Muhammad Iqbal and his bond with Turks

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Muhammad Iqbal and his bond with Turks

This time, researcher Doğan Yücel provides us a different portrait of Allama Muhammed Iqbal. Giving an overview of Iqbal’s life and his world of thought, Yücel also mirrors his relationship with the Ottomans and Turks and tells how Iqbal is perceived in Turkey…

Intellectuals are the children of their time. They are observation bridges that can also see the past. Those who want to know in what an environment did the Islamic greats who originated in the last century, they may look at the condition of the Muslim World at that time, and may understand this profoundly. The 20th century presented the Islamic World with priceless personalities with high stature like Jamaluddin Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Mehmed Akif, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Maududi, Hasan al-Banna, Iskilipli Atif, Elmalili Hamdi, Sayyid Qutub…

The first person who comes to mind about Pakistan is of course Allama Muhammad Iqbal. He was a son of the Subcontinent, then a colonial geography with underground and overground riches placed under a non-Muslim rule. Iqbal, who lived between 1877 and 1938, completed his basic education in Lahore. He then went to London and accumulated knowledge from the West. Later, in his memoirs, he said, “I spent 15 years in London, but I still did not miss my tahajjud (night supererogatory prayer) even once.” Iqbal, who was extremely observant of the personal rights and the rule of law, was given a duty to be completed within a month in return of a payment. He finished the task in one day and did not take the remaining amount despite much persistence from the employers; he took only one day’s wage and, when they asked him why, he replied, “the Holy Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) commanded so.”

While travelling to England on a ship, Iqbal suddenly stood up and the passengers around him were surprised. He said, “We are now cruising in alignment in Istanbul, where our Sultan and Caliph resides. I would not wish to behave disrespectful.”

His support to the Turkish War of Independence

He presented his ideas to the world with his books. With his works translated into many languages, Allama Iqbal is the only person in Pakistan who was honoured by burial in the front courtyard of the Badshahi Masjid in Lahore. True to an Eastern literary tradition, Muhammad Iqbal dedicated his poetry compilation Javidnama (Book of Javid) to his son Javid Iqbal, who later rose to prominence by serving for years in the Lahore High Court in Punjab and eventually becoming the Senior Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

In the 20th century, Allama Mohammed Iqbal was undoubtedly the most prominent person and proponent of the relationships between the Pakistan-India Subcontinent and Turkey. Understanding Iqbal is, in a sense, understanding Pakistan. Hence, it is a matter that has already been studied many times, as there is no need to tell at length how the ‘Poet of the East’ Iqbal handled Turks in his works. “There is no need to retell the story of Allama Iqbal, the great poet and philosophical poet and also a true interpreter of our time.” (Mughul, 1981, s. 81).

It would be wrong to think of Allama Iqbal only for the Muslims of the Subcontinent. Rather, he endeavoured to make the whole Muslim World awaken from a heedless sleep. He composed poems, produced works and made great intellectual reforms in his short life in this realm to save the Muslim World from attacks. Iqbal was immediately involved in the struggles for independence that began sporadically in the colonized Muslim countries and gave them full and open support. He wanted to inform the whole Muslim World of their news and attract attention to these places and wished people accept his ideas and dreams.

How he received the British invasion of Anatolia

The first quarter of the 20the century was a tough and testing period for the Ottoman Turks. In 1911, Italy attacked Tripoli. Earlier, Turkish activists helped the revolt led by Dr Ansari among the Indian Muslims. When the British invaded Istanbul, this triggered the rise of sympathy and concern in the Subcontinent towards the Ottoman Caliphate. During the same period, a newspaper named Zamindar under the editorship of jailed Maulana Zafar Ali Khan started to circulate. Iqbal narrated that period of invasion with these words:

“All in all, look at the oceans-full glory that once roamed free

How a deprived wave could thus chain to enslave it” (pp. 194).

Allama Iqbal narrated the incident of the War of Tripoli in his own words. He also touched on that issue in his poetry titled ‘Fatima Bint Abdullah’ (pp. 239-240). He wrote how he presented the blood of the martyrs in the War of Tripoli to the Holy Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) in a glass. This poem’s name is ‘Before the Exalted Prophet’s Throne’ (Huzoor Risalat Maab Mein):

“‘Master! There is no quiet in that land of time and space,

Where the existence that we crave hides and still hides its face;

Though all creation’s flowerbeds teem with tulip and red rose,

The flower whose perfume is true love—that flower no garden knows.

