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Posts Tagged Dr. Mohammad Iqbal

Dr. MOHAMMAD IQBAL – A philosopher ahead of his time by Dr.Kausar Talat


Dr. Mohammad Iqbal – Philosopher ahead of his time


Dr. Kausar Talat

Positive Pakistan

[email protected]

November 09, 2014




Dr. Mohammad Iqbal is regarded as the most influential poet and scholar of the 20th century with revolutionary poetry and burning desire to move into the modern world with his belief and faith intact. Among many religious scholars at the time who prefer the status quo in Islamic teachings, it was Iqbal who showed Muslims the way to modern world in light of Islamic teachings. For that Iqbal had to face the wrath of ‘Mullahs’. He was declared an infidel for his poetry and philosophy for integrating Islam into the modern world or vice versa. Though Iqbal was born in 20th century, his philosophy and thoughts were ahead of his times. Not only that few philosopher at the time were able to interpret and understand his message to people, his very own people, Muslims, at large were unable to comprehend and failed to decipher his message. Actual recipient of Iqbal’s message have miserably failed so far to carry the torch and wisdom conveyed in Iqbal’s philosophy. Iqbal and Islam are inseparable as it should be for a practicing Muslim. To understand Iqbal, one has to take a peak of the world history and contributions of Islam to modern world. Iqbal opened his eyes in the subcontinent at a time when after ruling more than one thousand years, Ottoman Empire was on the decline and taking its last breathe of existence. Muslims, all over the world were suffering chaos, mental decline and latency. International political scene was changing at a speed that literally had spun the mind of Muslims intellectuals. On the technology front Muslims were aloof to the advancements in science and engineering while West was celebrating the ‘theory of relativity’ by Albert Einstein which is a proof in itself of Iqbal’s concept of God’s relationship to His creation. (Dr. Schimmel, 1989) observed that Einstein’s theory affirmed Iqbal’s thoughts on God’s relationship with universe. —- That, the universe is limitless and finite. (Dr. Schimmel) further observes: …. that the European philosophy and scholarship as explained by Iqbal through his poetry is not a threat to Muslims and their culture, and try to convince Muslims of India that new knowledge and concepts are nothing but their own heritage already discovered by Muslim scholars of the past. Interpreted in this way, European and Western civilization is a revival of the Muslim glorious past and no longer a danger for the Muslims but a motivation to reform themselves and their understanding of Islam. Among ancient scholars, Iqbal is very critical of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers as their philosophy, according to Iqbal’s perspective, was poisonous for the human ego as well as detrimental to Islamic thinking. Iqbal was very fond of Dante’s poetry. His idea of peace, love for the human kind was dear to Iqbal similar with Islamic thinking. Iqbal was also close to Goethe because of his philosophical thoughts. As Iqbal mature, his appreciation for Goethe also increases because of their similar thoughts on emotions and mutual desire to control animalistic desires of human. Iqbal is a philosopher in transition, adventurous, open mind, faithful and limitless. Among western thinkers, Iqbal was more influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, German thinker and writer who is considered to be the father of postmodernism but a disbeliever. Iqbal (1996, p. 89) in ‘Reconstruction of Islamic Thoughts’ described Nietzsche: “His brain is unbelieving, but his heart believing” as a result of Nietzsche’s statement: “God is dead” that is in absolute conflict with Iqbal’s own belief in creator of this universe. Probably Nietzsche‘s ideas and theories that are similar in their implications are very close to the teachings of Islam. Nietzsche’s influence on Iqbal is limited only to some of his ideas as a poet and to Nietzsche’s concept of ‘superman, but did not agree with atheism and statement of God being dead. Nietzsche’s concept of ‘superman’ that is considered as the start of postmodern age and the end of the era of Man is quite similar to Iqbal’s concept of ‘Mard-e-Momin’ (perfect man), which may have been an influence by another Muslim philosophers Rumi, whom Iqbal called his spiritual guide. Bergson’s (Dar, 2000, p. 177) theory of ‘creative evolution’ ….that only intuition can find out the reality of ‘creative evolutionary’ duration and this reality, which intuition finds in this way cannot be communicated to others with the help of written or spoken words. So reality can be found only through personal intuitive experience impressed Iqbal. Just like Bergson, Iqbal is of the opinion that pure knowledge can be acquired only through personal ‘intuitive’ experience (Dar, 2000). Though Iqbal’s concept of intuition is similar to that of Bergson’s with the same