Allama Iqbal’s Shikwa
The artist and the thinker of Pakistan, Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal is commemorated as one of the finest poets of not only his generation, but of all time. He stirred the Muslims to toil for a separate homeland through his addresses and heart-touching poetry. Though many of his speeches and prose are considered influential, not many come close to his two masterpieces – Shikwa (Complaint), followed by Javab-e-Shikwa (Response to the Complaint).
Both considered a paragon of his poetic abilities and depth of thought, no other work of his has been so researched upon and proved as influential. These poems made the Muslims realize their rich history and the misery of their present, and gave them a hopeful vision for their future. As it was the 142nd birth anniversary of the “Sage of the Ummah” last November, let’s take a look at the two poems of Iqbal which shaped the destiny of the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent.
In Shikwa, published in 1909, Iqbal portrays an oppressed and frustrated Muslim complaining to Allah Almighty. Its central idea revolves around God not delivering his promise to protect followers of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), ultimately leading to their decline and current adversity.
Iqbal starts the poem by questioning why he should choose to be a loser, refrain from thinking of the future, and remain lost in the woes of the past. Deciding not to remain quiet anymore, he gathers the courage to protest to his Creator. He appeals to Allah to listen to the complaint of His humble praise speaker.
He then proceeds to praise the Muslims for their efforts in establishing Islam across the world, giving “azaan” in the cathedrals of Europe. Uninspired by pride and worldly pomp, they died in the name of Allah’s Glory. All the trends of slavery and class superiority were eliminated.
Iqbal objects that despite all we did, we are being called unfaithful. There are sinners in other nations as well, yet they are not being deprived of Allah’s Blessing. He questions God why the Muslims are devoid of the worldly wealth though His Power has no limit or count.
He then prays to Allah to ease the trouble of the Muslims and Fill their hearts with the light of religion. Iqbal refers to himself as a nightingale who keeps on singing for he has not lost hope of spring. He laments that there is nobody in the garden to understand his plea, wishing for his song to awake the sleeping souls.
He desires for the Muslims’ hearts to yearn for the lost love. Concluding his unparalleled complaint to Allah, he defends himself saying that he may be a non-Arab, but the wine of love he carries is Arabic. Similarly, his lyrics are Indian yet his tone and the message he conveys is Islamic.
Iqbal’s Shikwa raised many controversies in the then Muslim community. Due to the poem’s protesting nature, Muslim scholars labeled Iqbal as ungrateful, and questioned his honesty as a Muslim. That was the sentiment regarding Shikwa for four years, until Iqbal published Jawab e Shikwa -replying to all of his objections.