SIR `ABD AL-QADIR, BARRISTER AT LAW, EDITOR “MAKHZAN”.
Source : Call Of The Marching Bell, English Translation and Commentary Of BAANG-E-DARA (Allama Muhammad Iqbal) by Dr. M.A.K. Khalil
No one knew that after the late Ghalib, some one would rise in India who would again inspire Urdu poetry with a new spirit and through whom the matchless imagination and the rare imagery of Ghalib would be created anew and would lead to the glorification of the Urdu literature. However, Urdu was fortunate in getting a poet of Iqbal’s caliber, the superiority of whose literary elegance has impressed the Urdu knowing people of the whole of India and whose reputation has spread to Iran, Asia Minor and even to Europe.
Ghalib and Iqbal share many common characteristics. If I were a believer in the transmigration of soul I would have certainly said that the love which Mirza Asad Allah Khan Ghalib had for Urdu and Persian poetry did not allow his soul to rest in peace even in the Elysium and compelled him to re-appear in another material form to render service to poetry, and was re-born in a corner of Punjab, called Sialkot and was called Muhammad Iqbal.
The respected father and the affectionate mother of Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal must have proposed his name at a very auspicious time, as the name given by them proved to be appropriate in all its connotations, and their successful son proceeded to England after completing his education in India. On achieving his educational goals at Cambridge he went to Germany and returned home, equipped with the highest intellectual achievements. Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal studied many Persian books during his stay in Europe and published the results of his studies in the form of a research publication, which should be considered a short history of the Iranian philosophy. The Germans (the University of Munich) conferred upon Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal the degree of Ph.D. on the basis of this book. The British Government, which does not have adequate direct access to the oriental languages and learning, took a long time to realize the universal appreciation of Iqbal’s poetry, but eventually patronized him by conferring the exalted honor of Knighthood. Though he is now known as Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal which has the God-given quality of being the real as well the pen name, is better known and liked than his doctorate and Knighthood.
There is a college in Sialkot where a renowned scholar, Mawlawi Saiyyid Mir Hasan , who is memorable heir to and a follower of the oriental scholars of former times, teaches oriental learning. Recently he has been honored by the Government with the title of Shams al ‘Ulema (‘The Sun of Scholars’. This was a title bestowed upon eminent oriental scholars in India during the British rule). The characteristic quality of his teaching is creation of the right taste for Persian and Arabic in the personality of his pupils. Iqbal was also fortunate in getting a teacher like Sayyid Mir Hasan in his youth.
Iqbal’s temperament had a natural inclination for literature. Learning Persian and Arabic from such a teacher added to its elegance. He started writing poetry as early as his school age. By then Urdu had become so popular in Punjab that the language and its poetry had spread to more or less every city. During the student days of Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal a small musha’irah used to be convened in Sialkot for which Iqbal began writing ghazals occasionally.
Nawab Mirza Khan Dagh of Delhi had gained much renown as an Urdu poet in those days, and this increased considerably when he became the tutor of the Nizam of Dakkan (Ruler of the State of Haiderabad Dakkan under the British rule in India). Those who could not go to him would establish tutorial relationship from afar by mail. Ghazals were sent to him by mail and he returned them the same way after correction. In the olden days when such a mailing service did not exist a poet could not get so many pupils. With this facility hundreds of people had established discipleship with him in absentia and he had to maintain a department with staff for this purpose.
Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal also established communication with him and sent some ghazals for correction. In this way Iqbal established a relationship in Urdu with a literateur who, in his days, was considered unique in the art of linguistic excellence in the field of ghazal. Though Iqbal’s ghazals of that early period did not have the attributes which made his later works very famous, Dagh discerned the beginning of an extra-ordinary writer in this student from a remote Punjab district. Very soon he pronounced his verdict of the absence of scope for improvement in Iqbal’s poetry and this tutorial relationship did not last long. However, its memories remained on both sides. Dagh’s name is so prominent in Urdu poetry that Iqbal has respect even for this short period and in absentia relationship; and Iqbal had attained that high approbation even in the life-time of Dagh that the latter was proud of considering Iqbal among the people whose poetry he had corrected. I had the good fortune of meeting Dagh in the Dakkan and I am a witness to such expressions of pride by him.
