Stray Reflections on Iqbal – 4

Stray Reflections on Iqbal – 4

By Dr Maqsood Jafri

Dr Iqbal was a poet who believed in the principle of Movement and dynamic lifestyle in theory and practice. He gave a balanced view of education keeping in purview of education on spiritual and scientific lines. His view of education protects and promotes the concept of Egohood that liberates the humans from the shackles of slavery. He blended theory and practice and inculcated the spirit of creativity, erudition and reflection in youth.

Allama Iqbal was diametrically opposed to the traditional mode of education being imparted in religious seminaries. He considered the system retrogressive, sectarian and irrational. He desired change in the curriculum of “Madrassas” and aspired to insert modern education in the curriculum of religious seminaries to keep them abreast with the scientific discoveries. Unfortunately, these sanctuaries and sanctums have become the centres of religious extremism and sectarianism. In one of Persian couplets he says:

“If this is the seminary and the cleric; then the future of the youth is dark and dismay.”

Similarly, in another Urdu couplet he sorrowfully says:

“You have been strangled by the clerics; from where now we can hear; there is no god but God.”

On the other hand, he was a great critic of the Western mode of education that only produces people of dwarfish mind-set. Such people acquire scientific education devoid of spiritual, moral and humanistic proclivities and propensities. They are like robots. Their sapience and sanity are only limited to selfishness. This model of education promotes materialistic and hedonistic traits.

Dr Iqbal was Bar-at-Law from London and obtained Ph.D. in philosophy from Germany. He had thoroughly studied the lifestyle of the West and found it entirely materialistic. So, he rejected the Western culture and materialism. In his opinion the East adopted Sufism and was devoid of science while the West was promoting science and lagging behind in spiritualism.

Dr Iqbal believed in the entire absorption in man’s own Being. He found the present world lop-sighted. He regarded knowledge as the foundations of “Ishq” (Love) and “Khudi” (Egohood).

In Javed Nama on page 139 he has discursively discussed the qualities of knowledge and love. He believed in the supremacy of Love on knowledge and felt rejoiced in the moments of separation of God and conceived the confrontation of God something contrary to the preservation of man’s individuality and Egohood. In Bal-e-Jibreel (The Wing of Gabriel), he preaches the preservation of Ego even before God.

Dr Iqbal’s concept of Egohood is anti-materialism. Spiritual elevation and ethical exultation are the real sources which can give jubilation to man and can determine his personality. The Self-cognizance makes man indifferent to the glory of the kings. In his Persian poetry book titled “Zabur-e-Ajam” he says:

“The care-free heart in my bosom gives the beggar the mode of kings”.

“Faqr” (Contentment) or indifference towards materialistic pursuits inculcates the sense of responsibility and self-respect in man and it cannot be achieved without proper education. Dr Iqbal demonstrates this point in “Zarb-e-Kalim” and in “Pasche Bayad Kurd” (What ought to be Done):

“The Quranic Faqr is the evaluation of present and past. It is neither violin nor intoxication nor dancing nor singing.”

Tolerance is another feature that fortifies man’s Egohood. The Arabic word “Sabr” is used in the Holy Quran. The Quran says: “Get help with patience and prayer”. Tolerance is an offshoot of patience. In Javed Nama, he says:

“The test of pious people is to face trials and travesties; to make thirsty more thirsty is just. Pass by like Moses from the Nile river; and stride like Abraham towards Fire.”

“Qurb” or closeness to God is another article to strengthen Egohood. It means that a man should struggle to achieve nearness to God. Dr Iqbal differentiates between closeness and absorption. To preserve one’s Egohood, he does not believe in the absorption into God like a drop of water in the ocean. He believes in the identity and individuality of man for the promotion, procurement and preservation of Egohood. In his Persian book titled “Asrar-o-Rumooz”, he says:

“The purpose of your every action must be to achieve closeness to God so that His glory is revealed through you.”

According to Dr Iqbal as some positive features strengthen Egohood, there are some negative elements that weaken one’s Ego. Slavery and beggary are the main two factors that damage, derange and depredate the development of the human Ego. In his book “Asrar-o-Rumooz” he says:

“By begging poverty achieves abashment; and by begging the beggar becomes poorer.”

About the immortality of Ego Iqbal himself has expounded in these words “life offers a scope for Ego-activity, and death is the first test of the synthetic activity of the Ego. There are no pressure-giving and pain-giving acts. They are only Ego-sustaining.” About the impact and power of Ego in “Bal-e-Jibreel” he says:

“Pervade upon the world with the force of Ego and fetch the secret of its hue and scent;
Like sea beware of the shore and also get rid of seashore.”

In the wake of same intuition Iqbal in his book “Zabur-e-Ajam” says:

“Ego is the hunter and its prey is the Moon and the Sun; the Moon and the Sun are the prisoners of its peerless plan.”

Iqbal had vividly expostulated that Ego could only be preserved by having a solid purpose in life. Purposeless life is sapless and sardonic. It is incumbent upon man to distinguish himself through positive, progressive and virtuous values. Hence, in “Asrar-o-Rumooz” he says:

“Immortality is based on purpose in life. The bell call for its caravan is by purpose;
The life is hidden in constant struggle. Its reality is in persistent quest of hope.”

Dr Vahid gives the following views about the Unityism of Iqbal that reveals the secrets of Egohood. He writes:

“The doctrine of Unityism was assailed by several Muslim thinkers, notably Ibn-Taymiyya and Shaikh Ahmad Srihindi; but they all attacked the doctrine merely as an article of faith for purely theological reasons, and while volumes were being written by both sides, the poison generated by these ideas was infecting the very roots of the Islamic body-politic. Iqbal assailed the doctrine on practical grounds. It is a proof of his originality of thought that he traced the connection between the doctrine of Unityism and the decadence which characterized all Eastern people in general and Islamic people in particular. Undaunted by the extent to which the poison from these ideas had worked into the intellectual and physiological life of all eastern people, Iqbal came forth to challenge the existing ideas by proclaiming that life is real and not mere illusion. He asks; ‘What then is life?’, and answers, ‘It is individual; its highest form so far is the Ego (Khudi) in which the individual becomes a Self-contained exclusive centre’. According to Iqbal there is a gradually rising note of Egohood in the whole universe. We are conscious of this in our own self, in Nature before us and in the ultimate principle of our life, the ultimate Ego. Starting with the individual Ego as a centre of will and energy he develops his philosophy; his concept of God, the individual’s freedom, will and immortality”. (pp 29-30)

It should be noted that according to Iqbal the characteristics of Ego are three, which are:

(i) It is not space-bound in the sense in which the body is bound.

(ii) True time-duration belongs to it alone.

(iii) It is essentially private and unique.


Categories: Allama Iqbal, Ideology, Islam

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