Iqbal’s View of an Ideal Muslim Woman



Allama Iqbal and Altaf Hussain Hali are probably the only two poets in modern Urdu poetry whose ghazals do not contain gender degeneracy, nudity, and superficiality. Both of them have a big hand in restoring the position and respect of women and their status. Iqbal favored the same lifestyle for women that was found in the era of Islam, in which women, despite the absence of the prevalent burqa, were more superior than they are today in terms of shame, revelation, and sense of chastity. She used to participate in all aspects of life while wearing the Islamic veil. While criticizing the contemporary poets, Iqbal said:

ہند کے شاعِر و صُورت گر و افسانہ نویس
!آہ! بیچاروں کے اعصاب پہ عورت ہے سوار

The senses of the poor Indian poets, painters and literary writers are obsessed by woman.[1]

Iqbal and Motherhood:

Iqbal called the stratum of mothers the origin of the world’s activities and said that their position has revolutionary implications. The nations that do not value mothers cannot maintain their systems of life:

جہان را محکمی از امہات است
نہادشان امین ممکنات است
اگر این نکتہ را قومی نداند
نظام کار و بارش بے ثبات است

دنیا کی پائیداری ماؤں (کے دم قدم ) سے ہے؛ کیونکہ ان کی نہاد ممکنات کی امانتدار ہے (ماؤں کی گود سے ایسے بچے پیدا ہوتے ہیں ، جن کا ذریعہ ممکنات کے دروازے کھولتے ہیں)۔ جو قوم یہ نکتہ نہیں سمجھتی ؛ اس کا نظام حیات درہم برہم 
ہو جاتا ہے۔

The world is stable from the mother's grace; her kind nature guards the whole human race.
To this point if the nations didn’t get; the whole world order would soon up set.[2]

He attributes his talents and achievements to the grace of his mother and says that manners and morals are not acquired from schools but from the laps of mothers. He describes the history of nations and their past and present as the grace of their mothers and says that what is written on the foreheads of mothers is the destiny of the nation.

مرا داد این خرد پرور جنونی 
نگاہ مادر پاک اندرونی
ز مکتب چشم و دل نتوان گرفتن
کہ مکتب نیست جز سحر و فسونی

مجھے یہ خرد پرور جنون اپنی پاک طینت ماں کی نگاہ سے ملا ہے۔ مکتب سے چشم (بینا) اور دل (آگاہ ) حاصل نہیں کیے جا سکتے؛ کیونکہ مکتب سحر و فسوں کے علاوہ اور کچھ نہیں۔

That nation is lucky in whose hard race; a change the world espied on each man’s face.
What happened to him in this world’s race; can be seen now from their mother’s face.[3]

He invites the women of the nation to do the work of shaping the destiny of the nation. To change the evening of sorrow of the nation to the morning of spring. To spread the grace of the Qur’an in their homes, as Hazrat Umar’s (r.a) sister did through her recitation of the Qur’an, changing his destiny and melting his heart with her tone and accent.

ز شام ما برون ور سحر را
بہ قر ن باز خوان اہل نظر را
تو میدانی کہ سوز قرأت تو
دگرگون کرد تقدیر عمر را

پھر قرآن پاک کی تلوار سے اہل نظر کو متاثر کر کے؛ ہماری شام سے سحر پیدا کر۔ تو جانتی ہے کہ تیرے سوز قرآءت نے؛ حضرت عمر (رضی اللہ) کی تقدیر بدل دی۔

From my evening’s dusk get a dawn new; to seeing eyes read the Koran anew. 
From thy reading’s flame you know that fate; had totally changed Omar the Great.[4]

Iqbal is convinced of the central position of the mother in social and family life. He believes that just as in outside life, men have precedence, similarly, in the activities within the home, women are given importance, especially the mother, as she is responsible for providing and caring for the new generation. The mother’s lap is man’s first school. The more civilized, polite, and high-minded the mother is, the greater these effects will be on the child.

یہ فیضانِ نظر تھا یا کہ مکتب کی کرامت تھی 
سکھائے کس نے اسمعٰیل کو آدابِ فرزندی

Was it book‐lesson, or father’s glance, that taught
The son of Abraham what son should bear?[5]

In the eyes of Iqbal, the status and distinction of a woman are due to her being a mother. Nations that do not follow the rituals of motherhood have an unstable system, and family peace and tranquility are disturbed. Eventually, these noble and moral virtues die. In his opinion, the moral crisis of the West has occurred because respect for the mother and gender purity have ended. According to Iqbal, even if a woman cannot perform a great service in science or literature, only her motherhood is sufficiently valuable, through which famous scholars grow, and no human being in the world is not grateful for her kindness. 

