Iqbal’s Personality and Periods of his Poetry
Written by: R. M. Afzal Razvi

Hazaron Saal Nargis Apni Benoori Pe Roti Hai
Bari Mushkil Se Hota Hai Chaman Mein Didahwar Paida

ہزاروں سال نرگس اپنی بے نوری پہ روتی ہے
بڑی مشکل سے ہوتا ہے چمن میں دید ہ ور پیدا

[For thousands of years narcissus bemoans its lack of luster
The discerning person is produced in the garden with difficulty]

Undoubtedly, Allamah Iqbal is the greatest poet of the twentieth century and he will remain the greatest among the poets of his own era and the later. He is a poet, philosopher, reformer, thinker and great Islamic visionary, and The Originator of Ideology of Pakistan. Here, I would like to mention that Allamah Iqbal always avoided being called a poet. Why did he dislike being called a poet? The cause is obvious. In his opinion, his contemporary poets were predominantly professionals. They had no objectives in their minds for the millat (nation) while writing verses. For them writing verses was either fun or a mean of earning bread and butter. Allamah Iqbal took poetry very seriously. Poetry for him was a sublime gift of Almighty Allah, which could revolutionise the outlook of nations.

An individual’s personality is determined by their inherent potentialities, their environment and interaction between these two. Understanding these factors is important in the study of a person and their contribution to the society. Persons who make important contribution are considerably above the rank and lead the human race. Their distinction lies in the fact that they do not bend to and get molded by their environment. They bring into play their inherent qualities and potentialities as well as the divinely conferred autonomy and mold their environment or derive only good influences from it instead of being followed it blindly.

Allamah Iqbal was one such person whose personality has to be understood in order to comprehend his thought in Bang-e-Dara and other books. Such a multitude of different events interacting with Allamah Iqbal’s inherently sensitive heart and his fields of education made him a multi-dimensional personality. He was a jurist by profession but practiced as barrister only intermittently for short periods when pressed by financial needs. He had realized that the Muslim Ummah was unique and distinctly different from other nations. So, its problems and needs as well as the methods of solving them would also be unique and different from other nations. They can be solved only with the cooperation and efforts of the whole Ummah.

Consequently, he devoted his full time to the service of Islam and Ummah in India and abroad. He had realized that an ideological revolution of the Ummah would not be possible without creating a body of Muslim youth who would be so conscious and proud of their rich heritage of Islam that they would spare no pains and make all sacrifices for its revival. So, he emancipated the philosophy of Khudi (The secrets of the Self).

To understand his doctrine of Khudi, it is equally significant to look at his periods of poetry. In the following lines, his poetic carrier that can be divided into four periods, would be discussed briefly:

1) Period I (from beginning to 1905)
2) Period II (from 1905 to 1908)
3) Period III (from 1908 to 1924)
4) Period IV (from 1924 to 1938)

Period I (from beginning to 1905):
Allama Iqbal started his poetry at the age of about sixteen years and continued all his life. As Shiekh Abdul Qader says in the preface of the Bang-i-Dara [Caravan’s bell (Allamah Iqbal’s first book of poetry published in 1924)]:

Discounting the period of early practice Allama Iqbal’s Urdu poetry starts a little before the commencement of twentieth century. I saw him first in a Mushairah in Lahore two or three years before 1901. He had been prevailed upon by some of his classmates to participate in this Mushairah and recite a ghazal. The ghazal was a short one with simple words and thought but had humor and spontaneity due to which it was much appreciated.

Allama Iqbal’s poetry began with ghazals, some of which show classic strain, such as ghazal 50-2 in Bang-i-Dara (Kulliat-e-Iqbal: p-98), he says:

Na Ate, Humain Iss Mein Takrar Kia Thi
Magar Wada Karte Huwe Aar Kia Thi
Tumhare Payami Ne Sub Raaz Khola
Khata Iss Mein Bande Ki Sarkar Kya Thi

نہ آتے ہمیں اس میں تکرار کیا تھی
مگر وعدہ کرتے ہوئے عار کیا تھی
تمہارے پیامی نے سب راز کھولا
خطا اس میں بندے کی سرکار کیا تھی

[If you had not come I would have had no occasion for contention
But what reluctance in making the promise was?
Your messenger disclosed every secret
O Lord! What fault of man in this was?]

