Doctor Allama Muhamamd Iqbal
pioneer of the concept of Muslim nationalism
By Prof Sharif al Mujahid
Doctor Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) was a man of great many ideas-sublime and serene, dynamic and romantic, provocative and profound. He was both a great poet and a serious thinker at the same time but in his poetic works lies enshrined most of his thoughts.
By his very vocation a poet is, first, a man of moods, enjoying a sort of poetic license, which is, of course, scrupulously denied to a prose-writer. Second, he is usually extremely sensitive to his environment and happenings around him, which are ever in a stat of flux, and these largely shape his sensitivities and thinking. Third, his utterances and outpourings are more spontaneous than deliberate, and usually charged with a measure to emotion, dominant at the time. After all, bereft of a modicum of emotional dimension, they would hardly belong to the poetic genre. Along with these attributes of a poet, a blend of eternal verities and topical themes constitutes the fourth dimension. And all of them serve as constraints when it comes to funding consistency and compatibility in his utterances and ideas over a period of time. Such was the case with Iqbal as well.
During his poetic career, spanning some four decades, Iqbal had imbibed, approved, applauded and commended a great many ideas--ideas which occupy various positions along the spectrum at three different levels, the philosophic, social and political. Thus, at one time or another, he commended or denounced nationalism, propagated pan-Islamism and advocated multi-nationalism in Islam, admired the West for its ceaseless and wide-ranging activities, energy and initiative but was disenchanted by its materialism, cut-throat competition and values, condemned capitalism, while preaching a kind of vague socialism and applauded the East, its spiritualism and its concern for the soul but upbraided it for its docility, passivity, resignation and lack of vision. While advocating "the freedom of ijtihad with a view to rebuild the law of Shariah in the light of modern thought and experience" and even attempting somewhat to reformulate the doctrines of Islam in the light of twentieth century requirements of Indian Islam on some counts. Though "inescapably entangled in the net of Sufi thought", he yet considered popular mysticism or "the kind of mysticism which blinked actualities, enervated the people and kept them steeped in all kinds of superstitions as among the primary causes of Muslim decline and downfall.
Prior to the paradigmatic shift Iqbal had undergone during his sojourn in Europe (1905-08) his thought and poetic outpourings, beginning with his maiden presentation of Nala-i-Yatim to an attentive Lahore audience at the Anjuman-i- Himayat-i-Islam's annual moot in 1899, were dominated by the triad philosophies of mysticism, romanticism and nationalism. This early phase was characterised by three categories of poems - (i) Ghazals and lyrics (e. g, Gul-i-Pashmurdah); (ii) romanticist and nature poems (e.g "The Himalayas", "Kashmir" and "On the Bank of Ravi") and patriotic and nationalistic poems.
It was, however, the last set of poems that had made Iqbal famous. Propagandistic in nature for the large part, they were meant to arouse and inspire his fellow countrymen of all denominations. To this category belongs Hindustan Hamara. Hindustani Bachoon Ka Qaumi Geet, Naya Shiwala, and Taswir-i-Dard. To Iqbal Singh, a renowned biographer of Iqbal, Hindustan Hamara remains to this day  the best patriotic poem written by an Indian poet in modern times."
More important, the shift from Ghazal to nationalistic poetry was not merely a change of subject it represented a radical shift in Iqbal's tone and tenor. From an obsessive pre-occupation with subjective feelings, he had moved on to a wider horizon. This shift from the poet's individual mood to the collective mood of the people enlisted Urdu poetry to perform a higher function -- such as the criticism of the people's life-style and a critical dissection of their idea and myths that had brought them to such a sorry pass. To an abrupt end, however, did this nature-lover and nationalist phase come during Iqbal's watershed European sojourn.
During his sojourn Iqbal had pursued his studies seriously, specialising in philosophy and law, earning a degree in philosophy from Cambridge, a doctorate from Heidelberg, and a law degree from Lincoln's Inn in 1908.
