Stray Reflections on Iqbal – 7

Stray Reflections on Iqbal – 7

By Dr Maqsood Jafri

Social and Political Impact of Egohood

It was in the 18th Century when the term Ego or Self came into vogue. Previously, philosophers had been dealing with the concept of ‘Soul’ and had no understanding of the term Ego. In Muslim philosophy the term Ego or ‘Khudi’ had been a detrimental and a derogatory term for many centuries. Muslim Sufis, clerics and poets had been constantly preaching the suppression and negation of Ego as it was taken in the sense of arrogance and haughtiness. Even the spiritual mentor of Dr Iqbal known as Moulana Rumi had very vehemently negated the Khudi of man, considering it a negative and nefarious term based on vanity. A great Persian poet Iraqi says:

“First it is, and do you know what is its last?; Free yourself from the grip of Self. ” (Kulyat-e-Iraqi, page 197)

Another great Sufi poet Moulana Jami says:

“The sword of blame and the arrow of cruelty I receive from jealous ones; I announce Self-abnegation to avoid all plight.” (Kulyat-e-Jami)

Similarly, majority of the Urdu poets also preached the negation of Ego. Mirza Muhammad Rafi Sauda, a great Urdu poet says:

“Alas; I could not reach my beloved as I was prisoner of Ego, and I was trapped in Self-vanity.” (Mysticism and Urdu Poetry. Page 126)

Akbar Allah Abadi has also said:

“If you want to prove your identity, then efface your colour and be the part of Unityism.” (Mysticism and Urdu Poetry. Page 139)

In the above couplets the term Khudi is used in derogatory and negative sense. Here, it means selfishness, vanity, arrogance and Self-centeredness. But, Dr Iqbal gave new meanings to the term Khudi. According to Iqbal the determination of personality, maintenance of individuality and cognizance of Self are the foundations of the concept of Khudi. Self-respect, Self-expression and Self-control are the offshoots of Ego.

Iqbal’s era was the era of helotry, decline and degradation of the Muslim world. The traditional Sufism which was the product of Greek and Iranian Sufism had made Muslims inert and inactive, depending only on fate and fortune. It had erased their confidence, integrity and personality. The professional Sufis preached negation of the Ego which ultimately created a mind-set that adhered to servility. This apparent humility emerged in the form of psychological derangement, deliration, depreciation, delusion and dereliction. The imperialists had conquered the Muslim territories and enslaved them. This deplorable situation incited Dr Iqbal and enkindled the fire of revolt in him against the tormenters, traitors and predators. He raised a clarion call against the short-sighted clerics and pseudo Sufis who preached Self-abnegation. Iqbal revitalized, rejuvenated and reconstructed the mind-set of the Muslims by inspiring them with his revolutionary message.

It goes without saying that Iqbal’s concept of Egohood is based on individuals’ spiritual purification and personal liberty. But, it is a fact that his notion of Ego is a social and communal concept. It is multi-dimensional. Its political impact on the whole Muslim world is self-evident. In this regard Dr Ishrat Vahid writes:

“Whilst rules for the development of an individual are laid down above, the Ego can develop fully only in association with other Egos and not in isolation. The Perfect Man has to work in co-operation with others to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth, and he cannot exist independently of the group to which he belongs. As a matter of fact, this adjustment of personal activity to social good is primarily beneficial to the Perfect Man himself, because he cannot achieve his highest possibilities except by identifying himself with social purpose. This means that Ego has to live and work in a society.” (Iqbal-His Art and Thought-page 46)

As we have seen that individual Ego is a subject of mysticism and now we know that collective and communal Ego is a subject of social and political reforms. This concept of communal Ego breaks the shackles of alien subjugation, Quietism, imperialism and communism. It enhances the free-will of every person. In this regard Dr Reynold A. Nicholson in the Introduction of “The Secrets of the Self” writes:

“The Ego attains to freedom by the removal of all obstruction in its way. It is partly free, partly determined, and reaches fuller freedom by approaching the Individual who is most free-God. In one word, life is an endeavour for freedom.”

According to the Holy Quran, Man is the vicegerent of Allah on Earth. The divine vicegerency has been endowed upon man by God. It is called “Niyabat-e-Ilahi”. It is the highest stage of honour and nobility destined to humans. In the words of Dr Reynold A. Nicholson such a man with the highest trait of knowledge is the real mentor and ruler of mankind and his kingdom is the Kingdom of God on Earth. Jesus Christ, time and again, in the Bible gave the glad tiding to his disciples and followers to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. Deep down this also means to establish a divine state on the basis of spirituality, humanity, sacrifice, love, equality and justice.

Iqbal believed in Islamic social justice and establishment of an Islamic welfare state in which human Ego is protected and procreated. Iqbal disagreed with Marxian concept of materialism, historical determinism, dictatorship and atheism. In a Communist set-up, the human Ego has no chance of growth, evolution and development. In a Marxian Totalitarian state, the human individuality is completely crushed. Communism does not deal with the individual but deals with the external and social problems of the whole community. Islam on the other hand, deals with social, communal, political, economic, religious, biological and psychological problems of individual as well as of community as a whole. It envisages human life in totality. R. N. Carew Hunt, a great admirer of Communism writes:

“Communism thus a ‘Weltanschauung’ based upon a closely articulated body of doctrine-philosophic, economic, political and social- which claims alone to provide the scientific explanation.”

But, he ignores the dictatorial aspect of the One Party rule in the Socialist states. The great British philosopher Bertrand Russell in his book titled “The Road to Serfdom” writes that Communism is like a prison in which there is no personal freedom. Similarly, the great social philosopher of the present-era Dr Ali Shariati has written a book in which he has refuted Communism on the similar grounds.

Dr Iqbal in one of his poems had praised the Soviet Revolution of 1918 but eventually in one of his poems, he strongly criticized the dictatorial political system of Soviet Union. According to Iqbal any system that curbs human individuality or Ego is Fascism. This is one of the reasons that Iqbal had diametrically opposed the monarchy in the Muslim world and considered it anti-Islam. Dr M. Aziz Ahmed in his book titled “Iqbal: As a Thinker” writes:

“Iqbal has based his philosophy of life on his philosophy of ‘Self’. The real cause of Muslim deterioration is ‘Nafi-i-Khudi’, Self-abnegation. Iqbal suggests ‘Isbat-i-Khudi’, Self-cognizance. Khudi is, here, used in a philosophical sense, and means recognition of one’s Self. Man has a unique capacity to recognise his Self and the purpose of his creation. This capacity makes him supreme over other creatures. The life of man should, therefore, begin with the study of his Self and culminate in perfection of his Self. Khudi is, thus, the name of several attributes found in an ideal character such as Self-realization, Self-assertion, boldness, spirit of independence, sense of respect, noble idealism and action. The object is spiritual elevation.”

As the concept of Iqbal’s Egohood is multi-dimensional, so many critics and thinkers have given different opinions on it. But, the crux of the matter is assimilated in a very crystal clear notion that the aspect of individuality of Egohood ultimately leads the humankind to social and communal justice. Iqbal was a reformer and by inner spiritual purification he aspired a social and political revolution based on human liberty and social justice. The social element of his concept cannot be ignored as he propounded the Islamic values and system.

Iqbal was a great pioneer of the establishment of an Islamic state. For that grand and glorious purpose, he jolted the common Muslims against monarchic and imperialist systems and awakened the slumbered to rise for their social, economic and political rights.


Categories: Allama Iqbal, Ideology

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