Iqbal in the mind of Europe

Iqbal Review, Volume 51, Number 2, 4. April, October 2010, pp.29-59

The following is part of a document submitted to Iqbal Academy Pakistan in March 2008 for publication as a small book, Iqbal in the Mind of Europe – an overview of the Western interpretations of Iqbal. It was supposed to undergo some further improvement but due to reasons unknown to me and without my knowledge, two out of its three chapters ended up as a research paper (by the same title) in the Academy’s journal Iqbal Review. The remaining chapter appeared, under the same questionable conditions, as another paper titled ‘The Apologists’  (originally the title of the said chapter) in another issue of the same journal. I do not know the actual date of the publication of these issues (I never received any copies nor was informed), but I have certain reasons to presume that they have come out recently. In any case, I have found them on a website associated with the Academy today, 24 July 2018.

Without waiving any of my moral, legal or commerical rights that might have been violated, I am sharing it here only for the benefit of the visitors to this website. I am omitting the ‘Poscript’ appended to this paper by the editors of Iqbal Review. It was originally included at the end of the book and consists entirely of a letter written by Iqbal to Dr. Nicholson (quite appropriate as the epilogue of a book but rather unsuitable for inclusion in a research paper, in my opinion).

An ‘abstract’ is prefixed to this paper in the printed journal. I do not know who has written it or what it means. I recognize some of my phrases here and there but I confess that I do not comprehend all the sentences, some of which are even grammatically incomplete. I am happily leaving it out (curious readers can find it in the printed journal).

1. Mechanical Research


The first collision between the new East and the old West on the issue of Iqbal occurred when Reynold Alleyne Nicholson (1868-1945), the Orientalist best known for his translations of Rumi, tried to introduce the Poet of the East in Europe in 1920.

Iqbal’s Persian mathnavi ‘Asrar-i-Khudi’ was first printed from Lahore in January 1915, with an introduction by the author in Urdu. Two year later it was reprinted with revisions and in 1918 it was with its second part ‘Rumooz-i-Bekhudi’ (printed in 1917) to form a standard edition called Asrar-o-Rumooz in 1918.[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][1] Nicholson came across the first part soon after its first printing in 1915, and approached the author for permission to translate. Iqbal, who had known Nicholson from the Cambridge days a decade ago,[2] gave permission and also wrote some notes in which he compared his ideas with a few Western thinkers.

Nicholson didn’t understand that the notes were meant to be an entry-point for the Western readers. In the spirit of mechanical research he took them as a list of sources.[3] This assumption left him perplexed: if Iqbal had borrowed all his thought from Western thinkers then why didn’t he mention them in the poem? The only Western thinkers mentioned there were Plato and Machiavelli – as major perpetrators of evil! Thus Nicholson presumed that “Asrar-i-Khudi gives no systematic account [of Iqbal’s thought] though it puts his ideas in a popular and attractive form.”

It was obvious that by “systematic account” he meant a text that could be completely exhausted through mechanical research and didn’t challenge the existing knowledge. Since Iqbal didn’t fit into that box, Nicholson suggested:

Let us begin at the end. What is the far-off goal on which his eyes are fixed? The answer to that question will discover his true character, and we shall be less likely to stumble on the way if we see whither we are going. [4]

The question was valid but Nicholson’s answer betrayed certain preconceived notions and didn’t go beyond clichés:

Iqbal has drunk deep of European literature, his philosophy owes much to Nietzsche and Bergson, and his poetry often reminds us of Shelly; yet he thinks and feels as a Muslim, and just for this reason his influence may be great. He is a religious enthusiast, inspired by the vision of a New Mecca, a world‑wide, theocratic, Utopian state in which all Muslims, no longer divided by the barriers of race and country, shall be one…

That was like saying that Columbus crossed the Atlantic because he liked sailing. Iqbal had the vision of a modern Muslim polity but “the far-off goal” was about much else besides.

Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970), the dedicated Bloomsbury who was still four years away from A Passage to India, recognized that “Tagore was little noticed outside Bengal until he went to Europe and gained the Nobel prize,[5] whereas Iqbal has won his vast kingdom without help from the West.” However, on the authority of Nicholson, Forster also wrote about Iqbal that:

…like other of his contemporaries he has been influenced by Nietzsche; he tries to find, in that rather shaky ideal of the Superman, a guide through the intricacy of conduct… As a guide to conduct, Nietzsche is at a discount in Europe. The drawback of being a Superman is that your neighbors observe your efforts, and try to be Supermen too, as Germany now realizes.[6] The significance of Iqbal is not that he…manages to connect it with the Quran. Two modifications, and only two, have to be made: he condemns the Nietzsche who is an aristocrat, and an atheist; his Superman is permitted to spring from any class of society, and is obliged to believe in God. No further difficulty occurs.[7]

Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (1862-1932), another Bloomsbury – and also a Neo-Platonist from Cambridge, the author of The European Anarchy (1916) and an architect of the League of Nations – detected passages in Iqbal’s poem where “the influence of Bergson is clear,” and then added, “But the strongest influence is Nietzsche. The doctrine of hardness, of individuality, of the need to conflict, and the benefit of an enemy run all through the poem.”[8]

Edward Granville Browne (1862-1926), the author of A Literary History of Persia – the first volume of which had received a sharp rejoinder from Shibli Nomani (1857-1914) in India a decade ago – decided that Nicholson (and not Iqbal) was “the greatest living authority on Sufi mysticism,” and didn’t go much beyond repeating Nicholson’s opinion about the philosophy of Iqbal:

…which, as Dr. Nicholson says (p.x.), “owes much to Nietzsche and Bergson” and very little to the Neo-Platonists and their Eastern successors. Yet it is by no means a Western philosophy, rather a philosophical Pan-Islamism…[9]

On these grounds, E.G. Browne arrived at the conclusion that “the surprising philosophical doctrine embodied in the poem” stands in “violent antagonism” to Sufi mysticism. (This reluctance of European scholarship to the possibility of fresh interpretation of Sufi thought is reflected in our own age. For instance, the American writer William Chittick, who received higher education in Iran before the Islamic Revolution, has made some effort at interpreting Rumi without having to deal with Iqbal but while such scholarship may appeal to the Western mind for reasons of nostalgia, and to some Eastern minds who share that nostalgia, it generally appears painfully outdated to those who are attuned with the recent developments in the East[10]).

