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Iqbal – Revisiting His Era (Part 4) – Family

By Amir Suhail Wani –

Hazrat E Iqbal Mai Jo Khoobiya Paida hui

Qoum ki nazre Jo unkay tarz ki Shàidà hui

Yeh Tareeqay dosti, khuddari ba tamkanat

Yeh Haq Aagahi, yeh khush goyi, yeh zauqi maurifat

Iss kay shahid hain ki unn kay vaalideen abrar thay

Ba khuda thay, Ahli dil thay, sahibay Asrar thay “

(Akbar Allahabadi)

During second half of the last century, Women’s Liberation movement challenged family as an institution and basic premises which the institution of family rests upon. The criticism has continued to precipitate all along the feminist movement which sees housewives as unpaid labourers. “Women Beyond Kitchen, children and Church” was the new slogan and these ideological tendencies were disruptive brooding radicalisation and militant tendencies in women. Notwithstanding criticism from feminist lobby (or part of it), let’s look at the observations of Haralambos on institution of family. Haralambos notes ” It [family] forms the basic unit of social organisation and it is difficult to imagine how human society could function without it”. Peter Murdock’s concept of family as a universal social institution , Talcott Parson’s Basic irreducible functions of the family, and theories as expounded by theorists like Peter Laslett, Michael Anderson, prove beyond doubt the necessity of the institution family and its role in human existence. Kingsley Davis notes that “The fact that it [Family] is the first, the most persistent, the most intimate and the most complete agency dealing with the child explains why it is so important in the formation of personality” . Religions, be they Semitic or Vedic or for that matter of any other denomination, have always seen and described family as an institution of sanctity and of primary importance in the scheme of institutions that concern human beings. Quran, the scripture of Islam, places emphasis of filial ties and exhorts upon its followers to withhold the chastity and sanctity of this primary institution of family . Religions in general, and Islam in particular, which place before themselves the ideal of creating a society and culture rooted in values and spirituality, have always deemed family as the nucleus of culture and civilization. It sees children in the hands of parents as spiritual mortgage and expects them to transform the potential, higher values embedded in child into actualities. The Ahadith of prophet Muhammad (saw) in this regard are quite explicit and emphatic and place a responsibility upon parents to transform their child into a disciplined and civilised citizen of globe, who can be of benefit to his community and world at large.

  This context for family which Islam lays down for its followers was the guiding principle in the lives of Iqbal’s parents and it was under the shades of these golden principles that they undertook their task of parenting their new-born – Muhammad Iqbal. Iqbal’s Father – Sheikh Noor Muhammad had not received any formal education, but his understanding of matters of mysticism and interest in wisdom earned him the title of “Unlettered philosopher”. Sayyid Nazir Niyazi records in his Daana I Raaz that Iqbal’s father had a deep attachment with the subjects of Shariah, Tareeqah, Hikhah and ilm Ul kalaam. He religiously participated in sessions on Ibn Arabi’s Fasoos and Fatoohat and The Mathnavi of Rumi. He was a man embodying civilised values and saintliness. Even a cursory look at his picture, which we get to see these days, reveals the brightness of his soul and character. The manner which he brought up Iqbal in, had a deep impact on the life and thought of Muhammad Iqbal and Iqbal himself credited his greatness to his father. Few incidents, as narrated by Iqbal himself about his father may help us to understand better the kind of person he was. Dr. Ghulam Mustafa Khan reports from Sayyid Sulaiman Nadvi that on our journey back from Kabul myself and Iqbal were having a discussion on Sufism and mystics and it was during this discussion that Iqbal narrated to me to two incidents from his childhood that are to my understanding basis of his whole life. Iqbal narrated that as a child I was studying Quran one morning when my father came to me and asked, “Iqbal, what are you reading”, “Quran” says Iqbal I replied. Then father came nearer and said “Dear son, whenever you read Quran, read it with the understanding that as if it is being revealed unto you, as if God is directly speaking to you”. Iqbal says that this advice penetrated so deep into his mind and soul that it has stayed with me forever. Iqbal reiterated this thought in his couplet as :-

“Tere Zameer pe jab tak na ho nazool I kitaab

Girrah kusha hai Razi na Sahib I Kashaf”.

Another incident worth mentioning is that once , while Iqbal was still a kid, a beggar appeared on the door. Despite being repeatedly told to leave, he kept insisting on his begging and this made the little Iqbal quite angry, who took a stick in his hand and started lashing out at the beggar. This brought terrible dismay and distress to Iqbal’s father who therefore addressed his son, Iqbal in these words “Tomorrow, on the day of judgment, when I will be asked that I have failed in your parenting and in imparting you the basic values of Islam, what reply shall I offer in presence of beloved prophet (saw)”. There are numerous other incidents of spiritual and moral Inspiration related to Sheikh Noor Muhammad – the father of Iqbal. The interested readers may refer to any basic biography of Iqbal.

Now let’s turn to Iqbal’s mother -Imam bi. But before doing so, let it be reiterated that to those readers, who don’t subscribe to religious point of view, these details might appear redundant and fanciful. But those who believe in universal values of honesty, chastity and philanthropy, these incidents are both inspiring and possibly a key to unlock many of the secrets of Iqbal’s later day climax and the zenith of fame, he achieved. Iqbal’s mother, wherever she is mentioned is recalled for few of her outstanding humanistic qualities. Biographers report that she used to donate secretly to poor and needy, something her elder Son, Sheikh Muhammad Ata, described humorously as “Gupt Daan”. It was her habit to take girls, who lacked resources, under her custody, raise them up and impart to them essential values, basic education and household skills and get them married on her own. The neighbouring women often entrusted her with safe-keeping of their jewellery and other valuables – a service she happily and efficiently rendered. She was also taken as an arbitrator by women in their mutual disputes. It is narrated that Noor Muhammad – Allama’s father was employed somewhere and Imam Bi was suspicious about this income source. Lest her son may be fed a morsel earned by unfair means, she sold her own jewellery and kept the money aside for raising up her new born – Muhammad Iqbal. Iqbal has remembered her in many of his poetic compositions and paid rich tributes to her.

The necessity arose to discuss the family background of Iqbal with the view that families always play a pivotal and instrumental role in making children what they later went on to become as adults. With the outlines of his family background in mind, it shall be rather easy for us to understand some aspects of Iqbal’s life and few dominant elements of his constitution, which we would have otherwise not been able to understand.

(Amir Suhail Wani is a Kashmir based freelancer, Comparative Studies scholar and R&D Engineer with SA Power Utilities Private Ltd. Mail at: [email protected])