Stray Reflections on Iqbal – 6
The core of the concept of Egohood by Dr Iqbal gives us the message of positive thinking. The man who accomplishes and furnishes his Ego can never involve in negative thinking and negative activities.
It is the great irony of fate that the Man of our era is suffering from an inferiority complex. He has no confidence in his own personality. The scientific progress and industrial development has made man like a minute clog of the machine. Individuality of man has been entirely obliterated and crushed. People have become morally unscrupulous, biologically unfit, psychologically depressed and spiritually null and void. Norman Vincent Peale has nicely described in his book titled “The Power of Positive Thinking” about this state of affairs likewise:
“Lack of Self-confidence apparently is one of the great problems besetting people today. In a university a survey was made of six hundred students in psychology courses. The students were asked to state their most difficult personal problem. Seventy-five percent listed lack of confidence.”
Where ever we meet people in our daily life who mistrust their abilities, who are inwardly timid, who suffer from a deep sense of inadequacy, insecurity and inactivity lack self-confidence because they have not recognized their Ego. Resultantly, the flux of difficulties, the multiplication of miseries and the swarm of problems tend to sap energy from them because they have no self-confidence and are left spent and discouraged.
In such a state of human affairs, Iqbal stood for the realization and awareness of Ego. He believed to re-appraise one’s personality through unshakable faith in one’s Egohood. Self-confidence is the key to success. It is the only vital principle that can make us to live and let live. In his Persian poetry book “Asrar-o-Rumooz” he says:
“If you believe in God; free yourself from worries; free yourself from the worry of loss and gain.”
In another couplet in his Urdu poetry book “Bal-e-Jibreel” (The Wing of Gabriel) he says:
“What is life?; the ecstasy of thought and insight. The known and unknown fears are the death of Egohood.”
About the nature of Ego Iqbal differs from Ghazali that the Ego is a simple, indivisible, an imputable soul-substance, entirely different from the group of our mental states, unaffected by the passage of time. Our conscious experience is a unity because our mental states are related as so many qualities to this simple substance which persists unchanged during the flux of its qualities. Iqbal in his famous treatise, “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” writes:
“Whether we take the soul-entity as an explanation of the facts of our conscious experience, or as a basis for immortality, I’m afraid it serves neither psychological nor metaphysical interest.”
While discussing the position of Ego and consciousness in the light of modern psychology Iqbal comments:
“William James conceives consciousness as a stream of thought, a conscious flow of changes with a felt continuity. He finds a kind of gregarious principle working in our experience which have, as it were, ‘hooks’ on them, and thereby catch up one another in the flow of mental life. The ego consists of the feeling of personal life, and is, as such, part of the system of thought. Every pulse of thought, present and perishing is an indivisible unity which knows and recollects. The appropriation of the passing pulse, by the present pulse of thought, and that of the present by its successor, is the Ego. This description of our mental life is extremely ingenious; but not, I venture to think, true consciousness as we find it in ourselves. Consciousness is something single, presupposed in all mental life, and not bits of consciousness mutually reporting to one another.”
The factors and characteristics which fortify human Ego in the light of Iqbal’s philosophy are numerous. About Ego’s free personal causality Iqbal writes:
“Thus the element of guidance and directive control is the Ego’s activity which clearly shows that the Ego is a free personal causality.”
So he says in “Zabur-e-Ajam”:
“I am a free man, love is my guide. And intellect is my slave.”
Then in another couplet he says:
“Moses went fearless in the court of Pharaoh. His heart was strengthened by the Quranic words ‘Do not fear’ ”.
According to Iqbal man’s Ego needs freedom for its accomplishment and development. It is beyond the reach of time and space. Iqbal himself claimed:
“The Ego reveals itself as a unity of what we call mental states. Mental states do not exist in mutual isolation. They meet and involve one another. They exist as phases of a complete whole, called mind. The organic unity, however, of these inter-related states or, let us say, events in a special kind of unity. It fundamentally differs from the unity of a material thing; for the parts of a material thing can exist in mutual isolation. Mental unity is absolutely unique. My thought of space is not spatially related to space. Indeed, the Ego can think of more than one space-order. The spaces of waking consciousness and dream-space have co-mutual relation. They do not interfere with or overlap each other. For the body there can be but a single space. The Ego, therefore, is not space-bound”.
Iqbal believed in the immortality of human soul and human Ego. It seems pertinent to mention that he did not use the words acquaintance, insight for the term Ego because it would have become a message only for savants and erudites. His message for Egohood is for masses. It is a social concept. He did not use the term “Maraft-e-Nafs”.
