Rediff Logo freedom BANNER ADS Find/Feedback/Site Index


'Had Iqbal lived another ten years, he would have championed Pakistan with an ecstatic fanaticism'

Mohammed Iqbal There is, indeed, little doubt that during this last phase Iqbal was drawn into closer association with Jinnah. True, he was not greatly impressed by the latter's understanding of Islam, its ideals and its polity. There is even some reason to believe that though he gave Jinnah his political support, he maintained an attitude of reserve towards him. It is pertinent in his connection to relate an episode towards the end of his life.

Iqbal, though he had a controversy over the Qadiani question with Jawaharlal Nehru -- a controversy in which Iqbal was, incidentally, on much firmer historical grounds than Nehru -- entertained very warm feelings for the man who, after all, despite never having accepted the religion of 'the Book', was his kin. When Nehru was in Lahore, Iqbal expressed a desire to meet him. In his Discovery of India, Nehru writes:

"A few months before his death, as he lay on this sickbed, he sent for me and I gladly obeyed the summons. As I talked to him about many things I felt that, in spite of differences, how much we had in common and how easy it would be to get on with him. He was in a reminiscent mood and he wandered from one subject to another, and I listened to him, talking little myself. I admired him and his poetry and it pleased me greatly to feel that he liked me and had a good opinion of me. A little before I left him he said to me: 'What is there in common between Jinnah and you? He is a politician, you are a patriot'.

This attitude of reserve notwithstanding, Iqbal had probably greater regard and esteem for Jinnah than for most of his Muslim contemporaries. He may or may not have followed him in everything, but he was a sufficiently good judge of human character to realise that here was a man who, whatever his failing and defects, was steadfast in purpose, possessed an indomitable will, and was above those petty, opportunistic considerations which dominated the outlook of the mediocre 'political adventurer' with whom he had to deal all his life in the Punjab.

He could rely upon Jinnah which he could not upon other eminent Muslim politicians. Had he lived longer, the association between these two men would almost certainly have ripened into firmer bonds of political co-operation.

Finally, there is the movement of events and the pressure of that movement has to be considered. Iqbal was not, despite all his claims to the detachment of an intellectual who led 'no party and followed no leader', impervious to this pressure.

Pakistan was not a practical and realisable objective in 1935, but it had become an inevitability in 1945. The mood of the Muslim intelligentsia had changed; and the mood had changed because its circumstances had changed. During the war years the Muslim middle class had vastly strengthened its material position; it was better organised; and this organisational strength and confidence, combined with certain other external factors and the British patronage, had placed it in a position to fight for and get its pound of flesh.

Moreover, the predominantly Hindu leadership of the Congress, with its narrow sectarian outlook its gross ignorance of any but the British constitutional parallels, and its incredible lack of imagination and understanding in dealing with the legitimate demands of the Muslims, had thrown even those Muslim intellectuals who were by no means enamoured of the Pakistan idea, into the arms of the Muslim League.

Jinnah It is highly doubtful if Iqbal would have been able to keep a stable judgement and sane outlook during the years of political insanity which culminated in the division of India and the tragedy of the Punjab.

It would have been impossible for him to do so. Iqbal always reflected the moods of his community; he often anticipated these moods. The probability, therefore, is that, had Iqbal lived another ten years, he would have championed Pakistan with an ecstatic fanaticism.

It would have presented itself to him as the very destiny which he had been striving to create for Muslim India. He would have seen in it the crowing achievements of his life, the practical vindication of his philosophy, the power and the glory of his message, the potential Kingdom of God on earth.

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.