History: The Hindu Origins of Allama Sir Mohammad Iqbal

The Telegraph: Calcutta: IQBAL’S HINDU RELATIONS
THIS ABOVE ALL – Khushwant Singh
Unity in diversity

I am beholden to P.V. Rawal of Jammu for sending me a photograph of Allama Iqbal’s Kashmiri Brahmin family taken in Sialkot in 1931. At this time Iqbal was in his mid-fifties. He had already risen to the top as the greatest Urdu poet, at par with Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. Although he was proud of his Brahmin descent, he had nothing to say about his Hindu relations. In this picture, the elderly lady seated in the middle is his grandmother, Indirani Sapru, nicknamed Poshi, wife of Pandit Kanhaya Lal Sapru. The man standing on the left in a shawl is Iqbal’s cousin, Amarnath Sapru; note the close resemblance to the poet.

The family traces its origin to one Birbal. They lived in the village of Saprain (hence, the surname Sapru) on Shopian-Kulgam road. Then the family moved to Srinagar where Iqbal and most of his cousins were born. Birbal had five sons and a daughter. The third one, Kanhaya Lal, and his wife, Indirani, had three sons and five daughters. Kanhaya Lal was Iqbal’s grandfather. His son, Rattan Lal, converted to Islam and was given the name Nur Mohammad. He married a Muslim woman — Imam Bibi. The Saprus disowned Rattan Lal and severed all connections with him. There are different versions of Rattan Lal’s conversion. The one given to me by Syeda Hameed, who has translated some of Iqbal’s poetry into English, maintains that Rattan Lal was the revenue collector of the Afghan governor of Kashmir. He was caught embezzling money. The governor offered him a choice: he should either convert to Islam or be hanged. Rattan Lal chose to stay alive. When the Afghan governor fled from Kashmir to escape its takeover by the Sikhs, Rattan Lal migrated to Sialkot. Imam Bibi was evidently a Sialkoti Punjabi. Iqbal was born in Sialkot on November 9, 1877. As often happens, the first generation of converts are more kattar than others. Iqbal thus grew up to be a devout Muslim. It is believed that once he called on his Hindu grandmother, then living in Amritsar. But there is no hard evidence of their meeting and of what passed between them; Iqbal did not write about it. Though he had many Hindu and Sikh friends and admirers, he felt that the future of Indian Muslims lay in having a separate state of their own. Iqbal was the principal ideologue of what later become Pakistan. Iqbal’s mother-tongue was Punjabi but he never wrote in it. He used only Persian and Urdu, as did many Urdu poets before him.

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Categories: Asia

29 replies

  1. This article is wrong…. Allama sbs ancestors embraced Islam 200 to 300 years before his birth… There is no question of his having any close Hindu relations… Closest Hindu relatives would be descendants of some common ancestor hundreds of years ago, not first cousins… Family tree of Allama Iqbal has been published in Dr Javid Iqbals book zinda rud, as well as in Jagannath Azads album of Allama Iqbal pictures.. No mention of any Hindu relations anywhere… No truth in this article……

    Munib Iqbal, grandson of Allama Iqbal….

    • Sir,you have to kindly accept that you are nothing but the descendents of devout Hindu Brahmins. Why don’t you people accept it whole heartedly.you can’t run away from facts.and also what if the descendants were 2 to 3 hundered years what does it prove ,that you accepted Islam when it just arrived into this world .You can’t Runnnnn!!!

      • This is the problem of every muslim in subcontinent he.will never confess that we were the descendent of any hindu or any other subcontinentle caste but will link his ancestory with arab or any invader and feel.proud of that fake genealogy .

    • The article is 100% factually correct. Khushwant Singh has researched (with westinghouse grants) and authored hundreds of books. He would have never lied.

  2. I’ve read a lot about Sir Allama Iqbal but never come across article like this… How people take out time for this kind of fake acts.

  3. This article is written by Khushwant Singh, one of the foremost writers of the sub continent. This needs to be taken seriously. If you have proof of his ancestors having been Muslims for 300 years please produce evidence. Javid Iqbals book Zinda Rud has been refuted completely, for wrong facts by his own relative, who is an Ahmadi Muslim which proves that Iqbal became an Ahmadi Muslim and only reverted close to his late years. No need to feel bad about ancestors being Hindus. Most of us come from that ancestry. More important is what you do yourself and not what your forefathers were or have done. Relax.

  4. The article or the photo should not be rejected or accepted in out-right manner. Such-like discoveries should become a source of more thoughtful research work so that ultimate truth may be reached by the new, next generation of mankind.

    • And May I know why would he be smiling? perhaps because finally he is happy that people still own him for his true roots.

  5. Nothing surprising. It is a well known fact that 90%+ of present day muslims of subcontinent has hindu origin,including the Qaied e Azam of Pakistan, Md. Ali Jinnah- whose father Jinnahbhai Poonja (father Gokuldas Meghji),was a hindu converted into shia islam.
    The present day muslims with rajput, chauhan, rao, rathore, bhatti, dar surnames etc. is another evidence of the same.

    What is saddest is that, these descendents of converted muslims were the ones who pioneered in cultivating the seeds of hatred to a national & political level and higher desks, which unless was limited to some sections of socially backward people atleast till 1900s early with 1857 mutiny played a vital role in vitalizing hindu muslim unity.The ill feeling of separatism was waning away gradually in these yrs wittnessing British hatred equivalent towards both the communities.