In his Persian poetry book titled “Asrar-e-Khudi”, he used the term “Ihsas-e-Nafs” (Realization of Ego). The former term is an apex stage of sublimity and lofty stage of Egohood. On the first stage Iqbal wanted the Muslims masses to realize their Ego and on the second stage he wanted them to achieve the state of cognizance, to achieve universality.
The second stage is for the people like Mansoor Hallaj who in the state of Ego elevation proclaimed the Oneness of God and negated all non-Godly self-acclaimed powers. The people like Hallaj were not only spiritually elevated but had refused to accept the Sham and fake religiosity of the priests and the dictatorship of the monarchs. Hence, Dr Iqbal paid great tributes to the sanctity and spirituality of this Martyr Saint who had said “Anal Haq”. He had challenged the “Mutakallmin”, who were inspired by the Greek thought and had entirely ignored the spiritual aspect of religion. Iqbal has explained the spiritual elevation of Mansoor Hallaj in his words in his book titled “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”:
“The contemporaries of Hallaj, as well as his successors interpreted these words pantheistically; but the fragments of Hallaj, collected and published by the French orientalist, M. Massignon, leave no doubt that the Martyr Saint could not have meant to deny the transcendence of God. The true interpretation of his experience, therefore, is not the drop-dripping into the sea, but the realization and bold affirmation of the human Ego is a profound personality.”
So far as, I have brooded over this tragic incident of the martyrdom of Mansoor Hallaj, I have come to the conclusion that his martyrdom was not only on the basis of religious differences but it was purely a political conspiracy. Hallaj was diametrically opposed to the pseudo spiritualists and reglionists who sold the holy name of God and also opposed the fascist, fierce and ferocious political policies of the rulers. In my opinion, when Hallaj proclaimed “Anal Haq”, it meant “I am truth”.
The Arabic word “Haq” does not mean God. Hallaj never said “I am God”. The clerics and the rulers were afraid of his spiritual and influential personality in the masses. So, they jointly conspired to get rid of him. It was purely a political murder. Hallaj had cognized his Ego and he did not bow before the self-acclaimed custodians of religion and governance.
Dr Iqbal desired to create the same spirit of revolution in the Muslims that he found in Mansoor Hallaj by approving the cognizance and awareness of Egohood. What is the nature of “I” or “Ego?” In this regard Dr Reynold A. Nicholson who translated the Persian book of Dr Iqbal titled “Asrar-e-Khudi” (The Secrets of the Self) into English writes:
“He sees that Hindu intellectualism and Islamic pantheism have destroyed the capacity of action, based on scientific observation and interpretation of phenomena, which distinguishes the Western peoples and especially of the English. Now, this capacity depends ultimately on the conviction that ‘Khudi’ (Selfhood, individuality, personality) is real and not merely an illusion of the mind. Iqbal, therefore, throws himself with all his might against idealistic philosophers and pseudo-mystical poets, the authors, in his opinion, of the decay prevailing in Islam, and argues that only by Self-affirmation, Self-expression and Self-development can the Moslems once more become strong and free. He appeased from the alluring raptures of Hafiz to the moral fervour of Jalalud Din Rumi, from an Islamic sunk in Platonic contemplation to the fresh and vigorous monotheism which inspired Mohammed and brought Islam into existence.”
While defining the relation of Egohood with Godhood he further opines:
“The moral and religious ideal of man is not Self-negation but Self-affirmation, and he obtains to this ideal by becoming more and more individual, more and more unique. The Prophet said: ‘Takhalloqu bi-akhlaq Allah; ‘create in yourselves the attributes of God’. Thus, man becomes unique by becoming more and more like the most unique Individual. What then is life? It is the individual, its highest for, so far, is the Ego (Khudi) in which the individual becomes a self-Contained exclusive centre. Physically as well as spiritually man is a self-contained centre, but he is not yet a complete individual. The greater his distance from God, the less his individuality. He who comes nearest to God is the completest person. Now, that he is finally absorbed into God. On the contrary, he absorbs God into himself.” (The Secret of the Self pp XVIII-XIX).
The wider interests of an individual are bound up with interests of humanity. The sums up of individual developed Egos constitute a society and culture of developed collective Ego’s which is the actual replica of Heaven on the Earth is. The verses of the Holy Quran clearly manifest the Quranic view of social welfare in the development of individual and collective Egos. In various verses the Holy Quran alludes to this matter such as:
“O; ye who believe; Respond to God and His apostle, when He calls you to that which gives you life.” (8:24)
“(The believers say); we feed you for the sake of Allah only. We wish for no reward or thanks from you.” (76:9)
“Those who spent their wealth in accordance with the laws of Allah (for the benefit of mankind) and afterwards make not reproach and injury to follow that which they have spent: their reward is with their Allah and their shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.” (2:262)