Human mind’s insensitivity in the course of history is most observed during wars. Wars usually affect minds and hearts in a destructive manner, as far as common people are concerned. But when it comes to poets, war is a strong stimulus affecting thoughts in a creative manner. Human sensitivity is most reflected in poetry; therefore, war has been a very popular theme amongst poets of all times.
The revolutionary thoughts of Allama Iqbal, one of the greatest poets of Islamic world of the Modern Era were reflected in his timeless poetry. He was not an ordinary poet. He was highly educated, well-travelled and a product of intensely valued mentors. He had exposure to world class literature. When critically analyzed, his status as a War Poet becomes quite apparent as there are a number of his writings on historic war events, praise war heroes, discuss attributes of warriors, reflect on war ethics, etc.
Interestingly, in relation to the war theme, one may be surprised to find certain feminine characters recounted by Allama Iqbal as war victims, war survivors or even warriors. In his Persian and Urdu poetry, Iqbal represented, in perhaps the most sensitive manner, the relation of war and women. He has inspirations when it comes to the theme of war and women and using those he sends out a message for humanity, that highlights the role and sacrifices of women for their nation, that are in no way less than those of men.
Woman as a War Prisoner: Daughter of Hatim Tai
Iqbal narrates a very important incident from war history of Islam, when in one of the battles, Sufanah, daughter of the famous Hatim Tai was taken captive. When she was brought in the presence of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), she was chained and her head was bare. The disrespect shown to the daughter of great and generous Hatim Tai was a shocking sight for the Holy Prophet (PBUH). History proudly quotes that the Prophet took out his cloak and flung it towards her so that she might cover herself. It gives an account of war ethic defined by Islam, i.e., to behave respectfully towards women even in wartimes.
Allama Iqbal expressed his feelings about general condition of Muslim world directly referring to this story in the following verses:
We are more naked than the lady of Tai
We are stripped of our robe of honour before nations
Woman as a Warrior: Fatimah binte Abdullah
Fatimah Binte Abdullah was an 11-year-old Arab girl from Tripoli. She came to prominence in 1912 when Italy and the Ottoman Empire were engaged in a war for control over the area now known as Libya. Fatimah also took park in the war by way of providing drinking water and supplies to soldiers. She was shot dead by an Italian soldier. Her bravery in the battlefield inspired Allama Iqbal so immensely that he immortalized her by writing a poem tilted, Fatimah binte Abdullah:
Fatimah, you are the pride of the lost nation
Your dust is holy, every particle of it.
You, houri of the desert, were fated to win such merit!
To give the soldiers of Islam water to drink was to be your good fortune.
A jihad in the way of God, waged without sword or shield!
What a courage, the love of martyrdom gives!
That in our autumn stricken garden there were flower buds like this!
That a spark like this, O’ God, could be found in our ashes!
In our desert many deer still hide!
And in the spent clouds many flashes of lightning still lie dormant!
Iqbal is not only paying his tribute here but is showing the high status of a martyr in Islam.
Woman as a Warrior’s Spouse: An Unmatchable Example of Passion and Love
Iqbal while describing the pricking pain of love finds no other example but of the spouse of a soldier going for war, who silently sheds tears while bidding him farewell. In the first stanza of the poem titled The Morning Star, he writes:
Enough of this sun-and-moon neighboring glory —
Enough of this office of heralding dawn!
Worthless to me the abodes of the planets,
Lowly earth-dwelling is more than these heights
I inhabit, to heaven but a realm of extinction,
Dawn’s skirt of the hundred-fold rent for my shroud:
To live, to die daily my fate, to be poured
Or why not the glistening tear-drop that rolls
Down the long lashes fringing the eyes of a lady
Whose lord, in chain armor enmeshed, must set forth
And in the last stanza, Iqbal sums up:
To the battlefield, hurried by love of his country,
— A woman whose face like a picture shows hope
and despair side by side, and whose silence shames speech:
Her patient thoughts built on her husband’s firm soul,
Her looks from their modesty borrowing eloquence,
That hour of farewell when the rosy cheeks pale
And the sorrow of parting makes beauty more beautiful!
There, though she locked up her heart, I would gleam,
One water drop spilt from her eye’s brimming cup,
To find in the dust, an immortal new life,
And teach to the world the long passion of love.
War has always impacted men and women in different ways. Allama Iqbal has highlighted the sacrifices of women and encouraged the participation of woman as an important member of society contributing in the national defence. He appreciated the role that women had been playing in the glorious past and he defined the guidelines from women in general, that are in no way different from the ideology of Islam.HH
The writer is the author of the book, Zikr-e-Zann – an Account of Women in Poetic Thoughts of Allam Iqbal.
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