Pakistanis celebrate Iqbal Day


ALL Pakistanis celebrate Iqbal Day, the day when the renowned Muhammad Iqbal, a Muslim poet, philosopher, politician, statesman, and great economist was born. Known as ‘Poet of Islam’ and ‘Poet of the East,’ Iqbal was born on Nov.9, 1877 in Sialkot. His father Sheikh Noor Muhammad admitted him to the mosque to learn the Noble Qur’an and take religion classes. However, Syed Mir Hassan, a friend of Iqbal’s father, told the father that Muhammad Iqbal was brilliant and should not attend only religion classes at the mosque but should be enrolled in school so that he could attend science classes. Iqbal would have a brilliant and promising future ahead of him, Syed Mir Hassan said to the father.

I was invited to attend two seminars in Jeddah to celebrate the birth of this prominent and creative philosopher; the first was organized by the Pakistani Solidarity Committee and the second by the Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC). Both seminars were attended by leaders of the Pakistani community.

Verses of the Noble Qur’an were recited at the beginning of both seminars followed by poems written by Iqbal and some members of the Pakistani community. Speeches were delivered, praising Iqbal and his poems and the messages he promoted, which mainly focused on abiding by Islamic teachings and the values and ethics Islam calls upon Muslims to adopt.

I was asked in both seminars to talk about the renowned poet. In the first seminar, I talked about the early signs of genius Iqbal exhibited at an early age. He memorized the Holy Qur’an with his father’s help; his father would ask him to repeat the verses several times. One day, Iqbal asked his father about the reason, his father told him, “I want you to recite the Noble Qur’an the same way it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”

Iqbal lived in Sialkot for 10 years then moved to Lahore where he enrolled in the state college and studied literature, philosophy, economics, Arabic language and Persian language. Later, he became a teacher at the same college. Thomas Arnold, the philosophy teacher, advised Iqbal to travel to Europe for higher studies. Iqbal pursued higher studies in London then moved to Germany to pursue his doctoral studies. Then he went back to London to study law.

Iqbal proved that he was a genius as he earned three degrees within three years. He traveled to Spain and visited the Cordoba Mosque and even performed prayer inside. During his stay there, he penned one of his best poems. Returning to Lahore, he joined the college as a teacher while practicing law at the same time. After a short period, he resigned as a teacher but continued practicing law and doing political work.

In the second seminar organized by the PRC, I shed light on some of Iqbal’s political positions from the time he joined the All-India Muslim League until he adopted the Two-Nation Theory, which was used to divide the Subcontinent between India and Pakistan. This took place during the league’s conference held in Allahabad in 1930. He was elected a member of the Punjab Legislative Council and participated in the first and second roundtable discussion conferences held in London in 1931 and 1932 to discuss how the Indian constitution would be drafted.

Iqbal participated effectively in the deliberations of both conferences. He even visited Cairo where he was received well and delivered a lecture in English. He took part in the Jerusalem Islamic Conference held in 1932. He sent a message during the conference to all Muslims saying that each and every Muslim who declares there is no God but Allah and that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the messenger of Allah should exert great efforts to free Jerusalem.

I also talked about the suffering of the Pakistanis who have been stranded in Bangladesh since 1971 and waiting for repatriation since then. They sacrificed everything for Pakistan and left everything behind in Bihar state and moved to Eastern Pakistan to support the Pakistani army in keeping Pakistan united.

After the foundation of Bangladesh, they lost everything and were forced into desolate camps that do not have the simplest means of life. They have been promised by all Pakistani governments that they will be repatriated but the promises have never been fulfilled.

I urge and appeal to the Pakistani government to act based on national, ethical and humanitarian grounds and help the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh. I must remind the Pakistani government of the fact that each government that comes to power and ignores the suffering of 250,000 stranded Pakistanis will go down in the history as the worst government.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at