Iqbal wrote back to Nicholson, explaining that in his notes he deliberately explained his position with reference to Western thinkers as he thought this would facilitate the understanding of his views in England. “I could have easily explained myself in the light of the Quran and Muslim Sufis and thinkers,” he wrote, and went on to assert:

I claim that the philosophy of Asrar is a direct development out of the experience and speculation of old Muslim Sufis and thinkers.[11]

Following Nicholson’s lead that Iqbal ought to be placed in the category of Muslim revivalists, Dickinson had raised an alarm:

…some wistful Westerners, hopeless of their own countrymen are turning once more to look for a star in the East. What do they find? Not the star of Bethlehem, but this blood-red planet. If this book be prophetic, the last hope seems taken away. The East, if it arms, may indeed end by conquering the West. But if so, it will conquer no salvation for mankind. The old bloody duel will swing backwards and forwards across distracted and tortured world. And that is all. Is this really Mr. Iqbal’s last word?[12]

Apparently, Bethlehem was an allusion to W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” that had only recently come out. Dickinson seems to have recognized that the “beast” in Yeats’ vision was in fact a symbol of the rising East.[13]

In his letter to Nicholson, Iqbal also addressed this concern of Dickinson (and the comment may also be applied to Yeats’ poem):

I am afraid the old European idea of a blood-thirsty Islam is still lingering in the mind of Dr. Dickinson. All men and not Muslims alone are meant for the kingdom of God on earth, provided they say good-bye to their idols of race and nationality, and treat one another as personalities…The object of my Persian poems is not to make out a case for Islam; my aim is simply to discover a universal social reconstruction…


For the sake of a better understanding among nations of the world, Iqbal was asking for a paradigm shift in Europe’s approach. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

The collapse of European colonialism called for a greater effort to understand Iqbal as the man through whose work so many people in the East were seeking guidance for setting up their new worlds. Among those who realized this shift was the Canadian missionary Wilfred Cantwell Smith, who will be discussed in greater detail in the next chapter. Another who rose up to face the new reality, but with a vengeance, was Nicholson’s successor at Cambridge, Arthur John Arberry (1905-1969).

In the 1940s, Arberry had offered two volumes of lyrical selections from Iqbal’s Persian poetry in English translation. After the collapse of colonialism he felt that the message of Iqbal and his school of thought was a threat to Western supremacy and hence he decided to warn against this “immanent danger.” Consequently the passage he chose for translating now was ‘Rumooz-i-Bekhudi’ (‘Mysteries of Selflessness’), the second half of the better-known ‘Asrar-i-Khudi’ (‘Secrets of the Self’).

Arberry had a greater exposure to the works of Iqbal than his predecessors but he seemed reluctant to step outside the beaten track. Here is a typical passage of his description of Iqbal’s craft:

…his poetry is in Urdu and Persian, and abounds in the conventional imagery of those literatures; so that even when translated into English it is apt to be felt as somewhat remote and unfamiliar. Moreover, not only is his style highly idiomatic, but his thought is not infrequently complex, and almost too subtle for the language in which he chose to express it; while the exuberance of his poetic fancy baffles the reader not alert to its rapid transitions and not aware of the conceptual unity underlying the rhetorical diversity.[14]

These are generalizations that may be repeated, without changing a single word, about practically every master of classical Persian and Urdu poetry. We can see that Arberry made no effort to show how Iqbal used these well-known poetic conventions for constructing the grand architecture of his particular thought. In other words, Arberry completely neglected the internal coherence in the work of Iqbal.

Like Nicholson, Arberry also didn’t observe that ‘Asrar-i-Khudi’ (‘Secrets of the Self’) and ‘Rumooz-i-Bekhudi’ (‘Mysteries of Selflessness’) were parts of a single poem, Asrar-o-Rumooz (Secrets and Mysteries).[15] His assumption that in ‘The Secrets of the Self’, Iqbal “developed the first part of his theory of the individual in society” was arguable because emphasis on society is found in both parts. To Iqbal, individual is inconceivable without society – just as wave without the river – and hence the following deduction by Arberry hardly makes sense:

It is obvious that the Iqbalian conception of selfhood, if developed in isolation from society, ends in unmitigated egoism and anarchy…[16]

It seems that he was relying on Nicholson for Iqbal’s concept of the self and paraphrased Nicholson’s ideas about Iqbal’s concept of society as well. He stated that Iqbal:

…aims to show that it is only in an ideal Islamic society, as he understands the matter, that the individual can hope to achieve complete self-affirmation” is equally incorrect.[17]

Arberry’s usage of “an ideal Islamic society” is misleading since according to Iqbal, the Islamic society is a single organism and has always remained so. A Muslim can achieve “complete self-affirmation” (as Arberry chooses to call it) through her or his relationship with this society regardless of whether the society is in its ideal state or not – the ideal in any case lies in the distant future. Likewise, Iqbal’s emphasis is not on comparing the Islamic society with others but rather on seeking cooperation from those others who have “practically the same ethical outlook.”[18]

It is quite sad to notice where Arberry was taking his readers through this partially incorrect information:

Such, in very brief and very simple, are the fundamental ideas worked out in these two poems. The ideas themselves are of course not particularly new; not particularly new either is the proposition that Islam is the ideal society; what is new, and what justifies Iqbal’s pretension to be a leader of thought is the application of this philosophical theory of individuality and community to the religio-political dogma that Islam is superior to all other creeds and systems. The propaganda for Islamic unity in modern times has been continuous from the days of Jamaluddin Afghani (1839-97); Iqbal was one of the latest albeit one of the ablest and most influential of its publicists. He supplied a more or less respectable intellectual basis for a movement which is in reality more emotional than rational.[19]

By his own admission, Arberry was on the agenda of rehabilitating the colonialist discourse in the post-colonial era. “The date of the millennium has been postponed,” he wrote at the end of this passage. “But in the meanwhile there is important work to be done.” At this point, his accusations against others that they have a “more emotional than rational” basis start sounding true about himself!

In the repertoire of Iqbal Studies, Gabriel’s Wing (1962) by Annemarie Schimmel (1922-2003) remains a favorite especially with Western readers who are unfamiliar with Iqbal’s works in their entirety. On its first appearance it offered an interesting kaleidoscope of comparisons between fragments of Iqbal’s writings and scattered gems from Western and Sufi sources. However, the avowed task, to “simply show Iqbal’s views on the essentials of Islam”[20] remained underachieved due to lack of homework beyond mechanical research.