There was, of course, nothing unusual about it because students from the subcontinent had gone to England and earned degrees, both before and after Iqbal. But what puts him in an altogether different category was that unlike other students and visitors, he refused to be overwhelmed by the overpowering glitter and awe-inspiring grandeur of the West. Unlike others, he went beyond and behind its facade. His sensitivity as a poet for keen observation and his grounding in Western philosophy enabled him to study the west, its pros and cons aspects, rather seriously and critically.
In particular, he was struck by three things, which were at the heart of European life, and thought and civilisation. First, he realised the vast potentialities of science whose mastery had given Europe its eminence and mastery over the world, and led it to a fruitful life of ceaseless effort and progress. Second, he was immensely impressed by the Europeans' restless activity, relentless energy, unparalleled initiatives, their immense capabilities for innovation and invention, and their resolute will to work for the cultural enrichment and economic progress of the society as a whole. Third, he found the Western life infected with the credo of capitalism and nationalism, both individually and collectively, leading to incorrigible cutthroat competition between man and man, nation and nation. While he admired and applauded the first two aspects, he was irretrievably dismayed by the third one. This came to be compounded when he found that racial prejudice was, historically and culturally, a dominant feature of European life.
In any case, Iqbal's live contact with Western life, his grounding in Western philosophy, and his initiation into modern Western thought served as a catalyst, enabling him to perceive things in a wider perspective and in more critical terms. From the vantage point of a European base, he could easily see that the onward march of nationalism had bred racialism in several Muslim countries. Under the impact of nationalism and in order to build up their own separate nationalistic altars, the Turks, the Egyptians, the Iranians and the Arabs had tended to emphasise their particular racial origins and strains, and worse, their racial separation from one another. This, in turn, had ravened the Islamic Ummah concept, enfeebled the Muslim world, and had laid it all the more open to Western aggression, exploitation and designs.
And this, above all, disillusioned Iqbal with the nationalist credo beyond repair. Not only the political misfortunes of the Muslim peoples, but also their civilisation decline goaded his thinking towards pan-Islam. In this ideal did Iqbal see the salvation of the Muslim world, even as Jamal-al-Din al-Afghani (1839-1896) had a few decades earlier. Thus Iqbal who had left India as a nationalist returned to it in 1908 as a firm believer in Islam and in an integrated Ummah.
And, for now, Iqbal's world was the Muslim world--the vast swathes of territory, stretching from Mauritania to Indonesia, and inhabited by scores of peoples and races, but spiritually linked with each other, with a distinct Weltanschauung. He, thus, stepped onto the threshold of pan-Islamism, the enchanting and enthralling concept which the Muslims the world over had aspired to actualise and enthrone, especially since the decline of the enfeebled Ottoman Empire/Caliphate for over a century and more. And this Iqbal himself would eloquently and passionately preach for the next two decades.
Despite his advocacy of pan-Islamism, Iqbal was a keen and insightful observer of Muslim affairs. Hence he could not escape perceiving the harsh fact that his panacea of pan-Islam in its idealistic and classical form was not propitious or relevant to his own age ie in the 1920s. For one thing, several Muslim countries had opted for nationalism, and were pre-occupied with raising nationalist altars, to base their nationhood and politics on sheer asabiyat-ie racial and/or linguistic unity. For another, they were seeking nationalist solutions to their respective problems within the parameters of a nation-state. Indeed, nationalism was a fact of life, a harsh fact indeed, in almost all the Muslim countries. Iqbal could not have possibly ignored all this and much more. "True statesmanship", he told his audience at the Allahbad (1930) League session, "cannot ignore facts, however unpleasant they may be. The only practical course is not to assume the existence of a state of things which does not exist, but to recognise facts as they are, and to exploit them to our greatest advantage".
Hence it seems but logical that deeply concerned as Iqbal was to see the Muslim people remain firmly anchored to their printing Islamic legacy and heritage, he tried to resolve the conflict between nationalism, the fact of life, and pan-Islamism, the ideal towards which he would like to see Muslims strive. Thus, Iqbal like Jamal al-Din Al-Afghani, arrived at the concept of "Islamic" but, more accurately, Muslim - nationalism.