As the Sialkot College was up to the F.A. (Fellow of Arts diploma, equivalent to a Junior College , which covers the first two years of a four-year under-graduate program of post-secondary education) Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal had to move to Lahore for his B.A. He wanted to study philosophy and he got a very affectionate professor among those at Lahore, who discerned Iqbal’s inclination towards philosophy and started taking special interest in his education. Professor Arnold who is now (1924) Sir Thomas Arnold and is in England, is a man of extra-ordinary capabilities, is a proficient writer and is well-versed in the new methods of academic investigation and research. He wanted to impart his perceptions and procedures to his pupil and he succeeded in this to a very large extent. Earlier, he had been able to create maturity in the intellectual perceptions of his friend, the late Mawlana Shibli during the period of his professorship at the Aligarh College. Now he discovered another gem to convert which into a shining star became his heart-felt desire. The mutual friendship and affection created in the heart of the teacher and his pupil in the very beginning ultimately resulted in the latter proceeding to England in the wake of his teacher. This relationship was further strengthened there and has endured till the present day (1924).
Arnold is happy at the fruition of his labor and at his pupil being a source of pride and fame for him in the intellectual world. Iqbal acknowledges that the perceptions created by Saiyyid Mir hasan, and advanced in the interim by the in absentia mutual acquaintance with Dagh, attained their climax with the affectionate guidance of Arnold.
Iqbal got very good guides in passing through his intellectual journey, and became acquainted with several renowned scholars. Distinguished among these are Drs. McTaggart, Brown, Nicholson and Sorley (They are the four renowned orientalists at the Cambridge University at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. Pre-eminent among them is Professor Reynold A. Nicholson of the University of Cambridge). Professor Nicholson deserves our special gratitude for his efforts at introducing Iqbal to Europe and America by translating his famous Persian book, Asrar-i-Khudi (The Secrets of the Self) into English and for providing a preface and commentary to the same. In the same way Iqbal maintained liaison through correspondence and personal contact with all the shining stars of India’s intellectual horizon at that time, such as Mawlana Shibli, Mawlana Hali and Akbar. They continued influencing Iqbal’s writings and Iqbal continued influencing their thought. Mawlana Shibli, in his many letters, and the revered Akbar, in his letters as well as in poems have acknowledged Iqbal’s accomplishments. Similarly, Iqbal has eulogized these eminent personalities in his works.
Discounting the period of early practice Iqbal’s Urdu poetry starts a little before the commencement of the twentieth century. I saw him first in a musha’irah in Lahore two or three years before 1901. He had been prevailed upon by some of his class-mates to participate in this musha’arah and recite a ghazal. People of Lahore had not known Iqbal till then. The ghazal was a short one with simple words and thought but had humor and spontaneity due to which it was much appreciated. He participated in this musha’irah two or three times again and people discerned in him the makings of a promising poet. However, this fame at first remained confined to the students of the colleges of Lahore and those engaged in educational pursuits.
Meanwhile a literary association had been established which was attended by celebrities, and created a demand for prose as well as poetry. Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal recited his poem addressing the Himalayas, called “Himala” in one of its meetings. This poem combined the English thought with the Persian elegance of style, and had the added beauty of the flavor of nationalism. As it conformed with the tastes and the needs of the times it was widely appreciated, and requests for its publication started pouring in. But Shaikh Iqbal took it away with him with the excuse of the need for review, and it could not be published then. Shortly after this I planned to start the magazine Makhzan for the advancement of Urdu literature. By this time I had developed friendly relations with Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal. I obtained his promise to contribute his new style poems for publication in the poetry section of this magazine. About the time of the appearance of the magazine’s first issue I went to ask him for a poem. He said that he did not have any poem ready at that time.
