Throughout his poetical career, Iqbal devoted himself to a fundamental problem and he returned again and again to this problem. If we were to formulate this problem in a single phrase, then we might call it ‘the authority of reason’. And Iqbal challenges the sole authority of the reason. He questions faith in reason and analyses the fate of reason by putting up the questions: What is reason? Is it absolute or relative? Should we obey it in every realm of our life? Many philosophers bestow enormous authority on Reason, and consider reason as a sovereign standard of truth. They consider reason as self-sufficient with some self-evident first principles, it can criticize all our metaphysical beliefs; it can doubt morality and religion. In general, reason is considered absolute, universal, impartial and a sole standard of reality. But many philosophers have challenged the authority of reason by employing ‘meta-criticism’. Iqbal is not against reason. He only challenges its supreme authority. He only tries to show that faith in the authority of reason is leading straight towards atheism, mechanistic determinism and anarchism. Iqbal is not alone in challenging the authority of reason. Al- Ghazali highlights the limitations of reason in the domain of metaphysics. Rousseau said that arts and sciences were not improving but corrupting morals. Both Spinoza’s and Kant’s philosophies are centered on the authority of the reason but they also illustrated the dangerous consequences of rational inquiry. Kant says that the thing-in-itself is out of the sphere of pure reason. Jacobi maintained that the inevitable consequence of rational enquiry is nothing except nihilism. Challenging the authority of reason is also a hallmark of the poets of the romanticism. Romanticism holds that pure logic is insufficient to answer all the questions of life. In reaction to the cult of rationality, they searched for deeper subconscious appeals and preferred the life of heart over the life of brain. Being a romantic poet Iqbal also prefers “Ishq” over intellect in his poetry. But on the other hand he does not condemn reason and intellect altogether.

Iqbal wants to maintain that if it is the duty of reason to criticize and challenge all our metaphysical beliefs then ipso facto it must criticize itself and to know its own limitations; because reason has its own beliefs about itself and these should not escape its scrutiny. So the method Iqbal employs may be called meta- criticism of reason, for he criticizes the criticism put up by reason. According to him reason is a torch which leads to destination but is not itself a destination. Hence, Iqbal is not denying the role of the reason, although like Kant he is underscoring its limitations. He simply says that Reason has no access to the world of noumenon and is only limited to the world of phenomenon.

According to Iqbal reason is not an absolute, autonomous, self-subsistent, necessary, universal and impartial faculty; it is not consisted of some self-governing rules but it is relative, particular and partial. Iqbal is not alone in thinking so. J. G. Hamman is one of the philosophers who attacked the autonomy of reason. In his essay “Metakritik uber den Purismum der Reinen Vernuft” (1783), Hamman tried to demolish the main premise behind Kant’s belief in the autonomy of reason. He opposed ‘purism of reason’ and argued that reason depends on language, culture and experience. So reason is not a special kind of faculty which exists in some noumenal and mental domain; rather it is a specific manner of cultural and linguistic experience, so customs and traditions take a great part in the construction of reason. Hamman underscored the social and historical dimensions of reason. So there is no such thing as a single absolute and universal reason. Reason is always relativistic. Herder and Schlegel endorsed these views of Hamman. F. H. Jacobi in his Briefe uber Spinoza attacked the autonomy of reason from another angle. He maintained that the thing which is called reason, not only cannot be separated from history and culture, but can also not be separated from desires and instincts. According to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche reason is not an impartial and disinterested power of contemplation but an instrument of the will.

According to Iqbal, “The truth is that religious and scientific processes, though involving different methods, are identical in their final aim. Both aim at reaching the most real. In fact, religion, for reasons which I have mentioned before, is far more anxious to reach the ultimately real than science. And to both the way the way to pure objectivity lies through what may be called the purification of experience. In order to understand this we must make a distinction between experience as a natural fact, significance of the normally observable behaviour of Reality, and experience as significant of the inner nature of reality.”

Here Iqbal is not denying the role of science and reason in knowing the reality. These ideas of Iqbal have a close resemblance with those of Einstein which he has presented in his essay “Science and Religion”, nearly fourteen years after Iqbal:

“Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

In his writings Iqbal favours the inductive reasoning which is the basis of the scientific method. According to him complete independence of thought from concrete experience is not possible. Agreeing with Kant he says that knowledge is sense perception elaborated by understanding. He says that the physical world is a great source of knowledge for human beings.

Iqbal is of the view that the scientific observation of nature keeps us in close contact with the behaviour of reality and sharpens our inner perception of deeper vision of it. He believes that the scientific observer of nature is a kind of mystic seeker in the act of prayer. He says:

“The birth of Islam, as I hope to be presently to prove to your satisfaction, is the birth of inductive intellect. In Islam prophecy reaches its perfection in discovering the need of its own abolition.”

Once Iqbal advised Dr. Maulvi Abdul Haq to translate scientific books from English to Urdu so that Indian Muslims could learn more and more about science, when Dr. Haq asked him which scientific book he should translate first of all, Iqbal immediately suggested George Sarton’s ‘An Introduction to the History of Science’.

Iqbal was well aware of the modern scientific theories of his times. He had a keen interest in the philosophy of Science. In his The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam he has critically examined these theories. He had special interest in Einstein’s theory of relativity. Dr. Muhammad Salim, a renowned physicist, says:

“As a philosopher Iqbal’s understanding of the Einstein’s theory of relativity without his prior knowledge of Mathematics was extraordinary, keeping in mind that a very few scientists of his times were able to understand it fully.”

To Iqbal, intellect and intuition are not diametrically opposed to each other, rather they complement each other and there is a hierarchical relation between the two. Actually they spring up from the same root. The one grasps Reality piecemeal, the other grasps it in its wholeness. The one fixes its gaze on the eternal, the other on the temporal. So Iqbal admits both the temporal and eternal realities. He does not consider the spacio- temporal reality as an illusion but endorses Bergsonian viewpoint that intuition is a higher form of intellect and differs with Ghazali who says that intuition and intellect are two separate faculties. Iqbal rejects the dichotomy of intellect and intuition and gives due importance to intellect and reason. In one of his couplets he even advises ‘Ishq’ to follow the God-gifted Reason.

The writer is a Ph.D research scholar at Punjab University, a visiting professor at the University of Education, a writer of many books on Philosophy, literature and Iqbaliyat. He is also the chairman of Iqbal Research Institute.

According to Iqbal reason is not an absolute, autonomous, self-subsistent, necessary, universal and impartial faculty; it is not consisted of some self-governing rules but it is relative, particular and partial.