For instance, the very important section on “predestination” in the third chapter depended too heavily on the general impression that Iqbal gave importance to free will. Thus it wasn’t even mentioned that Iqbal’s perception of history was entirely based on a kind of fatalism. In The Reconstruction, Iqbal quotes from Verse 34, Chapter 7 of the Quran, “Every nation hath its fixed period,” and comments that it is “rather an instance of a more specific historical generalization which, in its epigrammatic formulation, suggests the possibility of a scientific treatment of the life of human societies regarded as organisms.”[21] In so far as the life of an individual intersects with the life of the society, “destiny” also plays a part in it, according to Iqbal. Hence in his poetry we often find him rejoicing at “the humiliation of strategy at the hands of destiny.”


Yet, mechanical research is not without its uses, as may be seen from the several useful indexes, bibliographical tools and textual notes prepared by Iqbal scholars. Also, this mode of research is also useful for unpresumptuous brief studies consciously aimed at giving a sectional view of the subject. Two excellent examples are the various writings of Alessandro Bausani and the paper by Barbra Metcalf on Iqbal’s poem ‘The Mosque of Cordoba’.

Bausani’s crowning grace was his acute sense of history due to which he never failed to place his findings in their proper context in the evolution of human civilization. He seemed to be the only writer within the European milieu through whose writings the mistakes of his predecessors may have been corrected had he received more attention. His comparative study of the sources of Iqbal’s conception of Satan became quite well-known but here I would like to point out to such lesser-known items as the following insight in his paper ‘Dante and Iqbal’, first published in East and West, Rome, in 1951-2:

Naturally the many vital differences between the two are not to be gainsaid. For one thing, Iqbal lived six centuries after Dante’s death, and was born to a religious tradition different from the Catholic one. His is not the settled and well-ordered universe of Aristotle. On the contrary Iqbal strongly criticizes Greek thought which, according to him, ruined the pure atheism of early Christianity through its rationalist theology and Pagan ritualism; whereas Islam, though not entirely immune from the same taint, was better able to resist owing to its own anti-classical theology, such as the Ash’arite, which abolishes all the causes secundae in recognition of God’s absolute freedom as Creator.[22]

Hence Bausani displayed a deep insight into the world of Iqbal’s thought and while most of his predecessors had a tendency to look for dichotomies, Bausani aimed at the opposite by integrating the works of Iqbal, especially  Javid Nama and the Reconstruction. This gave him a better view of the larger picture, for instance:

Iqbal then, is not one of those Oriental mystics admired by too many weary Europeans on account of his own weariness; but neither is he a religious agitator or a fanatic worshipper of action as such. He “rose to heaven” before he went into action. His revaluation of the ego must not be too literally accepted, nor should we transpose it to a meaning too well-known to us Europeans.[23]

This is a very good first step towards discovering the internal coherence in the works of Iqbal. Unfortunately the tradition of Bausani was less often followed in the mainstream than that of Arberry.

While Bausani was pointing at the internal coherence in the larger picture of Iqbal’s entire work, Barbara D. Metcalf studied a smaller detail through which the coherence of the larger picture could be discerned. In ‘Reflections on Iqbal’s Mosque’, a paper read out at the International Congress on Allama Muhammad Iqbal held at Lahore in December 1977, Metcalf treated Iqbal’s poem ‘The Mosque of Cordoba’ like a masterpiece of architecture in order to discover parallels between the poem and the building which was being praised in it. Of an even greater utility was her general observation which, unfortunately, didn’t get much attention afterwards:

The appeal of the poem is often attributed to its subject. That alone, however, does not explain the poem’s magic, for the mosque alone could be read about in Baedeker or a history of Spain. The subject is important only because of the way it is treated and the way it is embedded in the poem.[24]

Metcalf went on to mention that it was important “to examine the poem itself, its stanzaic form and patterns of rhyme and rhythm as well as its content.” She observed that “most studies of Iqbal take for granted that Iqbal is a poet and do not analyze his skill as craftsman and artist. Treatments of his poetry typically extract from the verse aspects of Iqbal’s political or philosophical or religious thought attention to the context that gives them form and meaning.”

Hence Metcalf summed up the cardinal temptation of Iqbal scholars and their fatal error: in the name of “analyzing” a poem they overkill the reader with lexicographical notes on the persons and things mentioned in it. Metcalf’s own success in showing that “Iqbal in this poem not only celebrates a mosque, but literally builds in the verse a ‘mosque’ of his own” was ensured by her success in avoiding extra-textual resources.

The work of the Pakistani-American scholar Mustansir Mir, available so far in two volumes, Tulip in the Desert (2000) and Iqbal (2006), and a quarterly Iqbalnama, is a specimen of how first class Western scholarship on Iqbal may occasionally suffer by giving in to the cardinal temptation mentioned by Barbra Metcalf. Mir’s work offers outstanding translation of passages from Urdu and Persian poetry of Iqbal, and exhaustive notes. Also, Mir deserves special credit for introducing in the West several convictions commonly shared in Pakistan but relatively unknown outside – such as that “Iqbal’s poetry and philosophy do not exist in isolation from each other, but are integrally related, his poetry serving as a vehicle for his thought”;[25] or that “even if we take the period of his stay in Europe (1905-8) as the turning point in the evolution of his thought, Iqbal’s writings in the post-Europe period show remarkable consistency.”[26]

Mir has been at his analytical best on subjects such as the imagery of Iqbal’s poems but has usually left something to be desired where he has attempted to give the larger picture.

An outstanding example of both could be found in Mir’s footnotes to his translation of Iqbal’s poem ‘Philosophers’ (a dialogue between Locke, Kant and Bergson). Having explained the imagery of the poem in relation to the philosophical position of each thinker, Mir concluded:

A few general remarks on ‘Locke, Kant and Bergson’[27] may not be out of place. (1) Iqbal’s three couplets are remarkable for their succinct summing up of some of the fundamental ideas of the three philosophers. But Iqbal does not merely state the three philosophers’ views; he also shows how these views are interrelated in a continuing movement of thought from Locke to Bergson: how Kant criticized Locke, and how Bergson criticized both Kant and Locke. (2) It is equally remarkable that Iqbal is able to use a single image, that of the tulip, to describe the philosophies of the three thinkers. The tulip, Iqbal’s favorite flower, appears ideal for his purposes here: with Locke it becomes a clean slate (empty wine‑cup); with Kant it becomes the formal conditioning factors of knowledge and un­derstanding (tulip’s starlike cup); and with Bergson the ‘scar’ in the tulip’s heart represents the principle of life which is its own explanation. Iqbal succeeds eminently in explicating certain concepts in Western thought by using a typical Eastern image; one could hardly think of a more felicitous way of describing Western thought to an Eastern audience. (3) To which of the three views is Iqbal himself sympathetic? One can say that, in the present context at least, Iqbal supports the view of Bergson, or that he uses Bergson as his mouthpiece. Bergson would be quite pleased by Iqbal’s description elsewhere (ZK 638 [589][28]) of the natural water fountain: ‘It is from its inner drive that the water of the fountain gushes forth and rises [buland josh‑i darun se hu’a he fawwara.’[29]

Mir’s analysis was outstanding and his opinion that Iqbal could be most sympathetic to Bergson’s view on the subject was also correct but he substantiated it with a line from another book (where Bergson was not even mentioned) whereas in the preface of the very book from which the poem was taken, i.e. A Message from the East, Iqbal had made a very relevant comment about Bergson.

