A Tribute to Iqbal

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I grew up in the household of my maternal grandparents. Since my mother was a professional woman, I had the chance to spend a lot of time with my grandmother. Essentially, she was my mother in ways more than one. I feel I am one of the last generations lucky enough to have been a part of a family where the morals, values and boundaries were very clearly defined. In that house, which I called home for nearly sixteen years of my life, there used to be a wall hanging in the drawing room. It was a K
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  I grew up in the household of my maternal grandparents. Since my mother was a professionalwoman, I had the chance to spend a lot of time with my grandmother. Essentially, she was mymother in ways more than one. I feel I am one of the last generations lucky enough to have been apart of a family where the morals, values and boundaries were very clearly defined.In that house, which I called home for nearly sixteen years of my life, there used to be a wall hangingin the drawing room. It was a Kashmiri hand woven rug with a beige base and a beautifully carvedpattern of leaves and flowers in wondrous shades of blue, turquoise and green. Towards the top of the hanging, two verses of Allama Mohammad Iqbal’s poetry had been written in black: “Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer se pehle   Khuda bande se khud pooche bata teri raza kia hai”  It would be translated in English as: “ Elevate your khudi to such heights that before every decree, God Himself asks you: ‘‘Tell me , what is your wish?’’  For years and years, I used to wonder what these verses meant. I had a tutor who used to home-tuition us. I often asked him and his answer was always the same, mainly that Iqbal was asking us tobecome better human beings. This answer would ease my mind for a few days; but soon afterwards,I would pass by that wall hanging and the question still lingered. It was as if I unconsciously knewthat within this verse laid something very sacred and very basic to human nature that must beexplored. Many years came of ups and downs, highs and lows later. Somehow, when I reached apoint where my mind and my heart ceased to find any comfort or solace in the world of the materialrealm, I turned to the spiritual and it was while on my journey here that I began to truly fathom thebeauty of these two verses and the messages they held within. It was then that I began to realize thetrue brilliance and character of Allama Mohammad Iqbal and the message he carried.In Pakistan, we all grow up being taught in schools that Iqbal was our national poet. We recite hispoetry, we dwell on the meanings and try to explain them as best as we can; yet nowhere have Ifound anyone who could traverse the depths of meaning that his words carried within. Nowhere didI find any real answers. It was only on the journey of self-discovery that the veils began to lift frommy eyes.Let us briefly look at these verses from Iqbal ’ s point of view. The main word that stares at us isKhudi. Defining what Iqbal meant when he mentioned khudi leads us to a myriad of meanings anddefinitions of the word. Simply put one can call it the “S elf  ” or the “E go ” . What is the ego, one asks?It can be defined as that part or our being which when controlled and tamed, can lead us to exaltedheights and if left to its own devices, can lead us into depths of destruction.As Muslims we believe that we have a material body and a heavenly soul. We believe in the book,the prophets and their messages, and we believe in the afterlife. Yet in toda y’s world, we hardly ever ask the question: “What is the purpose of life?” I believe it was the answer to this question that wasIqbal ’s vision. It was what he had discovered after travelling the path of truth, when he learned themagnanimity of human nature and what exaltation it can achieve. Through his poetry, he has tried to explain what it means for humans to be “Ashraf  -ul- makhlooqat” or “The best of all creation”. Iqbal argued that khudi was the foundation of all existence, an entity which appears perishable butwhich has the capacity to become immortal. He argued that this ego could evolve and progress aswell as atrophy and degenerate depending on how it was cultivated. As stated in the Q  uran “‘The  one who causes this (self) to grow in purity has indeed attained success; and the one who isnegligent of this (self) has indeed utterly failed.’’ (Al -Shams 91:9, 10).It was this very meaning that he wanted the youth of Pakistan to understand and to apply in orderto create a society which Khalil Jibr an outlines in his book “Th e prophet”: A society where laws neednot be drafted because our inherent divineness shines through. Hence, there can be no wrong. Aworld where morality, goodness, justice and truth overpowers all else.In today’s day and age, we spend hours on drafting policies to create a better society. We formorganizations and committees in order to bring about justice and equality for all. We formulate lawsand modes of character that everyone should adhere to. Yet somehow, we live today in a worldwhere there is more injustice, corruption, hatred and falsehood than ever has been in humanhistory. Narrowing it down to Pakistan and the problems we are facing at the moment, we oftenasks ourselves, where we went so wrong. Sure, we all have different answers to this question. Someblame it on feudalism, corrupt politicians, others on lack of education, over population and etcetera.All these factors are parts of the same puzzle we are trying to solve. But if for one second we puteverything else aside and just start from the very basic point of self or ego and work our way up, thesame self that Iqbal calls khudi, it won ’ t be long before we shall begin to see a pattern emerge. Wewill start to see that our problems at the very base, begin from within our own selves and it is thisvery self that needs to be tamed for a whole society to evolve into a better one. It only takes oneperson to start the change. The biggest example for us as Muslims is our beloved prophetMuhammad (PBUH). One person can start a light that can eventually change the course of history.Do we as Pakistanis give Allama Iqbal enough credit for his vision? Not even close. Do we understandwhat his message was? Barely. Would the situation have been different if Iqbal were amongst ustoday? Absolutely. If  Iqbal’ s vision had become a mainstream reality, I believe we would have been anation of better human beings, of better Muslims, of better politicians, of better parents and of better children: A nation where each individual took responsibility for their own actions and notblame the state, or their fate or anything else for their shortcomings.It is an apt age old saying: “God does not help those who don’t help themselves”. Therefore, weneed to start helping our own selves if we are to have a chance at a better Pakistan. We need to start making Allama Iqbal’s vision a reality if we want to shine again. And every single one of us can do that. Every single one of us has that divine in us waiting to shine through. It is only a matter of time when truth will triumph all else and if we, as individuals, want to be a part of that reality then,it is time to wake up and take the first step.
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