The term ‘Iqbal’s Pakistan’ is frequently used in the Pakistani media – both electronic media such as television and radio, and Pakistani daily newspapers. If you search on the internet, you will come across several results under the term ‘Iqbal’s Pakistan’ in online papers, articles published in local journals or magazines and on sites reviewing seminars and conferences held in the country. You will find the term on YouTube and other similar websites where video recordings of talk shows, sitcoms, and Urdu plays are posted with the theme – Iqbal ka Pakistan – the Urdu term for Iqbal’s Pakistan.
What does the term ‘Iqbal’s Pakistan’ mean? And what is the relationship between Iqbal and Pakistan? Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, popularly known as ‘the spiritual father of Pakistan’ and leading Persian and Urdu poet of undivided India, presented the idea of “the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State” in his presidential address to the 25th session of the All-India Muslim League held in Allahabad on 29 December, 1930. He also stated that: “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”. This idea presented by Muhammad Iqbal was later adopted by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan as a proposal for the establishment of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent. Mohommad Iqbal has ever since been revered in Pakistan as a national hero just like his political counterpart Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Muhammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher, was born in Sialkot (now in central Punjab, Pakistan) on 9 November 1877. Iqbal was engaged in the study of Arabic and Persian in his early years but later on the advice of Sir Thomas Arnold, his teacher of philosophy at the Government College of Lahore, he travelled to Cambridge in 1905 to continue his studies. He also studied at Heidelberg and Munich universities in Germany. Upon his return to India, he both taught at the Government College and worked as a lawyer in Lahore. In 1922, Iqbal received the knighthood from the British Crown. In 1928, he delivered a series of lectures in various universities in India which was later published under the title The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, a work that provides significant context and guidelines for his ideas expressed in his poetry. Written in both Urdu and Persian, Iqbal’s poetry continues to inspire Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent and beyond. Iqbal died on April 21, 1938 in Lahore and his mausoleum beside the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore is visited by many today.
Iqbal’s poetry has been used in several national contexts. Muhammad Iqbal claims admiration among intellectual Pakistanis, both intelligentsia and young students. To this day, in Pakistani schools, each morning students, teachers and other staff assemble and sing one of Iqbal’s famous poems written for children ‘Lab pay aati hai du’a ban ke tamanna meri’ (My longing comes to my lips as supplication of mine-O God! May like the candle be the life of mine). Similarly, speech contests related to Muhammad Iqbal and his vision of the Indian Muslim state are held in Pakistani schools and colleges while his poetry is frequently quoted in public talks. Pakistani politicians, leaders and other professionals often quote Iqbal’s poetry to support their own progressive ideas. Iqbal’s poetry has also been frequently used by religious scholars and Islamic hardliners to articulate their own religious views. His works have been translated in several regional languages of South Asia as well as several European languages, among others English, German, and Spanish.
Annemarie Schimmel, a famous scholar, pointed out that Muhammad Iqbal “… has been regarded as the unsurpassable master of every virtue and art; he has been made a forerunner of socialism or an advocate of Marxism; he was anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist; he was the poet of the elite and of the masses, the true interpreter of orthodox Islam and the advocate of a dynamic and free interpretation of Islam, the enemy of Sufism and a Sufi himself; he was indebted to Western thought and criticized everything Western mercilessly. One can call him a political poet, because his aim was to awaken the self-consciousness of Muslims, primarily in the Indian Subcontinent but also in general, and his poetry was indeed instrumental in bringing forth decisive changes in the history of the Subcontinent. One can also style him a religious poet, because the firm belief in the unending possibilities of the Koran and the deep and sincere love of the Prophet (in both his quality as nation-builder and as eternal model for man) are the bases of his poetry and philosophy”.
The question is – why do the Pakistanis use the term ‘Iqbal’s Pakistan’? What would be Iqbal’s Pakistan like?
