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Why Allama Iqbal needs to be condemned, not celebrated - Omer Ghazi

Just a few days ago was the birth anniversary of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the pan-Islamist 20th century poet from the Indian subcontinent who had a devastating impact on Muslim Philosophy perhaps only comparable to the damage done by his ideal Al-Ghazali. Allama Iqbal is often counted amongst Mirza Ghalib and Meer Taqi Meer when it comes to Urdu Poetry and is branded a prolific thinker, reformer and a philosopher. It might seem like an exaggeration but comparing Iqbal to Ghalib and Meer is like comparing Rupi Kaur to Lord Byron and Keats, he was never even in the same league. Moreover, on his 80th death anniversary, let’s take a look back at his poetry and see that he was not only against the very idea of knowledge and philosophy, but his poetry is filled with racism, anti-semitism, jingoism, communal hatred, hyper-nationalism, religious fanaticism, anti-intellectualism and calls for bloodshed.

Allama Iqbal was one of the major driving forces behind formation of Pakistan and propagation of the "two-nation theory" that Hindus and Muslims can never peacefully co-exist in one landmass. He made it explicitly clear in his Allahabad Address of 1930 as well as in his numerous letters to Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

He was a strong critic of both secularism and democratic values and filled the minds of Muslim youth with the dreams of a global Islamic Caliphate, which would be established by spilling blood of whoever comes in the way. In Tarana-e-Milli, he writes:

Cheen-o-Arab Humara, Hindustan Humara / Muslim Hain Hum, Watan Hai Sara Jahan Humara / Touheed Ki Amanat Seenon Mein Hai Humare / Aasan Nahin Mitana Naam-o-Nishan Humara / Dunya Ke Butkadon Mein Pehla Woh Ghar Khuda Ka / Hum Uss Ke Pasban Hain, Woh Pasban Humara / Taighon Ke Saye Mein Hum Pal Kar Jawan Huwe Hain / Khanjar Hilal Ka Hai Qoumi Nishan Humara

(China and Arab are ours, India is ours / We are Muslims, the whole world is ours/ We carry the message of monotheism in our hearts / Its not easy to eradicate us from the face of earth / Of all the temples in the World, the firstmost is the house of Allah / We are its savior and it is our savior / We have grown up playing amidst swords / The scimitar of crescent moon is the symbol of our community)

His supporters argue that while promoting nationalistic feelings, he had a strong India in mind, which becomes meaningless in the light of these lines from Shikwa:

Ajmi Khum hai toh kya, mai toh hijazi hai meri / Naghma Hindi hai toh kya, lai toh Hijazi hai meri, / Shab gurezan hogi aakhir Jalwa e Khursheed se, / Yah Chaman mamoor hoga naghma e tauheed se.

(What if my glass is foreign, my wine is Arab, / What if my words are Hindi, my tune is Arab, / Till when the night will avoid the light of sun? / Soon this place will ring with the message of monotheism)

He also had extremely bigoted views against Hindus, Christians and of course, Jews. And he was totally against assimilation and integration of Muslims in other cultures. In Jawab e Shikwa, God is commenting on the adverse condition of Muslims, he says:

Waza main tum ho Nasara, Tamaddun main Hunood, / Yeh Musalmaan hain jinhain dekh ke sharmayein Yahood,

(You dress like Christians, you adopted Hindu culture, / Muslims are in such an adverse condition that they embarass Jews).

And the calls for violence continue in Jawaab e Shikwa, he writes:

Har Musalmaan rag e baatil ke liye nashtar tha, / Uske aaina hasti main amal jauhar tha, / Jo bharosa tha usay quwwat e baazu par tha, / Hai tmhain maut ka dar usko khuda ka dar tha, / Waqt e fursat hai kahan kaam abhi baaqi hai, / Noor e Tauheed ka itmaam abhi baaqi hai.

(Every Muslim was a blade to the jugular vein of falsehood / Every Muslim used to believe in action, / He used to trust his strong, muscular arms, / You are afraid of death, he was afraid of only God, / There is no time to wait, there is work to do, / The completion of message of Islam remains to be done)

Apart from spreading communal hatred, anti-semitism and religious fanaticism, he attacked the very foundation of any secular, educated, liberal society and that is, importance of philosophy and freethinking. It is beyond my understanding how he is called a thinker and philosopher when he is against the very idea of thinking and philosophy in itself. In "Ek falsafa zada syed zaade ke naam", he writes:

Anjaam-e-khirad hai be huzoori, / Hai falsafa zindagi se doori, / Afkaar ke naghma haaye be saut, / Hain zauq e amal ke liye maut..

