Iqbal, Muhammad 1877-1938

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IQBAL, Muhammad 1877-1938

PERSONAL: Born November 9, 1877, in Sialkot, Punjab, India; died April 21, 1938, in Lahore, Pakistan. Education: Government College, Lahore, degree in philosophy, 1899; attended Trinity College, Cambridge, 1905; studied law in London; University of Munich, Ph.D. (philosophy), 1907. Religion: Islam.

CAREER: Poet, essayist, and philosopher. Elected to Punjab legislature, 1926; Muslim League, president, 1930, lobbied for separate Muslim state in northwest India; lawyer in private practice in Lahore. Government College, Lahore, lecturer in history and philosophy.

AWARDS, HONORS: Knighted in 1922.


The Development of Metaphysics in Iran, 1908.

Asrar-i khudi, 1915, published as The Secrets of the Self, 1920.

Rumuz-i-bekhudi, 1918, published as The Mysteries of Selflessness, 1953.

A Voice from the East: The Urdu Poetry of Iqbal, 1922.

Payam-i-mashriq, 1923, published as The Tulip of Sinai, 1947.

Bang-i-dara, 1924, published as Complaint and Answer, 1955.

Zabur-i ajam, 1927, published as Persian Psalms, 1948.

The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, 1934.

Javid-namah, 1932, published as The Pilgrimage of Eternity, 1961 and Javid-Nama, 1966.

Bal-i Jibril, 1936.

Pas cha bayad kard ay aqwam-i sharq, 1936.

Musafir, 1936.

Zarb-i kalim, 1937.

Armaghan-i hijaz, 1938.

Urdu Poems from Iqbal, 1955.

Islam and Ahmadism, Academy, Islamic Research & Publications (Lucknow, Pakistan), 1974.

SIDELIGHTS: Muhammad Iqbal, born to a staunchly Muslim family, was known as much for his politics as for his poetry and philosophy. Iqbal, with professional interests spanning from teaching to law and politics, is considered Pakistan's spiritual founder. As an Encyclopedia of World Biography writer said: "His statement in his presidential address that the 'final destiny' of Indian Moslems was to have a 'consolidated Northwest Indian Moslem state' is regarded as one of the earliest expressions of the idea of Pakistan." Iqbal, however, argued not for a separate nation, but for an independent state within India. Though better known for his politics, his philosophical reflections on the self, often expressed in his poetry, have been equally influential.

Iqbal attended Government College, Lahore, earning his degree in philosophy in 1899. He taught there after his graduation, experimenting with poetry he wrote in Urdu. Here, he began to gain literary and academic admiration for spiritual, songlike poetry that frequently expresses a fervent Indian nationalism. His politics changed considerably, however, after studying for his doctorate at Cambridge University in England. Between 1905 and 1908 he studied the philosophies of such influential Western thinkers as Friedrich Nietzsche and Henri Bergson, simultaneously admiring their ideas while disdaining their Western culture for its self-indulgence. He traveled throughout Europe, visiting German universities in particular, closely studying the works of prominent intellectuals. Rejecting nationalism as fundamentally Western, Iqbal embraced Islam as the Muslim solution in India.

Iqbal, viewing Islam as central to uniting Muslims regardless of boundaries, drew rebuke for viewing everything in terms of East and West. Yusuf Ali lectured in Essays by Divers Hands in 1938: "The contrast between the East and the West, much to the spiritual and moral disadvantage of the West, is almost an obsession in Iqbal. It colours his views on many questions, social, political, and economic." In Iqbal's first collection of Urdu poems, Bang-i dara, he cautions Indians about Western governance and law. His readership reflected this polarity. Muslim and non-Muslim readers in India knew Iqbal best for his poetry, while Western audiences studied his prose in such works as The Development of Metaphysics in Persia and The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam.

The ideas Iqbal adopted while in England emerge in several of his longer poems, particularly Asrar-i Khudi and Rumuz-i-Bekhudi. For Iqbal to appeal to a wider readership both inside and outside India, he wrote these poems in Persian and not in his standard Urdu. Both poems underscore the absolute necessity of self-development, through which the individual would eventually achieve perfection. Much to Iqbal's dismay, critics often compared his "Perfect Man" concept to Nietzsche's exploration of the Superman. Iqbal's theory, however, incorporated religion whereas Nietzsche's society is godless.

