July 9, 2010 Leave a comment
May 27, 2009 Leave a comment
Of all the parts of his thought, Iqbal’s political philosophy is perhaps the most commonly misunderstood. This misunderstanding is largely the result of dividing his political philosophy into phases, such as the nationalistic phase, the pan-Islamic phase and the last phase in which he pioneered the Muslim independence movement. By regarding each phase as being quite different from and independent of the other phases, one almost always reaches the conclusion that either Iqbal’s political views changed with astonishing rapidity or that he could not make up his mind and was inconsistent. One can indeed see Iqbal first as a young poet with rather narrow parochial sympathies which gradually widened into love of homeland, and then gave way to love of Islam which later became transformed into love of humanity. However, he can also be seen as a visionary, whose ideal from first to last was the realization of God’s Kingdom on Earth, who believed in the interrelatedness, equality and freedom of human beings, and who strove at all times to achieve these goals; and by viewing Iqbal in this one light, one attains a much better understanding of his political philosophy.
Politics have their roots in the spiritual life of Man. It is my belief that Islam is not a matter of private opinion. It is a society, or if you like, a civic Church. It is because present-day political ideals, as they appear to be shaping themselves in India, may affect its original structure and character that I find myself interested in politics. (Iqbal 1964:288)
Iqbal’s impact on the political situation of the Muslims in India was so great that he is hailed as the ‘spiritual’ founder of Pakistan. Undoubtedly, there was much focus on the Islamic community in his major works written between 1908 and 1938. Nevertheless, when accused by Lowes Dickinson of being exclusive in his thinking, Iqbal denied the allegation and said:
The humanitarian ideal is always universal in poetry and philosophy, but if you make it an effective ideal…you must start, not with poets and philosophers, but with a society exclusive in the sense of having a creed and well-defined outline…. Such a society according to my belief is Islam. This society has so far proved itself a more successful opponent of the race-idea which is probably the hardest barrier in the way of the humanitarian ideal…. All men and not Muslims alone are meant for the Kingdom of God on earth, provided they say goodbye to their idols of race and nationality and treat one another as personalities. The object of my Persian poems is not to make out a case for Islam: my aim is simply to discover a universal social reconstruction, and in this endeavour, I find it philosophically impossible to ignore a social system which exists with the express object of doing away with all the distinctions of caste, rank and race. (Iqbal 1964:98-9)
May 27, 2009 1 Comment
Iqbal’s philosophy is often described as the philosophy of khudi, or the Self. For him, the fundamental fact of human life is the absolute and irrefutable consciousness of one’s own being. For Iqbal, the advent of humanity on earth is a great and glorious event, not an event signifying human sinfulness and degradation. He points out that according to the Qur’an, the earth is humanity’s ‘dwelling-place’ and ‘a source of profit’ to it. Iqbal does not think that having been created by God, human beings were placed in a supersensual paradise from which they were expelled on account of an act of disobedience to God. Pointing out that the term ‘Adam’ functions as the symbol of self-conscious humanity rather than as the name of an individual in the Qur’an, Iqbal describes the ‘Fall’ as a transition from ‘a primitive state of instinctive appetite to the conscious possession of a free self, capable of doubt and disobedience’ (Iqbal 1930: 85). For Iqbal, Adam’s story is not the story of the ‘First Man’ but the ethical experience, in symbolic form, of every human being. Following the Qur’anic teaching that though human beings come from the earth, God’s spirit has been breathed into them, Iqbal holds on the one hand that human beings are divinely created, and on the other hand that they have evolved from matter. Unlike dualists, Iqbal sees no impassable gulf between matter and spirit, nor does he see human beings as a mere episode or accident in the huge evolutionary process. On the contrary, the whole cosmos is there to serve as the basis and ground for the emergence and perfection of the Ego. Humanity’s evolution has not come to an end, for the destiny of human beings lies ‘beyond the stars’.
