, Message from the East and Persian Psalms.
Iqbal’s Bang-e-Dara (The Call of the Marching Bell), his first collection of Urdu poetry, was published in 1924. It was written in three distinct phases of his life. His other best known Urdu works are Gabriel’s Wing, The Rod of Moses and a part of Gift from Hijaz.
Along with his Urdu and Persian poetry, his Urdu and English lectures and letters have been influential in cultural, social, religious and political discourses.
Iqbal also wrote some poems in Punjabi, such as “Piyaara Jedi” and “Baba Bakri Wala”, which he penned in 1929 on the occasion of his son Javid’s birthday. A collection of his Punjabi poetry was put on display at the Iqbal Manzil in Sialkot.
Iqbal wrote two books, The Development of Metaphysics in Persia and The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, and many letters in the English language.
In the 1922 New Year Honours, he was made a Knight Bachelor by King George V.
While studying law and philosophy in England, Iqbal joined the London branch of the All-India Muslim League.
During the League’s December 1930 session, he delivered a speech, known as the Allahabad Address, in which he pushed for the creation of a Muslim state in north-west India.
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.
Iqbal’s father, Sheikh Noor Muhammad (died 1930), was a tailor, not formally educated, but a religious man.
Iqbal’s mother Imam Bibi, a Punjabi Muslim from Sialkot, was described as a polite and humble woman who helped the poor and her neighbours with their problems.
Iqbal was four years old when he was admitted to a mosque to learn about the Qur’an. He learned the Arabic language from his teacher, Syed Mir Hassan, the head of the madrasa and professor of Arabic at Scotch Mission College in Sialkot, where he matriculated in 1893.
He received an Intermediate level with the Faculty of Arts diploma in 1895.
The same year he enrolled at Government College University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, English literature and Arabic in 1897, and won the Khan Bahadurddin F.S. Jalaluddin medal as he performed well in Arabic.
In 1899, he received his Master of Arts degree from the same college and had the first place in the University of the Punjab.
Iqbal married three times under different circumstances. His first marriage was in 1895, when he was 18 years old. His bride, Karim Bibi, was the daughter of a physician, Khan Bahadur Ata Muhammad Khan. Her sister was the mother of director and music composer Khwaja Khurshid Anwar. Their families arranged the marriage, and the couple had two children; a daughter, Miraj Begum (1895–1915), and a son, Aftab Iqbal (1899–1979), who became a barrister. Another son is said to have died after birth in 1901.
Iqbal’s second marriage was with Mukhtar Begum, and it was held in December 1914, shortly after the death of Iqbal’s mother the previous November. They had a son, but both the mother and son died shortly after birth in 1924.
Later, Iqbal married Sardar Begum, and they became the parents of a son, Javed Iqbal (1924–2015), who was to become a judge, and a daughter, Muneera Bano (b. 1930). One of Muneera’s sons is the philanthropist-cum-socialite Yousuf Salahuddin
Iqbal was influenced by the teachings of Sir Thomas Arnold, his philosophy teacher at Government College Lahore, to pursue higher education in the West. In 1905, he travelled to England for that purpose.
While already acquainted with Friedrich Nietzsche and Henri Bergson, Iqbal would discover Rumi slightly before his departure to England, and he would teach the Masnavi to his friend Swami Rama Tirtha, who in return would teach him Sanskrit.
Iqbal qualified for a scholarship from Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 1906. In the same year he was called to the bar as a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn.
In 1907, Iqbal moved to Germany to pursue his doctoral studies, and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in 1908. Working under the guidance of Friedrich Hommel, Iqbal’s doctoral thesis was entitled The Development of Metaphysics in Persia.
In 1907, he had a close friendship with the writer Atiya Fyzee in both Britain and Germany. Atiya would later publish their correspondence.
While Iqbal was in Heidelberg in 1907, his German professor Emma Wegenast taught him about Goethe’s Faust, Heine and Nietzsche. He mastered German in three months.
During his study in Europe, Iqbal began to write poetry in Persian. He preferred to write in this language because doing so made it easier to express his thoughts. He would write continuously in Persian throughout his life.
Iqbal had a great interest in Islamic studies, especially Sufi beliefs. In his poetry, apart from independent ideologies, he also explores concepts of submission to Allah and following the path of Prophet Muhammad.
Iqbal began his career as a reader of Arabic after completing his Master of Arts degree in 1899, at Oriental College and shortly afterward was selected as a junior professor of philosophy at Government College Lahore, where he had also been a student in the past. He worked there until he left for England in 1905.
