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Post by Gulzar on Sat Sep 13, 2008 7:44 am

A detailed discussion of the thematic and literary features of Iqbals poetry is not be undertaken here. A few general points may, however, be made.
A reader of Iqbals poetry is struck by its sheer thematic variety. Iqbal was deeply interested in the issues that have exercised the best minds of the human racethe issues of the meaning of life, change and constancy, freedom and determinism, survival and progress, the relation between the body and the soul, the conflict between reason and emotion, evil and suffering, the position and role of human beings in the universeand in his poetry he deals with these and other issues. He had also read widely in history, philosophy, literature, mysticism, and politics, and, again, his catholic interests are reflected in his poetry.
Iqbal celebrates humanity, in more than one sense. On one level he shows broad acceptance for humanity. In The Story of Adam, the protagonist, Adam, plays a variety of roles-those of prophet, thinker, reformer, scientist, inventor, astronomer, martyr, and iconoclast. Adam in this poem is not simply a religious figure belonging to a certain tradition, but represents the whole of humankind. On another level, Iqbal takes pride in being human and has no desire to partake of the godhead of God. To be God is to have concerns and worries that would give one a headache, but to be human is to have that sweet pain called heartache. Humans can hold their heads high in view of their achievements in the world to which they were banished from paradise: if God has made the night, then humans have made the lamp, and if God has made deserts and mountains, then humans have made parks and meadows (A Dialogue Between God and Man,). Humans must, therefore, strive to be perfect qua humans, and that is a goal yet to be achieved.
The theme of humanity is closely linked in Iqbal with that of khudi (literally, selfhood). Khudi is a complex thought in Iqbal. Broadly speaking, it represents the principle of the inner self with an urge to manifest itself Societies as well as individuals have khudi, and it is on the development or suppression of ones or failure in the world depends, khudi that ones success the khudi of slaves, for example, is moribund.
Recognition, discovery, cultivation, and assertion of their khudi should, therefore, be the aim of humans. Iqbals critique of Muslim societies is predicated on the assumption that these societies have lost their khudi or have allowed it to become seriously impaired. The best way to understand Iqbals concept of khudi is by reading poems in which he discusses the subject.
Perfection, or rather limitless perfection, is a frequently occurring motif in Iqbals poetry. I seek the end of that which has no end, says Iqbal in The Houri and the Poet, and, in the same poem: From the spark I seek a star, from the star a sun. Iqbal sees no end to human potentialities. He wishes humans to embark on a never-ending journey of discovery, and to this end emphasizes the importance of action. Constant action and perpetual movement are in fact the only guarantee of survival in the world. Nations fall behind when they cease to be dynamic and start preferring a life of idle speculation over one of purposive action.
But the quest for perfection can give rise to irony. Irony, in fact, fills human life, for while they have been imbued with the desire to achieve perfection, humans have been denied the ability to achieve it in practice. The poems Man, Solitude, and The Dew and the Stars discuss several aspects of the irony of human life. The poem, The Story of Adam, though it ends on a more optimistic note, yet implies that it takes humans a long time to discover the most important secret of existence.
The heart has its reasons, of which reason is ignorant, says Pascal. Iqbal, who frequently speaks of the conflict of the head and the heart, would agree, though he would add that while the conflict exists, it does not have to. More often than not it is reason (or the intellect) that belittles the heart (or intuition), but both are essential to a harmonious life; ideally, then, reason and the heart should cooperate rather than clash.
Although he has wide-ranging interests, Iqbal essentially belongs to, and speaks from within, the Islamic tradition, employing, for his purposes, the historical, religious, philosophical, and literary resources of that tradition. A full appreciation of Iqbal requires an understanding of these resources, and the notes and commentaries in this volume elucidate Iqbals use of them.
Iqbal held to the doctrine of art for lifes sake. Acutely aware of the problems of Muslim decadence and backwardness, Iqbal takes it upon himself to shake the Muslims of India and other countries out of their lethargy, urging them to take the path of progress, so that they can gain an honorable position in the polity of nations, He uses the medium of poetry to arouse socio-religious consciousness among Muslims. As a result, Islamic religious and social themes predominate in his poetry. But Iqbals vision of a revived religion is far from conservative. He is sharply critical of many of the institutions of historic Islam (of the institution of monarchy, for example), and his vision of a new world derives from the Islamic notions of egalitarianism and social justice. He rejects dogmatism in religion, advocates rethinking of the Islamic intellectual heritage, and stands for the establishment of a forward-looking community. But the conviction of art for lifes sake never allows Iqbals poetry to degenerate into bland or crass propaganda. The worldwide acclamation he has won is proof that Iqbals strength consists in writing purpose poetry of the highest artistic standards.
Ultimately, however, the secret of the appeal of Iqbals poetry lies in the personality behind that poetry. Whether he is dealing with a broadly humanistic or a specifically Islamic theme, Iqbal views it from a unique perspective. Consider his boldly critical attitude toward certain aspects of the received tradition, an attitude reflected, for example, in the poems referred above. Unlike almost any other poet in the Islamic tradition, Iqbal enters into a dialogue with God, raising issues the orthodox would consider disturbing. He asks whether Adams expulsion from heaven has turned out to be Adams loss or Gods own; he challenges God to speak to him face to face rather than through messengers, and, noting the discrepancy between the boundlessness of human ambition and the limitedness of the resources put at humans disposal, he asks God whether His experiment involving Adam is to be taken seriously. Iqbals view of the role of Satan in the world is also highly intriguing and, as one would expect, highly unconventional (see Conquest of Nature and Gabriel and Iblis).
A notable thing about Iqbals perspective is ambiguity, a typical modem quality. Especially when he is talking about metaphysical issues, Iqbal raises some difficult questions, without providing a single valid answer. In Paradise Lost and Regained the question whether Adam should have sinned or not (each scenario being theoretically defensible) is not answered by Iqbal. In Gabriel and Iblis we are left to wonder about Iqbals own view of Iblis self-justification. And in Solitude we cannot be certain why God smiles.
In several places Iqbal talks about himself about his Eastern background and Western education, and the contradictions of his own personality; his conviction that his study of historic Islam had furnished him with certain valuable insights which he must share with his people; his hope that his message will spread across the Muslim world, and his apprehension that he will be misunderstood or appreciated for the wrong reasons. Here it may be added that the various attempts made to identify (or label) Iqbal as a Sufi or an orthodox Muslim, as a radical or a reactionary are wide of the mark because Iqbal is too large a figure to fit any narrow, procrustean category; he demands and deserves attention on his own terms.

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