Thank you, Professor Vermeulen, for your kind words. I am grateful to you for having invited me to be here with you today. I am in fact very impressed to see how much activity on Pakistan and related matters is going on in Belgium, and in particular in Leuven, your own university, and in Brussels. And I think for some of this the credit goes to His Excellency the Ambassador of Pakistan, and his very energetic team such as Toheed Ahmed and others, who have been doing a lot to bring knowledge about Pakistan to this country. I am also impressed about the vast fields that are covered by the Oriental Faculty here in Leuven and how much work has been done about the languages and culture of India and Pakistan and the Orient in general. It is a great pleasure to be here with you today to say a few words.

I would like to say that I am Chairman of the Iqbal Academy United Kingdom, for the last three years. Iqbal Academy of Pakistan itself is a very large organization, of which Professor Muhammad Munawwar, as you mentioned, was the Chairman until recently. He has now retired, but a lot of action is going on. We work closely with the Iqbal Academy in Pakistan, and this book[1], that Professor Vermeulen mentioned, actually was published by the Iqbal Academy Pakistan.

I have been asked to talk about the life and work of Iqbal. I am very pleased that Professor Schimmel has already told you a great deal of his philosophy. As far as his life is concerned, I think that is relatively easy. I have a few lines here, giving the barest outline of his life, so that some of you who come fresh to Iqbal would at least be able to put him in a historical perspective.

Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the Poet-philosopher of the East, was born at Sialkot, northern India, now Pakistan, on 9 November 1877, of a middle class of family. He was educated in both Eastern and Western cultures, and took Master’s degree in Philosophy from the Government College, Lahore, which you, Sir, mentioned: and I am pleased to see several other Ravians[2] here, the Ambassador himself, and I think several of our speakers today have been there.

He was educated at the Government College, Lahore; while I am at it, I may say that Government College, Lahore has produced two of the greatest sons of Pakistan: the second being Abdus Salam, the only Nobel Laureate (in Physics) of the Muslim World. So I am very proud to have come from there, too.

So Iqbal went to Government College, from where he got his Master’s degree in 1899. And after teaching Philosophy, Economics and Political Science, at Lahore, he went to the University of Cambridge in 1905, to which he was recommended by Sir Thomas Arnold, a great teacher of his. There he took a B.A. degree by dissertation in 1907. Iqbal went thereafter to Germany, where, mainly, on the basis of his Cambridge dissertation (which was entitled “Development of Metaphysics in Persia”) he was awarded a degree of Ph.D. by the University of Munich at the end of 1907. Having enrolled at Lincoln’s Inn, London, in November 1905, he was called to the Bar. So he got a legal degree as well in July 1908, where after he returned to India and took up legal practice in Lahore.

His real vocation, however, remained that of a thinker and a poet. In the following years Iqbal started taking a practical interest in the political evolution of the country, and stood for the local Parliamentary Assembly and won. He took an interest in the political development of the Punjab and the rest of India. In December 1930 he delivered his famous Presidential Address at the Allahabad meeting of the All India Muslim League, in which he put forward the idea of an independent homeland for the Muslims of India, a vision that was realized 17 years later in the shape of Pakistan. And I hope that Professor Rizvi, who is speaking later on, will tell you more about the evolution of the idea of Pakistan the first vision of which was of Iqbal.

He represented India at the Round Table Conferences in London in 1931 and 1932. On these occasions be traveled widely and visited many countries of Europe and the Middle East. At home he lived a Spartan life. He spent most of his time in reading, writing, and receiving visitors of all backgrounds from far and wide. He was a very great conversationalist; a very informal man, lying on his divan ‑‑‑ bed with hardly any clothes on, i.e. of a very simple sort: he was in his pyjamas more or less. And anybody could walk in. The whole of Lahore practically walked into his drawing room. His doors were open every day at 4 O’clock; people would come in and talk for hours about politics, metaphysics, poetry and history.

He died on 21st April 1938. Over 70,000 people attended his funeral, and his grave in Lahore is a national shrine. It is, in nutshell, the outline of his life.

After that I thought that perhaps I should say a few words about some basic strands of his philosophy. Professor Schimmel has already spoken about some of them.

Iqbal has written seven books in Persian, and four in Urdu: so it is impossible for me today to summarise all his poetry and philosophy. It is, as we say in Urdu – دریا کوزے میں بند کرنا - i.e. ‘it is the confining of a river in an urn or a jug.’ So I will not attempt it, But; instead, what I thought was that I would perhaps quote two or three examples of four or five big themes that,Iqbal stands for. Again, it is as another saying goes:’مشستے از خردارے ‘ like a fistful from a camel - load.’ So today I would like to do that in the first 15 minutes, and in another fifteen I’ll say a few things about his life in Europe.

