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Old Monday, August 18, 2014
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Default Iqbaliat

This is a thread which will be completely dedicated to the discussion and articles on Iqbal thought process. Kindly refrain from posting articles which are not related to Iqbal and all the articles are written by other people, I don't own any of them.
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Old Monday, August 18, 2014
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Default Relevance of Iqbal

Let’s be honest about this. A reference to Iqbal often generates sneers or boredom. So much for 56 years of celebrating Iqbal as the national poet — and celebrating him to death! Let’s approach the question with a fresh start: is he relevant today? Are his works worth the paper they are printed on (keeping in mind that they are very often printed on deluxe paper)? Is his dream as a politician and visionary something that we can fall back upon, or should we discard it as pre-world war luggage hampering our speed in the new century?
Let’s approach these questions from the perspective of our interests, and let’s not display in our judgment any deference to Iqbal simply on the ground that he is our national poet and the ideological father or because he is, oh, so great.
His legacy may be divided into three interrelated parts: thought, poetry and politics. Let’s begin with the first.
Thought
Iqbal’s major prose work is The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, a collection of seven lectures from the last decade of his life. Here is the problem: beautiful, astonishing statements of Iqbal on life and the universe are buried under cumbersome quotations from early 20th century best-sellers of popular philosophy, genuinely outdated and off-putting for a modern reader. Iqbal’s key concepts, however, can be salvaged from beneath the debris and a map of his universe be drawn up (Iqbal himself insisted on the transitory nature of these lectures and we can safely take him as an authority on his own work).
Iqbal’s approach is opposed to compartmentalization. We live only one life, and we live it as a whole. Therefore, it is harmful to distance spirituality from science; and purposes should be revised and unified, so that one day of your life feeds into the other and you grow stronger. To be free is most essential to Iqbal, and true freedom — political and psychological — comes only through vigilance. Taking this premise for granted, Iqbal redefines the essential constructs of Eastern thought: God, nature, time, reality, thought, destiny, death, resurrection, prayer, and so on. To him, “the ultimate nature of Reality is spiritual,” but it must also be “conceived as an ego.” God is “the Ultimate Ego,” and “a rationally directed creative life.” The most divine element in the human being is, therefore, the ego, which unites us with God, so that we may become “a co-worker” with Him. Another construct remarkably redefined here is “destiny”. Iqbal doesn’t see it as predetermined, but merely as an ever-changing cluster of possibilities in the heart of this universe. In his verse masterpiece, Javidnama, he explodes in anger against those who cling to pessimistic concepts of life: “Go and ask God to give you a good destiny — He is bountiful, so He must have plenty for you to choose from. If it is the destiny of glass to be broken, very well then, transform yourself into a stone, because humans can change. You change your destiny when you change yourself.” In his lectures he constructs, brick by brick, a coherent universe. He trusts the future generations to update this picture and point out his shortcomings with the same ruthlessness that he has displayed in the criticism of his predecessors; he would be happy, as long as everything is seen from a holistic human point of interest.
Poetry
Having established the basic precepts of Iqbal’s thought, let’s now turn to his crowning achievement—his poetry. Here’s the irony: every student in Pakistan is taught Iqbal from the first grade to graduation, but comes out of the university without ever hearing the name of his magnum opus. This is Javidnama (or Javidnameh, in modern Persian pronunciation). Intellectual common sense (if intellectual integrity is too much to ask for) demands that this work must serve as a reference point to his other works. To him, Javidnama is what Paradise Lost is to Milton, or The Republic is to Plato. Can there be forgiveness for the academic dishonesty of our curriculum designers who scrounge upon the time and energies of our students in the name of Iqbal for fourteen years and yet leave those students without a single clue about what is contained in the one book he called “the sum total of my life”? It is like reading Shakespeare for fourteen years and not hearing the name ofHamlet!
Javidnama is an epic poem (and doesn’t it come as a surprise that Iqbal also wrote an epic?). The fact that it was originally written in Persian should not deter us: translations are available. It opens on the day of creation with Iqbal’s very own account of how the universe came into being. A bright sky taunts the Earth for being lightless, but a consolatory message from the heavens predicts the human being, who will rise from earthen clay and ascend the skies.
