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ONLINE ISSUE NO. 154JUNE 7, 2013          Freedom is always

June 7, 2013
ONLINE ISSUE NO. 154
JUNE 7, 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the ones who think differently
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
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‘Taliban are Iqbal’s Shaheens’: Manzur Ejaz

by Riaz ul Hassan | PDF | Print | E-mail

Tagore told an audience that he cannot compare himself with Iqbal because he does not write in his native tongue. Iqbal issued a rebuttal that Tagore could write in Bengali because Bengali was a developed language

Nazar-ul-Islam, the Muslim Bengali poet enjoyed the same stature as Iqbal but Punjabi-Urdu elite could not embrace him as a national poet, says Manzur Ejaz in an interview with Viewpoint. He thinks: ‘Both Marx and Mussolini were threatening the core of British colonialism and hence admirable for Iqbal’.

Dr. Manzur Ejaz is a Washington based writer, literary critic and well-known Pakistani columnist. He hails from Sahiwal. After a teaching stint at Punjab University (1972-77), he did his PhD in Economics from Howard University, Washington DC. He briefly taught economics at Pennsylvania University (1987-1989). His books include Epistemology of Development Economics, Nazman (collection of poems),Ranjhan yar  (Stage play), Waris Nama (Explaining Waris Shah),My People My Thoughts  (Collection of columns).   Excerpts:

How befitting it is to call Iqbal Pakistan’s national poet? Dr Mubarik Ali, for instance, does not consider him appropriate choice for this title. Your comments?

The title of national poet is symbolic and reflective of national ideological mindset. Since Pakistan movement was premised on religious notions and first badge of ruling elite comprising of Urdu-Punjabi elite was pondering a state run by Tahreek Maqasad ideology, Iqbal suited to be titled as such. The nation was comprised of 95%+ peasants, labors and artisans: there was no urban Muslim educated elite in the Punjab or Sindh. Therefore, Iqbal was the only figure to fit in. Incidentally, Nazar-ul-Islam, the Muslim Bengali poet was of the same stature but Punjabi-Urdu elite could not embrace him as a national poet. In short, the national poet is going to be what the nation is. Merit is a secondary consideration.

State, Jamaat Islami, Nawaiwaqt-school-of-thought claim Iqbal’s legacy. A section of left intellectuals also tried to appropriate Iqbal. Why is Iqbal’s legacy contested by diametrically opposed ideologies?

I think Muslim, right as well as left, has been wedded to Muslim ideology given by the immigrant or invading Turko/Persian intellectuals. They had a certain worldview to justify their rule of India by projecting pan-Islamism. Somehow, all kinds of Muslims have been following variants of that ideology. Therefore, it is not surprising that Hameed Nizami and Faiz are united in praising Iqbal.

Within left, while Faiz, Ali Sardar Jafri and a few others glorified Iqbal, we find people like Ali Abbas Jalapuri rejecting him while Sibt-e-Hassan was critical too. What explains this split in left over Iqbal?

 If you notice, both Faiz and Jaafri were poets. They were impressed with Iqbal’s poetic talent which is immense of course. For them his ideological orientation was secondary. On the contrary, Jalalpuri and Hasan were intellectuals concerned about Iqbal’s ideological or philosophical worth.

 How would you characterise Iqbal given the fact that he was praising Marx as well as Mussolini?

 For Iqbal ‘changers’ and ‘movers’ were the basic qualities. Nietzsche’s superman or Iqbal’s Mard-i-Momin are symbols of movers. Therefore, anyone who can make a change in ideology or politics was Iqbal’s hero.

For Iqbal, “Sabat aik tugayyar ku hey zamane main” (The only thing permanent about this world is change). Therefore, ‘tugayyar’ (change, transformation) is permanent while stability, stagnation/status-quo is just temporary. The individuals who change—superman or Mard-i-Momin—dictate their own morality because common morality, the stable of average human being, is designed to chain the ones who want to change.  For Iqbal, following Nietzsche and other western philosopher preaching voluntarism, the morality is least important for the process of change.

