Early life and career.
Iqbāl was born at Siālkot, India (now in Pakistan), of a pious family of small merchants and was educated at Government College, Lahore. In Europe from 1905 to 1908, he earned his degree in philosophy from the University of Cambridge, qualified as a barrister in London, and received a doctorate from the University of Munich. His thesis, The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, revealed some aspects of Islāmic mysticism formerly unknown in Europe.
On his return from Europe, he gained his livelihood by the practice of law, but his fame came from his Persian- and Urdu-language poetry, which was written in the classical style for public recitation. Through poetic symposia and in a milieu in which memorizing verse was customary, his poetry became widely known, even among the illiterate. Almost all the cultured Indian and Pakistani Muslims of his and later generations have had the habit of quoting Iqbāl.
Before he visited Europe, his poetry affirmed Indian nationalism, as in Nayā shawālā (“The New Altar”), but time away from India caused him to shift his perspective. He came to criticize nationalism for a twofold reason: in Europe it had led to destructive racism and imperialism, and in India it was not founded on an adequate degree of common purpose. In a speech delivered at Alīgarh in 1910, under the title “Islam as a Social and Political Ideal,” he indicated the new Pan-Islāmic direction of his hopes. The recurrent themes of Iqbāl’s poetry are a memory of the vanished glories of Islām, a complaint about its present decadence, and a call to unity...