Friday, January 30, 2015

Allama Mohammad Iqbal: The Philosopher With A Divine Message – Analysis

Allama Mohammad Iqbal (9 November 1877 – 21 April , 1938), was one of the profound and unblemished Muslim thinkers who changed the course of civilization, made extraordinary contributions in ordinary premises and elevated human intellect by escorting man to apical cosmic veracities. Among the Muslim think tanks, Iqbal stands on the pedestal and occupies the crest position.
The philosopher poet of the east, revivalist and a sheer thinker besides being an Islamic sociologist of the sub-continent, (Allama) Dr Sir Mohamad Iqbal was born (in Sialkot- now in Pakistan) when the inhabitants of Hindustan (divided into Bharat & Pakistan after 1947) were suffering from a plethora of miseries, atrocities and acute sufferings, while struggling for the independence of their country from British Raj. Owing to their activism in the 1857 uprising the people of Muslim community were the worst hit and were crushed ruthlessly. At that time Iqbal’s poetry played phenomenal and instrumental role in awakening Muslims from the state of their sprit seal slumber and Muslim conscience became conscious of their plight. At that critical juncture, Iqbal’s revolutionary message expressed in the form of enchanting couplets awakened the people from desperation and brutal subjugation and made them stand on their own feet. They achieved the freedom of which Iqbal had cherished for:
(A moment of freedom is better than the immortal life of slavery)
Allama Iqbal was in essence a Quranic orator and based his philosophy on the teachings of Islam and he wanted his readers to comprehend the quintessence of his message. Though he was very reluctant to be called as a poet, (now blatantly and wrongly labeled by some people as a mere poet) and asserts this fact very vividly as in the couplet:
(Do not consider my disorderly melody as mere poetry, for I am aware of the concealed secrets of the tavern).
I believe Allama Iqbal resorted to poetical lexicon to use it as a lucrative medium to spread his message. Also it may be because of his highly creative personality, intellectual spirit and hold on Persian and Urdu. To be celebrated or praised as a poet was not his aim but to see social change among Muslims and see them progressing was his ultimate aim.
He used to call his poetry “Iqbal-e-Islam”(The apex of Islam) and considered it as a medium to convey the message and spirit of the holy Quran to masses in cognizable form. It is no wonder then that most of his couplets are direct translations of the verses of the holy book. For instance, one of his verses in his famous work Zarb-e-Kaleem that reflect the Quranic description of behavior of a Moomin (Iqbal’s ideal man) is:-
(A man whose faith is firm and strong is soft as silk in friendly throng. In Skirmish between wrong and right like sword of steel, he stands to fight)
Akin to the Quran’s teachings of human respect and love, Iqbal is a messenger of love, the love that is unsorted. His message of love is universal and crosses over the barriers of language, region, ethnicity and other worldly distinctions. This lesson of love with its pragmatic bounties makes Iqbal the need of the hour and relevant for all times to come. The humanity needs him, his philosophy of universal brotherhood and his message of respect of human ego actually empowers man to understand his being and the glory of the divine being.Iqbal’s concept of Khudi not only teaches him to know thyself or the universe but to know the absolute ego (the ultimate self). We do need him without any doubt, because of his belief that he mentions in his work, Bang-e-Dra:
(The message of others is different, my message is different. The style of address of the one afflicted with love is different)
In his path breaking work (basically his six lectures), ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ (1930), Iqbal proves himself a revolutionary of humanism and human values as his being pulsates the message of religion, faith, etc, to the humanity. He sublimely writes that “Religion in its more advanced form moves from individual to society. We have to trace the uncritical assumption of human thought to their hiding places. The essence of religion is faith, and faith, like  the bird, sees its ‘trackless way’ unattended by intellect which only way lays the living heart of man and robs it of the invisible wealth of life that lies within”. He further states that the modern world stands in need of biological renewal and religion, which in its higher manifestations is neither dogma, nor priesthood, nor ritual, can alone ethically prepare the modern man for the burden of the great responsibility which the advancement of modern science necessarily involves, and restore to him that attitude of faith which makes him capable of winning a personality here and retaining it hereafter.
Iqbal’s own teacher Professor Reynolds A. Nicholson has written following words in the preface of his book, The Secrets of the Self, an English translation of Iqbal’s” Asrar-i Khudi”, its (Iqbal’s poetry) logical brilliancy dissolves in the glow of feeling and imagination, and it wins the heart before taking possession of the mind”
Prof. Nicholson has also expressed his views on Iqbal’s importance of ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’  in these words, “He is a man of his age and a man in advance of his age; he is also a man in disagreement of his age.” Iqbal says for himself, “Mann Nawaa-i-Shair-i Fardaastam” (I am the voice of the poet of tomorrow). Iqbal’s ‘tomorrow’ is our ‘today’ and also it will be our ‘tomorrow’. Indeed Iqbal is our need of the day. As Dr. Ali Shariati says “Iqbal can only answer my questions, not only with his thoughts, but with his very being”
