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  Khawaja Ghulam Farid’s Doctrine  

 of Oneness of Being (Wahdat al-Wujud )

                               and 

            its Universal Realization*

F

 

rom the dawn of civilization to the era of the present day post-modernism, the questions of epistemology (knowledge) and ontology (being) have remained living issues in one form or the other. There have been many a thinkers in all cultures and times, who have understood the problems of knowledge and being at varying levels. The world has mainly witnessed two main streaks of thought. The first streak comprises the prophets, metaphysicians, mystics and theists who demonstrate the possibility of knowledge of the metaphysical world i.e. a world that exists beyond the sensible one. It not only embraces the empirical world in simultaneity but also embraces the inner self of Man by virtue of which one experiences the ultimate Reality or God. This world demonstrates the metaphysical identity of knowledge and being and constitutes all the great traditions and Religions of the world including Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The second streak comprises the atheists and the agnostics who not only deny the existence of the metaphysical world but also deny any faculty of knowledge in Man laying claim to any such knowledge and thus create an unbridgeable gulf between knowledge and being, which has led to the crisis of the modern world.

Kant, a German Philosopher, in his Critique of Pure Reason made a distinction between Phenomena and Noumena i.e. Appearance and Reality. He built his epistemology (knowledge) on the assumption that one could have knowledge only of the phenomena and the knowledge of the Noumena or Reality was not possible. He laid claim to the impossibility of metaphysics on the ground that metaphysics as a science was not possible and this claim in different forms is the dominant trend of the modern times. This constricted epistemology constricts the ensuing ontology too. The separation of knowledge and being has alienated Man both from his inner and outer world. The modern Man, thus perpetually commits, what I call, the Fallacy of Delimitation by delimiting the realms of both epistemology (knowledge) and ontology (being). He delimits knowledge and thereby delimits being. This is a foremost challenge faced by different spiritual revivalist movements in the world on the spectrum of time. Resurgence of Sufism as a universal movement for peace and development, for instance, faces this challenge and tends to defeat it on intellectual grounds.

The presence of the mystics in all countries and ages belie the epistemological and ontological assumptions that sense– experience is the only source of knowledge and knowledge of noumena or the ultimate nature of things is impossible. There is no ground in assuming that anything not traceable to sense perception is beyond knowledge. In addition, there is no basis to assume that the ultimate Reality or God is beyond the province of knowledge. Such an arbitrary denial of higher forms of knowledge leading to a denial of higher levels of reality is fraught with serious consequences for humanity. There is no denying the fact that Science is a legitimate discipline but when scientists overstep their boundaries by denying other forms of knowledge that are beyond the province of science, then science is metamorphosed into scientism. Man locked in human finitude has no way to achieve true transcendence. It is pertinent to note that metaphysics or higher religion does not come in conflict with any sphere of knowledge, which legitimately remains within its own individual domain. The conflict arises only when the individual sphere of knowledge attempts to usurp the universal by turning the true relative into a false absolute.

The essential problem of the modern Man is that he is strands on the spectrum of horizontality without any inkling of the vital dimension of verticality. The metaphysical concept of Universal in the modern world has undergone displacement by the horizontal concept of Globalization, which fails to offer space for larger life. Globalization is not going to solve the problems of the modern Man. It is a simply fixed finite energy, which is flattening out. Only the metaphysical or universal principles can unify knowledge and being and thereby provide a metaphysical basis for universal peace and development. There can be no real and lasting peace without a transcendent principle, which is immanent in each human being, created with a cosmic purpose in this universe. Unless the Divine purpose shines forth in human purpose, there cannot be true, genuine and authentic freedom, equality and solidarity in the human society. Iqbal rightly says “Humanity needs three things today—a spiritual interpretation of the universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual and basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis’. Notwithstanding, the great strides in technology, the modern Man has become spiritually impoverished. How can spiritual impoverishment lead to universal peace and development?

Religious phenomenon in our times is succumbing to the onslaught of modernism and false compromises like false promises are in the process of making with the so - called forces of progress. Intellectuality is giving way to rationalism and religion is turning into a bad philosophy. Religion is also becoming apologetic and defensive in the face of modern science that is transgressing its legitimate bounds. Spiritual virtues suffer displacement by social values. The outer form of religion is stifling the very essence of religion. The stages of religious life have become static and the highest stage of discovery has fallen in oblivion. Ritualism and militancy have emerged as a reaction to the loss of spirituality in our times. It is no coincidence that the religious militant movements in the world of Islam have taken a negative stance towards the spiritual dimension of religion. They negate the Sufi phenomena and have more or less aversion to spirituality. The negation of the spiritual element in the constitution of religion is the very death of religious life. The spiritual people belonging to different ages and countries have always considered spirituality as the essence of religion. The Sufis, for example, are folks of intellectuality and spirituality. They have reiterated the creative possibility of having a direct contact with living God. Finding God essentially is finding one’s own Self.

The great religious traditions of the world, more or less, have the inherent strength to live in conformity with the universal principles and they have the vitality to meet the genuine needs of its votaries in different periods. However, they have to purify themselves from within i.e., in the light of their own ideals envisioned by their founders, and not through modern seduction or any external inducement or threat. This factor of purification has been a continual phenomenon in different traditions and at different times. The contemporary times have made it exceedingly imperative that the process of purification quickens and heightens in order to provide a spiritually real world to the contemporary Man, who is on the threshold of severing his last link with the Heavens. It is incumbent upon all traditions of the world to strive for spiritual space, which alone can accommodate the anguishing humanity. The modern Man needs courage to be spiritual. Nevertheless, one has to remain aware of that form of mysticism, which stands for life denying attitude.

Resurgence of Sufism as a universal movement for peace and development is a marked phenomena in the present times. The resurgence has taken one of the most vital forms in the revival of the doctrine of Oneness of Being (wahdat al-wujud) in the hands of Khawaja Ghulam Farid (1845-1901), a Saraiki Sufi poet par excellence, belonging to this part of the world. The universal aspect of his thought is that unlike the religious metaphysician who delimits his approach by starting from the Divinity or differentiated Reality, he as a traditional metaphysician starts from the Essence or undifferentiated Reality. His starting point is the Supreme Principle. He calls it ‘Haqq’. It is formless unlike the divine form that equates with God or the Ultimate Ego. He goes beyond the individualized conception of God, Man and Universe and does not consider Man- God polarity as final as envisaged by Iqbal’s religious metaphysics but experiences it as merely provisional that transcends ultimately. He lays a traditional metaphysical edifice for universal peace and development by following the doctrinal teachings of Ibn Arabi, Mansur Hallaj, Bayazid Bistami and his spiritual master Khawaja Fakhr i Jehan. He is the precursor of the metaphysical thought of the contemporary times evident in a number of original thinkers including Rene Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, Titus Burckhardt, Ananda Coomarswamy and Martin Lings.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid does not delimit knowledge but extends its boundaries. From the perspective of metaphysical knowledge, he considers ordinary knowledge as veiled for it is tied to the subject and object structure of reality. There is no real connectivity of knowledge and being.

He says:

علم فریدؔ ہے حاجب

بے شک بے عرفان[1]

Farid! Knowledge is veiled. It is undoubtedly bereft of gnosis.

Ordinary perception considers the sensible world or phenomena as real and ends up in the ‘materialization’ and ‘solidification’ of the world whereas the phenomenal reality is devoid of Being (wujud). Men are in a state of sleep, the Prophet is reported to have said, and they will wake up when they die. The world is an illusion. It is bereft of real existence. It is an imagination (khayal) It is neither independent reality nor autonomous from the Absolute. It is the shadow of Reality. “The whole world of existence is imagination within imagination.” However, it does not mean that the world is vain, groundless and false. The metaphysical truth is that the world is not the Reality itself but it “reflects the latter on the level of imagination” in a ‘vague’ and an indistinctive way. It is “symbolic reflection of something truly real”. It is a dream meaning thereby that it is symbolic and we have to interpret it as we interpret our dreams to go beyond dream symbolism. Man does not see the Reality itself in a dream but sees it in a form of a symbol of the Reality, which we have to understand in reference to its origin. It is going beyond sense experience and reason that one sees “the metaphysical transparency of natural forms and objects.” Thus, reality is not a subjective illusion, whim or something imaginary. It is “objective illusion.” It “is an unreality standing on a firm ontological basis.” Thus, the world is an illusion (wahm) for it is not the Reality itself. It is an imagination (khayal) for it is not independent or autonomous from the Absolute and it is a dream (khawab) for its symbols point towards the Reality beyond the dream symbols.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid says:

جگ وہم خیال تے خوابے

سب صورت نقش بر آبے

The world is illusion, imagination and dream. All forms are marks on water.

جے پچھدیں حال حقیقت

جیویں بحر محیط ہے وحدت

سن سمجھ اُتے رکھ عبرت

کل کثرت شکل حبابے

If you ask about the state of reality, then listen, understand and take a note of the fact that the sea encompasses unity. All the multiplicity is bubble-faced.

نہیں اصلوں اصل دوئی دا

گیا پُھوکا نکل دوئی دا

خود جان ہے نسل دوئی دا

ول اوہی آب دا آبے[2]

Duality has no essential reality. Know yourself that duality is not everlasting. The airy duality vanishes. The water essentially remains the same water.

The traditional cosmologies have outlined cosmological principles to understand the reality of the cosmos and its linkages with the Absolute. A failure to understand the metaphysical meaning enshrined in cosmology brings in an unwarranted criticism against the cosmologists. Khawaja Ghulam Farid has developed a cosmology in consonance with the traditional cosmological principles. It is exceedingly imperative to understand these principles of cosmology in order to understand his metaphysical concept of Nature.

He considers knowledge as innate. All knowledge in  heres in the luminous substance of the Intellect. Heart is the repository of metaphysical knowledge. He says:

نہ کافی جان کفایہ

کر پرزے جلد وقایہ

نہ ہادی سمجھ ہدایہ

ایہا دل قرآن کتابے

Do not consider ‘Kifaya’ (a book of jurisprudence) as sufficient. Do not consider ‘Hidaya’ (a book of jurisprudence) as the guide. Just tear to bits the pages of ‘Wiqaya’ (a book of jurisprudence). Our heart is the immanent Qur’an (corroborated by the earthly Qur’an).

ہے پرم گیان وِی دلڑی

ہے جان جہان وِی دلڑی

ہے بید پُران وِی دلڑی

دل بطن بطون دا بابے

Heart is love and gnosis.  Heart is the essence of life as portrayed in Hindu Scriptures: Vedas and Puranas. Heart is the artery of the universe. Heart opens to infinite depths of interiority.

دِل لُب ہے کون مکاں دا

دل مرکز زمین زماں دا

دل غایت اصل جہاں دا

بیا کُوڑ پَلال حجابے

Heart is the quintessence of the universe. Heart is the raison d’etre of creation. Heart is the centre of the heavens and the earth. All else is false, deceptive and veiled.

وِچ صورت دے ناسوتی

جبروت اتے لَاہوتی

وچ معنے دے ملکوتی

دل اندر سب اسبابے[3]

It is terrestrial in form. It is celestial in meaning.  It is omnipotent and beyond space and time. All possibilities of knowledge inhere in the heart.

Real knowledge is the knowledge of the permanent essences of things and it is attainable by virtue of ‘ishq’ or intuition. Khawaja Ghulam Farid says:

عشق ہے ہادی پرم نگر دا

عشق ہے رہبر راہ فقر دا

عشقوں حاصل ہے عرفان[4]

Love is the guide to the city of affection. Love steers the way to ontological nothingness. Love leads to the realisation of gnosis.

Looking within posits the possibility of experiencing God in the infinite depths of one’s own being or consciousness. He says:

فاش فرید اے وعظ سنا توں

جے کوئی چاہے فقر فنا کوں

عالم جاہل شاہ گدا کوں

اپنے آپ کوں گولے[5]

Farid! Openly narrate this spiritual discourse to the knowledgeable, ignorant, king and beggar that any one who wishes to attain the consciousness of his ontological nothingness and annihilation should search within himself.



*     Paper presented in the International Conference on “Resurgence of Sufism as a Universal Movement for Peace and Development held from 18-20 July 2008 at Hafiz Hayat Campus, University of Gujrat, Pakistan

[1]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 139.

[2]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 199.

[3]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 199.

[4]     Ibid., Kafi 134.

[5]     Ibid., Kafi 180.

اپرم بید بتاؤں

میں اگیانی کو گیان سناؤں

I am disclosing the supreme Veda. I am imparting knowledge to the ignorant.

سرت سرندھ ہاتھ موں لے کر

پریم کی تار بجاؤں

I take the violin of knowledge in my hands and play the tune of love.

پانچ سکھی مل رام دوارے

ست گر کی جس گاؤں

I laud the Divinity by integrating five intimates (senses) in the temple of God.

کونج گلی میں شام سندر سنگ

ہوری دھوم مچاؤں

I celebrate ‘Holi’ in the beautiful streets with ‘Krishan’ (my beloved).

میت چیت پچکاری ماروں

پریت گلال اڈاؤں

I squirt the love laden and make the colour of love soar.

کہاں اجودھیا سنبل متھرا

کہاں گوردھن جاؤں

Why should I wander at Ajodhia, Sanbal, Mathra and Gurdhan (Hindu pilgrimage centres)?

لچھمن رام کنیا کلگی

اپنے آپ موں پاؤں

(When) Lachman, Ram, Kanaya and Kalgi (deity incarnate) are within me.

دیسوں کہاں بدیس کو دوڑوں

جوگ براگ کماؤں

Why should I leave my native abode, run to unfamiliar places and undergo hard spiritual exercises or become an ascetic?

سورج چاند کو سنمکھ راکھوں

سن سمادھ لگاؤں

Why should I keep the sun and moon opposite my face for concentrating on the focal point (ritual)?

پیپل تلسی کاہے کو پوجوں

کاہے کو تیرتھ ناؤں

Why should I worship (peepal) a tree and (tulsi) a shrub? And why should I go for a bath to the sacred place?

اور سے کام فرید نہ میرو

آتم   دیو   مناؤں[1]

Farid! I have no business with otherness. I am realising the Spirit within myself.

رہ توحیدی رِیت فریدی

اپنے آپ دا دھیانے[2]

The way of unity and the Faridi tradition is watchfulness of one’s inner self.

He understands the metaphysical reality of Man by dint of Intellect or Spirit (Ruh) that is in Man but is not his. It is the presence of this universal element in Man and not ego, self, soul or ‘nafs’ that make him transcend the narrow circuits of his individuality. He does not equate Spirit (ruh) with soul (nafs) and thus, goes beyond the problem of pantheism that has no cause of origin in his traditional metaphysics. He wants Man to understand his Origin and Centre. He says:

کس دھرتی سے آئے ہو تم

پرم نگر ہے دیس تمہارا

کس نگری کے باسی رے

پھرتے کہاں اداسی رے

Which is the place of your origin? Where are your dwellings oh? Your habitation is in the city of love. Why are you wandering forlorn, oh?

تم ہو ساگی تم ہو ساگی

اپنی ذات صفات کو سمجھو

واگی ذرہ نہ واگی رے

اپنی کرو شناسی رے[3]

You are the real and you are the truth. You are neither fake nor there is an iota of a counterfeit in you, oh. Do understand the reality of your essence and attributes. Realise yourself from within, oh.

This universal realization embraces both the inward and the outward. It takes spiritual nourishment from the inner world to bring a real change in the outer one. Thus, when he talks of peace, harmony, concord and tranquillity, he does not lose sight of the freedom from oppression, which is the absolute guarantor of peace. He does not advocate a passive attitude towards life but wants Man to struggle against the forces of oppression in order to find himself and thereby emancipate humanity. Khawaja Ghulam Farid integrates contemplation and action in his advice to Suba Sadiq Khan in these beautiful verses:

سہجوں پھلوں سیجھ سُہا توں

اپنے ملک کوں آپ وَساتوں

بخت تے تخت کوں جوڑ چھکاتوں

پَٹ انگریزی تھانے[4]

You readily choose to grace your seat and with fortune establish yourself in full power. You make your dominion prosper with your own hands and uproot the seats of colonial oppression.

However, this struggle against oppression is not born out of any negative considerations. It does not exhibit even an iota of hate or transgression from the universal law of things. Rather, it is realization of universal love in this distinct mode that authenticates such an act. Love of humanity warrants a genuine struggle against the forces of exploitation. Failure to put such a struggle is a betrayal of love.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid has assigned a vital role to love in his scheme of things. His metaphysical thought, in a certain sense, becomes the metaphysics of love. He considers ‘ishq’ or love itself as inspiring the Reality or God to create the universe. He says:

کُنت کنزاً عشق گواہی

پہلوں حب خود ذات کوں آہی

جیں سانگے تھیا جمل جہان[5]

‘Hidden Treasure’ testifies love itself. Originally, the Essence inspired itself with love. It caused the entire universe.

He brings out the various dimensions of love in these beautiful verses:

عشق ہے ڈکھڑے دل دی شادی

عشق ہے ساڈا پیر

عشق ہے رہبر مرشد ہادی

جیں  کل  راز سُجھایا[6]

Love is the delight of the suffering heart. Love is the mentor, spiritual master and guide. Love is our spiritual teacher, who has made us realise the whole secret.

بِندرا بَن میں کھیلے ہو ری

شام دوارے میرو لال

My beloved plays Holi in the temple of Krishan in Bindraban.

اِدھر مدھر مون بنسی باجے

بھولی کایہ مایہ موڑی

چوراسی لکھ ساج آواجے

سن کے گیان انوکھے خیال

The flute is harping on enchanting songs. There are eighty-four lacs musical tunes forming songs. I have absolutely forgotten wealth and myself after listening to the mystical and gnostic thoughts.

ترکھٹ جمنا ترپھٹ ناؤں

پی کے پی سنگ پریم کٹوری

دُرمت دویت پاپ مٹاؤں

ناچت گاوت رنگ رس تال

I bathe in the river Jamna (of triangular characteristics) to my heart’s fill. I wash myself of the sins of alienation and duality. I drink the cup of love in the company of my beloved, while dancing and singing on the tune of love.