Iqbal, the ideologue, who had diagnosed the malaise of the Muslim world in his famous Reconstruction (1930), finally came to the conclusion that 'For the present every Muslim nation must sink into her own deeper self, temporarily focus her vision on herself alone, until all are strong and powerful to form a living family of republics. A true and living unity, according to the nationalist thinkers, is not so easy as to be achieved by a merely symbolical over lordship. It is truly manifested in a multiplicity of free independent units whose racial rivalries are adjusted and harmonised by the unifying bond of a common spiritual aspiration. It seems to me that Islam is neither Nationalism nor Imperialism but a League of Nations which recognises artificial boundaries and racial distinctions for facility of reference only, and not for restricting the social horizon of its members."
To conclude then. In adroitly adjusting his position vis-a-vis nationalism and pan-Islamism, in seeking to resolve the conflict between them in the world of Islam, he evolved a synthetic concept of Muslim nationalism thereby giving nationalism an inherently Islamic direction, and opting for multi-nationalism in Islam, a concept which Musttapha Kemal Pasha (1881-1938) had first propounded in a message to the Central Khilafat Committee, Bombay, on March 10, 1922. And in opting for this concept, Iqbal had traversed a good deal of ground on the pan-Islam-nationalism continuum. He had gone in for a paradigmatic shift--from a universal, indivisible caliphate to a multi-national neo-pan-Islamis. In any case, in doing all this and much more, Iqbal personified pragmatism, statesmanship, and above, all, creativity of the highest order. Iqbal is often called an idealist, but he was an idealist that tempered his idealism in the dull fire of experience. Hence, he could come up with a viable concept like Muslim nationalism.
--The writer was Founder-Director of the Quaid-i-Azam Academy (1967 -89), and authored Jinnah: Studies in Interpretation (1981), the only work to qualify for the President's Award for Best Books on Quaid-i-Azam)
Great thinker of modern Muslim world
By Prof Dr M Yakub Mughul
During the War of Independence in 1857 the Muslims suffered heavily at the hands of the British and after its suppression began a period of systematic prosecution and political annihilation for the Muslims all over the country. "By the end of the Mutiny," says Dr B R Ambedkar, 'The Mussalmans, high and low, were brought down by these series of events to the lowest depths of broken pride, black despair, and general penury. Without prestige, without education and without resources the Muslims were left to face the Hindus. The British pledged neutrality, were indifferent to the result of the struggle between the two communities. The result was that the Mussalmans completely worsened in the struggle."
The time when Iqbal appeared the new discoveries were made and science had flourished and there was a belief that science would take the place of worn-out religious systems and religions were now out-dated. During the last three hundred years, the Muslim world at large had remained intellectually inactive and the younger generation of the Muslim Ummah not being satisfied with the old interpretation, was interested in a fresh orientation of Islam. Iqbal believed that the System of Education introduced by the Europeans in the Muslim World, which was under their occupation, had totally changed the outlook of the new generation of Muslim Community and under their influence they had begun to think that so long as the Islamic teachings are not conformed to the standard of Science, Islam would not be able to face the challenge of the modern age.
As a thinker Iqbal can be considered the great philosopher of the Muslim world. "If ever there was a Poet-prophet it was Iqbal," says Professor Arberry an orientalist of great repute. It was Iqbal among all the contemporary thinkers and pioneers who succeeded most in persuading the Muslims to get rid of their apathy and pursue the path of liberty and Islamic glory. Endowed with the gift of writing poetry Iqbal decided to put it to the best use of influencing the prevailing thoughts of Muslims. He, therefore, used his poetry as a vehicle for his message. The paramount question before him was now to approach the younger generation of Muslim, who were not properly educated.
Iqbal thought that with the reawakening of Islam, it was necessary to examine in an independent spirit what Europe has thought and how far the conclusions reached by him could help us in the revision and if necessary re-construction of theological thought in Islam.
Iqbal wanted to convince that Islam promotes struggle towards progress of science and technology and exploration and utilisation of nature in the service of human progress. He says that "In the past centuries no difference had arisen in the principles enunciated by Islam. Due to the advancement of Science in the present age and the knowledge gathered in different spheres of life as a result there of it has become necessary to know the basic principles of Islam."