Allama Iqbal started using ghazals and poems for expressing his thoughts about politics and other fields. For effective use of poetry for conveying his political, philosophical, religious and mystic thoughts, he had the rare gift of molding mundane objects and events for producing the desired effects. Almost all poems of the first part of Bang-i-Dara bear witness to this. I would like to quote some verses here from his first poem, “Himalah”:

Ae Hamala! Dastan Uss Waqt Ki Koi Suna
Muskan- e- Aabaay Insan Jab Bana Daman Tera
Kuch Bata Uss Seedhi Sadi Zindgi Ka Majra
Dagh Jis Par Ghaza- e- Rang- e- Takalluf Ka Na Tha
Haan Dikha De Ae Tasawwar Phir Who Subh o Shaam Tu
Daurh Piche Ki Taraf Ae Ghardish- e- Ayyam Tu

اے ہمالہ! داستاں اس وقت کی کوئی سنا
مسکنِ آبائے انساں جب بنا دامن ترا
کچھ بتا اس سیدھی سادی زندگی کا ماجرا
داغ جس پر غازہء رنگِ تکلف کا نہ تھا
ہاں دکھا دے اے تصور پھر وہ صبحُ شام تو
دوڑ پیچھے کی طرف اے گردشِ ایام تو

[O Himalah! Do relate to us some stories of the time
When your valleys became abode of Man’s ancestors
Relate something of the life without sophistication
When had not been stained by the rouge of sophistication
O Imagination! Bring back that period
O Vicissitudes of Time speed backwards]

Allama Iqbal’s early poems are classical ghazals in the style of Mir, Ghalib and Daagh (names of famous Urdu poets). He also wrote some poems for children, which appear in the beginning of the first part of Bang-i-Dara (name of his first book). Some of them are too advanced in thought for younger minds to comprehend, such as “Parinday ki Faryad” (The Bird’s Complaints). Even at that early stage many poems contain some elements of Khudi (The philosophy of the Self), such as Insan Aur Bazm-e-Qudrat (Man and nature’s assembly).

2) Period II (from 1905 to 1908)
This is the shortest period in his poetic career in which he was intensely preoccupied with his education. For this reason there is very little poetic work in this period. The second period of his poetry extended from 1905 to 1908, which he spent in Europe. In this period Iqbal decided to abandon poetry but on the advice of Mr. Arnold (Allama Iqbal’s teacher who taught him at Govt. College Lahore), he agreed to continue writing verses. In his first period of poetry his attention was focused on India and Indian Muslims but during his stay in Europe, his vision was expended to the whole world and its problems vis-a–vis Muslims and Islam and very soon he came to know that the basic problems of the Muslims of the world were unique and similar and their solution required the coordinated efforts of the entire Muslim world.

The concept of Khudi is initiated in the poems of this period and also there are references to Bekhudi. See below some verses of his poem, Tulaba-e-Aligarh College Ke Nam (Addressed to the students of Aligarh College):

Auron Ka Hai Payam Aur, Mera Payam Aur Hai
Ishq Ke Dardmand Ka Tarz-e- Kalaam Aur Hai
Taair- e-Zair-e- Daam Ke Naale Tu Sun Chuke Ho Tum
Ye Bhi Suno Ke Nala- e- Tair- e- Baam Aur Hai

اوروں کا ہے پیام اور، میرا پیام اور ہے
عشق کے درد مند کاطرزِ کلام اور ہے
طائرِ زیرِ دام کے نالے تو سن چکے
یہ بھی سنو کہ نالہ؍طائرِ زیرِ بام اور ہے

[The message of others is different, my message is different
The style of address of the one afflicted with love is different
You have heard the laments of the bird under the net
Also listen to the laments to the bird on the rooftops which are different]

3) Period III (from 1908 to 1924)
This is the long period spread over sixteen years and one of the highest degree of productivity in the life of Allama Iqbal. By 1908, he had acquired all the background knowledge; he needed and had achieved maturity of thought. During this period he produced the greatest amount of prose and poetic literature, which is a source of pride to Islam and Muslims on account of its quality. It is also an invaluable wealth for Urdu and Persian literature. He produced his three books in Persian (Asrar-e-Khudi—1915, Rumuz-e-Bekhudi—1918 and Payam-e-Mashriq—1923) and one in Urdu (Bang-e-Dara—1924). In first two books, he presented his Philosophy of Khudi (The Secrets of the Self) and Philosophy of Bekhudi (The Mysteries of Selflessness), where as in Payam-e-Mashriq (The Message of the East), he wrote a reply to a very eminent European poet Goethe’s “Salam-i-Maghrib”(The Compliments of the West) and he very beautifully expressed highly philosophical thoughts. Tulu-e-Islam (The Renaissance of Islam), which is the last long poem in Bang-i-Dara (The Caravan Bell), is full of the high hopes of Islamic renaissance. See some verses from this marvelous poem:

Khuda’ay Lam Yazil Ka Dast-e-Qudrat Tu, Zuban Tu Hai
Yaqeen Paida Kar Ae Ghafil Ke Maghloob-e-Guman Tu Hai
Pare Hai Charakh-e-Neeli Faam Se Manzil Musalman Ki
Sitare Jis Ki Gard-e-Rah Hon, Woh Karwan Tu Hai
Sabaq Phir Parh Sadaqat Ka, Adalat Ka, Shujaat Ka
Liya Jaye Ga Tujh Se Kaam Dunya Ki Imamat Ka