1.                           خودی (Self awareness)

As Professor Schimmel has already mentioned, the first of his great themes is that of Khudi. And Khudi, as she said, should, perhaps be translated as Individuality; or as Self or Self-hood, and so on; it denotes Self-awareness or Self-confidence. And this concept was first expounded by Iqbal in his long, didactic poem in the book Asrar-e-Khudi (Secrets of the Sell), which he wrote in 1915, and which was translated by Nicholson, who had previously been his examiner at Cambridge. It is a great honor for a pupil to have his book translated by his professor. Professor Nicholson translated it, and introduced Iqbal and his philosophy to Europe in 1920. Anyhow, I’ll just give, if I may, one or two examples of how he puts it. And I will try to translate that into English.

A very famous couplet of his is


خودی کو کر بلند اتنا کہ ہر تقدیر سے پہلے
خدا بندے سے خود پوچھے، بتا تیری رضا کیاہے!


“So heighten your Selfhood that, before formulating your destiny, God should ask of you, his servant, what would you rather be?” that is, God should consult you as to how you want him to make your destiny. That is Khudi.

Another example is:


ہر چیز ہے محوِ خود نمائی
ہر ذرہ شہیدِ کبریائی
بے ذوق نمود زندگی، موت
تعمیرِ خودی میں ہے خدائی


“All things are given to self-display.

Each atom is dying to assume Godhead.

Without the desire for self-revelation, Life is Death.

To build you is the essence of divinity.”

The third example of Khudi is:


جب عشق سکھاتا ہے آدابِ خود آگاہی
کھلتے ہیں غلاموں پر اسرارِ شہنشاہی


“When ‘Love’ (the creative force) teaches them the

discipline of Self-awareness

Then are revealed to the slaves the secrets of

Caesarhood.” (The slaves become like Caesar.)


2.                           Change, constant evolution, action

The second strand of Iqbal’s philosophy is that of change, constant evolution, action. As professor Schimmel has said, even in Heaven that would not let you rest! He says:

سکوں محال ہے قدرت کے کارخانے میں
ثبات ایک تغیر کو ہے زمانے میں


“Rest is all but impossible in this workplace of nature.

Change alone is changeless in this world.”

Then he says:


ساحلِ افتادہ گفت گرچہ بے زیستم
موج زخود رفتہ، تیز خرا مید د گفت
ہیچ نمعلوم شدہ آہ کہ من کیستم
ہستم اگری روم گر نہ روم نیستم


This is in Persian, in reply to Heine’s poem, ‘Questions’. (Incidentally, more than half of Iqbal’s poetry is in Persian: for although he lived in India where very few people spoke Persian, he wrote in Persian so that he could reach an outside audience, since Persian was a more Classical language, like Latin would be for you here in Europe.)


“The disintegrating river-bank said: Though long

have I lived,

Alas I have not discovered who I am.

An ecstatic wave rippled past swiftly and said:

I am if I move: If I move not, I die!”

– Because a ripple cannot exist unless it moves. So that is the secret of existence: movement, not rest, like the river bank, which is just sitting there, dying away.


3.                           Dissatisfaction and longing for development

The third theme Iqbal has is dissatisfaction – longing for development. It is not enough to have achieved something. Do not rest on your laurels; be restless! He says:


متاعِ بے بہا ہے درد و سوزِ آرزو مندی
مقامِ بندگی دے کر نہ لوں شانِ خداوندی


“These riches of yearning and burning and constant


I would not exchange my Man’s station for all the

splendours of Godhead.”

– I would rather be man than become God, he says, (These are challenging words; some people would say he was a heretic. But he thinks Godhead is perfection; and perfection has no potential for growth. Therefore it stagnates. Perfection cannot develop anymore. So I would not like to be God, he says: I would like to remain a man.)

Then he says:


زشرر ستارہ جویم، زستارہ آفتابے
سرِ منزلی ندارم کہ بمیرم زقراری


“From the embers I seek the stars. From the stars

the sun.

I have no desire for a sojourn; for I die if I rest.”

In another verse he says:


تپش است زندگانی، تپش است جاددانی
ہمہ ذرہ ہائے خاکم، دلِ بے قراربادا!


“Burning is life itself, burning is sans end,

May all the atoms of my dust be so many throbbing hearts!”

– So this dust, this throbbing heart, becomes restlessness.


Then there is the theme of constant battle and self-testing. He says:


زندگی در صدفِ خویش گہر ساختن است
در دلِ شعلہ فرورفتن و نگداختن است


“Life is: to make a pearl from your own inner oyster.”

Do not borrow it from outside. Take it from inside.)

It is: to go into the heart of the flame and Not to melt down.”     

‑‑So you have this power and the daring to go into the heart of the flame; but do not burn, stay what you are - perhaps become even better.


