Allama Iqbal and his poetry

by: Omar Ali, USA

Allama Iqbal had many sides. He was a very bright student (Arnold recognized that), but he was also a from a neo-convert molvi family that still had issues with their Hindu relatives and whose social outlook was conservative and conservative in the medieval orthodox manner, with very little balance from the more rainbow colored diverse folk traditions of Punjab. This mullahism sneaked more and more into his poetry as he got older (probably because he was intoxicated by the wah wah that his jihadi and obscurantist poetry got from the himayat e islam crowd). He did have other good qualities though: he was lazy, loved wine and music, liked to chat with his friends and smoke hookah and avoid his nagging wife and loved kabootar baazi, the sort of person most men would enjoy hanging out with (.. but I just mean that in our society these are mostly male pursuits even today) … and all well documented by his son and others close to him.

In fact, I know some of his surviving relatives and one of my friends used to hang out with his old servant in Sialkot and they all said much the same thing. His servant once told my friend that when Iqbal came to Sialkot, he wanted to go for kabootar bazi and hang our with old friends and never showed any molvi tendencies at all and he is surprised how many molvies now write his verses on their madressa walls.

Oh, on anecdotes, one of his relatives claimed that he also wrote very funny erotic poetry as a diversion and a joke and that someone had collected it in a “copy” book, and he wished he could trace it out now as it was very funny and very crude and obscene. Anyone from old Lahore with info about that copy book??

I agree that he was VERY talented poet. Unfortunately tainted by some jihadi and molvi tendencies, but he was a man of his time and his background and should be judged in that context. That “laRkian parh rahi hain angrezi” nonsense for example was almost certainly an attempt to butter up his himayat e islam financiers, who all thought like that….

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