Stray Reflections on Iqbal

By Dr. Maqsood Jafri

The core and crux of all divine religions is the purification of soul and development of human personality. The poetry of Iqbal swings around the pivot of recognition and awareness of Ego. The Holy Quran values the Moral Man. In Surah Al-Shams (The Sun) it is said: “By the soul and Him that molded it and inspired it with (knowledge of) sin and piety; blessed shall be the man who has kept it pure and ruined will be he that has corrupted it.”

French philosopher Henry Bergson also called Moral Man as an Ideal Man. His social philosophy preached the importance of the didactic norms. Morality is a vast term. It covers all aspects of the behavior and conduct of a person. It also means a man of positive and noble behavior. Muslim thinker Abdul Karim Al-Jaily called such a person “Insan-e-Kamil” (Perfect Man). Dr. Iqbal calls such a person “Mard-e-Momin” (Faithful Man). The ideal man of Iqbal is a responsible figure in society with self-consciousness and is self-cognizant. The Holy Quran calls such a person a “Virtuous Man”.

Piety is the only criterion of superiority mentioned in the Quran. In Surah Al-Layl (The Night), the Quran says: “For him that gives (in charity) and guards himself (by obeying Allah) and believes in goodness, We shall smooth the path of salvation; but for him that neither gives nor seeks Allah’s reward, and disbelieves in goodness, We shall smooth the path of affliction. When he breaths his last, his riches will not avail him.”

According to Iqbal when an individual attains the apex of nobility and piety, he becomes the Man of Faith. The word faith is not used in traditional sense of religion in the poetry of Dr. Iqbal. According to Iqbal faith is not a cult. It is not blind faith as Mathew Arnold and Aldus Huxley believed in rational faith, similarly the concept of faith in the Quran and in the poetry of Iqbal is not based on taboos, whims, conjectures and superstitions.

A man of consciousness and conscience is a Man of Faith. The Quranic word “Taqwa” (piety) is the core of the development of human ego. The words culture and civilization represent the mindset, conduct and lifestyle of a nation. As Iqbal was an exponent of the Quranic teachings and way of life, he stressed on the need of a culture and social system based on monotheism, humanism, justice, moderation, progression, fraternity, equality, tolerance and love. In straight and simple words it can be said that spontaneous overflow of collective behaviors, values, standards, norms and creeds that represent the toto image of society.

The English lexicol edited in 1510 A.D. defines culture in the following words: “improvement and refinement by education and training.” Thomas Hobbes defined culture as: “education in children is called culture of their minds.” In the words of Arnold culture is: “Acquainting ourselves with the best that has been known or said in the world.” Iqbal was quite conscious to bringing educational profundity and virtuosity in Muslim culture that can excel in quality.

The European insipid, insidious and insolent culture in which the family life has badly suffered at the cost of so called personal liberty. J.S. Mill in his book titled “On Liberty”, has explicitly annotated on the concept of liberty. He opines that liberty is not limitless. Whether it is personal liberty or social liberty, it has bounds and bindings. It is highly sorrowful that in the West, in the name of liberty the ethical values are being trampled under jack boots. Islamic culture promotes the culture of humanity, creativity and dynamism.

Dr. Iqbal while commenting the influence of Greek philosophy on Muslims writes though Nasir-ud-Deen Toosi and Abu Rehan Al-Beruni were under the impact of Greek philosophy yet they were of the opinion that the universe is not static but dynamic. A Muslim thinker Iraqi considered universe static. The father of modern Physics Albert Einstein whose literary and academic book titled “Out of My Later Years”, while opining on the Theory of Time and Space has influenced science and society on dynamic and relative values. Bertrand Russell was also a great exponent of the Theory of Relativity. His book “ABC of Relativity” is a unique book on the modern concept of Physics about Time and Space.

This notion proves to be quite advantageous and beneficial in the realm of science but it left very hazardous impact on the moral values. The Quran believes in the absoluteness of good and bad. Iqbal while supporting the Quranic viewpoint also believed in absolute values. Good is good and bad is bad. When William Shakespeare maintained that there is no good or bad only thinking makes it so, it created great humbug and crisis in the social and moral values. Islam does not believe in the relativity of good and bad. Suppose, we all consider theft as a negative value.

Similarly, Truth is a positive value accepted in all human cultures. Actually, some Western thinkers could not differentiate and decipher between dynamism and relativity. Iqbal specially mentions Muslim thinkers like Al-Jahiz and Ibn-e-Mussqoya regarding the dynamic concept of universe. He strongly opposes the static society and noxious culture based on retrogression and staleness. Iqbal in his lecture titled “The Spirit of Islamic Culture” candidly expostulates that Islamic culture is based on rational education, divinity, revelation and scientific outlook.

He looks at Islamic culture in totality in which the Real and Ideal merge into each other for the establishment of a progressive way of life. He proposes the development of Egohood for the promotion of positive values that ultimately establish a human culture based on justice. He says: “but in as much as the average man demands a material centre of nationality, the Muslim looks for it in the Holy town of Mecca, so that the basis of Muslim nationality combines the real and the ideal, the concrete and the abstract.” (Hindustan review Vol. XX July-Dec. 1909) Iqbal considers Man as a co-worker and co-creator with God. In a Persian poem he says:

“Thou created mud and I created a goblet from it.” He considers non-creative minds futile, static and considers creativity as a special boon endowed upon special minds by the divine Providence. In an Urdu couplet he says:

“The new world emerges by new thoughts; the worlds are not created by pebbles and boulders.” The freedom of Egohood makes one creative and innovative. In his poem titled “Ahram-e-Misr” (The Pyramids of Egypt), he lauds the skill of the builders and appreciates their imaginative and craftsmanship. In another poem titled “Musavvar” (Painter), he highly admires the imaginative and creative mind of the painter and says:

“You have shown Nature to us and have also seen it with your naked eyes; show us now thy Ego in the mirror of Nature as well.” Iqbal had exceptional prescience and by the dint of foresight, he foretold the fate and future of many nations. He had predicted the reawakening of China and its being a Super Power in the future. He had said:

“The long slumbered Chinese are now waking up. The fountains of the Himalayan have started springing.”
It is the miraculous power of imagination that unveils upon us the secrets of futurity. Dr. Ihsan Akbar in his Urdu book titled “Iqbaliyat” writes: “It is not the dexterity of the Iqbal’s concept of culture that in this notion the East and the West are blended. Neither it is correct to say that we identify Iqbal as a stalwart of the combination of classical and modern thought. Besides all this, his greatness lies in his intuitive grid that he introduced us to our originality because without that we could not unite and discover our inner human Ego.”

Dr. Moeen-ud-Deen Aqeel in his book titled “Iqbal and Modern Islamic World”, writes that the awakening call of Dr. Iqbal brought an iconoclastic revolution in the Muslim world. The wave of enlightenment swayed the Muslims and embedded them with rational, scientific and democratic movements. The states that suppress Ego are dictatorial, monarchic and fascist states.

A healthy, sound and confident society cannot be established by suppressing free will, freedom of expression, human dignity, creativity and individuality. Besides dictatorship the Greek, Hindu and Christian modes and chains of mysticism had also damaged human Ego and Muslim society. The beliefs in Quietism and pre-destination totally marred human psychology, activity and progression. Islam is quite antagonistic against traditional mysticism that leads to inactivity and inertia. Islamic concept of spiritualism and Gnosticism differs and collides with the concepts of other religions. Islam being a progressive and practical religion believes in action and movement and annuls static and stagnant way of life.
(The writer is an eminent author, poet, scholar, columnist and political activist based in Islamabad.)

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