A large part of Muhammad Iqbal’s poetry is dedicated to the youth. He wished to see the Muslim youth vibrant in its ideals, determined in its actions and high-aiming in its approach to life. He said,
“I have love for those youngsters who pull the stars down.”
Using the analogy of ‘Shaheen’ (the Urdu/Persian terminology used for an eagle) in his poetry, Muhammad Iqbal draws his readers’ attention to the qualities of an eagle ‘the king of birds’. An eagle, Iqbal says, has a sharp vision, it does not live on the prey that has been hunted down by other birds or animals, it lives on the peaks of high mountains and finally, it does not build a nest. These qualities of an eagle that Iqbal describes in his poetry symbolize a life of independence, dignity, freedom, and self-reliance. By using the symbol of a ‘Shaheen’ in his poetry, Iqbal attempts to inculcate in the Muslim youth an approach towards life that contains high ideals followed by action. In addressing the youth he wrote,
“You can only claim a universe to be yours that is created by you
Do not consider this world made of stone and wood that is in sight, your universe!”
Muhammad Iqbal attempted to create self-consciousness among the Muslims of India so that they might free themselves from the British control on the one hand and the domination of Hindus on the other. In his poem, ‘Shaheen’, Iqbal expresses his ideas using the example of an eagle:
East and West ‐these belong to the world of the pheasant,
The blue sky—vast, boundless—is mine!
This symbolism in Muhammad Iqbal’s poetry is not merely an expression of his mystical thoughts but, he invokes the Muslim youth, these ideals can be and must be achieved through a transformed knowledge about the Self. Many of Iqbal’s poems talk about the Self: “…the system of the universe originates in the Self, and that the continuation of the life of all individuals depends on strengthening the Self”. The human identity, according to Iqbal, is boundless, if realized to its true worth. Iqbal challenges the youth to realize their real worth by tapping into the qualities that belong to al-insaan (the perfect human) present in each human being. Iqbal’s concept of mard-e-mo’min (a man of conviction, belief) which he uses a number of times in his poetry seems to have become an ideal for the Pakistani youth.
“He (mo’min) is mild in speech and wild in action.
Be it battlefield or the assembly of friends, he is pure of heart and action.”
There are examples of constructive criticism in Iqbal’s poetry as a means of creating a feeling of restlessness amidst the youth so that they may become actively engaged in productive contemplation that ultimately leads to action. In several examples of his poetry, Muhammad Iqbal addresses his own son, Javaid (then a young boy below the age of 10) but indirectly he is addressed to the youth in general, an example of which are the following verses,
“Create a place for thyself in the realm of Love
Create a new age, new days, new nights
If God grant thee an eye for nature’s beauty
Create poetry from the silence of tulips and roses (Converse with the silence of flowers, respond to their love)
My way of life is poverty, not the pursuit of wealth
Barter not thy Selfhood, win a name in adversity”
Iqbal’s Muslim hero “…is a man of action and a man of the world, but his approach to the world is non-materialistic. According to Iqbal, it is through love and through a focus on one’s inner self that man can achieve the absolute form of freedom”.
“Unflinching conviction, eternal action, and the love that conquers the world
These are the swords (weapons) of the brave ones that fight the war of life.”
Iqbal considers the knowledge of the Quran, the best knowledge for his youth. This idea is more clearly expressed in the following verses taken from his collection Armughan-i-Hijaz (1938):
Keep the Qur’an as a mirror before you.
You have completely changed, run away from yourself.
Fix a balance for your deeds [so that you may be able to],
Stir a commotion which your forbears stirred in the past.
Iqbal challenges the youth to rise above the national, ethnic and factional groupings and invites them to break loose of these limited references of identity. Whereas Iqbal professed the idea of unity among Muslims in his poetry, he also criticized a series of vices among Muslims. He attacked hypocrisy, sectarian and ethnic divisions. Iqbal’s Mard-e-Mo’min can claim his rule over the universe rather than be overpowered by meager emotions of nationalism or religious fanaticism. Iqbal’s inculcates important values of life through his messages to the youth,
“Here are Indians, there people of Khurasan, here Afghans, there Turanians—
You, who despise the shore, rise up and make yourself boundless.”
