Allama Iqbal, one of the tallest poets and philosophers Asia has produced, had been endlessly fascinated by the rise and fall of the Muslims.
He had been preoccupied with the issue in both his Urdu and Persian poetry collections, both incredibly rich in their range and language. When it comes to the breadth of vision, foresight and grandeur of ideas and thought, no one comes close to the man claimed by both India and Pakistan. The much exploited Saare jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara is just one gem from his repertoire. I have been constantly reminded of the poet philosopher and what he once said about the Arabs while singing my way through Sir Wilfred Thesiger’s “Arabian Sands”. Iqbal passionately believed in the Islamic renaissance and argued that the rejuvenation of the civilization that ruled the world for nearly a thousand years would start in its birthplace at the hands of desert Arabs.
Iqbal made the prediction at a time of great turmoil and utter chaos in the Muslim world after the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate. I’ve often wondered what exactly Iqbal had in mind when he pitched for the Arabs at a time when they seemingly offered no hope for optimism. Thesiger’s Arabian Sands offers the answer. Iqbal believed that the world would rediscover the glory of Islam when the Arabs rediscover their roots and their original simplicity, honesty and the courage that once endeared them to the world. Arab traders who took on high seas with their primitive boats and traversed the world on horseback promoted their new faith and worldview not at the sword point, as some choose to believe, but with their actions and the way they conducted themselves.
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