انہد گھور گگن موں گاجے

لاگی جوری سبد ٹکورے

چنگ مردنگ لکھو لکھ باجے

برست گر پرتیت گلال

The divine flute is harping clamorous tunes in the heavens. It seems as if thousands of harps and long tom-toms are sounding. The beat of words is striking the pair of drums. The love of the spiritual master is bestowing colourful blessings (likened to ‘gulal’ that is red powder thrown on one another during the festival of Holi).

برج موں دھوم پری دھن لاگے

بانہہ مروڑے بنگری توڑے

ابھماں ٹوٹے کبدھیا بھاگے

کنور کنہئے چنچل چال

There is dawn of merriment in the world. Haughtiness, pride and ignorance have fled away. The charming beloved has made a playful move by twisting my arms and breaking my bangles.

داس فرید آکاس ہمارا

آتم سوں دل لاگی جوری

دیس ایہو ابناس ہمارا

ہوں میں سنسار ہت پتال[7]

Farid! Heavens is our original abode. The world (terrestrial) is ephemeral. Do heartedly realise your Spirit. Otherwise, you will be condemned to the infernal world.

کیا رِیت پریت سِکھائی ہے

سَب ڈسدا حُسن خدائی ہے

What a tradition love has made me realise. The Divine beauty is manifest everywhere.

ڈسدی یار مِٹھل دی صورت

ہر ویلھے ہے شگن مہورت

کُل تصویر اتے کُل مورت

غیر دی خبر نہ کائی ہے[8]

I see the sweet form of my friend in its complete picture and full face. It is a good omen to see the form of my friend every time. There is no trace of otherness (or non divine).

Love has a great might and it moves with an irresistible force. He says:

حسن فرید کئی گھر لوٹے

سے سسیاں لکھ ہِیراں

رلدیاں پھردیاں جنگل بوٹے

ڈیکھو عشق دی شدت کو[9]

Farid! Beauty has ransacked many a home. There are numerous Sassis and countless Heers, who are wandering, wretchedly in forests and marshes. Do hereby witness the intensity of love.

The alchemy of suffering in love transmutes the base metal into gold that helps in attaining individual and universal realization.

He says:

درد فرید ہمیشہ ہووے

رہندی تانگھ تے تان

سارے پاپ دوئی دے دھودے

پہنچاں  پریم  نگر وچ[10]

Farid! I am having constant pain. It wipes out all the sins of duality. I have insatiable longing to reach the City of Love.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid’s doctrine of Oneness of Being (wahdat al-wujud) understands the Reality or God as the Absolute, the Infinite, the Metaphysical Whole and the Universal Possibility. It broadens the metaphysical concept of the Universal to contain both the vertical and horizontal dimensions ‘existent and operative everywhere under all conditions without any limit or exception’. It embraces not only the global but the cosmic as well. It talks about the inward and the outward. It realizes Man’s ontological nothingness in Face of the Absolute or God. It ascribes all reality to Being itself and considers the whole universe including Man as its manifestation. The phenomena or manifestation has no self-subsistent reality. In other words, it has no reality in itself but derives it from the Supreme Reality. It is nonbeing in reference to the Being, which is sheer reality. Such a metaphysical view caters for the perspectives of both transcendence and Immanence. It is not merely a theoretical doctrine but has the corresponding possibility of realization as well.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid says:

ہمہ اوست دے بھید نیارے

ہر ہر شے وچ کرن نظارے

جانن وحدت دے ونجارے

اصل تجلی طوری نوں[11]

The mysteries of Oneness of Being are remarkable. They are known by the dealers of Unity. They behold the real Sinai theophany in each and every existent.

 


[1]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 85..

[2]     Ibid., Kafi, 246.

[3]     Ibid., Kafi 247.

[4]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 239.

[5]     Ibid., Kafi 134..

[6]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 8.

[7]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 70.

[8]     Ibid., Kafi 253.

[9]     Ibid., Kafi 149..

[10]    Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi-28.

[11]    Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 119.

The doctrine of Oneness of Being (wahdat al-wujud) considers ‘the Indivisible One and Only’ as the ‘One and All’. He says:

ہر صورت وچ یار کوں جانیں

غیر نہیں موجود

Discern your Friend in each form. There is no otherness (self-subsistent reality except the Reality).

سبھ اعداد کوں سمجھیں واحد

کثرت ہے مفقود

Understand the essential unity of all numbers. Plurality is impossibility.

وصل فرید کوں حاصل ہویا

جب  ہو  گیا  نابود[1]

Farid attained union (identity) by ceasing to be.

سوہنے یار پُنل دا

ہر جا عین ظہور

My lovely friend Punnal is openly manifest.

اول آخر ظاہر باطن

اس دا جان حضور

Witness his presence in the first, the last, the outward and the inward (in all dimensions).

آپ بنے سلطان جہاں دا

آپ  بنے  مزدور[2]

He himself assumes the form of the sovereign of the world and He himself assumes the form of a labourer.

رکھ تصدیق نہ تھی آوارہ

کعبہ، قبلہ، دیر، دوارہ

مسجد،  مندر، ہِکڑو  نور[3]

Do verify and do not remain on the periphery. The House of God, the direction of prayer, the idol- temple, and the Sikh place of worship, the mosque and the temple manifest the same (essential) Light.

یار فرید نہیں مستورے

ظلمت بھی سب نور حضورے

ہر جا اس دا عین ظہورے

اسم فقط بیا آیا ہے[4]

Farid! My friend is not hidden. He is openly manifest at each and every place (Omnipresent). Darkness too is the pervasive presence of Light. It has just been named differently.

ہک جا روپ سنگار ڈکھاوے

ہر مظہر وچہ آپ سماوے

ہِک جا عاشق بن بن آوے

اپناں آپ کرے دیدار[5]

He exhibits ornamental beauty at times and at times recurs as lover. He dwells in each manifestation. He contemplates Himself.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid’s doctrine of Oneness of Being (wahdat al-wujud) remains committed with harmonious development, which is the development of all the aspects of life. It does not subscribe to lop sided growth, which is malignant in nature but integrates both inner and outer development of Man and Society. And in this process of developing it does not become oblivious of the metaphysical concepts of the Absolute, the Infinite, the Reality, the Truth, the Freedom, the Beauty, the Good, the Light and Love, rather it is in the universal realization of these metaphysical truths that that there can be peace and development. He invites humanity to concentrate on the Reality, which is manifest in all forms and is ‘Non Delimited Being’ itself. The phenomena of falsehood, evil, ugliness and hatred, for instance, arise in the process of manifestation of the Reality, which is necessitated by the Infinite that is All-Possibility. All of them can only be produced in a world of contrasts. They are privations for they have no being in themselves. In other words, they are devoid of being. However, they have a positive function of highlighting their negative counterparts. The remoteness of each from its source is not absolute and thus each is brought back by virtue of cosmic cycles to its original source to become purified of their negative characteristics. Since, falsehood, evil, ugliness and hatred are not absolutes therefore we must not treat them as such but keep ourselves integrated with the Source, which is the Truth, the Good, the Beautiful and the Love. It is such a metaphysical understanding that can usher in an era of universal peace and development.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid says:

حسن قبح سب مظہر ذاتی

ہر رنگ میں بے رنگ پیارا[6]

Beauty and ugliness are the manifestations of the Essence. The lovely colourless is in each colour.

ہک دے سانگے ہک دی سوں ہے

خیر  بھلی  شر وِسریا[7]

I swear by the One that for the sake of the One, I have become oblivious of both good and evil.

غافل شاغل ناسی ذاکر

صالح طالح مومن کافر

سَب ہے نُور قدیم دا شان[8]

All is the Splendour of the Primordial Light (manifest) in the unmindful and the devotee, the neglectful and the attentive, the virtuous and the vicious and the faithful and the infidel.

حق باطل، سبھ حق ہے حق ہے

یار ہے یار ہے یار ہے یار

پر اے راز بہوں مغلق ہے

سوہنا کوجھا نیک اتے بد[9]

Truth and falsehood is essentially truth itself but it is a much profound secret. The beautiful, ugly, virtuous, and vicious are our friends, companions, comrades and intimates.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid’s doctrine of Oneness of Being (wahdat al-wujud) is the metaphysical ground of understanding the principle of unity in diversity. It presents a universal perspective of witnessing opposing things and events. It brings home the message that light, essentially remains light in case of both reflection and deflection. It demonstrates the possibility of conflict even among different shades of rightness and the mode of resolving it. It tends to eradicate negativity about negative things by the tremendous force of love. Love has the capacity and strength to transcend all that is ephemeral in life. It makes Man live beyond the polarity of truth and falsehood; good and evil; beautiful and ugly; love and hatred by absolutely concentrating on the Truth itself, Good itself, Beauty itself and Love itself respectively. It is the metaphysical perspectives of Oneness of Being (wahdat al-wujud) that can help usher in an era of universal peace and development.



[1]     Ibid., Kafi 32..

[2]     Ibid., Kafi 52.

[3]     Ibid., Kafi 50.

[4]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 217.

[5]     Ibid., Kafi 60.

[6]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 7.

[7]     Ibid., Kafi 13.

[8]     Ibid., Kafi 134.

[9]     Ibid., Kafi 30.

 

  Iqbal’s Metaphysics of Culture  
And the Arab Awakening*

T

 

he Arab awakening is a unique happening, which is giving us a moment of reflection to revisit our values and philosophies. The Arab Spring is being studied from different perspectives. Our perspective is essentially rooted in Eastern metaphysics. It also enlightens us in understanding the polarisation between Eastern and Western values and philosophies. It is essential to understand the dimensions of this polarisation, in order to comprehend the reality of cultural diversity and integration in the contemporary context of Arab transformation.

Man has been blessed with knowledge, in order to remain journeying on the path of righteousness without going astray. He has been endowed with freedom so that he could create goodness in the cosmos by virtue of his thought, feeling, word and deed. But he has not succeeded at times to live up to the higher possibilities of his cosmic existence. It has led to imbalance both in the individual and society. The struggle of Truth against falsehood, Justice against injustice and Freedom against bondage has not come to an end in the history of Man. It continues to take different cultural forms in different ages and countries.

Man, in the scenario of cultural history, has tried to understand his self, the cosmos and God at different levels and with different orientations. His journey continues with series of affirmations and negations. One of his foremost concerns has been to grapple with the problem of knowledge. Epistemology (science of knowledge) has generally guided him to ontology (science of being). Is there any possibility of a world beyond our ordinary empirical world? Are there possibilities of knowledge within man beyond his sense-experience? These are essentially two interrelated primordial questions, at times nameless, which to all intents and purposes have been found in their varied formulations in different cultures. They shall continue to remain so till the end of times. The Eastern metaphysical, religious and philosophical traditions have given affirmative answers to these questions, while the philosophies of the modern West including materialism, dialectical materialism, positivism, logical positivism, atheistic existentialism, and certain forms of linguistic philosophy have denied the transcendent world and any transcendent source of knowledge.

Kant raised a very important question in the history of human thought in his Critique of Pure Reason: Is metaphysics possible? He denied the possibility of metaphysics. He considered only sense-experience and pure reason as valid forms of knowledge. According to him, there was no way to reach the Reality beyond Appearance. He banished God, freedom and immortality from the realm of knowledge. His Critique of Practical Reason accepted them merely as postulates without any connectivity with knowledge. His question had posed a great challenge to the metaphysical or the traditional world.

Many thinkers in different cultures accepted this challenge including Iqbal (1877-1938) who is one of the most dynamic thinkers in the world of Islam. He was well versed both with Eastern and Western thought. He combined in himself both traditional knowledge and modern learning. He was deeply steeped in the Eastern tradition and had a thorough understanding of Greek thought, Western philosophy and Sciences. He carefully studied the German Philosopher Kant and keenly perceived the subtle trends of modern philosophy in the West. He turned Kant’s philosophical question: Is metaphysics possible, to the religious one: Is Religion Possible. Iqbal answered in the affirmative and thereby developed his own religious metaphysics. His traditional understanding, coupled with deeper study of modern philosophy and modern psychology, made him critically examine Kantian assumptions. He found no cogent reason in Kant’s reservations about knowing the ultimate Reality. Iqbal did not accept sense-experience as the only source of knowledge. He considered heart-perception as a higher form of knowledge, which complemented sense-perception.

The problem of knowledge has its direct and indirect bearings on the understanding of culture and its various expressions. The term culture is impregnated with different meanings and there is no universal definition of it, which could be acceptable to all. It poses a fundamental problem but at the same time it is commended for keeping it an open issue. Thinkers belonging to diverse cultures are approaching the issue from different perspectives and are thus enriching the subject field. The contemporary bent of mind is manifesting a tendency of treating the concept of culture in a more holistic, comprehensive and wider sense. It is realizing the need to have a broader definition of culture including social, ideational and artistic aspects reflecting the whole life of a given society. The Chinese, for instance, have attached a much wider meaning to the word culture including the event of Cultural Revolution. They have assigned a comprehensive and decisive role to the cultural aspects of their lives, but still they are oblivious of the metaphysical and transcendent aspects of their traditional culture.

Culture, in an essential sense, mirrors the whole life of a given society over a larger period of time. It tends to give an all-embracing cultural meaning to things and events. This cultural perception is the manifestation of the foundational frame of reference, which a culture provides to its votaries. Metaphysically speaking, it is an inwardness, which assumes outward forms. Epistemology and Ontology, among other things, are essential ingredients of a given culture. They differentiate a transcendent culture from the ephemeral or the evanescent one. This distinction helps us in understanding the essential characteristics of different cultures. The varied cultural perceptions lead to the phenomena of cultural diversity. It is the inner reach of a culture, which in the last analysis, brings out its vitality to integrate divergent trends of different cultures within its bosom.

Iqbal has added a very instructive chapter on the spirit of Muslim culture. Islamic Culture is a transcendent and traditional culture embracing the permanent and dynamic aspects of life. Its uniqueness consists in its capacity and strength to absorb elements from different cultures. A study of this process of transformation or continuity clearly spells out the vigour of Islam as a universal tradition. It has the ability to creatively assimilate different points of views and different levels of reality. Islamic tradition or Islamic civilization is not windowless. It has appropriated elements of different civilizations and cultures, which have been in consonance with its essential doctrine. In short, Islam legitimizes many a cultural forms and retains them for the development of an integral vision. Iqbal expresses the view of Horton in these words: “A Muslim has always adjusted his religious outlook to the elements of culture which he assimilated from the people that surrounded him”.[1]

A study of culture from the historical perspective by applying the historical method alone does not take us to the heart of a culture. It has to be coupled with a methodology, which makes us aware of the inner structural reality of a culture. It helps us to understand its spirit. It has to be looked from within and not merely from outside. The cultural studies have to keep an important fact in mind about the Eastern metaphysical concepts, which hardly find a parallel in Western philosophical thinking. The metaphysical concept of Oneness of Being (wahdat al-wujud), for example, which is the foundation of both pure and traditional metaphysics is mistakenly equated with the Western philosophical concept of pantheism. The students of Eastern metaphysics fully understand that the doctrine of Oneness of Being, unlike pantheism, does not deny the transcendence of God. There is no room of pantheism in traditional forms of thinking. Likewise, the concepts of freedom, equality and fraternity are qualitatively different in the Eastern and Western cultures. The Qur’anic concept of Justice (Adl) is not merely social but it embraces the whole cosmos. The political concept of nationalism is also differently construed in these cultures.

The idea of nationalism, Iqbal says, has created variety but has also been exaggerated. He calls this idea as “non-temporal, non-spatial”. He does not take the idea of national unity as a very durable force either. He considers the brotherhood of man, the only dependable unity, which is above race, nationality, colour or language. He says: “Islam is neither Nationalism nor Imperialism but a League of Nations which recognizes artificial boundaries and racial distinctions for facility of reference only and not for restricting the social horizon of its members”. [2]

The traditional, cultural or social institutions are linked to the metaphysical or religious principles. There is a traditional hierarchy of values, which cannot be understood merely on the horizontal plane. The Islamic tradition, for example, is both metaphysical and religious. The social institutions of Islam including the institution of family are founded on its religious aspect. “In Islam, tradition exists under two distinct aspects, one of which is religious it is upon this aspect that the general body of social institutions is dependent--while the other aspect which is purely Oriental, is wholly metaphysical”.[3] According to Iqbal, “the Qur’an considers it necessary to unite religion and state, ethics and politics in a single revelation”.[4] The traditional cultures attachment to an intellectual or religious doctrine gives meaning to all these institutions. The role of men and women in complementing each other finds its due place in a traditional society. No cultural or social institution in the traditional world is autonomous. The modern conception of traditional societies is quite wide off the mark. It tends to adjudge the traditional culture from the modern standards. They can only be studied from their respective ideal standards in the spirit of wholeness. Unless we understand diversity, it is not possible to talk of integration.

The modern humanistic culture is essentially, characterized by the absence of the metaphysical principle. It is pertinent to note that whatever form humanism has taken---atheistic, evolutionary, agnostic, scientific and existential---it has essentially agreed to reduce everything to the purely human elements and thereby to exclude everything, which transcends the human plane. This point has to be constantly kept in view while we are dealing with the subject of cultural diversity and integration.

The Western civilization has had a great and rich intellectual heritage but the modern West revolted against its own Christian tradition and the ancient world in severing its links from Heavens. Resultantly, epistemology came to consider sense-experience as the sole source of knowledge and ontology followed suit by considering the visible world as the only level of being. The role of reason consisted only in cohering data received from the empirical world. The vertical levels of knowledge and being were displaced by the


*      Paper presented in Iqbal Seminar, arranged by Iqbal Academy Scandinavia (IAS), Islamic-Christian Study Centre (IKS) and Centre for European Islamic Thought (CEIT) held at Copenhagen University, Demark on 12th November 2011.

[1]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 130.

[2]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 126.

[3]     Guenon, Rene, Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines, Luzac and Company London, 1945, p.90

[4]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p.132.

 

horizontal ones. The modern man cramped himself in his thought and emotion by becoming oblivious of the sacred and the transcendent, which he had banished both from knowledge and being. Modernism displaced traditional ethics with the modern one.