While analyzing the theme of nature in the chapter ‘Major Themes in Poetry’ in Iqbal, Mir pointed out four levels of Iqbal’s engagement with nature:

  • Celebrating the simple beauty of nature;
  • Nature as a congenial companion;
  • Nature as a spur to serious reflection;
  • Nature as a foil for drawing out the human being’s potential.[30]

This was inspired scholarship. It was much to be regretted that it didn’t take one more step by showing us the very obvious connection between the four levels of Iqbal’s engagement with nature and the five elements in his summation of the Quranic conception of God. Those elements, discussed by Iqbal in the third lecture of the Reconstruction, and listed by Mir in another chapter of Iqbal are:

  • Individuality
  • Creativeness
  • Knowledge
  • Omnipotence
  • Eternity[31]

It is not difficult to see that the four levels of engagements with nature which Mir discovered so candidly were related to the latter four out of the five elements in Iqbal’s conception of God in the reverse order:

  • The first level of engagement with nature, i.e. celebrating its simple beauty, is recognition of the fifth element in the conception of God, i.e. (e) God’s Eternity.
  • The second level of engagement, i.e., nature as a congenial companion, is recognition of nature as a sign of the fourth element in the conception of God, i.e. (d) God’s Omnipotence.
  • The third level of engagement, i.e. nature as a spur to serious reflection corresponds to the third element in the conception of God, i.e. (c) God’s Knowledge.
  • The fourth level of engagement, i.e. nature as a foil for drawing out the human potential is a mirror to the second element in the conception of God, i.e. (b) God’s Creativeness.

This internal coherence in the works of Iqbal could have substantiated Mir’s view of Iqbal’s poetry “serving as a vehicle for his thought” but it is a pity that Mir didn’t bring it out. Or else he may have felt inclined to mention a fifth level of Iqbal’s engagement with nature where the human being, after using nature as a foil for drawing one’s own potential, makes sustainable modifications to nature, and hence:

  • The fifth level of engagement (not mentioned by Mir), i.e. nature as raw material for sustainable human artistry, is a celebration of the first element in the conception of God, i.e. (a) God’s Individuality (which means, according to Iqbal, that God is “intensively” Infinite).

It is important that the levels of engagement with nature and the elements in the conception of God are related to each other in the reverse order: human consciousness “ascends” towards the conception of God whereas the conception of God “descends” upon human consciousness.[32] These subtleties come out only when we make an effort to discover the internal coherence of the works of Iqbal, for which we need to study him on his own terms – terms that may not be in complete agreement with the current literary trends.

In a very Shakespearean sense the tragic flaw of Mir has seemed to be his bonding with the academic paradigm of the West. In “Iqbal’s Legacy,” the final chapter of Iqbal, he wrote:

Until now, Iqbal has been mainly viewed as a poet and the serious philosophical aspect of his thought, whether expressed in his prose or in his poetry, has not been fully recognized. That aspect has now begun to attract greater attention, and this changing trend is due, at least in part, to Western scholars’ analytical and critical studies on Iqbal.[33]

Of the overall worth of “Western scholars’ analytical and critical studies on Iqbal” we have made a good assessment. To say the least, it does not substantiate Mir’s high expectations of it.

2. The Sentimental Approach


In his review of The Secrets of the Self from which we have quoted in the previous chapter, E.M. Forster informed his readers that Iqbal used to write with a Muslim sentiment in the beginning but since 1916 he was catering to patriotic feelings in view of the change in the popular trends in India:

…and there is much discussion as to how he will evolve. If an outsider may venture an opinion, he will not evolve but revolve.[34]

One wonders from where Forster got his information that “there is much discussion as to how [Iqbal] will evolve.” There was no such discussion, nor could have been, for the poems did not come in the order Forster had assumed for them. The so-called “patriotic” poems, which Forster placed in 1916 and later, had in fact been written much earlier around 1904-5. The “Islamic” poems came later, but what Forster was missing out was that patriotism and Muslim identity existed in the works of Iqbal simultaneously at any given period, early or late.

In his letter to Nicholson, Iqbal tried to correct Forster’s mistake rather politely and not without his characteristic humility:

The view of the writer in The Athenaeum[35] is largely affected by some mistakes of fact, for which, however, the writer does not seem to be responsible. But I am sure if he had known some of the dates of the publication of my Urdu poems referred to in his review, he would have certainly taken a totally different view of the growth of my literary activity.[36]

It is striking this mistake is that Nicholson himself, to whom the letter was addressed, repeated it a few years later while reviewing Iqbal’s next Persian work, A Message from the East (Payam-i-Mashriq). He opened his essay with these words:

Amongst the Indian Muslim poets of today Iqbal stands on a hill by himself. In him there are two voices of power. One speaks in Urdu and appeals to Indian patriotism, though Iqbal is not a nationalist in politics; the other, which uses the beautiful and melodious language of Persia, sings to a Muslim audience…[37]

It seems that Nicholson, who may not have had any first-hand knowledge of Iqbal’s Urdu poetry, was relying on Forster’s report. He may have remembered that Iqbal mentioned some error of dating and therefore he substituted the gradual changes in thought with a dichotomy existing at the same time!

Ironically “the Muslim element” was actually more obvious in Iqbal’s Urdu poetry at that particular time while his latest Persian anthology, which Nicholson was reviewing, was not lacking in such stuff as “a lover does not differentiate between Kaba and the temple.” One wonders why Nicholson was still adamant at keeping his previous position that Iqbal’s Persian poetry was only about making out a case for Islam.

Thus was born that most persistent myth about Iqbal that his career was either a series of dramatic changes in viewpoints – from patriotism to Muslim nationalism, from pantheism to its opposite, from Sufism to Superman – or it suffered from some sort of dichotomy, whether between his Urdu and Persian poetry or between his poetry and his prose.

