By Mubashir Ahmad Kitaba
Muhammad Iqbal was born on Friday, November 9, 1877 at Sialkot. It is a well known historical fact that Iqbal’s ancestors hailed from Kashmir and were Brahmins of the Saprusub-caste; they had embraced Islam sometime in the 17th century, AD. Iqbal’s grandfather, Shaikh Muhammad Rafiq, had migrated from his ancestral village of Looehar in Kashmir and settled in Sialkote along with his three brothers in the beginning of the 19th century. Though the family never returned to Kashmir, the memory of the land and its people was never erased from the mind of Iqbal. His love for Kashmir has been expressed through several verses. As the great poet philosopher has said about himself:
“My body comes from the earthly paradise of Kashmir; my heart belongs to the Holy land of Hijaz, and my song to Shiraz”
Iqbal was one of the greatest literary figures of the 20th century. His personality had the unique combination of the heart of the poet and head of a thinker. He had combined in himself both the poetic imagination and philosophic genius. He was one of the worthiest sons of the soil. Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Khan has rightly remarked, “If the peacock throne is the pride of Persia, and the Koh-I-Noor the glory of the British crown, Iqbal would surely adorn the court of the Muses in any country. The most striking characteristic of Iqbal’s personality was the charm of his conversation mixed with a sense of wit and humor. He was one of the most charming conversationalists and his talk was mostly adapted to the occasions and interests of his audience.
As Iqbal was educated at home and abroad, he possessed the highest culture of both the east and the west. He was a great scholar of many oriental as well as occidental languages. The great genius was well versed in Arabic, English, German, Persian, Punjabi, Urdu and Sanskrit languages, yet his literary works are confined to only three languages- Urdu, Persian and English. He has expressed his thoughts and views in these three languages with equal ease and excellence.
Iqbal was a man of social nature and was easily accessible to everyone. There was a continuous chain of visitors at his residence and he was always ready to welcome everybody at his home. His pleasing manners, sweetness of tongue, softness of heart, and nobility of nature, were some of the remarkable features of his personality.
His main interests in life were poetical, intellectual, social and cultural. Although Allama Iqbal took a keen interest in the political activities of the country in the last decade of his life, he was too much frank and fair in political affairs and public dealings. Iqbal’ s intellectual and spiritual fame spread so much, not because of his poetry but because of his conversational charm and style. The political magnates of the Punjab, lawyers, scholars, professors, students, poets, editors, and illiterate persons- in short men from all walks of life-yearned to see Iqbal. All kinds of subjects were discussed with him, from people’s domestic problems to the most intricate questions in the domains of jurisprudence, philosophy, politics, religion, and science. Iqbal shed light on all these problems with his vast learning and erudition.
Educated people from all over the Punjab brought their intellectual and emotional problems to Iqbal, and he helped them. Even the most ordinary citizens could enter his house without any formalities or permission, and could sit there as long as they wished. Iqbal never displayed any symptom of boredom with anyone’s presence. To his court of learning used to come innumerable men of world famous scholars and politicians, including Sir Fazal Husain, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, Jawaharal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Lord Lowthian of Oxford, Muhammad Nadir Shah, the king of Afghanistan and so on, to benefit from his mature counsel(s). No doubt, Iqbal had political differences with some of them, but he was frank, selfless and most sincere; unpleasantness was banished from his presence.
Iqbal was very liberal and catholic in his taste(s) for friendship. Whosoever came in contact with him was attracted by his simple and charming nature. He perfected the art of making friends. The motive behind making friends was one of his methods of elevating those with whom he came in contact with. He had so many friends of different castes, creeds, in and outside British India. During the years of illness, when Iqbal’s voice was choked preceding his death, he never closed the door of his residence to informal and uninvited visitors. Even in a state of physical pain, which necessitated his confinement to complete bed rest, the lure of cherished themes would make him sit up again and again, and his merry wit was able to dominate his suffering(s).
Once, on his way to Kabul, Muhammad Nadir Shah, the king of Afghanistan stopped in Lahore, and met Iqbal for the first time. The king had imagined Iqbal’s physique, face and dress as very different from what he actually found . So, in an amazed mood, the king said, “So, you are Iqbal. I had pictured you with a beard”. Iqbal pithily retorted, “My surprise is greater than yours. You are military general. I had pictured you as a man with the physique of a giant, but I find you without any likeness of a general. You are so lean and puny”.
Sheikh Noor Muhammad, the father of Allama Iqbal, was a pious and a God loving man. Before the birth of Iqbal, he had seen a dream. He used to tell his friends, in the later part of his life, that the birth of his world famed son, Iqbal was made known to him in the dream. He narrated his dream in this way: “I saw a big crowd gathered at a very large field. A lovely colored bird was flying over our heads, and every one tried to catch it, but no one succeeded. At last, it came down and flew right into my hands. Fortunately, his dream turned into a reality by the emergence of Iqbal as a philosopher poet of international repute by virtue of his dedicated service to humanity and Islam.
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]