The intellectual and spiritual principles of morality were negated and morality became autonomous in being tied to human finitude. As a consequence, modernism started becoming irreverent to the metaphysical idea of Eastern Vision. It enmeshed itself in the political philosophies of Power, instead. Nietzsche’s philosophy spearheaded the modernist value of brute force, which ultimately led to an unbridgeable gulf between power and vision. Vision was displaced with power devoid of all reverence to the traditional values of Truth, Justice, Freedom and Love. It was in this scenario that the nation-States resorted to the First World War and the Second one, the reverberations of which are still audible in the corridors of many nations and communities. The suffering from this political oppression continues in our times in different hidden and open forms. The sense of injustice done to the people in many parts of the world is not mere history but is a living reality of the oppressed people.

Iqbal considered history as an important source of knowledge. He learnt many a lessons from the Philosophy of History. His primary task was to emancipate the Muslim Ummah in particular and human society in general. He acknowledged the pride of the modern age on its progress in knowledge and its scientific advancements but questioned its different political and social forms. He says: “The modern age prides itself on its progress in knowledge and its matchless scientific developments. No doubt, the pride is justified. Today space and time are being annihilated and man is achieving amazing successes in unveiling the secrets of nature and harnessing its forces to his own service. But in spite of all these developments, the tyranny of imperialism struts abroad, covering its face in the masks of Democracy, Nationalism, Communism, Fascism and heaven knows what else besides”.[1]

The modernist political forces shaping themselves in his times made him see the modern West drunk with power and unleashing on different feeble nations and communities. He envisions a unity of wisdom and power. He says: “Through wisdom alone comes power; and when power abandons the ways of wisdom and relies upon itself alone, its end is death”.[2] The plight of the Muslims, on the other hand, exhibited powerlessness. He presented a recipe to both East and West in these emphatic words: “Vision without power does bring moral elevation but cannot give a lasting culture. Power without vision tends to become destructive and inhuman. Both must combine for the spiritual expansion of humanity”.[3]

The modern West armed with weapons of sheer might created the problem of Jerusalem. It is not possible to fully understand the current Arab Spring without a reference to this issue. Iqbal attempted to awaken the higher consciousness on Jerusalem, through his prose and poetry in the spirit of righteousness. Iqbal voiced the thoughts and feelings of the Muslim Ummah and the conscience of the world in presenting the case of the Palestinians at that time. He fully opposed the Peel Commission Report, which recommended the idea of partitioning Palestine. He still had hopes that sense of justice and fair play will make the British abstain from doing injustice to the people of Palestine. He also wanted the Arab leaders to rise to the occasion but his hopes did not materialise. He died in 1938 while the British were in control of Palestine under the Mandate system (1922-1948) of the League of Nations, and promoting wider scale immigration of the Jews into Palestine in line with the Balfour Declaration. He did not live to see the partitioning of Palestine in 1948 by a Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly and the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel. It was not only what was done by the Western powers but the way it was done drew a big question mark on the integrity of modern world institutions and their capacity to provide justice.

The traditional world comprising the great metaphysical and religious traditions of the world has been a mirror of cultural harmony in Jerusalem, which from the times of Caliph Umar has been mainly a sanctuary for the Muslims, Jews and Christians. But the disruptive forces of colonialism, in flagrant violation of the traditional principle of Justice (Adl), sowed seeds of disunity and as a consequence routed the centuries tested principle of cultural diversity and integration. The religious differentiations among the Jews, Christians and Muslims has been traditional and a family affair in Palestine for a greater part of several centuries. It is modernism, which initiated a political divide amongst them in violence of the traditional spirit. The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the breaking of the Arabian world in fragments, and the tearing apart of the Muslim fabric of being at the hands of the Western might had created great problems for the Arab world. The forces of Imperialism, which earlier not only subjugated the Arabs, but in the same vein imposed such rulers on them or supported them till their end was in sight, continued an era of suppressing the people. The transformation in the Arab world is essentially an awakening against the oppressors who have exploited their people in the name of religion or modernism and whose roots go back to the Imperialist designs. The dark night of the Arab world is having its dawn, and people are finding happiness in their new found freedom.

The desperate attempt of the modern West to impose modernism on humanity in different forms is widening the gulf between people living in different parts of the world. There can never be a ‘Clash of Civilizations,’ even if one of the civilizations ceases to be a civilization by turning into a ‘sensate culture’. Civilizations by their very definition are vertically tied with Heavens, and they have inherent strength to absorb even the greatest horizontal shocks. They are attuned to ‘dispel evil with good’. But the agenda of demolishing the traditional world can lead to cultural contradictions without any possibility of integration. There is no denying the fact that certain oppressive things, due to fallible human elements, have crept up in the traditional societies in the forms of cruel customs, naïve beliefs and outworn practices. But they are not only against the sensitivity of the contemporary man but they contradict the tradition itself.

However, the very idea of reforming such a society on modern standards is highly counter-productive. A traditional society can only be creatively transformed from within in consonance with its own permanent Ideals inherent in its respective tradition. The traditional society has no reservations in imbibing the wisdom of humanity in its task of reconstruction, which is in consonance with its essential spirit. The best way for the modern world is to sincerely refrain from modernising the traditional world and let it flower from within. Rather, the modern West needs to rediscover its own Christian tradition and thereby initiate a genuine dialogue with the traditional societies. A pure traditional society is no threat either to the modern West or to humanity. Rather, it is a guarantor of universal peace and harmony.

The principle of spirituality is the foundation of humanity. The role of spirituality is crucial in cementing the bonds of mankind. Iqbal says: “Humanity needs three things today - a spiritual interpretation of the universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual and basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis.”[4] There are certain segments of Muslim Community, which are becoming more and more ritualistic and militant. The aforesaid trends are generally, manifest in all those schools of thought, which are directly or indirectly aversive to Sufi doctrines, methods and practices. Mere clinging to the exoteric aspects of religion at the cost of its esoteric or spiritual dimension, leads to conflicts within a religious perspective and also contradictions among other religious perspectives. Such religious behaviour is inconsistent with the idea of ‘the transcendent unity of religions’ and the metaphysical principle of ‘unity in diversity.’ It is the need of the hour that the younger generations of the Arab world are awakened to their common intellectual and spiritual heritage. It is the spiritual element of a traditional society, which can prove to be a unifying force. It will foster unity in a tradition and help foster unity amongst other traditions of the world. It has the capacity to embrace the whole humanity, nay the whole creation. The Spirit creates unity. Anything other than it is divisive. One cannot reach unity by adding multiplicity. Spirituality is essential for the survival and development of both the individual and society.

Iqbal, in this context, regards the idea of Tawhid or unity of God necessary for the emancipation of an individual and society. It is an idea, which ensures equality, solidarity and freedom. It stands for eliminating all forms of human exploitation. The Islamic concept of State endeavours to translate these ideals into socio-political reality. Iqbal is essentially concerned with alleviating the sufferings of the common man. One of his principal political visions has been to bring out the spiritual principle of the inherent dignity of man, which rules out any form of racial, social, cultural or religious discrimination in an Islamic State. He desires a society based on the principles of social justice, cultural harmony and universal brotherhood. He says: ” The essence of Tauhid, as a working idea, is equality, solidarity, and freedom. The state, from the Islamic standpoint, is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realize them in a definite human organization.”[5]

Iqbal deems the integration of the principles of permanence and change necessary for the development of cultural consciousness. He is a philosopher of transforming man’s inner and outer world. He brings this fact in these emphatic words: “The ultimate spiritual basis of all life, as conceived by Islam, is eternal and reveals itself in variety and change. A society based on such a conception of Reality must reconcile, in its life, the categories of permanence and change. It must possess eternal principles to regulate its collective life, for the eternal gives us a foothold in the world of perpetual change. But eternal principles when they are understood to exclude all possibilities of change which, according to the Qur’an, is one of the greatest ‘signs’ of God, tend to immobilize what is essentially mobile in its nature”.[6] The crisis of the European world in political and social sciences is due to its ascribing solely to the reality of change, at the cost of negating the principle of permanence. And the immobility of Islam for the past several centuries is due to ascribing only to the principle of permanence, at the cost of negating the reality of change. He considers Islamic law as essentially dynamic and not stationary. He advocates ‘Ijtihad’ in order for the Muslims to integrate the categories of permanence and change in their lives, and thereby solve their problems in consonance with the Divine Will.

The Arabs need to integrate the principles of permanence and change in their individual and collective lives in consonance with the vision of Iqbal. They have to understand that the principle of permanence cannot be equated with the static and the stationary since it does not exclude the reality of change. And in order to bring change in their systems, they should not become oblivious of the reality of permanence and the conservative elements of their culture, which confer identity on them. The Arab Spring has to reiterate the primordial lesson that the negation of transcendence makes the mundane reality disconnected from the metaphysical values of truth, beauty and love. Love of humanity, for example, remains stranded on the psychosocial sphere without any spiritual connectivity. It lacks the vigour to create universal brotherhood. It is the manifestation of the Divine in the human, which makes real love possible. Likewise, attempts to establish social justice, equality and freedom without spiritual love do not thrive in fullness.

The traditional society sanctifies social and cultural values essentially from the perspective of transcendence by simultaneously making concerted efforts to overcome disvalues. It does not remain passive in the face of oppression but struggles against it in the spirit of love. It is pertinent to note that Khawaja Ghulam Farid, a Sufi poet belonging to Southern Punjab, openly takes stand against all forms of oppressions including the political one, in consonance with the concept of metaphysical justice. But he acts by virtue of love and not hatred in order to emancipate both the individual and society. It is transcendent love, which essentially gives higher meaning to struggle against oppression. The tradition legitimizes self-defence in the spirit of love but does not allow any form of violence.

In the end, it is significant to mention Iqbal’s guidance to the Turks who were emancipating themselves from the oppressive structures of their society. His views are relevant to the Arab Spring as well. In his Lecture on the Principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam he, among other things, mentions the plight of most Muslim countries of his times in these words: “They are mechanically repeating old values, whereas the Turk is on the way to creating new values. He has passed through great experiences which have revealed his deeper self to him. In him life has begun to move, change, and amplify, giving birth to new desires, bringing new difficulties and suggesting new interpretations”. [7]

However, he cautions the Turks and his caution is equally applicable to the younger generations of the Arab world, which are awakening from their dogmatic slumbers. He says: “We heartily welcome the liberal movement in modern Islam, but it must also be admitted that the appearance of liberal ideas in Islam constitutes also the most critical moment in the history of Islam. Liberalism has a tendency to act as a force of disintegration and the race-idea which appears to be working in modern Islam with greater force than ever may ultimately wipe off the broad human outlook which Muslim people have imbibed from their religion. Further, our religious and political reformers in their zeal for liberalism may overstep the proper limits of reform in the absence of check on their youthful fervour.

“We are today passing through a period similar to that of the Protestant revolution in Europe, and the lesson which the rise and outcome of Luther’s movement teaches should not be lost on us. A careful reading of history shows that the Reformation was essentially a political movement, and the net result of it in Europe was a gradual displacement of the universal ethics of Christianity by systems of national ethics. The result of this tendency we have seen with our own eyes in the Great European War which, far from bringing any workable synthesis of the two opposing systems of ethics, has made the European situation still more intolerable. It is the duty of the leaders of the world of Islam today to understand the real meaning of what has happened in Europe, and then to move forward with self-control and a clear insight into the ultimate aims of Islam as a social polity”. [8]



[1]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmed, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, 2009, p. 298.

[2]     Ibid., p. 292.

[3]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 73.

[4]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 142.

[5]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 123.

[6]     Ibid., p. 117.

[7]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 129.

[8]     Ibid., p. 119.

 

 Universal Values As The Foundation 

For Social Transformation

(Parameters of Discussion)*

T

 

he gust of modernism has made the traditional world fall in oblivion. All the traditional concepts have been displaced by the modern ones. Any attempt to understand tradition from the modern point of view is fraught with distortions. Even the words: ‘universal’, ‘values’, ‘foundation’, ‘social’ and ‘transformation’ in the present context, have different traditional and modern meanings. The very concept ‘universal’ for example, has metaphysical, intellectual and spiritual connotations in the traditional world. But the modern world understands it purely in the finite and horizontal sense without any attachment to the Infinite and the vertical. It is merely an expression of extending the limits of human finitude. It can also be termed as ‘enhanced finiteness’. It is more or less understood in the sense of globalisation, which is exclusively a mundane form of thinking. There is also a qualitative difference between the traditional ‘values’ of truth, beauty, love, good, freedom, justice and their modern conceptions. Even the very word ‘foundation’ is differently construed in both these worlds. The modern world has no inkling of the metaphysical meaning of ‘foundation’. It construes it in the empirical, positivist or scientistic sense. Likewise, the ‘social’ in the ancient world is tied to the tradition but in the modern parlance it is almost autonomous without any attachment to the metaphysical principle. Finally, the term ‘transformation’ is metaphysically different from its outward meaning in the modern world, which considers the concept of the inner, virtually in the sense of the outer. The aforementioned distinctions have to be kept in mind before ensuing discussion on these subjects.

It is imperative to understand that the metaphysical, traditional and the religious worlds were ruptured by the phenomena of Renaissance, Enlightenment and Reformation. The negation of metaphysics, tradition and religion has led to the hegemony of scientism, modernism, and ethics or morality. The modern world has divested itself from the traditional hierarchies and has become autonomous, instead. The ethical and aesthetic values of the modern West have no metaphysical foundation to talk of universality. They lack metaphysical transcendence (understood in the sense of Eastern Metaphysics) and thereby have no inkling of even immanence.

The traditional world has been the victim of the modern onslaught. It has, among other things, become oblivious of its own intellectual and spiritual heritage. The exterior dazzle of the modern West has made it blindly follow the road, which takes it away from its own traditional culture. Traditional languages, art, architecture and culture have succumbed to the lure of modernism.

Happily, there have arisen men of vision in traditional societies, who have kept the light of tradition burning in the ‘dark night of modernism’. They have judiciously acknowledged the scientific achievements of the modern world but have at the same time zealously guarded their cultural values, which are being threatened by scientism. Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Khawaja Ghulam Farid are the two great representatives of Islamic spirituality. They consider spirituality as the foundation of humanity. Iqbal has presented a critique of modernism. He has assigned primacy to the traditional heritage. He envisions the integration of the eternal and the temporal. He has shared his insights in combining power and vision. He has brought forth the merits of uniting the elements of permanence and change in the life of the individual and society. He has supported the abolition of Caliphate in Turkey but has cautioned the young Turks lest they in their over zealousness overstep the bounds of tradition. His caution to the Turks is equally applicable to the present Arab awakening and skirmishes within the non-Arab world. There is dire need for the Egyptians to understand Iqbal’s thought which can help them in their hour of trial. It can save them both from the excesses of the clerics and the modernists.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid, a Saraiki intellectual, is deeply steeped in the world of metaphysics, tradition and religion. He manifests proverbial love of his cultural values, which are universal in essence. He is responsive to the needs of suffering humanity He talks of the metaphysical values of truth, beauty and love. He stands for political, social and cultural emancipation. His traditional metaphysics provides foundation for social transformation. The modern world needs Khawaja Ghulam Farid to redeem itself of its self-created delimitations of epistemology and ontology.



*       Participated in an Inter-Spiritual Forum in Cairo, Egypt on the theme: ‘Universal Values as the Foundation for Social Transformation’; Organized by the Contemplative Alliance, the Global Peace Initiative of Women and Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation, November 13-18th, 2011 

 

 “Empty-Handed From An Orchard” 
The Role of Muhammad Iqbal’s

Thought In Awakening Universal

Sense of Justice on Jerusalem*

T

 

he struggle of Truth against falsehood, Beauty against ugliness, Justice against injustice, Freedom against bondage, Light against darkness, Good against evil, Love against hate, Knowledge against ignorance, Reality against illusion and so forth has not come to an end in the history of Man. It continues to take different forms in different epochs and countries. The development of human consciousness both inwardly and outwardly has put an enormous responsibility on the shoulders of every person to stand for Truth, Beauty, Justice, Freedom, Light, Good, Love, Knowledge, Reality as against falsehood, ugliness, injustice, bondage, darkness, evil, hate, ignorance, and illusion respectively. Though Man has been blessed with sense-perception and heart-perception in order to remain journeying on the Straight path without going astray, and he has been endowed with freedom so that he could create goodness in the cosmos by virtue of his thought, feeling, word and deed yet he has miserably failed at times to live up to the higher possibilities of his existence. It has led to disequilibrium both in the individual and society.

One such tragic failure in the course of history has given rise to the problem of Jerusalem, which from the times of Caliph Umar has been mainly a sanctuary for the Muslims, Jews and Christians. The exploitive forces of modernism, in flagrant violation of the traditional principle of Justice (Adl), have sowed seeds of disunity and as a consequence have routed the centuries tested principle of peaceful coexistence. The peripheral approaches to the problem do not understand the essential issues involved because they do not go to the root of the problem. The problem has to be essentially understood against the background of modernism that has really caused it and is proving a stumbling block in its true solution. It has to be borne in mind that the traditional world comprising the great religious and metaphysical traditions of the world including Judaism, Christianity and Islam has been the repository of intellectual and spiritual heritage of mankind. The traditional world was ruptured when the modern West revolted against the ancient world and more specifically when it revolted against its own Christian Tradition in severing its links from Heavens. Resultantly, epistemology (science of knowledge) came to consider sense-experience as the sole source of knowledge and ontology (science of being) followed suit by considering the visible world as the only level of being. The role of reason consisted in cohering data received from the empirical world. The vertical levels of knowledge and being were displaced by the horizontal levels of knowledge and being. The Western phenomena of Renaissance, Enlightenment and Reformation gave birth to the modern West, with its tool of modernism. The modern man cramped himself in his thought and emotion by becoming oblivious of the Transcendent, which he had banished both from knowledge and being.

