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Iqbal as a Politician Essay


One of the greatest political figure of modern Asia has remarked about Iqbal: “Although a great poet and philosopher, He was no less a practical politician. With his firm conviction and faith in the ideals of Islam, he was one of the few who originally thought over the feasibility of carving out of India an Islamic State in the North-West and North-East Zones which are historical home-lands of the Muslims.”

Iqbal is generally known as a great poet and philosopher but he was also an active politician. He fought bravely not only against the ruling power and majority community but also against the Muslim reactionary politicians.

M.Iqbal was born on 9th November 1877 at Sialkot . His father, Sheikh Noor Muhammad belonged to a Kashmiri family was very devoted Muslim and had deep affection with Islam. His mother was a wise but not an educated woman.

When Iqbal was about four years old he was admitted to the Maktab of Maulana Ghulam Murtaza to learn Quran . In Sialkot he was very lucky to have Mir Hassan as his teacher. He was a great scholar, who recognised Iqbal’s capabilities and encouraged him in every possible way. Iqbal completed his matriculation in 1893 from scotch mission collage. He finally moved to Lahore to do his graduation from the GC university which was the best university in Punjab. He completed his graduation in 1897. He decided to do Masters in Philosophy. He received his masters degree in philosophy in 1899 . He went to study at Cambridge University where he choose to specialise in philosophy. Professor Arnold advised to submit his thesis in Germany to get Doctoral degree. The Heidelberg University awarded him the degree of Ph.D. on 4th November 1907 and the thesis was published in 1908 from London.


Iqbal reflects both Western and Islamic influences in his education and experiences. Iqbal’s writing,spurred by his deep concern for the crises of Islam in contemporary society. For Muslims, Islam is his community, his nation in which he will attain his true individuality. The Islamic society is based upon common belief..Iqbal stressed that in order to practice economic and social system of Islam, you need to have a state. He provided the theoretical framework. Iqbal in his letter to M.Ali Jinnah, He stressed upon the Islamic laws as fundamental to the survival of Islam. Iqbal says in his letter of 20th June, 1933:

“You may rest assured that I am not interested in politics as such. It was my interest in Islam as a moral polity that drove me to politics……” He further said in the same letter that: “It was my duty to step forward and to place before the younger generation the real meaning of our ideals……”

During 1905 to 1908 Iqbal was started talking about ‘Tauheed’ that if you want the binding force you have to follow the concept of ‘Tauheed’. If deen is lost every thing is lost. We should break the concept of colour, cast, creed and other things. For exciting a movement amongst the Muslim scholars Iqbal suggested four basic approaches: Quran, Hadith, Ijma and Qiyas. Iqbal also observed that “It is Islam which has come to rescue the Muslims and not vice versa.”


The problem of nationalism attracted much of his attention throughout his life. In his initial stage of poetry he was in favour of Indian nationalism.In many poems he wrote that India was his motherland and it was superior to other countries. But at the same time he was stressing that religion does not preach hatred.(mazhab nahin sikhata apas mein bair rakhna) and everybody who living in India was an Indian and India was his homeland (hindi hain ham watan hai hindustan hamara) He wrote ‘Tarana-e-Hind'(ترانۂ ہندی). سارے جہاں سے اچھاھندوستاں ہمارا

In which he said that you need to love every thing available in your country.Unity of humanity started developing when Iqbal went abroad. He started understand the hollowness of Europe. He believed that territorial nationalism is actually created more problems then solving it.He was bringing up with new ideas For the first time he used the term ‘Qaum'(قوم ) for Muslim ummah. Then he started talking about ‘Millat’. When he talked about Islamic culture he was not only concern with Hindustan but also for the whole Islamic civilization. He was credited to bring alternative concept of ‘Universal Nationalism’. Iqbal said that individual should merge in millat. He wrote Tarana-e-Milli ( ترانۂ ملی ). Cheen-o-Arab Humara, Hindustan Humara

Muslim Hain Hum, Watan Hai Sara Jahan Humara…
In a letter to Professor R.A.Nicholson Iqbal explained his point of view on this matter that:

“Since I find that the idea of nationality based on race or territory is making headway in the world of Islam, and since I fear that the Muslims, losing right of their own ideal of universal humanity, are being lured by the idea of a territorial nationality. I feel it is my duty as a Muslim and a lover of all mankind, to remind them of their true function in the evolution of mankind…….”