Centuries later, we find our poet glooming over his mortality and singing a sad song on the riverbank. The lyrics are from Rumi, whose soul now appears and some questions about truth and existence are answered in such powerful language that Zurvan, the Spirit of Time, manifests itself to reveal a big secret: time and space can be conquered! Now we learn that the Prophet overcame these limitations sometime after the beginning of our story. He ascended the heavens on the night of Meraj. The gates, once opened, now await anyone who dares transcend the material world with the divine spark lodged in the human soul (hence the spiritual nature of reality, established through long-winded argument in the lectures, is reinforced here).
Stars welcome the poet as he is guided by Rumi in a skywards journey. Over there he meets several souls — blessed as well as damned. Not a single one has been condemned or rewarded on the basis of religious beliefs alone — Buddha and Zarathustra dwell among the prophets and a Hindu poet is lodged in Paradise, while a pair of traitors (incidentally Muslims) suffer everlasting torture.
As one should expect from a well-humoured poet, Iqbal doesn’t forget to bring houris into his story. Of course, they crave for his company while he chooses to move on (but not without reciting one of his ghazals on popular demand). Eventually, the poet learns the secrets of immortality from God (mentioned here as “the Voice of Beauty”), and then faints at the sight of the primordial Majesty.
A most interesting chapter in this epic is about a spiritual breed on Mars. The evil spirit tempted their progenitor, just like Adam was tempted, but this one resisted. Consequently his children were spared the restricting duality of matter and spirit, and live a life without scarcity, poverty, needfulness or tyranny. This prosperous colony is Iqbal’s ideal world, and only the demons within us prevent us from achieving it on this earth — the above-quoted outburst against fatalistic interpretation of religion occurs in this chapter.
The significance of using Javidnama as a reference point for other works of Iqbal becomes clear when we see how the seemingly banal “Khudi ko ker buland itna keh her taqdeer say pehlay...” from another anthology suddenly acquires a fascinating new dimension in the light of the detailed discourse on destiny here.
Politics
This leads us to Iqbal’s politics, and his so-called “dream” of a homeland for the Muslims. Rather than dwelling upon interpretations given by others, let’s ask Iqbal himself. If we take up his very first book (a prose work on political economy), the shadow of this dream glows even there on the second page. “A question has arisen in this age, viz., is poverty an unavoidable element in the scheme of things?”
Iqbal wrote in the preface to Ilmul Iqtisad, published in 1904 when he was twenty-seven. “Can it not happen that the heartrending sobs of a humanity suffering in the back alleys of our streets be gone forever and the horrendous picture of devastating poverty wiped out from the face of this earth? Economics alone cannot answer, because the answer lies to a great extent in the moral capabilities of the human nature...”
Javidnama, twenty-eight years later, was evidently his personal answer to the question, and the entire body of his work a lifelong effort to expand those “moral capabilities of human nature”. His famous Presidential Address of 1930, incidentally, was prepared for the All India Muslim League at a time when he was working on Javidnama, possibly writing the very chapter about the Martian colony.
“The object of my Persian poems is not to make out a case for Islam,” he had stated long ago to the international press. “My aim is simply to discover a universal social reconstruction,” and he explained why it was philosophically impossible to ignore a social system that met this ideal of combining matter with spirit. In order to place his Presidential Address in its true perspective, let’s imagine a very plausible scenario.
On a midsummer night in 1930, a fifty-three years old good-humoured gentleman fills his pen with ink, and then starts writing in his big notebook. He is describing an ideal colony on Mars. “And there I saw a grand observatory amid lush green grasses...” In simple Persian verses he is writing how he imagines the citizens of this fairyland to be.
“Their expertise in technology rivals that of the Europeans, they far exceed us in the knowledge of the body and the soul... We are confined in the duality of matter and spirit, but these people are blessed with a unity of thought...” And here, perhaps, he stops to lift a few blank sheets of paper from the other side of the chair, and, the nib of his pen still fresh from the ink of his verses, he scribbles in English, “I would like to see the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Balochistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British empire, or without the British empire...”
He goes on, “For [the region] it means security and peace resulting from the internal balance of power; for Islam an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilize its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times...” He pauses, and wonders if this dream would come true.