Modernism displaced traditional ethics with modern ethics. The intellectual and spiritual principles of morality were negated and morality was tied to human finitude, which could not provide firm foundations and thereby pure objectivity to both ethics and morality. As a consequence, modernism started becoming irreverent to the metaphysical idea of traditional Vision. It enmeshed itself in the political philosophies of Power, instead. Nietzsche’s philosophy spearheaded the modernist value of brute force, which ultimately led to an unbridgeable gulf between power and vision. Vision was displaced with power devoid of all reverence to the traditional values of Truth, Justice, Beauty, and Love. It was in this scenario that the nation-States resorted to the First World War and the Second one, the reverberations of which are still audible in the corridors of many nations and communities, suffering from this political oppression that continues in our contemporary times in different hidden and open forms. The sense of injustice done to the people in many parts of the world is not mere history but is a living reality of the oppressed people.

The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the breaking of the Arabian world in fragments and the tearing apart of the Muslim fabric of being at the hands of the modernist forces, gave birth to a number of problems including the problem of Jerusalem. The straitened circumstances have not only caused perpetual sufferings to people but are bringing humanity to a brink of disaster. The thinkers of different ages and countries have been voicing their genuine concerns about Jerusalem, the plight of the Palestinians and the looming dangers of injustice perpetrated at such a large scale. One such voice is that of Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) who is one of the most dynamic thinkers in the world of Islam. He gave vision of an independent Muslim Sovereign State, which led to the creation of Pakistan. He combined in himself both traditional knowledge and modern learning. He was well-versed in Arabic language wherein he got to the primary sources and studied Qur’an, Hadith and Fiqah. By virtue of his deep knowledge of the Persian language, he got an access to the Sufi literature and took Rumi as his guide. He was deeply steeped in the Eastern tradition and had a thorough grasp of Greek thought, Western philosophy and sciences. His major concern was ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ in all its essential aspects.

He learnt many a lessons from the Philosophy of History. His primary task was to emancipate the Muslim Ummah in particular and human society in general and for this, he cautioned Muslims not to remain oblivious of their intellectual heritage and the advancements of modern scientific knowledge taking place in different parts of the world especially the West. However, he did not suggest an uncritical acceptance of the West. Rather, he stated: “Our duty is carefully to watch the progress of human thought and to maintain an independent critical attitude towards it”.[1]

The modernist political forces shaping themselves in his times made him see the modern West drunk with power and unleashing on different nations and communities. He presented a recipe to both East and West in these emphatic words: “Vision without power does bring moral elevation but cannot give a lasting culture. Power without vision tends to become destructive and inhuman. Both must combine for the spiritual expansion of humanity”.[2]

Iqbal warned the Muslims against the designs of the Western powers and gave them a lesson to follow the spirit of religion.

He says:

  افغانی  

دین و وطن

                                    لُرد مغرب آن سراپا مکر و فن

                                    اہل دین را داد تعلیم وطن

                                    او بفکر مرکز و تو در نفاق

                                    بگذر از شام و فلسطین و عراق

                                     تو اگر داری تمیز خوب و زشت

                                      دل نبندی با کلوخ و سنگ و خشت

                                       چیست دین برخاستن از روی خاک

                                           تا ز خود آگاہ گردد جان پاک[3]

   Afghani    

Religion and Country

The holder of the Western reins of power is completely clothed in the art of deceit. He is teaching country (as the basis of nationality) to the votaries of religion. He remains consolidated, while you are split up in Syria, Palestine and Iraq. If you can discern between the beneficial and the harmful, then you will not barter your inwardness for stones, brick and mortar. What is Religion? It is to rise above dust (earth-rootedness), so that the pure self attains self-realisation.[4]

Iqbal finds the modern man lost in the outward at the expense of the inward. He says: “Thus, wholly overshadowed by the results of his intellectual activity, the modern man has ceased to live soulfully, i.e. from within. In the domain of thought he is living in open conflict with himself; and in the domain of economic and political life he is living in open conflict with others. He finds himself unable to control his ruthless egoism and his infinite gold-hunger which is gradually killing all higher striving in him and bringing him nothing but life-weariness. Absorbed in the ‘fact’, that is to say, the optically present source of sensation, he is entirely cut off from the unplumbed depths of his own being”.[5]

He considers spirituality essential for the survival and development of humanity. He says: “Humanity needs three things today - a spiritual interpretation of the universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual, and basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis.”[6]

Iqbal brings home the idea that the unity of mankind is grounded in the unity of God. He says: “The new culture finds the foundation of world-unity in the principle of Tauhid.’ Islam, as a polity, is only a practical means of making this principle a living factor in the intellectual and emotional life of mankind. It demands loyalty to God, not to thrones. And since God is the ultimate spiritual basis of all life, loyalty to God virtually amounts to man’s loyalty to his own ideal nature. The ultimate spiritual basis of all life, as conceived by Islam, is eternal and reveals itself in variety and change. A society based on such a conception of Reality must reconcile, in its life, the categories of permanence and change. It must possess eternal principles to regulate its collective life, for the eternal gives us a foothold in the world of perpetual change. But eternal principles when they are understood to exclude all possibilities of change which, according to the Qur’an, is one of the greatest ‘signs’ of God, tend to immobilize what is


*     The Paper was written last year for the International Conference on Jerusalem at Doha, Qatar, which was postponed due to problems in the Arab world. It was now held from 26th to 27th February, 2012. The Paper was printed and distributed among the participants of the Conference with its Arabic translation. Now, a portion on Khawaja Ghulam Farid has been added along with a few more things mainly taking into account the deliberations of the Conference. The material has been re-arranged.

[1]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated, by M. Saeed Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. xxii.

[2]     Ibid., p. 92.

[3]       Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal (Farsi), Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1994, pp. 534-535.

[4]     Translation is my own.

[5]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated by M. Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 148

[6].    Ibid., p. 142.

essentially mobile in its nature. The failure of the Europe in political and social sciences illustrates the former principle; the immobility of Islam during the last five hundred years illustrates the latter”.[1]

He considers the integration of the principles of permanence and change necessary for the survival and development of humanity.

Iqbal’s attempt to awaken the higher consciousness on Jerusalem, through his prose and poetry, is grounded in the spirit of righteousness and sounds so contemporaneous in spite of the fact that many changes have taken place since his exit from the terrestrial world. His analysis of Jerusalem essentially remains principled in its pristine purity since it touches the root of the problem. It remains relevant for it cuts across pseudo theories and unjust solutions to the predicament of Palestine propounded by many Western and Eastern thinkers due to their vested interests or ignorance.

Iqbal voiced the thoughts and feelings of the Muslim Ummah in presenting the case of the Palestinians at that time. In a letter to Miss Farquharson on 20th July, 1937 he stated his views on the Palestine Report. He said: “....I think it is time for the National League of England to rise to the occasion and to save the British people from the great injustice to Arabs, to whom definite promises were given by British politicians in the name of British people. Through wisdom alone comes power; and when power abandons the ways of wisdom and relies upon itself alone, its end is death.

.....We must not forget that Palestine does not belong to England. She is holding it under a mandate from the League of Nations, which Muslim Asia is now learning to regard as an Anglo-French institution invented for the purpose of dividing the territories of weaker Muslim peoples. Nor does Palestine belong to the Jews, who abandoned it of their own free will long before its possession by the Arabs....”[2]

He says:

شام و فلسطین

                        رندانِ فرانسیس کا میخانہ سلامت

                         پُر ہے گُلرنگ سے ہر شیشہ حَلب کا

                         ہے خاکِ فلسطیں پہ یہودی کا اگر حق

                        ہسپانیہ پر حق نہیں کیوں اہلِ عَرب کا

                           مقصد ہے مُلوکیّتِ انگِلیس کا کچھ اور

                                قصّہ نہیں نارنج کا یا شہد و رُطَب کا[3]

   Syria and Palestine      

The tavern of the drunkard Frenchmen may last forever (a satire). The exceptional glass of Allepo (Syrian city) is brimful with their red wine. If the Jews have right on the soil of Palestine, then why not the Arabs have a right on Spain? The British Imperialism has some other design(It wants to have its hold in the heart of the Middle East). It is not merely to get oranges, honey or dates.[4]

   فلسطینی عرب سے   

                        زمانہ اب بھی نہیں جس کے سوز سے فارغ

                       میں جانتا ہوں وہ آتش ترے وجود میں ہے

                        تری دَوا نہ جنیوا میں ہے، نہ لندن میں

                       فرنگ کی رگِ جاں پنجۂ یَہود میں ہے

                       سُنا ہے میں نے، غلامی سے اُمتوں کی نجات

                        خودی کی پرورش و لذّتِ نمود میں ہے![5]

 To the Palestinian Arabs 

The world is still not devoid of passion. I know that your being is aflame with it. Your remedy lies neither in Geneva nor in London. The neck-vein of Europe is in the clutches of the Jews. I have heard that the deliverance of communities from servitude lies in the development of the self and tasting its fruitful realisation.[6]

                        یورپ                   

                                       تاک میں بیٹھے ہیں مدت سے یہودی سُود خوار

                                      جن کی رُوباہی کے آگے ہیچ ہے زورِ پلنگ

                                       خودبخود گرنے کو ہے پکّے ہُوئے پھل کی طرح

                                            دیکھیے پڑتا ہے آخر کس کی جھولی میں فرنگ![7]

          Europe         

The Jewish money-lenders are lying in wait for the hunt since long. The leopard’s readiness is no match to their cunningness. Let’s see, Europe eventually falls on whose lap, since she is eagerly on the verge of falling like ripen fruit.[8]

He further said: “....Nor is Zionism a religious movement. Apart from the movement, the Palestine Report itself has brought out this fact in a perfectly clear manner. Indeed the impression given to the unprejudiced reader is that Zionism as a movement was deliberately created, not for the purpose of giving a National Home to the Jews but mainly for the purpose of giving a home to British Imperialism on the Mediterranean littoral.... The Report amounts, on the whole, to a sale under duress to the British of the Holy Places in the shape of the permanent mandate which the Commission has invented in order to cover their imperialist designs. The price of this sale is an amount of money to the Arabs plus an appeal to their generosity and a piece of land to the Jews. I do hope that British statesmen will abandon this policy of actual hostility to the Arabs and restore their country to them. I have no doubt that the Arabs will be ready to come to an understanding with the British and, if necessary, with the French also. If the British people are duped by propaganda against the Arabs, I fear the consequences of the present policy will be grave”.[9]

He had fully opposed the Report, which recommended the idea of partitioning Palestine. He still had hopes that sense of justice and fair play will make the British abstain from doing injustice to the people of Palestine. He subsequently issued a statement in Lahore: “I assure the people that I feel the injustice done to the Arabs as keenly as anybody else who understands the situation in the Near East. I have no doubt that the British people can still be awakened to the fulfilment of the pledges given to the Arabs in the name of England. The British Parliament, I am glad to say, have in the recent Parliamentary debates left the question of partition open. This decision affords an excellent opportunity to the Muslims of the world to emphatically declare that the problem which the British statesmen are tackling is not one of Palestine only, but seriously affects the entire Muslim world.”[10]

Iqbal had a keen insight into the history of the Jews, Christians and the Muslims. He had a very sharp vision to see


[1]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated by M. Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 117.

[2]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, pp. 292-293.

[3]     Iqbal, Muhamamd, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal (Urdu), Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2004, p. 668.

[4]     Translation is my own.

[5]     Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal (Urdu), Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2004, p. 671.

[6]     Translation is my own.

[7]     Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal (Urdu), Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2004, p. 497.

[8]     Translation is my own.

[9]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, pp.292-293.

[10]    Ibid., p. 293.

that Palestine was a Muslim problem and not Jewish or Christian. He said: “The problem, studied in its historical perspective, is purely a Muslim problem. In the light of the history of Israel, Palestine ceased to be a Jewish problem long before the entry of Caliph ‘Umar into Jerusalem more than 1300 years ago. Their dispersion, as Professor Hockings has pointed out, was perfectly voluntary and their scriptures were for the most part written outside Palestine. Nor was it ever a Christian problem. Modern historical research has doubted even the existence of Peter the Hermit. Even if we assume that the Crusades were an attempt to make Palestine a Christian problem, this attempt was defeated by the victories of Salah-ud-Din. I, therefore, regard Palestine as a purely Muslim problem”.[1]

He critically examined the Report of the Royal Commission and discovered the sinister designs of the British to hold a footing in the heart of the Muslim homeland. He said: “Never were the motives of British imperialism as regards the Muslim people of the Near East so completely unmasked as in the Report of the Royal Commission. The idea of a national home for the Jews in Palestine was only a device. In fact, British imperialism sought a home for itself in the form of a permanent mandate in the religious home of the Muslims. This is indeed a dangerous experiment, as a member of British Parliament has rightly described it, and can never lead to a solution of the British problem in the Mediterranean. Far from being a solution of the British problem in the Mediterranean it is really the beginning of the future difficulties of British imperialism. The sale of the Holy Land, including the Mosque of ‘Umar, inflicted on the Arabs with the threat of martial law and softened by an appeal to their generosity, reveals bankruptcy of statesmanship rather than its achievement. The offer of a piece of rich land to the Jews and the rocky desert plus cash to the Arabs is no political wisdom. It is a low transaction unworthy and damaging to the honour of a great people in whose name definite promises of liberty and confederation were given to the Arabs.”[2]

Iqbal was a great advocate of the unity of Muslim Ummah. He wanted ‘immediate reunion’ of the Turks and the Arabs keeping in view the urgent requirements of the Near East. He said: “Experience has made it abundantly clear that the political integrity of the peoples of the Near East lies in the immediate reunion of the Turks and the Arabs. The policy of isolating the Turks from the rest of the Muslim world is still in action. We hear now and then that the Turks are repudiating Islam. A greater lie was never told. Only those who have no idea of the history of the concepts of Islamic jurisprudence fall an easy prey to this sort of mischievous propaganda. The Arabs, whose religious consciousness gave birth to Islam (which united the various races of Asia with remarkable success), must never forget the consequences arising out of their deserting the Turks in their hour of trial”.[3]

He warned them to decide the issue by rising to the occasion in a spirit of independence. He said: “.... the Arab people must further remember that they cannot afford to rely on the advice of those Arab kings who are not in a position to arrive at an independent judgment in the matter of Palestine with an independent conscience. Whatever they decide they should decide on their own initiative after a full understanding of the problem before them.”[4]

He simultaneously warned different non-Arab Muslim leaders of the grave threat to the Muslim world by the Western powers and wished them to explore the possibility of forming an independent forum. He said: “.... the present moment is also a moment of trial for the Muslim statesmen of the free non-Arab Muslim countries of Asia. Since the abolition of the Caliphate this is the first serious international problem of both a religious and political nature which historical forces are compelling them to face. The possibilities of the Palestine problem may eventually compel them seriously to consider their position as members of that Anglo-French institution, miscalled the League of Nations, and to explore practical means for the formation of an Eastern League of Nations”.[5]

جمعیت اقوام                                      

                                   بیچاری کئی روز سے دم توڑ رہی ہے

                                     ڈر ہے خبرِ بد نہ مرے منہ سے نکل جائے

                                    تقدیر تو مبرم نظر آتی ہے و لیکن

                                     پیرانِ کلیسا کی دُعا یہ ہے کہ ٹل جائے

                                       ممکن ہے کہ یہ داشتۂ پیرکِ افرنگ

                                       ابلیس کے تعویذ سے کچھ روز سنبھل جائے[6]

  LEAGUE OF NATIONS  

It is since long that the pitiable is on the verge of death. I fear that I may not hurriedly announce bad news. Her destiny is written on the wall but the Church Fathers (sovereigns) pray it to be averted. It is possible that this concubine of the lustful old Europe gets some lease of life by the amulet of the Satan.[7]

Iqbal, in spite of his great reservations, again wrote to Miss Farquharson about the Palestine Problem on 6th September, 1937. He still hoped that the British will refrain from partitioning Palestine and thereby losing the friendship of the Arabs. He said: “...I am very glad to see that the National League is taking a keen interest in the matter of Palestine and I have no doubt that the League will eventually succeed in making the British people realise the true meaning of the situation and the political consequences which may follow in case Britain loses the friendship of the Arabs. I have been more or less in touch with Egypt, Syria and Iraq. I also received letters from Najaf. You must have read that the Shi‘as of Kerbala and Najaf have made a strong protest against the partition of Palestine. The Persian Prime Minister and the President of the Turkish Republic have also spoken and protested.

In India too the feeling is rapidly growing more and more intense. The other day 50,000 Muslims met at Delhi and protested against the Palestine Commission. It is further reported in the Press that some Muslims have been arrested in Cawnpore in connection with the Palestine question. It is now perfectly clear that the entire Muslim world is united on this question.

I have every reason to believe that the National League will save England from the grave political blunder and in so doing it will serve both England and the Muslim world....” [8]

Iqbal was pinning his hopes on the inherent goodness of man and the political sagacity of the Western powers, which unfortunately did not fructify. Iqbal New Year Message of Ist January 1938 was broadcasted from the Lahore station. It reflects the fruit of his mature thought and is instrumental in understanding the plight of the modern man and the way to achieve real unity of mankind. His Message is so vital and contemporaneous that it needs to be quoted at length. He says: “The modern age prides itself on its progress in knowledge and its matchless scientific developments. No doubt, the pride is justified. Today space and time are being annihilated and man is achieving amazing successes in unveiling the secrets of nature and harnessing its forces to his own service. But in spite of all these developments, the tyranny of imperialism struts abroad, covering its face in the masks of Democracy, Nationalism, Communism, Fascism and heaven knows what else besides. Under these masks, in every corner of the earth, the spirit of freedom and the dignity of man are being trampled underfoot in a way of which not even the darkest period of human history presents a parallel. The so-called statesmen to whom government and leadership of men was entrusted have proved demons of bloodshed, tyranny and oppression. The rulers whose duty it was to protect and cherish those ideals which go to form a higher humanity, to prevent man’s oppression of man and to elevate the moral and intellectual level of mankind, .have, in their hunger for dominion and imperial possessions, shed the blood of millions and reduced millions to servitude simply in order to pander to the greed and avarice of their own particular groups. After subjugating and establishing their dominion over weaker peoples, they have robbed them of their religions, their morals, of their cultural traditions and their literatures. Then they sowed divisions among them that they should shed one another’s blood and go to sleep under the opiate of serfdom, so that the leech of imperialism might go on sucking their blood without interruption. As I look back on the year that has passed and as I look at the world in the midst of the New Year’s rejoicings, it may be Abyssinia or Palestine, Spain or China,* the same misery prevails in every corner of man’s earthly home, and hundreds of thousands of men are being butchered mercilessly. Engines of destruction created by science are wiping out the great landmarks of man’s cultural achievements. The governments which are not themselves engaged in this drama of fire and blood are sucking the blood of the weaker peoples economically. It is as if the day of doom had come upon the earth, in which each looks after the safety of his own skin, and in which no voice of human sympathy or fellowship is audible. The world’s thinkers are stricken dumb. Is this going to the end of all this progress and evolution of civilisation, they ask, that men should destroy one another in mutual hatred and make human habitation impossible on this earth? Remember, man can he maintained on this earth only by honouring mankind, and this world will remain a battle ground of ferocious beasts of prey unless and until the educational forces of the whole world are directed to inculcating in man respect for mankind. Do you not see that the people of Spain, though they have the same common bond by one race, one nationality, one language and one religion, are cutting one another’s throats and destroying their culture and civilisation by their own hands owing to difference in their economic creed? This one event shows clearly that national unity too is not a very durable force. Only one unity is dependable, and that unity is the brotherhood of man, which is above race, nationality, colour or language. So long as this so-called democracy, this accursed nationalism and this degraded imperialism are not shattered, so long as men do not demonstrate by their actions that they believe that the whole world is the family of God, so long as distinctions of race, colour and geographical nationalities are not wiped out completely, they will never be able to lead a happy and contended life and the beautiful ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity will never materialise. Let us therefore begin the New Year with the prayer that God Almighty may grant humanity to those who are in places of power and government and teach them to cherish mankind”. [9]

 Iqbal died on 21st April, 1938 while the British were still in control of Palestine under the Mandate system (1922-1948)


[1]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, pp. 293-294.

