Iqbal and the Modern Woman

Iqbal was a multifaceted individual who excelled in the realms of poetry, politics, and philosophy. Iqbal had a very clear idea about the role of women in family and national life, and on deeper analysis of his poetry, one easily picks up on the well-roundedness of his message, meaning thereby that he considers the role of both genders to be equally important. The beauty of Iqbal’s poetry that is aimed at the role of women is that it does not convey the message of equality but of equity. He wanted to rouse the women within their societal context, and their capabilities, limitations and constraints; he did not envision them to follow the western model. Iqbal has addressed numerous significant topics through his literary endeavors like ‘Ramooz-e-Bekhudi’, ‘Zareb-e-Kaleem’, and ‘Javed Nama’, in which considerable importance is attributed to women, as well as their rights and roles within societal contexts.

According to Iqbal, the essence of a woman’s greatness lies in her maternal instincts. Mothers play a central role in both social life and the dynamics of families, as they embody the spirit of motherhood. A mother’s lap is the first place where a person learns the lessons of morality and nobility. Children raised by mothers who possess qualities such as high-mindedness, courage, politeness, and civility have a greater likelihood of contributing to the development of a positive and prosperous society. In ‘Armghan-e Hijaz,’ Iqbal asserts that the destiny of a nation can be discerned by observing the countenance of its mothers. The future of our nation relies on ensuring that the new generation receives a proper education. The honor and distinction of a woman are often attributed to her role as a mother. Iqbal’s poetry consistently reflects his deep respect for women, as he mentions them in various contexts throughout his works. At times, she assumes the role of a mother, at other times a sister, a daughter or a wife.

When Iqbal emphasizes the importance of women as equally important members of the society, he places great emphasis on the education of women. A woman who possesses both religious and modern education has the potential to guide the younger generation towards improved individual and community life. 
Iqbal’s poetry conveys a profound message regarding morals and ethics. Education is often regarded as the solution to various challenges we face. Therefore, it is crucial that education is meaningful and impactful. Iqbal had a vision to establish a culture of education and civilization that would enable us to learn values and ethics. Additionally, he was a highly esteemed poet. About a century ago, he accurately predicted the predicament of his nation, caught between the teachings of Islam and the influence of Western culture and education.

Iqbal advocated for women to have access to quality education, genuine freedom, and opportunities for personal growth. However, he believed that women are not yet prepared to embrace the Western notion of women’s freedom. According to his perspective, having this freedom does not mean that women’s problems will become easier, rather, they may become more complex. Consequently, this movement might not lead to women’s liberation, but rather result in them being burdened by numerous challenges. He argues that this newfound ‘freedom’ has become a source of concern for Western society, as it has led to a breakdown in the relationship between men and women.

According to Iqbal, the slogans advocating for women’s freedom or men’s freedom are devoid of meaning and can be misleading. He believes that both women and men share the responsibility of navigating life’s challenges and that progress and betterment can only be achieved through their mutual cooperation. Without the perfect cooperation of both parties, harmony is necessary for the work of life to be complete and its splendor to shine brightly. Therefore, both individuals should strive to enhance the quality of life by utilizing their unique abilities to the fullest extent, while also serving as supportive partners to one another. Iqbal respects a woman’s autonomy and believes that the decision regarding her freedom should be left to her own judgement, allowing her to determine what is best for her.
Iqbal’s poetry demonstrates his refusal to overlook the magnificence of women and their femininity, as well as his deep respect for them. He believes that women should have complete freedom in society, but he also believes that this freedom should not result in moral degradation. According to Iqbal, this kind of freedom is akin to poison. According to him, freedom entails embracing and expressing one’s own unique identity, rather than blindly imitating Western ideologies. It is crucial to prioritize self-fulfillment and the empowerment of one’s own existence. 

The writings of Iqbal demonstrate the embodiment of women’s courage, bravery, honor, and respect. Iqbal uses Fatima bint Abdullah, an Arab girl, as an exemplar of bravery due to her act of providing water to the ghazis in Tripoli amidst the First World War. The individual in question met a martyr’s fate. Iqbal wrote about her emphasizing the honor that her martyrdom brought to the Ummah.

A significant factor contributing to Iqbal’s enduring relevance and inspiration is his universal humanist philosophy, which recognizes all individuals, regardless of gender, as divine representatives tasked with maximizing their inherent capabilities. Iqbal has provided and continues to provide inspiration to millions of Muslim individuals, regardless of gender, encouraging them to actively pursue a future world that is characterized by optimism and ambitious pursuits. HH

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