In 1908, he returned from England and joined the same college again as a professor of philosophy and English literature.
In the same period Iqbal began practising law at the Chief Court of Lahore, but he soon quit law practice and devoted himself to literary works, becoming an active member of Anjuman-e-Himayat-e-Islam. In 1919, he became the general secretary of the same organisation.
Iqbal’s thoughts in his work primarily focus on the spiritual direction and development of human society, centered around experiences from his travels and stays in Western Europe and the Middle East.
He was profoundly influenced by Western philosophers such as Nietzsche, Bergson, and Goethe. He also closely worked with Ibrahim Hisham during his stay at the Aligarh Muslim University
The poetry and philosophy of Rumi strongly influenced Iqbal. Deeply grounded in religion since childhood, Iqbal began concentrating intensely on the study of Islam, the culture and history of Islamic civilisation and its political future, while embracing Rumi as “his guide”. Iqbal would feature Rumi in the role of guide in many of his poems.
Iqbal’s works focus on reminding his readers of the past glories of Islamic civilisation and delivering the message of a pure, spiritual focus on Islam as a source for socio-political liberation and greatness. Iqbal denounced political divisions within and amongst Muslim nations, and frequently alluded to and spoke in terms of the global Muslim community or the Ummah.
Iqbal’s poetry was translated into many European languages in the early part of the 20th century. Iqbal’s Asrar-i-Khudi and Javed Nama were translated into English by R. A. Nicholson and A. J. Arberry, respectively.
Iqbal was not only a prolific writer but was also a known advocate. He appeared before the Lahore High Court in both civil and criminal matters. There are more than 100 reported judgments to his name
In 1933, after returning from a trip to Spain and Afghanistan, Iqbal suffered from a mysterious throat illness.
He spent his final years helping Chaudhry Niaz Ali Khan to establish the Dar ul Islam Trust Institute at a Jamalpur estate near Pathankot, where there were plans to subsidise studies in classical Islam and contemporary social science. He also advocated for an independent Muslim state.
Iqbal ceased practising law in 1934 and was granted a pension by the Nawab of Bhopal.
In his final years, he frequently visited the Dargah of famous Sufi Ali Hujwiri in Lahore for spiritual guidance.
After suffering for months from his illness, Iqbal died in Lahore on 21 April 1938.
His tomb is located in Hazuri Bagh, the enclosed garden between the entrance of the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort, and official guards are provided by the Government of Pakistan.
Iqbal is widely commemorated in Pakistan, where he is regarded as the ideological founder of the state.
Iqbal is the namesake of many public institutions, including the Allama Iqbal Campus Punjab University in Lahore, the Allama Iqbal Medical College in Lahore, Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad, Allama Iqbal Open University in Pakistan, Iqbal Memorial Institute in Srinagar, Allama Iqbal Library in University of Kashmir, the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Iqbal Hostel in Government College University, Lahore, the Allama Iqbal Hall at Nishtar Medical College in Multan, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Town in Karachi, Allama Iqbal Town in Lahore, Allama Iqbal Hall at Aligarh Muslim University, Allama Iqbal Hostel at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi and Iqbal Hall at the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore.
In India, his song “Tarana-e-Hind” is frequently played as a patriotic song speaking of communal harmony.
The Pakistani government and public organisations have sponsored the establishment of educational institutions, colleges, and schools dedicated to Iqbal and have established the Iqbal Academy Pakistan to research, teach and preserve his works, literature and philosophy.
The Allama Iqbal Stamps Society was established for the promotion of Iqbal in philately and in other hobbies.
His son Javid Iqbal served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Iqbal Academy Lahore has published magazines on Iqbal in Persian, English and Urdu.
In much of South Asia and the Urdu-speaking world, Iqbal is regarded as the Shair-e-Mashriq, “Poet of the East”.
He is also called Mufakkir-e-Pakistan, “The Thinker of Pakistan”, Musawwir-e-Pakistan, “Painter of Pakistan” and Hakeem-ul-Ummat, “The Sage of the Ummah”.
The Pakistan government officially named him the “National Poet of Pakistan”.
His birthday Yōm-e Welādat-e Muḥammad Iqbāl, or Iqbal Day, is a public holiday in Pakistan.
Iqbal’s house in Sialkot is recognised as Iqbal’s Manzil and is open for visitors.
His other house where he lived most of his life and died is in Lahore, named Javed Manzil.
The museum is located on Allama Iqbal Road near Lahore Railway Station, Punjab, Pakistan. It was protected under the Punjab Antiquities Act of 1975, and declared a Pakistani national monument in 1977.
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