[2]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 294.

[3]     Ibid., pp.294-295.

[4]     Ibid., p. 295.

[5]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 295

[6]     Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal (Urdu), Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2004, p. 668.

[7]     Translation is my own.

[8]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 296.

*     The references here are to Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia, the unrest in Palestine resulting from the Peel Commission’s recommendation to partition Palestine, Civil War in Spain and the invasion of China by Japan. (Ed.)

[9]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmed, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, pp. 298-300.

of the League of Nations, and promoting wider scale immigration of the Jews into Palestine in line with the Balfour Declaration. He did not live to see the perpetration of grave injustice of partitioning Palestine in 1948 by a Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly and the establishment of Jewish State of Israel. The Palestinian Arabs, constituting more than two third majority of the Palestine population at that time, were of no democratic consideration for modern democracies. It was not only what was done by the Western Powers including United States but the way it was done drew a big question mark on the integrity of modern world institutions and their capacity to provide justice. The forewarnings of Iqbal, among other things, fell on deaf ears. The events started unfolding themselves in a terrible shape. The perpetual injustices perpetrated against them by Israel on backing of the Western powers led to the First Arab-Israel War of 1948, Suez Crisis of 1956, the Third Arab-Israel War of 1967, the Fourth Arab-Israel War of 1973 and the subsequent skirmishes and conflicts till present times. It is very pertinent to point out that the standpoint taken by Iqbal on the problem of Palestine was fully adopted by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, the First Prime Minister of Pakistan and it has ever remained the voice of our political leadership and the civil society.   

The injustices inflicted on the Palestinian Arabs at such a large scale need to be registered by the world-conscience, which can ultimately help in resolving this problem. But it is again the forces of modernism, which obstruct the presentation of the issue in its true perspective and thwart the rectifying of wrongs done to the people of Palestine. It is exceedingly imperative to know that modernism did not remain restricted to the modern West. It started invading the traditional societies and weakening their religious and metaphysical traditions. The votaries of the traditional world did not fully understand the modern onslaught and they started importing modern ideas and appropriating them in their traditional matrix. One of the most harmful effects of this imitation has been exhibited in clinging to the exoteric aspect of religion at the cost of its spiritual dimension. It led to conflicts of various religious perspectives, inconsonant with the idea of ‘the transcendent unity of religions’ and the metaphysical principle of ‘unity in diversity.’

Khawaja Ghulam Farid, a Sufi belonging to the Saraiki belt of Southern Punjab, Pakistan reiterates the principle of transcendence, which is the unifying basis of the metaphysical and religious traditions of the world. He says:     

بدھ مجوس یہود نصارا

آکھن پاک  منزہ  ہے

ہندو    تے  دیندار

    بے   انت  الکھ  اپار[1]

 

The Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, Hindus and the People of Book say that He (the Absolute) is Pure, Perfect, Unlimited, Transcendent and Infinite.

 The need of the hour is that every religion concentrates on its spiritual element, which is harbinger of hope for religious communities. Iqbal significantly brings out the place of spirituality in the religion of Islam. He says: “In Islam prophecy reaches its perfection in discovering the need of its own abolition. This involves the keen perception that life cannot for ever be kept in leading strings; that, in order to achieve full self-consciousness, man must finally be thrown back on his own resources. The abolition of priesthood and hereditary kingship in Islam, the constant appeal to reason and experience in the Qur’an, and the emphasis that it lays on Nature and History as sources of human knowledge, are all different aspects of the same idea of finality. The idea, however, does not mean that mystic experience, which qualitatively does not differ from the experience of the prophet, has now ceased to exist as a vital fact. Indeed the Qur’an regards both Anfus (self) and Afaq (world) as sources of knowledge.5 God reveals His signs in inner as well as outer experience, and it is the duty of man to judge the knowledge-yielding capacity of all aspects of experience. The idea of finality, therefore, should not be taken to suggest that the ultimate fate of life is complete displacement of emotion by reason. Such a thing is neither possible nor desirable. The intellectual value of the idea is that it tends to create an independent critical attitude towards mystic experience by generating the belief that all personal authority, claiming a supernatural origin, has come to an end in the history of man. This kind of belief is a psychological force which inhibits the growth of such authority. The function of the idea is to open up fresh vistas of knowledge in the domain of man’s inner experience...... Mystic experience, then, however unusual and abnormal, must now be regarded by a Muslim as a perfectly natural experience, open to critical scrutiny like other aspects of human experience”.[2] He further says: “...saints in the psychological sense of the word or men of saintly character will always appear... Indeed as long as the spiritual capacity of mankind endures, they will arise among nations and countries in order to show better ideals of life to man. To hold otherwise would be to fly in the face of human experience. The only difference is that the modern man has the right to critical examination of their mystic experiences. The Finality of the Prophethood means, among other things, that all personal authority in religious life, denial of which involves damnation, has come to an end.”[3]

Khawaja Ghulam Farid beautifully expresses his love of God and the holy prophet in his poetry. He lauds the holy land of Arabia for being the recipient of the universal message of Tawhid (unity of God) and Risalat (Prophecy), which is a harbinger of freedom for mankind. He says:

مذہب مشرب لَا مذہب دا

لب ہے سارے اَرث عرب دا

 

شاہد  درس  حدیث قرآن[4]

The religious tradition of ‘negation’ (Islamic Shahadah)) is the kernel of the entire Arab heritage. It is evident in the teachings, Hadith and the Qur’an.

بطن بطون توں ظاہر ہویا

عربی تھی کر ملک نُوں موہیا

 

رسم رسّالتؐ رسدا (ڈھولا ماہی) [5]

He manifested from the most invisible realm. He manifested himself in the form of an Arab (Arabian prophet) and captivated the dominion. He has perfectly conducted the tradition of prophecy (in the form of Muhammad as messenger), my beloved friend.

دیس عرب دا ملک طرب دا

سارا    باغ   بہار[6]

 

The Arabian territory is the land of happiness that is fully blossoming.

واہ دیس عرب دیاں چالیں

گیاں وِسر وطن دیاں گالہیں

خوش طرحیں خوب خصالیں

کیا خویش قبیلے سکّے

 

I laud the styles of the Arabian land. They are pleasing and highly qualitative. I have forgotten the characteristics of my own native town, my close relatives and kith and kin.

ہے ملک مقدّس نوری

بِن عاشق پَاک حضوری

ہے جنّت حور قصوری

پیا کون قدم اِتھ رکھے

 

This land is holy and shining. It is a paradise of beautiful houries. Who can step in without love and pure presence?

ونج ڈٹھم مدینہ عالی

ہے دھرتی عیبوں خالی

جتھ کون و مکان دا والی

پیا نور رِسالّت چھکّے[7]

 


[1]       Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 53.

[2]     Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated, by M. Saeed Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 101.

[3]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 207.

[4]       Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 134.

[5]       Ibid., Kafi 226.

[6]       Ibid., Kafi 61.

[7]       Ibid., Kafi 155.

I went and saw the majesty of Medina. There lies the custodian of the universe. The place is free of any imperfection. The light of prophecy is shining forth.

عرب شریف دی سوہنی ریتے

دِسرے چاچڑ صدقے کیتے

لَاوے دل نوں پرم پلیتے

اَصلوں محض نہ بھاندے ہن[1]

 

The tradition of holy Arabia is lovely. It kindles the wick of love in one’s heart. I have forgotten Chachar (my native abode) and sacrificed it (for the sake of my friend). It has ceased to truly appeal me.

سِجھ سونے دا اُبھریا

ڈٹھڑا نیک مہینہ

 

The golden sun (moment of bliss) has risen. I have witnessed the month of blessings.

حرم معلیٰ روشن

ہے نوری آئینہ

 

The Sanctuary of the Prophet is shining. It is a mirror of light.

عرب دی ساری دھرتی

سوہنی صاف نگینہ[2]

 

The whole land of Arabia is a beautiful transparent jewel.

ارض مقدس ملک عرب دی

منزل منزل طرح عجب دی

ہر ہر وادی فرح طرب دی

ساری وضع سنگار دی ہے[3]

 

The Arabian land is holy. There is a state of blooming, happiness in each and every valley. The beauty of the way is being strangely reflected at each and every stage.

ہر ہر قطرۂ آب ہے کوثر

کرڑ کنڈا شمشاد صنوبر

گرد و غبار ہے مشک تے عنبر

خار وی شکل بہار دی ہے

 

Here, each and every drop of water is blessed. The cloudy dust is perfume and ambergris. Thorny shrubs and thorns are bon-tree and a bearing tree. The thorn (autumn) looks like spring.

عرب شریف ہے، سوہنی ساری

تھیواں واری لکھ لکھ واری

نازک نازو تے متواری

دار نبی مختار دی ہے

 

The sacred Arabia is all beauties. It is tendered, elegant and graceful. I may sacrifice myself countless times on it. It is the dwelling of the sovereign prophet.

Khawaja Ghulam Farid translates his spiritual love of God and the prophet into spiritual love of humanity. He desires humanity to emancipate itself from all forms of oppressions. He counsels Sadiq Muhammad Khan, the Nawab of Bahawalpur State, for example, to attain political and cultural freedom by struggling against the British colonial masters. He says:

سہجوں پھلوں سیجھ سُہا توں

اپنے ملک کوں آپ وَساتوں

بخت تے تخت کوں جوڑ چھکاتوں

پَٹ   انگریزی  تھانے[4]

 

You readily choose to grace your seat with fortune and establish yourself in full power. You make your dominion prosper with your own hands and uproot the seats of colonial oppression.

It is not only a call to his people but is a universal call to the oppressed people of all times. People have to free themselves from all forms of subjugation including the political one. This call of a Sufi touches on a vital facet of spirituality. The Sufi tradition does not teach passivity in the face of exploitation. It aspires for emancipation from every form of bondage, instead. Universal love necessitates just struggle against oppression. But the struggle against dark forces is not bereft of light. It remains grounded in spirituality without transgressing the bounds of tradition.

The religious world, under the metamorphic influence of modernism, is becoming oblivious of its own spiritual essence. The clerics— the conventional and the militant ones— are subtly appropriating modernism themselves, and are unconsciously using its very tools even in their struggle against modernism itself. Tradition, for example, has never legitimised violence or offence in exercise of one’s right of self-defence or sanctified ‘private judgement’ as against the institutionalised one. It has always warranted justification of ends and means in simultaneity. It has supported just struggle but has taught ‘absolute moral constraint’ even in the most trying and testing circumstances. A traditional man is bound to act; he never reacts. The ongoing banishment of the traditional view or spiritual dimension from the mainstream of our intellectual and political life, among other things, has made us liable to fall in the snare of a modernist view of life. Religions need to open spiritual channels to their respective votaries, which will help in understanding other religious and metaphysical traditions of the world, which will be ultimately helpful in resolving the modern crises in different spheres including the social and the political ones. It is essential to open a real Dialogue with people of different traditions and to remind them of their spiritual heritage.

The religious differentiations among the Jews, Christians and Muslims has been traditional and a family affair in Palestine for a greater part of several centuries. It is modernism, which initiated a political divide amongst them in utter disregard of the traditional spirit. We have to go beyond modernism to the principles of our traditions to find answers of problems confronting us in our times. It is heartening to note that the process of inter-faith Dialogue has started amongst these traditions, which can help the votaries to understand each other in an amicable spirit. However, the real success of Dialogue can be achieved if each religious tradition brings to forefront its respective spiritual dimension, which is its essence. A religion, which becomes oblivious of its spiritual foundations, has a greater risk of aligning itself with the self-defeating forces of modernism, which is so detrimental both for the individual and society. The psychic forces tend to become self-destructive unless they undergo spiritual transformation. Spirituality teaches us that mere Religious Dialogue at the exoteric level alone cannot reach the heart of reality. It is to be complemented by the esoteric or spiritual level, which essentially unifies diversified religious perspectives. The modern Western society, on the other hand, has to be constantly reminded of her enormous responsibility to humanity. The world essentially requires spiritual awakening to rectify injustices done to the people of Palestine. The Orchard of Jerusalem needs to regain its fragrance.

The creation of the State of Israel, by dint of a manoeuvred Resolution of the UN, is being widely condemned as an injustice primarily committed by the Zionists on behest of the Western powers. The foundation of this State has no moral authority. It is in utter disregard to the Jewish tradition itself. The problem of Jerusalem has no durable solution within the ambit of pragmatism. The philosophy of pragmatism is inimical to truth itself. It is only concerned with the workability of an idea. It tends to treat an idea as a commodity, which has a price in the market but no value in the hearts of men.

In the end, we have to realise that the world is watching with great interest the phenomenon of the Arab Awakening. We have to rise to the occasion and spiritedly set our own house in order. We have to struggle against internal and external oppression in the spirit of righteousness without resorting to violence on either side. Violence begets violence and sows the seeds of hatred, discord and disharmony. It sends a negative message to the world community, which further alienates us from the world forces of righteousness.. If we want the world to understand us, then we have to speak the language of humanity. It is a decisive moment for us to reach out to the civil societies of the world by sensitising them on the issue of Jerusalem in the most befitting manner. We have to reiterate the traditional lesson that there is no spectator between the oppressor and the oppressed. Humanity has to realise that only a solution based on justice can be sustainable and guarantor of world peace. Pseudo-geography shaped by foreign interventions in the face of real history is condemned to wither away. The Muslims rightful claim on Jerusalem has to be acknowledged. Al-Quds has to be rightfully restored to the Muslims, who will regain its originality as the city of love. The Israeli attempts to change the structure of the city of al-Quds cannot change the structure of truth. The nature of truth is akin to the nature of light. It is destined to manifest itself. The Doha Declaration 2012 is a step forward in reaching our destination. We have simultaneously to take creative steps to awaken the younger generations of Jews, Christians and Muslims to their common spiritual ancestry in the tradition of Ibrahim (Abraham), which will lead to primordial harmony. The ultimate solution of the problem of Jerusalem has to come spiritually from within Jerusalem.



[1]       Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 86.

[2]       Ibid., Kafi 153.

[3]       Ibid., Kafi 160.

[4]       Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 239.

 

  The Transformation of  

Religiosity into Spirituality

(Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Khawaja Ghulam Farid)*

T

 

he advent of Man has been lauded by the metaphysical and religious traditions of the world in their respective ways. He has been considered as ‘the epitome of the creation’ and as a ‘bridge between Heavens and the earth.’ The modern world has made meritorious scientific progress but at the same time it has regressed in other vital areas of life. The forms of regression are quite visible in the modern society, which is torn by antagonistic contradictions. The modern West with its phenomena of Renaissance, Enlightenment and Reformation has robbed Man of his metaphysical status in the scheme of things. The modern man has constricted his epistemology and ontology. He has completely immersed himself in the world of human finitude bereft of transcendence. The onslaught of the modern West is cutting the very roots of religion. The harmful effects of modernism have not remained restricted to the modern West but have started infecting the traditional societies. The traditional world is uncritically appropriating the categories of modern thought in a dependent spirit by becoming oblivious of its own intellectual and spiritual heritage. It is exceedingly imperative for all of us to respond to these modern challenges to religion. The attempt to face these challenges effectively means to understand religion in its wholeness. There cannot be any partial defence of religion.

The phenomenon of religion has both its vertical and horizontal dimensions. Religion is characterised by dogmas, rituals and morals. Religion in its expressions, at present times, is becoming oblivious of its spiritual roots. It is becoming more dogmatic, ritualistic and moralistic at the expense of spirituality. It is embracing outwardness in obliviousness of its inwardness. These trends are visible, lesser or greater, in almost all religions of the world. Religiosity is displacing the spiritual dimension of religion. The dynamic religious consciousness is becoming static resulting in the stagnation of religious life. It is creating problems for different religious communities, which are not only constricting their spaces among themselves but are becoming more stringent in relation to their own respective votaries. It is creating cultural, social and psychological problems. Happily, there have been many voices within the traditional world, which have cautioned against a blind following of the modern West and have awakened their votaries to the richness of their own intellectual traditions. They have brought forth the treasures of traditional heritage and have demonstrated the vitality of religion to integrate the elements of permanence and change in the individual and society. The Islamic tradition, for example, is essentially characterised by its inner and outer connectivity with knowledge. It accepts no claim, which is not based on knowledge. The Prophet of Islam was enjoined to say: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge”. The Qur’an revealed on the heart of the Prophet of Islam considers sense-experience, inner experience and History as sources of knowledge. Knowledge reveals the truth in humility whereas ignorance conceals it in arrogance.