Muhammad Iqbal considered Turkey a good example for modern Muslim states. In The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, he writes:
“The truth is that among the Muslim nations of today, Turkey alone has shaken off its dogmatic slumber, and attained to self-consciousness. She alone has claimed her right of intellectual freedom; she alone has passed from the ideal to the real – a transition which entails keen intellectual and moral struggle”.
Iqbal also laments about the situation of Muslim countries,
“Such is the lot of most Muslim countries today. They are mechanically repeating old values, whereas the Turk is on the way to creating new values. He has passed through great experiences which have revealed his deeper self to him. In him life has begun to move, change, and amplify, giving birth to new desires, bringing new difficulties and suggesting new interpretations”.
In his writings, Iqbal attempted to instill amidst the Muslims a need for change in the ways that reflected a backward approach to life and to end all kinds of subjugation for progress. He aspired to see Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent and beyond regain success and revive their glorious past.
Iqbal had widely read and frequently made references to European philosophers, intellectuals and poets such as Hegel, Kant, Goethe, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and others in his poetry. He wrote his famous Persian poem Payam-e-Mashriq (‘Message of the East’) to Goethe’s West-Ostlicher which contains many fascinating remarks about European philosophers and politicians.
Iqbal’s poetry is considered to provide a ‘synthesis of both eastern and western thought and art’. He makes comparisons between Muslim and Western scholars in the fields of philosophy, science, and religious studies. Comparisons have been made between Iqbal’s message and Goethe’s ideas as well as interesting parallels are drawn between Iqbal’s and Kirkegaard (the Danish philosopher). Iqbal also compared Nietzsche’s Superman with his own Mard-e-Mo’min (Man of unflinching faith and belief) exemplified by Prophet Muhammad who “in the most exalted state of his ascension, was called ‘abduhu’”  His (i.e. God’s) servant’ (Quran 17:1). Similarly, parallels between Muhammad Iqbal and Søren Kierkegaard mainly focus on the idea of ‘the Self’ that both philosophers had presented as their philosophic vision.
In The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Iqbal makes a detailed analysis of the history of Islam and its past glory and compares it with the recurring supremacy of the Western thought in the fields of education, technology and science during the past 500 years. At times, one finds a dispassionate analysis in the writings of Muhammad Iqbal of the downfall of the Muslim empires and the rise of the European empires and Western supremacy.
Iqbal was also subjected to fierce criticism from different sides within the Indian Subcontinent. He has been criticized by Hindu authors who consider him “neither a philosopher, nor a poet nor a politician but only a fanatical Muslim nationalist who has sympathy only with his own nation and his coreligionists”. Iqbal also received strong criticism from the Muslim hardliners for writing poems such as “Shikwa” (A Complaint). However, he countered this criticism by writing a response to his own poem titled “Jawab-e-Shikwa” (Response to the Complaint) from God.
Through talk shows and other media representations under the term Iqbal’s Pakistan, the Pakistani youth look for answers to a variety of questions regarding Pakistan’s future. One finds a diversity of points of view on these online blogs, discussion forums, talk shows and online publications that use Muhammad Iqbal’s ideas for awakening both feelings of national pride in the youth and Islamic values. One can find an element of revolutionary zeal in their ideas and a dissatisfaction with the Pakistani leaders and politicians – in the way that Muhammad Iqbal himself who challenged the oppressive British colonial regime. These young Pakistanis refuse to look up to the west. Instead, they talk about building a Pakistan that has dignity in the community of nations, a Pakistan that moves ahead side by side with the developed nations of the world, not depending on the developed nations for economic aid alone. Voicing Iqbal’s vision of a nation, the Pakistani youth aspire to see a Pakistan where Islam and modern advancement go hand in hand and aspire for democracy not only as a political system but as a social system. They seem to encourage positive ideas and attitudes among the Pakistani youth.
