Islamic Studies (Islamabad) 2:4 (1963

)

IQBAL'S IDEA OF THE MUSLIM*
FAZLUR RAHMAN

In his poetic works, Iqbd has often used the terms "Muslim"
and "Mu'min"-in
the final analysis they seem to be interchangeable
a n d has described these in various ways, attributing to them certain
qualities. One obvious way of treating of our subject would be
to assemble such verses and to t r y to see what all these amount
to. This would, however, be a very superficial and mechanical
treatment, since it would lack the necessary synthesizing unity.
But if one is not content with supedciality and still keeps the same
approach of assembling verses, one falls into the peril of subjectivism ; i.e., of projecting on to I q b ~ lwhatever ideology or
philosophy one may have imbibed elsewhere. This is in fact
one of the two basic and patent maladies that have bedevilled
and blighted Iqbiil Studies and stunted their serious growth.
It would not, indeed, be too much to say that next to the
Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him !) and perhaps to
certain early figures of Islam, IqbHl has been subjected to the
greatest amount of posthumous tyranny of interpretation at the
expense of a genuine understanding. His support has thus been
claimed by the advocates of a whole spectrum of possible opinions
ranging from naked Communism to a crass conservatism that is an
unmistakable voice from the grave.
One important reason why people have got away with Iqbd in
whatever direction they have pleased with impunity is precisely
the difficulty of formulating his central theme, the pivotal core of
his doctrine that would put everything that he said in its proper
perspective. Iqbsl, like other thinkers, has expressed his thought
in his writings and more especially in his Reconstruction of Religious
Thought in Islam, etc. But the difficult task of constructive interpretation is precisely to locate or formulate its central theme so that
this whole exposition becomes uniform and intelligible. Otherwise
it does and has appeared to people not only mutually inconsistent
but downright contradictory. Such a statement of Iqb~l'spivotal
thesis cannot be expected to be found in Iqbal himself, althoigh its
*A giet of this paper was read on the occasion of Iqbal Day in Lahore. on
April 21. 1963.-(Ed).

© Dr Muhammad Hamidullah Library, IIU, Islamabad.

http://iri.iiu.edu.pk/

The identity of this consciousness of Reality with the Islamic concept of God is only too obvious : a demanding Reality and a commanding God is ezactly the same thing. that the character of Reality is an outward-pushing process. etc. imagine for a moment that nothing exists except pourself-just nothing at all-and then all of a sudden something comes into existence. this w d not the case and he drew a very momentous lesson from this. for a serious study of his thought and for resuming the threads from him onwards. viz. that is to say Iqbsl had become conscious of a Reality that was essentially demaded both of itself and of others. little serious thought has been given to this task and even most well-meaning interpreters especially of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent have seen in him what they liked-a super-man-the repository of power. I go on to address myself to my present task. in fact. Iqb31 began developing a positive philosophy of life under which he evolved his definite attitude to this world. the argument seems to me to run as something like this : If you can divest yourself of the unnecessary assumptions and prejudices created by certain philosophic traditions and reflect on the elemental facts of existence. Before.. a gospel of love.440 FAZLUR RAHMAN sufficiently strong yet partial formulations and indications are interspersed everywhere in his writings. This . as it were. For Iqbal. With Iqbd. would you not regard this fact as something drawing or claiming your special attention ? Even the phrase " come into existence " used here and. yo11 are faced with a truly striking. however. If this statement seems strange to you. an acute perception and awareness of Reality . a kind of magical situation. presupposes a philosophic myth. It appears that when during his studies in the West. How did I q b ~ larrive at this perception ? From all I have studied of his works. do exist. Khu& -whatever it has meant. we take their existence as a commonplace fact and not as the primary magic of Reality. that there is a realm either of non-existence or of super-existence from where things walk into existence. so to say. therefore. indeed. In order to interpret someone the interpreter has to give what he regards as the kernel of the interpretee's message. The primary reason is that Iqbi~lis a thinker and not an interpreter. But since many things. commonly used. I take this opportunity to put forward a strong plea for rescuing Iqbd from this state of affairs. this involved if it did not even presuppose. viz.. indeed. ' Pure Duration ' and the idea of movement. however.