4.                           “Love” and “Intellect”

The fourth theme is “Love” versus the “Intellect”‑ or “‘lshq” and “‘Aql’“, by ‘ love’ he means a sort of inner or creative force, an intuition, an inspiration, an abandon or recklessness. And intellect’, we all know, is logic and caution and wisdom. And he always stands here, like Bergson perhaps, for the abandon i.e. “‘lshq”. He says:


بے خطر کود پڑا  آتشِ نمرود میں عشق
عقل ہے محوِ تماشائے لبِ بام ابھی


 “Love jumped forth into the fire lit by Nimrod.

Intellect still sits aloft - waiting and weighing.”

–So there is a Qur’anic story that Nimrod, the local king, had prepared a fire, and Abraham was ordered to jump. And he jumped in, and the fire turned into a garden. And Iqbal says: that is love - this abandon, or creativity. You just jump in. And if you used wisdom, you would just sit there and wait and wait: shall I do shall I not?; to be or not to be? He says: God and do it!

Then he says:


خرد نے مجھ کو عطا کی نظر حکیمانہ
سکھائی عشق نے مجھ کو حدیثِ زمانہ


“Intellect has bestowed on me the Philosopher’s eye.

It is Love that has taught me the speech of ecstasy.”

– So wisdom is one thing, and ecstasy is another. Again, he says:


اک دانشِ نورانی، اک دانشِ برہانی
ہے دانشِ برہانی، حیرت کی فراوانی


 “One is a knowledge all aglow; the other, logic and reasoning.”

[‑‑So he is contrasting these two things: the first is the inner burning and the enlightenment. And the other is logic and reasoning.]

“Logic and reasoning lead ‘ to naught but an abundance of wonderment.”

‑‑ Logic and reasoning leads to naught, but an abundance of wonderment: it increases your curiosity and wonder; but it does not give you the intuitive answers.

Then he says:


خرد سے راہروِ روشن بصر ہے
درونِ خانہ ہنگامے ہیں کیا کیا
خرد کیا ہے! چراغ رہگذر ہے
چراغِ رہگذر کو کیا خبر ہے


“Intellect gives the wayfarer eyes that see.

What is intellect, but a lamp by the wayside?

What goes on within the household [the soul]:

The wayside lamp has no knowledge whatsoever.”

‑‑If there is a lamp outside, it illuminates your way and you know which way to go. But it cannot tell you what is going on within the household - within yourself, within your own soul. So Iqbal makes wisdom an external source, and love an internal illumination.

The last two examples of this, theme are the following verses. In Zabur-i-’Ajam (Persian Psalms) Iqbal gives the following firm advice:

عقل است چراغِ تو، درا راہگذار سے نہہ
عشق است ایاغِ تو، بابندہ محرم زن!


 “If Intellect is thy lamp, place it by the wayside.

If Love is thy wine-cup, go; drink it with someone who KNOWS!”

And in ‘The Mosque of Cordova’ - in my view arguably the most significant and beautiful Urdu poem ever written, and worthy of being placed side-by-side with the highest literature of all mankind, Iqbal declares:

عشق دمِ جبرئیل، عشق دلِ مصطفےؐ
عشق خدا کا رسول، عشق خدا کا کلام


“Love is Gabriel’s inspiring breath. Love is the

Prophet’s immaculate heart.

Love is God’s own messenger.

Love is the word of God.”

5.                           Man’s place in the world

Then another theme he has is Man’s place in the world. He places Man very high–almost as a co-partner with God. God is there, and Man is helping achieve God’s aims and ends. He says:


فروغِ آدم خاکی زتازہ کاری ہاست
مہ و ستارہ کنند آنکہ پیش ازیں کردند


 “To do something ever new is the splendor of

Man made of dust.

The Moon and the stars just to do what they have

always done!”

–The Moon and stars just go round in the same orbits that they have done for millions and billions of years. But Man is doing new things all the time. So that, he says, is what the grandeur of Man. is He can do new things - unpredictable things.

Then he says:


خاک ما خیز کہ سازد آسمانے دیگرے
ذرہ نا چیز و تعمیر بیابانے نگر سما


 “My dust rises to form a new sky.

Behold this tiny atom that would formulate a whole Sahara.”

– He is just one atom of sand. But he wants to become a whole new desert.

Then the co-partnership with God. He says (from “A Dialogue between Man and God – in پیامِ مشرق, the ‘Message of the East’):


تو شب آفریدی، چراغ آفریدم
بیابان و کہسار و راغ آفریدی
سفالِ آفریدی، ایاغ آفریدم
خیابان و گلزار و باغ آفریدم


“You [God] created the night, and I the lamp.

You created clay: I made it into a wine cup.

You created deserts, mountains, wastelands;

I made them into gardens, orchards, flowerbeds.”

–So Man says to God: I am helping you to achieve your ends. (Translation froth V.G. Kiernan/Faiz Ahmad Faiz).

Then another daring thing he says:


گفت یزداں کہ چنیں است و دگر ہیچ مگر
گفت آدم کہ چنیں است وچناں سی بائست


“God said, ‘The world so lies [like this]

And say not otherwise’

Said Adam, ‘so I see: β

But thus it ought to be!”

