About Dr. Afzal Iqbal

Dr Afzal Iqbal was born on August 14, 1919 at Lahore. A studious student he was able to get admission, despite tough competition, in the prestigious Government College, Lahore. He proved to be an outstanding student. He won the roll of honour twice, first as an undergraduate and later as a graduate and stood first in M.A history. He was amongst the first Muslims to be fortunate to be selected as editor of the College magazine, Ravi in face of tough challenge of well versed non-Muslims. As a brilliant debater he won many laurels. He was a winner of several individual prizes as well as trophies in inter-universities debates held at Lahore, Peshawar, Aligarh, Allahbad and Calcutta. One of the most memorable is the Asutosh Mukerjee Gold Medal as best debater in All India Inter University Debating contest at Calcutta in 1940. Where, he had the occasion to be invited to Shantiniketan and to meet the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, a meeting he treasured. This helped him to get elected as President of the Government College Debating Union 1940-41 concurrently with the chief editorship of college union Ravi, a rare distinction seldom equaled in the history of Government College.

A debater, editor, secretary of the Union and functionary of cultural societies Afzal Iqbal still as a graduate, was also able to compile a biography of Maulana Mohammed Ali Johar. the orater and leading Muslim light of the freedom movement, namely My life a Fragment’. He was able to accomplish this with the help and resources of Dr Zakir Hussain the distinguished nationalist Muslim scholar, then Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia. He later maintained his contact with Dr Zakir, and his colleagues Professors Mujib and Abid Hussain at Jamia. Afzal Iqbal’s scholarship gave him the opportunity to benefit from leading Muslim scholars such as Maulana Abul Majid Daryabadi and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

After his graduation Afzal Iqbal joined All India Radio at Delhi under the tutelage of Ahmed Shah Bokhari, the latter had known him as a student when he was the Principle of Government College Lahore. Eminent personalities like Firoze Nizami leading figure in Music and Krishen Chander famous short story writer were Iqbal’s colleagues and. Saadat Hasan Manto was a staff member, at Delhi. T partition he was amongst the pioneers of setting up the Karachi Radio Station. In 1949, at the age of twenty-nine Afzal Iqbal was the age when he took over as the youngest station director of Radio Pakistan Lahore, from the distinguished poet, N. M Rashed

After seven years of broadcasting Afzal Iqbal was inducted into the Foreign Affairs in 1950 . For three decades he served in fifteen foreign missions. His distinghuised services was richly awarded by the countries he served. His most trying time was his service as head of the mission in India during the 1965 war, when the High Commission was besieged. Later, while as an ambassador in Canada in 1979 he developed serious differences with General Zia-ul-Huq and he preferred to resign, a year before his retirement was due.

A man of strong will and courage his was perhaps the only obituary that appeared in Dawn, when Shahnawaz Bhutto died in mysterious circumstances in South of France.

Throughout Iqbal’s career he continued his writings. One of his earliest postings was in Iran where he had the opportunity of having the benefit of learning from Professor Ferozan Far considered the greatest authority of the day on Maulana Jallaluddin Rumi. The relationship, with Iqbal’s interest in Islamic philosophy and knowledge of Persian led to his work on Life and Times of Mohammed Jalaluddin Rumi his Magnum Opus penned in 1956. It won much acclaim by leading scholars and orientalists such as Arnold Arberry and Anne Marie Schimmel appreciating Iqbal’s deep insight and understanding of the nature of mystical poetry. It has run over ten editions.

Afzal iqbal’s projected Islam in number of his works. His presented Islam as universal and tolerant religion. His rational and liberal interpretation of Islam was appreciated as contradictory to prevalent viewpoints of traditional authors. The Culture of Islam was an outstanding book based on original sources of the first century of Islam. According to the literary supplement of London Times the author’s main thesis is that Islam is essentially dynamic and though constant in fundamentals, permits the continous interpretation and application of these fundamentals to changing circumstances. Another way of sayin that it encourages Ijtehad.

Diplomacy in Islam broke new ground by the presentation of the art of negotiation as conceived and developed by the prophet of Islam.

Afzal Iqbal’s Diplomatic career took him to many major capitals such as London, Delhi, Geneva, Stockholm, Ottawa and Brasilia where he enriched himself with western thought and culture as is reflected in the Diary of a Diplomat. A successful ambassador, he represented not only Pakistan but also Islamic thought and culture. He remained an independent thinker and never succumbed to bureaucratic ways. This brought in conflict with Martial Law authorities while posted in Ottawa, and led to his resignation.

He returned home and settled in Rawalpindi. A lonely man, he had lost his wife in 1975 and his children were abroad. Regarding Islamabad too snobbish place, in Rawalpindi he felt closer to people, much closer to his way of life. Determined not to Yet soon enough his house became a place where poets, writers and intellectuals came about freely. Faiz, Zamir Jaffri, Ahmed Faraz and Parveen Shakir Were amongst is close friends . His love for music led to the hosting of musical evening with artists from India and Ottawa.

On his return to Pakistan Iqbal penned two of his best scholarly works Islamization of Pakistan which referred to the exploitation of Islam by those in power and Emergence of Islam that was his English translation of ‘Bahawalpur Lectures’ by Dr Hamidullah the renowned scholar of Islam. Two of the leading conferences he addressed were at Abdul Latif Bhitshah Cultural Centre where he presented the paper on Impact of ‘Rumi on Shah Abdul Latif’ and opening lecture at Sufi conference at Delhi in 1991 namely ‘Rumi and the Perfect Man.’ arranged by Indian Council of Cultural affairs with opening address by the President of India.

Afzal Iqbal was the author of no less than twenty books, and co authors or contributors of articles to six books, plus a book of Urdu poetry. A versatile scholar Iqbal wrote about five hundred articles in major newspapers of India and Pakistan. Lectured and addressed seminars at major universities and Institutes at London, Oxford and Cambridge, Yale, Delhi and others. Delivered score of commentaries, talks and discussions on current affairs on Radio Pakistan and appeared on Television.

A man of many parts he encouraged and respected talent in others. A liberal and progressive thinker, a sufi at heart, a communicator and a proud Pakistani he will be remembered not only by friends but also scholars for his contribution to scholarship.

Read more »

Contact Us

Dr. Zareena Salamat

Address: House No.###, Street No. ###
Telephone: +92 304 7020435
FAX: +92 51 0000000
E-mail: zarina.salamat@gmail.com

Copyright @ www.afzaliqbal.org