Hajra Saeed
The Philosophy of Allama Iqbal had some influences from that of the West therefore his concept of an ideal being and an ideal society were not entirely new. However his depiction was completely different because he drew his chief inspiration from the Holy Quran; that is why when you read his stirringwords, they touch the heart and soul; and one feels enthused. It is then that one can understand how the Muslims of India, after decades of inertia were invigorated simply through his verses.
It was in 1915; exactly a hundred years ago that Allama Iqbal’s first and probably finest work of poetry was published in Persian called “Asrar-i-Khudi”. The theme was Iqbal’s ‘Selfhood’. Then in 1918, “Rumuz-i-Bekhudi” was published which was in fact a continuation of the former poem as the theme was an ideal social order based on Islamic principles, as well as the relationship between the individual and society.
The quality and uniqueness of both was remarkable, which lead to their translation. In 1920, Professor Reynold A Nicholson (who was a prominent scholar of Islamic literature & mysticism, a British Orientalist and one of the best Rumi scholars and translators as well as Iqbal’s teacher)translated it into English and entitled it “The Secrets of the Self”. Then in 1953, Arthur J Arberry (who was a renowned British Orientalist as well as a scholar in Arabic, Islamic Studies & Persian. His ‘Koran Interpreted’ is considered to be an outstanding translation of the Holy Quran by a non-Muslim scholar) translated it into English and entitled it “The Mysteries of Selflessness”.
Both themes are seen predominantly inAllama Iqbal’s poetry, and due to their profoundness they cannot be easily understood; one really needs to delve into the meaning. Nonetheless their magnetism compels me to briefly touch upon their quintessence:
Iqbalon Selfhood
The secret of the Self is hid, in words "No God but He alone".
The Self is just a dull-edged sword, "No God but He," the grinding stone. (Zarb e Kaleem)
Iqbal himself went through all the stages of the transformation, and therefore urged all Muslims to undertake this journey as well. For him the aim of life was self-realization and self-knowledge. Therefore Iqbal’s ‘Selfhood’ was not just some work of literature or a philosophical theory, it wasbased on the knowledge he acquired through personal experiences.
While in his introduction to ‘Secrets of the Self’, he explains Khudi:“The moral and religious ideal of man is not self-negation but self-affirmation, and he attains to this ideal by becoming more and more individual, more and more unique. The Prophet (SAW) said, 'Takhallaqú bi-akhláq Allah,': ‘Create in yourselves the attributes of God.' Thus man becomes unique by becoming more and more like the most unique Individual. What then is life? It is individual: its highest form, so far, is the Ego (Khudí) in which the individual becomes a self-contained exclusive centre. Physically as well as spiritually man is a self-contained centre, but he is not yet a complete individual. The greater his distance from God, the less his individuality. He who comes nearest to God is the completest person. Not that he is finally absorbed in God. On the contrary, he absorbs God into himself”
In view of Iqbal, the factors that can help a human being achieve perfection are:
• Love
• Indifference to the rewards the world has to offer
• Courage
• Tolerance
• Engaging in creative activities consis tently
• Lawful earnings
Iqbal on the Individual &Society
The greatest reason for developing the Ego/Self is because the society is a reflection of the individuals that constitute it. So if each person reaches his ideal state, then being part of the whole, a collective Ego will emerge. This will create a high character and a communal set of spiritual and material values.The differences amongst each other would be removed, and a cohesive society would take shape.(Here we must take into account that by ‘society’ Iqbal actually refers to the entire Muslim Ummah).
In Rumuz-i-Bekhudi he says:
‘The individual a Mirror holds
To the Community, and they to him;
He is jewel threaded on their cord,
A star that in their constellation shines;
And the Society is organized
As by comprising many such as he’
According to Iqbal an ideal society can emerge only when everyone:
• Believes in the Oneness of Allah, the Finality of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) andis loyal only to Him
• Follows the code of life laid down by the Holy Quran and Sunnahfor its guidance
• Has a goal – towards the attainment of which all efforts must be directed.
In Javed Nama he says:
The servant of God has no need of any station,
No man is his slave, and he is the slave of none;
The servant of God is a free man, that is all,
His kingdom and laws are given by God alone,
His customs, his way, his faith, his laws are of God’
Whereasthe major reasons that couldprevent individuals fromreaching their ideal state and creating an ideal society are:
• Social inequality & prejudice
• Religious bigotry
• Outdated traditions
• Distrust & animosity amongst each other
In Rumuz-i-Bekhudi he says:
‘O thou, whose faith by custom is enslaved,
Imprisoned by the charms of heathendom
Thou who hast torn thy heritage to shreds
Treading the highway to a hateful goal,
If thou wouldst live the Muslim life anew
This cannot be, except by the Quran’
Yet today can we find his ideal beings and ideal societies? The answer is in negation. In case of the Muslim world the reason is because we do not properly follow the Holy Quran or the teachings of the Holy Prophet (SAW). But if we look towards the West, they who consider themselves superior to everyone and have advanced by leaps and bounds in nearly all fields especially Science & Technology, we find no example either. Several decades ago Allama Iqbal told us why that would be so, as his vision was not just restricted to pondering upon problems faced by the Muslims only, having a vast exposure of Europe, he also set forth to diagnose those faced by human beings all over the world. He critically studied ideologies like Imperialism, Fascism, Communism etc and revealed many truths regarding why these were not the correct solutions. This had not been exposed before because of the vested interests of those who were in power or simply because of the shortsightedness of people. He also analyzed the latest scientific and philosophical developments during the 1920s.He came to the conclusion that for the individual and the society to develop in perfect harmony,human reason must work within the sphere of religion, and all scientific advancement must be restricted by religious and moral ideals. He made specific references to all of this in his poetryas well in a series of lectures which he delivered in 1929that were later published as ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’. An excerpt fromone of those clearly showshis superior acumen:
“Humanity needs three things today – a spiritual interpretation of the universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual, and basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis. Modern Europe has no doubt, built idealistic systems on these lines, but experience shows that truth revealed through pure reason is incapable of bringing that fire of living conviction which personal revelation alone can bring. This is the reason why pure thought has so little influenced men, while religion has always elevated individuals and transformed whole societies. The idealism of Europe never became a living factor in her life, and the result is a perverted ego seeking itself through mutually intolerant democracies whose sole function is to exploit the poor in the interest of the rich.”
Sowithout a doubt he was a rare human being; a fact acknowledged even by many of his western contemporaries as Sir Herbert Edward Read(a renowned English poet and leading critic of Literature and Art) said: ‘If today’s poets are tested on the standard of expression of metaphysical realities in poetry. Applying it here and now, I can think of only one living poet who in any way sustains the test, and almost necessarily he is not of our race and creed. I mean Muhammad Iqbal.’
While Lord Lothian(a British diplomat, newspaper editor and politician) said: ‘Not only in the Islamic World but in the entire East, there is no intellectual as effective as Iqbal. The thoughts of Iqbal will change the course of history. Political minds fail to understand how inspiring poets like Iqbal can be.’
Indeed we shall remain indebted to him forever as he gave us an everlasting legacy…4