(Translation by A.J. Arberry.)

–God says, ‘well that is the world’: Man says, ‘no, I think it should be like this.’ Man is saying to God I don’t think you have got it right! (I don’t know whether man is improving the world, by the way. We wait breathlessly for hydrogen bombs. But this is a poet’s vision!)

ایں مہ و مہر کہن راہ بجائے یہ برند
انجم تازہ بہ تعمیر جہاں می بائست


And he continues:

“This ancient Moon and Sun lead us nowhere.

I need new stars to build the universe afresh.”

–Man says I want new stars.

Then I think there is another verse…– But sorry to be inflicting all these Urdu and Persian verses on you – but then I thought you must have the flavor of the original).


گفتند، جہانِ ما، آیا بتومی سازد
گفتم کہ نمی سازد، گفتند کہ برہم زن


“The Powers that be said: Is our world agreeable to you?

I said: No, it is NOT. They said: Go and tear it asunder!”


–If you don’t like this world, they said, go and break it up. Don’t accept things as they are.

6.                           Shaking off of imperialistic shackles

From this I would like to conclude and say that one of the final themes that he has is the shaking off of imperialistic shackles. You know that, at the time when Iqbal lived, the whole world was dominated by the Europeans, and in particular the English. The sun never set on their Empire. The Muslims were being crushed everywhere. Whether they were in Egypt, whether they were in Indonesia, or whether they were in Morocco: they were being subjugated. He wanted them to rise. So he says:


خاور ہمہ مانند غبار سرِ راہست
یک نالئہ خاموش واثر باختہ آہست
ہر ذرہ ایں خاک گرہ خوردہ نگاہست
از ہندو سمرقند و عراق و ہمداں خیز
از خواب گراں، خواب گراں، خواب گراں خیز از
خواب گراں خیز![23]


“All the Orient doth lie

Like the strewn dust, the roadway by. Or a still and hushed lament

And a wasted sigh and spent.

Yet each atom of this dust

Is an eye momently shut. Under Ind’s and Persia’s skies

Through Arabian Plains, O. rise!

Out of leaden sleep Out of slumber deep Arise!

Out of slumber deep Arise!”

(Arberry’s translation.)

Then he goes on to say:


فریاد زا فرنگ و دل آویزی افرنگ
فرہاد زشیرینی و پرویزی افرنگ
عالم ہمہ دیرانہ ز چنگیزی افرنگ
معمارِ حرم، بازبہ تعمیر جہاں خیز
از خوابِ گراں، خوابِ گراں، خوابِ گراں خیز، از
خوابِ گراں خٰیز![24]


“Against Europe I protest

And the attractions of the West.

Woe for Europe and her charm.

Swift to capture and disarm!

Europe’s hordes with flame and fire.

Desolate the world entire;

O architect of sacred realism.

To rebuild the world arise.

Out of leaden sleep

Out of slumber deep.


Out of slumber deep


(Arberry’s translation)

Then he would also like to overthrow capitalism. There were a lot of revolutions going on. Bolshevism and Communism and so forth. And so Iqbal wrote a very revolutionary poem, where he proclaims:


خواجہ از خونِ رگِ مزدور سازد لعلِ ناب
از جفائے دہ خدایاں کشتِ دہقاناں خراب
انقلاب! انقلاب، اے انقلاب!


“Of the hireling’s blood outpoured

Lustrous rubies make the lord

Tyrant squire to swell his wealth

Desolates the peasant’s tilth.

Revolt, I cry!

Revolt, defy!

Revolt or die!”

(Arberry’s translation.)

In the same vein, there is a very fine, poem by Iqbal, entitled ‘Lenin in the presence of God’ in which God is giving His commandment to the angels. First of all, there is Lenin speaking to God: ‘See what’s going on! Please do something.’ And God says to his angels (this is a very famous poem: ‘God’s command to the angels: فرمانِ خدا


اٹھو! میری دنیا کے غریبوں کو جگا دو
کاخِ امرا کے درد دیوار ھلا دو
ٶ غریبوں کا لہو سوزِ یقیں سے
کنجشکِ فرومایہ کو شاہیں سے لڑا دو
جس کھیت سے دہقاں کو میسر نہ ہو روزی
اس کھیت کے ہر خوشہ گندم کو جلا دو

 “Rise! and waken the poor of my world

Shatter the walls and gates of the palaces of the rich!

Boil the blood of slaves with the fire of faith.

Make the humble sparrow take on the mighty falcon!

That cornfield which does not give the peasant his sustenance.

Go forth and set alight each ear of wheat in that field!”

Go and burn all those fields if they do not bring forth food for the peasant.

7.                           Iqbal’s stand against materialism

The last theme that I wish to touch upon is that Iqbal also takes on the Western civilization and materialism. I mean, he was a man of great vision, and much of what he saw around him he disliked and disagreed with; and, as we have seen above he had been told: If you do not like it, go and change it. Iqbal then, at the same time, was very religious. He wanted somehow for man to come back to the purity of religion. He therefore attacks materialism, and the Western civilisation for its promiscuity and its racialism and its nationalism, and so on. A couple of examples and then I’ll finish.

