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'By his poetry, by his writings, Iqbal created an infectious mood of irrational, revivalistic fervour in which the Pakistan idea could come to its fruition'

Mohammed Iqbal A number of things must be noted. In Iqbal's scheme for a 'Muslim India', it is still not a question of a separate State. 'Muslim India' is still seen as an integral part of India, functioning 'within the body-politic of India'. Indeed, it would be more accurate to describe his scheme as a scheme for clear demarcation of 'Spheres of Influence' -- or 'Sphere of Exploitation' -- for the Hindu and Muslim bourgeoisie of India.

In one part the Muslims could have profitable monopolies; in the others Hindus could enjoy their economic supremacy. It was to be a sharing of the spoils. There is no mention here of an 'Eastern Pakistan'; and one is justified in assuming that Iqbal did not trouble himself about the Muslims of eastern Bengal, possibly because he did not regard them, to use his phrase, part of 'the most living portion of the Muslims in India'.

Most important of all, the term 'Pakistan' is scrupulously, and possibly deliberately, avoided.

It might be that Iqbal at this stage had not made up his own mind on the subject and the notion was still somewhat hazy and undefined. The late Edward Thompson, for instance, has left it on record that in the course of a conversation with Iqbal, the latter admitted to him that, although he had championed a scheme for Muslim India, he did not believe it to be in the interests either of India as a whole or of the Muslim community. 'Disastrous', in fact, is the term which he is supposed to have used. But such private conversations can only be accepted as valid evidence if there is authentic objective or documentary verification available. Is there such testimony available?

The answer is, to some extent, yes. It is undoubtedly significant that Iqbal made no serious effort to put forward his scheme at that Round Table Conference in London. It is true he resigned from it in disgust, but that had little to do with his scheme. Pakistan, it is reasonable to suggest, was not yet even a bargaining counter which the Muslim leadership was prepared to bring forward in order to get certain other, more moderate demands accepted by the Hindu leadership. It was still dismissed as an unpracticed and crazy 'Undergraduates Scheme'.

Two years after his Presidential address to the All India Muslim League, Iqbal was asked to preside at the All-India Muslim Conference held at Lahore in the summer of 1932. Iqbal in his address to this body did not make any specific reference to his earlier blueprint for a North-West Muslim State in India. He merely posed the problem of Hindu-Muslim concord in rather general and decidedly hopeful terms :

"In view of the visible and invisible points of contact between the various communities of India I do believe in the possibility of constructing a harmonious whole, whose unity cannot be disturbed by the rich diversity which it must carry within its bosom. The problem of ancient Indian thought was how the One became many without sacrificing its oneness. Today the problem has come down from its heights to the grosser plane of our political life, and we have to solve it in its inverse form, i e how the many can become One without sacrificing its plural character..."

The vagueness of this observation could not but have been purposive. For Iqbal was not normally fond of obliquity of statement. In this case, one would be correct in supposing that it was meant to leave the door open for negotiation on a basis even less separatist in implication than the earlier Muslim demand. There is some reason to believe that Iqbal did not deviate any further towards separation beyond the position he took up in 1930. There is thus considerable justification in the suggestion that Iqbal in his lifetime never wholly embraced the Pakistan idea. But it is only honest to add that this does not mean that his personality and writings did not contribute towards the creation of Pakistan. They certainly did. His fervent idealisation of Islam, not merely as a religion, but as a comprehensive polity exercised a very far-reaching restraining influence upon the Muslim intelligentsia.

Together with a number of other factors of an economic character, it served to stem the development of a secular outlook among the Muslim youth. His ardent Pan-Islamic fantasies fired the youthful Muslim imagination with a new complex of dream-fulfillment's. Even those among them who had previously been groping towards socialistic thought, now were drawn towards another ideal -- far more tempting because far less rational; some of them even began to give their socialism a Pan-Islamic orientation.

Cumulatively, Iqbal by his poetry, by his political and philosophical writings, succeeded in creating an ambient and infectious mood of irrational, revivalistic fervour in which the Pakistan idea could grow and come to its fruition.

Jinnah Nor is that all. There is no doubt in the last few years of his life he exerted his influence to strengthen the Muslim League as a political organisation. In his presidential address to its Allahabad session in 1930 he had lamented 'our disorganised condition' which 'has already confused political issues vital to the life of the community'; and he had added: 'The present crisis in the history of India, demands complete organisation and unity of will and purpose in the Muslim community, both in your own interest and the interest of India as a whole.'

When Jinnah visited Lahore to reorganise the Muslim League, which was the weakest in the Punjab owing to the Unionist Party's domination of political life, Iqbal, although keeping very indifferent health, helped the founder and creator of Pakistan in his task.

Excerpted from The Ardent Pilgrim, An Introduction to the Life and Works of Mohammed Iqbal by Iqbal Singh, Oxford University Press, 1997, Rs 295, with the publisher's permission. Readers in the US may secure a copy of the book from Oxford University Press Inc USA, 198, Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016, USA. Tel: 212-726-6000. Fax: 212-726-6440.

Iqbal, continued