:: Iqbal's Creative Aesthetics ::

The real literary and artistic weltanschauung negates fully timeworn, derivative and orthodox tendencies. It criticises those artists who sell their souls in the process of pandering to the interests and tastes of lords and rulers.

Dr. Saadat Saeed

The writer is a professor of Urdu Literature at Government College University Lahore

DR. Saadat Saeed

Occasionally art and literature guides the audience through negative examples. They do not project positive examples. Suggestions are used as tools for real comprehensions. Ethical details are consciously avoided in their themes. If any artist or poet embraces the methodology involved in propaganda, he is has a tendency to project a one-sided view with heroes only personifying ideal human values. Real artists and writers reflect their views through negations. They remain alert in negating prevalent camouflaged actualities.

The real literary and artistic weltanschauung negates fully timeworn, derivative and orthodox tendencies. It criticises those artists who sell their souls in the process of pandering to the interests and tastes of lords and rulers. Those artists and writers who remained sleeping under quilts of silence and indifference even after seeing with their own eyes the insults and denigration imposed on common people around them, could never have told the real stories. They kept on detaching themselves from man, universe and their surroundings. They wrote on subjects relating to so called private loneliness instead of being moved by the collective isolation, dread and suffering around them. How could they think about victory, when they were fully engrossed in singing to the muse of their own defeats? Whatever burning creative fire and subjective furnaces of passion, that may even contain real meaning, that they might have had seemed buried beneath the ice of their own attitudes. Why did these attitudes prevail? Iqbal mentions clearly, “Only those artists and writers become cowards who do not possess khudi (self).” They were not concerned about the matters of the real world around them and what needed to be done and no doubt their readers or audience were not interested in listening to the unending cries of people undergoing hardships of tyrannies, impositions, injustice and inequality in contemporary societies. Continuing the theme of my previous article on Ghalib, Iqbal is another one of those great poets of Urdu and Persian literature, whose writing is fully fired by the flames of the fire-temple of his conscience. He accepted in the core of his heart, only those traditions of the past which were of the utmost necessary for his vision of contemporary needs. For him also, useless traditions were merely old fables. His poetry and philosophy have become the fountainheads of reconstructive ideas. He inspired and opened up a world of possibilities to the enslaved and subjugated Muslims of the Subcontinent and showed them the way to achieve their goals:

There are many more worlds beyond the stars

These atmospheres do not lack life

Hundreds of other caravans too move here.

The traces of Iqbal`s grand style can be found in present day Urdu poetry. Iqbal with great daring and courage not only exposed forces against humanity but bravely faced those people who wanted to keep humans enslaved and subjugated at all costs. His Urdu and Persian poetry encompass an expanse and variety that reaches the limits of astonishment. As far as artistic heights and refinements are concerned his poetry works wonders. He accuses the person who loses his way in the world of being at fault himself. For him the perfect man comprehends the universe through his subjectivity. He reawakened the declining and dormant Muslim nation telling them, “Clouds after rain still have lightning and ashes still have embers which can become a pirouetting flame.” Iqbal`s poems inspired hundreds and thousands of people from the shore of the Nile to the dust of Kashgar. In his poetry critics who try to accuse him of being overly idealistic have yet to point out any place where he has not been relevant to and in fact fulfilled contemporary visionary needs.

Iqbal through his extensive learning was well aware of the pros and cons of the latest philosophical, social, political and academic movements of his age. His audience and readers were fully aware of the positive and negative aspects of these movements. He was fond of declaring openly the secret of life inside his heart. Through his poetic and philosophical insight he saw parts in entireties. His blasting material consists of the passions of an anti-feudalism, anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, anti-dictatorship and anti-kingship thought. He says in one of his Persian verses:

What is the Quran; it is the message of death for the lord.

It helps the slave who is helpless and has no wealth to his credit.

He was in favour of inserting negation with existence. For him the Muslim creed was the hidden secret for the ‘self’. Iqbal educated Muslim readers on a vast scale and through his pen waged a holy war against unethical values, both from the East and West. He used to consider the visions of those philosophers and mystics who were inclined towards separating themselves from the world as being harmful. Iqbal was the real spiritual follower of Great Persian poet Rumi. In one of the discourses of Fi Mafih (Discourses of Rumi) titled, Some one said: Here is something I have forgotten: “Man has to perform in this world a particular task, and that task is his goal. If he does not achieve this goal we can say he has embraced zero.” He further elaborates this point taking wisdom from the Quran, which says: “We offered the entrusted thing to the universe, earth and the mountains, but they refused to take it.”

The task, which brought worries to heavens, earth and the mountains, was to be performed by man. For Iqbal carrying the task given to man brings elevation to his ‘self’. Performance of this task makes him pious and cautious. Rumi says: “Man is more precious than all other things that belong to the universe. What else can be said but only this that he does not know his own worth. He is selling himself without a price.” People who believe in monotheism and at the same time creative evolution, after paying great homage to Rumi and Saadi, take many lessons from their books (Masnavi e Maanvi, Dewane e Shams Tabriz, Fi Mafih, Gulistan, Bostan, etc). They desire like Iqbal for Muslim states to be founded on a progressive Islamic ideology. The followers of these great poets and intellectuals never negate the broad and general tendencies of development and the eternal rising of the human personality or ‘self’. They never think of blocking the roads of the creative forces of life working in many directions. They like receiving both types of education: theological education and modern education. This phenomenon, I mean preparing a blend of Eastern and Western education, gives awareness to them that human beings need universal peace and love.

Taking about the perceived creativity of Iqbal, Khalifa Abdul Hakim says: “(Iqbal) wanted logical and scientific Reason to expand to a cosmic logos where it becomes one with intuition and the creative life urge. His Islamic ideology was not the theology of the fossilised Mullah. He set the example of an independent philosopher. He assimilated the vital elements of ancient and contemporary thought. His mind was open on all sides; he had a window open towards every vista of life. He did not blindly follow anyone and he wanted no blind followers. He attempted to preserve the uniqueness of his personality and the individuality of his ego.”

Iqbal after identifying the problem of his age, uncompromisingly stood for an ideology of Muslim liberation. He wanted to liberate them as individuals and as a community, from political oppression and cultural assimilation. He particularly emphasised national identity and socio-economic justice. He too was a theorist of the movement of Muslim liberation in the Subcontinent. The great Iranian Philosopher Dr. Ali Shariati praised Iqbal in his precious book Ma o Iqbal (We and Iqbal). These two personalities essentially complement each other.

Though, as we said earlier: “Occasionally arts and literature guide the audience through negative examples. They do not project positive examples” but those poets or artists, who have to guide their nations directly for some revered ideal, sometimes avoid suggestions as tools for real comprehensions. They consciously put ethical details in their themes. As they too adopt the methodology involved in propaganda to a certain poetic degree, they also feel themselves constrained in projecting heroes personifying ideal human values.

Iqbal as a real poet reflected his views through symbols full of poetic suggestions. He remained alert in negating prevalent camouflaged actualities which were the real sources for the prevailing darkness of the night of oppression. Iqbal dreamt of a golden dawn, which in his poetry appears as an Ideal. He wrote a number of verses portraying scenes of the rising sun, of course from the East. After facing countless nights of infertile solitude this nightingale, the poet from East was joined by many fellow voices, other poets asserting national aspirations. Iqbal, through his creative contemplation generated an immense consciousness (with clearly defined thought and emotion) against an imperialistic system based on feudalism and capitalism.