Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Andaz Mehramana (2009)

Andaz Mehramana is my new small book on Iqbal Studies published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan a few weeks ago. As you know, the academy works under the Federal Ministry of Culture and I am Research Consultant for it.

Unlike most of my other work, Andaz is not so much for general readers as it is for specialists and academics. I have tried to briefly mention my recent findings in the field (which have been elaborated more artistically in my full-length book The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality). Basically:
  1. It is somewhat erroneous to say that the thought of Iqbal does not follow a system. The system is there but one has to discover it and Iqbal scholars have mostly failed in doing that because the works of Iqbal haven’t been classified properly: most scholars fail to distinguish between work and biography (this error was apparently imported from modern Western scholarship because it is most evident in the works of foreign scholars writing about Iqbal).
  2. It shouldn’t need anything more than common sense to see connections between poems occurring together in an anthology but unfortunately the practice has been uncommon among academics working on Iqbal. I have offered examples from a few poems which reveal an astonishing subtext when studied in textual context.
  3. Well-known poems “for children” in Baang-i-Dara (The Call of the Marching Bell), including the most-often recited “Lab pay aati hai dua ban kay…” (“God make my life a little light”), are a case in point: about two years ago I noticed that in the order in which they are presented by the author they form a single story about the journey of a soul from the state of “a fly” which is easy prey for the spider (Satan) to the state of “a caged bird” in whose heart the memory of the primordial state has been vividly awakened (this is a story which I would like to share in detail in this newsletter sometime).
  4. Iqbal claimed to be aware of the major events of several next centuries as well as their purpose. As early as July 1917, he intimated a friend about his “resolve” to write down a book about the future history of Islam although he said that it would be published after his death “or whenever the time is right for it.” Even if someone discards his claim, it cannot be denied that he himself believed in it up to his last breath. Hence, the major issue for his biographer as well as critic is to show how his life and work reflect this perception of his and what were his guesses about our times as well as the times to come (this doesn’t mean that one has to necessarily agree with him but at least it needs to be explored in proportion with the emphasis which he himself laid on it).
The book is only 40 pages and its price is Rs.50. I intend to conduct a workshop about it soon at Teachers’ Development Centre, Karachi, under auspices of Iqbal Academy Pakistan.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Swat and East Pakistan

The crisis in Swat is tremendous. Not only we in Pakistan are following it with dismay and uneasiness but the whole world is following it (Yahoo! homepage is highlighting two news stories about it every day on an average).

Last October, I posted my forecasts about the next 20 years of Pakistan:
  • 2008-10: Disenchantment with the West
  • 2010-16: Isolation (and possible conflict)
  • 2017-26: Crisis of federation
  • 2026-27: Emergence of inherent unity
Details can be seen on my other Blog . Accompanied with heavy loss in life and property, the tragic events of Swat seem to be completing the disenchantment with the West in the heart of an average Pakistani. This is what is not being realized by those who hope to gain from human misery (and no, the ports of Gwador and Karachi are not going to fall into the laps of foreign demigods by these means, at least not forever, if that's the bigger plan).

I wish I could explain it in more detail. The writings of Iqbal, Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan (along with many others) give us a very clear idea about what is actually happening here and what should be done. However, we need to know more about our history than most of us do (the way the history of Pakistan is written by its sympathizers as well as its critics, it has got more loopholes than the plot of a James Bond movie).

In the meanwhile, here is a snippet from the past: compare the events happening today with what happened in 1971 with the help of this special page in the Chronicle of Pakistan . Do you think there are similarities - or how are they different?

Monday, 4 May 2009

Iqbal Studies in Mauritius

When I told my friends that I was going to Mauritius to attend a belated Iqbal Day celebration on April 25, many were surprised. Just in case other readers of this newsletter also share that curiosity, Mauritius has a population of about 1.2 million, out of which a great majority is originally from India and migrated long ago in the days of colonialism. I hope I won’t be exaggerating if I say that Iqbal is just as popular there as he is in India. Of course, the Urdu speaking ones know more about him than others but here is a summary of my activities in Mauritius, April 25-29, which will give a better idea.

TALK at Islamic Cultural Centre: This was the original Iqbal Day for which I had been invited by the Urdu Speaking Union. It was attended by the former vice president of the country, minister of culture, high commissioner of Pakistan as well as the directors of the host organizations, some great intellectuals and general audience. One thing which especially impressed me was the quality of talks by these dignitaries. My own presentation was about “the Seven Stages” in the poetry of Iqbal (readers of this newsletter are familiar with that).

TALK at Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI): It was attended by the students and some faculty of Eastern languages. On suggestion from some of my friends in Mauritius I repeated “the Seven Stages” presentation. LECTURE to the students of Diploma in Urdu at MGI: One of the teachers, Mr. Farooq Husnu, invited me to talk to his students and on his suggestion I discussed “how to appreciate Iqbal critically.” The poem which we analyzed was ‘The Child’s Prayer’ (Lab pay aati hai dua…). We saw how this simplest of all poems contains the entire philosophy of Iqbal in a nutshell and actually traces the movement of the observer through multiple layers of reality.

TALK at the University of Mauritius: ‘Consensus Culture’ is a term which I am trying to float through my academic writings, one of which was published recently in the
research journal of Iqbal Academy Pakistan and can be seen at Ibne Safi Website. At the University of Mauritius I was able to develop the concept a bit farther, and in fact, it became my first proper presentation on the subject to an all-academic audience. Basically we saw how consensus artists respond to “the collective ego”. The presentation was participatory and some of the input which I received from the faculty members who attended the session was, to say the least, quite valuable for my research.

INTERVIEWS with MBC (TV): Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation is the official television and radio channel in Mauritius, and I was briefly interviewed for a news slot on the occasion of Iqbal Day. Later, on the last day of my trip, I received the honor of being a special guest in Anjuman, a talk show about Urdu Literature. I was especially touched by the supportive attitude of the fellow participants (most of whom were much more senior intellectuals than me). INTERVIEW with MBC (Radio): Three episodes of 15-minute each were recorded in which I spoke about various aspects of Iqbal’s philosophy (I guess these as well as the interviews for TV might be available on YouTube sometime soon).