Give to the youth my sighs of dawn;
Give wings to these eaglets again,
This dear Lord, is my only wish –
That my insights should be shared by all !
This poem is from the book Bal – e -Jibreel by Muhammad Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan. Dr. Iqbal was one of the foremost thinkers and doers of his land of Punjab, formerly India, now Pakistan. Dr. Iqbal began his education at Scotch Mission College in his hometown of Sialkot,then did graduate work in Arabic and Philosophy at the Government College in Lahore. He also studied in England, earning a degree in Philosophy from Cambridge University, qualified as a barrister in London, and finally earned his doctorate from the University of Munich before returning to his native land where he practiced law, became a professor of Philosophy and English Literature, and produced poetic and philosophical writings that not only inspired people in their everyday lives, but contributed to the independence of Pakistan from Indian control.
Besides being proclaimed the official poet of Pakistan, born in Sialkot, known in Southern Asia as the City of Poets, Dr. Iqbal collected a raft of titles along the way, a testament to his importance in the academic world as well as Pakistan’s struggle for independence. He earned the title Dr. for his academic work…he was knighted, and became a Sir…he was one of the most revered leaders of his country’s independence movement, hence Sahib, and a towering figure in Asian literature, adding the respectful title of Allama to his credentials.
The picture above is my friend, the young Pakistani poet Maryam Shabaz, before a mural of Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Maryam is a new voice in Pakistani and world literature, her first collection of poetry, The Light Behind the Veil from Multani Press, is due to be released soon. Maryam is a young woman I met through a social media site, but has become much more than a cyber acquaintance…more than a friend – mi hermanita…my little sister. I asked her to travel around her hometown of Sialkot, Pakistan – the City of Poets – and take a few photographs so I could write a post or two about her life as a young woman living in Pakistan, and the history of poetry from an area of the world where poetry is not only beautiful words meant to entertain, but essential food for the soul.
“Allama Iqbal’s poetry takes us far beyond the materialistic aspects of this mortal life,” Maryam wrote me. “The youth, whom he called eaglets, are the only segment of society he believed were able to bring about future change for the better so vital to all societies.”
I am going to be doing a series of posts on Allama Iqbal, Maryam, and Sialkot…the City of Poets. Maryam made a pilgrimage to Allama Iqbal’s former home, now a shrine and museum. Cameras are forbidden in the revered site, but Maryam explained to Mr. Riaz, the caretaker, what she planned to do with the photographs, and he gave her permission that is not afforded others out of respect for Iqbal and his towering contributions to education, literature, and his country’s independence.
This photograph of Allama Iqbal hangs in his former home and current shrine/museum. It is one of the few informal images of him in his home. I’ll leave readers with another of Allama Iqbal’s sayings, one I had to have Maryam explain to me.
You despise one bowing down, It frees a man from many bowings down.
This confused me at first. It seemed as though the poet was implying that not bowing down to “the Creator” would save people from the many supplications to the Creator expected in the future. Maryam explained that what Iqbal meant by these words was that there are those who think bowing before the Creator is a chore they don’t need to follow, but that bowing down before the Creator gives the supplicant an inner peace and sense of empowerment that keeps them from having to bow down before mortal men in their everyday affairs. Sometimes I feel so ignorant. It’s good to have friends like Maryam, poets who are in tune with the power of words and their true meaning.
More of Maryam’s trip through Sialkot and visit to the shrine of Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Muhammad Iqbal to follow…Inshaa-Allah, Dios quiere, God willing.
(Maryam Shabhaz’s poetry can be found on WordPress under the name Maryamshabhazmain)