Iqbal did not take active part in the politics for a long time. During this period he was busy in creating political consciousness among his people.Iqbal used poetry as a tool to give his concepts.Poetry is not his first priority.When he realised that now its the time to do something practical. Than he did not hesitate even for a single moment. He was urging Muslim to take active part in politics. He supported the Khilafat movement but did not indulge practicality believed that Muslims in different countries of the world should unite but concentrate on national movements. He had fate on his own culture and tradition. He was asking the elite to talk about the time when Muslims were at peak. He was also asking the intelligentsia and politicians to talk about the glory of Muslim past and also about the reasons which caused their downfall. He was interested in political advancement and safeguarding the rights of Muslims for preserving their separate identity.

In May 1908, when Muslim League was formed in London Iqbal was elected as a member of the committee. He drafted constitution for this league. He came back to India in August 1908. There was already a Muslim League in India. During 1913 to 1923 he was not very active in politics. This was the time when Iqbal was busy developing his philosphy and writing his epoch-making poems Asrar-i-khudi, Rumuz-i-Bekhudi, Khizr-i-Rah and Tulu-i-Islam etc.

During the last years of his life, Iqbal had such a busy political life that it is not possible to describe all of his political activities in this short assignment. Hence some of his work mentioned in a brief sketch.


It was in 1923 that Iqbal was persuaded by certain friends to stand for election to the Punjab legislative council, and he was quite willing to do so. But his friend Mian Abdul Aziz also wanted to stand for this election. Finally he stood for elections to the council in 1926, and was elected by an overwhelming majority.

He took great interest in the work of the council and he made important contribution in it. He delivered many speeches on the budget of the Punjab. He also discussed other subjects in the council. He had a great love and sympathy for the poor. Iqbal moved some very good resolutions in the legislative council. Iqbal put great fight for the revision of land taxes. He said in one of his speech that:

“In case the money is remitted we should apply it towards the reduction of taxes. We should apply the principle of progression to land revenue………In the case of income-tax the principle of ability or the principle of progression is applied, that is to say, there is graduated scale and some people do not pay income-tax at all. My submission, therefore is that the council should consider the question of the reduction of taxes in the light of this principle…….” He moved a resolution to discourage drinking. He was a great friend of peasants and he moved resolutions in favour of them. But when asked to stand for the next election, he said: “People go to council to grind their own axes. I have no axe to grind.”


IN 1928 M.Iqbal was elected secretary of the Shafi branch of the Muslim league .In the same year he was appeared before the Simon Commission as a witness. In 1929 he attended the Muslim Conference held in Delhi. He was elected as the president of All India Muslim League in 1930. In the same year he presided the annual session of the All India Muslim League held at Allahabad. He delivered a presidential speech, which was known as Allahabad address. In this speech he said that:

“Do not think that the problem i am indicating is a purely theoretical one. It is very living and practical problem calculated to affect the very fabric of Islam as a system of life and conduct…..”

He further said in the same speech that:

“Redistribution of British India calculated to secure a permanent solution of the communal problem is ignored, then I support as emphatically as possible, the Muslim demands repeatedly urged by the All India Muslim League and All India Muslim Conference. The Muslims of India can’t agree to any constitutional changes which affect their majority rights.” In this speech Iqbal was the first to suggest a separate homeland for the Muslims on the plateform of Muslim League. The scheme suggested by others had not attracted any attention at all, But the one put forward by Iqbal attracted worldwide attention for the first time. The words of Iqbal which took much attention in this speech was that:

I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within in the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.”

The whole address was thought provoking and it called the Muslims to get united and prepare themselves for the struggle to achieve freedom. On this occasion he was convinced that the only solution for the Muslims to survive in India was to have a homeland.


