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Iqbal – Revisiting His Era (Part 5) – Birth of a star

allama iqbal 1 Medium

By Amir Suhail Wani —

“Freud was a product of classical science with its reductionism and determinism, and his dream work follows that tradition, one that had no place for the mystical or the divine… As twentieth century progressed, classical science was challenged by new physics and its theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, challenged the old. Jung analysed the dreams of the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, and found the new physics more compatible with his mystical inclinations ” Writes Louis Hagood in his entry on dreams in Springer’s ” Encyclopedia of psychology and religion “. Dreams are phenomenal episodes when one looks at the evolution of human civilisation and the role dreams are reported to have played in this evolution. Abraham’s dream/s created a civilisation, a world order and an entire spectrum of semitic religions. Dreams have been traditionally seen as coded signals from the other world and their interpretation, as evident in the story of Jacob and Joseph , was a task of preeminence. Dreams have often accompanied the birth of great personalities in human history and irrespective of our attitude to these reports, we often get to listen of the dreams, the parents of great men used to have around the event of their birth. May be some of these later day dream stories are fabricated only to add to the grandeur and mystery of the personality under discussion and may had no reality to begin with. But in case of Muhammad Iqbal, who is so close to the era as that of ours, the dream as narrated by his father he had, seems reliable and therefore worth mentioning.

Whether the reader takes this dream as the embodiment of Noor Muhammad’s wish, as Freud tells us about the essence of Dreams, or one perceives this dream as a coded signal from the other world is left to the intellectual and spiritual disposition of the reader. Few days before his birth, Iqbal’s father saw a huge crowd and a white dove swimming in space in his dream . Each and everyone was trying to catch hold of this beautiful bird, but it escaped their reach. Finally the dove came into the lap of Noor Muhammad – who thus interpreted it that God will bless him with a son who will be of great service to Islam. After few days, Iqbal was born and seeing this as the exact description of his dream he named his son as Muhammad Iqbal. The dream was reported by Iqbal himself and is recorded in Abdul Majeed Salik’s “Zikri Iqbal” Naseer Niyazi’s “Iqbal Kay Hazoor” Khalifa Abdul Hakeem’s “Fikr I Iqbal”.


There continued to be immense disagreement with reference to Iqbal’s date of birth, the situation which has lately and perhaps partially settled down. This confusion and disagreement drew its legitimacy from confusing municipal records, Iqbal’s own statements, reports from family members and multiple researchers. An entire array of books, consisting of, but not limited to Aejaz Hussain’s “Mukhtasar Tareekh I Urdu Adab”, Abdul Salam Nadvi’s “Iqbal I Kamil”, Baha I Din Ahmad’s “Gulistan I Hazaar Rang” have recorded the year 1876 as Iqbal’s year of birth. There is another series of books and authors, who, relying on Abdul Majeed Salik’s Zikr I Iqbal have furnished the date 22 February, 1873 as Iqbal’s date of birth. This is an exhausting list and the intricacies and details involded are much tiring and trying. After lot of research by independent researchers and organised bodies, taking all the phases of Iqbal’s life into account and minutely analysing the municipal register details, the personal description as written by Iqbal at Munich University, it has come to be almost unanimously agreed upon that 9th of November, 1877 is the actual date of birth of Muhammad Iqbal. This is the date with which Mustansir Mir opens his book on Iqbal published from Oxford University Press and likewise those books which had earlier incorporated some other date, if their authors happened to be alive, the new editions were published marking 9 November, 1877 as Iqbal’s date of birth. The matter has been discussed exhaustively by Javed Iqbal in his magnum opus Zinda Rood.

The global and local context in which Iqbal was born has already been discussed in the previous articles of this series. To turn to Iqbal’s upbringing, we need to bear another important fact in mind. Christopher De Bellaigue has masterfully described this phenomenon in his book The Islamic enlightenment that we are about to discuss now. Iqbal’s era was in general characterised by repugnance for modern education, as it was seen to be associated with colonisers and imperialists. Besides Muslims had the condescending notion about other systems of thought and education, and the system of education, as had emerged under aegis of Islam was deemed superlative and thus the only acceptable system. It took Sir Syed’s tireless efforts in India to awaken Muslims to the importance of modern education and in making them aware of the fact that all secrets of material progress are now embedded in education which Muslims disgustingly identified as white Master’s education to attack Islam and wean Muslims from Islamic teachings and principles. Sir Syed’s movement had gained some success and notwithstanding the relentless criticism he reviewed from home and abroad, his ideas continued to gain followers and votaries. One such follower was a pious, classically trained and polished teacher from Sialkot by the name of Syed Mir Hassan, who more than often attended the sessions of Sir Syed’s Muslim Educational Conference. We shall shortly have the opportunity to return to Mir Hassan again.

As stated earlier, the Muslims at large preferred to impart religious knowledge to their children in favour of secular education. Even those who aspired modern education for their children used to put them at Madras for some years so that they may learn the tenets of Islam and therefore shield themselves from missionary tactics and what they saw as the toxicities of modern secular education. Iqbal father -, Sheikh Noor Muhammad was no different in this regard. He made Iqbal to sit in Madrasa of Maulana Ghulam Hassan to assimilate the basic Islamic sciences. It was here that Maulana Syed Mir Hassan saw Iqbal and took him under his tutelage. It was under Mir Hassan’s mentorship that Iqbal started learning Arabic and Persian, besides cultivating his inbuilt predisposition for poetry. For a student like Iqbal, a teacher like Mir Hassan played the same role as we see in duo of “Socrates – Plato”. Mir Hassan was himself an embodiment of virtuosity and scholarship, with his learning stretched over Oriental sciences, linguistics, Mysticism, literature and religious studies. Iqbal used to restate time and again the due he owed to his teacher – Mir Hassan and even after his personal evolution as a scholar and visionary, he kept looking back to Mir Hassan for guidance and spiritual and intellectual consolation. Biographers so narrate that Mir Hassan’s personality was one rooted in piety and scholarship and his style of life was simple and impressive. By virtue of such attributes, he exercised tremendous influence over his disciples – including Iqbal. What Iqbal himself wrote about his teacher – Mir Hassan seems pertinent to quote to fully understand the impact and impression, Mir Hassan had on Iqbal. Iqbal writes,

“Woh Sham e baargahi khaandaan I Mustafavi

Rahay ga misli haram jis ka aastaa mujko

Nafas se jiss kay khili Meri aarizoo ki kalli

Banaya jiski murrawat ne nuqta daan mujko”

At another place, Iqbal writes

“mujay Iqbal uss Sayyid Kay ghar se Faiz Pohcha hai

Palay Jo uss kay daaman mai wahi kuch ban kay niklay hai”

Nazir Niyazi describes Mir Hassan as “Man-maker, one who didn’t write any book, but wrote many humans”.

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