As a matter of fact, Iqbal was highly conscious of the fact that the Muslim world was passing through the same process of readjustment that the West had passed through some centuries earlier. In a letter dated 18th of March, 1926, addressed to Maulana Suleyman Nadvi, he says, "The Muslims are about to enter the same phase of intellectual transformation which began in the European history with Luther". According to Iqbal the modernisation of the Islamic Law was feasible but only on the condition that the world of Islam approaches it in the spirit of Umer the Second Caliph.
Iqbal wanted to reinterpret Islamic theology in modern terms, to free it from its medieval garb, to stress the immanence of God which had been lost sight of by the medieval Muslim mind (except in Sufi-circles who had plundered into pantheism) without destroying the transcendent aspect of the Divine being.
In fact, Iqbal combines in his teachings the spirituality of the East and dynamism of the West and this to him is the real Islam.
The advent of Islam heralded a modern era of enlightenment and continuous progress of mankind for all time to come through continuous acquisition of knowledge and constant improvement in human thought and action so that faith in Almighty God was consolidated and mankind advanced continuously to achieve the highest status of the best of His creation.
Giving a brief account of the expansion of Islam Iqbal says: "The history of Islam tells us that the expansion of Islam as a religion is in no way related to the political power of its followers. The greatest spiritual conquests of Islam were made during the days of our political decrepitude. When the rude barbarians of Mongolia drowned in blood the civilization of Baghdad in 1258 A.D. when the Muslim were mercilessly killed or driven out of Cordova by Ferdinand in 1236, Islam had just secured of footing in Sumatra and was about to work the peaceful conversion of the Malay Archipelago.
Describing the ignorance of the Muslims in the same letter Iqbal writes as under:
"The ignorance of the Mussalmans of today is so great that they consider thoroughly anti-Islamic what has in the main arisen out of the bosom of their own culture. If for instance, a Muslim savant knew that something like the theory of Einstein was seriously discussed in the scientific circles of Islam (Abul, Maali quoted by Averroes) the present theory of Einstein would appear to him less out-landish. Again his antipathy to modern inductive logic would be very much diminished if he knew that the whole system of modern logic started from Razi's well-known objection to deductive logic of Aristotle."
After the destruction of Baghdad in 1258 this advancement of knowledge was stagnated and the doors of ijtihad were closed, which ultimately left the Muslims behind. Allama Iqbal describes this as follows:
"During the last five hundred years religious thought in Islam has been practically stationary. There was a time when European thought received inspiration from the world of Islam. The most remarkable phenomenon of modern history, however, is the enormous rapidity with which the world of Islam is spiritually moving towards the West. There is nothing wrong in this movement, for European culture, on its intellectual side, is only a further development of some of the most important phases of the culture of Islam. Our only fear is that the dazzling exterior of European culture may arrest our movement and we may fail to reach the true inwardness of that culture. During all the centuries of our intellectual stupor Europe has been seriously thinking on the great problems in which the philosophers and scientists of Islam were so keenly interest."
Allama Iqbal further states: "The political fall of Islam in Europe unfortunately took place, roughly speaking, at the moment when Muslim thinkers began to see the futility of deductive science and were fairly on the way to building inductive knowledge. It was practically at this time that Europe took up the task of research and discovery. Intellectual activity in the world of Islam practically ceased from this time and Europe began to reap the fruits of the labours of Muslim thinkers."
In a letter dated 2nd of September 1925 addressed to Sufi Ghulam Mustafa, Allama Iqbal further narrated the conditions of the Muslims all over the world in the following words:
"In all the Muslim countries, Muslims are either fighting for their liberty or thinking about the Islamic laws (except in Iran and Afghanistan). But in these two countries also, sooner or later, this question is bound to come up. It is a matter of regret that the Muslim jurists are either ignorant of modern trends or stick to their conservation. In my view Islam is being tested by the modern age."