It is not difficult to see that this misconception was partially due to Forster’s general concept of poets which he had described in the same review. “Poets,” he had written, “Since they decide by emotion rather than arithmetic, their attitude is often unstable and vexes the politicians. Iqbal is a case in point.” This concept comes quite close to the Quranic description of bad poets from which, in all fairness, Iqbal deserves to be exempted:

And as for the poets – those who are lost in grievous error would follow them.

Are you not aware that they roam confusedly through all the valleys

And that they say what they do not do?

Except those who have attained to faith, and do righteous deeds, and remember God unceasingly, and defend themselves after [only] having been wronged, and those who are bent on wrongdoing will in time come to know how evil a turn their destinies are bound to take.[38]

The Islamic concept of “wisdom poetry” arises out of the Quranic conception of good poetry. In his Mathnavi, Rumi tells the story of a foolish servant whose master sent him to fetch flour and salt in a pot but told him to keep the two separate. The servant went to the shop and got some flour. Then he turned the pot over and asked the shopkeeper to put some salt on the other side. Of course, the flour was lost in the process but he didn’t notice. When he returned to the master and showed the salt, the master said, “That’s nice. Now where is the flour?” The servant said, “It must be on the other side.” Saying this, he turned the pot over again, thus losing the salt as well.

Rumi warns us that when we do with ideas what the foolish servant did with the pot, what we lose in the process is not salt or flour but our selves. One can see an analogy between this constant turning over of the pot and “the continual surrender of himself” which T.S. Eliot asked of a poet towards “the mind of Europe.” Rumi foresees loss of the self as a result, and Eliot also hoped for the same: “The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.”[39]

This “new criticism” that was emerging in Europe those days could not leave much room for “wisdom poetry” – a handicap of the European scholar that was further enhanced by a new approach to biography usually attributed to the Bloomsbury writer Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), who was a close friend of both Forster and Eliot. It seems appropriate to see how he viewed the duties of a biographer:

To preserve, for instance, a becoming brevity – a brevity which excludes everything that is redundant and nothing that is significant – that, surely, is the first duty of the biographer. The second, no less surely, is to maintain his own freedom of spirit. It is not his business to be complimentary; it is his business to lay bare the facts of the case, as he understands them…[40]

The intentions are indeed noble but one can detect a sense of defeat in the qualifier “as he understands them” as it implies that a biographer may not be able to lay bare the fact as they were in themselves. Secondly, the suggestion “to maintain his own freedom of spirit” could lead to a kind of intellectual arrogance that was avoidable only if the writer aimed instead to discover that freedom of spirit through the process itself. Ninety years later we can see that Strachey’s methods have led to a sentimental approach whereby many subsequent biographers have been compelled to approach their subjects in the light of their own dogmas and misunderstood this as freedom of spirit.

Alternates to the Strachey approach have seldom been taken seriously in the West. One such case is the American critic Herbert Reed, who offered an alternate to the sentimental approach in 1921 when he compared Iqbal with the ideal of Walt Whitman and observed, “Applying it here and now, I can think of only one living poet who in any way sustains the test, and almost necessarily he is not of our race and creed. I mean Muhammad Iqbal…”[41] He concluded that Iqbal’s ideal was more relevant than Nietzsche’s and more vital than Whitman’s.

Reed could not overthrow the influence of Strachey. “Man is led by man and we are led by Mr. Strachey,” a younger biographer Lord David Cecil (1902-86) wrote in 1936. “We may extend his building, but we must always construct on his foundations.”[42] Most subsequent writers on Iqbal have been directly or indirectly indebted to the biographical legacy of Strachey whether they knew it or not (and in most instances they did not). Therefore, Iqbal knew exactly what he was talking about when he stated in the preface to Payam-i-Mashriq (A Message from the East) in 1923:

Regarded from a purely literary standpoint, the debilitation of the forces of life in Europe after the ordeal of the war is unfavorable to the development of a correct and mature literary ideal. Indeed, the fear is that the minds of the nations may be gripped by that slow-pulsed Magianism which runs away from life’s difficulties and which fails to distinguish between the sentiments of the heart and the thoughts of the mind.[43]


In the 1940s, the Canadian missionary Wilfred Cantwell Smith (1916-2000) attempted to discover “modern Islam in India” with a set of categories deeply embedded in the socialist discourse, such as liberal thought, reactionary thought, and so on. He found that Iqbal did not fit completely into any of those but parts of him could be attributed to each. In his book Modern Islam in India (1944), Smith concluded that Iqbal was a sum of contradictions. Obviously a more objective approach would have been to notice that if the subject wasn’t fitting into any category then the categories being used for the study were wrong.

However, we need not discuss that book further because Smith himself realized his mistake very soon. Consequently the McGill Institute of Islamic Studies founded by him in 1952 was attributed to a mature perception of Iqbal. “My teacher Wilfred Cantwell Smith had been strongly influenced by Iqbal,” writes Dr. Sheila McDonough, who was in the first batch of students at McGill Institute. “Smith said he had tried to pay honor to Iqbal, not by writing explicitly about the poet-philosopher’s life and thought, but by receiving inspiration from him, and by applying his mind to the same problems that had concerned the Muslim thinker. Subsequently, Smith has become one of the most significant innovative thinkers and institution builders in North America, and in the world, in the area of the comparative history of religion as an academic discipline.”[44]

It is the later and more mature understanding of Iqbal by Smith which properly deserves our attention. He thought that “destiny” in the writings of Iqbal was a figurative reference to human potentials yet to be unfolded. Likewise, Smith thought that Iqbal, like Nietzsche, had regarded all cultures to be entirely human creations.[45] On both issues, Smith was overlooking a major portion of the canon of Iqbal’s writings.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, Iqbal’s perception of history was based on a kind of fatalism. This made it possible for him to believe that a visionary could foresee the destiny of one’s nation. In the Allahabad Address he stated clearly:

By leaders I mean men who, by Divine gift or experience, possess a keen perception of the spirit and destiny of Islam, along with an equally keen perception of the trend of modern history. Such men are really the driving forces of a people, but they are God’s gift and cannot be made to order.[46]

“The spirit” and “destiny” both refer here to concretes. Iqbal himself claimed a knowledge of the major events of Muslim history up to several centuries into the future: he mentioned it very clearly to a friend in a letter written in 1917, the suggestion is repeated in every single book of his poetry and the Allahabad Address where it is stated, 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 the North-West India.”[47]

Likewise the “spirit” of Islam (or “the spirit of Muslim culture” as he calls it in the Reconstruction) is not just a figure of speech but an entity, a “self.” As such it cannot be a human creation and only the Divine command could create it. Since the spirit of Muslim culture is an entity – “a spirit” – its aims, objects and future intentions may be discovered if one dares to look beyond appearances and take into account all the forces that shape history. Iqbal it possible to acquire such knowledge and considered himself to be a person who had it (which wasn’t very unusual in the tradition to which he belonged: Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi and Shah Waliullah had made similar assertions in their own times).

