Allama Iqbal’s evolution

In the year 1904, Mohammad Iqbal wrote Saare Jahan Se Achha, an ode to India. He called it ‘Tarana E Hind’, the ‘Anthem of India’. The sixth stanza of that song defines India.

मज़्हब नहीं सिखाता आपस में बैर रखना

हिंदी हैं हम, वतन है हिन्दोसितां हमारा

Maẕhab nahīṉ sikhātā āpas meṉ bair rakhnā
Hindī haiṉ ham, wat̤an hai Hindositāṉ hamārā

Religion, it doesn’t teach enmity amongst

Hindi we all are, and HindostaaN is our nation

The song in effect portrays how India in 1904 was an island of tranquility; peace and harmony prevailed amongst the religions of Islam and Hinduism. Also, it seems that ‘Hindi’ was considered a translation of the word ‘Indian’ those days.

It was 1910, Iqbal wrote another song – ‘Tarana E Milli’ or Anthem of the Muslims. The song was composed in the same metre and rhyme scheme as Saare Jahan Se Achcha, but it renounced much of the sentiment of the earlier song. The first stanza of this song was an antithesis of the earlier sixth stanza

चीन ओ अरब हमारा, हिन्दोस्तां हमारा

मुस्लिम हैं हम, वतन है सारा जहां हमारा

Chin o Arab hamaraa hindostaaN hamaara
Muslim hain hum; watan hai saara jahaaN hamaara

Ours are China and Arab, Hindostan too

Muslims we are, and the World is our nation.

The Tarana E Milli in totality reads as a song eulogising the muslim conquest of the world and seeking a return to that rule, it calls for sacrifice to have muslims dominate the world again.

Allama Iqbal, in a span of 6 years had reversed his secularist ideology into a rabid ideology of muslim domination of the world.  I have been unable to locate specific incidents that made him shift his ideology so drastically. It would be interesting to know what specific incident changed his mind within 6 years.  Perhaps he was deeply influenced by Sir Sayed Ahmad (the person who is also considered by some as the father of the two nation theory), who was a Mogul scion or by his mother, God knows. Iqbal however, under Syed’s influence, completely negated this initial passion for India as a nation and turned into a political Islamist, communally dividing the people of India.

Allama Iqbal's Brahmin family
Standing (second from left): Late Amarnath Sapru, first cousin of Iqbal. Sitting (from left): Raj Kishori Rawal, d/o Amarnath Sapru; grandmother of Iqbal; and Pt. J.N. Rawal, h/o Raj Kishori

Iqbal was the son of a Sapru Kashmiri Pandit who converted to Islam.  Reputed Historian Khushwant Singh says that “Iqbal’s family trace their origin to one Birbal. They lived in village Saprain (hence the surname Sapru) on Shopian-Kulgam road. They moved to Srinagar where most of them were born. Birbal had five sons and a daughter. The third one Kanhaya Lal and his wife Indirani had three sons and five daughters. He was Iqbal’s grandfather. His son Rattan Lal converted to Islam and was given the name Nur Mohammad. He married a Muslim woman Imam Bibi.

Neo-converts generally tend to be more rigid and orthodox towards an ideology; still Iqbal is known to have been fond of his Brahmin heritage. However, it is said he never really got the affection back. His ancestral family of Saprus disowned him and severed all connections with him.

Iqbal’s poetry evolved into mainstreaming the muslim resurgence against european influence; and gradually against any other non-muslim. The tolerant secular pen of the poet had evolved into a sword, spewing ideas of radicalisation of Islam as a separate nation meant to dominate the world. All liberal ideas of co-existence now lay buried under his verses of poetry. Hind had met its nemesis.

Anyway, in the year 1930; this man, Iqbal, becomes the President of the Muslim League. He takes the stage and officially announces the theory of Muslim separatism in his first presidential speech at Allahabad. And he goes on an on, breaking every semblance of affinity with Hindus, attributing motives to Gandhi and the Congress, comparing them to filth. Over the years, he firmly indoctrinated the idea of political exclusivity of muslims in the Indian Muslim mindspace.

जिस खेत से दह्खां को, मयस्सर नहीं रोज़ी

उस खेत के हर खोषा-ए-गंदुम को जला दो.

jis khet se dahqāñ ko mayassar nahīñ rozī

us khet ke har ḳhosha-e-gandum ko jalā do

The farm that can’t give to the farmer his livelihood

Every sheaf of wheat in that farm, burn them to the ground.

Before he dies in 1938, Iqbal in his capacity as a leader of Muslim League calls and beseeches Mohammad Ali Jinnah to India (from London) and hands the baton to him. The rest is history, most of us know that part. Pakistan, the idea itself owes its genesis to Iqbal, and India owes its partition to him too.

When the pen creates conflict, it is not a pen anymore.
When the pen creates conflict, it is not a pen anymore, it is a sword.