Iqbal wanted to convince that Islam promotes the strivings towards progress of Science and Technology and exploitation and utilisation of nature in the service of human service
Dr Iqbal delivered the lectures on "The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam" at Madras, Hyderabad (Deccan) and Aligarh, at the request of the Madras Muslim Association. These Lectures are impressive achievement of Allama Iqbal. In these lectures he tried to prove that Islam is a living and dynamic force and capable of facing the challenge of the modern world. He presented Islamic Philosophical ideals in such a way that his message became a beacon light for those who would care to read and understand his works. In fact his illuminating and thought-provoking lectures have contributed towards Islamic resurgence. This was a new approach to Islam and challenge to the West. "Prophet of Islam" wrote Iqbal: "seems to stand between the ancient and the modern world. In so far as the source of his revelation is concerned, he belongs to the ancient world, in so far as the spirit of his revelation is concerned, he belongs to the modern world." Iqbal knew that the task of reconstructing religious thought in Islam was immense but he had firm belief that it was imperative. He, therefore, suggests in one of his lectures as follows: "The task before the modern Muslim is, therefore, immense. He has to rethink the whole system of Islam without completely breaking with the past. Perhaps the first Muslim who felt the urge of a new spirit in him was Shah Waliullah of Delhi. The man, who fully realised the importance and immensity of the task, and whose deep insight into the inner meaning of the history of Muslim thought and life, combined with a broad vision engendered by his wide experience of men and manners, would have made a living link between the past and the future, was Jamal-ud-din Afghani. If his indefatigable but divided energy could have devoted itself entirely to Islam as a System of human belief and conduct, the world of Islam, intellectually speaking, would have been on much more solid ground today. The only course open to us is to approach modern knowledge with a respectful but independent attitude and appreciate the teachings of Islam in the light of that knowledge, even though we may be led to differ from those who have gone before us."
To sum up, we may say that Allama Iqbal is the foremost thinker of the modern Muslim world, who not only played a great role in reawakening the Muslims all over the world, but at the same time he has contributed towards Islamic resurgence in the light of the modern philosophical concepts.
-- The writer is the Director of Quaid-i-Azam Academ
THE PERFECT MAN OF IQBAL
By Amna Nasir Malik Jamal
The idea of Perfect Man, Mard-e-Momin, Mard-e-Khuda, Sheikh, Kamil, Faqir, Band-e-Haq, Qalander and Banda-e-Hur are not unfamiliar. Rumi was probably the first Muslim thinker who presented a complete picture of a Perfect Man. There are other Muslims who also put forwarded theories of Perfect Man. Ibn-i-Muskwaih undoubtedly initiated the idea which was seen in its finest form in Rumi's work.
M. M. Sharif writes, "the idea of the Perfect Man is an old one in Muslim Philosophy. It had its roots in Plato's conception of the philosopher king and Islamic idea of a prophet, but it found its highest development in the speculations of Ibn-e-Arabi, Al-Jalili and Rumi."
R. A. Nicholson in the secret of self notes, "to Iqbal the Perfect Man is highly developed ego, the Naib (vicegerent) of God on earth is the complete ego, the goal of humanity, the acme of life both in mind and body, in him the discord of one mental life becomes a harmony, is the last trust of the tree of humanity, and all the trails of painful evolution are justified because he is to come at the end."
The Perfect Man is developed personality and has earned complete and true freedom and immortality. In Gabriel's Wing the free man is synonymous with the Perfect Man and earns immortality too. Iqbal says in Gulshan-e-Raz-e-Jadid:
"The eternity is superior, which a borrowed soul,
Wins for herself by love frenzy.
The being of mountains and deserts and cities is nothing,
The universe is mortal, the ego immortal and nothing else matters."
Dr. Nazir Qaiser writes, "to Iqbal the Perfect Man has not ceased to exist, and is very much needed in the present age." In Zarb-i-Kalim says:
"Today the world needs that true Mahdi,
Whose vision produces a commotion in the world of thought."
To find such a man is difficult. Iqbal says in Bang-e-Dara:
"Narcissus weeps for many years over its sightlessness;
(Only then) with great difficulty a person with vision is created."
Perfect Man is blend of Ishq and Intellect. He has no fear and no difficulty can upset him. Also death cannot frighten him because of the developed state of ego. Physical death looks pleasant to him. Iqbal says:
"What is the sign of a faithful man?
When death comes, he has a smile on his lips."