Maybe the term ‘Iqbal’s Pakistan’ does not represent the original idea of Muhammad Iqbal about a separate state combining the Muslim-majority areas within India. However, the youth in the 21st century Pakistan seems to associate the future of Pakistan with Muhammad Iqbal and his vision about a land that provides opportunities for a life with freedom and dignity. In this way the youth in contemporary Pakistan seem to find guidelines in Iqbal’s writings for such a life and aspiration for a bright future of Pakistan,
“Come, so that we may strew roses and pour a measure of wine in the cup!
Let us split open the roof of the heavens and think upon new ways”.
NIAS Associate and PhD History of Religion, Copenhagen University
 Annemarie Schimmel, Gabriel’s Wing: A Study Into The Religious Ideas of Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1963, p.377.
 Muhammad Iqbal’s presidential address of 29 December, 1930 available online on http://www.tolueislam.org/Bazm/drIqbal/AI_address_1930.htm
 This description about the life of Muhammad Iqbal is taken in a summarized form from Annemarie Schimmel, “Iqbal, Muhammad”, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2004, available on http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/iqbal-muhammad
 Translation taken from http://www.allamaiqbal.com/webcont/230/frms/main.htm
 Translation taken from http://www.allamaiqbal.com/webcont/230/frms/main.htm
 Translation taken from http://iqbalurdu.blogspot.com/2011/04/bal-e-jibril-176-shaheen.html
 R.A.Nicholson, (translation) Iqbal’s poem, Asrar-e-Khudi ‘The Secrets of the Self’, 1950, p.9.
 Translation taken from http://www.allamaiqbal.com/webcont/230/frms/index.htm
 Translation taken from http://iqbalurdu.blogspot.dk/2011/04/bang-e-dra-163-tulu-e-islam.html
 M.A.Raja, “Muhammad Iqbal: Islam, the West, and the Quest for a Modern Muslim Identity”, The International Journal of the Asian Philosophical Association, 1:1, 2008, p.41.
 Translation taken from http://iqbalurdu.blogspot.com/2011/04/bang-e-dra-163-tulu-e-islam.html
 Translation taken from http://www.allamaiqbal.com/webcont/230/frms/index.htm
 Translation taken from http://iqbalurdu.blogspot.dk/2011/04/bang-e-dra-163-tulu-e-islam.html
 Allama Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1996, p. 142.
 Annemarie Schimmel, 2004 available on http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/iqbal-muhammad
 Ghulam Sabir, Kirkegaard and Iqbal: Startling Resemblances in Life and Thought, 1999, available online on http://www.allamaiqbal.com/publications/journals/review/oct99/3.htm
 Annemarie Schimmel, Gabriel’s Wing, p.378.
Translation taken from http://iqbalurdu.blogspot.dk/2011/04/bang-e-dra-163-tulu-e-islam.html
by Stig Toft Madsen, NIAS
On April 19th India test-fired a long-range ballistic missile designed to carry a nuclear bomb. With a range stated to be more than 3.100 miles, the missile would be able to reach not only large Chinese cities beyond the Tibetan plateau. It could reach even further. The distance from say Srinagar in Kashmir to Vienna in Austria is 3.114 miles or 5.011 kilometer. In other words: Vienna is within its reach.
The missile has been developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and other defense organizations and laboratories often located in science- and IT-cities such as Bangalore and Hyderabad. As the name Agni V indicates the missile is the latest in a series of missiles with progressively longer range. Already in 1971, Indira Gandhi reportedly directed the defense ministry and the DRDO to start developing long-range ballistic missiles (Kampani 2003). Agni V is the fruit of that labor, but some Indian strategic thinkers are not content with this. They have urged India to develop a missile (called Surya, the Sun) that may reach even further. Some argue that India should develop thermonuclear bombs in the megaton class. India has so far not capitalized much on its powerful weapons through sales to other countries. Some argue that India should do so.