He says:


بے کاری و عریانی و مے خواری و افلاس
کیا کم ہیں فرنگی مدنیت کے فتوحات


 “Unemployment, [mind you, he was writing this in about 1925] promiscuity, inebriation and destitution

Are these not victories enough for the Western civilization of today?”

And again:




کیا یہی ہے معاشرے کا کمال
مرد بے کار و زن تہی آغوش


 “Is this the zenith of your civilization? (he asks)

`Man without work, and woman without a child?”

And then he attacks color and race, and he includes the Muslims amongst them (his targets). The Muslims are as racialistic as anybody else. He says:


تو اے کو دک منش، خودرا ادب کن
مسلماں زادہ ترکِ نسب کن
برنگِ احمر و خون و رگ و پوست
عرب نازد اگر، ترکِ عرب کن


 “O childish person, teach yourself manners!

You are born of Muslims, so give up lineage [or pride of genealogy].

If of his ruddy color, and skin and vein

If the Arab is proud of - then renounce the Arab!”



نہ افغانیم ونے ترک و تتاریم
چمن زادیم و ازیک شاخساریم
تمیزِ رنگ و بو برما حرام است
کہ ما پروردہ یک نو بہاریم


“Neither Afghans, nor Turks, nor Tartars are we. We are born of this garden, and stem from a single branch.

Distinctions of color and smell are forbidden to us. For we have been nurtured by the same springtide’s bounty”

– the same spring for all flowers of all colors.

He was very critical of nationalism. He thought nationalism will bring great destruction, whereas universal religion would teach you ethics which are supranational and override nationalistic feelings. He says:

7 (v)


جو پیرہن اس کا ہے، مذہب کا کفن ہے
غارت گرِ کا شانہ دینِ نبوی ہے
اسلام ترا دیں ہے، تو مصطفوی ہے

ان تازہ خداوں میں بڑا سب سے، وطن ہے
یہ بُت کہ ترا شیدہ تہذیبِ نوی ہے
بازو ترا توحید کی قوت سے قوی ہے


 “Of these new fangled gods, the greatest is Nationalism;

That which is its garment is the coffin-shroud of religion.

This idol that has been carved by the modern civilization

Is the plunderer of the house of the Prophet?

Your arms have been made strong by the power of God’s oneness [here he speaks to the Muslims]

Islam is your homeland: you are the children of the immaculate Prophet.” [Muhammad.]

And finally, towards the end of his life, when he was dying in 1938, there was a great religious divine, Hussain Ahmad Madani, who had made a speech. Iqbal wrote these lines a couple of months before he died, which were published posthumously in November 1938 in the book”ارمغانِ حجاز (‘The Gift from Hedjaz’):   °


سرود بر سر منبر کہ ملت از وطن است
چہ بے خبرز مقام محمد
ؐ عربی است


“He [Hussain Ahmad of Deoband] sang from the pulpit that nations are fashioned by their countries.

How ignorant is he of the standpoint of Muhammad of Arabia!”

Because Muhammad of Arabia taught that you do not belong to one country, or to one nation, or to one race. This [Islam} is God’s command for all mankind.

I think this is probably enough for trying to summarize Iqbal’s message. If I have another five minutes, I’ll just tell you a couple of things about his life. As I said earlier, Iqbal had gone to Cambridge, and a couple of things interested me about ten years ago when we were celebrating his centenary. The question arose, when was he born?, because there was a great deal of controversy about his date of birth. I went to Cambridge University where he had taken his degree: I found that Iqbal had written there in the register that he was born in the month of Muharram 1876. Then I looked at his thesis. ‘The Development of Metaphysics’, in which he says, I was born in Dhu corresponds to 1877 AD Qa’d 1294 All (which actually He had stayed in a place) in .Then I was in Schellingstrasse [No h41], years ago, was very impressed, because the Germans are so thorough that he I and there had stayed there for three to four weeks about 80 ears they still had all the archives. I years ago, and they blithely        got a copy, of the archives, where gives his date of birth as 10th of July 1876. So, I have come to the conclusion that he did not know exactly when he was born. Earlier on, I had become interested in his thesis that sitting in Munich (where, in the preface, he gives his date of birth). So, I had thought, let us go and have a look at that thesis. This was in 1976. I went to Munich (to attend a science conference) decided to visit the University library. I have given full details and my book ‘Iqbal in Europe’ (Iqbalian Urdu) - but, in a nutshell, when I went a the Munich, University Library (in October 1976),  it disappeared. When I persisted in appeared that Iqbal’s searching for it, I was told thesis had the Director of the Library, Herr Dr L. Buzas) that it had, in fact, been given away as a gift to the Government of India. The Indian Government had told the University that they were celebrating the centenary of the great man (in around 1973) - a great Indian poet, Sir Muhammad Iqbal - and were therefore collecting his memorabilia. This was a great shock - to discover that the thesis had not gone to Pakistan, but to India.

