Although Pakistan is a relatively young country, it has produced many great figures. In this blog series we’ll take a look at famous Pakistanis who made a difference in their country and in the world.
Looking back again to the founding of Pakistan, we’ll be learning about the life and work of Allama Muhammad Iqbal – a man who helped inspire a nation, and is fondly remembered for his poems and philosophy.
Born in 1877 in the town of Sialkot, which now rests inside Pakistan’s border, Iqbal lived a quiet life with his mercantile family. Educated in Lahore, he went on to attend the University of Cambridge to earn a degree in Philosophy. He studied in Europe for many years, even going on to earn a PhD.
Though Iqbal wrote many poems in Urdu, his true language of poetry was Persian. He felt Persian was the only language he could fully and fluently express himself in. In his lifetime, the poet wrote over 12,000 verses and more than half were in the Persian language. Many of his verses talked about Islam and the need for loving action rather than simple reflection. Two of his most famous are “The Complaint” and “The Answer to the Complaint.” In the first poem, Iqbal’s speaker lists his complaints about life and the world to God, waiting for an answer. In the second poem, God answers all the questions put to him, explaining that Muslims in earlier generations followed Islam more closely and so their lives were better. These two poems are widely quoted and well loved, and despite his favor of Persian, Iqbal is considered one of the greatest Urdu poets ever. His poetic works were so popular, they even earned him a knighthood in 1922.
Beyond his poetry, Iqbal was also involved in politics later in his life. After seeing what nationalism did to Europe during and after World War I, Iqbal became an opponent of nationalism. He viewed it as a homogenizing force that hurt countries rather than helped. His political philosophies involved him in the very beginning of the push for the creation of Pakistan. As a member of the Muslim League, he delivered lectures and addresses about the importance of a separate state.
After struggling with a long-term illness, Sir Muhammad Iqbal passed away in 1938. His tomb is now a prominent and respected landmark found in Lahore.
Though Iqbal did not live to see the creation of Pakistan, his work will forever leave a mark on the country. His poetry remains widely influential and are read, loved, and quoted by all.