The voices of Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Khawaja Ghulam Farid within the contemporary world are becoming quite audible in our times. Iqbal is one of the most dynamic thinkers in the world of Islam. He was deeply steeped in the Persian tradition. He started his intellectual journey by taking Rumi as his guide. He understood both the traditional and the modern world. He critically examined Kant’s assumptions, which were erroneously leading to the denial of metaphysics. He demonstrated the possibility of religion, instead. He took a point of departure from the conventional understanding of Islam and was courageous enough to present his world-view on sound basis. He has brought the phenomena of religion within the realm of experience. He has discussed religious experience and its characteristics. He demonstrates the possibility of experiencing God. He says: “The immediacy of mystic experience simply means that we know God just as we know other objects. God is not a mathematical entity or a system of concepts mutually related to one another and having no reference to experience.”[1]

He has successfully answered the psychologists of the modern West who deny the genuineness of religious experience. They errorneously confuse the psychic with the spiritual. He addresses the modern psychologist in these verses:

   ماہرِ نفسیات سے   

جرأت ہے تو افکار کی دُنیا سے گزر جا

ہیں بحرِ خودی میں ابھی پوشیدہ جزیرے

کھلتے نہیں اس قُلزمِ خاموش کے اسرار

جب تک تُو اسے ضربِ کلیمی سے نہ چیرے[2]

 

Be courageous to go beyond the realms of thought. There are many invisible inslands in the ocean of the self. The mysteries of the Infinite ocean will not unveil unless you strike it with the rod of Moses.[3]

He supplements sense-perception or sense-experience with heart-perception or heart-knowledge. He says: “The ‘heart’ is a kind of inner intuition or insight which, in the beautiful words of Rūmī, feeds on the rays of the sun and brings us into contact with aspects of Reality other than those open to sense-perception. It is, according to the Qur’an, something which ‘sees’, and its reports, if properly interpreted, are never false…. To describe it as psychic, mystical, or supernatural does not detract from its value as experience.”[4]

He makes a sound case for the validity and reliability of religious experience. He says: “The evidence of religious experts in all ages and countries is that there are potential types of consciousness lying close to our normal consciousness. If these types of consciousness open up possibilities of life-giving and knowledge-yielding experience, the question of the possibility of religion as a form of higher experience is a perfectly legitimate one and demands our serious attention.”[5]

He brings the possibility of religious experience in the category of knowledge. He says: “The revealed and mystic literature of mankind bears ample testimony to the fact that religious experience has been too enduring and dominant in the history of mankind to be rejected as mere illusion. There seems to be no reason, then, to accept the normal level of human experience as fact and reject its other levels as mystical and emotional. The facts of religious experience are facts among other facts of human experience and, in the capacity of yielding knowledge by interpretation, one fact is as good as another.”[6]

He demonstrates the reality of mystic experience beyond sense-perception. He says: “For the purposes of knowledge, then, the region of mystic experience is as real as any other region of human experience and cannot be ignored merely because it cannot be traced back to sense-perception.”  

Iqbal initiates a paradigm shift from mere religiosity in understanding the nature of prophecy in Islam. He often uses the words prophetic experience or prophetic consciousness in the course of his writings. He calls the prophetic experience as a type of mystic consciousness. This single observation, among other things, makes him keep the door of mystic consciousness open till the end of times. He says: “A prophet may be defined as a type of mystic consciousness in which “unitary experience” tends to overflow its boundaries, and seeks opportunities of redirecting or refashioning the forces of collective life. In his personality the finite centre of life sinks into his own infinite depths only to spring up again, with fresh vigour, to destroy the old, and to disclose the new directions of life. This contact with the root of his own being is by no means peculiar to man. Indeed the way in which the word Wahi (inspiration) is used in the Qur’an shows that the Qur’an regards it as a universal property of life; though its nature and character are different at different stages of the evolution of life. The plant growing freely in space, the animal developing a new organ to suit a new environment, and a human being receiving light from the inner depths of life, are all cases of inspiration varying in character according to the needs of the recipient, or the needs of the species to which the recipient belongs.”[7]

He explains the phenomena of prophetic consciousness in these words: “Now during the minority of mankind psychic energy develops what I call prophetic consciousness– a mode of economizing individual thought and choice by providing ready-made judgements, choices, and ways of action. With the birth of reason and critical faculty, however, life, in its own interest, inhibits the formation and growth of non-rational modes of consciousness through which psychic energy flowed at an earlier stage of human evolution. Man is primarily governed by passion and instinct. Inductive reason which alone makes man master of his environment, is an achievement; and when once born it must be reinforced by inhibiting the growth of other modes of knowledge.”[8]

Iqbal is a great supporter of the idea of finality of prophethood in Islam. He says: “In Islam prophecy reaches its perfection in discovering the need of its own abolition. This involves the keen perception that life cannot for ever be kept in leading strings; that, in order to achieve full self-consciousness, man must finally be thrown back on his own resources. The abolition of priesthood and hereditary kingship in Islam, the constant appeal to reason and experience in the Qur’an, and the emphasis that it lays on Nature and History as sources of human knowledge, are all different aspects of the same idea of finality.”[9]

But he does not mean that the idea of finality in Islam has closed the door of mystic experience. He demonstrates it as a vital fact, which brings out the place of spirituality in the religion of Islam. The need of the hour is that every religion concentrates on its spiritual element, which is harbinger of hope for religious communities. He says: The idea, however, does not mean that mystic experience, which qualitatively does not differ from the experience of the prophet, has now ceased to exist as a vital fact. Indeed the Qur’an regards both Anfus (self) and Afaq (world) as sources of knowledge. God reveals His signs in inner as well as outer experience, and it is the duty of man to judge the knowledge-yielding capacity of all aspects of experience. The idea of finality, therefore,


*       Paper presented in “International Allama Iqbal Conference”, at Ferdowsi University Mashhad, Iran on 18th, 19th April 2012.

[1]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated, by M. Saeed Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 14.

[2]       Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal, (Urdu), “Bal-i-Jibril”, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 497.

[3]       Translation is my own.

[4]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated, by M. Saeed Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 13.

[5]       Ibid., p. 146.

[6]       Ibid., p. 13.

[7]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated, by M. Saeed Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 100.

[8]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated, by M. Saeed Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 100.

[9]       Ibid., p. 101.

should not be taken to suggest that the ultimate fate of life is complete displacement of emotion by reason. Such a thing is neither possible nor desirable. The intellectual value of the idea is that it tends to create an independent critical attitude towards mystic experience by generating the belief that all personal authority, claiming a supernatural origin, has come to an end in the history of man… The function of the idea is to open up fresh vistas of knowledge in the domain of man’s inner experience...... Mystic experience, then, however unusual and abnormal, must now be regarded by a Muslim as a perfectly natural experience, open to critical scrutiny like other aspects of human experience”.[1] He further says: “...saints in the psychological sense of the word or men of saintly character will always appear... Indeed as long as the spiritual capacity of mankind endures, they will arise among nations and countries in order to show better ideals of life to man. To hold otherwise would be to fly in the face of human experience. The only difference is that the modern man has the right to critical examination of their mystic experiences. The Finality of the Prophethood means, among other things, that all personal authority in religious life, denial of which involves damnation, has come to an end.”[2]

It is important to note that Iqbal’s Lectures compiled in his book: ‘The Reconstruction of Religious thought in Islam’ form the basis of his metaphysical, religious and philosophical thought. He has expressed some of these ideas in his magnificent Persian and Urdu poetry. His First Lecture: ‘Knowledge and Religious Experience’; his fifth Lecture: ‘The Spirit of Muslim Culture’ and his Seventh Lecture: ‘Is Religion Possible’ is interrelated. It is in His Seventh Lecture that he comes to deal with certain issues on religious experience, which he had tackled earlier. He sees religious life as dynamic passing through three periods. These three periods can be understood as the stages of the development of religious consciousness. The very concept of the periods of religious life is an ample testimony to the fact the religious life is a process. It is not static but dynamic having potentialities for creative development. In other words, it is the transformation of religiosity into spirituality. He says: “Broadly speaking religious life may be divided into three periods. These may be described as the periods of “Faith”, “Thought”, and “Discovery.” In the first period religious life appears as a form of discipline which the individual or a whole people must accept as an unconditional command without any rational understanding of the ultimate meaning and purpose of that command. This attitude may be of great consequence in the social and political history of a people, but is not of much consequence in so far as the individual’s inner growth and expansion are concerned.”[3]

Faith is the first stage of religious life. Even the prophet has to resort to faith on the revelations, which are revealed on his heart. The Qur’an says:

اٰمَنَ الرَّسُوْلُ بِمَآ اُنْزِلَ اِلَيْهِ مِنْ رَّبِّهٖ وَالْمُؤْمِنُوْنَ ۭ كُلٌّ اٰمَنَ بِاللّٰهِ وَمَلٰۗىِٕكَتِهٖ وَكُتُبِهٖ وَرُسُلِهٖ ۣلَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ اَحَدٍ مِّنْ رُّسُلِهٖ ۣ وَقَالُوْا سَمِعْنَا وَاَطَعْنَا ڭ غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَاِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيْرُ ٢٨٥؁

 “The Messenger has faith in what was send down to him from his Lord, and the men of faith; each one has faith in God and His angels, and in His Books and His Messengers; we make no division between any one of His Messengers. They say, ‘We hear, and obey. Our Lord, grant us Thy forgiveness; unto thee is the homecoming.” (Al-Quran, 2: 285)

This stage of religious life is a point of departure but not a point of destination. The Qur’an states:

قَالَتِ الْاَعْرَابُ اٰمَنَّا ۭ قُلْ لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوْا وَلٰكِنْ قُوْلُوْٓا اَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْاِيْمَانُ فِيْ قُلُوْبِكُمْ ۭ وَاِنْ تُطِيْعُوا اللّٰهَ وَرَسُوْلَهٗ لَا يَـلِتْكُمْ مِّنْ اَعْمَالِكُمْ شَـيْـــــًٔا ۭ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ غَفُوْرٌ رَّحِيْمٌ   14؀

“The Bedouin say: We have attained Iman. Say: you have not attained Iman, you should say, we have surrendered (Aslamna) for Iman has not yet entered your hearts. But if you pay heed unto God and his Apostle, He will not let the least of your deeds go to waste for, behold, God is much – Forgiving a dispenser of grace.” (Al-Quran, 49: 14)

The first period of religious life has almost been monopolised by the clerics who consider it as the final stage and thereby turn it into religiosity. Iqbal laments that we are losing the spirit of faith. Our religious behaviour is becoming more and more ritualistic. The rituals and morals are becoming ends in themselves. The burning zeal of religious life is almost cooling down leading to a certain form of deadness. Man has started to move away from the fountain of life. Faith without any rational understanding and spiritual encounters becomes static and ultimately loses the throb of life. He says:

رگوں میں وہ لَہُو باقی نہیں ہے

وہ دل ، وہ آرزو باقی نہیں ہے

نماز و روزہ و قُربانی و حج

یہ سب باقی ہے تُو باقی نہیں ہے[4]

وہی اصلِ مکان و لامکاں ہے

مکاں کیا شے ہے ، اندازِ بیاں ہے

خِضر کیونکر بتائے ، کیا بتائے

اگر ماہی کہے دَریا کہاں ہے[5]

کوئی یہ پوچھے کہ واعظ کا کیا بگڑتا ہے

جو بے عمل پہ بھی رحمت وہ بے نیاز کرے[6]

عجب واعظ کی دِیں`داری ہے یارب!

عداوت ہے اسے سارے جہاں سے[7]

غرورِ زُہد نے سکھلا دیا ہے واعظ کو

کہ بندگانِ خدا پر زباں دراز کرے[8]

 

The attempt to remain at this stage is stagnating for religious life. It also lacks reverence (adab) for the higher stages. Man has to move to the second period of the religious life, which imparts rational understanding of religion. He says: “Perfect submission to discipline is followed by a rational understanding of the discipline and the ultimate source of its authority. In this period religious life seeks its foundation in a kind of metaphysics– a logically consistent view of the world with God as a part of that view.”[9]

Iqbal states that search for rational foundations in Islam was initiated by the Prophet himself who constantly prayed to be granted knowledge of the ultimate nature of things. It was the birth of inductive intellect, which made the Muslims founders of modern science. He quotes Alfred North Whitehead: “The ages of faith are the ages of rationalism.” It is a religious fact that reflecting on the Signs of God within man and the cosmos is a constant reminder of God to man. But the Signs of God have to be reflected upon and not accepted blindly.

The Qur’an says:

وَالَّذِيْنَ اِذَا ذُكِّرُوْا بِاٰيٰتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِـرُّوْا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَّعُمْيَانًا    73؀

“Who, when they are reminded of the Signs of their Lord, fall not down there at deaf and blind.” (Al-Quran, 25: 73)

The Qur’anic verse implies that they have to be accepted by reflection. However, reason has its limits and it has to give way to intuition in order to reach the truth in fullness.

Iqbal mentions the futility of Nietzsche’s rational search of truth without the aid of Intuition or Ishq. He says:

بُلند بال تھا ، لیکن نہ تھا جَسُور و غیُور

حَکیمِ سِرِّ مُحبَت سے بے نصیب رہا

پھرا فَضاؤں میں کرگس اگرچہ شاہیں وار

شکارِ زندہ کی لذّت سے بے نصیب رہا[10]

 

کافر کی یہ پہچان کہ آفاق میں گم ہے

مومن کی یہ پہچان کہ گُم اس میں ہیں آفاق![11]

 

عقل گو آستاں سے دُور نہیں

اس کی تقدیر میں حُضُور نہیں

دلِ بینا بھی کر خدا سے طَلَب

آنکھ کا نور دل کا نُور نہیں[12]

 

There is a constant strife between reason (aql) and intuition (ishq) which has been brought out by Iqbal in his poem عقل و دل wherein he highlights the role of each in the scheme of reality. He points to a conflict between reason and ‘heart’. He says:

عقل نے اِیک دِن یہ دل سے کہا

بُھولے بھَٹکے کی رَہنما ہوں میں

ہوں زمیں پر، گذر فلک پہ مرا

دیکھ تو کس قدر رَسَا ہوں میں

ہوں مفسّر کتابِ ہستی کی

مظہرِ شانِ کبریا ہوں میں

بوند اِک خون کی ہے تُو لیکن

غیرتِ لعلِ بے بہا ہوں میں

دل نے سُن کر کہا یہ سب سچ ہے

پر مجھے بھی تو دیکھ کیا ہوں میں

رازِ ہستی کو تُو سمجھتی ہے

اور آنکھوں سے دیکھتا ہوں میں!

ہے تجھے واسطہ مظاہر سے

اور باطن سے آشنا ہوں میں

علم تجھ سے ، تو معرفت مجھ سے

تُو خدا جُو ، خدا نما ہوں میں

علم کی انتہا ہے بےتابی

اس مرض کی مگر دوا ہوں میں

شمع تُو محفلِ صداقت کی

حسن کی بزم کا دیا ہوں میں

کس بُلندی پہ ہے مَقام مرا

عرش ربِ جلیل کا ہوں میں![13]

 

Rational knowledge can never equal intuitive knowledge. The rationalist knows but the mystic sees. Iqbal says: “When the mystic Sultan Abu Sa’id met the philosopher Abu ‘Au ibn Sina, he is reported to have said: ‘I see what he knows.’”[14]

The discord between reason (aql) and heart (dil) gives birth to the highest stage of religious life. Iqbal says: “In the third period metaphysics is displaced by psychology, and religious life develops the ambition to come into direct contact with the Ultimate Reality. It is here that religion becomes a matter of personal assimilation of life and power; and the individual achieves a free personality, not by releasing himself from the fetters of the law, but by discovering the ultimate source of the law within the depths of his own consciousness. As in the words of a Muslim Sufi– “no understanding of the Holy Book is possible until it is actually revealed to the believer just as it was revealed to the Prophet.” [15]

He gives poetic expression to these spiritual facts. He says:

یہ پیام دے گئی ہے مجھے بادِ صُبح گاہی

کہ خُودی کے عَارفوں کا ہے مقامِ پادشاہی[16]

 

جب عشق سکھاتا ہے آدابِ خود آگاہی

کُھلتے ہیں غُلاموں پر اسرارِ شہنشاہی[17]

 
Iqbal says: “The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something. …The end of the ego’s quest is not emancipation from the limitations of individuality; it is, on the other hand, a more precise definition of it. The final act is not an intellectual act, but a vital act which deepens the whole being of the ego, and


[1]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated, by M. Saeed Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 101.

[2]       Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 207.

[3]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated, by M. Saeed Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 143.

[4]       Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal, (Urdu), “Bal-i-Jibril”, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 414.

[5]       Ibid., p. 411.

[6]       Ibid., “Bang-i-Dra”, p. 131.

[7]       Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal, (Urdu), “Bang-i-Dra”, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 125.

[8]       Ibid., p. 132.

[9]       Ibid.

[10]     Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal, (Urdu), “Bal-i-Jibril”, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 490.

[11]     Ibid., “Zarb-i-Kalim”, p. 557.

[12]     Ibid., “Bal-i-Jibril”, p. 375.

[13]     Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal, (Urdu), “Bang-i-Dra”, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 72.

[14]     Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 182.

[15]     Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal, (Urdu), “Bang-i-Dra”, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 143.

[16]     Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal, (Urdu), “Bang-i-Dra”, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 377.

