This Day in History (29-Dec-1930) – Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s presidential address in Allahabad introduces the two-nation theory

Sir Muhammad Iqbal remains in India both a controversial and revered figure. To nationalists he is the misguided intellectual progenitor of Pakistan; but to many lovers of poetry he is one of India’s greatest 20th century poets, perhaps next only to Rabindranath Tagore. Though he wrote in both Urdu and Persian, it is mainly upon his Urdu poetry that his fame rests. In India he is also remembered as the author of the popular song Tarana-i-Hindi  – ‘Saare Jahaan Se Achcha’. In 1922, he was knighted by King George V, giving him the title “Sir”.

Having pursued higher studies in Lahore, by 1905 he was off to England. Prior to his departure, he had already become famous as a poet for such nationalist poems as Naya Shivala- ‘The New Temple’ and Tarana-i-Hindi. Western society and German vitalist philosophy had a major impact on him. He envisaged that if Muslims could recreate the Islam for modern-times, they could offer a model for the East and to the world in general. He believed that a polity created by Muslims in India could serve as a rallying point for Muslims throughout the world and the beginning step towards a global brotherhood. This is the background to his 1930 speech at the Allahabad session of the Muslim League where the first geographic outlines of this state were demarcated.

Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal delivered the presidential address at the 21st Session of the All India Muslim League held from 29-30 December, 1930, in which he declared: “I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluschistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North West India”. Largely due to the course of the political events that ensued, Iqbal has ended up becoming the poet-patriot of Pakistan. After the creation of Pakistan, nine years after Iqbal’s death, Jinnah and other League politicians would publicly credit Iqbal as one of the visionaries and founders of the new state. The Pakistan government officially named him a “national poet”. His birthday ‘Iqbal Day’ is a public holiday in Pakistan.


This Day in History (12-Sep-490 BC) – Persian Wars – Battle of Marathon

The battle of Marathon is one of history’s most famous military engagements. It is also one of the earliest recorded battles. The battle is considered a defining moment in the development of European culture. In September of 490 BC a Persian armada of 600 ships disgorged an invasion force of approximately 20,000 infantry and cavalry on Greek soil just north of Athens. Their mission was to crush the Greek states in retaliation for their support of their Ionian cousins who had revolted against Persian rule.

Undaunted by the numerical superiority of the invaders, Athens mobilized 10,000 hoplite warriors to defend their territory. The two armies met on the Plain of Marathon twenty-six miles north of Athens. The flat battlefield surrounded by hills and sea was ideal for the Persian cavalry. Surveying the advantage that the terrain and size of their force gave to the Persians, the Greek generals hesitated.

One of the Greek generals – Miltiades – made a passionate plea for boldness and convinced his fellow generals to attack the Persians. ‘With you it rests, Callimachus, either to bring Athens to slavery, or, by securing her freedom, to be remembered by all future generations. If Athenians bow their necks beneath the yoke of the Persians, the woes which they will have to suffer…are already determined. If, on the other hand, they fight and overcome, Athens may rise to be the very first city in Greece.’ Miltiades ordered the Greek hoplites to form a line equal in length to that of the Persians. Then – in an act that his enemy believed to be complete madness – he ordered his Greek warriors to attack the Persian line at a dead run. In the ensuing melee, the middle of the Greek line weakened and gave way, but the flanks were able to engulf and slaughter the trapped Persians. An estimated 6,400 Persians were slaughtered while only 192 Greeks were killed.

The remaining Persians escaped on their ships and made an attempt to attack what they thought was an undefended Athens. However, the Greek warriors made a forced march back to Athens and arrived in time to thwart the Persians.

Supposedly, a messenger (Pheidippides) ran about 25 miles, from Marathon to Athens, to announce the defeat of the Persians. At the end of the march he died of exhaustion. This event is probably the inspiration for Marathon race.



This Day in History (22-Mar-1739) – Nadir Shah’s persian forces onslaught Delhi

Aurangzeb’s death had created a void in the Mughal empire which none of his successors were able to fill. Nadir Shah, who from being a chief of dacoits had become the king of Persia, saw the weak empire as an opportunity. In 1738, Nadir Shah proceeded to invade India. He overran the western frontiers of Mughal empire capturing Ghazni, Kabul and Lahore in 1739. Soon Nadir Shah stormed Punjab. Muhammad Shah lead the forces himself against Nadir shah. On 13 February, the battle of Karnal was fought. Emperor Muhammad Shah had a force of over a hundred thousand against Nadir Shah’s 55,000 men but was still decisively defeated. the Emperor himself met Nadir Shah in his camp and abdicated, thirteen days after the battle of Karnal. He handed over the keys of the Delhi gate and entered Delhi with him.

At first everything was cordial between the two emperors. However rumours spread throughout Delhi that Nadir Shah had been assassinated. The masses attacked the Persian force and slaughtered 900 Persian soldiers. As Nadir Shah heard of this he straightaway rode into the city, in the city he saw the corpses of Persian soldiers lying on the streets. He was enraged, he ordered a general massacre at all those localities where the bodies of Persian soldiers were found. Consequently on 11th of march 1739 citizens of Delhi were plundered and slaughtered. The massacre continued and at least 30,000 people died on 22nd March 1739. The Emperor went to Nadir Shah to plead for mercy and thus he stopped the massacre and turned to looting the Mughal treasury. The famous Peacock throne, the Darya-e-Noor diamond and unimaginable wealth was looted.

Muhammad Shah was crowned as emperor by Nadir Shah himself on 12 May, and Muhammad Shah ceded the area west of the Indus to Nadir Shah. They both switched crowns according to the Persian tradition of friendship and the Koh-i-Noor diamond was also lost. Nadir Shah’s invasion did a irreparable damage to the Mughal empire. Mughal provinces across the Indus were seceded to the Persians. Later on inspired by the antics of Nadir Shah his successor Ahmad Shah Abdali too invaded India several times between 1748 and 1767 and plundered Delhi.