Iqbal, Sir Muhammad (1873-1938), was a Muslim Indian scholar, philosopher, and poet. He is regarded as the spiritual founder of Pakistan. He urged political and spiritual unity between all Muslim peoples. Iqbal tried to reformulate the basic ideas of Islamic theology in the academic language of the modern world.
Muhammad Iqbal was born in the Punjabi town of Sialkot. Educated at Government College in Lahore, he learnt Arabic and the Persian classics. He wrote his first poem in Urdu.
From 1901 to 1905, Iqbal taught English and philosophy at Islamia College and Government College in Lahore. In 1905, he published his first work on economics. For the next three years, he studied in the United Kingdom at the universities of Cambridge and London. He also studied at Munich in Germany. He qualified as a barrister and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree.
When Iqbal returned to Lahore, he taught philosophy and English literature at Government College. Although he was a lawyer by profession, poetry was his true vocation. He wrote for public recitation in the style of the classical poets.
Iqbal achieved real fame after 1915, with the publication of a long Persian poem called Secrets of the Self. Its sequel, Mysteries of Selflessness, was not published until 1953, after his death. These poems called on Muslims to practise self-sacrifice in the interest of brotherhood and justice for the greater good of others. In the 1920's, Iqbal published more long volumes of poetry in Persian. His masterpiece, Baan-e-Daraa (Song of Eternity), was published in 1932.
Iqbal also felt compelled to express himself politically. Before living in Europe, he had supported the idea of Indian nationalism. But, as he became acquainted with the aims and origins of the movement, he rejected the evils of racism and imperialism that he saw in it. His brand of nationalism became based on faith, history, and culture, rather than on mere geography. He also realized that Indian society was too divided by religion, caste, and language to give traditional nationalism a reasonable chance of success. As early as 1910, Iqbal began to advocate uniting Islamic peoples all over the world to restore past glories through active reform.
The 1930's were busy years for Iqbal. He traveled to Europe, Jerusalem, and Afghanistan, and published more verse. In 1930, he gave the presidential address at the annual meeting of the Muslim League in Allahabad. In this address, he urged the Muslims of northwestern India, where they constituted the majority of the population, to demand independence from both Britain and India. In 1932, Iqbal participated in the third Round Table Conference in London. This conference prepared the way for the Government of India Act of 1935, which offered Indians a greater participation in their own political life. In 1936, Iqbal was elected as a president of the Punjab Parliamentary Board.
Two years after Iqbal's death in 1938, the Muslim League voted in favour of his ideal--a new nation named Pakistan. Pakistan means "Land of the pure," in Urdu.
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