Remembering Iqbal: beyond the rhetoric

Kuch is mein tamaskhur nahi wallah nahi hai.
The intended pun in the above quoted couplet of Iqbal notwithstanding, it is a fact that Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal is a multi faceted literary genius whose works have greatly influenced the way we see the world. It is also a reality that Allama Iqbal holds a great influence over our society especially through his Urdu and Persian poetry. Apart from the research that his works are subjected to in our university, almost all our events be they of celebration, commemoration or condolence resonate with the recital of his couplets. So much so that the flagship company of the state, the J&K bank has chosen his favourite bird—the falcon—as its visual brand identity.
Iqbal, the poet philosopher, the bard of the east, is credited with giving a clarion call to Muslims for upholding the basic tenets of Islam to ensure peace and order on this planet. His concept of Mard e Moomin has been copiously used by almost all the contemporary revolutionary movements of the Asian peninsula. He is also considered by many as a great mystic, drinking deeply from the spring of eternal love for Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Apart from being ardent lovers of his poetic genius or the avowed votaries of his political thought, we, as a nation, have the proud privilege of sharing our birth place with that of his forefathers. Iqbal, for most of us, is a great son of the soil, the brightest star in the constellation of luminaries that our land has ever produced. His love for Kashmir and his concern for its denizens is a much known and much documented fact. The benefactor of this “qoum e najeeb, charb dast o tar dimag’ was in fact the founder president of the Kashmir Committee constituted to find a solution to the miseries of Kashmiris in the beginning of twentieth century. But, despite the fact that his presence looms large in all our literary or political discourses, we have not so far been able to institutionalise his memory. The political dispensations managing this region for decades have consciously chosen to accord less lower a place to Allama Iqbal in the realms of our collective memory. The brazen expression of this deliberate apathy is evident. Allama Iqbal is conspicuous by his absence when it comes to commemorate his greatness through institutional means. True, we have had successive regimes of ‘representative governments’ claiming to restore the lost glory of this nation! But unfortunately the only example of commemorating Allama Iqbal was naming a badly managed, dilapidated and misused piece of land as Allama Iqbal Park. Had it not been for the J&K Bank that renovated and is managing the park under its CSR initiative, the park was an eyesore, a slap on our conscience and an affront to our sensibilities.
The University of Kashmir through its Allama Iqbal institute is so far the only academic institution dedicated to Allama Iqbal and his works. Iqbal deserves a much larger space in our national psyche. What about setting up of centres of excellence in his name wherein efforts are made to take Allama Iqbal’s works to larger masses through translations and explanations of his works? Especially when Urdu language is retreating from our curriculum and Persian is a long forgotten odyssey! Allama Iqbal is once said to have remarked that he switched to Persian language from Urdu as he felt that Urdu was too young and too raw a language to accommodate his thoughts. The Persian works of Allama Iqbal are almost lost to us now. His “Armagan e Hijaz, Bas che Bayad Kard ay aqwame Mashriq etc are all beyond our reach. Unfortunately, we are fast losing a generation that was well versed with Persian and revelled in the glory of its rich literature. If Khuswant Singh—for all what he stands for—can translate Iqbal’s highly political poem, ‘Shikwa- Jawabe Shikwa’ into English, do we not have the first right to commission our efforts towards translating his acclaimed works, especially the ones written in Persian. Cannot we have even a single platform that could conduct special part time classes for those who want to and understand Iqbal and his works. Expecting that to happen from the government would be wishful thinking. Individual efforts notwithstanding, there is a need for setting up of a “Iqbal Consciousness Centre” to help us know much more about our national icon, if not the national poet. This would be much fruitful than organising a few self-commemorating symposia on his birth date. It is all the more important in the light of Allama Iqbal’s own two couplets; one in Urdu and one in Persian. They are:
Hazaaroon saal nargis apni benuuri pr roti hai
Badi Mushkil se hota hai chaman mein didawar paida(Urdu)

Saraanad rozgarey ien faqeerey
Digar Danye raaz aayad na aayad (Persian)
For those who could not understand the Persian couplet; let them start a silent movement for pressing our intellectuals to shun their inertia for the sake of Iqbal. For the sake of present and future generations. Me included!

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