But I have brought this chalice here to make my sacrifice;

The thing it holds you will not find in all your Paradise.

See here, oh Lord, the honour of your people brimming up!

The martyred blood of Tripoli, oh Lord, is in this cup.” (pp. 218-219).

He expressed the agony he suffered when he heard the Hijaz had changed hands during the World War 1 with these words:

“The Hashemite are selling the dignity of Mustafa (PBUH)’s religion

Turks toils turn into blood and soil” (pp. 257).

After the victory at the end of the Turkish War of Independence, Iqbal wrote the famous poem “The Birth of Islam”. During the treaty negotiations with the British, Iqbal sent a letter to Mustafa Kemal under the pen name Maulana Sayyid Suleiman Nadwi. In his letter, Iqbal said, “How long have I been waiting these to come out of my pen… I do not know what you say about this issue. The events are obvious, but the ordinary Muslims in India do not know about them. “(Charagh, 1940).

He expressed his feelings on the salvation of the Caliphate in his poem ‘ The Appellant for Caliphate’ (Daryooza-e-Khilafat):

“No matter if you lose land, woe not

But you never be unfaithful for Allah’s commandments

Don’t you have an awareness of history?

You are the servants of the Caliphate

What you received is such a sultanate that

It’s a shame to get without shedding your blood.” (pp. 286).

Mehmet Akif was the first to introduce him to Turkey

In the years that followed, Iqbal mentioned Turks in his various other works. The first person who mentioned Allama Iqbal in Turkey was Mehmet Akif, the poet of Safahat (The Stages). Mehmet Akif complimented Iqbal with the title, ‘The Rumi of the Age’. In his masterpiece poetry compendium Safahat, Mehmet Akif mentioned about Iqbal in the poem ‘The Artist’ (Sanatkâr) as the ‘the philosopher-poet of India’:

“Being able to make a wail sing an agony, a sheer dream!

Thus, spoke the poet of India, that philosopher Iqbal:

«The enthused sounds from my heart

Instilled ardour in each heart,

I am enthused by such a melody:

That is impossible to chant.»” (Ersoy, 2007, s. 503).

When he was Egypt, Iqbal told Dr Abdul Wahab Azam about Iqbal and suggested both of them should collaborate in translating Iqbal’s works into Arabic. There are independent sources that narrate the relationship between Mehmed Akif and Muhammad Iqbal (Önder, 1993).

Iqbal also continued his relationships with the newly founded Republic of Turkey. Rauf Pasha, who was in France on occasion of the Balkan issue in 1932, was invited to India and a great ceremony was organized for him in at the Stiffles Hotel on March 23, 1933in Lahore. Iqbal once again expressed his love and affection for the Turks there.

After the founding of Pakistan, Turkey-Pakistan relations continued with the mutual opening of embassies. Pakistan’s first ambassador to Turkey, the celebrated poet and scholar Mian Bashir Ahmed contributed with serious services to this relationship. He introduced Allama Iqbal’s life, works and ideas at the Ankara University and other institutions. He also explained the significance of Allama Iqbal to the politicians and intellectuals in Turkey during the commemorative programs held on Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s and Allama Iqbal’s birth and death anniversaries. As a result of these activities, the people of Turkey were awakened with a fervent desire for the works of the celebrated Poet of the East which got translated from Persian into Turkish.

Iqbal talks at the consulate

In Turkey, the Embassy of Pakistan led the formation of the Pakistan Cultural Association and the subsequently founded platforms have fulfilled this important task in terms of Pakistan-Turkey relations. Later, Mr. Sharif Hassan made important contributions during his long years of official duty in Turkey. He met Prof. Dr Ali Nihad Tarlan and told him about Iqbal. “Between 1960 and 1968, Tarlan presided over weekly meetings and talks at the Pakistan Consulate in Istanbul, and held discussions and talks on Iqbal’s works.” (Mughul, 1981, pp.86).

