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Iqbal and the Ahmadiyya Movement

8. Praises British rulers of India
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
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Chapter 8

Praises British rulers of India

Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal wrote poems in praise and adulation of the British rulers of India. It is widely alleged against Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad that, as he expressed his loyalty to the British rule of India in his writings, this implies that he was an agent and tool of British imperialism. But the fact is that such expressions of loyalty were commonplace by almost all Muslim political, religious and intellectual leaders in India, including those like Dr. Iqbal who are revered as the greatest heros of the Muslim people.

  1. Upon the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, Dr. Iqbal penned an epicedium of ten pages, entitled ‘Tears of Blood’, from which we give a few verses below. The Queen died on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, and Iqbal wrote:

      “Happiness came, but grief came along with it, Yesterday was Eid, but today came muharram [month of the year associated with the deepest mourning for Muslims]

      “Easier than the grief and mourning of this day, Would be the coming of the morn of the day of judgment.

      “Ah! the Queen of the realm of the heart has passed away, My scarred heart has become a house of mourning.

      “O India, thy lover has passed away, She who sighed at thy troubles has passed away.

      “O India, the protective shadow of God has been lifted from above you, She who sympathised with your inhabitants has gone.

      “Victoria is not dead as her good name remains, this is the life to whomever God gives it.

      “May the deceased receive abundant heavenly reward, and may we show goodly patience.”

      (Baqiyyat-i Iqbal, poem runs over pages 71– 90. Translator’s Note: I have only translated here some of the verses quoted by Hafiz Sher Mohammad in his original Urdu work.)

  2. In December 1911, on the occasion of the coronation of King George V, Iqbal wrote and read out a poem entitled ‘Our King’:

      “It is the height of our good fortune, That our King is crowned today.

      “By his life our peoples have honour, By his name our respect is established.

      “With him have the Indians made a bond of loyalty, On the dust of his footsteps are our hearts sacrifced.”

      (ibid., p. 206.)

  3. During the First World War, Iqbal wrote a poem at the request of Sir Michael O’Dwyer, Governor of the Punjab, in response to an appeal from the King. This was read out in 1918. In it, addressing the King of England, Iqbal says:

      “If there is freedom of speech and writing here, if there is peace between the Temple and the Mosque here,

       “If there is an organised system of business of the various peoples here, if there is strength in the dagger and life in the sword here,

       “Whatever there is, it has been granted by you, O honoured one, this land is alive only because of your existence.

       “I am the tree of loyalty, love is my fruit, a just witness to this statement are my actions.

       “Sincerity is selfless, so is truth selfless, so is service, and so is devotion selfless,

       “Pledge, loyalty and love are also selfless, and devotion to the royal throne is also selfless,

       “But being human the thought which arises naturally is, that your favours are manifest upon India.” 

    (Translator’s Note: Again, I have only translated here some of the verses quoted by Hafiz Sher Mohammad in his original Urdu work.)

    This was published in the paper Akhbar-i Haq, the magazine Zamana of Kanpur, and the book Hindustan aur Jang 'Alamgir (‘India and the World War’) by L. Ralya Ram. It was then published in Baqiyyat-i Iqbal, on pages 216 to 219. It was first read out by Dr. Iqbal himself at the Punjab University Hall, Lahore.

  4. Not only in poetry, but in prose also Dr. Iqbal praised the British nation. For example, he writes:

      “Many among us, including myself, believe that England at this time possesses the capability of leading the whole of mankind towards this objective. The thinking of the people of that land, their political understanding based on a deep study of human nature, their unshakeable, serious, resolve, their moral superiority over others in many aspects, their astonishing control over material resources, the existence of many movements among them for the welfare and betterment of human beings, and their discipline in every walk of life — all these are things which no outsider can refrain from admiring.”
      (Harf-i Iqbal, p. 167, from the year 1930)

  5. At the close of his life, Iqbal perhaps felt regret at having praised British rule. It is recorded by his chronicler:

      “The Allama said: ‘Ghalib was indeed a very great poet, but to write poetry in praise of the British government merely to get an increase in the stipend is to be greatly regretted. This tendency of Ghalib pains one considerably.’

      “He then said: ‘Slavery is a great curse. It causes one to say things, deliberately as well as unintentionally, which one does not want to.’

      “The Allama was perhaps regretting that he himself had composed verses of poetry in praise of the British government. Whether this was under compulsion, or due to helplessness, whatever the reason, it should not have happened. Perhaps with this thought in mind, the Allama became silent. We too were silent.”

      (Iqbal kay huzur nashistain aur goftaguain, vol. 1, p. 27, 6 March 1938)

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