وجود زن سے ہے تصویر کائنات میں رنگ 
اسی کے ساز سے ہے زندگی کا سوز دروں
شرف میں بڑھ کے ثریا سے مشت خاک اس کی 
کہ ہر شرف ہے اسی درج کا در مکنوں
مکالمات فلاطوں نہ لکھ سکی، لیکن 
اسی کے شعلے سے ٹوٹا شرار افلاطوں

The picture that this world presents from woman gets its tints and scents; she is the lyre that can impart pathos and warmth to human heart.
Her handful clay is superior far to Pleiades that so higher are for every man with knowledge vast, like gem out of her cask is cast.
Like Plato cannot hold discourse, nor can with thunderous voice declaim but Plato was a 
spark that broke from her fire that blazed like flame.[6]

Iqbal and Feminism:

Iqbal writes:

“I am not an advocate of absolute equality between man and woman. It appears that Nature has allotted different functions to them, and a right performance of these functions is equally indispensable for the health and prosperity of the human family. The so-called “emancipation of the western woman” necessitated by western individualism and the peculiar economic situation produced by an unhealthy competition, is an experiment, in my opinion, likely to fail, not without doing incalculable harm, and creating extremely intricate social problems.”[7]

“I wish to clear up a few points regarding the position of our women in the East, and how they compare with the women of the West. In London streets I see a lot which Londoners do not notice. They are too familiar with the sights to notice subtleties. But those who see a country after a long absence come with a fresh vision. What strikes me most is that the courtesy towards the female sex, for which Europeans were once famous, is becoming atavistic. In the underground men do not surrender their seats to ladies, or do so very rarely. In getting out of the car they have no thought of letting the ladies out first. I do not want to blame them. The women themselves have brought it about. They wanted emancipation, equal rights with the male sex. The change that has come was inevitable. Perhaps I may here try and eradicate the totally erroneous notions which are held in Europe, about the Eastern, and first of all, Muslim women, their life and the treatment they receive from men. European woman, according to her own wish, has descended from the pedestal on which she stood, but the Eastern Muslim woman has remained the recipient of the same honor as before.”[8]

In Iqbal’s opinion, women’s or men’s freedom does not have any meaning, but the relationship of mutual sacrifice and cooperation between men and women is necessary for each other. They must both bear the burden of life together in order to progress in life. Due to non-cooperation with each other, the work of life will be incomplete and its splendor will be dull. And ultimately it will be the loss of humanity.

Man and woman are bound to each other, they are the fashioners of the creatures of desire.
Woman is the guardian of the fire of life, her nature is the tablet of life's mysteries;
she strikes our fire against her own soul, and it is her substance that makes of the dust a man.
In her heart lurk life's potentialities, from her glow and flame life derives stability;
she is a fire from which the sparks break forth, body and soul, lacking her glow, cannot take shape.
What worth we possess derives from her values for we are all images of her fashioning;
if God has bestowed upon you a glance aflame cleanse yourself, and behold her sanctity.[9]
ہزار بار حکیموں نے اس کو سلجھایا 
مگر یہ مسئلہ زن رہا وہیں کا وہیں
قصور زن کا نہیں ہے کچھ اس خرابی میں 
گواہ اس کی شرافت پہ ہیں مہ و پرویں
فساد کا ہے فرنگی معاشرت میں ظہور 
کہ مرد سادہ ہے بیچارہ زن شناس نہیں

To solve this riddle thinkers have much tried, their efforts all so far it has defied.
No doubt, to woman's faith and conduct clear, the Pleiades and moon do witness bear.
This vice in Frankish way of life we find, men fools and blind, can't read a woman's mind.[10]

Iqbal asks the “Doctors of Europe” a simple question:

کیا چیز ہے آرائش و قیمت میں زیادہ 
آزادی نسواں کہ زمرد کا گلوبند

It is an uphill task to judge what is more precious lends much grace; 
emancipation for fair sex or aught or emerald-wrought superb neck-lace.[11]

