Stray Reflections on Iqbal – 9
Iqbal – The Poet of Liberty
Iqbal is the poet of liberty. There is not a shred of truth in it that he learnt the secrets of liberty from Western culture and philosophy. In the whole realm of Western literature, we do not find a single person who can be compared with Iqbal as a poet of liberty. Iqbal is not the poet of wine, songs and love-ditties. He is a flame of liberty and burns the twigs of Serfdom to sheer ashes.
In the vast domain of English literature, we can enjoy the sunny humour of Chaucer, the conceits of Donne, the mysticism of Wordsworth, the Idealism of Coleridge, the Platonism of Shelley, the sentimentalism of Byron, the Hellenism of Keats, the rationalism of Matthew Arnold and the scepticism of T.S. Eliot but we cannot single out one occidental poet surpassing Iqbal in his zeal for liberty and action.
The great poets like Homer, Virgil, Vladimir, Dante, Goethe, Hugo, Tagore, Walt Whitman, Paterson, Hafiz and Nazrul Islam depict an unparalleled and unsurpassable poetic excellence but their concept of liberty is neither natural nor based on any philosophical synthesis. It is indubitable that Byron in his “Childe Harold” and Wordsworth in his work, “The Excursion” sing the lofty songs of French revolution but their zeal is only emotional.
On the other hand, Iqbal has a thorough philosophy of liberty. Here, I would like to say a few words about Iqbal and Milton because Milton is the only English Bard worth mentioning in this connection. Although they lived in different ages and circumstances yet there is sufficient similarity in their outlooks to merit a special study.
Iqbal’s deep involvement with Islamic theology on progressive grounds parallels Milton’s with that of the Hebrew, Hellenic and Christianity, with the fundamental preoccupation of both of these great poets with the predicament of Man and his relationship with God. Milton and Iqbal had deep passions and staunch notions of a great nationalistic movement, religious reformation, the revival of ancient learning and both intend to assert eternal providence, and “justify the ways of God to man”.
Milton’s intellectual and aesthetic enthusiasm of the Renaissance; his Intensive moral force of reformation and gusto for liberty make him a philosophical genius. In the words of Stephen Gwynn; “poetry was to him a sacred vocation.” He laments over the degeneration of poetry in his elegy Lycidas. After a thorough study of Milton, one is convinced that Milton stood for liberty and the reawakening of slumbered conscience of man under the spell of ecclesiastical system. But in the end he also was diverted towards the paple and dogmatic aptitude of monasticism. In his “PARADISE REGAINED” he says:
“Of man’s disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree. Whose mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woes, restore us and regain the blissful seat.”
From these lines of Milton, we can clearly comprehend his religious dogmas and his notion of redemption through Jesus Christ. In the beginning Milton sides with Satan and supports him in his rebellious attitude against the despotic behaviour of God. But before finishing his historical work “Paradise Lost”, he realizes his dire mistake of appreciating Satan and eventually derides Satan in his book “Paradise Regained”.
Milton’s concept of liberty is solid and positive. It is like the liberty of a river that flows freely but is under the tight grip of natural laws. Iqbal was of the opinion that anything which is negative is slavish. His concept of liberty is akin to the concept of Mujaddid-elf-e-Thani’s concept of liberty that is based on the Quranic concept of Tauheed. His whole poetry is an effective attempt to revive the lost purity of Man and the reawakening of the human conscience through an untiring struggle for liberty. At a place how beautifully, he says:
“Owing to the lack of insight man has become the slave of man. He had pearls, but gave them over to kings-Jamshed and Kaikabad: in other words, he is worse than the canine breed even. 1 have never seen a dog bowing before another dog.”
He criticized the narrow approach of the priests and inaugurated a critical, judicious, liberal and scientific study of religious beliefs.
He had been teaching the secrets of revolution to the slaves and the method of rule to the rulers. He could not be scared by the barbarous designs of the British colonialists and the white imperialism of the Occidentalists. He says:
“I see the majesty of royalty writ large on the forehead of Slaves.And I mark the flame of Mahmood rearing its head from the dust of Ayaz.”
Iqbal had given a clarion call for the political liberty of the Muslims of the sub-continent. Had there been no Iqbal, there would have been no Pakistan. Rousseau, J.S. Mill, Russell, Ruskin and Tolstoy are considered to be the greatest champions of social and political liberty. But Iqbal has developed a concrete philosophy of polity and has broken the fetters of every kind of exploitation. In a Fascist society the condition of men is worse than that of goods and chattel. They are just like shrivelled skeletons. This pathetic situation has been described by Iqbal as such:
“In slavery the heart dies in the body and the soul becomes an Irksome burden over the man.”
Iqbal in his poetic philosophical work “Javed Nama”, has described that in Jupiter Mansoor Hallaj, Qurratul Ain and Ghalib had joined heads together and were conspiring against the monotonous and non-revolutionary atmosphere of the heavenly spheres. Iqbal did not like the calm and quiet atmosphere of heaven and wanted a progressive and revolutionary world for his creative activities. He like the other revolutionaries aspired for a heaven in which the development of Ego is not suspended and the exercise of free-will is permitted. Hence the says:
“The free soul, that knows the reality of virtue and vice, can never rest in paradise – a place that cannot contain him.While wine, elf and celestial attendants constitute the paradise of the priests, but the paradise of free souls is an unending journey.”
Man, according to William James, is a discoverer of truth through scientific experience but for Iqbal man is not only a discoverer of truth but a creator of truth and co-worker of God in the shaping of things through creative and spiritual experiences. He is the possessor of a free will and enjoys special supremacy over the objects of Nature. In certain cases, man even commands the will of God. He further believes that God creates but nature matures; God gives existence, but nature gives motion and restlessness. God is the Creator of the Universe but man is the maker of schemes working through the universe. Hence he says:
“Lover is he who builds his own world, and does not make himself at home with the world of limitations.”
The crux of Iqbal’s conception of liberty is the human Ego. He abhors Fascism simply because this system has crushed human initiative and dignity. He did not agree with Nietzsche’s conception of superman for the dictatorial tendencies of his hero. He seemed to have the words of praise for Aristotle for the presentation of an Ideal Man in his book “Ethics.” But he also does not agree with Aristotle for dry scholastic tendencies of his hero who is devoid of finer feelings and zest for power and action. He also does not rank amongst the lovers of Marlovian, Machiavellian, Baconian heroes who exert for mean political delusions of Self and power through necromancy, diplomacy and duplicity.
Iqbal believed in a perfect man who with the force of his knowledge and action can establish the Kingdom of God on the Earth. He recognized that the Ego is a free and personal casualty surviving through strenuous struggle. For him freedom and immortality are the rewards of ceaseless efforts while Kant brings in freedom and immortality in order to be sole to think that ours is a just universe, and that there is no fundamental discord between action and their ultimate results. But Iqbal believes that man is the master of the universe and his liberty can provide him sufficient course and material to enjoy his absolute command over the different objects of the Nature. He says:
“Arise! The time has come for man’s Self-exposure, The stars are prostrating before the punch dust. The secret that was latent in the bosom of the cosmos, now by the coquetry of water and clay has come to conversation.”
Iqbal was diametrically opposed to the cultural, social, political, economic and ideological Serfdom. The world has not shown a better philosophical and revolutionary gem in human treasure of erudition than Iqbal. In the words of Thomas Mann, “In our time the destiny of man presents its meaning in political term.” But I dare say: “In our time destiny of man presents its meaning in the message of Iqbal and that is the liberty of man from the yoke of man.”