A FEW WORDS TO THE ARAB PEOPLE
EXPLANATORY NOTE

Iqbal’s “Address to the Arab People” is motivated by his firm belief that the people of the desert (or of the mountains) alone are potentially capable, by their nature and upbringing, to promote the interests of human welfare and establish the rule of law and social justice. He says:

[The secret of Prophethood in all ages is:
Desert air, Shu’aib and day and night vigil of the flock.]
1

And negatively, when the roots of our people with the desert are broken, Iqbal thinks, they tend to deteriorate socially and morally. Speaking of the Muslim Community, symbolised as a “Desert Tulip,” he says:

[The compassionate tulip couldn’t flourish in the garden,
this world of wheat and barley does not suit its nature ]
2

In 1922, when Ataturk was fighting for his people’s survival, undaunted by the might of the victorious British and French forces which were supporting the aggressive attacks of the invading Greek armies, Iqbal wrote a poem in which he states this fact very clearly in the context of Turkish decline:

[It is the desert air that suits our nature:
the wafts of the garden breeze bring grief and death.]
3

is address, therefore, to the Arab people is mainly in the hope that as they have their roots in the desert, they may give birth once again to “great people like Faruq and Salman”.4

When he wrote Asrar-i Khudi which was finally published in 1915, he advocated a return to Arabic literature for inspiration and advised Muslims to give up studying Persian poetry:

 [Thou hast gathered roses from the garden of Persia
And seen the springtide of India and Iran:
Now taste a little of the beat of the desert,
Drink the old wine of the date!.
Now throw thyself on the burning sand
And plunge into the fountain of Zemzem!...
That thy body and soul may burn in Life’s fire!
That thou may’st be fit for Life’s battle.]
5

Iqbal refers to the glorious history of the Arabs who under the inspiration of the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet were able to make phenomenal advance in every branch of knowledge; establish a social order in which man for the first time perhaps was able to realise his uniqueness as an individual, free from bondage to other people like himself and from the heavy load of false traditions; bring about the State based on moral and spiritual values congenial to the development of man in society; develop a synthesis of intellect and spiritual outlook that flowered into unique architectural achievements in the field of Fine Arts. Iqbal warns the Arabs that in order to recapture their old glory and recreate their life, rich in creative efforts and fruitful activity, it is necessary to turn away from the baneful influence of the West, its thoughts and institutions. The Western nations, in order to promote their political and economic interests, have divided the single Arab nation into different nationalities, so small that in the comity of nations they lost their rightful place arising out of vast contiguous areas inhabited by them in Asia and Africa, rich in mineral resources and political manpower. In order to defeat the conspiracies of the enemies, they must unite once again But this unity, according to Iqbal, must come on the basis of their common faith and not on the basis of race, language or geography. It is a good augury that after several Un-successful attempts, efforts are now being made to bring different Arab States together in a Commonwealth of Arab People.

 


1.         Darb-i Kalim, p. 74.

2.         Bal-i Jibril, p. 107.

3.         Payam-i M’ashriq, p. 161.

4.         Darb-i Kalim, p. 182.

5.         Asrar, pp. 42-43. Eng. transl. by R.A. Nicholson, Secrets of the Self, p. 70.