Any piece commemorating the Pakistan Independence Movement is incomplete without the mention of Allama Mohammad Iqbal. Allama Iqbal’s name is mentioned alongside Quaid-e-Azam and rightly so; undoubtedly no other leader has influenced the independence movement on so many different levels. His contributions as a sage philosopher and a poet, as well as a catalyst of Pakistan movement, are undisputed. Although he is given due credit for proposing the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims of India, his pivotal role in giving a concrete direction to the disintegrated factions of the Muslim community at that time, with his involvement in politics that aided in channelling the actual process, gets muddled up – especially for our youth who are not as aware of Allama Iqbal’s status in the political scenario of undivided India.
This is mainly because we do not see much reference to his close relationship with Quaid-e- Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in our regular texts and also because little is mentioned about him as an active politician. In this short article, I will focus on this aspect of life with reference to Allama Iqbal’s letters to Quaid-e-Azam between 1936 -1938, and speeches of Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam.
In the foreword of Letters to Jinnah, Quaid -e- Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah acknowledges Allama Iqbal’s contribution in these words:
“His (Allama Iqbal) views were in consonance with my own and had finally led me to the same conclusions as a result of careful examination and study of the constitutional problems facing India and found expression in due course in the united will of Muslim India as adumbrated in the League resolution of the All India Muslim League, popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution 23rd March 1940”.
Allama Iqbal’s formal involvement in politics started when he was elected as an executive member of the British branch of the Indian Muslim League in 1908. Upon his return to India, although formally he was enrolled as Advocate of Chief Court and as a professor of Philosophy at Government College Lahore, Allama Iqbal continued to raise awareness and inspire the masses through his poetical works and lectured widely on the political revival of the Muslims of the subcontinent. Allama Iqbal represented the Muslims of India at the Round Table Conferences held in England in 1931 and 1932. In 1936, he joined the Central Parliamentary Board of All India Muslim League on the personal request of Quaid -e-Azam and later on also became the president of the Punjab Branch of the same.
While Allama Iqbal’s poetical works were read at public gatherings and his philosophical ideas were discussed in intellectual circles, he held extensive meetings with eminent leaders like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Lord Lothian, Tej Bahadur Sapru and Jawahar Lal Nehru among others. Additionally, he wrote extensively on matters of the state, offering valuable criticism on the new constitution and supporting the reforms proposed by Quaid-e-Azam. He corresponded with the Muslim leaders advising them on legal matters, policy making and the freedom movement, whilst maintaining a strong standpoint on the two nation theory against any opponents. He was held in high esteem by the leaders of his time which shows his central and very strong position in the political scenario of India.
In his famous presidential address known as the Allahabad Address at the 25th session of the All-India Muslim League on 29 December 1930, he formally envisioned the creation of Pakistan in these words:
“India is a continent of human groups belonging to different races, speaking different languages, and professing different religions [...] Personally, I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India”.
Quaid-e-Azam rightfully recognized that it was the Allahabad Address that planted the seed that saw its fruit in 1947.
Allama Iqbal had complete confidence in the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam and proclaimed, “there is only one way out. Muslims should strengthen Jinnah's hands. They should join the Muslim League”. Later on Quaid-e-Azam also acknowledged him as a friend and a mentor:
“To me he was a friend, guide and philosopher and during the darkest moments through which the Muslim League had to go, he stood like a rock and never flinched one single moment ….”
And also notably in his message on Iqbal Day in 1944:
“Iqbal was not merely a preacher and philosopher. He stood for courage and action, perseverance and self-reliance, and above all faith in God and devotion to Islam. In his person were combined the idealism of the poet and the realism of the man who takes a practical view of things. Faith in God and unceasing and untiring action is the essence of his message.”
This is not only a mere exhibition of the close relationship the two leaders shared but further elaborates Allama Iqbal’s role in endorsing and strengthening Quaid-e-Azam as the only leader of the united Muslims of India. Furthermore, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah also accepted this during the Lucknow Session in 1935, which marked the first step in the reorganisation of Muslim League as the only authoritative and representative body of Muslims of India, was not without the contribution and advice of Allama Iqbal. This consequently led to the strengthening of the All India Muslim League, which eventually became the only party representing the majority of the Muslims of India.
The turning point in the politics of Muslim India was when Allama Iqbal played a vital role in convincing Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to return to India and entrusted him with the formidable task of leading the distraught Muslims of the sub-continent .Earlier, disappointed and disillusioned with the state of affairs in India, Quaid-e-Azam moved back to England after the Round Table Conference of 1932, and started his law practice there. It was Allama Iqbal’s vision that he recognised a true leader in Quaid-e Azam - a leader who could bring the realization of his dream of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims. In one of the letters to Quaid-e-Azam, Allama Iqbal wrote:
“ I know you are a busy man but I do hope you won't mind my writing to you often, as you are the only Muslim in India today to whom the community has right to look up for safe guidance through the storm which is coming to North-West India, and perhaps to the whole of India”.