But the engine of Reality.IQBAL'S IDEA OF THE MUSLIM 441 yields the idea of force. But this picture is still incomplete. the more one studies I q b ~ l . if taken as the whole truth about Iqb~l-as has been done by many including myself in my first adcle* Iwrote about him-it is unfair t o him both as Iqbd and as a great representative thinker of Islam. we could not have a cosmos at all but a stark chaos. has certain other equally fundamental built-in attributes. Hartford. and. (1954). As is well known. it is directly under this vision of the moving and imperious Reality that Iqbal came to speak disparagingly of intellectualism and reason ('Aql) and generally opposed it -to 'I&q 'The Mscslim World. e. In fact. instead of completely rejecting $afism. If pure energy and dynamic force were the only attributes of Reality. then. it would be just a brute power. Reality. eonn. . no more than a tremendous stream of steam issuing from an engine. From the Platonic realm of eternal Ideas. Otherwise.. Finally. this insight wrought a revolution in Iqb~l's outlook on life. . rejected the negative forms of Safism because of their world-denying and weakening tendencies and sought to keep and encourage the positive spiritual elements-like those represented. energy. now he perceived the greatness and the glory of the sweat and the struggle. activity. . besides its power. by Rami and Mujaddid-i Alf-i =mi. This is the reason why Iqbd. and one cannot help concluding that both the dynamic quality and the directive-synthetic nature of the process of Reality stem from its spiritual-moral quality. the centre of gravity moves to the web of space-time and we are right in the midst of a noisy and tumultuous world. he now perceived the uniqueness and newness of everything. is dynamic and the facts of existence are acts of existence. Whereas previously he had seen oneness and sameness in all things. Whereas previously his ideal bliss was a kind of $ofistic peace. Certain contemporary scientific doctrines about energy and the new theory of the expanding universe confirmed his conviction. This is also the reason for his powerful and systematic critique of the West which is a living monument of dynamism and expansion but exhibits little signs of an organic synthesis which is a function of directiveness.g. the more one is impressed by the ultimacy of the spiritual-moral nature of Reality. These are the attributes of directed or purposive creativity. which confer upon the whole process the qualities of an orderly and synthetic nature.

The Qur'an calls Abraham a Muslim. does not move anyone whereas Reality moves. a problem of our religious history also. his will becomes insuperable. takes the destinies of the world into his or its own hands. Otherwise. says with perfect justice that reason.442 FAZLUR R A H M A N which is the imperious. whosoever so stands before God and is so transformed is a Muslim. we cannot create the necessary links between the transcendental and the actual. the only instrument of formulating human purposes. When one stresses dynamism and power but at the same time derides the claims of reason-which is. Now. after all. Iqbd. utterly uncreative and imbecile but rather cunning and sly but a good servant if correctly subjected to 'I&q. but tbis has resulted in some unfortunate misunderstandings.only occasionally it appears as complementary to 'I&q but mostly as a sort of shadow-reality. In the light of what our best minds have said on this topic explicitly or implicitly we must formulate an adequate epistemological theory. because he or it has become literally a collaborator of God. which as a living religious. just and good order. Iqbd himself has thrown some pregnant remarks on the relationship of reason to intuition. Here what Iqbd calls KhudS or true selfhood is perfectly and legitimately realized. therefore. In the Reconstruction. Iqbgl's entire philosophy seems to me to demand this from us. I t is with this vision that Iqbiil rediscovered the real message of the Qur'sn and resurrected the true nature of the personality and activity of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him !). progreseive society it is among our fundamental tasks to perform. direct principle of creativity. Such a person or such a people. In the implementation of the ideal on earth. No man can. genuinely stand before it without catching fire and without setting others on fire as well. I think the threads must be picked up from where Iqbd left off on this very fundamental issue-which is. if there be any. or formuIative reason as such. I am thinking of the age-old Safi opposition between Ka&f and 'Aql. in the establishment of the right. one is unnecessarily exposing oneself to suspicious criticisms. There is no distinction between the Muslim and the Mu'min. both by his followers and critics. Iqbd is focussing cur attention on this imperative-giving quality of Reality. reason is appreciated more by Iqbil than in his poetry where. indeed. Iqbsl obviously did not address himself to the problem of elabxating the relationship between the two. For Iqbsl's . however.