Why, one may wonder, does India persist in developing and buying these and other weapons? Looking at such questions somewhat anthropologically, I will have a closer look at a few commonly used phrases, which say something about how Indians think about themselves and their role in the world today. The test-firing of a missile, the testing of nuclear or thermonuclear bombs in 1998, and the launching of a satellite into space are occasions, which lead Indians and others to make statements to the effect that India is now a superpower and that others should recognize it as a superpower. On such occasions three phrases are commonly used:
- India is now taking its rightful place in the Comity of Nations
- India is now a member of an Exclusive Club
- India is now sitting at the High Table
The High Table is an institution found in old British universities or colleges such as Oxford and Cambridge. Senior faculty members or fellows and their guest would sit at the raised table above and separately from the students. By contrast, in other universities (such as Princeton in the US) dining was used as an opportunity for students to interact with the faculty members (www.princeton.edu/~gradcol/perm/hightable.htm).
In India, the partaking of meals has been used since time immemorial to unite and differentiate people, often along caste lines. Historically, commensal rows or “feeding lines” consisting of people of the same caste or sub-caste have repeatedly defined or objectified group identity (Madsen and Gardella 2012). When Indians say that their weaponry entitles them to sit at the High Table, they thereby evoke notions of superiors sharing a meal. The image does not imply that only Indians may eat under conditions of grandeur. But it indicates that Indians may eat only with their equals and not with others.
Being the member of an “exclusive club” implies an even greater degree of inequality. While students at Oxbridge may not sit at the High Table, they can at least see the table from where they sit. An exclusive club is closed in a more radical manner. Its charmed circle entirely sealed, an outsider cannot even enter the club. Such exclusive clubs have an aura of secrecy. Their members probably wine and dine, but others cannot really tell what they do. The members set their own rules which may not be in conformity with the rules that others follow. Evoking the image of an exclusive club signals power, non-transparency, and even the ability to act with impunity.
In contrast, to achieve one’s rightful place in the comity of nations does not imply exclusivism or secrecy. All countries, big and small, are entitled to a place as equals in the United Nations where, in principle, discussions are held openly and where every nation has a voice. In that sense, India already enjoys its rightful place in the comity of nations. It does not need to lay claim to it by demonstrating its power back-up in terms of weapons of mass destruction. But then the “rightful place” may be understood to mean something more than a place like any other nation. India’s rightful place – taking into consideration it size, it military muscle, its growing economy – then may turn out on closer inspection to be an elevated position. In short, what India claimed it achieved by test-firing the Agni V and similar acts was a rightful place at the High Table in an Exclusive Club for the select among the nations of the world. Not a very democratic vision but more inclusive than the idea of “the peaceful rise of China”, which portrays China’s rise as a form of “reemergence” whereby China is about to regain the all-encompassing hegemonic status that it presumably once possessed.
Gaurav Kampani, “Stakeholders in the Indian Strategic Missile Program”, The Nonproliferation Review, Fall-Winter 2003.
Stig Toft Madsen and Geoffrey Gardella, “Udupi Hotels: Entrepreneurship, Reform and Revival”, in Krishnendu Ray and Tulasi Srinivas (eds.) Curried Cultures, Globalization, Food, and South Asia, Berkeley, Los Angeles London: University of California Press, 2012.
With thanks to Sasikumar Shanmugasundaram for comments.
Yes, there has been a serious crisis recently between China and Japan.
The collision between a Chinese fishing trawler and a Japanese coastguard patrol boat close to the disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, prompted both countries to take drastic measures which resulted in China canceling a number of high-level ministerial meetings between the two countries. But no, this doesn’t imply that the region is on the brink of open confrontation. It doesn’t disturb the general trend towards a more pragmatic cooperative attitude from both sides.