[17]     Ibid., p. 385.

sharpens his will with the creative assurance that the world is not something to be merely seen or known through concepts, but something to be made and re-made by continuous action. It is a moment of supreme bliss and also a moment of the greatest trial for the ego.”[1] He further says: “This vital way of appropriating the universe is what the Qur’an describes as Imān. Imān is not merely a passive belief in one or more propositions of a certain kind; it is living assurance begotten of a rare experience. Strong personalities alone are capable of rising to this experience…In the history of religious experience in Islam which, according to the Prophet, consists in the “creation of Divine attributes in man,” this experience has found expression in such phrases as “I am the creative truth” (Hallāj), “I am Time” (Muhammad), “I am the speaking Qur’an” (‘Alī), “Glory to me” (Bā Yazīd).[2]

Iqbal cautions about the phenomena of pseudo-mysticism and life-denying attitudes, which hamper the  development of  sound religious life. He says:

اُٹھا میں مدرسہِ و خانقاہ سے غمناک

نہ زندگی ، نہ محبت ، نہ معرفت ، نہ نگاہ[3]

 

رہا نہ حلقۂ صُوفی میں سوزِ مُشتاقی

فسانہ ہائے کرامات رہ گئے باقی[4]

 

مَکتبوں میں کہیں رَعنائی اَفکار بھی ہے؟

خانقاہوں میں کہیں لذتِ اَسرار بھی ہے؟[5]

 

محکوم کو پِیروں کی کرامات کا سودا

ہے بندۂ آزاد خود اِک زندہ کرامات[6]

 

اُٹھا میں مدرسہِ و خانقاہ سے غم ناک

نہ زندگی ، نہ محبت ، نہ معرفت ، نہ نگاہ![7]

 

ترا تَن رُوح سے ناآشنا ہے

عجب کیا! آہ تیری نارسا ہے

تنِ بے رُوح سے بیزار ہے حَق

خدائے زندہ ، زندوں کا خدا ہے[8]

 

صوفی کی طریقت میں فَقط مستیِ احوال

مُلّا کی شریعت میں فَقط مستیِ گُفتار

شاعر کی نوا مُردہ و اَفسُردہ و بے ذوق

اَفکار میں سرمست، نہ خوابیدہ نہ بیدار

وہ مردِ مجاہد نظر آتا نہیں مجھ کو

ہو جس کے رَگ و پے میں فَقط مستیِ کردار[9]

 

Khawaja Ghulam Farid is a Saraiki Sufi poet of the nineteenth century, belonging to our part of the world. He belongs to the metaphysical and Sufi tradition of Ibn Arabi, Bayazid Bistami and Mansur Hallaj. He approaches the subject from the metaphysical point of view. His views on epistemology and ontology have added glorious chapters in the literature pertaining to the Sufi tradition. He is an ardent advocate of Oneness of Being (Hamaoost). He finds fault with religiosity, which acts as an obstacle in reaching spirituality.

ملوانے دے وعظ نہ بھانے

بیشک ساڈا دین ایمانے

ابن العربی دا دستور

The sermons of the clerics do not touch us. Undoubtedly, our committed way is the tradition of Ibn’ Arabi.

عاشق مست مدام ملامی

کہہ سبحانی بن بسطامی

آکھ اناالحق تھی منصور [10]

The entranced lover exists beyond disdain. Say: ‘Glory to me’ and become Bistami. Say: ‘I am the Truth’ and become Mansur.

ملا ویری سخت ڈسیندے

بے شک ہن استاد دلیں دے

اِبن العَربی تے منصور [11]

The clerics seem hardened adversaries. Undoubtedly, Ibn’ Arabi and Mansur impart heart–knowledge.

نیت فرید نماز شہودی

ہر شے میں ہے رمز وجودی

سَٹ  مُلوانے   جو  مذکور[12]

Farid! Resolve to offer the prayer of witnessing. Being itself is manifest in everything. Discard the talk of the clerics.

ابن العربی دی رکھ ملت

ٹھپ رکھ فقہ اصول مسائل[13]

Shelve jurisprudence, principles and issues. Remain committed to the tradition of Ibn Arabi.

سِکھ ریت روش منصوری نوں

ہن ٹھپ رکھ کنز قدوری نوں[14]

Learn the Mansurian tradition and its realisation. Now, shelve ‘Kanz’ ‘Kanduri’ (books of jurisprudence).

مرشد فخر جہاں نے

کیتم اے ارشاد

Fakhr-i-Jehan, my spiritual master, has pontificated (solemnly declared).

عارف ابن العربی

ساڈا    ہے   استاد[15]

Ibn ‘Arabi, the gnostic, is our Master.

سمجھ فرید ہمیشہ

رہو    غیروں    آزاد[16]

Farid! Understand it for all times. Remain free of otherness.

سِکھ خلت سَٹ غیر دی علت

ابن العربی دی رکھ ملت

آکھیم سوہنے فخر جہان[17]

Learn the lesson of unity and leave craving of otherness. Be in the tracks of Ibn’ Arabi. The majestic Fakhr Jehan advises so.

His intellectual intuition unfolds deeper layers of truth, which are beyond the ken of religiosity. Religiosity, bereft of love and gnosis, finds many things as stumbling blocks in his Diwan. These can only be removed at the plane of Intellectuality/Spirituality. His ecstatic utterances, for example, in his gnostic mode of poetry (kafis) seem outrageous to the religious psyche for it has never tasted the fruits of spirituality. It also has no ways to appreciate his direct contact with God, experience of the prophetic presence (haduri), and his unconditional commitment with his spiritual Master (murshid), which are the fruits of deepest love and reverence. Likewise, at times, his going beyond the rituals is a dilemma for the religionists, who are condemned to measure spirituality merely on the level of religiosity. They also fail to recognize his universal vision of finding the metaphysical and religious traditions of the world as manifestations of the identical Light and thereby transcending the exclusivity of every religion in essentially conceiving their transcendent unity. Religiosity also does not understand his seeing the ontological unreality of everything except the Reality (God), which he attains by different spiritual methods including witnessing (mushahida) and unveiling (kashf). It finds it so difficult to agree with him when he apprehends the Reality (God), in the Attribute of Sovereign (Sultan) of the world, and in the form of labourer (mazdur) in simultaneity. It equally finds it difficult when he witnesses the Reality (God) in the Attribute of Royal (Hakim), the issuer of royal decrees, simultaneously in the form of lowly (miskeen). It is completely at a loss to share his vision when, at times, he transcends the polarisations between Islam and infidelity (kufr); Truth (Haq) and falsehood (batil) ; Beautiful (Sohna) and ugly (kojha); Good (Khayr) and evil (shar), Virtuous (Nek) and vicious (bad’); Faithful (Momin) and heathen (kafir); Mindful of God (Zakir) and heedless (nasi) etc, and embraces them all by going to the root beyond these polarisations. These only arise out of the necessity of manifestation. Thus, religious consciousness remaining opaque to his metaphysics of Light which teaches that Light essentially remains Light in the state of reflection or deflection, unaffected by any of these states. Religiosity does not comprehend his transcending the individual mode of knowledge and action to the universal mode of Knowledge itself and nonaction respectively. It also has no inkling of his use of traditional symbolism and is condemned to remain stranded on the mere literal meanings of words. Religiosity utterly fails to understand his doctrine of Oneness of Being (Hamaoost), wherein the Reality (God) manifests in all forms in the simultaneity of its transcendence and immanence -- without the Reality being affected by any of these forms. It equally fails to understand his experiencing all these forms as essentially inviolable since there is no otherness and, thus his solely finding ‘the Indivisible One-And-Only’ as ‘the One-And-All’. It is ‘Seeing God Everywhere’ and thereby loving God everywhere. It is going beyond the ‘ontological unreality’ of the mediums to the One who is ‘the Most Real’. It is exceedingly imperative to realize Khawaja Ghulam Farid’s spiritual levels of understanding, otherwise one is likely to miss his ultimate metaphysical vision and remain stranded on the plane of mere religiosity.

It is exceedingly imperative to note that Iqbal’s religious metaphysics is grounded in man-God polarity, which at times assumes a form of irreducible duality. It is present at the start of religious life and remains so till the end of the spiritual quest. He talks of individual or mystic realisation and has no inkling of universal or metaphysical realisation. Khawaja Ghulam Farid, on the other hand, achieves both mystic and metaphysical realisations. He considers man-God polarity as provisional, which is ultimately withdrawn by the Essence or Self itself. It is by virtue of intense love and suffering that the ego achieves the highest stage of ontological nothingness in the Face of the Absolute. The Reality takes over the human overlay and acts through it. It contemplates itself in the purified mirror of his heart. The purpose of Man’s existence is realised. He expresses his ultimate realisation in on one of his ‘kafis’ (Poem)

دِل مست محو خیال ہے

سرمو تفاوت نہ سہوں

My heart is engrossed within imagination. I cannot bear any differentiation.

اے خیال عین وصال ہے

تے کمال ہے نہ کہ ہے جنوں

My imagination is an immanent union. It is perfection and not lunacy.

اصل الاصول شہدتہ

چہ شہود عین بعینہ

ہمہ سو بسو ہمہ کوبکو

نہیں فرصت اتنی کہ دم بھروں

I have openly witnessed the Supreme Principle in every nook and corner. The witnessing is so glaringly evident that I cannot disengage myself even for a moment.

جو مکاں تھا بن گیا لامکاں

شدہ اسم و رسم زمن دواں

جو نشان تھا ہو گیا بے نشاں

اللہ اپنے آپ کو کیا کہوں

The spatial turned spaceless. The sign turned without a sign. The names and customs of the ages have left me forlorn. My Allah! What should I call myself?

نہ عیان ہے نہ نہان ہے

نہ رہا ایہہ جسم نہ جان ہے

نہ بیان ہے نہ دھیان ہے

کِیہاں ڈوس ہوش حواس کوں

There is neither openness nor hiddenness. There is neither speech nor a thought. My body has neither remained nor the life-impulse. How can I blame my sense and sensibility?

شد عکس در عکس ایں بِنا

باقی نماند بجز انا

کہ فنا بقا ہے بقا فنا

کِتھ او تے توں کِتھ ہاں تے ہوں

There is double reflection. ‘Fana’ (extinction) is ‘baqa’ (subsistence) and ‘baqa’ (subsistence) is ‘fana’ (extinction). There is solely the ultimate, without any question of that and you (otherness)?

کڈیں شور دے سطوات ہن

کئی قسم دے بکوات ہن

کڈیں زور دے شطحات ہن

ستوں دے بتوں، بتوں دے ستوں

There are percussions and spiritual impositions at times and at times there are drives and antinomian utterances. There are so many types of prattling leading to meaningless discourse.

اٹھ گئی ”فرید“ ہوس مُنڈھوں

کسے کس ہو کس ناکس منڈھوں

نہ رہا ہئی وَس ہک خس منڈھوں

چپ چاپ فیل فساد توں[18]

Farid! Lust has been uprooted. I have become incapacitated as a straw. You should be quiet for there will be tumult in determining, who absolutely merits or who does not merit.

To conclude, Iqbal and Khawaja Ghulam Farid, in their own ways, are ardent advocates of vibrant religious life at the level of the individual and the community, which is spiritual in essence. All the periods of religious life have their rationale and it is necessary for the incumbents to always keep in view the apex of religious life. It will integrate the inward and the outward. It will lead to harmony and equilibrium both in the inner world and the outer one.



[1]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, edited and annotated, by M. Saeed Sheikh, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1989, p. 156-157.

[2]       Ibid., p. 87, 88.

[3]       Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal, (Urdu), “Bal-i-Jibril”, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 378.

[4]       Ibid., p. 393.

[5]       Ibid., p. 392.

[6]       Iqbal, Muhammad, Kuliyat-i-Iqbal, (Urdu), “Zarb-i-Kalim”, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 591.

[7]       Ibid., “Bal-i-Jibril”, p. 378.

[8]       Ibid., “Bal-i-Jibril”, p. 415.

[9]       Ibid., “Zarb-i-Kalim”, p. 552, 553.

[10]    Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 37.

[11]     Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 50.

[12]     Ibid., Kafi 57.

[13]     Ibid., Kafi 72.

[14]     Ibid., Kafi 119.

[15]     Ibid., Kafi 29.

[16]     Ibid., Kafi 29.

[17]    Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 134.

[18]    Diwan-i-Khawaja Farid, Kafi 103.

 

  The Metaphysical Foundations Of  

Allama Iqbal’s Political Thought*

I

 

s there a possibility of the world beyond our ordinary world? Has man a possibility of knowledge within him beyond his ordinary possibilities, which could give him knowledge of that world? These are essentially two interrelated primordial questions, at times nameless, which to all intents and purposes have been found in their varied formulations in the history of human thought and shall continue to remain so till the end of times. Man, in the process of history, has taken varied positions regarding the question of the ultimate Reality (God in the religious sense) and the implied levels of knowledge. Generally speaking, the first viewpoint consists of the metaphysicians, prophets, mystics, gnostics, religious philosophers, theists and a number of philosophers of religion who affirm the Ultimate Reality (God) and simultaneously affirm a source of knowledge in man leading to the knowledge of the Ultimate Reality (God). The second viewpoint is of the atheistic thinkers who deny the ultimate Reality (God) and negate any transcendental source of knowledge in man. Atheism includes materialism, atheistic existentialism, positivism, dialectical materialism, logical positivism and certain forms of linguistic philosophy and postmodernism. The third viewpoint belongs to the scientists for whom the question of the ultimate Reality (God) and the possibility of any source of knowledge within man laying claim to such Reality (God) is beyond the scope of science. Science deals with the visible world, which is studied by virtue of sense-experience. Anything beyond the sensuous world does not fall within the ambit of science. Any scientist transgressing the bounds of science becomes scientistic by metamorphosing science into scientism. The fourth viewpoint is that of the agnostics. In the most general use of the term agnosticism, it means that one cannot know whether there is ultimate Reality (God) or not.

Kant (1724–1804) is prototype of the modern Western mentality in his approach both to epistemology and ontology. His Critical Philosophy tends to critically examine the mode of knowing itself. He considers the role of the philosophy of pure reason as negative since it does not extend knowledge but delimits it. He restricts and constricts the frontiers of knowledge. He in his Critique of Pure Reason, raises a question: Is Metaphysics possible? He negates the possibility of metaphysics on the ground that Pure Reason deals only with the Phenomena or Appearance and it has no access to the Noumena or Reality. Appearance is the things as they appear to be whereas Reality is the things-in-themselves. Man has knowledge of the phenomena by virtue of sense–experience and reason. But the knowledge of the Noumena or the ultimate Reality is impossible. There is no faculty in man, which could lay claim to any such knowledge. Since things-in-themselves, which constitute the Noumena are unknowable, therefore metaphysics as an attempt to gain knowledge beyond the phenomenal reality is impossible.

Kant states that the Reality is there but it is beyond the ken of knowledge. It cannot be known by pure reason. There is no possibility in man, which could give him knowledge of the Reality (Noumena). He assumes Noumena from the level of phenomena and just takes it as a working hypothesis. It is his delimited epistemology, which correspondingly delimits his ontology and makes him negate the possibility of metaphysics. He commits the fallacy of Delimitation by delimiting the ‘Non-Delimited Being’ ontologically and delimiting knowledge of it epistemologically. Pure Reason cannot know it. We do not contend. Isn’t it presumptuous to negate even the higher possibility of knowing the Reality or the Absolute? It is this presumptuousness, which characterises the thought of the modern West till the present times.

Kant banishes the ultimate Reality (God) from the ambit of knowledge but brings it back on moral grounds. God, freedom and immortality are presented as postulates of Practical Reason. The confluence of virtue and happiness, among other things, necessitates these postulates. Kant conjectures on moral consciousness to believe in God, freedom and immortality. Such a belief system devoid of intellectuality and spirituality ceases to have an iota of even moral worth. He, in the ultimate analysis, acts as a decoy or a Trojan horse to smuggle profanity in sacred lands.

The delinking of the modern West from the ancient world under the spell of Renaissance, Enlightenment and Reformation, among other things, has delimited knowledge in its essentiality. The veils of knowledge have correspondingly veiled the levels of being. The bridges between epistemology (science of knowledge) and ontology (science of being) have turned into stone walls. The modern man has become oblivious of the higher forms of knowledge and the corresponding higher levels of being. Such obliviousness has created a subtle form of arrogance, which is visible in different forms of modern thought.

The modern tendency to read Western meanings in Eastern terms creates insoluble problems. The works of many Orientalists, in this context, have led to an unbridgeable gulf between the East and the West. The traditional world with its metaphysics, religions, sciences, arts and humanities has a different perspective from the modern one. Their epistemological and ontological concepts are rooted in their respective frames of references and it is exceedingly imperative to understand them in their true import. It is to be borne in mind that the traditional world has kept metaphysics and religion as the underlying principle of both knowledge and being. The metaphysical principle of ‘unity in diversity’ has remained its essential foundation. It has given legitimate freedom to the sciences in the perspective of wholeness. It is pertinent to point out that the word tradition meaning “that which is transmitted.” is both oral and written. The term covers a wide range of subjects. In its ordinary sense, tradition stands for customs, beliefs and conventions inherited from the past. However, there is a deeper meaning enshrined in this term, which has become oblivious in the modern world. From the Eastern point of view, tradition is attached to a doctrine which belongs to an intellectual order. Generally, the doctrine is metaphysical or religious. The humanistic culture, for example, is essentially, characterized by the absence of the principle. It negates the metaphysical foundations of Man. It is pertinent to note that whatever form humanism has taken---atheistic, evolutionary, agnostic, scientific and existential---it has essentially agreed to reduce everything to the purely human elements and thereby to exclude everything that transcends the human plane. It has been open, emphatic and uncompromising in its revolt against Heavens. But the traditional civilizations, on the other hand, have considered Man as a bridge between the Heavens and the earth.

The traditional writers essentially differentiate traditional social institutions from modern social institutions. The former are ‘effectively attached to a traditional doctrine’ whereas the latter are autonomous. Traditional understanding of cultural and social institutions is qualitatively different from the modern one and an attempt to mingle them creates many a misunderstandings. It has to be borne in mind that a traditional society does not grant autonomy to various disciplines unlike the modern West. It ties all the social institutions to the intellectual principle. Political thought, for example, is not autonomous but is tied with the principle of traditional or religious metaphysics. Thus, all the political concepts including those of the state, sovereignty, law, nationality, justice, freedom, liberty, equality, and democracy have different connotations in the traditional and modern societies. One has to bear these things in mind while considering the metaphysical foundations of Iqbal’s political thought, which is essentially grounded in religious metaphysics in spite of its apparent modern connotations.