خدائے لم یزل کا دستِ قدرت تو، زباں تو ہے
یقیں پیدا کر اے غافل کہ مغلوبِ گماں تو ہے
پرے ہے چرخِ نیلی فام سے منزل مسلماں کی
ستارے جس کی گردِ راہ ہوں، وہ کارواں تو ہے
سبق پھر پڑھ صداقت کا ، عدالت کا،شجاعت کا
لیا جائے گا تجھ سے کام دنیا کی امامت کا

[You are the potent hand and the word of the Eternal God
O imprudent one! Develop faith as you have been overcome with doubts
The Muslim’s destination is beyond the azure colored sky
You are the caravan the dust of whose trail are stars!
Learn again the lesson of Truth, Justice, and Bravery
You are to be entrusted with the world’s leadership!]

And he says:
Jahan Mein Ahl-e-Eemaan Soorat-e-Khursheed Jeete Hain
Idhar Doobe Udhar Nikle, Udhar Doobe Idhar Nikle
Yaqeen Afraad Ka Sarmaya-e-Tameer-e-Millat Hai
Yehi Quwwat Hai Jo Soorat Gar-e-Taqdeer-e-Millat Hai

جہاں میں اہلِ ایماں صورتِ خورشید جیتے ہیں
اِدھر ڈوبے، اُدھر نکلے،اُدھر ڈوبے، اِدھر نکلے
یقیں افراد کا سرمایہ؍ تعمیرِ ملت ہے
یہی قوت ہے جو صورت گرِ تقدیرِملت ہے

[The men of faith live in the world like the sun
Set here, come out there, set there, come out here!
The individual’s Faith is the means of national renaissance
This is the force which shapes the nation’s destiny!]

And he further says:
Tu Raaz-e-Kun Fakan Hai, Apni Ankhon Par Ayaan Ho Ja
Khudi Ka Raazdan Ho Ja, Khuda Ka Tarjuman Ho Ja

تو رازِ کن فکاں ہے اپنی آنکھوں پر عیاں ہو جا
خودی کا راز داں ہو جا خدا کا ترجماں ہو جا

[You are the secret of Kun Fikun, be manifest to yourself
Become the knower of the secret of Khudi, become interpreter of God]

Allama Iqbal presented the concrete remedies for correcting the maladies of the Muslim world and for working towards the goal of taking the Muslim world from the present day doldrums to its former place of pride where it would perform the functions of the vicegerent of God for which it was originally created.

4) Period IV (from 1924 to 1938)
In this, the last period of his literary career, he wrote number of books i.e. Zabur-e-Ajam (Persian Psalm)—1927, The reconstruction of religious Thought in Islam—1930, Javed Nama (The Eternal Pilgrimage)—1932,Bal-e-Jabriel (Gabriel’s wing)—1935,Zarb-e-Kalim (The Rod of Moses)—1936 and the last Armghan-e-Hijaz (The Gift of Hijaz)—1938(this book was published after his death). He got mental satisfaction in this period, which gave him an opportunity of explaining the theory of Khudi and Bekhudi as well as its components.

His love for God, the Holy prophet and the Holy land of Hijaz also reached its peak during this period. The shortcomings and defects of the secular nationalism of the West are fully exposed and the concept of the ideological nationhood and Islamic State are presented. The book Bal-e-Jabriel (Gabriel’s wing) which is the first Urdu poetic book of this period is replete with the message of Khudi. The following verses are given here as a small sample from his famous poem The Mosque of Cordoba (Masjid-e-Qurtuba):

Aab-e-Rawan-E-Kabeer! Tere Kinare Koi
Dekh Raha Hai Kisi Aur Zamane Ka Khawab
Alam-e-Nau Hai Abhi Parda’ay Taqdeer Mein
Meri Nigahon Mein Hai Iss Ki Sehar Behijab
Parda Utha Doon Agar Chehra’ay Afkar Se
La Na Sake Ga Farang Meri Nawa’on Ki Taab

آبِ روانِ کبیر! تیرے کنارے کوئی
دیکھ رہا ہے کسی اور زمانے کا خواب
عالمِ نو ہے ابھی پردہ؍ تقدیر میں
میری نگاہوں میں ہے اس کی سحر بے حجاب
پردہ اٹھا دوں اگر چہرہ؍ افکار سے
لا نہ سکے گا فرنگ میری نواؤں کی تاب

Flowing Guadalquivir! Here on your bank is one
Gazing at things gone by, dreams of another day.
Destiny’s curtain till now muffles the world to be,
Yet, already, its dawn stands before me unveiled;
Were I to lift this mask hiding the face of my thoughts,
Europe could never endure songs as burning as mine!