Socialist Ideas in the Poetry of Allama M. Iqbal

Many of Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s poems testify to his sincere interest in the teachings of socialism. He was drawn to socialism by the thought of unity and equality of mankind and the principle of the division of material goods according to the needs of the members of the society. On the other hand, Iqbal was unable to accept a materialistic view of the world and the scientific dialectical methods with which socialism was inevitably linked. In this he was influenced by his deep religious faith and undoubtedly also by the influence of his family environment and upbringing.

Iqbal was one of the first poets of Asia to greet the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. He had already been the first Urdu poet consciously to make general use in his poetry of the term ‘capitalist’ (sarmayahdar) in contradistinction to ‘proletariat (nadar). We are not able, however, to establish that in Europe he engaged in the study of socialist theoretical doctrine, although in as much as he devoted himself to the study of many European philosophical trends, it is reasonable to suppose that he read the Communist Manifesto and possibly also Marx’s Das Capital. At least some of the latter poems indicate this. When Soviet power established itself in Russia, Iqbal reacted with the poem Sarmayag wa mihnat (Capital and Work) which constitute part of the cycle Khidr-i-rah, the Guide on the journey’.

In this poem, he challenged the working people of the East and West, with the beginning of a new world epoch in the dawn of the victory of the socialist revolution, to follow the Soviet example and throw off the fetters of capitalism:

Go and give enslaved worker my message,
It is not only the message of Khidr, it is the message out of the universe:
Take heed, you whom the crafty capitalist has swallowed up,
You whom he has for hundreds of years only deceived.
The reward which your wealth-creating hands have received,
Was like the alms the wealthy bestow on the wretched.
The conjurer of Alamut gave you hashish
And you, O foolish one, took it for sugarcane.
Imperialism understands well how to choose narcotics
Such as race, nationality, the church, government, culture or colour.
The artless worker became a victim of imaginary gods,
And under the influence of narcotics gave away the treasure of life.
The capitalist won the game with a deceitful move,
The worker was checkmated having been too guileless.
Arise, for now the Assembly is set up differently,
And your age is dawning in the East and the West.
The high-soaring soul is not content even with the river,
But you ignorant seem satisfied like the bud with dew-drops.
Democracy wakes up a sings—you have reason to rejoice.
How long will you listen to the cradle-song about Alexander and

The new sun arose from the bosom of the earth.
Will you then continue to mourn over the fallen stars?
It is the nature of man to tear asunder his chains.
How long will eye of Adam shed tears over the expulsion from

Spring counsels the gardener, versed in treatment,
How long will you prepare plaster for wounds?
Let the ignorant moth ceasing to circle the candle
Settle itself where its luminosity can show itself.

The upsurge of the Indian national liberation movement after the first World War as accompanied by the development of the strike movement among India workers. Poor crops and hunger in 1920 bore heavily upon the Indian people. The strikes gave emphasis to economic demands, but the strike solidarity testified as well to growth of class consciousness among the proletariat. During the strike struggles the efforts of the workers to achieve their own organization grew. Trade unions came into existence after a decade but because they were essentially only strike committees they did not last long. At socialism, in the concept of the working class and workers’ struggle Despite all obstacles and initial confusion, however, tie political consciousness of the working class awakened and was gradually penetrated b socialistic and communistic ideas.

Allama Muhammad Iqbal was led to this judgment by his poetic interpretation of the thought of the French positivist, August Comte (1798-1857). Comte, as a philosopher of the bourgeoisie, used the battle-cry of French volition, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity’ and held that the human hear passionately long for the harmonious unity of all members of human society. Allama Muhammad Iqbal in an introduction sets forth the basis of Comte’s conviction that human society must subordinate nature and its haws which determine the position of each individual and his task so that individual freedom does not have much scope. The worker in his poem criticizes this doctrine of the immutable order of society and criticizes the philosopher who sets for wisdom only one end, namely, the concealment of capitalist exploitation of labour and the proclamation of social inqually necessary and enduring:


The descendants of Adam constitute a brotherhood,
They are as branches of a tree, leaves and fruit.
It is in the nature of things that the brain begets thoughts,
And it is also in the nature of things that the foot walks.
One of us directs work and the other performs
The emperrror Mahmud does not toil instead of his slave Ayaz.
So you see by the division of labour in life
The whole patch of bramble is transformed into an orchard.


You deceive me, O sage, with your learning.
Do you say that it is not possible to end this ancient curse of society?
You are trying to gild raw copper with words
If you say I am not fed up with my chains.
On the contrary, I have the strength that can arouse the sea
And with my axe can cause milk to gush from cliffs.
O juggler of words, the reward which belongs to Farhad
You wish to bestow instead on the tyrant Parviz.
Your philosophizing does not change lawlessness into right
And your will hot dupe Khidr with a mirage.

1 thought on “Socialist Ideas in the Poetry of Allama M. Iqbal”

  1. i’ve lived my childhood in pakistan, and i used to recite sir illama iqbal’s poems, “lab pe ati hai duwa banke tamana meri”
    very good poems. in the old days people spoke orignal urdu, now we speak hindi-urdu. shame on us for leaving such a beautiful language.


Leave a Reply