Iqbal (1877-1938) deeply studied the German Philosopher Kant and keenly perceived the subtle trends of modern philosophy in the West. Kant denial of the possibility of metaphysics and his declaration that knowledge gained through sense-experience and pure reason was the only form of valid knowledge meant that the metaphysical realm, which was beyond the sensible world, could not be known. It implied banishing God from the realm of knowledge. It had posed a great challenge to human thought. Iqbal accepted this challenge and turned his question: Is metaphysics possible to the question: Is Religion Possible. He answered in the affirmative and thereby developed his own philosophical system. He critically examined the assumptions of Kant and stated that religious experience was a valid form of knowledge and it could not be rejected merely because it could not be traced back to sense-perception. Iqbal, in contradistinction to Kant, made knowledge the basis of ideas, feelings, words and actions. Their worth consisted in their connectivity to knowledge.

He says: “Indeed, in view of its function, religion stands in greater need of a rational foundation of its ultimate principles than even the dogmas of science. Science may ignore a rational metaphysics; indeed, it has ignored it so far. Religion can hardly afford to ignore the search for a reconciliation of the oppositions of experience and a justification of the environment in which humanity finds itself. ....... While sitting in judgement on religion, philosophy cannot give religion an inferior place among its data. Religion is not a departmental affair; it is neither mere thought, nor mere feeling, nor mere action; it is an expression of the whole man. Thus, in the evaluation of religion, philosophy must recognize the central position of religion and has no other alternative but to admit it as something focal in the process of reflective synthesis”.[1]

He gave political vision of an independent Muslim Sovereign State based on the religious principles of Islam, which led to the creation of Pakistan. One of his greatest contributions is to show that the freedom of Islam means, freedom, equality and solidarity of all the people living in an Islamic State without any racial, cultural or religious discrimination. One of his principal political concepts of spiritual democracy has been to show that it is the spiritual principle of the inherent dignity of man, which rules out any form of discrimination in an Islamic State and elsewhere. Iqbal says: “Let the Muslim of today appreciate his position, reconstruct his social life in the light of ultimate principles, and evolve, out of the hitherto partially revealed purpose of Islam, that spiritual democracy which is the ultimate aim of Islam.”[2]

Iqbal, as we have seen, does not present a mere political philosophy but grounds his political thought in the nature or law of things. The world of matter is dispersive and political life by its very nature is divisive. There cannot be a lasting and endurable unity within the world of multiplicity unless the principle of unity is considered independent of multiplicity. One has to understand that the metaphysical principle of ‘unity in diversity’ accounts for multiplicity and restores it back to its original principle of unity. Unity is a vertical concept unlike multiplicity, which is horizontal. Modern political thought divests itself from the metaphysical principle of unity and creates different semblances of unity, which ultimately prove to be ephemeral. There are independent and autonomous political systems, which in spite of certain commonalities, are enmeshed in multiplicity without any inkling of unity. It has led in our present centuries to devastating revolutions and political oppressions of such magnitude unheard of in the history of man.

Iqbal presents the religious principle of Tawhid (unity of God), which provides and dynamically guarantees the unity of mankind. The world-unity flows from the unity of God. Man in obedience to God is essentially in conformity with his own higher self. He is not subservient to man and his delimitations of thought and deed. He is saved from political exploitations in their varied forms. His political life is neither pawned to vested interests nor to any class-interests. His political activity becomes so spiritually meaningful. He says: “The new culture finds the foundation of world-unity in the principle of Tauhid. Islam, as a polity, is only a practical means of making this principle a living factor in the intellectual and emotional life of mankind. It demands loyalty to God, not to thrones. And since God is the ultimate spiritual basis of all life, loyalty to God virtually amounts to man’s loyalty to his own ideal nature”. [3]

The Islamic concept of state stands to realise the principle of Tawhid (unity of God) in its various political institutions to safeguard political freedom, principle of equality and an integrated society. The success of such an organization lies in its perfect realisation of the Divine unity. Islamic state can be termed as theocratic solely in this sense. It rules out any form of despotism or infallibility of any ruler or state institution. It is neither the rule of clergy nor the rule of any heavenly class. The concept of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ finds no place in the political system of Islam. Islamic polity is purified from all these distortions that garb vested interests of different classes. Iqbal says: “The essence of Tauhid, as a working idea, is equality, solidarity, and freedom. The state, from the Islamic standpoint, is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realize them in a definite human organization. It is in this sense alone that the state in Islam is a theocracy, not in the sense that it is headed by a representative of God on earth who can always screen his despotic will behind his supposed infallibility”.[4]

Iqbal’s universal message, embracing political activity, is the message of inwardness. He is of the considered view that outwardness bereft of inwardness has been mainly responsible for the modern predicament. Man’s lopsided growth of rationalism has made him cut from his inner reservoirs. It has also led to antagonistic contradictions in the spheres of his economic and political activity. Man has ceased to harmoniously develop himself, which has resulted in the alienation of the individual from the society. He says: “Thus, wholly overshadowed by the results of his intellectual activity, the modern man has ceased to live soulfully, i.e. from within. In the domain of thought he is living in open conflict with himself; and in the domain of economic and political life he is living in open conflict with others. He finds himself unable to control his ruthless egoism and his infinite gold-hunger which is gradually killing all higher striving in him and bringing him nothing but life-weariness. Absorbed in the “fact”, that is to say, the optically present source of sensation, he is entirely cut off from the unplumbed depths of his own being. In the wake of his systematic materialism has at last come that paralysis of energy which Huxley apprehended and deplored.”[5]

The materialistic conception of the universe does not provide spiritual basis for the emancipation of an individual or the development of society. The world has to realise sooner or later that it is the principle of spirituality, which provides a firm ground for world-unity. The principle of spirituality is the essential foundation of humanity. Iqbal says: “Humanity needs three things today– a spiritual interpretation of the universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual and basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis.”[6]

He wants the individual and the society to develop on a spiritual basis. Here, it is pertinent to point out that Iqbal’s message of spirituality is not only addressed to the modern West but it is equally applicable to those votaries of religion who under the spell of modernism are undermining the very principle of spirituality, which is kernel of their religion. The religious modes bereft of spirituality are becoming lifeless. Most of the modern movements in the world of Islam in the forms of religiosity (ritualism, rationalism and activism militant) are becoming antithetical to the Sufi tradition of Islam. Iqbal does not appreciate the negation of the role of spirituality on the ground that the idea of finality of Prophethood leaves no room for subsequent spirituality. He says: “The idea, however, does not mean that mystic experience, which qualitatively does not differ from the experience of the prophet, has now ceased to exist as a vital fact. Indeed the Qur’an regards both Anfus (self) and Āfāq (world) as sources of knowledge. God reveals His signs in inner as well as outer experience, and it is the duty of man to judge the knowledge-yielding capacity of all aspects of experience. The idea of finality, therefore, should not be taken to suggest that the ultimate fate of life is complete displacement of emotion by reason. Such a thing is neither possible nor desirable.”[7]

The spiritual is not a single aspect of life but is all-embracive. It enfolds the temporal in its universal domain. It is integration of the temporal and the eternal. The state governs the human in light of the divine. There is essentially no dichotomy between the material and the spiritual. The material becomes sacrosanct by virtue of the spiritual. He says: “The Ultimate Reality, according to the Qur’an, is spiritual, and its life consists in its temporal activity. The spirit finds its opportunities in the natural, the material, the secular. All that is secular is, therefore, sacred in the roots of its being. The greatest service that modern thought has rendered to Islam, and as a matter of fact to all religion, consists in its criticism of what we call material or natural - a criticism which discloses that the merely material has no substance until we discover it rooted in the spiritual. There is no such thing as a profane world. All this immensity of matter constitutes a scope for the self-realization of spirit. All is holy ground. As the Prophet so beautifully puts it : ‘The whole of this earth is a mosque.’ The state, according to Islam, is only an effort to realize the spiritual in a human organization”.[8]

The Islamic political thought does not envisage a cleavage between the Church and the State as happened in the European world. The foundation of Muslim polity integrates all aspects of life in wholeness. Spirituality permeates all its activity. Iqbal says:  “No doubt, the Qur’an does lay down a few general principles and rules of a legal nature, especially relating to the family – the ultimate basis of social life. But why are these rules made part of a revelation the ultimate aim of which is man’s higher life? The answer to this question is furnished by the history of Christianity which appeared as a powerful reaction against the spirit of legality manifested in Judaism. By setting up an ideal of other-worldliness it no doubt did succeed in spiritualizing life, but


*      Paper presented at the International Conference “The Political Thought of Allama Iqbal” at the Biblioteca Comunale, Milano, via Francesco Sforza 7 on 16th May 2012.

[1]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 2.

[2]       Ibid., p. 142.

[3]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 117.

[4]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, pp. 122, 123.

[5]          Ibid., p. 148.

[6]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 142

[7]       Ibid., p. 101.

[8]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 123.

its individualism could see no spiritual value in the complexity of human social relations. ... the Qur’an considers it necessary to unite religion and state, ethics and politics in a single revelation much in the same way as Plato does in his Republic.”[1]He further says: “The great point in Christianity is the search for an independent content for spiritual life which, according to the insight of its founder, could be elevated, not by the forces of a world external to the soul of man, but by the revelation of a new world within his soul. Islam fully agrees with this insight and supplements it by the further insight that the illumination of the new world thus revealed is not something foreign to the world of matter but permeates it through and through.”[2]

Islam presents a dynamic view of the universe. It does not accept blood-relationship as a foundation of human unity. It is man’s link with Heavens, which can provide him firm foothold on the earth. He says: “As a cultural movement Islam rejects the old static view of the universe, and reaches a dynamic view. As an emotional system of unification it recognizes the worth of the individual as such, and rejects blood-relationship as a basis of human unity. Blood-relationship is earth-rootedness. The search for a purely psychological foundation of human unity becomes possible only with the perception that all human life is spiritual in its origin.1 Such a perception is creative of fresh loyalties without any ceremonial to keep them alive, and makes it possible for man to emancipate himself from the earth. Christianity which had originally appeared as a monastic order was tried by Constantine as a system of unification. Its failure to work as such a system drove the Emperor Julian to return to the old gods of Rome on which he attempted to put philosophical interpretations.”[3]

Islam propounds a unique concept of nationality, which essentially characterises the Muslim Community. It is qualitatively different from the Western notion. It is not based on blood-relationship, language, territory or economic interest. It is more of an abstract concept transcending earth-rootedness. It is this concept of nationality, which does not offer any obstruction in the way of achieving harmony among different nations and also in its ultimate aim of achieving universal brotherhood. Iqbal says: “The essential difference between the Muslim Community and other Communities of the world consists in our peculiar conception of nationality. It is not the unity of language or country or the identity of economic interest that constitutes the basic principle of our nationality. It is because we all believe in a certain view of the universe, and participate in the same historical tradition that we are members of the society founded by the Prophet of Islam) Islam abhors all material limitations, and bases its nationality on a purely abstract idea, objectified in a potentially expansive group of concrete personalities. It is not dependent for its life-principle on the character and genius of a particular people, in its essence it is non-temporal, non-spatial.”[4]He further says: “A true and living unity..... is truly manifested in a multiplicity of free independent units whose racial rivalries are adjusted and harmonized by the unifying bond of a common spiritual aspiration...Islam is neither Nationalism nor Imperialism but a League of Nations which recognizes artificial boundaries and racial distinctions for facility of reference only, and not for restricting the social horizon of its members.”[5]

Islam provides a framework, which does not consider the apparent distinctions as final but has the capacity and strength to embrace all races and nationalities within its spiritual bosom. Iqbal says: “The law of Islam does not recognise the apparently natural differences of race, nor the historical differences of nationality. The political ideal of Islam consists in the creation of a people born of a free fusion of all races and nationalities. Nationality with Islam is not the highest limit of political development; for the general principles of the law of Islam rest on human nature, not on the peculiarities of a particular people. The inner cohesion of such a nation would consist not in ethnic or geographic unity, not in the unity of language or social tradition, but in the unity of the religious and the political ideal...”[6]

Iqbal had a keen perception of the modernist political forces, which were shaping themselves in his times. He saw the modern West drunk with power and unleashing on different feeble nations and communities under bewitching political slogans. He reiterated the spiritual foundations of political activity. He cautioned mankind in these emphatic words: “Remember, man can be maintained on this earth only by honouring mankind, and this world will remain a battle ground of ferocious beasts of prey unless and until the educational forces of the whole world are directed to inculcating in man respect for mankind. Do you not see that the people of Spain, though they have the same common bond by one race, one nationality, one language and one religion, are cutting one another’s throats and destroying their culture and civilisation by their own hands owing to difference in their economic creed? This one event shows clearly that national unity too is not a very durable force. Only one unity is dependable, and that unity is the brotherhood of man, which is above race, nationality, colour or language. So long as this so-called democracy, this accursed nationalism and this degraded imperialism are not shattered, so long as men do not demonstrate by their actions that they believe that the whole world is the family of God, so long as distinctions of race, colour and geographical nationalities are not wiped out completely, they will never be able to lead a happy and contended life and the beautiful ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity will never materialise”.[7]

He says: “Vision without power does bring moral elevation but cannot give a lasting culture. Power without vision tends to become destructive and inhuman. Both must combine for the spiritual expansion of humanity”.[8]

Iqbal visualises a healthy integration of integration and change in the life of the individual and society. He considers the failure of Europe in political and social sciences due to clinging to mere change and the immobility of Islam during the last several centuries by excluding change from the principle of permanence. He says: “The ultimate spiritual basis of all life, as conceived by Islam, is eternal and reveals itself in variety and change. A society based on such a conception of Reality must reconcile, in its life, the categories of permanence and change. It must possess eternal principles to regulate its collective life, for the eternal gives us a foothold in the world of perpetual change. But eternal principles when they are understood to exclude all possibilities of change which, according to the Qur’an, is one of the greatest ‘signs’ of God, tend to immobilize what is essentially mobile in its nature.”[9]

Iqbal is at his best in understanding the role of permanence and change in political life. He spells out the political vision of permanence and integrates it with the real demands of change. The political structures and functions including the legislature, executive and judiciary are interpreted within the essential guidelines provided by the Qur’an. However, he remains open to the universal elements of world political wisdom and imbibes these political insights in developing his own political thought. The principle of political freedom, for example, is universal and permanent but the structures and functions of its expression vary according to the changing factors of a given society. Democracy is one of its expressions but it is a delimited concept, which does not express political freedom in its fullness. Iqbal is critical of this purely Western notion. He says that democracy is such a form of government in which people are counted but not weighed. His criticism of democracy and other political notions brings out the deficiencies of these political concepts from the metaphysical, religious and spiritual perspectives.

Iqbal had studied the political developments taking place in the Muslim world of his times especially with reference to Turkey, which had abolished Caliphate and was on the road to modernism. He examined different trends taking place in that country. He critically scrutinised the Nationalist theory of State being propounded by a group of Turks who wanted a separation of religion from politics. Iqbal pointed to the fallacy of such moves, which were oblivious of the unity of religion and politics. He says: “The truth is that the Turkish Nationalists assimilated the idea of the separation of Church and State from the history of European political ideas. Primitive Christianity was founded, not as a political or civil unit, but as a monastic order in a profane world, having nothing to do with civil affairs, and obeying the Roman authority practically in all matters. The result of this was that when the State became Christian, State and Church confronted each other as distinct powers with interminable boundary disputes between them. Such a thing could never happen in Islam; for Islam was from the very beginning a civil society, having received from the Qur’an a set of simple legal principles which, like the twelve tables of the Romans, carried, as experience subsequently proved, great potentialities of expansion and development by interpretation. The Nationalist theory of state, therefore, is misleading inasmuch as it suggests a dualism which does not exist in Islam.”[10]

He examines the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in exercising the power of Ijtihād in regard to the institution of Khilāfat. He fully supports the idea of replacing Caliphate with the republican form of government. He says: “According to Sunni Law, the appointment of an Imām or Khalīfah is absolutely indispensable. The first question that arises in this connexion is this– Should the Caliphate be vested in a single person? Turkey’s Ijtihād is that according to the spirit of Islam the Caliphate or Imāmate can be vested in a body of persons, or an elected Assembly. Personally, I believe the Turkish view is perfectly sound. It is hardly necessary to argue this point. The republican form of government is not only thoroughly consistent with the spirit of Islam, but has also become a necessity in view of the new forces that are set free in the world of Islam.”[11]

Iqbal welcomes liberal ideas in the world of Islam. He supports political and social reforms in Turkey of his times. However, he cautions the Turks lest they in their over zealousness transgress the limits set by religion. They have to remain in consonance with the spirit of Islam, which integrates permanent and changing elements of political life. His caution is equally applicable to the recent phenomena of the Arab Spring. He says: “We heartily welcome the liberal movement in modern Islam, but it must also be admitted that the appearance of liberal ideas in Islam constitutes also the most critical moment in the history of Islam. Liberalism has a tendency to act as a force of disintegration, and the race-idea which appears to be working in modern Islam with greater force than ever may ultimately wipe off the broad human outlook which Muslim people have imbibed from their religion. Further, our religious and political reformers in their zeal for liberalism may overstep the proper limits of reform in the absence of check on their youthful fervour. We are today passing through a period similar to that of the Protestant revolution in Europe, and the lesson which the rise and outcome of Luther’s movement teaches should not be lost on us. A careful reading of history shows that the Reformation was essentially a political movement, and the net result of it in Europe was a gradual displacement of the universal ethics of Christianity by systems of national ethics. The result of this tendency we have seen with our own eyes in the Great European War which, far from bringing any workable synthesis of the two opposing systems of ethics, has made the European situation still more intolerable. It is the duty of the leaders of the world of Islam today to understand the real meaning of what has happened in Europe, and then to move forward with self-control and a clear insight into the ultimate aims of Islam as a social polity.”[12]



[1]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 132.

[2]       Ibid., p. 107.

[3]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 116.

[4]       Sherwani, Latif Ahmed, Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 121.

[5]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 126.

[6]       Sherwani, Latif Ahmed, Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, p. 141.

[7]       Sherwani, Latif Ahmad, Speeches, Writings & Statements of Iqbal, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 2009, pp. 299,300.

[8]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, p. 73.

[9]       Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965,p. 117.

[10]      Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965,p. 123.

[11]      Ibid., pp. 124, 125.

[12]      Iqbal, Muhammad, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1965, pp. 129

 

 

 

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