Junichiro Koizumi held the post of Prime Minister in Japan from 2001 until 2006. During the Koizumi years, relations between the two major powers of East Asia were indeed truly paralyzed. By visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo where 14 Japanese war criminals are still revered, Koizumi brought exchanges between high-level officials in the two countries to a halt for several years. At that time, the fact that the two major powers stopped communicating did indeed have serious implications for the region.
There are so many important issues that are universal in this globalized world. In order to face these issues there needs to be a dialogue in order to make things happen. That counts for environment, climate, energy, and also trade and financial matters.
The economic and political elites of both countries know this very well. For this reason, during the Koizumi years the elites in both countries were in fact united in the belief that history is important, but not so important that it be allowed to paralyze things to the extent that it ended up doing at that time.
When Koizumi resigned in 2006, therefore, one of the urgent tasks for his successor was to repair relations with China. Shinzo Abe, the new prime minister, who may have been an even bigger hawk than Koizumi, travelled to Beijing within two weeks of being appointed.
Within the next two years, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Prime Minister, and then the president, Hu Jintao, made broadly publicized visits to Japan .
All three visits were major public relations efforts from both governments for the benefit of skeptical populations in both countries. The smiling leaders played table tennis and watched baseball together while the cameras were on, and they obviously seemed to enjoy themselves while talking positively about the bright prospects of further cooperation in the future.
Most importantly, when Wen Jiabao recognized that Japanese leaders have actually apologized profusely on several occasions for the wartime invasions and war crimes committed by the Japanese imperial army, he did it in Chinese at the Japanese parliament, while it was being broadcasted across China and hence aimed at the Chinese public. This was received very well by the Japanese public.
He had finally done on China’s behalf what the then President, Kim Dae-jung, had done on behalf of South Korea ten years earlier. It was indeed a necessary step towards a future with less historical shadows over current relations.
This kind of show from the two governments’ side towards the two populations is extremely important as it is a fact that there is strong resentment towards the other side among the general population in both countries. The elites want to get along; they want to find some kind of working relationship where Japan has a role as neither partner nor rival to the new superpower on the continent, China, but rather something in-between, namely a very important second violin in the orchestra of East Asia.
Hostility among the population is a reality in China as a consequence of history and because new generations being so deliberately reminded about that unfortunate part of the long history.
But hostility among the population is also a reality in Japan where many people still have to adjust to the fact that in contrast to a few decades ago, China is now obviously the major power of the two. There is certainly a market in Japanese bookshops for literature about all kinds of evil intentions being harbored by the Chinese leadership.
The tough and shrill Chinese reaction to some of the recent crises, specifically the crisis following the September ship collision, has made even many liberal-minded and traditionally pro-China Japanese highly irritated about the conduct and intentions of their big neighbor. The new Japanese government has been harshly criticized for being too soft on China and too soft in the arrested Chinese captain; a criticism emanated across the political board in Japan.
Whenever there is a crisis in the relations between the two countries, one tends to focus on Chinese public opinion, but maybe we should also focus a little bit on avoiding a situation whereby developments on the Japanese side increase the risk of further political tensions.
Apparently, the two governments still have the important task of convincing their own people that the other side is not that bad after all. And to some degree they have a common understanding about this, in spite of all the harsh words during the peak of any crisis.
It is worth noting that on the very first day of the anti-Japan demonstrations in China last fall, the Japanese foreign minister publicly thanked the Chinese government for deliberately avoiding even bigger and more violent demonstrations.
At the same time the business community and civil society are busily shaping a future with much more integration between the two neighboring countries than one would expect considering the frequent political crises and the general public debate in the two countries.
Companies are busily hiring the brightest young people from each other’s country; students, from China at least, are busily applying to study in Japan; and young Chinese and Japanese backpackers are filling up the cheap hotels each other’s country.
In the end, it is these developments that will change the relations between the two countries much more effectively than any political developments ever will. In the meantime, in the aftermath of the crisis late last year, the politicians in both Japan and China once more have some repair work to do.
Asger Røjle Christensen,
Journalist, Danish Broadcasting Corporation,
NIAS associate Senior Fellow