Islamic Aspects of Iqbal’s Poetry


The poetry of Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal proves beyond an iota of doubt that he was a true believer (MOMIN) and an avowed practicing Muslim. He lived his life according to the dynamics and golden principles of Islam. In line with the true spirit of Islam, Iqbal reached the zenith in the field of knowledge, and through the medium of poetry, he exhorted the Muslims to ameliorate their conditions in literacy and education. He kindled the lamp of freedom in the hearts of Muslims of the Subcontinent by enunciating the Two-Nation theory in his famous Allahabad Address of 1930. He was of the opinion that Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent cannot achieve their political rights unless they improve their educational standards.

In terms of religion, Iqbal had forward-looking, moderate, enlightened and balanced views as he emphasized on logic and reasoning. He averred having bigoted, narrow-minded, shortsighted, extremist and conservative religious views. In this regard, he wrote the book “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” – a compilation of lectures delivered by him on Islamic philosophy, published in 1930 – in which Iqbal called for a re-examination of the intellectual foundations of Islamic philosophy. The book is a superlative work on modern Islamic thought.

Iqbal was an advocate of interfaith and sectarian harmony. He preached the message of unity and brotherhood among Muslims and asked them to shun ethnic, linguistic, sectarian and territorial differences and to hold the rope of Allah Almighty tightly as commanded by Allah Almighty in verse 103 of Surrah Al-e-Imran which states:

“And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves”

This aspect has been mentioned in the language of poetry by Iqbal in the following way:

Break the idols of colour and blood and
become lost in the community.
Let neither Turanians, Iranians nor Afghan remain.

At another place he says:

The individual is firm by nation’s coherence, otherwise nothing
The wave is only in the ocean, and outside it is nothing

In consonance with the teachings of Quran and Sunnah, Iqbal advised the Muslims to be kind and cooperative to each other and to cope with intrigues of non-Muslims wisely and prudently as commanded by Allah Almighty in verse 29 of Surah Fath which states:


“Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah. And those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves.”

This verse of Holy Quran has been translated in poetry by Iqbal in following manner:

A man whose faith is firm and strong is
soft as silk in friendly throng:
In skirmish between wrong and right like sword of steel,
he stands to fight!

The poetry of Iqbal encompasses all aspects of Islam such as beliefs, rituals, ethics as well as glorious past of Muslims. About Tauheed which is the base and fundamental belief of Islam, he says:

These melodious songs are not confined to
Time when rose and tulip bloom
Whatever the season of year be “No god but He”
must ring till doom.
Many idols are still concealed in their sleeves by the Faithful
I am ordained by God to raise the call and be much bold.

About the belief in prophethood, Iqbal frequently sheds light on the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as the most supreme role model for us and a glowing practical form of the Holy Quran. In this regard, he says:

You are the Sacred Tablet, You are the Pen and the Book;
This blue-coloured dome is a bubble in the sea that you are.

This poetic verse is in consonance with a saying of the Mother of Believers Hazrat Ayesha (RA). Once a companion of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) asked Hazrat Ayesha (RA) about his (PBUH) life, she (RA) replied: “The life/character of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is Holy Quran.”

As a Muslim we are also required to have the belief in the hereafter which implies that on the Day of Judgement we will be held accountable for our worldly deeds as elaborated by Allah Almighty in verses 7 and 8 of Surah Al Zilzaal which states:

“So, whoever does good equal to the weight of an atom shall see it. And, whoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom shall see it.”

This aspect has been explained in the language of poetry by Iqbal in this way:

This moment is the Day of Judgment;
you are in the field of Judgments’ Day!
My forgetful one, put forward something you have
accomplished, if you have anything written on your scroll.

Allah Almighty tells us in the Holy Quran that we cannot escape death and it would grasp us at the appointed time and place. Furthermore, just like life, death is also an eternal fact. In this regard, Allah Almighty says in verse 8 of Surah Al-Juma:

“Tell them: ‘The death from which you flee will certainly overtake you. Then you will be returned to Him Who fully knows what is hidden and what is manifest. Thereupon, He will let you know all that you used to do.”

This aspect has been mentioned by Iqbal in the following manner.

Tell us what the secret under this rotating dome is
Death a pricking sharp thorn in the human breast is.

Iqbal also accentuates on promoting good moral values and high standards of justice, truth, equality and fair play among Muslims as it is the essence of Islam. The most important trait of Muslims as mentioned by Allah Almighty in the Holy Quran is that they focus on promoting welfare and thwarting mischief. This is inevitable for leadership in the world and success in the hereafter as declared by Allah Almighty in verse 110 of Surah Al-e-Imran:

“You (true believers) are the best people ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin good and forbid evil.”

