Iqbal-The Life of a Poet, Philosopher And Politician' enables readers to understand the poet who became synonymous with `Saare Jahaan Se Acha Hindusthan Hamara.'
Beyond that one patriotic song, what do we know about Iqbal, the son, the poet and the father? What was his life like? What about his family? What about his other writings?
What made this man, who used Sanskrit vocabulary and references from Hindu mythology in his poetry, who called India the land of Chishti and Nanak and Lord Ram `Imam-e-Hind and one who celebrated India's multi-culturalism, to advocate the creation of a separate nation for Muslims? Zafar Anjum takes readers on a journey of understanding Iqbal.
Iqbal was born in Sialkot on November 9, 1877 to Noor Muhammad, (a tailor and embroiderer) and Imam Bi. He was their fourth child. Noor Muhammad's ancestors were Kashmiri Brahmins who had migrated from Kashmir to Sialkot.
When Iqbal was two years old, he suffered a health ailment and his mother followed the traditional treatment of using leeches to suck out the infected blood. Unfortunately a pair of leeches was placed close to Iqbal's right eye and though the child is cured his vision suffered irreparable damage in the later years of his life.
Iqbal grew up much influenced by his father's spiritual leanings and his mystical experiences. Noor Muhammad insisted that his children read the Quran every day, a dedicated practice which Iqbal continued through his life. Teenage years brought out the poet in Iqbal. At 16 he married Kareem Bi succumbing to family pressure.
Anjum's narrative in lucid prose is engaging without becoming a boring history book. Connecting readers with Iqbal are photographs sourced from Iqbal Academy in Lahore. Every chapter begins with a beautiful Iqbal quote. And, the four Appendices are valuable. With his epilogue, Anjum raises valid questions in today's global situation and to reflect on. The book is clearly not the ultimate story on Iqbal, but it definitely eggs readers to discover the man behind, `Sare Jahan Se Acha.'
Here is a personal favourite verse of Iqbal from the book.
Chuna ba- zi keh agar marg-e ma ast merg-e dawam
Khuda zay kardah-e khud sharmsar tar gardad
(Spend your life so beautifully that if death is the unavoidable end,
Embarrassed should be God on his own act of terminating your life)