meaning but has given preference to this concept of intuition over rationality. Iqbal consider universe as the creation due to evolutionary changes which are powerful examples of his creator. Apparently Iqbal is in concurrence with every thinker whose thoughts are in alignment to his belief and faith.Dr. Shariati (1991) describes Iqbal’s advice to humanity: “Have a heart like Jesus, thoughts like Socrates, and hand like the hand of Cesar, but all in one human being, in one creature of humanity, based upon one spirit, in order to attain one goal.” That is, to be like Iqbal himself an integrator of all the best thoughts and theories man can develop. He finds that in the message of Qur’an. Iqbal had tried to define a dynamic Islam under the influence of Goethe and Rumi. Iqbal, (1996, p. 111) is always of the opinion that the human being is called upon to improve God’s universe in cooperation with his Creator, and that one should exhaust the never ending possibilities of interpreting Quran in order to survive ever changing circumstances. Iqbal, (1996, p. 97) did not rely exclusively upon intellect, but while admiring the modern technology and progress, called upon Muslims to participate in it. In his poem “Message of the East” Dr. Iqbal (1990) suggested that critical analysis and loving synthesis, must work together to create positive values. Thus it can be said in reality that Iqbal is a philosopher in transition who cannot be labeled, as he not only believed in action and motion but encourages the human to rise and change this world. Dr. Mohammad Iqbal is regarded as the most influential poet and scholar of the 20th century throughout the Muslim world with profound effect on sub-continent. His concept of Islamic revival did not only lead to the creation of Pakistan, but also the Iranian revolution has been credited to his poetry and philosophy. His works also played an influential role in the break- up of Soviet Union into republic, most of which are Muslim majority. Iqbal was a poet and a philosopher constantly in conversation with his people, a philosopher attempting to retrieve a Muslim Self to counter the overwhelming march of the West. That prompted Iqbal into a deep introspective study of Islam itself. One should be aware that Iqbal’s view of Europe and the West in general is not simply negative. For Iqbal the question is not of choosing between the East and the West but rather to find a middle ground where one do not have to abandon his real identity to be part of the modern world. Iqbal’s interpretation of philosophy calls for an engagement of East-West reciprocating ideas as such that both ideologies can share their core values to create a better world. For Iqbal the future does not just depend upon gaining Western knowledge but also by balancing this knowledge against Muslim traditions and faith. German Scholar Dr. Schimmel (1989) defends criticism of Iqbal on embracing the concept of Nietzsche’s “superman” reflecting Iqbal’s self and ego. She agrees with Iqbal’s approval of ‘Sharia’ as the appropriate set of limits for the self or ego that marks the distinction between Iqbal’s Perfect Man and the Nietzchean ‘superman.’ Iqbal has also been criticized for his advocacy to reject Western cultural influences. His poetic descriptions of the true practice of Islam some time are considered impractical and wrongly dismissive of diverse societies and cultural heritages. Nevertheless, his activism for the oppressed, downtrodden, often discriminated masses through Brahmin caste system and his concept of ‘Self” that earns him much of respect among Muslims as well as from non-Muslims. However Naipaul (1998, p. 250) and other Indian nationalists have criticized Iqbal for approving and encouraging the differences of Muslims with other religious communities in India. Because of this, responsibility of partition and fragmentation of India has been also credited to Iqbal. Hindu nationalists, however pointing the breakup of Pakistan suggested that Iqbal’s two nation theory was technically flawed and was wishful thinking, but they ignore the fact that Bangladesh chose to remain separate Muslim state instead of merging with India. Now India has two Muslim states two deal with. Despite this Hindu criticism Iqbal today is widely admired and followed in Pakistan, Iran, and Middle East as well as in Germany remembered as a reformer who attempted to balance East and West without compromising his own belief and faith. Iqbal was attracted to modern technology and excited to integrate his philosophy of Islam with the advancements of science, to build an understanding and to root out mutual mistrust at the highest intellectual level. He expressed this thought as: “In the West, Intellect is the source of life, In the East, Love is the basis of life. Through Love, Intellect grows acquainted with Reality, And Intellect gives stability to the work of Love, Arise and lay the foundations of a new world, By wedding Intellect to Love” (Iqbal 1877-1938)

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