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Iqbal’s Shaheen

By Musfirah Minhaj

Shaheen…Does that word ever ring a bell? For the past few years, since I started reading, learning and understanding Iqbal’s poetry, there was a question that started roaming in my mind. Why did Allama Iqbal choose the Shaheen (the eagle) and not any other bird to mention and address the young generation? Throughout his poetry Allama Iqbal compares the youth with the ‘high status’ Shaheen and urges them to imitate the amazing bird.

But WHY?

I decided to dive into the depth of this mystery. I never expected to find such valuable gems

1) The Shaheen is far-sighted.

Who can believe that a common bird like the Shaheen could be far- sighted! It can see things miles away and through the dust, even when the weather is not clear. It has a fixed goal and a dynamic vision. During the rain, when the other birds are in their nests, it is out there, high in sky. When the other birds are just planning to fly, the Shaheen has already covered thousands of miles. Allama Iqbal wants us Muslims to have long-term goals and have our eyes on the prize, which is Jannah. We should not give up on small things and we should grow so strong that failure cannot scare us or make us give up. The Shaheen is a bird that has many challenges during flying but it overcomes them easily. One main quality that I found so interesting was that whatever this amazing bird does, is not done randomly but with proper planning. The Shaheen remains focused. Hence, to rise and fly, we the youth, should stay determined and not be distracted easily.

2) The Shaheen is fearless.

I was awestruck when I saw that the Shaheen in addition to being far-sighted, was also fearless.

It is not afraid of taking risks or facing challenges. Iqbal wanted us to think, plan high, and also put in the required hardwork. Another point which I thought was inspiring was that Shaheen does not gather provisions like other birds, rather he is independent. It has a different standard than the rest and adopts its own course instead of following someone else’s path. Similarly, we must know where we are going and not let the wind blow us away in a random direction. The Shaheen is confident and Iqbal draws a comparison between the two of us. He advises us not to blindly follow the dunya but be self-confident on our identity. Instead of taking advantage of other someone else’s work, we should learn to master our own because the Muslim is born to be “a leader not a follower.”

پرواز ہے دونوں کي اسي ايک فضا ميں
کرگس کا جہاں اور ہے، شاہيں کا جہاں اور

Parwaz Hai Dono Ki Issi Aik Faza Mein
Kargas Ka Jahan Aur Hai, Shaheen Ka Jahan Aur

The vulture and the eagle soar
In the same air, but in worlds apart.

3) The Shaheen is always moving forward.

I was amazed to learn that the Shaheen never stayed or made its home in a permanent place. Instead it is always flying and moving ahead towards its real goal. Likewise, our ultimate goal is Jannah and we should not waste our lives by being absorbed in the present or forgetting the future. We, as  believers, should be working hard for the journey of akhirah. The Shaheen does not cut himself completely from the world but uses the necessary things to live and prioritize its goals. In the same way, we should prioritize our goals in life and the ultimate goal should be to achieve Jannah. Through this, Allama Iqbal advises us to not focus on our negative thoughts but to look towards the positive aspects of life. We must not dwell in the past, rather we should stay in the present and focus on the future.

Looking at all the qualities of the Shaheen and the reason that Allama Iqbal chose this bird, it is important for a believer to spend some time in solitude, go through the journey of self-discovery and identify their potential. We should not be afraid of hard work. We need to aim high and work towards greatness to fulfill the dream of Iqbal.

نہيں تيرا نشيمن قصر سلطانی کے گنبد پر
تو شاہيں ہے ، بسيرا کر پہاڑوں کی چٹانوں ميں

Nahin Tera Nasheman Qasr-e-Sultani Ke Gunbad Par
Tu Shaheen Hai, Basera Kar Paharon Ki Chatanon Mein

Thy abode is not on the dome of a royal palace;
You are an eagle and should live on the rocks of mountains.

All transliterations and translations of the poetry taken from

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