“Not of an Age, but for All Time”

Revolutionary Humanism in Iqbal, Manto, and Faiz

by Abdul Jabbar (Author)
©2021 Monographs XXIV, 228 Pages


The world can derive much enlightenment from Muhammad Iqbal, Saadat Hasan Manto, and Faiz Ahmed Faiz—three of the greatest twentieth-century authors featured in this book. All of them believed and taught through their writings that the world should be led by principles that transcend territorial, religious, and cultural divides and serve the essential needs of all human beings. Iqbal’s works teach us that without infusion of compassion and justice in the world’s political and economic systems, the noble ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity will remain out of reach. Like Iqbal, Manto and Faiz also wrote to give voice to the systemically excluded segments who are oppressed by one system or another. All three authors’ works are an invitation to the victims to rise up against oppressive systems, break the chains that bind them, and claim their rightful place. This book also demonstrates through the works of the selected three authors that the only enduring foundation for human civilization, as well as the primary linking force, is love, empathy, and compassion. If built on that foundation, our world can easily find ways to solve our economic and political problems that so often erupt into flames of war.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Advance Praise
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Self, Nation, World: Iqbal’s Vision for Peace (1877–1938)
  • Chapter Two: Holding up a Mirror to Society: Manto’s Stark Realism (1912–1955)
  • Chapter Three: Poetry of Faiz: A Charter for Compassion (1911–1984)
  • Conclusion
  • Suggestions and Resources Additional to “Works Cited”
  • Index

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“Not of an Age, but for all Time”: Revolutionary Humanism in Iqbal, Manto, and Faiz is an important contribution to the literary world as it covers three of the most important and renowned twentieth-century literary figures of South Asia: Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938), Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911–1984), and Saadat Hasan Manto (1912–1955). This book clarifies the complex problems related to justice-based societal processes in a rational way. This scholarly intervention provides an alternative point of view and proves to be an important source regarding national and global systems. The book teaches the readers how to pacify prejudices and resolve conflicts.

One of the many convincing moments in this book is the emphasis on the continuing global significance of the voices of these literary figures in the form of their poetry and prose. The creative voices of these men enable the readers to identify with pains and pleasures of humanity to enhance, in the author’s own words a “sense of collective responsibility to improve the quality of life for everyone everywhere.” The reformist and humanistic themes of their works mark a strong relevance to the present global and socio-political debates. It will help in promoting pluralism and bridging the gap for better inter-religious and inter-cultural socio-political relations.

This book is relevant to present debates, as bringing the marginalized voices to the front is the new wave in the intellectual field. The debates on human rights, ←xi | xii→oppression, marginalization, and imbalance in the power structures have been built up in a systematic way in this book through the translations of the original literary works. The author’s writing style and the literary elegance of the book make it engaging for the readers. Superb translations of the selected works by the author himself also contribute to the originality of the work, and this shows a thorough research in the field. The clarity and language effectiveness in communicating the message of the book are impressive.

The author connects these three literary figures and views their works deeply to piece back together the multidimensional themes of their works. Iqbal and Faiz’s philosophically beautiful poetry and Manto’s challenging short stories are equally relevant for different genres. As a teacher of subjects like Literary and Critical Studies, South Asian Literature in English, and Comparative Literatures, I find this book very informative to include in the curriculum for a good reference. The title speaks the truth: the selected authors’ insights and messages are for all time.

Sonia Irum, Ph.D. (Royal Holloway University of London, UK)

Lecturer, English Literature

International Islamic University, Islamabad (Pakistan)

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Why should we read the authors that are included in this book? That is the first question most readers usually have when they are offered a new book. This preface answers that question.

The selected authors’ messages were revolutionary for their times. It is a sad reflection on the state of the world that they remain revolutionary even today. Ben Jonson’s tribute to Shakespeare—“Not of an age, but for all time”—also applies to Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938), Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911–1984), and Saadat Hasan Manto (1912–1955). The writings of these three of the most important literary voices of the twentieth century have enduring global relevance.

This book is a discussion of their selected works. All three are known for their revolutionary humanistic political views and their passionate concern for the masses. Even though they are three of the most prominent, popular, and influential authors of South Asia and the Islamic world, limiting them just to that world would be unfair because their themes and messages are meant for the entire humanity. The Islamic values of pluralism, egalitarianism, justice, and compassion that the three authors espoused are also universal values.

The phase of human history that coincides with their lives had two world wars and many other regional conflicts. As a major philosopher, having lived through the First World War, Iqbal wanted to find ways to prevent the then imminent Second World War. Each word of his New Year’s message to the world on January ←xiii | xiv→1, 1938, deserves close attention and compliance if we are to survive as a civilization. Iqbal died a few months after his New Year’s message before the Second World War started. Death spared him that torture but also deprived him of the joy of seeing the success of his struggle, helped by other prominent freedom lovers, to bring to an end the 200-year-old British colonialism in India.

Manto and Faiz lived through the cataclysm of the 1947 Partition of British India into two independent countries of Pakistan and India. That historical upheaval displaced ten million people, with close to one million fatalities. Those convulsions of history left lasting effects on both Manto and Faiz. Whereas freedom from the British rule was a blessing, the targeted killing of people because of their religions as a result of the Partition was a curse, with which both countries are still afflicted. With their deeply felt and compelling writings, these authors show a credible and attractive way to rapprochement and peace.

Most of Manto’s famous writings relate to the Partition. While his stories cover that historical era as it was unfolding in all its grisly details, Faiz wrote about the aftermath. His struggle was to free his newly independent country from the inequality and massive poverty that unchecked capitalism and feudalism engender. At the same time, his message of love, compassion, and the necessity of socio-economic and political reforms embraced all parts of the world.