Article by Khurram Ali Shafique
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Old Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Default Iqbal a mirror of Muslim psyche

Iqbal: a mirror of Indian Muslim psyche
By Prof Sharif al Mujahid



MULTIDIMENSIONAL are Iqbal’s thoughts as are his intellectual forays and philosophical shifts at various times in his four-decade long active career as a poet and philosopher. Yet all said and done, it was given to the renowned Professor Hamilton A.R. Gibb to provide a perspective on how to look at him. This Gibb did in his Chicago lectures (1946) on “Modern trends in Islam” which have since been published under the same title.

In this he perceptively observes, “Perhaps the right way to look at Iqbal is to see in him one who reflected and put into vivid words the diverse currents of ideas that were agitating the minds of Indian Muslims. His sensitive poetic temperament mirrored all that impinged upon it — the backward looking romanticism of the liberals, the socialist leanings of the younger intellectuals, the longing of the militant Muslim League for a strong leader to restore the political power of Islam. Every Indian Muslim, dissatisfied with the state of things — religious, social, or political — could and did find in Iqbal a sympathizer with his troubles and his aspirations and an adviser who bade him seek the way out by self-expression.”

This means that despite being a creative thinker, Iqbal was addressing the situation at hand. The ideas he enunciated, though intrinsically creative in themselves, and abiding in appeal beyond a particular time and place, were yet primarily meant to salvage the bleak Muslim situation in India and the world at large. This makes Iqbal, in a sense, oriented towards the Indian Muslim psyche and situation.

This framework makes his periodic forays into discussing and suggesting solutions to the problems of the Muslim world at large and his consuming concern with the “Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” (1930) — a logical extension of his role as a modern Muslim ideologue, attempting to analyze and see Muslim India’s problems and predicament on a wider canvas and in a total context. After all, Iqbal regarded India, if only because of the Muslim numerical strength, as “the greatest Muslim country in the world”, to quote his own words. These tasks, both critical and onerous as they were, he fulfilled squarely.

His emotion-leaden and soul-lifting poetry was the medium Iqbal chose to bring his people a new awareness of the depths of degradation to which they had fallen, to diagnose their ailments, their predicament and the prime cause of their decline, and to warn them of the dire consequences if they failed to mend themselves in good time. A more effective medium he could not have possibly chosen.

For one thing, poetry is the most powerful medium for touching the deepest emotions of a people and for driving a message into their subconscious. For another, the Indian Muslims had been among the most poetry-oriented people in the world, with a long tradition of readily taking to heart what was written in verse. Political orations may stir an audience into action, but their impact is bound to be restricted to a particular audience, and dissipate with time and events. In contrast, a poetic message seeps through the ethos of a nation, working on its psyche all the while.

Hence Iqbal achieved through his poems what a thousand speeches could not. But for the silent mental preparation that had gone on for long decades, the people would not have responded to the call of political leaders — in this case, especially of Jinnah during the 1937-47 epochal decade. No wonder, the pandals of the League sessions from Lucknow (1937) onwards were plastered with Iqbal’s couplets, calling on Muslims to rise and take their destiny in their own. Iqbal was quoted oft and on to rouse Muslims to a new awareness of their destiny. All this had an electrifying effect on the audience since Iqbal, though generally complex and couched in an appropriate idiom, was, straightforward and yielded clear guidelines.

Besides being a poet of extraordinary merit, Iqbal was a thinker of a high order. Thus, while Syed Ahmed Khan, Maulana Mohammad Ali and Jinnah provided political leadership to Muslims, Iqbal took upon himself the task of setting the intellectual tone for Muslim thought and action. (previously, this was done by Sir Syed’s, writings and the Aligarh school). In addressing himself to this task, Iqbal brought a revolution in Muslim thinking at various levels; he also made a significant contribution to keeping them stolidly anchored to their pristine ideology and historical legacy.

His role in awakening the Muslims to a new consciousness began in 1899 when he recited a poem at the annual session of the Anjuman-i-Islam, Lahore. His moving “Nala-i-Yatim” was symbolic of the echoing cry of the faceless masses of the Indian Muslims, who had long felt themselves sidelined neglected.

Like Syed Ahmad Khan and Jinnah, Iqbal had started out as an Indian nationalist, but ended up at the threshold of Muslim nationalism. While the former two came at this threshold directly, Iqbal did it via the pan-Islamism route. With Muhammad Ali, he shared the passion for pan-Islamism. In terms of ideological orientation, these three trends at various stages in Iqbal’s poetic and public life represent his point of convergence with the three most important political leaders Muslim India had produced during the ninety years of British imperial rule (1858-1947). When Iqbal sailed for Europe in 1908 for higher studies, he had gone there as an Indian nationalist, but he returned in 1911 as a pan-Islamist. His European sojourn had acted as a catalyst, enabling him to look at events and developments in a wider perspective. Thus, he came to be disillusioned with the very concept of nationalism, which had spawned inequality and discrimination (even as the European credo of laissez-faire had between man and man) and bred racial discrimination.

What pained him most was the impact of nationalism on various Muslim countries, eroding the pan-Islamic concept, enfeebling the Muslim world and laying it open to European aggression, and exploitation. To the ailments the Muslim world was afflicted with, Iqbal found the solution in Islam and its message. In order to reach the innermost recesses of their consciousness, he invoked the past glory of Islam, telling Muslims of the accomplishments of their ancestors. In so doing, he tried to fight off the prevalent slough of despondency, raising drooping spirit of Muslims and replacing it with a sense of soaring confidence.

Next, he grave them a message of hope. He told them that they could still redeem themselves if they could only recapture their soul and regain their pristine moral and spiritual values. He emphasized the imperative need to develop human qualities and the right type of character. He attributed their degeneration to their taking to a life of passivity and resignation for several generations. That debilitating trend could be reversed by opting for initiative and endeavour which, he believed, Islam stood for. To him, an active, struggling non-believer was preferable to a sleeping Muslim.

