South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - “I Do Not Consider Myself a Poet”: Revisiting Muhammad Iqbal’s Muslim-ness Through His Letters

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Silveroak I, Ground Floor

Why a world-renowned Urdu poet repeatedly distanced himself from being called a poet and desired to be considered, first-and-foremost, a Muslim? Why his Muslim-ness was more important to him than any other status, identity or title? Through a close and critical examination of his personal letters, I explore Muhammad Iqbal’s peculiar, but historically significant, aversion towards being recognized as a poet. I situate his predilections in the socio-historical context of nationalism and the personal literary-political struggles of a Muslim intellectual. Focusing on his letters (neglected so far by scholarship on South Asia), I demonstrate how Iqbal became very reflective and assertive of his Muslim identity after his return from Europe in 1908. The aversion found in his letters towards his status as a renowned poet is often complemented by the importance he gave to social responsibility and reform in the life of an intellectual. During his stay in Europe, his literary and philosophical reflections became increasingly entangled with the plight of Muslims in the modern world through a critical reformist agenda for the community. While he relentlessly opposed being considered a poet, Iqbal, nevertheless, kept composing poems with a clear inkling towards constructing Islam as an ethical and moral ideal. His Islamicised poetics – a dominant aspect of his Urdu literary corpus– gave an ambivalent discursive force to modernism in the subcontinent, critically shaping the moral and ideological foundations of Pakistan.

Irfanullah Farooqi

Aligarh Muslim University, India

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3 - “I Do Not Consider Myself a Poet”: Revisiting Muhammad Iqbal’s Muslim-ness Through His Letters



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