This book introduces and elucidates some of these three authors’ thematically and artistically important literary creations across genres. Iqbal was primarily a philosopher who used beautiful poetry and prose as his media. Manto wrote perfectly crafted short stories to cover his subject matter. Faiz used stunningly beautiful poetry to embody his themes. Their genres are different, but their reformist, humanistic themes unite them.

I have translated almost all of the Urdu and a few Persian works included in this book. To avoid repeating “My translation” at the end of each translated text, no name appears at the end of all those excerpts that are my translations. If I have used someone else’s translation, it is so indicated next to the translated excerpt.

This monograph aims to draw attention to these three authors’ messages of peace, universal brotherhood, freedom, pluralism, and egalitarianism. Their principled stance on the problems of the world, such as militarism, intolerance, racism, poverty, hunger, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, imperialism, colonialism, elitism, and the West’s double standards, is covered in depth, together with the suggested solutions. In the process of getting to know these authors’ hearts and minds, readers can also enjoy the captivating artistry of their creations. It is hoped that the reader will find the company of the three literary luminaries interesting and rewarding. Charles Lamb famously said, “Some books are to be tasted, ←xiv | xv→others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested.” Depending on the reader’s interest, this book may fit all three of those categories.

Abdul Jabbar

San Francisco, California

January 2021

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It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to thank all those scholars, colleagues, students, administrators, and family members, who, in one way or another, helped me in the completion of this book.

Prof. Ahsan Syed, whose classes, an epitome of wisdom, knowledge, and passion, on Allama Muhammad Iqbal and other poets, played a big role in my writing this book.

Prof. Dr. Sonia Irum of International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan, for writing the “Foreword” for this book.

Professors and authors Louise Nayer, Javaid Sayed, Moazzam Sheikh, and Leslie Simon for writing endorsements for this book.

Prof. Loren Bell for organizing and sharing with me a panel on the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz at Stanford University and for his innovative approaches to teaching the works of Faiz and other outstanding Asian authors.

Prof. and poet Brown Miller for his feedback on my translations of Urdu poems into English.

Sandra Handler, former Dean of Behavioral and Social Studies, for taking the first step toward creating the Middle East and Southwest Asia/North Africa (SWANA) Studies program by inviting me to create a course on the Islamic civilization for City College of San Francisco. It was the first course on Islam in the College’s history dating back to 1935.←xvii | xviii→

Prof. Kinneret Alexander for writing a review of this book and for our decades of collaboration to create the Certificate Program on Middle East/Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA) Studies at City College of San Francisco.

Prof. Dr. Junaid Ahmad for his various actively pursued projects for peace and justice and for being a great ally in our common struggle for a better world.

Sahid Awan, producer of DaanishTV Pakistan, for hosting my lectures, for making me a co-host for his educational programs, and for his offer to promote my book through his television programs and to help my publisher with their Urdu edition and distribution of my book.

Prof. Dr. Fawzia Afzal-Khan for her pioneering books and work on women’s rights and for being a partner in trying to draw the world’s attention to the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Guneeta Singh Bhalla, founder of the 1947 Partition Archive, for video-recording my interview about my experience of the Indian Partition as a child and publishing it in New York Times, thus reminding me to write about Saadat Hasan Manto’s unsurpassed stories on the Partition.

Dr. Waheed Siddiqui for inviting me to speak on Muhammad Iqbal at the Pakistani American Cultural Center in San Jose, California. That lecture became a part of this book.

Mohammad Aboobaker, president and co-founder of the Pakistani American Cultural Center, San Jose, California, for hosting my lecture on Muhammad Iqbal and for serving the community by offering regular cultural and literary events.

Sabahat Rafique for sharing her outstanding scholarly work on Iqbal and her passionate attention to the educational needs of students in the developing countries.

Dr. Naveed Sherwani for introducing me to important heads of educational institutions from Pakistan and for his stellar service to education in Pakistan, for which he received the highest civil award from the government of Pakistan.

Prof. Dr. Hamid Iqbal Butt for his continued guidance to bring this book to its final shape.

Anna Baltzer for writing Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories and for her brave and inspiring struggle for justice to Palestinians.

Doris Smith for being a brilliant reader, critic, and editor of many of my publications.

Serrana Pilar for living her ideas for a better world and for encouraging me to finish this book.

Naeem Mazhar for his help with proofreading.←xviii | xix→

Javed Akhtar for sending me rare scholarly material and his own very helpful writings from Pakistan.

Abdul Ghafoor Chaudhry for his admirable humanitarian work, for sharing with me his idealism and passion for educational reform, and for his help with the publication of my articles in Canada.

Jawed Umerani, Ali Keshavarz, and Shahrzad Eidgahi, for sharing with me their insights into Iqbal’s Persian poems.

Parisa Soultani for her informative website on Iqbal’s mentor Rumi and for sharing her vast knowledge of Sufism with me.

Zehra Yilmaz for her activism for global justice and peace and for her invitation to host my lecture in Turkey.

Dr. Shaheer Khan for organizing the annual Urdu poetry international mushaira (recitations) with outstanding poets participating, where I met some of the famous poets.


XXIV, 228
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XXIV, 228 pp.

Biographical notes

Abdul Jabbar (Author)

Abdul Jabbar received a Ph.D. in English from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and is currently Emeritus Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at City College of San Francisco. The recipient of a Fulbright scholarship and two National Endowment for the Humanities awards, Jabbar is the author of Reading and Writing with Multicultural Literature.


Title: “Not of an Age, but for All Time”