Janab Sabir Bhai, H.E. Ambassador Junejo and distinguished friends.
Let me start by congratulating our honourable Ambassador who has kindly arranged this magnificent evening to celebrate, the unparalleled achievements of a man who has not only gone deeper in search of Allamh Iqbal's true message of unity for Muslims but also took this tedious job of spreading this unique light in the world.
That great man is sitting among today. It is wonderful that together with Pakistani State's recognition of his services, we are also paying our deepest respect for his untiring work.
I can not exactly remember when I met Janab Sabir Bhai but over the years, I have come to love him as a mentor. I also appreciate Iqbal Academy Scandinavia's useful good work in introducing and presenting Allamh Iqbal in Denmark and among a special section of Pakistani community in the country of Søren Kierkegaard. In November 2014, I was in Malaysia to give some lectures on Islamophobia and even there, I met a professor at the Islamic University who is a great admirer of Sabir Bhai and his work on Iqbal.
You are indeed our national treasure, Sabir Bhai. Talking of Søren Kirkiegaard, I tried to read Kierkegaard's book: Enten - Eller. After 10 pages, I gave up. One needs a very high caliber sharp mind like Sabir Bhai to comprehend, philosophers like Iqbal and Kierkegaard. The same goes for his latest book; IQBAL, RELIGION AND PHYSICS OF THE NEW AGE.
He was kind to send me this book by mail but the topic is so complex and visionary, that I would certainly need to read it with great pleasure but care, few pages at a time. Having said that it is also vital to state that I am absolutely not an Iqbal expert or even a passionate reciter of his poetry as many Urdu and Persian speakers are.
I was however fortunate to be blessed with a father who was an educationalist and an Iqbal lover. Through his writings, translations and talks, I learnt what I could in my teens. For that, I am indebted.
Now I have a special request to Sabir Bhai. Today in the west, there is a great awakening with respect to spirituality, role of religion, inter-faith realities and inter-cultural co-existence.
It is partly due to the availability of huge information coming through the social media, interest in Eastern philosophy and no less the strong visible presence of Muslim communities in USA and Europe. During my international travels, I always visit bookshops that are full with books about and of Maulana Rumi, Omar Khayyam, Firdausi, Hafez, Rabindranath Tagore, Krishnamurti, Khalil Gibran and many more.
Unfortunately, Iqbal is still placed in some libraries, special interest bookstores and in the homes of URDU and Farsi speaking elite. This limited visibility of Iqbal's message is not, due to the message but the insufficient promotion of Iqbal by those who can do this job.
As an observer of the society's development and as a human rights campaigner, I look at Iqbal from a humanistic perspective and his message as a mean to bring the social change around us. Iqbal himself mentions that in the introductory statement to his famous book" Secret of the Self" in these words; " Poetry is not the purpose of this book nor is beauty worshipping and love its aim. Mine is a fire-tempered song".
Then the question arises, what is my request to Sabir Bhai. Well, it is simple.
Iqbal's message needs to be presented to Muslim youth in a practical, easy to understand and relating to the present context. We need to define it in a very non-emotional and in a matter of fact manner.
How to move forward with Iqbal's message?
- Since Iqbal's main message is directed towards the Muslims of yesterday and today, it also is their duty to explain it to the wider public in a non- exclusive and according to the realities of time. His works need to be translated in as many European languages, as possible.
- The work on Iqbal should have two-prong strategy. A well meaning and an already aware group (to a large extent) should continue as it is. This good work should however be extended to the wider audience, both among Pakistani youth as well as Danish public and minority groups like Iranians, Afghanis and Indians. This can be done by seminars, conferences, cultural arrangements and debate evenings. These debates can be societal issues, culture and literature, as well as religion and morality.
- Youth, who are well versed in Danish, should take part in public debates in newspapers, blogs, facebook and Internet. There is a huge amount of discussion taking place, where they can contribute, not only from a religious angle but also from a common sense and societal point of view, which in my opinion is vital and timely.
- To achieve the maximum outcome from the available talents – young and old, females and males), Iqbal Academy can make sub- working groups to deal with specific issues. That will make it more purposeful, engaging and even better researched.
So once again, Sabir Bhai, my heartfelt congratulations on this well deserving award. May you live a long life to guide us, enlighten us – in Urdu or English or even Punjabi and stay blessed.
We love you!