119 Years of Trust


Saturday, July 10, 1999

This above all

regional vignettes

A great eastern poet, philosopher
By Subhash Parihar

SHAIKH MUHAMMAD IQBAL, reverently called Allama Iqbal, was one of the greatest eastern poets and philosophers of the twentieth century. He represents the beginning of a new age, a new search for values and forms, both of poetry and life. To the common Indians he is better known for his Tarana-i-HindiSare Jahan se achchha Hindostan hamara.

The tomb of Allama Iqbal at LahoreMuhammad Iqbal was born on November 9, 1877, in Siyalkot. He was a descendant of the Brahmins of Kashmir. He studied philosophy and law at the Cambridge university (England) and the university of Munich (Germany). He finally made Lahore his home where he lived up to his death, on April 21, 1938.

Iqbal had a good command on Urdu as well as Persian and he composed verses of unprecedented beauty in both languages. His ability to express himself poetically brought him instant recognition. In Urdu poetry, he is considered second to none but Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869). Comparing the two, Professor Muhammad Mujeeb, the author of Indian Muslims, opines that whereas Ghalib represented the consummation in literature of the ideal of wahdat al-wujud, (the Unity of Existence), Iqbal exploited to the full the religious and aesthetic possibilities of the other tradition, wahdat al-shuhud (The Unity of Phenomena).

In his Persian poetry, Iqbal was greatly inspired by the poetic genius of the renowned thirteenth century mystic Maulana Jalal al-din Rumi. His major Persian works are: Asrar-i-Khudi (The Secrets of the Self), Ramuz-i-Bekhudi (The Secrets of Selflessness), Zabur-i-Azam (Psalms of Persia), Javid Namah and Payam-i-Mashriq (Message of the East).

Iqbal also presented a summary of his philosophical ideas in a series of seven lectures in English. These lectures, explaining the Islamic philosophy in terms of modern philosophy and science, were later published under the title — The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam.

During my visit to Lahore, I had a keen desire to pay homage at the tomb of this great poet. As I was staying in the Gurdwara of Guru Arjun Dev, popularly known as Dera Sahib, I did not have to go for in search of the memorial. It is situated at a distance of a few minutes’ walk, to the left of the majestic gateway of the Badshahi Masjid, opposite the Lahore Fort.

On the exterior, this red sandstone monument is an austere building. It was designed by Nawab Zain Yar Jang Bahadur, the chief architect of the Hyderabad state, keeping in view the decision that the mausoleum "should aim at the expression in stone of the self (khudi), its tenacity and power."

Inspired by Moorish architectural style, the tomb is a rectangular building entered from two sides through an archway each. The interior of the building is faced with white Makrana marble. The expensive lapis lazuli stone for the taweez (tombstone) was especially made available by the Afghan Government through the efforts of Sardar Salahuddin Saljuqi, former Afghan Consul-General in India. (The taweez of Babur’s tomb at Kabul is also made of the same stone). The tombstone is engraved with some verses from the Koran and some lines of poetry of Iqbal himself. The lines as translated by Pro S.H. Qasemi, a renowned scholar of Persian, mean:

We are neither Afghans, nor Turks, nor Tatars
We have been born in one garden and belong to one branch
Distinction on the basis of colour and creed is prohibited for us
For we have been brought up during one and the same spring.

Inscribed on the interior walls of the tomb are six couplets from a Persian ghazal from his book — Zabur-i-Azam. Professor Qasemi translates the verses as under:

My words have been made as fresh and pleasant as the breeze of Farwardin (an Iranian month)

The straws have been turned into jasmine with my tears
The wild tulips have grown up with my tears
They appear as if red wine has been poured into cups
I can fly so high that on the skies the angels have ambushed me thousand times
The brilliance of a man is due to his innovations
Moons and the stars are doing what they have been doing for so many years
Since I have lighted my own lamp
The hand of Moses has been hidden in the sleeves
Prostrate yourself before the Creator; don’t ask for help from rulers
For in the times of need our ancestors have done the same.

The interior walls of the building also bear some floral and geometrical designs carved over them.

Interestingly, the construction of the monument was financed not by any ruler or government, but by contributions from the poet’s friends, disciples and admirers.

In Pakistan the anniversary of the poet’s death is observed each year as Iqbal Day.back

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