But if Muslims were to be beckoned to a new destiny, they must first be confirmed as Muslims and they must own up their pristine values. This was all the more necessary in the context of the rise of positivism and skepticism, which posed a serious challenge to the modern Muslim.

To Iqbal, “the task before the modern Muslim is to re-think the whole system of Islam without completely breaking with the past”. And this crucial task he undertook in a series of lectures since compiled as “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930).” In these he argued that Islam represented a philosophy of action, for faith without action was a life bereft of any significance.

A true Muslim should always be on the move: he should have an energetic and an active interest in the material reality around him; he should cultivate the sciences and mould the forces of life rather than submit to them. To him, “here on the path halt is improper,/As in rest remains concealed the death;/Only those on move have gone ahead./And who tarried get to be trampled!” Again: “from Khizr you should ask the secret of life,/ Through ceaseless efforts all things exist here!”

That mnas toil and labour, ceaseless efforts and relentless exertions alone will lead to success — to new vistas, greener pastures and goals. He wished Muslims to become dynamic, enterprising and assertive as in early Islam. He wished them to realize, own up and raise their “khudi”, and his doctrine of ‘self’ was meant to strengthen through moral and intellectual power lying within oneself which can enable him to master the world around, besides fulfilling Allah’s will.

Thus, Muslims could remain Muslims and yet enjoy the fruits of modern science and civilization. Yet another crucial task still remained — that is, to spell out the destiny for Indian Muslims. This Iqbal did in is Muslim League Allahabad (1930) address. Here, for the first time, he set out to delineate and address their psychic needs and political aspirations. As a piece of political discourse this address was unique: it spelt out in some detail the intellectual justification for the Muslims’ aspirations for a separate nationhood and a separate national existence.

Seldom does a poet exert such profound influence on the course of history and in changing the destiny of a nation. But Iqbal did because his accomplishments extended far beyond the realm of mere imagination and into the sphere of objective realities, because in the final years of his eventful life he donned the mantle of an ideologue, besides being a national poet.

And, to be sure, all of Iqbal’s efforts throughout the whole span of his active life were directed towards the regeneration of Muslims and the resurgence of Islam.
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Default Rise Above Yourself

The election of 1926 was the first occasion when Muslim masses voted in large numbers according to separate electorate. However, in the assemblies that were inaugurated the next year as a result of this election, no single party had emerged as common leader of the entire Muslim community. It seemed as if there was no new ideal, no commonly agreed goal anymore, and hence no means for a collective effort.

This, however, did not last very long. In 1928, Congress demanded through Nehru Report that separate electorates should be abolished. Apparently, it was impossible for an Indian nationalist to understand what a separate electorate meant to a Muslim.

Unity of matter and spirit as a philosophical concept may be incomprehensible by ordinary persons but the activities of the Aligarh Movement and its offshoots in the past sixty years had been sufficient for showing even the most unschooled Muslim how literature, politics, religion and education were interconnected as far as the Muslim community of the region was concerned. Separate electorate appeared to be a tool for formalizing this unity of ideals and reality. Hence when Nehru Report questioned the separate electorates in 1928, Muslim leaders who disagreed on everything else suddenly agreed to disagree with the Hindu majority on this issue.

Against this backdrop, Allama Iqbal, who was also a successful candidate of the election of 1926, presided over the annual session of the All-India Muslim League held in Allahabad on December 30-31, 1930. There, he proposed a new goal. It was “a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim state”, which appeared to him to be “the final destiny of the Muslims at least of the North-West India.”

Thus, Pakistan became the next goal to be achieved (and Iqbal left open the possibility of it being “within the British Empire, or without the British Empire”). Separate electorates then became the tool through which the new goal, Pakistan, was to be achieved.

The ideal to be pursued whilst in quest for Pakistan was “selflessness”, which Iqbal had been preaching at least since 1906. It was embodied in verses that had become proverbial to at least two successive generations, such as the famous line from a 1912 poem, “An individual is sustained by its bonding with the nation and is nothing on one’s own, just as the wave exists in the river and is nothing on its own.”
فرد قائم ربط ملت سے ہے تنہا کچھ نہیں
موج ہے دریا میں اور بیرون دریا کچھ نہیں
As explained in his longer poems and his lectures, selflessness (or bekhudi) was an experience through which an individual could annihilate his or her individual ego (khudi) and arrive at the next level, which was the collective ego, thus acquiring a greater wisdom inaccessible to the individual ego alone.

