Allama Iqbal’s historical trip to Afghanistan

Allama Iqbal’s historical trip to Afghanistan

In September 1933, the Afghan government officially invited Iqbal and two other eminent educationists, Maulana Syed Suleiman Nadvi and Sir Ross Masood (the grandson of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan), to visit Afghanistan on the eve of Jashn-i-Istiklal (celebrated on October 13) and advise the government on educational affairs.

Sulaiman Nadvi (centre) with Allama Iqbal (left) and Sir Ross Masood (right), the grandson of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 1933.

The three intellectuals accepted the invitation. However, they could not leave for Kabul on the scheduled date due to delay in issuance of passports. Once they got their passports (on October 17), Dr Iqbal and Sir Ross Masood left for Kabul via Peshawar (on October 21). Maulana Nadvi’s departure was delayed by due to official engagements.

Kabul was then ruled by King Nadir Shah. Born into an exiled royal family in Dehradun, Nadir Shah had been educated in India. When Amir Habibullah Khan took the throne in 1901, he allowed Nadir Shah’s family to return to Afghanistan. Nadir initially served as the king’s guard and was later made Sipah Salar (commander in-chief of the army).


In 1919, King Habibullah was mysteriously assassinated in Laghman. His brother Nasrullah Khan succeeded him. After just a week, Amanullah Khan (the third son of the slain king) toppled Nasrullah Khan’s rule and became the new Afghan king. Like his father, King Amanullah Khan valued Nadir Shah and made him the minister of war.

Nadir Shah did very well in this capacity and defeated the British forces in the third Anglo-Afghan war (1919).

Having freed Afghanistan of British influence, King Amanullah vowed to bring about revolutionary changes in the country by introducing a quality education system, healthcare and latest infrastructure. Some of his policies were not supported by conservative elements in the society. Eventually, there was significant discontent against him.

Many clerics led by Fazl Omar Mujaddadi (Mullah Shoor Bazar) issued fatwas against the king, accusing him of apostasy. Armed uprisings followed. The most prominent rebel leader was Habibullah Kalkani aka Bacha-ye Saqao.

The revolt in Khost proved a tough challenge for the government and took nine months to crush. By the time Kalkani had become stronger. Eventually, King Amanullah had to abdicate to avoid bloodshed. Kalkani seized Kabul in January 1929 and declared himself king. Amanullah left for Kandahar in January 1929 and then went abroad. His brother, Inayatullah, held the throne before abdicating three days later.

Kalkani’s reign plunged the country into darkness. He tortured and imprisoned hundreds of people to put down opposition to him and became very unpopular.

Based then in France, Nadir Shah was seen as the last ray of hope for the oppressed people of Afghanistan. He arrived in Bombay (India) in January 1929 before proceeding to Paktia where he assembled an army to defeat Kalkani.

On October 16 he ascended the throne by toppling the government of Kalkani. Kalkani, the fugitive, was captured and brought to Arg (the presidential palace). In the end he and several supporters were executed by firing squad.

It soon became clear that the throne of Afghanistan was no bed of roses. Nadir Shah faced many challenges, both external and internal.

Afghan historian Mir Ghulam Mohammad Ghubar writes in his book, Dar Maseer-i-Tareekh-i-Afghanistan (Afghanistan in The Course Of History) that Nadir Shah sought to portray himself as a staunch Islamist. However, his policies were influenced by British interests.


Justice Javed Iqbal (Iqbal’s son) writes in his book Zinda Rood (The Living River) that before leaving for Afghanistan, Iqbal made a press statement to clarify the purpose of his trip. He said he hoped that “an enlightened Afghanistan can be a cordial friend of India” and that the newly-created university in Kabul would advance education in the country. “We must facilitate the Afghans for the sake of an advanced Afghanistan”.

Dr Iqbal and Ross Masood, accompanied by Professor Hadi (secretary to Masood) and Barrister Ghulam Rasool (secretary to Iqbal) arrived in Kabul on October 23. They were warmly received by government officials and stayed at Darul Aman. Over the next few days, they held several meetings with Afghan educationists.

Iqbal and Masood, accompanied by Professor Hadi (secretary to Masood) and Barrister Ghulam Rasool (secretary to Iqbal) arrived in Kabul on October 23. They were warmly received by government officials and stayed at Darul Aman. Over the next few days, they held several meetings with Afghan educationists. On October 26, they called on King Nadir Shah at Qasr-i-Dikusha (the royal palace) with Sarwar Khan Joya (the foreign minister of Afghanistan).

According to Javed Iqbal’s account Iqbal gifted a copy of the Holy Quran to Nadir Shah during the meeting. The king led the Asr prayers at Iqbal’s request.

Sir Ross Masood noted down key points of the meeting. However, these were never published. Maulana Nadvi, who had left for Kabul from Peshawar two days later, arrived in Kabul on October 26 and joined his comrades. Together they attended the dinner hosted by Afghan Prime Minister Sardar Azam Khan. The next day the Indian guests attended the Friday congregation at the Pul-i-Khishti mosque. King Nadir Shah, too, was present.

The organisers of the Royal Academy of Kabul arranged an academic consultation with the Indian guests on October 28, at the Kabul Hotel. Both Iqbal and Nadvi urged them to use art to promote awareness of national identity. At the end of the event, the participants attended a dinner hosted by the academy. During their six-day stay in Kabul, several Afghan intellectuals, poets and writers met Dr Iqbal.

They also visited various monuments in Kabul, including the shrines associated with two companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the tomb of Babar, the Kabul Museum, the Darul-Uloom Arabi and the river front.

Javed Iqbal says Iqbal had his farewell meeting with King Nadir Shah at Qasr-i-Dilkusha on October 29. The next day, the delegation left for Ghazni. Ghazni was home to several religions including Buddhism during the pre-Islamic period. The Arabs had brought Islam here in the 7th century.

The city served as capital for the Ghaznavid Empire from 977 till 1163. Also in Ghazni, the three Indians paid a visit to the shrine of King Mehmud Ghaznavi and Hakim Sanai, the poet and mystic. On October 30, they departed for Kandahar via ‘Muqqar’, spending a night in Qalat-Ghilzai on the way.

On November 1, they arrived in Kandahar, where they were warmly received. On the same day, they went to visit Khirqa Sharif (built by Ahmed Shah Abdali). It is believed that Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) mantle is kept there. Here, Sir Ross Masood parted ways with his companions, leaving for India via Quetta. Iqbal and Nadvi arrived in Quetta on November 2 with many gifts from the governor of Kandahar.

A large number of fans came out to greet them at Chaman. Both Dr Iqbal and Maulana Nadvi stayed at the Post Office Restaurant. On January 3 they left for the Punjab.

The next day, Iqbal, Nadvi and Masood issued a joint statement, describing their tour of Afghanistan as a success and expressed the hope that “if King Nadir Shah remains in office for 10 more years, Afghanistan will become a prosperous country.”

A few days later the shocking news of King Nadir Shah’s assassination reached India.

Iqbal wrote a long poem about the journey; Maulana Nadvi authored the book, Sair-i-Afghanistan (a tour of Afghanistan).


Picture Source – North-West Frontier Archives
Article Source – “The News On Sunday”, The Afghan Journey By Muhammad Hussain Hunarmal, October 04, 2020.


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Categories: Allama Iqbal, History

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