His teachings derive eternity because of being derived from the essence of the teachings of Qur’an of which most of us are ignorant. Iqbal opines the teachings of Qur’an are never outdated. It is a universal education with the pacific’s of wisdom hidden in every word of it. It is like a spring of fresh waters always flowing, always fresh, always transparent and not like other temporal know ledges which are alike salt water of sea. The works of Iqbal cover Religion, politics, ethics, philosophy, morality and economics, Sociology, etc, all of which are the fundamentals for the survival and subsistence of society of genre of mankind. Most emphatically Iqbal is the call for revival and renaissance of Muslim Ummah, which was almost on the brink of death in his times. To achieve such a herculean goal Iqbal way fares us to acquire knowledge in all fields of life and complete the task, which was left unfinished by our ancestors. He warns us not to follow teachings other than that of Islam blindly but instead insists to learn the lesson from them in a semi-permeable form by letting good things in and keeping vicious ones away as they borrowed lot during their evolutionary phase and erected their sky-scrappers from the ruins of our grandiose civilization. They acquired knowledge from our forefathers and then marched onward with new ideas in all the fields of learning. The present glittering light of the West is the reflection of the glame of Damascus and Corodova that was once lit by the divine light of Quran.
Iqbal insists us to instill modern knowledge and by entering into the main stream of advanced science and technology play our active part towards welfare of the human society. His heart perpetually calls upon us to prove by our action that we are the custodian of the best code of life for mankind and the trustees of cosmos. Iqbal, though being a philosopher of the east is equally valid in the west and his message transcends the bounds of space and time. His addressee is the whole humanity. Loving the ‘other’ is considered by him as an essential quality in a man. He stands in the top row comes from among the great philosophers of the world on humanism and human compassion. His philosophy of existentialism and Understanding the ‘Self’ as well as his beautiful poetical expressions of love show exactly the place of man on earth. Speaking on the great qualities inculcated in man he says in Bang-i Dra,
‘Teray Ilm-o -Muhabbat Ki Naheen Hai Intaha Koi,
Naheen Hai Tujh Sey Barh Kar Saaz-i Fitrat Men Nawa Koi’
(The bounds of your knowledge and love are none, Melody sweeter than you in the Divine orchestra is none).
In one of Iqbal’s couplet in his famous Persian book ‘Javidnama’, he tells us the meaning of humanity in these words:
‘Admeeyat Ehtram-i Admi, Ba-Khabar Shau Az Maqaam-i Admi’.
(Humanity is to respect the human being, you must be aware of the place of man).
Thus the question whether do we need Iqbal today or not does not appear too obscure, rather the universal appeal of Allma makes every conscious human to reply an absolute ‘YES’. His message is the need of the contemporary times particularly in Muslim context where Muslims are in utter chaos and devoured by an incognizant turbulence. In this atmosphere of where Islam is confronted with juvenility Iqbal occupies an important position and continues to exercise his influence not only on today but tomorrow as well and bears relevance for all times to come as he foresaw the situations and had the capability to speak ahead of his times.
His veracious message is not that of unfriendliness or intolerance, but of mutual co-existence and harmony. Never losing the universal perspective of the entire humanity, his message was simple that Muslims, having all the ideological capacities to do great service to humanity, ought to exploit this capability; they ought to lead the humanity towards a better world by excelling both in modern sciences and in their knowledge and understanding of Islam and its message. Iqbal wrote for the youth which truly contains the trace of that fire of redemption which, when ignited in the hearts and minds of individuals, leads their nations to the zenith of excellence and marvel.
Though many blame him of sending a radical message and over emphasizing on Muslim Ummaha unity or its separate existence, he was not a fanatic or radical but opposed exploitation, traditional Mullahism(clergy), emphasized upon the principle of movement in Islamic thought and highlighted Ijtehad (intellectual assertion). His was not the demand of a separate geographical plot but of land governed by the laws of Allah. Iqbal did not feel that Muslims had to fear or run away modern science and philosophy though some argue that he espoused negative values. There is thus dire need to understand and then spread Iqbal’s message in right perspective and his advices to Muslim ummah especially youth whom Allama cherished the most. If we reinstated this orchestra of Iqbal’s real message then for sure the viols of our soul will produce cadence of divine hymns. But the unfortunate reality is that Iqbal is still misinterpreted badly and given lots of labels like his being a Muslim fundamentalist (which he never was),responsible for the division of the country or widely believed that Iqbal inspired the idea of  Pakistan (ignoring the fact that he died in 1938 quite before the partition itself and also ignoring that he just cherished and advocated for a separate Muslim electorate for the life with dignity ,not a country with definite borders).
Also one more argument worthy of discussion here is that today though Iqbal is being much studied and most of the Iqbalian scholars object upon his being studies in different social sciences especially sociology. They must understand that if Iqbal is studied within a range of subjects today, it is not bad, but reflects Iqbal’s scholarship that makes him fit to be studies in many social sciences be that political science or sociology. Also labeling Iqbal merely a poet is a very wrong because Iqbal’s primary identity is of a thinker. Iqbal needs to be understood and his message needs to be spread across the globe without rhetoric.

Adfar ShahAdfar Shah (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based Kashmiri Sociologist and well-known social analyst and columnist at various reputed media groups. Adfar Shah has written sixty academic publications besides hundreds of conceptual articles. He has been writing on South Asia's socio-political realities at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs.


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