Iqbal’s conception of a collective ego did not mean that one should cease to have personal opinions, or renounce the freedom of thought and expression. Selflessness was not an act of the mind but an act of love, through the heart. It could only be induced through highly entertaining literature (as Iqbal did in his own times) and could never be imposed through repressive legislation (in fact the suppression of individual liberties could become a hindrance, since it curtails selflessness by enhancing mistrust).

This emphasis on transcending the individual ego was timely, since the elections of 1926 had presented a highly egotistical picture of the community. “Things in India are not what they appear to be,” he said in the Allahabad Address. “The meaning of this, however, will dawn upon you only when you have achieved a real collective ego to look at them.”

Selflessness, or rising above oneself, became the new ideal as the demand for Pakistan gained momentum under the leadership of Jinnah, “the Great Leader”, whom his followers came to see as the incarnation of their ideal in flesh and blood. How the new state came into being is a story that belongs to political history. What ought to be noted here is that the goal was achieved through the election of 1945-46 when an overwhelming majority of Muslims voted for Pakistan, especially in provinces where they were in a minority and were not going to be included in the proposed state.

Pakistan could not have come into being without their support but voting for Pakistan meant invoking the almost inevitable wrath of the future rulers of India. They voted, and they paid the price with their blood and tears. Recorded history of the human race may not offer another instance when such a large number of people made a common decision that required such high degree of selflessness.

Iqbal had said in the Allahabad Address, “Rise above sectional interests and private ambitions, and learn to determine the value of your individual and collective action, however directed on material ends, in the light of the ideal which you are supposed to represent.” The Muslim masses of India could not have followed his words more diligently.
This Article was written by Khurram ali shafique
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Muslim Democracy

The Democracy of Europe – overshadowed by socialistic agitation and anarchical fear – originated mainly in the economic regeneration of European societies. Nietzsche, however, abhors this ‘rule of the herd’ and, hopeless of the plebeian, he bases all higher culture on the cultivation and growth of an Aristocracy of Supermen. But is the plebeian so absolutely hopeless? The Democracy of Islam did not grow out of the extension of economic opportunity, it is a spiritual principle based on the assumption that every human being is a centre of latent power, the possibilities of which can be developed by cultivating a certain type of character. Out of the plebeian material Islam has formed men of the noblest type of life and power. Is not, then, the Democracy of early Islam an experimental refutation of the ideas of Nietzsche?

Nietzsche and Jalaluddin Rumi

Comparisons, they say, are odious. I want, however, to draw your attention to a literary comparison which is exceedingly instructive and cannot be regarded as odious. Nietzsche and Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi stand at the opposite poles of thought; but in the history of thought it is the points of contact and departure which constitute centres of special interest. In spite of the enormous intellectual distance that lies between them these two great poet-philosophers seem to be in perfect agreement with regard to the practical bearing of their thought on life. Nietzsche saw the decadence of the human type around ihim, disclosed the subtle forces that have been working for it, and finally attempts to adumbrate the type of life adequate to the task of our planet, “Not how man is preserved, but how man is surpassed,” was the keynote of Nietzsche’s thought. The superb Rumi—born to the Moslem world at a time when enervating modes of life and thought, and an outwardly beautiful but inwardly devitalising literature had almost completely sucked up the blood of Moslem Asia and paved the way for an easy victory for the Tartar—was not less keenly alive than Nietzsche to the poverty of life, incompetence, inadequacy and decay of the body social, of which he formed a part and parcel.

Here are two interesting comments on the German thinker Nietzsche by Allama Iqbal that were first published in New Era (Lucknow) in 1917.
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Default Henri Bergson and Muhammad Iqbal