کوئی پوچھے حکیم یورپ سے
ہند و یوناں ہیں جس کے حلقہ بگوش
کیا یہی ہے معاشرت کا کمال
مرد بے کار و زن تہی آغوش

Let some one ask this question from the wise of West, whom Greece and India, 
as their guide and master hold:
Is it the highest social mode by them evolved, the males unemployed, 
fair sex to procreation cold?[12]

Iqbal and Patriarchy:

Patriarchy, although maligned by the feminist movement, isn’t something evil. It is merely the order of man being the Qawa’am, as stated in Surah Nisa. Iqbal held the same view. He said in his poem “Protection of the Women”:

اک زندہ حقیقت مرے سینے میں ہے مستور 
کیا سمجھے گا وہ جس کی رگوں میں ہے لہو سرد
نے پردہ، نہ تعلیم، نئی ہو کہ پرانی 
نسوانیت زن کا نگہباں ہے فقط مرد
جس قوم نے اس زندہ حقیقت کو نہ پایا 
اس قوم کا خورشید بہت جلد ہوا زرد

A fact alive is in my breast concealed, he can behold whose blood is not congealed.
To wear a veil and learn new lore or old can't guard fair sex except a person bold.
A nation which can't see this truth divine, pale grows its son and soon begins decline.[13]

Iqbal and Veil (Pardah):

Iqbal says that a Muslim woman should live in society and life, even with the arrangement of the veil, in such a way that her positive effects are established on society and the world is illuminated by her light:

ضمیر عصر حاضر بے نقاب است
گشادش در نمود رنگ و ب است
جہانتابی ز نور حق بیاموز
کہ او با صد تجلی در حجاب است

دور حاضر کا ضمیر عیاں ہے ؛ اس (ضمیر) کا کشاد رنگ اور چمک دمک کی نمود میں ہے۔ مگر تو اللہ تعالے کے نور سے جہان کو منوّر کرنا سیکھ؛ جو صد ہا تجلیات کے باوجود حجاب میں ہے۔

At last modern age shows her conscience lo! They feel quite happy with false pomp and show. 
A tip for world’s tight learn from His light; with hundred visions who hids from sight.[14]

Addressing the “Daughters of the Millat,” he said that for a Muslim woman, flirtatiousness and make-up are, in a sense, disbelief; rather, they should use their personality, revolutionary nature, and pure vision to dispel false hopes:

بہل اے دخترک این دلبری ہا
مسلمان را نزیبد کافری ہا
منہ دل بر جمال غازہ پرورد
بیاموز از نگہ غارتگری ہا

بیٹی! دلبری کا یہ انداز (آرائش و زینت) چھوڑ دے؛ مسلمان کو کافری زیب نہیں دیتی۔ ایسے حسن سے دل نہ لگا، جو غازہ کا مرہون منت ہو؛ بلکہ نگاہ سے غارت گری سیکھ۔

Learn O’ daughterling this loveliness trend; to Muslim suits not the heathen’s blend.
You need not a beauty of rouge and scent; with the chaste eyes teach thy charming bent.[15]

In support of the veil, Iqbal says that the veil is not a hindrance for a woman. She can participate in all legitimate activities and perform her duties by staying in the veil, as the creator of the universe is running the work of the world behind the veil. His nature is veiled in Quds, but the shadows of his attributes are spread over the oceans. In response to the opponents of the veil, he says that the veil is the veil of the body, but how can it be called a barrier to the high qualities and hidden possibilities of a woman? The real question is not whether there is a veil on the face or not, but rather that the personality and reality are not veiled, and that her true self has been awakened and revealed:

تفاوت نہ دیکھا زن و شو میں میں نے 
وہ خلوت نشیں ہے، یہ خلوت نشیں ہے
ابھی تک ہے پردے میں اولاد آدم 
کسی کی خودی آشکارا نہیں ہے

In man and wife is no contrast, they like seclusion and hold it fast.
The sons of Adam still wear the mask, but self hasn't peeped out of the casque.[16]

Furthermore, Iqbal wrote a poem in which he said that because of the veil, a woman gets a chance to be united and devote her talents to the training of future generations and to understand the possibilities of her own self. Apart from the social evils, the materials for building your own house and family are available. Within the quiet environment of the home, she finds it easier to think through life’s problems and social issues, and thus can work better for herself and others.