The purpose of life is the development of the Self. In order that they may achieve the fullest possible development, it is essential for human beings to possess knowledge. Following the Qur’an, Iqbal maintains that there are two sources of knowledge: the inner consciousness of human beings and the outer world of nature. Starting with the intuition of the Self, human beings become aware of the Not-Self, the confronting ‘other’ which provides a constant challenge for them. Nature, however, does not confront God in the same way as it confronts humanity, since it is a phase of God’s consciousness. God is immanent since God comprehends the whole universe, but also transcendent since God is not identical with the created world. All life is individual. There is a gradually rising scale of selfness running from the almost inert to God who is the Ultimate Ego. God is not immobile nor is the universe a fixed product; God is constantly creative and dynamic and the process of Creation still goes on. The Qur’anic saying, ‘Toward God is your limit’ (Surah 53: 42), gives Iqbal an infinite worldview, and he applies it to every aspect of the life of humanity and the universe.
Iqbal distinguishes between two aspects of the Self, the efficient and the appreciative. The efficient self is that which is concerned with, and is itself partially formed by, the physical world. It apprehends the succession of impressions and discloses itself as a series of specific, and consequently numerable, states. The appreciative self is the deeper self, of which one becomes aware only in moments of profound meditation when the efficient self is in abeyance. The unity of the appreciative self is that in it, each experience permeates the whole. The multiplicity of its elements is unlike that of the efficient self. There is change and movement, but this change and movement are indivisible; their elements interpenetrate and are wholly non-serial in character.
Corresponding to the two aspects of the Self are the two levels of time, serial time and pure duration. Serial time is spatialized or clock time, whereas pure duration is a ceaseless continuous flow in which all things live and move and have their being. As human beings perfect their egohood, they cast off the girdle of serial time and gain a measure of eternity.
Iqbal believes ardently that human beings are the makers of their own destiny and that the key to destiny lies in one’s character. He constantly refers to the Qur’anic verse, ‘Verily God will not change the condition of a people till they change what is in themselves’ (Surah 13: 12). Humanity’s mission on earth is not only to win greater freedom but also to gain immortality, which according to Iqbal ‘is not ours by right; it is to be achieved by personal effort. Man is only a candidate for it’ (Iqbal 1930: 119).
Though humanity is the pivot around which Iqbal’s philosophy revolves, yet as pointed out by Schimmel, Iqbal’s ‘revaluation of Man is not that of Man qua Man, but of Man in relation to God’ (Schimmel 1963: 382). Iqbal’s Ideal Person is the Servant of God. The relation between humanity and God is a personal one; hence the great importance of prayer in the thought of Iqbal. The belief in the one living God gives humanity freedom from all false deities and fortifies it against forces of disintegration. Iqbal sees his concept of the Ideal Person realized in the Prophet of Islam, whose life exemplifies all the principles dearest to Iqbal’s heart. In his view art, religion and ethics must be judged from the standpoint of the Self. That which strengthens the Self is good and that which weakens it is bad. Iqbal does not admit the absolute existence of evil but regards it as being necessary for the actualization of moral purpose as vital activity in the world. His Iblis (or al-Shaytan, Satan) is the counterpart to his Ideal Person
May 27, 2009 Leave a comment
Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal was an outstanding poet-philosopher, perhaps the most influential Muslim thinker of the twentieth century. His philosophy, though eclectic and showing the influence of Muslims thinkers such as al-Ghazali and Rumi as well as Western thinkers such as Nietzsche and Bergson, was rooted fundamentally in the Qur’an, which Iqbal read with the sensitivity of a poet and the insight of a mystic. Iqbal’s philosophy is known as the philosophy of khudi or Selfhood. Rejecting the idea of a ‘Fall’ from Eden or original sin, Iqbal regards the advent of human beings on earth as a glorious event, since Adam was designated by God to be God’s viceregent on earth. Human beings are not mere accidents in the process of evolution. The cosmos exists in order to make possible the emergence and perfection of the Self. The purpose of life is the development of the Self, which occurs as human beings gain greater knowledge of what lies within them as well as of the external world. Iqbal’s philosophy is essentially a philosophy of action, and it is concerned primarily with motivating human beings to strive to actualize their God-given potential to the fullest degree.