(an article of mine printed on February 7th, 1997 in The News:)
Iqbal’s poetry gives purpose to one’s life. Shireen Najib discovers self after reading the English translations of the poet of the East.
I was never touched by Iqbal’s poetry. – Simply because I never understood it. No English medium person can. Our education system has ensured that!
But what intrigued me most was …. the way Iqbal’s poetry affected my father. My otherwise martial father, a true Piffer , would be totally ignited by the poetry of Iqbal. Hearing a verse would send him into a trance. I too would try to feel the power of this poetry, and meekly ask:
“Daddy, what does Khirad mean?” He would look at me from far away. Then focus on me. And all he saw was my ignorance. This would send him into a fury.
“You do not know the meaning of khirad? What kind of Urdu do they teach you? How can you be so ignorant??!!” In all this process of post-mortem of teaching of Urdu in English medium schools in Pakistan … Iqbal would be left far behind ….
Time passed. I was not much affected by the lack of understanding of Iqbal. I had plenty else to do. There was my art, my studies, my friends, my writing, my husband, home, and time consuming children. Where did I have the time for Iqbal?!!
In any case… my father always said “In order to understand Iqbal, you have to have complete knowledge of religion (and not only your own,) Urdu, Arabic, and some Persian, history, and geography.”
Now, tell me, where would I get the time to start learning all those other subjects before I got near Iqbal? Since it was impossible, I forgot all about it.
But there was always something missing in life.
I could not pin it down. I could not understand it. You could call it an in-completeness, a lack of satisfaction, a feeling of being all alone, or a feeling of deprivation. Like a ship without anchor in the storm of life. Sometimes I drifted in one direction, sometimes in another. Restless. Furious. Frustrated. I felt the fire of emotions I felt alone in my quest for understand of myself and my fellow human beings.
Continue reading “Allama Iqbal and I”