But the thing that started puzzling me soon thereafter was the following question: How did Iqbal manage to write this thesis, which was around 200 pages long, when his stay in Germany was for a total of only about 3 months (end of July 1907 to the beginning of November 1907), Now there might be brilliant students here at Leuven University who are able to write a thesis of 200 pages on the Development of Metaphysics in Persia in about 6 weeks, but I thought that it was very unlikely that he (Iqbal) could actually have done that. So I was puzzling about it, and finally I discovered that it was the same thesis that he had actually submitted at Cambridge (in March 1907): he had made a few deletions, submitted it at the University of Munich, and got his Ph.D. degree from there in November 1907. (Fuller details of this whole quest, and the discovery, will be found in my above-mentioned book, ‘ Iqbal in Europe’). It transpired that in 1907 there used to be no Ph.D. degrees at the University of Cambridge (or at any other British University, for that matter). All bright students were encouraged to go to Germany for this purpose.

Here, if I may, I should like to conclude my talk by just showing a few overhead projections ‑‑ if your projector works. Being trained as a physicist, I have brought a few overhead projection transparencies ‑‑ for which I had requested a projector to be made available. (Good, it works!). So, I would like to conclude by showing you a few of these projections. I was in Munich in October 1987 (for another science conference!), and took the opportunity to look for any record of Iqbal’s activities at the University back in 1907. What I wanted to find out was how he had managed to get his Ph.D. degree in about three months. Luckily I was successful. I went to the Archives Department of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat, Munchen (Munich), and found that there were a very interesting series of notes or archival material sitting there. The first projection shows you here [see Figure 1] a long note by Iqbal’s thesis `supervisor’, Professor (Fritz) Hommel, written in October 1907. What he says in it, in gist, is something like this.

“Look, I have a big problem on my hands (he says, in writing to another Professor): this chap has turned up, and has brought a thesis called ‘The Development of Metaphysics in Persia’, but I know nothing about Islam myself. In all my life I have attended only four lectures on Islam, and only one-quarter of one of them dealt with metaphysics! So, how am I going to test this chap - to give him, or not to give him, a degree?” But he then adds that, luckily, the problem is solved by the fact that there is a letter by Professor Thomas Arnold, currently the Professor of Arabic at the University of London (which he reproduces). I (the present speaker) will give you a gist of what Professor (later Sir Thomas) Arnold says in that letter. He says: I know this thesis well. It is full of new things that Iqbal has brought out from Arabic and Persian sources, which were not known in the West - and therefore it is a very valuable contribution to knowledge from original sources. So, on the basis of this letter, Hommel says: “Good. I think that makes sense; we should give him the degree. What do you think?” The file goes to the next professor, who has a very difficult handwriting [see Figure 2], in a type of German script which was characteristic of the turn of the last century and of the early 1900s. And this Professor, von Hertling - who was a famous man: he was professor of Catholic religion at Munich, and then he became the Chancellor of Bavaria, and later the Chancellor of the whole of Germany (like Chancellor Konrad Adenauer) in 1920 - he says that, “This thesis is the work of a man of great learning. And here ends’all that I can say. Because I know nothing about the actual development of metaphysics in Persia. All my knowledge is based on medieval Latin sources, and therefore I am unable to say anything meaningful. But since Professor Thomas Arnold is saying that this is a very good thesis, so it must be a very good thesis.” (It is a bit like that famous speech by Antony in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’: ‘Brutus says so         and Brutus is an honourable man!’) “So let’s give him a degree” (says Professor von Hertling). Then - but I’ll omit a few more notes and comments in that file in which some other professors of Munich University have given their opinions.

Then the most interesting thing that I found in the archives is this - that they decided to test how well his (Iqbal’s Orientalische (Arabische) Philologie - i.e. Oriental (Arabic) Philology - was. So what they did was that they said: Let us say that his main topic (for the oral examination) should be Oriental (and in particular Arabic) Language and Literature! - i.e., although the candidate had said that he wanted a degree in philosophy, they said, in effect, that since we don’t know much about his philosophy, let us test him in Oriental Philology. And so the main subject of his examination should (they decided) be Arabic Philology. The second, subsidiary, subject should be English Philology; and the third, subsidiary, subject should be Philosophy [see Figure 3].