It is a pity that Smith didn’t grasp this dimension of Iqbal. One could see why. “The shocks of partition, and his discovery of the brutality of the Stalinist regime, had knocked out of Smith’s head any certainty that he, or anyone else, could ever have a clear enough grasp of all the factors at work in any historical situation to be able to say that they knew exactly what forces were shaping history,” writes Dr. Sheila McDonough.[48] One can sympathize with Smith but should not presume too readily that he and Iqbal were on the same plane.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, another significant Orientalist who rose to coop with the collapse of colonialism was A.J. Arberry. His treatment of Iqbal’s biography in the preface to The Mysteries of Selflessness (a part of which was discussed earlier) was very much in the sentimental tradition of Bloomsbury:

…his last years of mental and physical anguish were not relieved by the consolation of knowing that the cause for which he strove so long was so soon to triumph. But a spate of publications, issued in Pakistan hard upon the heels of its independence, hailed him as the spiritual founder of the richest and most numerous Muslim country in the world…[49]

In this sample, Arberry has glossed over certain facts. We have seen that Iqbal’s foresight is an issue that cannot be handled without some serious analysis of his statements but Arberry was either not aware of such material or he overlooked it in order to achieve a Stracheyesque style. Incidentally, Iqbal had been hailed as the spiritual founder of Pakistan long before the independence of the country and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) himself had made several statements to that effect. Therefore, Arberry’s assertion that “a spate of publications, issued in Pakistan hard upon the heels of its independence, hailed him as the spiritual founder…” could either be seen as cynicism or as an effort to sound Stracheyesque instead of being correct.

The lower ebb of sentimentality in Iqbal Studies, however, may only be accessed through H.T. Sorley who, in his note in Musa Parvagans (1953), came up with such fantastic observations as:

Iqbal would have been a better poet if he had had the spirit to climb Mount Everest. But he did not care for such things of the pulsating and active spirit. The result is that his poetry is the work of a sedate intellectual who at times reaches the high levels of achievement but cannot hope to scale the utmost peaks.[50]

Annemarie Schimmel echoed Sorley, but in a more sympathetic manner, when she wrote about “the aesthetic side” of Iqbal in the first chapter of Gabriel’s Wing:

Iqbal himself was not fond of outdoor amusements, and therefore praises Islam which has, essentially, no amusements…[51]

She quoted an entry from Iqbal’s private notebook Stray Reflections where Iqbal states, “The absence of amusement in Muslim countries indicates neither poverty nor austerity nor bluntness of the sense for enjoyment…” If the thesis of Sorley and Schimmel is accepted then it becomes difficult to explain those passages from Iqbal’s poetry where the protagonists attempt to cross the Atlantic on horsebacks – we cannot presume that the poet developed a temporary passion for horse-riding when he wrote those lines.

The assessments of Sorley and Schimmel seem to be driven by the same concept of poet which Forster had erroneously applied to Iqbal: “they decide by emotion rather than arithmetic…” Hence from a letter written by Iqbal in 1918, she inferred that he “wanted literature to be optimistic”, and presumed that “this is also the reason for his criticism of Hafiz whose poetical art – if taken only as art – he highly admired but who: ‘did not sharpen the sword of the self’ (ZK 127).”[52]

It seems that Schimmel overlooked the fact that Iqbal had a tendency towards meliorism rather than optimism, but what is even more baffling is that Hafiz is not even mentioned in that poem in Zarb-i-Kaleem (“ZK”) from which she quoted the line with some interpolation. On the contrary, two poems later Iqbal praises “the tavern of Hafiz” for being a testimony to “the heat of its architect’s blood.”

Schimmel was obviously relying on some information about Iqbal’s harsh remarks about Hafiz but overlooked the fact that he took back those remarks two years later. Even then it was not a very safe presumption that any statement of Iqbal on bad poetry could be quoted as Iqbal’s opinion on Hafiz.


The Flame of Sinai: Hope and Vision in Iqbal (2002) by Dr. Sheila McDonough was a full-length biography from the perspective of comparative history of religions. The positive, and perhaps lasting, contribution of the book was to revisit the life of Iqbal with a number of perspectives that had emerged in the academic discourse since the collapse of colonialism, such as the comparative history of religions, comparison of Iqbal with Gandhi and Nehru, and so on. Some of these aspects had never been studied in book-length detail.

What made this commendable effort ineffective was a high number of factual mistakes and unsubstantiated opinions. It is true that most scholars face some gaps in factual information since few people can claim to know everything about a subject but writers get around it by wording their statements carefully. Unfortunately, Dr. McDonough’s work gave the impression of a general disregard for facts. For instance, her assertion that Iqbal was “deified” and “divinized” in Pakistan could have been worded more carefully to show her familiarity with the difference between “canonization” and “deification” but instead she went on state that Iqbal was never called “Allama” in his lifetime. A possible implication was that those who called him by that title lacked in a sense of history but ironically, “Allama” was the singularly most common epithet used for Iqbal in his lifetime, at least in the Muslim press of India. Hence Dr. McDonough’s assertion practically amounted to claiming superiority over those who knew more, on the ground that Dr. McDonough knew less. One could see the Stracheyesque sentimentalism at work here: objectivity was being interpreted as mere irreverence and the author’s “independence of spirit” soared higher than the need to be checked by accuracy of facts.

To this may be added some fifteen other errors that punctuated the 250-page book. Some seemed to be due to lack of familiarity with basic texts, such as that Iqbal delivered his Reconstruction lectures “in Madras in 1929”[53] (the preface of the Reconstruction mentions that the lectures were “delivered at Madras, Hyderabad, and Aligarh”). Other mistakes seemed to have arisen out of a general indifference to facts.