I asked him to give me the poem titled, “Himala” and to write another poem for the next month. He was reluctant to give that poem because he considered it to be in need of improvement. As I had noticed its extreme popularity I prevailed upon him to give it to me and I published it in Makhzan, Volume 1, No. 1, which appeared in April 1901. This was, as it were, the beginning of the public appearance of Iqbal’s Urdu poetry, and this continued till his departure for England in 1905. During this period he wrote a poem for every issue of Makhzan. As the news of his poetry spread far and wide requests started coming in from diverse magazines and newspapers. Associations and conferences also started requesting him to benefit the audiences of their annual meetings with his poetry.
The Shaikh having completed his education, had become a professor at the Government College, Lahore. He spent his time continuously in intellectual company and academic pursuits. With a surging intellect and extreme inspiration, when inclined towards versification, he could produce innumerable verses in a single sitting. Absorbed in his thoughts he would pour out verses, and his friends and some students who might be nearby, would write them down with paper and pencil. In those days I never saw him with pen and paper in linguistic pursuits. Writing poetry looked like a surging river or a bubbling spring of appropriate words with a unique condition of ecstatic softness engulfing him. He would himself recite his verses melodiously, would become ecstatic himself as well as would turn others ecstatic. He is remarkably singular in having such a memory that all the verses constituting a continuous poem, would be safe in his memory in the same order at another time and on another day, although he had not written them down in the interim. I have been fortunate enough to avail of the opportunity of the companionship of many poets and, though I have heard and seen some of them producing poetry, I have not seen his style in any of them. Iqbal has the other peculiarity of being unable to produce “made to order” poetry in spite of all this poetic disposition. When poetically inclined he can produce as many verses as he likes but it is almost impossible for him to produce anything “to order” on any occasion. For this reason, on being famous and on becoming flooded with requests, he had to deny most of them. Similarly, he would usually pass requests for participation in associations and assemblies. Only the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam of Lahore, for several reasons, had the privilege of Iqbal’s continued participation for several years and recitation of the poem which would be written for that very meeting after prior thought.
In the early days the poems presented in public meetings were recited without melody, which had its own charm. However, in one public meeting some friends insisted that Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal read his poem melodiously. His voice is loud and pleasing by nature and he is fully conversant with the style of melody. It threw the audience in spell-bound silence and ecstasy. This produced two results. One was that it made it difficult for him to recite without melody, and when he recites people insist on melodious recital. The other is that, whereas formerly only the select understood and appreciated his poetry, this magnet attracted the general populace also. In the meetings of the Anjuman-i-Himayat-Islam at Lahore tens of thousands of people assemble when Iqbal’s poem is recited and they are spell-bound during the entire recital. Those who understand him and those who do not are equally absorbed.
The second period of his poetry extended from 1905 to 1908 which he spent in Europe. Though he got comparatively little time there for poetry, and only a few poems were written during that stay, they exhibit a special style, based on his observations there. Two major changes occurred in his thinking at that time. For two of these three years I was also living there and had the opportunity of meeting him frequently. One day Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal told me that he had firmly decided to abandon poetry, to avow never to write verse, and use the time he would spend on poetry on some other productive pursuit. I told him that his poetry was not such as should be abandoned. On the other hand his poetry had the potential of curing the malady of our backward nation and unfortunate country. Hence it would be inappropriate to waste such a useful Divinely bestowed capability. The Shaikh had only half consented, and it was agreed to leave the final decision to Mr. Arnold’s opinion. The Shaikh was to change his opinion if Mr. Arnold would agree with me and the reverse would be the case if he agreed with the Shaikh. I consider it the good fortune of the intellectual world that Mr. Arnold agreed with me. So it was decided that abandoning poetry was not proper for Iqbal, and that any time spent on this work would be equally useful to him and to his country and nation. The first change which had occurred in our poet ended like this. The second change started with a small beginning and led to an important end, i.e. Persian replaced Urdu as the vehicle for propagation of Iqbal’s message.