During that period Tarlan translated the works of Iqbal’s works into Turkish: in 1963 ‘Payam-e Mashriq’ (The Message of the East), in 1964 ‘Zabur-e Ajam’ (Persian Psalms) and ‘Rumuz-e Bekhudi’ (Hints of Selflessness), and in 1968 ‘Zarb-e Kalim’ (The Staff of Moses) and ‘Armaghan-e Hijaz’ (The Gift from Hijaz). “In addition, he penned several articles and analyses in the monthly Pakistan Post magazine printed and circulated in the same period by the Embassy of Pakistan in Turkey. In 1957, the Iqbal Academy in Lahore invited Prof. Tarlan to Pakistan and accompanied him during a series of meetings and discussions” (Mughul, 1981, pp. 87).

In addition to Tarlan, Ali Ulvi Kurucu too made significant contributions to introducing the works of Iqbal to Turkish literati. In 1957, Kurucu wrote a book titled ‘Büyük İslam Şairi Dr. Muhammed Iqbal’ (A Great Muslim Poet: Dr. Muhammad Iqbal) and in 1964, he translated Iqbal’s six-lecture compilation ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ from English to Turkish.

After Tarlan, Prof. Abdulkadir Karahan made intensive research on Iqbal and generated considerable academic output. “Karahan was a solemn and dedicated devotee of Pakistan and Allama Iqbal.” (Mughul, 1981, pp. 88). In 1973, which marked the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, Prof. Karahan published ‘Dr. Muhammed Iqbal ve Eserlerinden Seçmeler’ (Dr. Muhammad Iqbal and Selections from His Works’. The Urdu poetry in this book were translated into Turkish by then-Associate Prof. Muhammad Sabir from the University of Karachi. In various periods, meetings, talks and discussions were and have been held on Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal.

The Rumi of the current age

In 1973, a seminar on Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi was organized in Konya, Turkey to commemorate his 700th birth anniversary and among the delegates were the Vice Rector of Islamabad University (now Quaid-e-Azam University) Dr. Nabi Bakhsh Baloch and other prominent Pakistani academics. In this seminar, Iqbal was titled ‘the Rumi of the Current Age’. The year 1977 marked Iqbal’s 100th birth anniversary and an international conference was held in Lahore, Pakistan. Prominent Turkish academics and artists too were among the delegates of this conference. In the light of this conference, another program was held between the governments of Pakistan and Turkey. In 1978, Justice Javid Iqbal was invited to deliver a series of conferences in Ankara, Konya, and Istanbul and to enlighten the Turkish people and intellectuals about Allama Iqbal’s thoughts and ideals. In Turkey, Muhammad Iqbal has been received as if he was a Turkish poet, and he was honoured by a symbolic gravestone in the backyard of the Rumi’s Tomb in Konya. This meant Iqbal is the Rumi of the Current Age and is one of the servants of Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi.

In short, among the most prominent academics who introduced Iqbal from Pakistan to Turkey are Prof. Dr. Yakup Mughul and late Prof. Dr. Mohammed Sabir. Sabir had compiled the seminal Urdu-Turkish Dictionary in 1968. Later on, other Urdu-Turkish dictionaries followed. There are also publications on the Turkish words found in the local languages in Pakistan.

Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal’s entire corpus was finally translated into Turkish in 1992-93. Commending the volume of work, the Head of the Urdu Language and Literature and Pakistan Studies Chair at the Ankara University then said, “A dream has come true!”. Many editions of Iqbal’s works are in circulation across Turkey having been translated and published by different names.


Mughul, M. Y. (1981). Allama Iqbal Aur Türki. Lahore Iqbal Academy Iqbal Review, 21, 81.

Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1930). Bang-e-Dra. Karimi Press, Lahore.

Charagh, H. H.(1940). Iqbalnama, Hoonhar Book Depot, Lahore.

Ersoy, M. E. (2007).  Safahat. (Compiled by M. Ertuğrul Düzdağ). Istanbul.

Őnder, M. (1993). Mehmed Akif ve Muhammed Iqbal. Türkçe Iqbaliyat, Iqbal Academy Lahore, 1, 101-108.

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