Anyone who can change the status-quo or challenge the fundamentals of stagnating society is a hero. Therefore, Marx challenging the basic premises of social sciences, Mussolini reviving Italian nationalism to confront other colonialist powers is equally important. Despairing over his impoverished ‘Ummah’, Iqbal sought salvation in idealistic retrogressive ‘activism’, intellectual or political. His alleged sympathy for Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was also due to his search for an idealistic hero who can, miraculously, bring about a change: “niga-e-hey mard-i-moman se badal jati hain taqdeerin.”

We should look at the historical period of Iqbal. For him, the British colonialist and capitalism were the enemies of ‘Ummah’. Anyone who can challenge them is a hero irrespective of his/her morality or human values. Both Marx and Mussolini were threatening the core of British colonialism and hence admirable for Iqbal. This is not a justification for Iqbal’s world outlook but just an explanation to understand him in the proper context. 

Faiz did not compose poetry or write in Punjabi. There was some correspondence between Tagore and Iqbal about it as was reported in ‘Wichar’, the Punjabi online journal you edit. Could you narrate about this episode and also your comments on Iqbal’s decision to avoid Punjabi?

No. Tagore told an audience that he cannot compare himself with Iqbal because he does not write in his native tongue. Iqbal issued a rebuttal that Tagore could write in Bengali because Bengali was a developed language while he cannot write in his mother tongue because Punjabi underdeveloped.  Tagore hit back saying “When I started writing, Bengali was not a developed language. I have developed it.”

Iqbal is critical of Mullah but eulogises ‘Mujahid’ who epitomises his Shaheen. How do you view this philosophy in a period when Pakistan is getting Talibanised?

Whether one likes or not, Taliban are Iqbal’s Shaheens.  I am not sure if he knew that his heroes would look like this but they do.

How would you explain the contradiction that Pakistan’s national poet is officially recognised by India? His ‘Sub Say Acha Hindustan Hamara’, remains Indian national song?

It suits India. Indian intellectual elite was much more seasoned and knew where to draw line. By adopting Iqbal they gain not loose.

Is Iqbal relevant in our national discourse keeping in view the fact that he chose Urdu and Persian to express his feeling and not his mother language or any regional language? 

Iqbal is as relevant as any other Urdu or Persian poet is. The issue is how much Urdu or Persian is relevant to Punjabis or Sindhis?

Riaz ul Hassan has been actively involved in Social Media studies since 2006. He has held diverse editorial positions in different literary magazines including Ravi and Patras. Currently studying in Sweden and plans to pursue his PhD in the field of Social Media. Riaz graduated from Government College Lahore and has worked at the same institute for about one year as lecturer. He has keen interest and involvement in arts, theater and Social Media studies.

 

Comments

 
0#3 Irfan Azmi 2010-11-13 19:24

an excellent interview

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+2#2 Shamoon Saleem 2010-11-12 11:45

While I agree with this brilliant analysis I do want to add that for Taliban Iqbal, as such, is no source of inspiration. They do blossom on the fertility generated for them by Iqbal in the thought structure and social psyche of the Pakistani right. …For Taliban Iqbal is a poet. And poetry does not fit in their scheme of things. It represents moral degeneration.

Even Jama’at people do not own Iqbal unconditionally . (They even use the verses of Faiz, Faraz and Jalib though, when they suit them.) Naeem Siddiqui, a Jama’at intellectual of last century, has been writing against him for his ideological “confusion”, I remember. They lack the capability to see him in perspective of time and space. The ‘left’ should not do it either, I suggest.

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0#1 Azad 2010-11-12 06:23

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Iqbal is as relevant as any other Urdu or Persian poet is. The issue is how much Urdu or Persian is relevant to Punjabis or Sindhis?

Haha…interesting and to the point. Iqbal has no relevance whatsoever in the current Pakistan and for Sindhi, Baloch, Pathan and most of the Punjabis he is an unknown figure.
I don’t know why a webzine which clearly favors the progressive and liberal thoughts, would spend its whole issue on someone who really does not matter anymore.

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