This is very amusing. As I was saying to some friends, this is like somebody going and submitting a thesis on Nuclear Physics at the Sorbonne University in Paris. And these people say that. ‘We don’t understand anything about nuclear physics; so let’s test how good his English is!’ So, instead of giving him an oral examination in philosophy, they gave him a viva voce in Arabic. And they Were very impressed - they gave him a first class in Arabic; and they gave him a second class in English. I have a notion that this is because they probably thought that: ‘His English is quite good - he comes from India; but we are Europeans, and our English is also quite good. On the other hand, his Arabic is better than ours.’ So they gave him a First (I) in Arabic, but only a Second (II) in English. But they gave him a Third (III) in philosophy [Figure 3] - which is really a preposterous thing to have done to a genius. I talked about this to people in Munich (e.g. Dr Buzas, who is now retired) - and they said this is probably because they (the examiners) wanted to remain on the safe side. Tomorrow (these university professors may have argued) somebody may object to some philosophical point in this thesis - so we could then say that we actually gave him only a III. But, on the whole, they thought that the thesis was extremely good - so they gave him an overall cum laude (with distinction or praise). This overall result of Note or Mark II from the University of Munich is actually quite high.

The final two or three transparencies now. I had done some similar detective work at the University of Cambridge a few years earlier (1982). I had then argued that since he had only spent about three months in Germany, when he was also learning the language and going round sight-seeing, etc., he wouldn’t have had much time. So obviously he must have written his thesis in Cambridge. And I had located his original type-written thesis in the Manuscripts Department of the Cambridge University Library in June 1982 - of which I have given full details in my aforementioned book.

This time, encouraged by my success at the Munich University archives, I decided to look inside the archives of Cambridge University Library. And there in the archives I found, in November 1987 (i.e. a month after Munich) some very interesting material–which showed all the developments that had taken place there. The next overhead projection [Figure 4] shows the entry in the minute’s book, dated 16 March 1906 and signed by Professor W.R. Sorley, who was the Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. It says (and please remembers that Iqbal had arrived in Cambridge in October 1905):

2.   An application was received from Muhammad Iqbal (sic), M.A., of the Punjab University, for admission as an Advanced Student to a Course of Research, the subject proposed being “the Genesis & Development Of Metaphysical Conceptions In Persia”

It was decided to grant the application.

It was agreed to request Dr. McTaggart to direct the studies of the student; and Dr. McTaggart consented to do so.

16 March 1906

(sd) W.R. Sorley

 (Please notice that the proposed subject is slightly different than the final version of the -thesis title which said the ‘Development of Metaphysics in Persia’. McTaggart was the distinguished Hegelian Professor at the University.)

There are only three projections in all. The second one I show here [Figure 5] is the following. It (the minute of the Committee) says:

A meeting of the Degree Committee of the Special Board for Moral Science(s) was held at Syndicate Buildings on Thursday. March 7, 1907.

Present: Dr. Keynes (in the Chair), Prof. Ward, Prof. Sorley, Dr. McTaggart, Mr. Rivers.

1.   The minutes of the last meeting were read and confirmed.

2.   Prof. Sorley and Mr. Nicholson (or, in the event of Mr. Nicholson’s declining to serve, Professor Browne) were appointed referees for a dissertation submitted by Mr. Iqbal (sic), a Research Student, on “The Development of Metaphysics in Persia”

3.   It was agreed to ask Prof. Sorley to communicate with (2) Mr. Nicholson with reference to the dissertation.

(sd) J.N. Keynes,

7 May 1907

(I may mention here that at that time he was Mr. - and not yet Professor–Nicholson. He later translated Iqbal’s ‘Secrets of the Self – and thus introduced him to the West – and also much of Maulana – Rum. He has written four books on Maulana Rum, as Professor Schimmel mentioned earlier today. And as you know, Professor Browne was a very great Orientalist: Professor E.G. Browne, who mentions Iqbal in his History of Persian Literature.)

And the final document I wish to show you is the one which records the decision to grant Iqbal the degree. It says [see Figure 6]:

A meeting of the Degree Committee of the Special Board for Moral Science was held at Syndicate Buildings on Tuesday, May 7, 1907 after the-meeting of the Board.

The same members were present.

1.   The minutes of the last meeting were read and confirmed.

2.   Reports of Mr Iqbal’s dissertation on the “Development of Metaphysics in Persia” from Prof. Sorley and Mr. Nicholson having been read, it was agreed unanimously that “in the opinion of the Board the dissertation is of distinction as an original contribution to learning”

(sd) J.N. Keynes


30 October 1907

So at least the Cambridge people had properly examined the thesis. (Incidentally, the signatory is Dr. J.N. Keynes - the father of the great economist, John Maynard Keynes (later, Lord Keynes). Dr Keynes, the father, was a geographer.) So, as I said, at least at the University of Cambridge they had properly evaluated Iqbal’s thesis, and they had given him a B.A. degree. And one of the professors at Cambridge, the other day, when, I gave a talk there at Trinity College on Iqbal Day [22 November 1989], said afterwards in his concluding speech:

Look, how good our University is. What we gave Iqbal a B.A. degree for, the University of Munich gave him a Ph.D. for!

This, of course, was said lightheartedly. The main reason, as I mentioned earlier, was that there used to he no Ph.D.- degree in British Universities those days - so Iqbal went to Munich, and got his Ph.D. there.

