When Akbar Allahabadi criticised Allama Iqbal for Sare Jahan Se Achcha

Akbar Allahabadi was senior to Iqbal and he wrote a reply to Sare Jahan Se Achcha in form of another poem.

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Contestations among the opposing ideological positions without slandering is a marker of a civilised society. In the early 20th century there were competing ideological positions among the Indian scholars regarding nationalism. 

There were nationalists, who believed India as a national entity since antiquity which has amalgamated several communities over the centuries. They believed that being an old civilization, India had the right to rule itself. Apart from them, there were pro-British people, pan-Islamists, and Hindu nationalists who did not agree with the idea of the former group. At times they collaborated, other times they disagreed.

One of the best examples of these civil disagreements can be seen in an incident involving Lala Hardayal of Ghadar Party, Allama Iqbal, and Akbar Allahabadi.

In 1904, Allama Iqbal wrote one of the most famous patriotic poems in India, Sare Jahan Se Achcha. It was at the request of Lala Hardayal that the poem with clear nationalist language was actually written.

Lala Hardayal


Saquib Salim in his article, Lala Hardayal was the man behind Iqbal’s “Sare Jahan Se Achcha”, writes, “The year was 1904. Muhammad Iqbal was teaching at the Government College, Lahore where Lala Hardayal was pursuing M.A. Lahore had a youth club called Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of which 20 year old Hardayal was also a member. He soon realised that Indians should have a club separate from the European-led YMCA. A Young Men’s Indian Association (YMIA) was soon formed by Hardayal with an aim to inculcate patriotism among Indian students.”

When Mahatma Gandhi asked Allama Iqbal to become VC of Jamia Millia Islamia

“Iqbal and Hardayal, though 7 years younger than Iqbal, had friendly relations. Until that time Iqbal was not established as an Urdu Poet. Hardayal invited Iqbal to preside over the inaugural meeting of Young Men’s Indian Association. When Iqbal was asked, only a few hours were left for the event and he expressed his anxiety in preparing a speech at such a short notice.” 

“Syed Zafar Hashmi noted an eyewitness account of Noor Elahi of this event. He wrote, “when Hardayal convened the inaugural meeting of the club, he extended an invitation to Iqbal to preside over the function. The meeting was scheduled for 3 p.m. but it actually began at 6 p.m. When the meeting started, Iqbal recited his national song Säre Jahan Se Achchha Hindustan Hamārā instead of delivering his presidential address. The audience was spell-bound.”

The poem was soon published in Ittehad and gained immense popularity. 

Akbar Allahabadi was senior to Iqbal and he wrote a reply to Sare Jahan Se Achcha in form of another poem. Which went like:

College mein ho chuka jab imtehan hamara,

seekha zaban ne kahna Hindustan hamara

Raqbe ko kam samajh kar Akbar ye bol utthe,

Hindustan kaisa, sara jahan hamara

Lekin ye sab ghalat hai, kahna yehi hai lazim

Jo kuchh hai sab khuda ka, wahm o guman hamara

Akbar, in his poem, argued that only after the University education one realises what does a nation mean. He said that all these geographical boundaries are immaterial and the whole earth belongs to God.

Interestingly, later on Iqbal became famous for adopting the views expressed by Akbar while Hardayal went on to lead a revolutionary party in the USA during the First World War. 


(The views expressed by author are personal & doesn’t represent Heritage Times)

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