British government sent a commission under Sir John Simon to introduce constitutional reforms in Indian sub-continent. The Simon commission finished its work in 1929 and submitted its report in the middle of 1930 to the British government. There were huge agitations against these reforms then the viceroy announced that the British government proposed to call Round Table Conference in London. Iqbal did not attend the first Round Table Conference because he was not invited to attend this conference. Iqbal attended the second Round Table Conference. Which was also attended by Mr.Gandhi there were formed two commissions. In this conference no result could be found, So the delegation wrote a letter to British Prime Minister to give an award. The Prime Minister gave the award in 1932. Iqbal issued a statement before announcing the award that :

“I honestly believe that no community has a more genuine grievance against the decision than the Muslims. Indeed, I can’t explain to myself as to how the British conscience has tolerated the injustice.”

Third Round Table Conference was held in 1932, in which Iqbal stressed the need for provincial autonomy because autonomy gave the Muslim majority provinces power to safeguard their their rights, cultural traditions and religion. Under the central government the Muslims were bound to lose their cultural and religious identity at the hands of overwhelming Hindu majority.


Iqbal dreamed of Muslim autonomy to be carried out in the Muslim majority areas of the Indian sub-continent. In a meeting with Jinnah, he did not use the term ‘two nation’ but ‘nation’. Iqbal selected Jinnah to lead the Muslims. In a letter to Jinnah he wrote that:

“You are the only Muslim in India today to whom the community has a right to look up for safe guidance through the storm which is coming to North-West India, and perhaps to the whole of India.” In his historical Allahabad Address, Iqbal visualised an independent sovereign state for the Muslims of North-West India. As Iqbal selected Jinnah to lead the Muslims and Jinnah articulated the case of separate homeland for Pakistan so brilliantly that even the Hindus and British could not stand in his way and gave way for the creation of Pakistan. Jinnah as a brilliant lawyer and politician, his sense of practical and achievable set him quite apart from the visionary Iqbal. Thus Pakistan became as a reality because of their endeavours. A writer has remarked that:

“But in the midst of all darkness there shone a flickering light in Lahore. And this was Iqbal who stood steadfast by Jinnah in those trying days and helped him to charter the course of Indo-Muslim politics.”


Iqbal died in 1938, but he was successfully converted Jinnah, from ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity to a communal Muslim leader. Till the end he gave advices to M.Ali Jinnah in political matters through his letters. Later Jinnah adopted a resolution for Pakistan movement in Lahore session of the Muslim League in 1940. After the Lahore resolution was passed in Lahore session on 24th March 1940, Quaid-i-Azam said: “Iqbal is no more amongst us, but had he been alive he would have been happy to know that we did exactly what he wanted us to do.”

His politics can be judge from the following message of Mr.Jinnah:
“To me he was a friend, guide, philosopher and during the darkest moments through which the Muslim league had to go, he stood like a rock, and never flinched one single moment.”
I would like to finish my assignment with the quote of M.Iqbal:
“True political life begins not with the claiming of rights, but with the doing of duties.”

Ahmad, S.Hassan.1979. Iqbal, his political ideas as crossroads Aligarh: Printwell publications.
Chaghatai, M.Ikram.2003.Iqbal New Dimensions:a collection of unpublished and rare Iqbalian Studies Lahore: Sang-e-Meel publications.
Iqbal, Javed.1961,Stray Reflections(A notebook of Allama Iqbal) Lahore:Ghulam Ali publications.
Iqbal, Javed.1956.Dr Iqbal Lahore:Maktaba-i-Adam educational publication.
Jeoffery,V.H.2003.Iqbal’s Vision and Pakistan today thoughts and facts Karachi:Royal book company.
Sherwani,Latif Ahmed.1977.Speeches,Writings and Statements of Iqbal Lahore:Iqbal academy Pakistan.
Shamloo.1945.Speeches and Statements of Iqbal Lahore:Pakistan printing press.
Sultana,Kishwar.1998.Allama Muhammad Iqbal as a politician(1926-1938) Islamabad:National book foundation.
Vahid,S.A.1974.Glimpses of Iqbal Karachi:Iqbal academy Pakistan.
Wahid,Syed Abdul.1976.Studies In Iqbal Lahore:Muhammad Ashraf press.

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