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Iqbal’s Shikwa-Jawab-e-Shikwa is so much more than just a catchy song

Iqbal’s Shikwa-Jawab-e-Shikwa is so much more than just a catchy song


Coke Studio Pakistan has been a platform that reminds us of our forgotten heritage time after time. May that be the largely forgotten tales of centuries-old lovers, or the instruments whose name we have forgotten. It brings back to our collective imagination what we once knew but now lays forgotten under the dust of time.

Continuing this tradition; Coke studio brought back one of Iqbal’s most iconic works and introduced it to the younger generation. Iqbal’s Shikwa took the internet and was trending worldwide on YouTube. No doubt Natasha Baig and Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Qawwal beautifully presented it to the audience, but this work isn’t something only to listen to when you want a catchy beat.

Shikwa and Jawab e Shikwa is divided into two parts: first where the Muslims of Indian subcontinent present their grievance (Shikwa) to God and second, God’s reply to the grievance (Jawab e Shikwa).

Written nearly a century ago, it still stays relevant because of how wonderfully Pakistani people have resisted any positive change. The Muslim in Iqbal’s work has a very odd worldview, one of self-victimization and narcissism at the very same time. At that time, Muslims mourned the end of their rule over India and the start of a foreign occupation in the form of the British Raj and simultaneously believed that they were destined for greatness because they were the heirs to the golden age of Islam.

The first part of the poem reflects this mindset, where one pins all their downfalls on the divine will and simply waits for their fortune to change through divine intervention because they think they are destined to rule. And this mindset is very prevalent in Pakistan, we believe that through no action or efforts of our own, this country will prosper and become the greatest there ever was because this country is “God’s gift” to the Muslims. Iqbal admonishes sentiments similar to these in the second part of the work, where he provides us with an alternative.

In a lot of ways, Iqbal’s ideal Momin resembles Nietzsche’s “Ubermensh”. For Iqbal too, teaches that Muslims of the past were successful and progressed because they were people of action, not of mere words. These verses in the latter half of the work embody Iqbal’s philosophy of “zor e bazu” (strength of the Arm; symbolizing action and struggle)

The to aa’ba wo tumharey hi

Magar tum Kia ho?

Haath par haath dharey

Muntazir e farda ho?

[They (who led the world) were your ancestor

But who are you?

Sitting in patience without action

Waiting for divinity to deliver you?]

Iqbal further explains how the British have dominance of the world because they are united and are part of a nation that values work over words. And these are certainly lessons that Pakistan is in dire need of.

So next time you hear Shikwa from Coke Studio, try to apply what it is saying to our current situation in Pakistan. How we merely use the excuse of divine intervention to not do our part in actually taking care of what God gave us.  

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Balach Khan

Balach Khan is the Urdu editor at ProperGaanda and writes articles about Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues. Twitter: @alreadytakenwas

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