Allama Iqbal—and the Arab world

Greater Kashmir

The book attempts to dispel certain  confusions about the poet and his message, Dr. Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal reviews Badruddin Bhat’s book on Allama Iqbal, “Iqbal aur Aalam-e-Arabi”

It is a tragedy of the community of Kashmir that in the course of a century of ‘enlightenment’ it could not produce an Arabic scholar of eminence. However, men of Islamic knowledge did turn up for tahligh but they lacked the resolve to write on the vital aspects of Islam or the Sirah. There was certainly a khatih of the stature of Hakim Ghulam Nabi who could deliver his Friday addresses in Arabic extempore (Irtijalan) but missed to pen down or preserve his findings after study. Among those who returned from the Muslim University, Aligarh, I know of Qazi Nisar Ahmed of Islamabad who wrote his Doctoral Thesis in Arabic. All others who did their Masters in that subject from the said University did not go beyond their teaching in college classes. Whenever I invited some of them to see me they would avoid, fearing I would ask them to render into Urdu a simple passage from my source-material on a particular research project. Even the late Professor Ghulam Muhy-ud-Din Hajini could not do justice to himself because he never had the idea of going ahead in his learning and adding a chapter to Islamic literature. When I returned from my research tour of Egypt and Saudi Arabia early in 1959, I disclosed to him the desire of AI-Azhar Faculty (conveyed to me by Muhammad Rashed Nadvi, later Professor and Chairman of Arabic Department of M.U.) to have him as a visiting scholar for a semester or two. Prof. Hajini declined to accept the offer probably because he did not like to leave the stagnant society. His contemporaries knew that he was quite capable to proceed for advanced studies in Arabic or Islamics. It is likely that he had also domestic reasons for his refusal to go out.
 Touching this tragic chord of our total indifference to Arabic language and literature (which has been further intensified by the rulers of the region) should in no case be treated as irrelevant. Is it not a fact that Arabic is the tongue of our Prophet and the language of the Holy Quran -the very foundation of Islamic Faith. This is the language of the race or Ummah whose resources today are raising the needy nations’ economic standards and whose natural wealth is being exploited by the avaricious Powers. Turning to the underlying objective of this review, I regard it to be a discovery that there has arisen a live researcher from a defunct ‘literate’ baradari, who has mutely contributed to a neglected aspect in the domain of Arabic literature. It is not merely the teaching of Arabic that the so-called ‘professors’ unabashedly called a ‘burden or liability’ in front of us. It is primarily digging out gold from beneath the debris of Muslim antipathy resulting from a ‘this-worldly’ attitude that has overwhelmed the whole community. It is to this dedicated endeavor to which I should invite the aspirants of Arabic and the seekers of the Truth of Islam. Notwithstanding the fact that Arabic learning could not break the record in the past decades of our intellectual despondency, it is Dr. Badruddin who undertook the task of removing the curtain from a subject hardly known to the learners and the learned. In short, he plunged into discovering Allamah Iqbal’s impact on the Arab world and the works of the Arab scholars on the ‘Poet of Islam’ as Prof. Abdul Wahhab ‘Azzam and others proudly called him.
 It is the good fortune of the prospective researchers in the field that Dr. Badruddin has spent his energy and time on his quest for information (he has gathered) on the treasure house of Arabic literature on the Allamah. His quality of patience should draw due admiration from all of us who are particular about the restoration of Arabic to its right pedestal. The single inspiring lesson that an assiduous student/scholar can derive from his concrete literary piece is that we in the subcontinent have been surpassed by Arabs in picking up the multi-dimensional legacy of the Wiseman of the Muslim Ummah. Our diligent and sedulous researcher has narrated the names of the Egyptian and other Arab writers and translators mentioning lucidly the contribution of each, having been impressed by the Allamah’s ideas, ideals and calls and his urge to infuse new vigor into educated Muslims who have grown slack everywhere in the world. Through the instrumentality of his rejuvenating verses, Allama Iqbal reminded them of the illustrious past of Islam and the Ummah and longed for Renaissance where after it could successfully face modern challenges, ensuring at the same time permanence of Humanity’s happiness and peace.