To Iqbal the other name of the Perfect Man is Faqir. Both hold that all the qualities of Faqr are found in him. He is not an idle mystic, he is full of action. He earns lawful livelihood. He may be poor in appearance but he is owner of countless treasure, there is no greed in him. He has a great social relevance. He is not segregated from community. He contributes in bringing about a healthy social order. He combines in his behaviour Jamal (Divine beauty) and Jalal (Divine Majesty) like a true Faqir. Iqbal says in Bal-e-Jibril:
"He who saw is the leader of the world,
You and we are imperfect, he alone is perfect."
In Zarb-i-Kalim, Iqbal says:
"He is the dew drop which cools the lives of the poppy flowers;
And he is that storm which makes the hearts of river shiver."
"Vengeance and forgiveness, piety and power,
These are four things which make up a Muslim."
The Perfect Man believes in higher religion. His message is universal and his love is for all human beings and he has vital characteristics. In Tashbihat-e-Rumi a couplet says:
"The slave of Ishq takes lesson from God,
He becomes kind equally both with infidel and believer."
Perfect's Man love for God is sincere. He loves God neither for the sake of gardens and Houris of Heaven not for fear of Hell. He does not love God for the traditional pictures of 'Heaven'. Rather, the Houris complain against his indifferent behaviour. In Zarb-e-Kalim, Iqbal beautifully says:
"The angels had said: the faithful is gracious,
But the Houris complain: the faithful does not mix with us."
Love for humanity was their hallmark. 'Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jillani, Syed Ali Hajweri and Mujjaddid Alf Sani are those who were well known for their love for humanity.'
He attains such power that his wishes and hands become wishes and hands of God: Iqbal beautifully says in Bal-e-Jibril that:
"A Perfect Man's arm is really God's arm,
Dominant, creative, resourceful, efficient...."
'As a result of this spiritual power he gets control over the material world also. It is the world and the universe which is absorbed in him, lost in him.' Dr R A Nicholson writes the Perfect Man can never be lost to the world, since he has assimilated and, as it were absorbed into himself the Divine attributes which constitute the reality of the world." He further says, "the true person not only absorbs the world of matters by mastering it he absorbs God himself into his ego."
Iqbal sums up this matter beautifully in a verse, in Zarb-e-Kalim:
"The sign of an infidel is that he is lost in the world,
The sign of the believer is that the world is lost in him."
'He is God fearing, liable to answer to God for his deeds. Pity and love are his nature. He aims at changing the destiny of the human beings at large. He has no prejudice and is above class-distinction. He gives code of morality; brings about social and economic justice; and shows the way of life, spiritually and materially'. To Iqbal, 'the pragmatic value of the Perfect Man is immense, both for the development of the individual and the society. Dr R A. Nicholson notes, "For Iqbal the Perfect Man is the real ruler of mankind; his kingdom is the kingdom of God on earth. Out of the richness of his nature he lavishes the wealth of life on others, and brings them nearer and nearer to himself." He says:
"Appear, O riders of Destiny!
Appear, O light of the dark realm of change!
Illumine the scene of existence.
Dwell in the blackness of our eyes!
Silence the noise of the nations;
Imparadise our ears with thy music,
Brings once more days of peace to the world, give a message of peace to them that seek battle."
Perfect Man 'feels that the loftier stages of life he reaches the more he is the slave of God.' He doesn't look down upon other human beings. He is superior because of his deeds and not because of his birth. He is partly mystical and partly philosophical. He is a saint prophet.
ALLAMA IQBAL'S CALL TO THE UMMAH!
"I am amazed at your state.
The skies are irradiant because of you, but you have ceased to be.
How long will you lead a life of ignorance and degradation?
It was from you that the world received
its mental and spiritual illumination.
You served as a minaret of light
during the dark night of the past.
The 'luminous hand' (of Moses) was present in your sleeve.
But, today, you have shut yourself up in a narrow shell
and seem to have forgotten that you can break it.
You were present before the world was created and will
remain after it has ended.
You are afraid of death while death itself should
be afraid of you.
Death is not lying in wait for you
but it is the other way round.
Man does not die with departing of the soul.
He dies when faith goes out of him and
belief deserts his heart."