One fact which strikes every student of Iqbal is his great versatility. First and foremost he was a poet, one of the greatest the world has known. In addition, he was an eminent philosopher, an educationist and a political thinker who played a notable role in the renaissance of the Musalmans of the sub-continent and was aptly described as the Spiritual Father of Pakistan. Although he did not join active politics till late in life, yet on his death he was referred to by the Quaid-i-Azam as "friend, philosopher and guide".Iqbal was born at Sialkot, a small town in the Punjab on 9th November, 1877. His ancestors who were Kashmiri Brahmans were converted to Islam nearly 300 years ago. Iqbal refers to his ancestry repeatedly in his verses:
Look at me for in India you will not see again A man of Brahman extraction versed in knowledge associate with Rum and Tabrez.
Iqbal finished his early education in Sialkot and migrated to Lahore in 1895 for higher studies. In Sialkot he was lucky to have as his teacher Shamsul Ulama Mir Hasan, a great Oriental scholar. Iqbal started writing verses while still at school. At that time Dagh was considered a great master of Urdu verse, and Iqbal started sending his verses to him for correction. After a short time Dagh wrote back that his verses needed no corrections.
Iqbal passed his MA in Philosophy in 1899 and was appointed Lecturer in the Oriental College, Lahore. After some time he went over to the Government College, Lahore. in 1905 he went to Europe on three years study leave, and studied at the Trinity College Cambridge, Lincoln’s Inn, London, and also at
Munich University. He returned home in 1908 and soon after started law practice. He also worked at the Government College, Lahore, as a teacher for some time.
During his stay in England he did write verses but the output of his poetry was not considerable. On his return from England he wrote some epoch-making poems like Shikwa, Jawab-i-Shikwa and Shama-aur-Shair which displayed superb handling of theme and command over the language. With the publication of these poems his place among the great Urdu Poets was assured.
Asrar-I-Khudi was published in 1915 and described his philosophy of the ego with great artistic efforts.
Ramuz-i-Bekhudi appeared in 1918 and described what Iqbal considered ideal society.
In 1921 appeared Khizr-t-Rah and in 1922 Tulu-i-Islam. The poem Khizr-i-Rah still shows signs of quest and search, but the poem Tulu-i-Islam shows faith and hope. Both the poems are in Urdu and rank amongst Iqbal’s finest poems. After the publication of these poems appeared the book Piyam-i-Mashriq. This book is a collection of miscellaneous poems in Persian, and was written in response to Goethe’s West Ostlicher Divan. Payam-i-Mashriq was followed by Bang-i-Dara which is actually a collection of Iqbal’s Urdu verses which were published prior to 1922, and two years later came the Zabur-i-Ajam. The book contains mystic vitalizing and ennobling verses. Zabur-i-Ajam was followed by Javid Nama what can be truly regarded as Iqbal’s magnum opus. Iqbal has said about this book:
What I have said is from another world.
This book has come from another Heaven.
After finishing Javid Nama Iqbal turned to Urdu again, and published a collection of Urdu poems Bal-i-Jibril in 1935 and another collection Zarb-i-Kalim in 1936. in 1934 he had published a Persian poem Musafir. Another Persian poem Pas Che Bayed Kard was published in 1936.. 1 The final, collection of his poems appeared posthumously. It was. known as Armoghan-i-Hijaz.
This is story of Iqbal’s poetry told briefly.
In 1923 he was persuaded by friends and admirers to stand for the Punjab Legislative Counci1, but as his old friend, Mian Abdul Aziz, wanted to stand from the same constituency be decided not to stand. But ‘.he stood for election from the same constituency in .1926. He continued as a member of the Punjab Legislative Council for 3 years and made valuable contributions to the deliberations of that august body.
In 1930 Iqbal was elected President of the Muslim League Session held at Allahabad in India. In the course of his epoch-making presidential address he said, "The unity of an Indian nation, therefore, must be sought, not in the negation but in the mutual harmony and co-operation of the many. The statesmanship cannot-ignore facts, however, unpleasant they may be. The only practical course .is not to assume the existence of a state of things which does not exist, but to recognize facts as they are, and to exploit them to our greatest advantage. And it is on the 6iscovery of Indian unity in this direction that the fate of India as well as of Asia really depends. India is Asia in miniature."
In 1931 he attended the Round Table Conference which met in London to frame a constitution for the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. He took an active part in the various committees appointed by the Conference and contributed much.
In 1932, Iqbal presided at the annual session of the Muslim Conference and delivered a thought-provoking address.
Iqbal developed kidney trouble in 1927. He wanted to visit Vienna for its treatment but some friends advised him to visit Hakim Abdul Wahab (Hakim Nabina) for treatment. Hakim Abdul Wahab’s treatment cured him of the complaint and he kept good health till 1934, when he developed heart trouble accompanied by loss of voice. Treatment was tried for this in Bhopal and Delhi without any success. This illness took a serious turn on 25th March, 4938, and in spite of the best medical aid and careful nursing he breathed his last in the early hours of 2lst April, 1938
Half an hour before he breathed his last Iqbal recited the following verses, which he had composed earlier:
The departed melody may recur or not
The zephyr may blow again from Hijaz or not.
The days of this Faqir have come to an end
Another seer may come or not.
After the Pakistan Resolution was passed by the Muslim League in its Lahore Session, on 24th March, 1940, the Quaid-i-Azam said to Matlub Saiyyid, "Iqbal is no ‘more amongst us. But had he been alive he would have been happy to know that we did exactly what he wanted us to do." No greater compliment could have been paid to Iqbal for his political services to the Muslims.