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A Poet Less Known

A new book that traces Iqbal’s contribution to Urdu literature and role in the subcontinent’s freedom struggle 

10/31/2014 12:56:21 PM
written By : Sumati kumar Print

Allama Muhammad Iqbal, like Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is nota much-liked figure in India. While Jinnah’s name would easily come up in any drawing room discussion on India’s partition, Iqbal would be mentioned by only those who really have a deeper acquaintance with India’s struggle for freedom. 

Yet it was Iqbal, who in his 1930 Allahabad address as the President of the Muslim League, gave a call for a separate state for the Muslims of North West India (which included Punjab and Sindh) - a call that culminated in the creation of Pakistan (though the term Pakistan was not his coinage). After Gandhi came to helm the Indian struggle for freedom in the 1920s, Jinnah became marginalised, lost his interest in Indian politics and returned to England to practice law. Iqbal was one of the instrumental figures to drag Jinnah back to the rough and tumble of Indian politics that led to the disastrous and bloody partition of India in 1947.

By writing a biography of such a controversial personality, Zafar Anjum, the author of Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician, has taken an intellectual risk, given the political climate in India and Pakistan. And it is this particular climate in the subcontinent - of Hindu majoritarianism and Muslim victimhood, and of contextualising the position of Muslims in India in the backdrop of Indo-Pak tensions and the Kashmir issue - that the author claims that drove him to write the book in the first place.

Anjum reminds us that Iqbal was one of India’s first patriotic poets. He wrote the ever popular national anthem in Urdu - Saare Jahan Se Acchha Hindustaan Hamara. What set out Anjum to explore Iqbal’s life, as he notes in the book, is this central question: how did a patriotic poet and a votary of Hindu-Muslim unity like Iqbal became the progenitor of an idea like Pakistan? What turned his mind?

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