You must pardon my audacity in presuming to say anything of substance about the philosophies of Bergson and Iqbal or their mysticisms or indeed anything conclusive about even the bare essentials of their respective systems in such a brief space and time.
It is, however, a particularly opportune time in which to speak about “irrationalism”, “intuitionism” and “emotionalism”, when the normative issues of the ordinary man have become so polarized that the language of stark “positivism” and “rational factualism” alone hardly make sense in any dialogue, and when the exigencies of moral situations are forcing re-integration of “facts” and “values”, and one hears more and more about such topics as: “The Enforcement of Morals”, “Law, Morality and Re*ligion in a Secular Society” and “Freedom and Reason”.[i]
The apparent signs of re-orientation of philosophical outlook generally along with the quest of:
“An intelligible rationale for a transcendent alternative to the secular reduction of reality”,[ii]
Is one such manifestation of the concerns now engaging the philosophers and theologians alike? It is here argued that a philosophy concerned with the treatment of man’s complex-being cannot disregard successive dimensions of human adjustment: biological, psychological and ideal or transcendent. It is this comprehensive way of developing philosophy which aims at resolving man’s discord within himself and the polarity of his principles, laws and imperatives on the one hand and − to use Hegelian language:
“Reaches out for divinity to see God, to enter God’s being and to link the objective and subjective experiences of God in the consummate experience of high philosophy”,[iii]
On the other, that makes Bergson and Iqbal supremely relevant to the present. It is a remarkable coincidence that the two highly individual thinkers, separated by nationality, cultural back-ground, religious commitment and temperaments, evolved parallel systems which bear so many analogies that despite the divides of place and socio-political milieu their thoughts seem to lead into each other and create a sense of inter-relatedness. They reflect each other’s thoughts, and have all the affinities of a family − they are a family of a very long tradition. We recognise the similarities of their thoughts through the content of common themes and their common concerns, yet cannot fail to recognise their individualities.
The present study seeks to identify be comparative exposition of only such common themes as are central to their respective systems. What is and is not central in their philosophies may well be a matter of opinion, but there can be no disagreement about one thing: that their message was a call to mobilise man-kind − to use Bishop Cragg’s expression − towards “Godward-liness”. It is new and relevant because it is expressed in the modern idiom, it is daring too in a sense, because it was expressed at a time which can rightly be regarded as “the high noon” of materialism, when the mere mention of God was no less than a “Polynesian taboo.”
What is intended here is fairly simple and moderately ambitious, in that it is neither evaluative, nor contrastive, nor yet an advocacy of one against the other − but rather an attempt to juxtapose the two equally influential metaphysicians of this century, who attempted to see the reality from two different angles and claimed to have reached the same conclusion. Of course they have different ways of expressing the nature of their respective experiences, but the idiom they use is free from linguistic limitations. They transcended the barriers of linguistic formalities, which do no more than impose limitations on human thought.
By subjugating intellect to intuition, they inform us of the possibilities of human reach. It is only by complete abandonment of logico-lingual framework, that we begin to appreciate the validity of their otherwise irrational, irreconcilable and non-experiential formulations, and only then every thing they say makes sense.
Their talk of “evolution”, ascent of man Me’raaj, freedom and will, compatibility of human Ego with the Divine Will − all fall into a pattern. Their’s is the philosophy of “intuition” and “instinct”, of “vital-impetus” and “gnostic impulse”. A chapter in the large book of mysticism, Al-Kitab-al-Hikma-al Khalida − the philosophae perennis. In fact, without being offensive to partisan feelings, we can say santa-Dharma − a term used by Syyed Hossain Nasr to express the universality of all such traditions.
In his introduction to the “Essential Writings of Hegel”, Professor Frederick G. Weiss wrote:
“His philosophy itself is a spiritual bath, a baptism which ravishes everything in its path, and leaves nothing on earth or in heavens untouched.”[iv]
I think we can very well say the same about the philosophies of Bergson and Iqbal. For, after all, in some qualified sense at least, these men were no less “God intoxicated” than Hegel himself, who said:
“Philosophy has the last word on what is; and though it speaks a different language than art and religion, it relates the same message and describes the same content. That content is Truth, in that supreme sense in which God and God only is the Truth.”[v]
Without classifying as such, we name them “irrationalists”, which is not, however, an imputation of stigma in general terms. For such ascriptions need be applied with more caution and reservations in case of Iqbal and Bergson: It is perhaps due to the lack of any appropriate alternative that they are so labelled; but the fact is that their commitment to “irrationalism” is neither full-blooded “anti-rationalism” nor is it “anti-Scientism”, although critical of “intellectualism”, they never lost sympathy for intellect as such, and fervently leaning towards” “pure-mysticism”, or more precisely, expounding their own brand of mysticism, and occasionally flirting in the twilight zones of “esotericism” and “romanticism”, they claimed superiority of intuition over the intellect. It is the variety of their antagonisms that betrays their multifaceted propensities; but their positive doctrines remained essentially “evaluative’. Iqbal’s main work The Secrets of the Self and the Mysteries of the Un-self, undeniably a master-piece in its class and the quintessence of his philosophical thought, is built up around the Quranic normative framework, in which Iqbal provides hermeneutical framework by allusion to various key concepts as well as an exegesis of such Quranic themes as are foundational to the training of khalifat-ullah − divinely created agency in the universe.
The prophet’s person is a paradigm of the best make of em-bodied manhood Ahsana Taqweem and exemplar par excellence − swatal Hasana. Hence he seeks the closest proximity to the - person of the prophet by imitative adherence to the prophet’s way and discovers the possibilities of emulation. It is the unfolding of this secret, discovered by him, that makes up his “philosophy of the self”.
Likewise, Bergson’s the two Sources of Morality and Religion, a classic work on most delicate yet most neglected concerns of human life, is an exposition, in a most lucid style, of his socio-philosophical thought, in which he provides an account of his deep concern for humanity, and unlike Albert Schweitzer’s “Reverence for Life”, breaks the confines of sectarian framework.
For Iqbal “freedom of Ego” is imperfect in proportion to its proximity to the most free, i.e. God. “He who comes nearest to God” says Iqbal, “is the completest person.” By mastering the world of matter, the Ego absorbs God, not the other way round. “All life is individual; God himself is an individual “It is at this juncture that Iqbal parts company with Ibn ‘Arabi, as with Berg-son.
For Bergson communion with Reality is impossibility, for the “vital impetus” is free from anticipations, predictions and destiny.
Iqbal equates his experiences with the higher form of consciousness, which in the case of prophets is Wahy; but he uses the word free from theological connotations. This experience is avail-able to every being, but its best expression is found only in the human being. An innate potential, with an urge to express itself, is always in the state of tension to prevail over the forces of obstruction − in Bergsonian framework this would be termed as the upsurge of the free will of the soul, faced with the downward pull by the matter. A similar dichotomous theme runs through Iqbal’s dialectical formulations: Khair virtue opposed by Sharr vice.
Iqbal admits of the potential of human intellect but would not rely on its unguided explorations, which led many a seeker astray.
Although Iqbal disagreed with Bradley in many ways, Bradley’s trained instinct is no different than Iqbal’s disciplined Ego.
“Metaphysics” said Bradley” is simply a matter of finding bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct; but finding those reasons is no less an instinct.”
Iqbal would say:
“Approach the chosen one; for he is the Way, Should you fail in this, you will only be groping in dark! (Translation)
بہ مصطفے برساں خویش را کہ دیں ہمہ اوست
اگر بہ اونر سیدی، تمام بو لہبی است