This overall inability “to distinguish between the sentiments of the heart and the thoughts of the mind” prevented Dr. McDonough from seeing a basic problem in her premise. In the introduction to her book she stated:

The theoretical point is that religions are best understood by those who practice them…[54]

It was difficult to disagree with her position but she was overlooking the fact that this position questioned the very justification of Dr. McDonough’s subject, the comparative history of religion, of which she was trying to show Iqbal to be an exponent too. If “religions are best understood by those who practice them”, then a scholar of comparative history of religions should presume to be superior to “those who practice them”, since they can best understand only their own religions while the scholar may understand all religions. This position would naturally lead to intellectual arrogance even if the scholar didn’t intend to be arrogant.

The alternate for the scholar is to admit that she or he is working with something less than average, something less than the best understanding of religions which is possible only for those “who practice them.” As it amounts to admitting that the discipline itself is an exercise in mediocrity, the practitioners of comparative history of religions are unlikely to go for this alternative.

Iqbal offers a solution. In  Javid Nama, his journey across the universe begins under the guidance of Rumi and the first stop in the itinerary is moon where the following seven stations may be recognized:

  1. The cave of Vishvamitra[55]
  2. The music of Sarosh
  3. The poetry of Sarosh
  4. The tablet of Buddha
  5. The tablet of Zarathustra
  6. The tablet of Christ
  7. The tablet of Muhammad

A careful study would reveal that these seven stations are meant to highlight the spiritual journey of the entire humanity as well as that of an individual soul. The first station is metaphysics, the second and third stations are fine arts, and the remaining are four religions in historic progression. The unity between religions is to be understood through the unity of life which insists on integrating spirituality with other areas (hence the first three stations) and by assigning a unique role to each religion in history (hence the four latter stations). Practically the entire existing civilization can be divided into four zones, each of which is illuminated by the message of one of the four prophets mentioned here: Buddha, Zarathustra, Christ and Muhammad.

However, while one particular religion may find more emphasis in a particular region, the real boundaries cannot be geographic or eugenic. The point is not to stop at any point, since the seven stations of Moon are paralleled by the seven stages of the journey itself. Those stages are Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the Paradise:

  1. As the first station on Moon, the cave of Vishvamitra comes to represent the whole of the planet, which is the first stage of the journey: Vishvamitra’s “nine sayings” give an overview of the entire journey from an intellectual point of view while the seven stations of Moon give an overview through experience;
  2. The deeper meaning of the music of Sarosh (the second station on Moon) is revealed on Mercury (the second stage of the journey) through the recitation of the Quran by Jamaluddin Afghani and his exposition of “the World of the Quran”;
  3. The poetry of Sarosh (the third station on Moon) is apparently the inspiration for two poems recited on Venus (the third stage of the journey): Iqbal’s ghazal recited by Rumi in defiance to false idols and Mahdi of Sudan’s lyrics recited by himself in defiance to human tyrants;
  4. The message of Buddha “to be in the world and yet be free of it” (the fourth station on Moon) gets fully illustrated through the world of Barkhia on Mars (the fourth stage in the journey);
  5. The prophetic consciousness of Zarathustra, who defies the ascetic preaching of Ahriman (at the fifth station on Moon), is echoed in the souls whom Iqbal meets on Jupiter (the fifth stage) and the purpose of Ahriman is also better understood there;
  6. The tablet of Christ with the dream of Tolstoy (the sixth station on Moon) is paralleled in the plight of India as depicted on Saturn (the sixth stage);
  7. The tablet of Muhammad, where his arch enemy is urging the idols to stay in Kaaba or at least in the infidels’ hearts (the final station on Moon) may be better understood in the light of the final stage of the journey where Iqbal meets God face to face.

It is a pity that the discovery of this internal coherence of Javid Nama escaped the one scholar who had the “cause, and will, and strength, and means to do it.”[56] Dr. McDonough’s limitations didn’t seem to be personal but could be traced back to the Bloomsbury concept of the poet as a sentimental being. “Since the Javid Namah is a reflection on what Iqbal met, thought about, and internalized in his own lifetime, it cannot be taken as blueprint to be followed literally, since his particular context will never be repeated,” she observed at the beginning of her analysis. “Nevertheless, it is a message about what it was like for one human being to try to make sense of his life.”[57]

Ironically, this is the assumption against which Iqbal warns the potential reader at the very beginning of the poem:

What I have said comes from another world; this book descends from another heaven.


[1] Nicholson’s translation was based on the second edition but he wasn’t aware that it was just a part of a longer poem (in his review in The Quest, London, July 1920, he treated the two parts as separate poems and erroneously dated the second one “four years afterwards”).

[2] Iqbal was at Trinity College, Cambridge, from September 1905 to June 1907, preparing his graduation thesis The Development of Metaphysics in Persia under the idealist metaphysicist John McTaggart (1866-1925), with some assistance from the Orientalist Thomas Walker Arnold (1864-1930; knighted in 1921). The thesis, with revisions, also earned him a PhD from Munich University in November 1907.

[3] My deductions about Nicholson’s reading of the notes are based on comparison of his introduction with the letter written to him by Iqbal afterwards (see ‘Postscript’).

[4] R.A. Nicholson repeated many of these ideas in his review of The Secrets of the Self in The Quest, London, July 1920, Volume XI, No.4, pp.433-450; reprinted in Reprinted in Riffat Hassan, ed (1977), The Sword and the Sceptre, pp.261-278.

[5] Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Bengali poet and writer, received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. English translation of his poems with a favorable preface by W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) had appeared two years earlier.

[6] The 1919 Treaty of Versailles (ratified by the League of Nations on January 10, 1920), had held Germany responsible for the First World War (1914-1918) and had required it to pay enormous repatriations in cash and territory.

[7] E.M. Forster’s review appeared in The Athenaeum, December 10, 1920, pp.803-804; reprinted in Riffat Hassan, ed (1977), The Sword and the Sceptre, pp.279-285

[8] Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson’s review was published in The Nation, London, December 24, 1920, p.458; reprinted in Riffat Hassan, ed (1977), The Sword and the Sceptre, pp.286-290

[9] Browne’s review was published in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1921, pp.146-7; reprinted in Riffat Hassan, ed (1977), The Sword and the Sceptre, p.291.

[10] In the East, Iqbal is seen as a legitimate intellectual heir of Rumi. His ceremonial “tomb” now exists inside the precinct of Rumi’s mausoleum in Konia. Separate sessions were allocated for discussing Iqbal’s thought in the International Congress on Rumi in Iran, organized by UNESCO on the 800th Birth Anniversary in October 2007, where I happened to be present.

[11] For complete text of Iqbal’s letter, see “Postscript.”

[12] From G. L. Dickinson’s review which has been referenced already.

