The Chronicle of Pakistan
The Writings of
Khurram Ali Shafique

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The Republic of Rumi

The writings of Khurram Ali Shafique

Comprehensive Biography of Iqbal

Thousands of books have been written about Iqbal, and the amount of information available is unusual. Since he is the only poet acclaimed to be the ideological founder of a nation-state, the need to organize this information is also unparalleled.

The six-volume comprehensive biography of Iqbal was conceived out of this need. The project has now been adopted by Iqbal Academy Pakistan, which is publishing as well as facilitating the research (the first edition of the first book was published by Alhamra, a private publishing house in Islamabad).

The comprehensive biography divides the life of Iqbal into five phases summarized by the author in his other work Iqbal - An Illustrated Biography (2006). One book is proposed for each phase, and will be epilogued by a final volume covering the evolution of Iqbal's ideas since his demise:

  • Up to 1904: early years
  • 1905-13: formative years
  • 1914-22: middle period
  • 1923-30: peak years
  • 1931-38: later years
  • Since 1938: evolution of thought

The approach which evolved during the writing of the first biography is based on five principles:

1. Include every known fact

The series is intended for providing complete information to the reader: after reading these volumes, one should be able to say that everything known about Iqbal has come to their knowledge, and now their interpretation of his work is likely to be as much well-informed as that of anyone else in the field.

2. Maintain chronological order

Every detail should be presented in a strictly chronological order, which means that if Iqbal started writing a poem, then went to teach a class, wrote down his daily budget in a notebook, and picked up the poem again after several days then these incidents should be narrated exactly in this manner – since that's how we live our lives.

3. Anthologize

What’s happening in the mind and conscience is usually reflected in a person’s writings. As many excerpts from poems, letters, papers and notes of Iqbal have been included as were possible. Also included are excerpts from significant writings by others to whom Iqbal may have paid attention.

4. Period setting

In order to appreciate the life and work of Iqbal we need to transport ourselves to his times. Not only significant events of that period are included in the biography, but also trivia such as advertisements by quack healers printed in the same magazines where Iqbal’s poems were also being published.

5. Fragmented narrative

In real life, we are free in how we choose to see connections between incidents (Did your boss snub you today because your work wasn’t good or is everyone going through a rough patch these days? One's opinion on this may not be the same as one's colleague’s). Likewise, each incident and item in these books is treated as a separate section, varying from one line to several pages.

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Read sample from Book II.