iqbal frontKhudi ko kar bulund itna ke har taqdeer se pahle

Khuda bande se khud poochhe teri raza kya hai

(Exalt thyself so high that before issuing the decree of fate

God may ask what your desire is.)

Years ago, I heard these lines from my father who also explained me the concept ofKhudi or selfhood, and it was my first introduction to Allama Iqbal. For many years this couplet adorned the wall next to my study table. Whenever I felt low I would recite it loudly. It made me feel better. Later, I loved his poems which were coloured in patriotism and gave the message of communal harmony and peace. But, at the same time, I also wondered how come a poet who had written Sare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan Hamarabecame ‘the spiritual father of Pakistan’. The book under review, to some extent, answers my questions about this great poet’s transformation from an Indian nationalist poet to a votary of pan-Islamism.

The book is not only for those whose mind permits the elasticity of its openness to myriad personalities that Iqbal was but also for unenthusiastic wanderers. Zafar makes this well-researched book available to a scholar as well as a novice reader in equal measure. Even a swift, fast reading will help any reader to absorb the crux as all comprehension flows from vivid description of background material which Zafar lays bare before his readers prodigiously. Elegance and condensation marks Zafar’s work. Nothing is over-explained.

Review of Zafar Anjum’s Iqbal-The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician (Random House India.
Price 499. Pages-274) by K K Srivastava

iqbal frontElemental awe, history and poetry are indelibly linked and the best connection among the three was sought by none other than Derek Walcott who wrote, “For every poet it is always the morning in the world, and History a forgotten insomniac night; History and elemental awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.” Zafar Anjum’s sprawling book, a reminder of the raison d’ etre of what Walcott said, begins with a question posed to him by one of his friends, ‘Why the biography of Iqbal?’ Zafar gives four answers splendidly. It is to,’ ‘Narrate Iqbal’s life once again for those who have forgotten him.’ and further because- ‘I am attached to Iqbal by an umbilical cord that is both spiritual and intellectual. ‘; ‘during languid summer afternoons and buried winter evenings, while we did our school work, Iqbal seeped into us’; and finally ‘The great poet, in an oblique way became a real presence in my life.’ And thus emanates the justification.

The book is neatly divided into four parts: each part covering distinct period of Iqbal’s life and evolution as a statesman. Readers inclination to read the book is not of much relevance here nor they have to toil to make good of lines as there are no stumbling stones; Zafar knows the art of excavating by traversing forgotten pages of history. Zafar locates the self of Iqbal which signifies Iqbal’s belief in ‘living a straight forward, honest life’ as ‘Life is a state of war’.in the backwash of history and culture and portrays Iqbal’s feelings with the solitude of an observer. Artistic unity of the book irrespective of sources material was culled from is distinctive and engaging. The book is not only for those whose mind permits the elasticity of its openness to myriad personality that Iqbal was but also for unenthusiastic wanderers. Zafar makes this well-researched book available to a scholar as well as a novice reader in equal measure. Even a swift, fast reading will help any reader to absorb the crux as all comprehension flows from vivid description of background material which Zafar lays bare before his readers prodigiously. Elegance and condensation marks Zafar’s work. Nothing is over-explained.

A misnomer persists amongst the academics that after Allama Mohammed Iqbal was nominated the “the national poet of Pakistan”, he was relegated to pages of the sub-continent’s unwritten history and ignored in India: The Deccan Herald

iqbal frontWhile that may be true of his place of birth, it’s certainly untrue as he continues to be read, recited, referred to, and his poetry frequently quoted and musical compositions of many of his verses listened to reverentially.

And his role as the harbinger of Islamic revivalism debated. At the same time, any revival of his life, philosophy and politics is bound to raise questions, especially with regards to his relevance in the sub-continental life. Any attempt to relive the life of a controversial public figure is to raise doubts.

Zafar Anjum’s book is a welcome addition to the corpus of Iqbal studies, writes Naresh ‘Nadeem’: Tehelka

iqbal frontThe volume says it is “an attempt to narrate Iqbal’s life once again for those who have forgotten him” and the author, Zafar Anjum, has succeeded quite well in the endeavour. The book is indeed a welcome addition to the corpus of Iqbal studies. The author acknowledges that it is not “a comprehensive account”, but he has done his best, and the volume, reasonably priced, may well spur curious readers “onto further reading”

Ziya Us Salam pays tribute to the great Urdu poet and Muslim philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal in The Hindu

iqbal frontIndeed, Iqbal was a genius without a parallel, a die-hard nationalist who, over time, transformed into an internationalist, a man once won over by the West who went on to be at the head of Eastern revivalism. Yet for a young man or woman growing up in 2014, Iqbal remains a mystery with most having nothing more than a passing acquaintance with his works. For entirely non-literary reasons, he has been denied a place in the pantheon of modern Indian giants.

Through a systematic approach, using a technique similar to that of a labourer building a skyscraper, brick by brick, Zafar, shows the real poet, the real philosopher, the politician. As said in the introduction, “Europe infused Iqbal’s life with a singular mission – to revive the dynamism of Islam to save humanity from the ills of materialism. A transformed Iqbal stopped considering himself a poet; to his mind, he became a messenger who used poetry to awaken humanity, especially Muslims, to its ills.”