Seldom do poets gain such tremendous recognition in two languages as Iqbal has. And no one can doubt that he has carved a niche for himself in both Urdu and Indo-Persian literature.
In Urdu literature Iqbal was by far the greatest after Ghalib, he is also the foremost poet in today's century. As for Persian literature, one would have only to refer to Professor A.J. Arberry (d. 1969). He considers that The Tulip of Sinai, Iqbal's first Persian work, which Arberry translated, belongs with the front-rank of modern Persian literature.
Although often called the 'poet of Islam,' lqbal's appeal is universal. "It is not necessary to be a Muslim or even a mystic' to turn to Iqbal or enjoy him," says Iqbal Singh, probably the only biographer of Iqbal in English, in The Ardent Pilgrim (1947). Iqbal's content and style, changed with time, but that only indicated an unceasing progression in ideas and mastery in craftsmanship. There was one cause to which he was deeply committed and that was justice. He abhhored all types of injustice. His first was a crusade against the injustices metted out to India, then to Islam and the Muslim world, and later to the common man, the lumpin proletariat of all lands and humanity at large. His soul-stirring God's Command to His Angels", wherein he makes the clarion call to "Rise from their slumber, wake the poor ones of my world!", ranks among his greatest poems.
Iqbal was deeply affected by Muslim sufferings at the hands of the colonial powers, especially, during the first two decades of the twentieth century. The nationalist credo flourishing in various Muslim countries was also making inroads with Muslims in India, leading them to raise separate nationalist altars. Nationalism seemed to have racialized the Muslim outlook, rivening the Islamic ummah concept and defeating the unity of the Muslim world, and, in consequence, making them all the more susceptible to western aggression, exploitation and designs. Thus Iqbal came to opt for pan-Islam, for Islam-based unity, reminding Muslims that they were
Not Afghans, Turks, or
sons of Tatary,
But of one garden, and one trunk, are we;
Shun the criterion of scent and hue
We all the nurslings of one springtime be.
At the insistence of a
friend, Iqbal had tried to write some verses
in Persian, while in England. Finding Persian more congenial to his thoughts, he composed the Asrar-iKhudi; whose publication in 1915 made him famous in India and abroad. As he also wished to reach a wider audience in Iran, Afghanistan and stretches of Turkey and Central Asia, his next two works, Ramuz-i-Bekhudi (1918) and Pyam-i-Mashriq (1923) were also in Persian.
These three works represented a steady progression in his ideas. The Asrar preached the development of the individual self through a constant and ceaseless struggle while the Ramuz discussed the imperatives in the societal development, and relations between individuals in creating a well-integrated, cohesive, progressive and forward-looking society. By the time he wrote the Pyam, he was supremely convinced of the intrinsic Eastern thought and values, and felt confident to discuss their influence on German literature.
Professor Nicholson, Iqbal's tutor at Cambridge, translated (1920) the Asrar into English while Professor Arberry Payam's first part, The Thlip of Sinai (1947). Parts of the Asrar were also rendered into German and Italian later.
Iqbal's first collected work in Urdu was Bang-i-Dara ("The Call of the Caravan Bell") (1924), the unusual title being suggestive of the mission he had set for himself as a poet:
In the darkness of the
I will lead my wean~ caravan,
My sighs will remit spark,
And my breath will raise flames.
Then came Zahur-iAjam (1927), parts of which were, again, translated by Professor Arberry under the title, Persian Psalms. Next came the Javed Nama (1932) - a rather lengthy poem. Somewhat patterned after Dante's The Divine Comedy, it describes a visit to the Upper World by the poet's soul along with Jalauddin Rumi (d. 1272), the great Persian mystic.
Bal-i-Jibril (1935), Iqbal's second book of Urdu poems, came eleven years after Bang-i-Dara. Zarb-i-Kalim (1936), which soon followed, a constant refrain with Iqbal in most of his Persian poems. Kiernan's Poems of Iqbal (1947) in English comprises a selection from these three works.
In the Pas Che Bayed Kard aye Aqwam-i-Sharq and Musafir, both in Persian, which came next, the poet carries forward his complaint against the West, and renews his call for unity of Muslims and united action against their despoilers.
Armughan-i-Hijaz (1938), the last collection of his Urdu and Persian poems, which was posthumously published, represents, as it were, Iqbal's farewell message to the world. In a sense, it sums up his life-long credo -adhering to the moral principles, preached, propagated and practiced by the Prophet (PBUH).
Iqbal wrote copiously and wrote remarkably well - poems of a high caliber, a good many of them touching ethereal heights. As Professor H.A.R. Gibb remarked in his Chicago Lectures (1946), his poems "reflected and put into vivid words the diverse currents of ideas that were agitating the minds of Indian Muslims. His sensitive poetic temperament mirrored all that impinged upon it. Every Indian dissatisfied with the state of things religious, social, or political could and did find in Iqbal a sympathizer with his troubles and his aspirations and an adviser who bade him seek the way out by self-expression."
Thus, Iqbal's deeply inspired verses worked almost magic, leading Muslims to cast off slough of despondency, goading them to a new sense of consciousness and confidence, strengthening their moral fiber, and preparing them for struggle ahead, both chologically and otherwise. But for the climate fostered by Iqbal's message long decades, it is debatable whether the Pakistan movement, when it was finally launched, could have picked up so remarkably as an avalanche stemming all opposition and culminating so successfully in such a short while.
Interestingly Iqbal self seemed supremely confident about the monu-mental significance work. Barely a few hours before his death uttered a quatrain which almost sounded like an epitaph:
The melodies by may come
The Zepher 1mm may come agahi
The days of this are ended now,
And yet another may come or not