‘For Bergson, the “vital impetus” does not require training or guidance. It is purely instinctive and expresses itself when faced by the urges.
For example, as Bertrand Russel understood it:
“a vague desire in sightless animals to be able to be aware of objects before they came in contact with them, led to efforts which finally created eyes.”[vi]
So, once the desire grows and intensifies, it finds ways of satisfying itself. But, how a particular desire emanates and in what direction it is to be guided is no concern of Bergson. Iqbal found this answer in the “Endowed-guidance”. Seen in this way, guidance (Hidayah) is not `”restraining-normative”, but rather a means of actualising the possibilities −not a burden of obligations rather the means of survival.
To exploit these means is no credit to man, because they are there; to ignore them is a misfortune, a discredit and Jahl (ignorance). It is this awareness that humbles man, even at the highest level of his career - a theme not so unfamiliar in other traditions. In Job: (40:2), for instance we read:
“Is it for a man, who disputes with the Almighty to be stub-born? Should he that argues with God answers back?”
So, when Kierkegaard came to expound a believer’s existentialism, he exploited this theme to the fullest: and repeatedly re-minded himself of:

“Edification implied in the thought that as against God we are always in the wrong.”[vii]
For Iqbal “Evolution” is a far more structured activity than a mere notion of haphazard growth, as it seemed to the “Darwinian-evolutionists”, the evolutionists’ account, he felt, may well have adequately captured the way in which the origin of species is traced, but surely it had missed the teleological point of explaining this activity.
He would affirm the Spencerian account insofar as it bears out the historicity of “Social − Darwinism”, but found no account more appealing or satisfactory than Rumi’s; as he put it:
“Rumi’s tremendous enthusiasm for the biological future of man.”
For Bergson, living is a primordial function, and life as such a process, an undivided cosmic movement of which we are “expressions” rather than “parts”. The elan vital or the vital impetus is the prime mover and has ascendancy over mind and matter. Bergson’s philosophy has too many novel doctrines to be characterized by any one in particular; it has been described by some as the “poetry of time”. Iqbal’s is unmistakably the ex-position of Self/Ego.
Their respective systems afford alternatives to Newtonian mechanical world view: in the case of Bergson elan vital, and anti-Hegelian Wiltanschauung in the case of Iqbal.
They both seek to explain “evolution”, and “creation”. For Bergson creative impulse is free from foresight and unpredictable. In Bergsonian system there is no room for teleological explication of “universe”. Iqbal would not go so far as to refute every argument for purposefulness. He would divide the perspective into long-term and short-term objects.
Creation, for Iqbal, is a mere expression of Divine scheme, which is in the process of perpetual un-folding. Universe is not therefore a completed product. It is growing. It is purposive only insofar as it is selective in character. Man is not helpless in this scheme. He plays a role in moulding the course of creative energy to his own benefit. Fate and destiny are the knowledge of possibilities preserved in the Divine Memory. The following passage from “Revelation of Religious Experience” sums up Iqbal’s teleology:
“…To endow the world process with purpose …is to rob it of its originality and its creative character. Its ends are terminations of a career; they are ends to come and not necessarily predetermined. A time process cannot be conceived as a line already drawn. It is a line in the drawing, an actualisation of open possibilities… nothing is more alien to the Quranic outlook than the idea that the universe is the temporal working-out of a preconceived plan.”[viii]
Of course in this, as in all other cases, having preferred his conceptualized formulations, Iqbal presents the authority of Qur’an. If this be Qur’anic, one might be tempted to ask, what then is original in Iqbal? To this it must be replied, that the intuitive apprehension of the revealed truths is itself revelatory, and revelation is the only thing original there is. Bergson and Iqbal were contemporaries, although Bergson was born before and died after Iqbal. Bergson lived long enough to see the rise and fall of his irrationalism as tried by Sorel and Mussolini.