آغوش صدف جس کے نصیبوں میں نہیں ہے 
وہ قطرہ نیساں کبھی بنتا نہیں گوہر
خلوت میں خودی ہوتی ہے خودگیر، و لیکن 
خلوت نہیں اب دیر و حرم میں بھی میسر

That vernal drop of rain the state of pearl can't gain, if destined not to dwell, in lap of mother shell.
Retreat is blessed state 'bout Self gives knowledge-great Alas! 
This state divine, isn't found in fane or shrine.[17]

Iqbal writes in one of his essays:

“In Europe the belief is still there that the Turkish woman plays an inferior role in Turkish life. They misunderstand many of our customs, especially the psychology of the veil. The origin of the veil is not men’s jealousy but the feeling that woman is sacred, so much so that a stranger’s eye should not fall on her. The meaning of the word “haram” in Arabic is “sacred ground,” into which no stranger can enter. There are other reasons for the practice of the veil. These are biological in nature; The woman is predominantly the creative element in life, and all creative forces in nature are hidden. The source and symbol of the greater respect which Eastern women enjoy is in that very veil. Nothing has happened to diminish the respect in which they were held for centuries, and the principle of protecting them from approaches of strangers and from all humiliations has been safely maintained. According to the Holy Book of Islam, there are several rules relating to the segregation of women. The veil is only one of them. Another rule is that when men and women meet each other, they should not stare into the eyes of each other. If this were the universal practice, the ordinary veil would be unnecessary.[18]

Iqbal and Women’s Education:

Iqbal writes:

“The woman is the principal depository of the religious idea. In the interests of a continuous national life, therefore, it is extremely necessary to give her, in the first place, a sound religious education. That must, however, be supplemented by a general knowledge of Muslim History, Domestic economy, and Hygiene. This will enable her to give a degree of intellectual companionship to her husband, and successfully to do the duties of motherhood which, in my opinion, is the principal function of a woman. All subjects that have a tendency to de-womanize and de-Muslimize her must be carefully excluded from her education. But our educators are still groping in the dark; they have not yet been able to prescribe a course of study for our girls. They are, perhaps, too much dazzled by the glamor of western ideals to realize the difference between Islamism, which constructs nationality out of a purely abstract idea, i.e. religion, and “Westernism”, the very lifeblood of whose concept of nationality is a concrete thing, i.e., country.”[19]

Further, he writes in his personal diary:

“Our young prophets of social reform think that a few doses of education on western lines will revitalize the dead Musalman woman and make her tear her ancient shrouds. This is perhaps true. But I fear, finding herself naked, she will have once more to hide her body from the eyes of these young prophets.”[20]

Iqbal is not a supporter of the women’s freedom movement because its result is the slavery of women in another way. It will not make their problems easier but rather more complicated, and the biggest loss to humanity will be that the spirit of motherhood will end. “The knowledge by which a woman loses her qualities is not knowledge, but death,” he says, “and the same death is what Western civilization invites other nations for.” 

تہذیب فرنگی ہے اگر مرگ امومت 
ہے حضرت انساں کے لیے اس کا ثمر موت
جس علم کی تاثیر سے زن ہوتی ہے نا زن 
کہتے ہیں اسی علم کو ارباب نظر موت
بیگانہ رہے دیں سے اگر مدرسہ زن 
ہے عشق و محبت کے لیے علم و ہنر موت

If Frankish culture blights the motherly urge, for human race it means a funeral dirge.
The lore that makes a woman lose her rank is naught, but death in eyes of wise and frank.
If schools for girls no lore impart on creed, then lore and crafts for Love are death indeed.[21]

Iqbal criticized the so-called Western Education and Intellectual Secularism. Iqbal said that without culture or tradition, mere free-thinking will only lead to the destruction of a society:

آزادیِ افکار سے ہے اُن کی تباہی
رکھتے نہیں جو فکر و تدبّر کا سلیقہ
ہو فکر اگر خام تو آزادیِ افکار
انسان کو حیوان بنانے کا طریقہ!

