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The poet Muhammad Iqbal in the Mezquita’s Mihrab in 1933.

Muhammad Iqbal (1877, Punjab – 1938, Lahore) is better know fir being the national poet of Pakistan. Iqbal received an excellent education in Europe and India, under the British rule: the British Raj. He graduated from the University of Cambridge and got a Philosophy doctorate from the University of Munich, and then work as a lecturer.

He was also a renown member of the Muslim League, founded in the year 1906 in India. Iqbal devoted himself intensely to studying Islam, the culture and history of Islam civilization and its political future. He was a fierce Pan-Islamist.

In 1933, Europe was revolving around the Second World War while the British Raj was struggling to get rid of the British colonial rule. Iqbal was then examining whether the muslims in India would share the same destiny as their counterparts in Spain. The independence movement in India was lead by Hindus, the secular enemy of the muslim India.

Iqbal was looking for answers to this future crossroads that his people, the muslims, might have to endure, and he was sweeping through the brightest historical moments of Islam to do so. He realized he needed to visit Córdoba and enter the Mezquita to try to understand that splendorous moment of Islamic culture. Iqbal visited the city during the winter of 1933 and, even though there are few records of the visit, there are some pictures of him, of his slow prayer before the Mirhab. It seems that, back then, the Second Republic was not concerned about Allah being worshiped in a Catholic Cathedral. I don’t know whether it will be the first and last muslim prayer but it is the only one that we have a public record of.

This solemn prayer planted the seed of one of his most read poems “Masjid-e-Qartaba” (Mezquita of Córdoba) and considered one of his best works. By 1930, Iqbal had already presented the idea of an Islamic State in India: Pakistan. The later poem expresses that profound wish: an Islamic Renaissance that would revolve and be ruled by Islamic Moral.

Despite “Masjid-e-Qartaba” being one of his best works, there is a challenge that academics nowadays face when examining it. The poet wrote it in highly cultured Urdu, a language that derives from Farsi and is now considered dead and very difficult to read. Its translators are still discussing the different meaning and nuances of the poem.

The following poem by Allama Muhammad Iqbal describes the Mezquita of Córdoba and was written in 1933, five years prior to the death of his author. The poem itself is a long successive line of couplets.

Oh, sacred site of Córdoba, you exist because of Ishq,

Ishq is the eternal being, which does not come and go.

Your foundations are longstanding, your columns cannot be counted,

like palm trees in the dessert of Syria.

Your beauty, your might speaks of the man that built you guided by God.

As you are beautiful and mighty He too is beautiful and mighty.

As of today the poem is still being sung in Pakistan, it is almost like an hymn, and you can also find numerous web sites discussing about the topic and videos about it too. Ah, I almost forget, this Pan-Islamic poet has a street with his name in Córdoba, very close from Barcelona avenue.


The poem interpreted by Tahira Syed and her late mother Malika Pukhraj:

A translation of the poem into English:



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