Part Three: The New Beloved

The 20th century dawned in blood and broadsheet. Across the world no honourable man of means could be simply concerned with his own advancement. No, now was the time of nations, when communities of faith and tongue began to bind themselves together with the toots of mass media, and express themselves with voices that shook even the colonies. The impact of this trend in Europe is well known, a World War, but it is under the shadow of this great conflagration that the first embers of Muslim nationalism would spark. The scene had been set for years, as the new Shahr Ashob brought the people the mourning of the past, and the mass Urdu literacy and european style papers encouraged by the Aligarh movement ensured even the lower classes could read it. A generation of neew intelligensia had been educated in European ways, and upon seeing the hypocrisy of the European yoke, grew tired of quietism.  The kindling was lit as British troops advanced upon the Ottoman Empire, ruled by the ostensible Caliph of Islam, the highest religious authority for the Sunni muslims who made up the broadest fraction of Indian Islam. Long the Sick man of Euope, the Ottomans were the only ostensible Islamic great power left, the only source of emulation for young nationalists looking for a source of inspiration. The call of Jihad went up against British imperialists, but the true work of what would be called the Khalifat Movement would be done after the possibility of armed resistance had long since passed. Instead it would be conducted in mass protests for the retention of the Caliphate, organized by newspaper poets like the brothers Shaukat Ali and Mohammad Ali Jouhar revitalized the old poetic toolbox for a broad audience, coding revolutionary sentiment in the oblique metaphor so despised by Aligarh reformers. Their efforts would come to naught in the short term, as the last Caliph was overthrown not just by force of Entente arms, but by the disgust of his own people.  In the long term however, they had lit a fire which could not be extinguished, young Muslim intelligensia with a pathway to the people and stomachs which hungered for freedom after 2 centuries of humiliation. The most famous of the movements Alumni, one Muhummad Iqbal, would best articulate these desires, turning his western education and Islamic upbringing to the works of poetry which would earn him the title "The Bard of The East". In his work he would develop the antecendents of modern decolonial theory. Neither the materialist reason of the Aligarh movement and their European masters, nor the blind traditionalists that sought to ignore the modern era could provide answers. To truly know freedom, Muslims must develop a new synthesis that returned to the revolutionary spirit of Islam, casting aside false and outdated cultural traditions while not becoming mired in blind materialism. A Muslim life could not be lived outside of a Muslim society, free from outside domination, whether political, economic, or cultural, whether British or Hindu.. So was born the Pakistan movement, the creation of a new state explicitly built on modernized Islamic law for modern Indian Muslims. There was a new beloved, and she was pure Islam, and she was the Nation, and she was the People, and she was all at once. And through verse and effort, she could be wooed. Though Iqbal would not live to see it, the generations of poets that would follow in the footsteps of Mufakkir-e-Pakistan have not given up their pursuit. 

Title text


This 1938 collection contains the poetry and public statements of Maulana Muhummad Ali Jauhar (1878-1931), a prominent leader in the Indian National Congress, the All-India Muslim League, and the Khalifat Movement (Also included is Arz-e-Jauhar, a more contemporary 1922 collection). Jauhar and his brother Shaukat Ali, along with his mother (who would famously instruct her sons to "give their lives for the khalifat" in a popular poem), were majorleaders in rallying support for the retention of the Ottoman Caliphate during and after the First World War. Their newspapers Hamdard (Urdu) and Comrade (English) were frequently shut down for sedition, but they along with other leaders were able to utilize the poetry published in national newspapers for revolutionary purpose in a hearkening back to the traditional freedoms enjoyed by poets. Utilizing the metaphors of the caged bird, the beloved nation, and the wicked tyrant for far more literal purpose, they turned the tools of mass poetic distribution and "naturalistic" metaphor given by the quietist Aligarh school for revolutionary purpose.

Title page

Bang-e Dara

Published in 1924, the Bang-e Dara (The Call of The Marching Bell) was the first published collection of poetry by Muhummad Iqbal (1877-1938), a major leader in Muslim political life throughout, from being a member of the Aligarh school to being involved in the precursors of the Khalifat movement, to eventually being the intellectual of the Pakistan movement. This collection contains his work as an early Aligarh poet, writing generic patriotic poetic work, but after returning from european education, his work gained new purpose, beyond local political aims. In his Shikwa and the following  Jawab-e-Shikwa, Iqbal develops the idea that would unify all his work: that the restoration of Islamic dignity must come from a recommitment to the initial and essential, pure and powerful, revolutionary spirit of Islam. Poetry was not only a means to ideate and spread his ideology, but to exploit existing tradition as a means to alter Islamic thought. The literalism of Aligarh could be used to reinterpret the old forms toward a hermaneutic of certainty rather than doubt. 

Bal-e Jibreel

Published in 1935, Gabriel's Wing, Iqbal's second collection, elaborates on his previous themes after wide travel, from Spain to Palestine. He simultaneously develops two themes, the path towards a pure understanding of God, and the transnational and eternal nation of the Muslim life in community. The first theme is developed in many short couplets which read almost as flat-Ghazal, stripping the classical form of the duality between the material and spirtiual worlds to point directly at the single God who is nevertheless beyond the ability of the verse to capture. Similar themes are seen in the contemporaraneously published Javednama, in which Iqbal repeats the tale of Aligheri's Divine Comedy with himself in the role of Dante and Rumi in the role of Virgil, integrating seamlessly medieval Islamic theologians, Friederich Nietzche, and Ghalib into his narrative, demonstrating the broad synthesis of European, Islamic, and uniquely Indo-Islamic universalism he incorporated into his verse. The second theme flows smoothly from that, as in poems like The Mosque of Cordoba, Iqbal makes a theme of previous more dominant, international periods in Islamic history, in which a coherent Islamic community, directed towards Islamic values, had existed. In his work in the educational sphere, we see the beginnings of his application of this principle, seeking middle ground between Aligarh europeanism and the retrograde view of the Madrasah, aiming to create schools of new-theologians who could look at old texts through modern eyes and integrate the teaching of the material whil;e maintaining the fundamental superiority of the spiritual.  In his later work, we would see a completiton of this arc, castigating both the west as materialists, and the east as hopeless traditionalists, and calling for a new society in which the Islamic ideal could be brought and pursued into modernity. A place where, for the Indian Muslim. humiliation could end, as could the trappings of the past. Pakistan.

Prev Next