Free thinking can bring about the ruin of those whose thoughts are low and mean:
They donʹt possess the mode and style of thought that may be chaste and clean.
If thoughts are raw and immature no good accrues to man in least:
The utmost that such thoughts can do is change of wan to state of beast.[22]

اور یہ اہل کلیسا کا نظام تعلیم 
ایک سازش ہے فقط دین و مروت کے خلاف

The teaching that the English have devised against Faith and ties has great intrigue contrived: [23]

Iqbal and the Ideal Woman:

Finally, it is important to note that Iqbal considers Hazrat Fatima (r.a) the ideal woman for the mothers of the Islamic nation and urges all the daughters of Millat to follow her. Iqbal emphasizing Hazrat Fatima’s seerah, narrates how she used to read the Qur’an even while grinding the mill and doing household chores. In Iqbal’s opinion, with this maturity of character, Hasan and Husayn came out of her embrace.

مزرع تسلیم را حاصل بتول
مادران را اسوۂ کامل بتول
بہر محتاجی دلش آنگونہ سوخت
با یہودی چادر خود را فروخت
نوری و ہم آتشے فرمانبرش
گم رضایش در رضای شوہرش
آن ادب پروردۂ صبر و رضا
آسیا گردان و لب قرآن سرا

سیدنا فاطمہ (رضی اللہ) تسلیم و رضا کی کھیتی کا حاصل اور ماؤں کے لیے اسوہ کاملہ ہیں۔ ایک مسکین کے لیے آپ (رضی اللہ) کا دل اس طرح تڑپا کہ اپنی چادر یہودی کے پاس فروخت کر کے (اس کی مدد کی)۔ نوری اور آتشے سب آپ (رضی اللہ) کے فرمانبردار تھے؛ آپ (رضی اللہ) نے اپنی رضا میں گم کر دیا تھا۔ آپ (رضی اللہ) نے صبر و رضا کی ادب گاہ میں پرورش پائی تھی؛ ہاتھ چکّی پیستے اور لبوں پر قرآن پاک کی تلاوت ہوتی تھی۔

She was the harvest of the well-sown field of self-surrender, 
to all mothers she the perfect pattern, Fatima the chaste.
Her heart so grieved, because one came in need, she stripped her cloak and sold it to a Jew;
Though creatures all, of light alike and fire, obeyed her bidding, 
yet she sank her will in her good consort’s pleasure.
Fortitude and meekness were her schooling; while her lips chanted the Book, 
she ground the homely mill.[24]

Iqbal advises Muslim women in a beautiful way:

کودک ما چون لب از شیر تو شست
لاالہ آموختی او را نخست
فطرت تو جذبہ ہا دارد بلند
چشم ہوش از اسوۂ زھرا مبند
تا حسینی شاخ تو بار آورد
موسم پیشین بگلزار آورد

جب ہمارے بچے نے تیرے دودھ سے اپنے لب تر کیے تو تو نے سب سے پہلے اسے لاالہ سکھایا۔ تیری فطرت میں بلند جذبات موجود ہیں؛ تو اپنی ہوشمندی کی آنکھ سیدنا فاطمة الزہراء (رضی اللہ) کے اسوہ پر رکھ۔ تاکہ تیری شاخ بھی حسین (رضی اللہ ) جیسا پھل پیدا کرے؛ اور اسلام کے دور اوّل کو موسم (بہار ) ہمارے گلزار میں واپس لائے۔

Our children’s lips, being suckled at thy breast, 
from thee first learn to lisp No god but God.
High, high the cravings are that wrestle with thy soul; 
be conscious still and ever of thy model, Fatima;
So that thy branch may bear a new Husain, 
our garden blossom with the Golden Age.[25]


[1] Zarb-e-Kaleem-141

[2] Armaghan-e-Hijaz-Farsi-38

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Bal-e-Jibril-012

[6] Zarb-e-Kaleem-103

[7] Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, pg.136.

[8] Ibid, pg.192.

[9] Javid Nama – The Foundations of the Quranic World – 1. Man, God’s Vicegerent.

[10] Zarb-e-Kaleem-099

[11] Zarb-e-Kaleem-104

[12] Zarb-e-Kaleem-100

[13] Zarb-e-Kaleem-105

[14] Armaghan-e-Hijaz-Farsi-38

[15] Ibid.

[16] Zarb-e-Kaleem-101

[17] Zarb-e-Kaleem-102

[18] Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, pg.192.

[19] Ibid, pg. 135.

[20] Stray Reflections, Pg. 111.

[21] Zarb-e-Kaleem-106

[22] Zarb-e-Kaleem-082

[23] Zarb-e-Kaleem-097

[24] Rumuz-e-Bekhudi-025

[25] Rumuz-e-Bekhudi-026

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.