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “If you see some evil try to stop it with your hand. If you are not having that capacity, then try to stop it with your tongue. If you are not having that capacity too, then at least consider it bad.”

Similarly, about truth, we know that Allah Almighty has frequently cursed those people who tell lies. In this regard, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) also said, “A Momin may commit other sins but a Momin cannot be a liar.”

The lives of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and four Orthodox Caliphs reflect that they established impeccable standard of justice in conformity with teaching of Shariah as Allah Almighty says in verse 90 of Surah An-Nahl:

“Verily, Allah enjoins Al-Adl (i.e. justice) and Al-Ihsan (i.e. good), and giving help to kith and kin, and forbids Al-Fahsha (i.e. all evil deeds) and Al-Munkar (i.e. all that is prohibited by Islamic law), and Al-Baghy (i.e. all kinds of oppression). He admonishes you, that you may take heed.”

These aspects of truth, justice, bravery and leadership of Muslims have been summarized by Iqbal in this way:

Read again the lesson of truth, of justice and valour!
You will be asked to do the work of taking on
responsibility for the world.

At another place, he says:

The destiny of nations I chart for you: at first
The sword and spear; the zither’s, the lute’s soft sighs at last.

So, the teachings of Quran and Sunnah and poetry of Iqbal explain in unequivocal terms that if Muslims want to regain their lost glory and prestige, they must mend their ways and also acquire moral excellence.

In political sphere, too, Iqbal guides Muslims and tells them not to separate religion from politics by saying.

Statecraft divorced from Faith to reign of terror leads,
Though it be a monarch’s rule or Commoners’ Show.

It implies that religion Islam (Deen) also guides us in matters of politics as we have guidelines in Holy Quran and Sunnah. For example, Allah Almighty says in verse 38 of Surah Shoora:

“Who attend to the call of their Lord, who establish salat and conduct their affairs through mutual consultation.”

Furthermore, life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as political head of Muslims is in front of us for guidance.

Iqbal’s poetry also covers rituals of Islam. He elaborates the spirit and benefits of Islamic rituals. About salat, he has opined that if salat of a Muslim does not protect him from evils and shameful deeds, it means that he is unaware of its true philosophy. In this regard, Iqbal says:

Even as I laid down my head in prostration a cry arose from the ground:
Thy heart is enamoured of the idol,
what shalt thou gain by prayer?

He also explains that salat creates unity, brotherhood and a sense of cooperation among Muslims. In this regard, he portrays the scene when King Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi and his servant Ayaz were offering salat together:

Mahmood the king and slave Ayaz, in line,
as equals, stood arrayed,
The lord was no more lord to slave:
while both to the One Master prayed.

He further says:

Slave or slave’s master, rich or poor,
no sense of difference then felt,
For each a brother was to each when in Your Presence,
Lord, they knelt.

Iqbal tells Muslims to focus not only on the apparent ingredients of Hajj but also to understand its spiritual aspects. He says:

Somebody should ask the pilgrims of Ka’bah, O Iqbal
Is the gift of the Harem nothing more than Zamzam?

In his poetic verse, Iqbal advises Muslims not to compromise on their self-respect, self-esteem and ego. He calls on them to strive for getting self-reliance. In this regard, he says:

Develop the self so that before every decree
God will ascertain from you: “What is your wish?”

Iqbal also enunciated the role of hard work, continuous efforts and perseverance in our individual and collective life that has been elaborated in Quran and Sunnah as the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:

” Hard worker is the friend of Allah Almighty”.
Iqbal explains this aspect in the following manner:

On him who merits well I set the brightest diadem,
And those who truly questing come, a new world waits for them.

He further says:

The youth to whom the stars are not out of bounds
Are the ones I love indeed—

According to Iqbal, the only formula for success of a person is unwavering determination and faith, continuous struggle and love for humanity. The great people who attained glory were blessed with these traits. In the language of poetry, Iqbal has mentioned this fact in following manner:

Firm certainty, eternal action, the love that conquers the world—
These are the swords of men in the holy war of life.

Iqbal was also cognizant of human flaws and weaknesses because this integral aspect of human life is present in unequivocal terms in Quran and Sunnah as Allah Almighty declares in verse 28 of Surah An-Nisa:

“Allah wishes to lighten the burden for you; and man was created weak.”

That’s why Iqbal says:

To Iqbal of Iqbal little knowledge is given;
I say this not jesting—not jesting, by Heaven!

Therefore, it is clear that Iqbal was a true Muslim who always had in-depth insight and understanding of the Holy Quran and Sunnah and it is vividly depicted in his poetry. Through the effective and active medium of poetry, the Poet of the East preached the true message of Islam. His poetic verses have assumed the status of adages and its significance and importance is increasing with each passing day.

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