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Allama Mohammad Iqbal’s poetry in a new light

By November 24, 2018No Comments

Source : The Hindu

“Jalwa-e-Danish-e-Ferang” is an engrossing and insightful account of Allama Mohammad Iqbal’s poetry


Human conscience is the eventual habitation of time and it lies within us and we are not in time. The continuous cycle of change reflected in day and night is a dreamed up reality. Our mundane existence revolves around one dimensional and chronologically divided serial time which has no relation with real time. Life draws its sustenance from pure duration which manifests itself only in present which is eternal and its division in past and future are simply despicable. This is the creative exploration of the potential of time which seeks to add creative dimension to Henri Bergson’s theory of time and consciousness articulated by a creative genius of undivided India, Iqbal (1877-1938). His stunningly designed repertoire of ideas wrapped in evocative poetic idiom prompted a number of eminent European critics, not Orientalist alone, to explicate his oeuvre.

Iqbal’s aura

It looks incredible to note that as many as 400 European scholars and critics got themselves engaged with Iqbal’s poetry . Many prominent and highbrow critics who hardly turn attention to the authors and poets of oriental languages such as Herbert Reed, E. M. Forster, R. A. Nicholson, J. C. Burgel, L. S. May, Nataliya A. Prigarina, J. Marek, LuceClaude Maitre, A. J. Arberry, Annemarie Schlimmel, Busani Alessandro, V.G. Kiernen, Carlo Coppola and Wilfred Cantwell Smith wrote highly incisive and perceptive books, monographs and articles which are braced for grappling with the unsettling questions raised by Iqbal. The awe-inspiring critical appreciation and translations of Iqbal in many European languages is brilliantly pieced together and astutely narrated by an erudite scholar, translator and visiting professor of the University of Leicester, Professor Abdur Raheem Kidwai in his book “Jalwa-e-Danish-e-Ferang” that appeared recently.

Professor Kidwai’s thorough grounding in English, Urdu, Persian and Arabic literature enabled him to produce an engrossing and insightful account of Iqbal’s poetry and its translations. Many attempts have been made to highlight now prominent European thinkers and poets influenced Iqbal and how Iqbal through his leaping creative dexterity profoundly pondered over the issues raised by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson , Kant, Heine, Milton, Goethe and Marx , but no effort is made to produce a comprehensive bibliography of Iqbal.

Covering missing links

The book meticulously produces what has been left out. According to the author, the leading Belgian publishing house, Peeters Publishers, has published a descriptive b bibliography of Allama Mohammad Iqbal that carries as many as 2468 entries. The bibliography edited by Dieter Tail lieu, Francis Laleman and Winanad M. Callewaert reveals that translations of Iqbal are available in almost all European languages including German, French, Dutch, Italian, Czech and Russian. Besides translations, more than 300 articles on Iqbal have been listed in the bibliography.

With an even handed attention to the ideological constellation and poetic sensibilities of Iqbal, Kidwai picked up articles of E. M. Forster, R. A. Nicholson, Herbert Read, Anne Marie Schimmel and impeccably rendered them into chaste Urdu. Barring Tagore whose poetry created quite a bit of stir in literary world across the globe with the publication of its English translation by W.B.Yeats , no Indian author has received widespread critical acclaim by the reputed western literary theorists and critics. Kidwai’s book bears witness to what must be told to Urdu knowing people who hardly come across with the articles and books that go beyond emotional accolades. Spelling out the epistemological framework of his book, he rightly points out: “These articles are far from being the formal tribute and they are destined to blaze a new trail in Iqbal studies. It is quite interesting to learn how scholars belonging to an entirely different ideological, religious, cultural and literary tradition appreciate Iqbal. Equally amazing is to see how their critical assumptions, world view, method of reading the text, deciphering the meaning emanating from the cultural and literary convictions and critical practice of explaining the semantic import of the poet contribute in the objective appraisal of the multi-layered exuberance of Iqbal.”

In his laconic but well argued article, Forster says he is more inclined to the ideological concerns of Tagore rather than Iqbal’s views still he considers him genius and given chance he will select Iqbal’s poetry, Iqbal was one of the two great cultural representatives of modern India but not much is known about him

Immaculate translations

Noted literary theorist and art critic Herbert Read zeroed in on Walt Whitman’s concept of divine Average, Nietzsche’s Superman and Iqbal ‘s Mard-e- Kamil simultaneously in his article “Readers and Authors” and asserted that Iqbal’s concept betrays a judicious blend of the created and the creator that seems essential for a coherent moral understanding of human nature

The book running into more than two hundred pages carries immaculate translations of Schimmel, Nicholson and two two articles of Iqbal and Kidwai does mention the name of celebrated Indian authors such as Mulk Raj Anand, Hira Lal Chopra, Sisir Kumar Ghosh, Raj Mohan Gandhi, Gopi Chand Narang, Inderjit Lal, Sachitanandan Sinha, Chaman Lal Raina, Iqbal singh and Krishna Swaroop etc.

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