Iqbal, while attacking Western decadence, also criticized the mystic approach to Islam as practiced in India and believed that without an overhaul, Muslims would continue to deteriorate politically. Iqbal, calling for Muslim self-determination, believed individual growth benefited society as well. Greed and material pursuit, however, deteriorated the self. Iqbal also believed religion shaped statehood to a greater degree than geography or ethnicity. Muslim activism, he said, was good for society. Ali also proclaimed in his 1938 lecture: "Courage, Power, Action are the Ideals [Iqbal] would point to. Swiftness, forcefulness, unflinching assertion of Personality are the watchwords which he would din into the ears of a lethargic world."

Iqbal became a more public character, earning recognition for his poetic and philosophical works. In 1922 he was knighted for his literary contributions. Turning increasingly toward politics, he was elected to the Punjab legislature and became president of the Muslim League. During his presidential address to the league, he called for a separate Muslim state in northwest India and he emphasizes this in his major English work, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. These ideas resonated deeply within India in the early twentieth century. As one writer in the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century said: "His message of self-reliance and Islamic activism both shaped and reflected the Indian nationalist movement during the 1920s and 1930s, especially for Muslims, who look upon him even today as their leading intellectual figure of the 20th century."

Iqbal became more convinced the Hindu majority would swallow up Muslims in India were the country to gain independence from Great Britain. He began to publicly support Mohammad Ali Jinnah as the most appropriate leader of India's Muslims. Later, Iqbal returned to his native language, Urdu, and wrote the collection of poems, Bal-i Jibril in 1935, followed by Zarb-i Kalim. Bal-i Jibril contains much of his best-known poetry, although critics said the collection lacks the power and passion of his earlier works. Nonetheless, he still draws acclaim as a great Persian poet, as well as the most famous poet of the twentieth century among Urdu speakers in India and Pakistan.



Bausani, Alessandro, Crescent and Green: A Miscellany of Writings on Pakistan, Cassell & Company (London, England), 1955, pp. 131-141.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Forster, E. M., Two Cheers for Democracy, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1951, pp. 288-291.

Hasan, Masudul, Life of Iqbal: General Account of His Life, Ferozsons (Lahore, Pakistan), 1978.

Hasan, Mumtaz, Tribute to Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan (Lahore, Pakistan), 1982.

Hussain, Riaz, The Politics of Iqbal: A Study of His Political Thoughts and Actions, Islamic Book Service (Lahore, Pakistan), 1977.

Iqbal, Muhammad, Mementos of Iqbal, All-Pakistan Islamic Education Congress (Lahore, Pakistan), 1976.

Malik, Hafeez, Iqbal: Poet-Philosopher of Pakistan, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1971.

Munawwar, Muhammad, Iqbal: Poet-Philosopher of Islam, Islamic Book Foundation (Lahore, Pakistan), 1982.

Qadir, Abdul, Iqbal: The Great Poet of Islam, Sang-e-Meel Publications (Lahore, Pakistan), 1975.

Singh, Iqbal, The Ardent Pilgrim: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Mohammed Iqbal, Longmans, Green (New York, NY), 1951.

Tributes to Iqbal, Sangemeel Publications (Lahore, Pakistan), 1977.

Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Volume 28, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988.

Vahid, Syed Abdul, Iqbal: His Art and Thought, John Murray (London, England), 1959.

Zakaria, Rafiq, Iqbal: The Poet and the Politician, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.


Asian Review, April, 1961, Ya'acob Tunku, "Homage to Iqbal," pp. 199-200.

Essays by Divers Hands, 1940, A. Yusuf Ali, "Doctrine of Human Personality in Iqbal's Poetry," pp. 89-105.

Hibbert Journal, July, 1958, R. Harré, "Iqbal: A Reformer of Islamic Philosophy," pp. 333-339.

Indian P.E.N., February, 1975, Gurbachan Singh Talib, "Iqbal's Poetic Achievement: An Estimate," pp. 6-9.

Religious Studies, September, 1982, Mohammed Maruf, "Allama Iqbal on 'Immortality,'" pp. 373-378; September, 1983, Mohammed Maruf, "Iqbal's Concept of God: An Appraisal," pp. 375-383.

Review of Metaphysics, June, 1956, Robert Whittemore, "Iqbal's Pantheism," pp. 681-699.

Times Literary Supplement, March 15, 1934, "Islam and the Modern World," p. 178.*