Iqbal’s inclination towards Persian must have been motivated by several factors, but I think his literature study while writing his book on the state of Tasawwuf must have been an important one of these. Beside this, as his studies stepped into the deep recesses of philosophy, leading to desire for the expression of subtle thoughts , he appreciated the paucity of the Urdu vocabulary compared with that of Persian; and in fact ready made phraseology existed in Persian the equivalent of which would not be easy in Urdu. So he changed to Persian. However, outwardly, the small incident which led him to Persian language is that once he was invited to a friend’s house where he was asked whether he wrote Persian verse and was requested to recite his Persian poetry. He had to admit that he had never tried to write in Persian except an odd verse. But this was such an occasion, and this request so moved him, that on return from the party perhaps he passed the rest of the night lying in bed and framing Persian verse. Getting up next morning when he met me he had two Persian ghazals ready, which he recited to me orally from memory. His potential for writing in Persian dawned upon him through these ghazals, the like of which he had not tried before. Later, on his return from England, his inclination turned towards Persian, though he continued to write Urdu poetry also occasionally. This is the third stage of his poetry, which has continued since 1908. Though many famous Urdu poems have been produced during this period the really important work to which he applied himself was his famous Persian mathnavi titled Asrar-i-Khudi (The Secrets of the Self) (1915). Its thoughts revolved in his mind for a long time till, at last, they started being transferred from his mind to paper, and ultimately appeared as a book which made Iqbal famous even outside India.
To date (1924) Iqbal has produced three books in Persian, viz. Asrar-i-Khudi (1915), Rumëz-i-Bekhudi (The Mysteries of Selflessness) (1915) and Payam-i-Mashriq (The Message of the East) (1923), all of which are superb. The language is progressively simpler and easier from the first through the second to the third. Lovers of Iqbal’s Urdu poetry may have been disappointed by the appearance of these Persian books, but they must remember that Persian accomplished what Urdu could not. Iqbal’s works have reached the entire Muslim world where Persian is more or less current, and they contain the depth of thought which needed much wide-spread propagation. It also constituted the means of acquainting the Europeans and Americans with our worthy author. In Payam-i-Mashriq the author has written a reply to a very eminent European poet, Goethe’s “Salam-i-Maghrib” (The Compliments of the West) and he has very beautifully expressed very highly philosophical thoughts. Its verses have solved some very intricate enigmas which had never been explained in such easy terms before. Since a long time some magazines and newspapers are referring to Dr. Muhammad Iqbal with the title of “Tarjuman-i-Haqiqat” (The Interpreter of the Truth). The appropriate verses of this book establish his right to be known by this title, and whoever ascribed this title to him first committed no exaggeration.
Iqbal’s Persian writings have influenced his Urdu poetry in the manner that the Urdu poems of the third period have even more Persian form and elegance of style than the earlier ones and have sometimes been based upon Persian verses. It appears as if Persian thought is being assiduously goaded into Urdu.
Many people have been calling for the publication of Iqbal’s Urdu poetry which has appeared periodically in magazines and newspapers since 1901. His friends were constantly demanding publication of his Urdu poetry, but this publication had been delayed for several reasons. Thank God for the fulfillment of this long-standing wish of the lovers of Urdu poetry, which has led to the publication of this collection of Iqbal’s Urdu poems, comprising 336 pages, divided into three parts. Part one includes poems up to 1905, part two those of the period 1905 to 1908 and part three has the Urdu poetry since 1908. It can be claimed that up till now there is no book of Urdu poetry with such an abundance of thought and such a combination of research and intrinsic qualities. This is as was to be expected, because the book is the essence of a quarter century of study, research and observation, and the experience from world-wide traveling. Single verses and hemistichs of some poems contain material requiring the space of a dissertation for explaining the thought. This short preface does not have the capacity of a critique of any poem or comparison between poems of different periods. I shall look for some other opportunity for this work. At present I want to congratulate the literateur on the availability of the Urdu works of Iqbal in the form of a beautiful book instead of being spread over the pages of magazines and anthologies. It is hoped that those who were anxious to see this literary collection would view it with fondness and cordial appreciation.
In closing, on behalf of Urdu poetry, I would request the learned author to endow Urdu with the share from his intellect, which it needs and deserves. He has himself painted the correct picture of the state of Urdu in a verse of eulogy of Ghalib as follows:
The lock of Urdu’s hair still some combing craves
This candle still for the heart-burning of a moth craves
posted : Oct 19, 2000