Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Communal Politics of Muhammad Iqbal

Muhammad Iqbal is India’s most popular Urdu poet. An abridged version of his poem, “Sare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan Hamara,” is played as a patriotic marching song for the Indian Armed forces. It is said that Mahatma Gandhi sang this song 100 times while he was imprisoned in Yerawada Jail in Pune in the 1930s. This song has been featured in several Bollywood films; it has been sung by major Indian artists, including Lata Mangeshkar. 

After independence, Indians accepted Iqbal’s poems even though he was an Islamic supremacist. He had no sympathy for Hindus; his political ambition was to ensure that Muslims prevailed over the idolatrous Hindus in the Indian subcontinent. A powerful politician, he held number of high positions in the All India Muslim League. During the 1920s and 30s, he was the principal ideologue of Islamic supremacy. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Iqbal was named the country’s national poet. He was also named "Mufakkir-e-Pakistan" (“The Thinker of Pakistan”).

In his book, History and Culture of the Indian People: Struggle for Freedom, historian R. C. Majumdar notes that Iqbal was the primary architect of the violent division of the Indian subcontinent and the creation of Pakistan. 

On page 536 of his book, Majumdar writes: “The most important consequence of the doctrine preached by Iqbal was the slow but steady growth of the idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims in India.” Majumdar is talking about Iqbal’s doctrine of pan-Islamism and Islamic supremacy. Iqbal rejected the idea that the conflict in India was between the Indians and England. He believed that the real conflict was between Hindus and Muslims. (Page 534). 

Iqbal preached that Islam was a unique religion because in it political power was inseparable from religious doctrine. He believed that Islam transcended all national boundaries. He said: “I confess to be a Pan-Islamist. The mission for which Islam came into this world will ultimately be fulfilled, the world will be purged of infidelity and the worship of false gods, and the true soul of Islam will be triumphant, .. . This is the kind of Pan-Islamism which I preach… Islam as a religion has no country.” (Page 534)

During his Presidential Address at the Allahabad session of the Muslim League in December 1930, Iqbal suggested that Muslims would violate the tenets of their religion if they shared political power with Hindus or any non-Muslim group. For him, it was unthinkable that Muslims should live in a democratic country where they were not in majority. He insisted that Muslims must fight for the creation of an Islamic system based on sharia. Here’s an excerpt from his address: 

“The religious ideal of Islam… is organically related to the social order which it created. The rejection of the one will eventually involve the rejection of the other. Therefore the construction of a polity on national lines, if it means a displacement of the Islamic principle of solidarity, is simply unthinkable to a Muslim. This is a matter which at the present moment directly concerns the Muslims of India.” (Page 535) In his speech, Iqbal justified the “Muslim demand for the creation of a Muslim India within India”. (Page 536).

[The quotes in this article are from History and Culture of the Indian People: Struggle for Freedom, by R. C. Majumdar.]

No comments: