-Iqbal was born in the Punjab onFebruary 22, 1873.
His ancestors, who were Kashmiri Brahmins, had embraced Islam two
hundred years earlier.Iqbal's own father was a devout Muslim with
Sufisticbent of mind.
He received his early education in Sialkot. After passing the entrance
examination, he joined Intermediary College. Mir Hassan, a great
oriental scholar, had a special aptitude for imparting his own literary
taste and to his students. Under his influence, Iqbal was drawn
towards Islamic studies, which he regarded to be an outstanding
favor that he could not forget it all his life.
Passing on to the Government College of Lahore, Iqbal did his graduation
with English Literature, Philosophy and Arabic as his subjects.
At the college he met Prof. Arnold and Sir Abdul Qadir. Iqbal’s
poem, Chand (moon) and other early poems appeared in the journal
(which belonged to Sir Abdul Qadir) in 1901 and were acclaimed by
critics as cutting a new path in Urdu poetry.
It did not take him long to win recognition as a rising
star on the firmament of Urdu literature.In the mean time he had
done his MA in Philosophy and was appointed as a Lecturer in History,
Philosophy and Political science at Oriental College, Lahore. He
then moved to Government College to teach Philosophy and English
Literature.Wherever Iqbal worked or thought his versatility and
scholarship made a deep impression on those around him.
Iqbal proceeded to Europe for higher studies in 1905 and
stayed there for three years. He took the Honors Degree in Philosophy
and taught Arabic at the Cambridge University in the absence of
Prof. Arnold. From England, he went to Germany to do his doctorate
in Philosophy from Munich and then returned to London to qualify
for the bar. He also served as a teacher in the London school of
Commerce and passed the Honors Examination in Economics and Political
Science. During his stay in Europe Iqbal not only read voraciously
but also wrote and lectured on Islamic subjects which added to his
popularity and fame in literary circles.Iqbal returned to India
in 1908. The poet had won all these academic laurels by the time
he was 32 or 33. He practiced as a lawyer from 1908 to 1934, when
ill health compelled him to give up his practice. In fact, his heart
was not in it and he devoted more time to philosophy and literature
than to legal profession.
He attended the meetings of Anjuman Himayat-I-Islam regularly at
Lahore. The epoch making poems, Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa, which
he read out in the annual convention of it one year after another,
sparkled with the glow of his genius and made him immensely popular.
They became the national songs of Millet.Iqbal’s other poems
Tarana-e-Hind (The Indian anthem) and Tarana-e-Milli (the Muslim
Anthem) also became very popular among masses and used to be sung
as symbols of National or Muslim identity at public meetings.The
Balkan wars and the Battle of Tripoli, in 1910, shook Iqbal powerfully
and inflicted a deep wound upon his heart. In his mood of anger
and frustration, he wrote a number of stirring poems, which together
with portraying the anguish of Muslims were severely critical of
The spirit of change is evident in poems like Bilad-e-Islamia (the
lands of Islam), Wataniat (Nationalism), Muslim, Fatima Bint Abdullah
(who was killed in the siege of Cyrainca, Siddiq, Bilal, Tahzib-e-Hazir
(Modern civilization) and Huzoor-e-Risalat Maab Mein (in the presence
of Sacred Prophet).In these poems, Iqbal deplores the attitude of
Muslim leaders who lay a claim to Islamic leadership and yet are
devoid of a genuine spiritual attachment to the blessed Prophet.
Iqbal was shaken by the tragic events of World War I and the disaster
the Muslims had to face. The genius had passed through the formative
period. He had attained maturity as a poet, thinker, seer and crusader
who could read the signs of tomorrow in the happenings of today,
make predictions, present hard facts and unravel abstruse truths
through the medium of poetry and ignite the flame of faith, Selfhood
and courage by his own intensity of feeling and force of expression.
Khizr-e-Raah (The Guide) occupies the place of pride among the
poems he wrote during this period. Bang-e-Dara (The caravan
bell) published in 1929 has held a place of honor in Urdu poetry
and world poetry.
Iqbal preferred Persian for poetic expression because its circle
was wider than that of Urdu in Muslim India. His Persian works,
Asrar-e-khudi (Secrets of the self), Rumuz-e-Bekhudi (Mysteries
of Selflessness), Payam-e-Mashriq (Message of the East),
Javed Nama (The Song of Eternity) belong to the same period
of his life. And so is Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam,
which was extensively appreciated and translated into many languages.
Academies were set up in Italy and Germany for the study of Iqbal’s
poetry and philosophy.
In 1927 the poet was elected to the Punjab Legislative assembly.
In 1930, he was elected to preside over at the annual session of
Muslim League. In his presidential address at Allahabad, Iqbal for
the first time introduced the idea of Pakistan. In 1930-31, he attended
the Round Table conference, which met in London to frame a constitution
The last phase of Iqbal’s life was embittered with constant
illness. But as regards his creative activities this product was
most productive. He kept in touch with every question of the day
and continued composing beautiful verses.
A few minutes before his death he recited these touching lines:
The departed melody may return or not!
The zephyr from Hijaz may blow again or not!
The days of this Faqir has come to an end,
Another seer may come or not!
Although Iqbal’s was long and protracted the
end was sudden and very peaceful. He breathed his last in the early
hours of April 21, 1938, in the arms of his old and devoted servant,
leaving behind a host of mourners all over the Islamic world. There
was a faint smile playing on his lips, which irresistibly reminded
one of the last criterions, which he laid down for a truthful Muslim.
I tell you the sign of a Mumin-
"When death comes there is smile
on his lips".