    Someone truely said, “Greatest enemies are not outsiders, but one in your homes”-which here, are these people who played to enemy hands for personal pol. benifits

  6. Abdul Alim (July 28) has described the matter in best form. There is no harm in ancestors of doctor Iqbal being Hindus. No harm at all. Khushwant Singh is a very reliable person, has given photo and provided all names.
    Iqbal was a great poet and deserves respect as a poet and thinker. It was partly the Hindu leaders who made possible, the creation of Pakistan, due to their extreme pro Hindu policies.
    Let bygone be bygone. Now it is the need of the moment that both Pakistan and India honestly do justice to the cause of humanity. Otherwise the conflict between two neighbors will continue to the harm of both countries.
    While Iqbal was attached with Ahmadiyat, he progressed a lot. In later years, he went away from attachment (which was in any way precarious). I believe that Iqbal sahib had some respect for Khalifah Nooruddin sahib. But he may never have had any close relation with Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin sahib. May never have met him, not to my knowledge. If he had any meeting with the 2nd Khalifah, some one may inform us please. That was a long time from 1914 to 1933, what he was doing? Is there any record? Welcome information,,,,
    We know Iqbal sahib’s attachment with Lahori Ahmadis and with Pervaizee’s and finally with the Ahrar. Is that all correct?
    Moral: “Kounoo ma’as sadiqueen.” Al-Quran.
    Trans: Keep yourself attached with the truthful (righteous) people.

  7. The Afghan rule in Kashmir ended in 1819. Was Rattan Lal made revenue collector by Afghan governor before he was born? It were Allama Iqbal’s grandparents -Kashmiri Pandits from Sapru clan- who converted to Islam. Iqbal’s father Sheikh Noor Muhammad was born as a Muslim in Sialkot and was a tailor by profession-and not formally educated. He died in 1930— 111 years after the Afghan rule in Kashmir had come to an end in 1819.

  8. “Pt.sahaz ram sapru was revenue collector during regime of Azim Khan who misappropriated and was held and given choice of Death or Conversion to Islam,he choose to convert and left Kashmir because as Muslim he did not want to live in Kashmir”
    Page 371 A history of Muslim Rule in Kashmir Dr R K Party.

  9. Every Indian is wearing a khaki chadi (Shorts) they want to impose that everything is Hindu and it is not their fault. They are not educated and even if they are it all revolves around the cow and the holy dung.
    You can’t educate them because they love to live in fear and imagination, Logic is not what works for them. Bharat mata ki jai – I am ashamed of being Indian.
    One more problem is Muslims of India, they are still trying their best to prove that they are loyal to Bharat mata. So when they have sex they don’t moan they just say, o yeah – jai hind, jai aaah, hind.

  10. Aoa all..
    I completely agree with munib iqbal. My ancestors were one of family friend of iqbal’s ancestors.. N story I have told it was like 3-4 generations before iqbal birth n it didn’t include any death- life pressure for accepting Islam but they did it by their own wills giving up their higher ranks in that era.
    By the way, there is no shame in having Hindu ancestors but shame exists when we’re not practical Muslims… What is our origin is not issue to discuss, issue to debate is why in this current era, we Muslims celebrate more Hindu n Christian festivals than our own…

  11. Sister Ayesha, AoA
    What you said is so accurate and is easily accepted by all us Muslims and followers of Allama Iqbal’s Islamic zest. Thanks for your contribution.
    Wasallam

  12. If this conversion is so important factor, then we should be so truthful in each aspect. Why cannot we say that IQBAL” Hindu encestors were also converted from some other device religion or might be they were atheist or they even don’t have any idea about religion. Why don’t we focus on His work? If he would not be a Muslim, then he might not be that great poet!

  13. I think this is a fruitless debate. 95% of us do not know where our great grand parents are buried. Let us live in the present and make it better for our progeny.

  14. It is the saddest thing that a Kashmiri Pandit left his own Hindu Dharma and converted to islam and became a traitor and hater of Bharat.Shame on his antinational activitiex and his poetic works which has caused hatred and nothing else.iqbal is blot on human kind.He was first Indian born antinational who was instrumental in two nation theory which inspired jinnah the other antinational Inndian born hatred monger.Jay Bharat !!!!!!!!! Anilkumar Jagatnarayan Baliya +919455501159

  15. Do these ambiguities about Muhammad Iqwal justify his father was Hindu who later converted to Islam?
    The following lines have been taken from the article depicted on this page.

    Then the family moved to Srinagar where Iqbal and most of his cousins were born.

    Imam Bibi was evidently a Sialkoti Punjabi. Iqbal was born in Sialkot on November 9, 1877.

  16. I don’t care who Iqbal’s ancestors were. I do care about the fact that he was the first Indian to advocate separatism in India on the basis of religion. Even Mughals united most of India from Iranian border to Burma. I respect that he was a gifted poet but I also recognize that he was a modern day version of radical Islamists. He sowed the seeds of hatred among people and the hatred lingers on.

  17. It isn’t where we come from, but who we are now that is important. Religious conversions have been going on since time immemorial, either by choice or compulsion. There is nothing to be ashamed of if Muslim ancestors were Hindus, Jews or something else, since they existed before Muslims.

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