Iqbal with abandon!
He neither wanted us shed tears ceaselessly nor blood recklessly.
INKSIGHT BY MEHMOOD-U-RASHID
Today he stands buried deep underneath the debris of his own poetry, thanks to the ways we have approached him.
Others have followed their intellectuals to shape ideas into realities; our failure lies in the fact that we considered the expression-of-ideas as a statement-of-realities. Iqbal is an epitome of this tragedy. His poetry has been brutally abused, by following it in ways that suit the different proclivities and prejudices. A particular brand of politics was initiated and Iqbal’s poetry was funneled into it like the mid-east oil that fuels the global politics. Similarly a particular variant of devotion, that suites a sizeable chunk of Muslim population, ravaged the ideational sublimity of Iqbal’s poetry by considering it as the song of mourning. They break into tears well before they begin reciting Iqbal’s poetry. God knows how Iqbal’s poetry only stirs the well of tears and doesn’t initiate them into thinking even just by a bit.
Misfortune struck Iqbal in two ways; we either shed loads of tears (although seldom required) when we read him; on the other extreme we shed blood in immeasurable quantity by reading Iqbal as a political adventurer, bursting with the desire to conquer the entire world.
Neel kai sahal se lai kar ta ba khak e kashgar.
From the waters of Nile to the soil of Kashgar
Iqbal was an unusually brilliant mind that wrestled with the problems of his time. He invoked symbolism, tradition, history, imagination and power of emotions to put across his point. He drew from other sources and benefited from the language of the times, rather languages of the times. The characters and the events that his time threw up had an impact on his mind. Since it was an unusually rich mind, its response was also beyond ordinary. The poetic genius that he was, he expressed his impressions, responses, reactions, anger, aspirations and ideas in a pulsating manner. Anyone who reads his poetry is bound to be impacted by the power of Iqbal’s expression. But since Iqbal dealt with the political, social and economic themes of his time and mixed his reading of history with whatever happened in the first quarter of the 20th century, it became a highly relevant, but at the same time charged poetry. What added to the intensity all this was the direct impact of global happenings on the united India, more particularly its Muslim population. Since Muslims were up against a situation which demanded great amount of political action, Iqbal’s poetry became embedded within the entire project of politics taken up by the Muslims of the United India. Further contribution was made by Iqbal’s real life political engagement. His involvement with Muslim League and his direct confrontation with the politics of the time made Iqbal a central force of Muslim politics.
As Iqbal profusely talked about Muslim history and tried to invoke the times when Muslims were in power, all with the purpose of bringing to light the fact that Muslim Ummah have the capacity to stand on its own, it prepared a deadly brew that intoxicated the shallow minds mad after the dreams of getting back to the times of political power. In a similar way the upcoming Muslim generations became deeply suspicious of the modern political, social and economic propositions of the time, mostly coming from West, because poet Iqbal subjected it to a scathing critique. The problems of poetic expression were completely overlooked and what Iqbal wrote about democracy, capitalism, colonialism and Marxism was taken literally. If Iqbal expressed rejection of democracy and by that he wanted to emphasize some dangerous inadequacy of this political philosophy, we took it as an outright rejection of this practice. When Iqbal said that ‘gone are the times of capitalism like the showman wrapping up his performance we thought it was really gone. When Iqbal criticized West and forbade the death of this civilization, comparing it to a nest perched on an extremely fragile branch, we consoled our grieved souls that we stand as an alternative to everything that comes from West. When Iqbal expressed his ideas about separation of church and state saying that once politics is denuded of religion it gives birth to extreme forms of terror and brutality we undertook a political project mixing elements menacingly in it. The result of all this is that we keep accentuating our fallacies by repeatedly referring to Iqbal’s poetry.
With all respect to Iqbal’s poetry and to those who express an unhindered love towards it, it now needs more open debate as to what Iqbal really wanted us do and how much it had the influence of the mind set of the times that Iqbal lived in. Syed Ali Shah Geelani just recently released his book on Iqbal. Iqbal’s importance for us and the posterity goes beyond doubt, and Geelani Sahab’s yearning to see Iqbal reverberate in the minds of our coming generations is rooted in his missionary zeal. Geelani’s politics is drenched with references to Iqbal’s poetry. He lifts the spirit of young and old alike once he, in an impeccable Urdu, speaks about Iqbal and recites his Urdu and Persian poetry. One can only love to hear Geelani speak Iqbal and cherish the melody and message Iqbal sent through his poetry. But beyond that a serious concern pops up. Political practices that we promote and the ideas that we throw on our young generation by using Iqbal to the hilt should be subjected to rigorous revision. The concepts of slavery, freedom, democracy, capitalism, nationalism, nation-state, and political power that Iqbal has generously deliberated on cannot be solely understood on the basis of his poetic expression. The medium of poetry and the hard core political ideas are miles apart. This distance is to be appreciated. Instead of following his poetry in ways that border madness, a degree of restraint needs to be applied. And this restraint comes with academic regimentation and scholarly discipline. But if Iqbal is only to be enjoyed as poet, no harm if we dance on his poetry with abandon. But while drawing conclusions and feeding a collective set of actions Iqbal must be studied dispassionately keeping the problems of poetry in full gaze.
(Columnist is GK Magazine Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Wed, 11 Nov 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 11 Nov 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 12 Nov 2009 00:00:00 IST
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