Iqbal’s Vision for Women

With just few weeks left of the year 2022, and having witnessed perhaps one of the worst economic crises in the history of our country coupled with the havoc wreaked by floods, and the dagger of inflation that has affected lives of almost everyone, I am pushed to think what  Allama Iqbal would have advised through his poetry and actions had he been present here today.

I deeply sense that we tend to divert our minds from the realities that make us cringe to anything that does not push us to ponder upon those issues. But Allama Iqbal, Mufakir-e-Pakistan, known for his deep thinking and vast foresightedness, presented the paradigms of life and its dynamics for both women and men of Islam that hold true even today. Perhaps, before we start this bi-yearly ritual of commemorating Iqbal for his wisdom, poetic intellect and deep philosophical prowess, we need to reflect upon his words of wisdom for women and find out in what ways women shape the nation and how integral is their role in nation building. 
Aurat — the epic poem written by Iqbal is from the book Zarb-e-Kaleem. The first couplet describes how the existence of women adorns the face of the earth and female gender is the source of life, calm and beauty. It is an honor for all women to see how highly he spoke of them and placed the feminine gender far superior to the Pleiades (the brightest star cluster in the solar system). The last line, “For every man with knowledge vast, Like gem out of her cask is cast,” is where he vividly conveyed to the reader that any man with immense knowledge is similar to a precious gem, which a woman in the role of a mother, caretaker or teacher, creates with her emotional and intellectual power.

This striking line holds a deep message for all men and women. On one hand, it defies the roots of patriarchy as the power of a man is linked to the woman, i.e., mother, who gave birth to him and raised him. On the other hand, it shows how significant is a woman’s role in generation building and uplift of a nation. This line holds deep message for a man to be respectful and appreciative of any female in his life, be it a mother, sister, wife or daughter. And women, with all their glory, need to realize their worth so that they can foster the finest people that can serve the nation, in word and spirit. 
Freedom of Women
It is very intriguing to read that Iqbal was well aware of the oppression faced by women, and the extent to which a society and nation is crippled if the rights of its womenfolk are not ensured. In the same poem, Aurat, he mentions how much it troubles him to see that the manifestation of women is often at the mercy of the male population of the society. 

Knowing the complexity of problem of oppression of women, he still continued to evoke the prudency of men through his poems. In another powerful poem named Aurat Ki Hifazat, he openly says that he does not see any point in further discussing this issue, as he is vilified by myriad men of the new generation. 

In a brave and candid stance, Iqbal clearly says in the above couplet that the secret of how women were born free and should be given basic freedoms to exercise their opinions and duties can only be proved through the insight of women. Men of wisdom often disqualify from this act. 

And the last couplet poses a question to readers as to what is more precious, emancipation of women or an emerald necklace. The open expressive style of Iqbal portrays the true nature of this problem — freedom of women. The most interesting point to ponder is that Iqbal considers freedom of women a much more valuable asset of a country than the material riches. At least by now, as we commemorate his 84th birth anniversary, this message should strike our thought process so that women can function to their fullest, and contribute as per their capacity in the progress and prosperity of a nation.

Protection of Women
As a reader, who is scrolling through the glorious words of Iqbal, the theme of protection of women really sparks curiosity. With harassment cases becoming so frequent, Iqbal’s poetry gives a unique perspective to this problem. He states clearly that this harsh reality cannot be understood by men who are cold-natured. The second couplet of this poem holds a striking aspect for all the men of the nation. Summarizing the meaning, the lines say that neither veil, nor old or new education can provide security to a woman except a bold and courageous man. The day men understand this reality, which Iqbal wants them to understand with respect to women’s protection and security, will be the day the progress curve of our country will take a new trajectory. For a nation, where its womenfolk feel secure and free to study, work and contribute to the nation’s economy, success is absolute, not just in terms of financial prosperity but also in educational and technological aspects. Human resource development is a vital area and women possess immense skill and emotional intelligence to attain it. 
As long as men protect the woman’s rights and their freedom to excel and prosper, this cooperation will bring great wonders to a nation, as the last couplet of the poem says,

Any nation that fails to realize this truth will decline. Women and men are both involved as a team in nation building. As long as men realize the importance of women’s rights as human rights and value them for their compassion and emotional selves, societies and nations are bound to flourish. Women, on the other hand, need to exercise their emotional intelligence as mentors, teachers, mothers or leaders, and value themselves for it. 
This couplet should be the take home message for all of us so that we really sit down and realize, what we really ought to be thinking in these times of despair. Giving due credit to Iqbal for his work and poetry is truly possible, but only if we follow him in spirit and action. Maybe, each of us needs to make a resolution for the upcoming year right now. HH

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