 In the galaxy of the Arab luminaries on Iqbaliyat the first name to be found is that of Prof. Abdul Wahhab Azzam (elder brother of Barrister Abdur- Rahman Azzam, who wrote his real classic, ‘The Message of Islam ‘). Prof. Azzam was the leading Egyptian who promoted an understanding of the message of Iqbal, and wrote and spoke on his universal role as a revivalist. In 1947, he visited AMU Aligarh, with Ali Asghar Hikmat, lectured in the Stretchy Hall and recited Iqbal’s poem, Sare Jahan se Achcha …before a distinguished gathering. The renowned scholar Prof. Abdul Aziz Memon of the M. U. acted as the translator (mutarjam). As a matter of fact, Prof. Azzam was the first Arab to break the ice of ignorance about the indebtedness of the Muslims in general and the Arabs in particular to Allama Muhammad Iqbal. He delivered addresses on all auspicious occasions connected with the commemoration of Iqbal’s life and contribution. Taking it as a sacred mission, he rendered parts of his poetry such as Payam-e Mashriq into Arabic and this inspired others to follow suit.
 Among other prolific writers in the Arab world one was Ahmad Amin, the famed Egyptian historian who recognized the relevance of Sayyid Amir Ali and Allamah Iqbal in the present age for the reason that they understood well European or Western culture, its merits and abominations. As is mentioned by Dr. Badr, his writings reveal that he was influenced by the Allamah’s views but he did not state it explicitly. Besides Azzam and Amin, prominent among other Arab savants who discussed and translated the anthologies of Iqbal were Sheikh Savy Sha’lan, Muhammad Hasan Azami,  Samir Abdul Hamid Ibrahim, Dr. Muhammad baI-Saeed Jamal-ud-Din, Husain Mujib Masri, Sayyid Qutub al-Shahid and others. And to the literary contributions of the Arabs, the refreshing melody of Umm Kulthum added the elements of inspiration, taste and ecstasy, when she sang Iqbal’s Shikwah and Jawah Shikwah, and, possibly, even Tulu’ Islam.
 Of the reputed Indo-Pak scholars who wrote on Allama Iqbal with dedication have been Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi who brought forth his Rawa’i Iqhal. Others among contemporaries include Abdul Majed Ghauri, Prof. Zahur Ahmad Azhar and Prof. Muhammad Munawwar. The last two have compiled enriching volumes on the Allama, comprising invaluable essays of well-known Arab scholars. Thus several treatises have been published focusing on separate topics connected with Iqbaliyat. The substance of all these contributions in Arabic may be perused in the following words:
 “Almost all writers and his Arab admirers acknowledged Allama Iqbal as the Poet-Philosopher of Islam, a right ‘representative of the Arabian Faith and the Muslim Ummah, who conveyed to the world the Message of the Holy Quran and the clarion Call of the Final Messenger of Allah, on him be peace. Iqbal’s love for the Prophet was unconditional and he held him in the highest esteem as the Perfect Man deputed by the Most High to deliver the whole of Humanity from injustice, oppression, exploitation and impiety. To Iqbal the Arabs appeared endearing because it was from among them that the Apostle of Mercy, on him be peace, was raised. Allama was unhappy at the helpless state of the Arabs after they had lost their pelf, power and unity. He sympathized with them for the problems created by European imperialism and colonialism to serve the abject ends of foreign intruders. The concerned Arab scholars regarded Allama Iqbal the Bard of Islam and Muslims and he wished their reinstatement in their former glory. Be it said in the end that he was recognized to be the resolute and profound advocate of the essentials of the Holy Quran who was determined to implement its Commands with due care, honesty and devotion.”
 This is then what Dr. Badruddin has achieved by his timely compendium, titled, Iqhal aur’ ‘Alam-e ‘Arahi. I am of the view that he has done a great and unique service in the particular field of study, and, I pray that he accomplishes much more for the genuine interests of Islam and its votaries, and leave a distinct legacy and a guide-line for aspirant scholars and students both of his time and of the hopeful future.
 Incidentally, I would suggest that when Dr. Badr brings out a revised and enlarged volume, he will exert to avoid all typing mistakes and ‘errors that creep into books because of the ignorance and slackness of the typists. In the same spirit, I would like that the presentation of facts in the fresh publication will be somewhat absorbing.
 I wish the research scholar, just reviewed, success and security in an intriguing age through which we are passing and striving for an honorable existence.
(The writer is Former Professor in History and Political Science, former Principal lslamia College of Science and Commerce; Director Libraries Research Museum and Archaeology. He is a visiting Asian Professor and Fulbright-Hays Senior Scholar to United States)