3 things you need to know about Allama Iqbal, courtesy Prof Hasan-Askari Rizvi

June 9, 2018

ARTWORK: OBAIR KHAN

When you make a professor the head of government don’t be surprised when he trots out a few gems in perfectly timed context.

“There are a few things I’d like to share with you that not a lot of people know about Allama Iqbal,” said Prof Hasan-Askari Rizvi, when he emerged after paying his respects at the national poet’s mausoleum on Saturday. All newly appointed chief ministers uphold this tradition. Dr Rizvi was just sworn in as caretaker chief minister of the Punjab a day ago.

“In Germany’s Heidelberg University, the Government of Pakistan created an Allama Iqbal professor chair,” Dr Rizvi said. “I was that chair for three years for Pakistan Studies.”

He then went on to tell the story of how Allama Iqbal did his PhD from Munich University but went to live for a few months in Heidelberg when he needed to learn German in 1908. “Outside the house where he stayed for a few months, there is a plaque which our embassy in Germany put up,” Dr Rizvi added.

Heidelberg city also named a road after the poet, calling it Iqbal-Ufer.

“Those who have read him know his nazam Darya-e-Neckar ke kinaray,” said Dr Rizvi. The poem has been translated by famed scholar Annemarie Schimmel and you can find it carved into a rock by the river.

“If you read the poem, while it was written in 1908,” said Dr Rizvi, “it reads as if he was writing about 2018.”


On the banks of the Neckar

On the banks of the Neckar, I walked and sighed,

‘Could I have been living in a lovelier place?’ I pondered as I walked by.

I looked above at the setting Sun,

gleaming over the ruins of the majestic castle,

And wondered if centuries-old misfortunes could be undone.

I looked at the flowing river and stared,

Losing myself, as often, in the beauty and the glaze.

I was delighted by a rush of cool breeze all around me,

And allowed it to penetrate my senses, gently absorbing me.

On the banks of the Neckar, I walked and sighed,

‘Could I have been living in a lovelier place?’ I pondered as I walked by.

I looked around to see the tree-covered hills,

which seemed to cradle the city, by their will.

‘How long could the forest have taken to grow?’

I remembered the musings of a friend, not very long ago.

I smiled to myself as the thought crossed my mind,

And saw a falcon perched atop a roof, ready to take flight.

I was distracted by the ‘Alte Heidelberg’ crossing the Neckar,

And a bunch of excited passengers waved across with a fervour.

I saw the ripples it created as it passed,

Disturbing the geese and the ducks,

As they honked and quacked their way past.

On the banks of the Neckar, I walked and sighed,

‘Could I have been living in a lovelier place?’ I pondered as I walked by.

I crossed people lazing around in the Sun,

Parents doting over their toddlers, beginning to run.

While little kids played dauntlessly all over the swings,

A tired rower seemed to be in his world of dreams.

A mile further towards the ‘Alte Brucke’ as I strolled,

I discovered some spots, which I hadn’t yet explored,

I saw the Bergbahn crawling over the steep tracks, in the distance,

And reminisced about that ride I took with my friends.

As I started walking back home, a thought occurred to me,

A mere rhetorical question, it was indeed!

My heart knew the answer and so did my mind.

For never before have I been happier living elsewhere,

Oh Heidelberg! You have stolen my heart and are all over my mind!