The session on August 1, 2009 had been publicized through the online newsletter as well as the facebook page, and was attended by more than twenty participants, some of whom had registered after learning about it from the Internet.
Participants were asked to list all questions which come to their minds after reading the last section of Andaz Mehramana (2009), written by the facilitator Khurram Ali Shafique and published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan (complimentary copies were given to the participants).
As expected, most of the questions were about “tall claims” made by Iqbal throughout his poetry, prose and private correspondence regarding his assumed insight into the future history of Islam – did he have such an insight and what happened to the book he intended to write on this subject?
It got highlighted during the discussion that the issue cannot be brushed under the carpet because (a) Iqbal himself made claims of this nature throughout his career; (b) “Forecasts by Iqbal” is already a well-established strand in Iqbal Studies which started in the lifetime of Iqbal himself; and (c) the issue had already started receiving special attention in the media recently, and more attention may be given to it since people tend to become interested in such things in turbulent times (and Pakistan is passing through turbulent times at the moment).
It is therefore important to approach the subject with caution and take into consideration the protocols of the milieu to which Iqbal belonged. To begin with, there is a need to properly systematize his works: of all his writings he cared to protect through copyright only 9 books of poetry and one book of prose. To these may be added the presidential address on the basis of which Pakistan came into being. These eleven works properly form the “canon” of Iqbal’s writings:
1. Secrets and Mysteries (Asrar-o-Ramooz); 1915-18
2. A Message from the East (Payam-i-Mashriq); 1923
3. The Call of the Marching Bell (Baang-i-Dara); 1924
4. Persian Psalms (Zuboor-i-Ajam); 1927
5. Javidnama; 1932
6. Gabriel’s Wing (Baal-i-Jibreel); 1935
7. The Rod of Moses (Zarb-i-Kaleem); 1936
8. O Nations of the East! (Aye Aqwam-i-Sharq); 1937
9. The Gift of Hijaz (Armughan-i-Hijaz); 1938
10. The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930-34)
11. The Allahabad Address (1930)
An interesting observation is that ‘Gulshan-i-Raz Jadeed’ included in the fourth book of Iqbal’s poetry contains nine questions and each of the nine books of poetry seem to be addressing one of these questions in the same order (the poet died soon after finishing the ninth book).
Another example of internal coherence is the seven “poems for children” included in the third book. When they are studied in the order which was given to them by the poet himself, they become a coherent narrative about the development of the self from a “fly” (traditionally a symbol of the lower form of self in Sufi literature) to a “bird” who is has succeeded in recalling the “memories” from before his “captivity” (earthly existence) and is yearning to fly in the open skies and go back to his “garden”.
These issues have been discussed in more detail in Andaz Mehramana, which also offers a critique of some of the approaches that have prevailed in Iqbal Studies so far.