Iqbal on the other hand died too soon to see his dream come true. They both came from migrant families: Bergson from Polish and Iqbal from Kashmiri. Bergson, though French by birth, was of Anglo-Polish descent; his mother was an English lady. Iqbal descended from a Kashmiri Brahmin stock. Bergson started his career as a diplomat, but later became an academic and remained so till the end. Iqbal started as an academic but later took to the legal profession and spent most of his life in retirement, writing poetry and campaigning against colonialism.
Bergson was a winner of Nobel Prize. Bergson wrote in French and occasionally lectured in English. Iqbal wrote and lectured both in English and in Urdu and was equally at ease with the Arabic, Persian, Sanskirt and German. Punjabi came as an unwanted legacy and Hindi as an extra bonus. They both came from orthodox religious families, Jewish and Muslim. Bergson preached morality without naming religion, and Iqbal preached religious morality. They are both equally widely translated writers of this century; although Bergson’s works in Oriental languages are a rarity, yet thanks to the universality of English language, Bergson is accessible throughout the world. Some of Bergson’s translations, particularly the “Two Sources of Morality”, were approved by Bergson himself.
The only work of Iqbal translated into English during his life-time: “The Secrets of the Self,” which was published with Iqbal’s own interpretation of the philosophy of the “Self”, came out rather in haste, and reflects all that goes with haste in matters of delicate exactitude:
Although they were both averse to the appellation Platonist, the perennial pietism disclosed by their systems has much in common with the philosophy of forms and ideas, rather than with Aristotelian “Tabula Rasa” or in plain English empty-headedness.
Besides, we cannot deny the profundity of Professor J. A. Notopoulos’s statement:
“It is perfectly possible to be a Platonist without knowing it, just as it is possible to think oneself a Platonist without actually being one. ‘[ix]
Of course one does not immediately associate these men with Platonism, but their epistemological quest to extend the range of human knowledge beyond reasoning and phenomena is essentially opposed to empiricism and sensationalism, and aligns them with Plato. Their conviction that reality lay beneath the surface and that the eternal mysteries were to be grasped by intuition only, undeniably bear the Platonic stamp, however faint it may be. But they reduced these notions to an existential level by turning them into practical reason or regulative truths. Iqbal learned this technique from Rumi, who taught him:
علم را برتن زنی مار سے بود
علم را بر دل زنی یار ے بود


Knowledge in pursuit of lower desires is (destructive) like a snake
Knowledge in pursuit of higher desires is a worthy gain. (My translation)
اگر یک سر موئے برتر پرم
فروغ تجلی بسوز د پرم


As the brief time graciously allocated to me comes to an end, I am constrained to exclaim, with the `Sheikh’, in ecstasy:
Should I transgress by a hair’s breadth,
I will have my wings burnt to ashes! (my translation)[x]

[i] i. Patrick (Lord) Devlin: The Enforcement of Morals, Oxford University Press, 1965.
ii. Basil Mitchell: Law, Morality and Religion, Oxford Uni*versity Press, 1970.
iii. R. M. Hare. Freedom and Reason. Oxford University Press, 1978.
[ii] Carl F. H. Henry: The New Consciousness, Christianity Today, October 8, 1971.
[iii] Frederick G. Weiss: Hegel: The Essential Writings, Harper & Row, 1974.
[iv] ِIbid.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Kulliyat-e-Iqbal (Urdu), p. 421.
[vii] Bertrand Russell: “History of Western Philosophy”, Unwin University Books, 1975.
[viii] Soren Kierkegaard (Translated: Walter Lowrie) “Either/Or 11”, Princeton University Press, 1974.
[ix] Muhammad Iqbal: “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”, Sh. M. Ashraf, Lahore, 1975.
[x] Quoted by David Newsome: “Two Classes of Men: Patonisin and English Romantic Thought”, John Murray, 1974.
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