[13] In The Beast and the Lion (2007), I have attempted a detailed comparison of the poem of W.B. Yeats with a similar idea expressed by Iqbal thirteen years ago.

[14] A.J. Arberry (1953), Mysteries of Selflessness; included in The Collected Poetical Works of Iqbal, currently in preparation at Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore.

[15] Iqbal printed the two parts separately while they were being composed but once they were completed he published them collectively as a single poem only.

[16] A.J. Arberry (1943), Mysteries of Selflessness; included in The Collected Poetical Works of Iqbal, currently in preparation at Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore.

[17] A.J. Arberry (1943), Mysteries of Selflessness; included in The Collected Poetical Works of Iqbal, currently in preparation at Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore.

[18] The Allahabad Address (1930), where Iqbal laid out the concept of Pakistan: “Indeed the first practical step that Islam took towards the realization of a final combination of humanity was to call upon peoples possessing practically the same ethical ideal to come forward and combine.”

[19] A.J. Arberry (1943), Mysteries of Selflessness; included in The Collected Poetical Works of Iqbal, currently in preparation at Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore.

[20] Annemarie Schimmel (1962), Gabriel’s Wing, published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan (1989), p. “vii”

[21] ‘The Spirit of Muslim Culture’ in The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, published by Institute of Islamic Culture (2003), p.111. In my brief Urdu monograph Tarikh-i-Pakistan 1886-2027 (2008), I have attempted to discover the fundamental principles of this new science.

[22] Reprinted in Riffat Hassan, ed (1977), The Sword and the Sceptre, pp.333-4

[23] ‘Dante and Iqbal’; reprinted in Riffat Hassan, ed (1977), The Sword and the Sceptre, pp.334

[24] Barbra D. Metcalf (1977), ‘Reflection on Iqbal’s Mosque’ in Iqbal Centenary Papers (1982) by Prof. Mohammad Munawwar (compiled), published by Department of Iqbal Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore, p.123

[25] Mustansir Mir (2000), Tulip in the Desert, “Introduction”, p.1

[26] Mustansir Mir (2006) Iqbal, “Preface”, p.ii

[27] This was the title Mir gave to his translation of the poem.

[28] “ZK 638 [589]” refers to Zarb-i-Kalim, the seventh book of Iqbal’s poetry, and page numbers in two different collected editions of the Urdu poetry of Iqbal.

[29] Mustansir Mir (2000), Tulip in the Desert, published by C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., London, p.80

[30] Mustansir Mir (2006), Iqbal; published by Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford University Press, Delhi; pp.24-28

[31] Mustansir Mir (2006), Iqbal; published by Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford University Press, Delhi; p.86

[32] I have tried to show this in detail by demonstrating the internal coherence of Iqbal’s works The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality (2007), published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan.

[33] Mustansir Mir (2006), Iqbal; published by Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford University Press, Delhi; pp.143-144

[34] Riffat Hassan, ed (1977), The Sword and the Sceptre; the quotation, p.281; E.M. Forster’s review of The Secrets of the Self was published in The Athenaeum, December 10, 1920; pp.803-804

[35] This is an allusion to E.M. Forster’s review (included above).

[36] Letter to Reynold A. Nicholson (see ‘Postscript’ for complete text)

[37] Reynold A. Nicholson’s review, ‘Iqbal’s Message to the East’, was published in Islamica, Lipsiae, 1924-25, Volume I, pp.112-124; reprinted in Riffat Hassan, ed (1977), The Sword and the Sceptre,pp.301-320

[38] Quran, Chapter 26: “The Poets”, Verses 224-227. Translation is based on Muhammad Asad (1980), The Message of the Quran.

[39] Quotations from Eliot are from his essay ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’.

[40] Preface to Eminent Victorians (1918)

[41] Herbert Reed was quoted by Sir Zulfiqar Ali Khan in his monograph on Iqbal, A Voice from the East, published from Lahore in 1922.

[42] Lord David Cecil, ed (1936), An Anthology of Modern Biography (1936); p.xii. Cecil’s book The Young Melbourne (1939) was said be one of John F. Kennedy’s favorite books.

[43] Iqbal’s own preference was for the “popular” yarn, an antithesis of the Bloomsbury. He recommended Napoleon (1926) by the German biographer Emily Ludwig (1881-1941) as a model to be emulated for Muslim heroes. (Strachey found the book to be “interesting but really second-rate.” See Michael Holroyd [1971], Lytton Strachey: A Biography, p.920).

[44] Dr. Sheila McDonough (2002), The Flame of Sinai: Hope and Vision in Iqbal, published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan, pp. “iv”, 224

[45] In my comparison Smith and Iqbal, I have especially relied on Dr. Sheila McDonough (2002), mentioned above.

[46] Complete text of the Allahabad Address is included with explanatory notes in my book Iqbal: An Illustrated Biography (2006), pp.135-148; the quotation is taken from p.147

[47] The passage was italicized in the published version of the Address distributed on the occasion. A copy is preserved in the library of Iqbal Academy Pakistan.

[48] Dr. Sheila McDonough (2002), The Flame of Sinai: Hope and Vision in Iqbal, published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan, p.208

[49] A.J. Arberry (1953), Mysteries of Selflessness; included in The Collected Poetical Works of Iqbal, currently in preparation at Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore

[50] Reprinted in Riffat Hassan, ed (1977), The Sword and the Sceptre; p.178

[51] Annemarie Schimmel (1962), Gabriel’s Wing, published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan (1989), p.64

[52] Annemarie Schimmel (1962), as mentioned above, p.63

[53] Dr. McDonough (2002), The Flame of Sinai: Vision and Hope in Iqbal, published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore; p.180

[54] Dr McDonough (2002), as mentioned above, p. “iv”

[55] In  Javid Nama, “the Indian Sage” is named Jahan Dost, or “the friend of the world,” explained by Iqbal in a statement dictated to the Iqbal Literary Association, London, in November 1931, as “…the Spirit of the great Indian ascetic, Wishwamitra, whose name the poet translates as Jahan Dost.” Dr. McDonough didn’t seem to be aware of Iqbal’s statement and relied on Jagan Nath Azad’s conjecture that “this is a reference to the attribute of Shiva as the friend of the world” (p.234). In her summary of  Javid Nama she referred to Vishvamitra as “the imaginary Hindu” and also as “Shiva” (p.234).

[56] Of course, the quotation is from Hamlet.

[57] Dr. McDonough (2002), as mentioned above, p.232


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