(The results of thinking are disobedience, / Philosophy takes you away from life, / These futile rhymes of freethinking and contemplation, / Kill the emotion of working towards the cause of faith)

He tries commenting on giants of western philosophy without having a full grasp on the subject. In a blaring example of lack of modesty, he refers to Friedrich Nietzsche like this:

"Agar hota woh majzoob firangi is zamane main, / Toh Iqbal usko samjhata maqaam e kibriya kya hai"

(If that western madman (Nietzsche) was alive today, / Then Iqbal would have taught him true spirituality)

It is ironical that Iqbal later plagiarized his whole idea of Mard-e-Momin from the philosophy of Ubermensch put forth by the same Western Madman decades ago. I have written before how Iqbal badly criticized and plagiarized from Nietzsche in my article "Lao-Tzu, Rumi, Nietzsche, Iqbal and the Perfect Man". (Read it here https://vicharakblog.wordpress.com/…/lao-tzu-rumi-nietzsch…/ )

Iqbal, in his poem "Lenin", imagines Vladimir Lenin in front of God apologizing for denying his existence. I don't wish to curb his creative liberty but in that poem, Lenin cries and asks God for a miracle to eradicate capitalism from the world (yes, in all seriousness). It doesn't end here, Iqbal also goes on to assert that God is manipulating Soviet Russia through angels to destroy the idols in the Russian churches. And this man had the audacity to call Friedrich Nietzsche a madman.

Apart from Russia, he had interesting insights to share about European culture too. He says:

"Jahaan e Maghrib ke butkadon main / kaleesa main, madarson main, / Hawas ki khoon reziyan chhupati, / hai aql e ayyar ki numaish, / Allah ko pa mardiya momin pe bharosa,
Iblees ko Europe ki masheeno ka sahara"

(In the churches, temples and schools of the west, / they teach wild lust in the garb of intellectual discussions, / The mechanical advancements of Europe are a work of Satan,
Allah fully banks on the will power of Muslims)

Like a third grade Islamist twitter troll, he calls European society promiscuous and feels good about himself. Also, he does not hesitate from urging upon Muslims again and again to pick up the sword and do Jihad in the name of Allah. He repeatedly shames Muslims for their inactivity and deems bloodshed in the name of Islam even more virtuous than the Hajj. In "Iblees ki Majlis e Shura", he writes:

"Hai tawaaf e Hajj ka hungama agar baaqi toh kya? / Kund ho kar reh gayi momin ki tegh e be niyaam, / Kis ki nomidi pe hujjat hai yeh farmaan e jadeed? / Hai Jihaad is daur main mard e musalmaa par haraam"

(So what if the ritual of Hajj remains? / The swords of Muslims are getting rusted with time, / And who came up with this new, nonsensical decree? / That Jihaad is not permissible for today's men?)

Another hypocrisy of Allama Iqbal was that despite crying rivers about Muslim Ummah and Global Islamic Caliphate all his life, he never criticized disintegration of Ottoman Empire at the hands of the British forces. In fact, for some strange reasons, he opposed the Khilafat Movement and accepted Knighthood from the British government in 1922.

His writings are not only bigoted and communal but nihilistic too, he is against scientific advancements of any society and does not promote research and development of ideas from one culture to other. He says:

Magar woh ilm ke moti, kitaabein apne aaba ki, / Jo dekhen unko Europe main toh dil hota hai seepaara

(All those pearls of wisdom, the books of our ancestors, / I feel horrible inside when I see them today in Europe)

But Iqbal is celebrated as Shair-e-Mashriq and Hakeem-ul-Millat. He would have deserved these titles if Shair meant hate-monger and Hakeem meant a fanatical bigot.

The reason I write this during his birth anniversary is that Iqbal is put on a pedestal he most certainly does not deserve. Muslim youth today memorize his couplets and present them in the middle of serious academic debates as if that word salad was a pertinent philosophical argument. He acted as a communal catalyst to the heated reaction already going on between Hindus and Muslims of British-era India. After almost 80 years after his demise, looking at the adverse effect he has caused on the diverse Indian society, it seems fit to say that it would have been in the best interests of the society if his ideals died with him too.

 

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Comments (18)

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Nov 13, 2018

Hi Omer, a very nice article indeed. I'd like to know your suggestions on good progressive and secular must read Urdu works. I suddenly got a feeling to learn Naskh/Nastaliq. Now I want to utilize my knowledge of Naskh as well!!!!

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Nov 17, 2018

I am not an authority on Iqbal. but as an aspiring historian i have seen the effect of his poetry on South Asian histoy. as a collective it would seem Iqbal indeed played his part in fueling the communal atmosphere of 1930s and 1940s. but Muslims still love him for showing them a mirror of their decadence. his love for war and swords of by-gone days was nostalgia for the glorious islamic days... but that should not mean he called for the same to again make Muslims achieve political greatness. he surely did not envisage or called for the Pakistan the way it ultimately materialized. my only problem in this article is you suggesting that he commented on western philosophers without understanding them... his education and ideas would suggest otherwise. probably you did not understand the reasons behind his criticism of Neitzche and others...

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