Empowering people through education and engagement

Why Iqbal Matters


Azher Quader
President  Community Builders Council (CBC)

Mohammad Iqbal is a household name among South Asians in general. Many know him as an inspiring poet philosopher from the East. Equally many regard him as the Founder of Pakistan the one who originally conceived the idea and promote the notion of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims to have. His love and adoration however is not confined to the Pakistanis. There are as many if not more Iqbal Societies in India as there are in Pakistan. Interestingly, not so well realized by most South Asians, he was a powerful influence in inspiring the over throw of the Shah regime in Iran through his Persian works.

Iqbal draws different emotions among different groups of people who cherish him for different reasons. To the progressive he is a prophet for change, to the revolutionary he is a voice for jihad, to the oppressed he is a tower of hope, to the powerful he is a reminder on their responsibility for the weak, to the proud he is a teacher of humility, to the depressed and miserable he brings hope and optimism, to the lost and wandering he is a mentor and guide, to the dwellers in mediocrity he is a preacher for excellence, to the timid and fearful he is a source of courage.

Yet among the young Muslims born and grown in America and the west he remains largely a vague and distant figure, unknown, perhaps better stated, undiscovered. The obvious reason can be traced to his works being in Urdu and Persian, and the non-familiarity of American Muslim youth with those languages. The irony remains that Iqbal’s message is primarily aimed at the youth on whom he pins all his hopes for the future of the community.

At Community Builders we have frequently discussed the life and works of Iqbal because we believe Iqbal’s message is key to building individual character and personality. We believe that if enough individuals embrace his message and practice it, a foundation will be laid for the establishment of a strong and prosperous community from which can come future leaders in various walks of life. His message reminds us to build passionate belief in the teachings of Quran and couple that with a life of relentless effort and action in the service of fellow man.

So why does this matter for us today seeing that we all believe in the expected standards of believing in Allah, His prophet (pbuh), His Quran, His angels, the Hereafter and the pillars we so devoutly follow? But there is a difference in the way we believe and the way Iqbal insists we should believe. Our belief is not the belief of a momin or a true believer he exclaims. The kind of belief in tawheed  that animates us with passion so great he suggests,  that would enable us  to see beyond the racial, geographic and ethnic boundaries we draw, the essential unity of man.  The kind of belief in the Hereafter and the concept of accountability with such awe and fear, he says, that would inspire us to live a life of caring and compassion, forgiveness and mercy, service and sacrifice far greater than what we practice today. The kind of belief in the distribution of wealth he declares, which not only motivates us to live a life of moderation and austerity, but also fight for the elimination of poverty and dependence so that the economic rights of the poor are protected and preserved. Over a century ago he could see through the smoke screen of profit driven capitalism, the greed factor which would be its inevitable undoing, creating the enormous gaps between the rich and the poor we are seeing today here in America.

Iqbal’s call for living a life of action not reaction, of struggle not complacency, of engagement not withdrawal speak very much to our needs and our present condition. Our lives are consumed with reacting to whatever we hear in the evening news. We clog the streets on chand raath but are nowhere to be seen when others march the same streets rallying for immigration reform. We say we believe in political engagement but are visibly absent from political forums and from places to vote.

Finally Iqbal believes in the essential dynamism of Islam, in its need to renew itself through ijtehad, in order to meet the changing circumstances within societies during the course of time. In the famous series of lectures “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam“ Iqbal declared:

“…but since things have changed and the world of Islam is to-day confronted and affected by new forces set free by the extraordinary development of human thought in all its directions, I see no reason why this attitude (finality of legal schools) should be maintained any longer. Did the founders of our schools ever claim finality for their reasoning and interpretations? Never. The teaching of the Quran that life is a process of progressive creation necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessor, should be permitted to solve its own problems.”

We post below few of Allama Iqbal’s writings pertaining to the issues we referenced above, just to give our readers, especially the youth a tasteof his poetry, with an apology for those who are unable to read and understand in Urdu, for whom the English translation which is a very poor substitute for the original will be the best we can offer:

 Yaqeen Afrad Ka Sarmaya-E-Tameer-E-Millat Hai

Yehi Quwwat Hai Jo Soorat Gar-E-Taqdeer-E-Millat Hai

The certainty (of belief) of individuals is the capital for building the community;
This is the power which draws the portrait of the fate of the community.


Yaqeen Mohkam, Amal Peham, Mohabbat Faateh-E-Alam
Jahad-E-Zindagani Mein Hain Ye Mardon Ki Shamsheerain

Firm certainty (in belief), relentless action, a world conquering love—
These are the swords (and shields) of men in the battles of life.


Amal Se Zindagi Banti Hai Jannat Bhi, Jahanum Bhi
Ye Khaki Apni Fitrat Mein Na Noori Hai Na Naari Hai

By action life may become both paradise and hell;
This creature of dust in its nature is neither of light nor of fire.

Musalman Ko Musalman Kar Diya Toofan-E-Maghrib Ne
Talatum Haye Darya Hi Se  Hai Gohar Ki Seerabi

The storm in the West made Muslims Muslims.
Pearls are produced in abundance from the very buffetings of the sea.


Tadabur Ki Fasoon Kari Se Mohkam Ho Nahin Sakta
Jahan Mein Jis Tamaddan Ki Bina Sarmayadari Hai

That civilization of the world, which is founded on capitalism,
Can never be become strong by spellbinding schemes.


Baraheemi Nazar Paida Magar Mushkil Se Hoti Hai
Hawas Chup Chup Ke Seenon Mein Bana Leti Hai Tasweerain

But it is difficult to create the insight of Abraham (A.S.);
Desire insidiously paints pictures in our breasts.


Butan-E-Rang-O-Khoon Ko Torh Kar Millat Mein Gum Ho Ja
Na Toorani Rahe Baqi, Na Irani Na Afghani

Break the idols of colour and blood and become lost in the community.
Let neither Turanians, Iranians nor Afghan remain.


Sabaq Phir Parh Sadaqat Ka, Adalat Ka, Shujaat Ka
Liya Jaye Ga Tujh Se Kaam Dunya Ki Imamat Ka

Read again the lesson of truth, of justice and valour!
You will be asked to do the work of taking on responsibility for the world.


Program tonight at

 Sabeel Center,

8800 W Ballard Rd, Des Plaines, IL 60016


 7pm-8pm: Registration, Dinner   (Dinner:  $10.00)

8pm- 10pm Presentation

 Topic: Wings of Spiritual Imagination-

A Talk on Iqbāl’s Poetry and Philosophy 

Speaker : Haniya Yameen University of Chicago, Divinity School

 Moderator: Teepu Siddique, MD.Chair, Iqbal Society, Chicago

 RSVP773 770-6166


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