Upon Quaid-e-Azam’s return to India, Allama Iqbal continued to provide social, moral and political support to Quaid-e-Azam on many different fronts - from openly supporting the constitutional reforms proposed by Quaid-e-Azam to more private meetings with other political leaders. In one of the extensive meetings with Mr Jawahar Lal Nehru and other delegates, Nehru tried to convince Allama Iqbal to persuade the Muslims to join the Congress party. Allama Iqbal asked Nehru (Nehru being a proponent of Socialism), how many congressmen agreed with him on Socialism. “Half a dozen”, said Nehru. Allama Iqbal replied, “How could you expect me to advise ten crore Indian Muslims to trust Congress when you couldn’t carry even half a dozen congressmen on your socialist plank”. At the conclusion of this meeting, Mian Iftikhar-ud-Din said to Allama Iqbal, “… Muslims listen to you, who bothers about Jinnah’s view?” To this Allama Iqbal replied rather strongly, “Mian Sahib! Probably you would agree that Muslim unity is probably needed….A semblance of unity has been created under Jinnah’s leadership. Since Hindus do not like the process of Muslim unity as a nation, then should it be shattered to please them? Please forgive me, I am not prepared to accept it” (as narrated in Iqbal- the life of a Poet Philosopher and Politician).
When Allama Iqbal was terminally ill, Mr Jawhar Lal Nehru came to his residence to enquire of his health. Towards the end of their meeting, Mr Nehru asked Allama Iqbal why he didn’t consider taking up the leadership of All India Muslim League, as Muslim leaders as well as the masses listened to him more than Mohammmad Ali Jinnah. To this Allama Iqbal replied, how could he think of such a thing when Mohammad Ali Jinnah was his leader and he considered himself merely a solider of Jinnah’s army (as narrated by Prof. M S Baqa).
Following excerpt from Allama Iqbal’s letter to Quaid-e- Azam shows how closely both leaders worked and corresponded in matters of political importance:
My dear Mr Jinnah,
I am sending you my draft….I hope the statement issued by the Board will fully argue the whole scheme and will meet all the objections so far advanced against it. It must frankly state the present position of the Indian Muslims as regards both the Government and the Hindus. It must warn the Muslims of India that unless the present scheme is adopted the Muslims will lose all that they have gained…will feel much obliged if you send the statement to me before it is sent to the press.
In another letter Allama Iqbal wrote more assertively:
“I read in the papers that you have brought about a compromise between the Bengal Broja Party and the Parliamentary Board. I should like to know the terms and conditions.”
The above two excerpts not only show the positive and strong working relations between Allama Iqbal and Quaid -e- Azam but also the confidence Allama Iqbal had in Quaid-e-Azam’s leadership. In another letter, dated 30th October 1937, he says:
“We must carry the work of organisation more vigorously than ever and should not rest till Muslim Governments are established in the five provinces and reforms are granted to Baluchistan”.
These excerpts like many others are evident of the mutual trust, confidence, support, and understanding between Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam, as well as their commitment towards the common goal of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims. I conclude with a quote from the condolence message of Quaid-e-Azam on the death of Allama Iqbal, which clearly illustrates Allama’s Iqbal’s contributions to the freedom movement and also shows volumes of respect and high esteem Quaid-e-Azam had for Allama Iqbal:
“I am extremely sorry to hear the sad news of the death of Sir Muhammad Iqbal. He was a remarkable poet of world-wide fame and his work will live for ever. His services to his country and the Muslims are so numerous that his record can be compared with that of the greatest Indian that ever lived. He was an ex-President of the All-India Muslim League and a President of the Provincial Muslim League of the Punjab till the very recent time when his unforeseen illness compelled him to resign. But he was the staunchest and the most loyal champion of the policy and programme of the All-India Muslim League”.
Anjum, A. (2014). Iqbal- The Life of a poet, philosopher and politician. Random House India.
Baqa, M. S. (2014). Iqbal in quotes.
Iqbal, M. (2006).Stray reflections - The Private Notebook of Muhammad Iqbal.Edited by Javed Iqbal. Iqbal Academy Pakistan.
Dar., B. A. (1967). Letters and writings of Iqbal.Iqbal Academy Karachi.
Jinnah, M. A. (1956). Letter of Iqbal to Jinnah. Sheikh Mohammad Ashraf, Kashmir Bazar Lahore.
Dr. Umneea Ahmad Khan
The University of Western Australia
Member of Iqbal Academy Scandinavia