I think with these words I would like to finish. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for your patience.

Professor U. Vermeulen: Professor Durrani, I thank you very much for your scholarly and pleasantly delivered lecture, which gave us a good introduction to what is called, truly I think, the Wisdom of the East.

De Afdeling Aziatische en Islamitische Studies

(Department Orientalistiek)


Inforientnodigen U vriendelijk uit tot de activiteiten van de



donderdag II januari 1990

in de

Justus Lipsius-zaal (8ste verdieping)

Van het Erasmus Gebouw (Letteren en Wijsbegeerte)

Blijde Inkomststraat, 21, 3000 Leuven



14.00 u.: Prof. Dr. U. Vermeulen (Voorzitter Departement Orientalist.iek): Pakistan, Iqbal end de K.U. Leuven.

14.15 u.: Z. E. de Heer M. Akram (Ambassadeur van de Islamitische :Republiek Pakistan) Some ideas about Pakistan and Iqbal.

14.30 u.: Prof. Dr. A. Schimmel (Universiteiten van Harvard en Bonn) Iqbal, a bridge between East and West. 15.30 u. : Prof. Dr. S. Durrani (Universiteit Birmingham) : Life and work of Iqbal.

16.15 u. : Prof. Dr. H. Rizvi (Universiteit Heidelberg) : Pakistan : the making of a Nation. Koffie – Pauze



Note by Dr Lawrence Barfield

Most of the photographs exhibited at the Arnold Day Conference were taken during Arnold’s stay in Aligarh (1888-1898), before his meeting with Iqbal in Lahore. We unfortunately have no photographs of Arnold and Iqbal together.

1.   Thomas Walker Arnold (1864-1930) in his youth.

2.   Arnold with his students at Aligarh. While at Aligarh Arnold often taught in Islamic dress.

3.   Meeting of an Islamic society in front of the ‘Duty Shop’ at Aligarh. Arnold is standing in the second row fifth from the left. Those seated in the front include Aftab Ahmed Khan (fifth from the left), Nawab Mohsinul Mulk (sixth from the left) and Maulavi Nazir Ahmad (seventh from the left).

4.   Arnold at Aligarh, probably being taught the Koran, by a Muslim scholar (Shibli?)

5.   Arnold with his students, probably at Lahore at the time of his departure from India in 1904. (One of the students is presumably holding the farewell address.)

6.   Arnold with his wife May (seated on his left) and daughter Nancy (then six years old, sitting on the ground) at Aligarh at the time of their departure from India in 1904.

Figure Captions

Fig. 1     Note by Professor F. Hommel in the Munich University archives on Iqbal (1907)

Fig. 2     Note by Professor von Healing in the Munich University archives (1907)

Fig. 3     Results of S.M. Iqbal’s oral examination at Munich University (4 Nov. 1907)

Fig. 4     Minute 2 of a meeting of the University of Cambridge Special Board for Moral Sciences concerning Iqbal’s admission as an Advanced Student of the University (from Cambridge University Library (CUL) archives. 1906)

Fig. 5     Minutes of a meeting of the Degree Committee of the University of Cambridge concerning the appointment of referees for Iqbal’s dissertation (CUL) archives, 1907)

Fig. 6     Minutes or a meeting of the Degree Committee of the University of Cambridge concerning the acceptance of Iqbal’s dissertation (CUL) archives, 1907)


٭ Transcript of an Invited Lecture given by Dr. S.A. Durrani at the Pakistan Day Symposium, held on 11th January 1990 at the Department of Oriental Studies, Catholic University of Leuven, near Brussels, Belgium.

[1] Iqbal in Europe (in Urdu) by S.A. Durrani: Iqbal Academy Pakistan, 1985

[2] Old boys of the Government College, Lahore

[3]کلیات اقبال ، اردو  ص 347

 [4]ایضا  ص 345

[5]ایضا   ص 348

[6] ایضا   ص 148

 [7] ایضا  فارسی ص 298

 [8]ایضا اردو  ص 306

[9] ایضا  فارسی ص 297

[10]  ایضا  ص 349

[11]  ایضا  ص 491

 [12]ایضا  اردو  ص 278

[13]  ایضا  ص 343

[14]  ایضا  ص 311

[15] ایضا  ص 377

[16] ایضا   فارسی ص 467                  

[17] ایضا اردو ص 387

[18] ایضا  فارسی ص 518

[19] ایضا  ص 451

[20] ایضا ص 286

[21] ایضا  ص 467

[22]ایضا  ص 467

[23]ایضا  ص 473

[24]ایضا ص 475

[25]ایضا ص 486

 [26]کلیات اقبال، اردو  ص 401

[27] ایضا ص 400

[28]ایضا  ص 555

[29] ایضا  فارسی ص 222

[30] ایضا  ص 222

 ایضا اردو  ص 160[31]