Meanwhile in another part of the world, in the middle east, the imperialist powers of the British, French and Russians divided, truncated, re-divided, re-distributed nations and countries of the middle east amongst themselves, and when they couldn’t handle it anymore, left it in conflict. They left India in 1947 and started leaving the middle-east in 1948. The experiment of dividing India into Hindu and Muslim nations was repeated by dividing Palestine into Jew and Arab nations; dividing lines being drawn as per the whims and fancies of politicians fresh from London.

The Muslim world however was not doing too bad after the Europeans left, it held on firmly and was developing neck to neck with the west. From 1940s onwards to 1979, muslim dominated countries were steadily getting liberal and in many countries there was hardly a difference in the life-styles or thought processes of the muslim nations compared to the rest of the world. Pakistan was far ahead of India in all economic indicators, having chosen capitalism in contrast to India’s socialism. Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Ata Turk was leading the modernisation of the Islamic world; with Turkey even going as far as dumping the Ottoman-Turkish Script and opting for Roman alphabets. Iran, Iraq, Syria or Jordan looked like any other country, a mixture of modern and tradition, rooted in a liberal ethos, permitting free exchange of ideas and free expression of religions. Egypt was bathing in the glory of its ancient heritage and was not disowning its past. There were exceptions too like Saudi Arabia but the general mood was towards assimilation into the world comity of nations.

Pan to the year 1979; in comes a Shia cleric called Ayatollah Khomeini.He leads an Islamic resurgence in the ancient land of Iran. And what does he say in his first speech after his revolution?  The Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, stated that ‘in our conviction that the Quran and Islam are to be made the basis of all revolutions and movements’, Iran was ‘exactly following the path that was shown to us by Iqbal‘.

Iqbal! Iran too! Iqbal’s Persian poetry had gathered traction and had inspired Iranians enough to have a revolution and overthrow the liberal rule of the Shah of Iran. No wonder here, Iqbal had written primarily in Persian; among his 12,000 verses of poetry, about 7,000 verses are in Persian. Ali Shariati, who has been described as a core ideologue for the Iranian Revolution, described Iqbal as “a figure who brought a message of rejuvenation, awakening and power to the Muslim World”. They say on Wikipedia that Iqbal is famous in Iran as Iqbāl-e Lāhorī. (Iqbal of Lahore). Many scholars in Iran have recognised the importance of Iqbal’s poetry in inspiring and sustaining the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

So, Iran under the Ayatollah was one of the first countries in the middle-east to comprehensively reject liberalism and adopt a religion based governance system. The movement thus started with some help from Iqbal’s ideas has continued its journey hence. The Islamic world has not been same since the times of Khamenei. The Islamic world has moved decisively away from liberalism and modernisation; and I talk of modernisation in only the sense that religion should have stayed away from politics.

The Shia resurgence in Iran led to Sunnis asserting themselves under Saddam Hussein and through the House of Saud. It all started with the Iran-Iraq conflict when Shia dominated Iran wanted a pie in Shia areas of Iraq. Arms supplied to Saddam Hussein during that conflict emboldened him enough to attack Kuwait, the first Gulf War, and then there were Petro Dollars to Saudi Arabia, the second Gulf War, the Arab Spring, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, ISIS….it is going downhill since then. No, I am not discounting the Afghan conflict, that could have been contained if the rest of the world was not on fire.

The son of a Kashmiri Pandit, with his poetry, set in motion the Islamisation of Pakistan, then of Iran, and so turned the motor that it is running across the world, helter skelter.

न पूछो मुझ से लज्ज़त खानामन बर्बाद करने की
नशेमन सैकड़ों मैं ने बना कर फूँक डाले हैं.

बाग़-ए-बहिश्त से मुझे हुक्म-ए-सफ़र दिया था क्यों?

कार-ए-जहां दराज़ है अब मेरा इंतज़ार कर.

na pūchho mujh se lazzat ḳhānamāñ-barbād rahne kī
nasheman saikḌoñ maiñ ne banā kar phūñk Daale haiñ

baaġh-e-bahisht se mujhe hukm-e-safar diyā thā kyuuñ

kaar-e-jahāñ darāz hai ab mirā intizār kar

Ah, the ecstacy of shattering my own reside

Thousands of abodes my heart has built and set alight

Why did you bid me leave from paradise for now

My work is yet unfinished here so you will have to wait

He said it all, he loved bringing his home down, and he is not leaving till he finishes the work.

P.S: I came across a Pakistani version of Tarana E Milli, they are afraid of saying “Chin O Arab Hamara”, so the Singer just drops the China reference from the Aagaaz of the song and sings “O Arab Hamara”. It is comic, the extent to which Pakistan goes to soothe China’s nerves; they don’t want China to think that Muslims covet their land too.

The idea of ethnicities and religions as distinct nations was seeded by the British, propounded to keep a hold on their empire; the British seeded the idea that countries like India, Palestine or Syria, Jordan could not survive as separate countries because they were made up of separate nations like Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Shias, Sunnis, Arabs and the like. So, the conflicts sown then continue to bear fruit till this day. But that is a story for another day.

Perhaps, this Hindutva debate of calling all Indians by the name ‘Hindu’ and the minorities resisting it, can be solved in India by translating Indians as ‘Hindi’. No one should have any objection to being called ‘Hindi’


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