I t is to this fresh recapturing of the Qur'sn." And he says about the Muslim : 2. 3-&-J~ - 's+> AJ'l " Endeavour to identify yourself with the Prophet for he is the whole of the Faith : If you cannot do so (your efforts are) sheer AbiiLahabhood. A. ~ . the Qur'zn itself. that he refers when he admonishes :" k c J$ . b "He appears to be a Qwh-reader but is.+ j_uJ. he is not talking poetry but literal truth when he says about the Prophet: r. But all these Iqbsl appreciated as partial fulfilments. you cannot deny the initial idealistic dun of Communism. That God still demands it." +. ~j * +A+ ~i ~ ~ ~i j be LSeJ' I8 Until the (meaning of the) Book reveals itself to your heart (afresh). And the perfect pwadigm for the realization of this ideal he located in the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace of God be upon him !) and upon the movement of Islam he organized and launched on earth. He praised certain things in the Western systems : he also appreciated certain things in the Communist ideology for. a rocket. partial failures. G+ e bT 3i. neither Rzizi nor the author of KashAiif is of any avail. as we have recounted it. One makes the first attempt and the rocket explodes. One makes a second attempt and the rocket takes off--which is. This was imperiously demanded by the God of the Qur'iin. creativity-for-goodness and.JJ. in itself. in fact. else he is doomed.vision of Reality.ugJ & . a great achievement--but it falls after a few yards. in varying degrees. make no mistake that whatever you may think of the Communist methods." The Qur'sn and the Prophet set afoot a monument that presently grew into a storm. in fact. is exactly the God of the Qurkn who bestows power-in-righteousness. The leaders of this movement. of the Islamic ideal. say." And although he is talking in poetry. took the world into their own hands. demands imperiously from men that he receives these . so to say. with the same imperiousness and Iqbal's sensitive heart felt it to its innermost fibres. & LS. Just as one plans to make. . Even so is the case with Iqbzil's appreciation and criticism of the manifestation of these' ideologies. just and good order through socio-economic creativity and justice.L(b 'pb. under the inspiration of the Prophet. They wanted to establish an order-a right.

that they are the key-community in the world.. whether an 'Umar b.FAZLU-R RAHMAN 444 When Iqbal looked at those people from whom he had sprung and who claimed to be the traditional inheritors of the Qur'iin and the Prophet's legacy. this whole garden perishes too. Iqbd squarely vested his faith in them.49k A-33 9 9 ' J ~ IJ+I o9 9 jw. he was certainly disconcerted.i '& *x Sl. Despite their actual condition." The truth is that despite the fact that Muslims were broken and down-trodden and had in fact for centuries drifted from the true vision of the Q u r h and the Holy Prophet. This is how he expressed his faith: fi L 2 frc. Their love for Islam and the Holy Prophet is unlimited." This cosmic significance which I q b ~ attaches l to a truly Islamic community is the same that the Qur$n attaches to it..L! K~ " Invent for yourself an Islam whose Silfism consists of imbecility. I think it would be a mistake to suppose that when I q b ~ called l people to his vision of Reality.e. If only they can be endowed afresh with the true and powerful Qur'iinic vision of the order of society. slavery and eternal despair. It was not a matter of indifkence to the world. There is a verse which is full of biting and sarcastic taunt: . The classical Muslim community verified this principle. This could not be the case in the nature of things :but I have made this remark because some people have cavilled at him by saying that after an initial phase of universalism. holding balance and fashioning history as an instrument of the Divine Will.. and their energies are channelled.. there is a perfectly valid sense in which I q b ~ lconsidered it natural to address primarily those people who are traditionally Muslims and call upon them to become real Muslims. 4 l?. they are capable of performing the greatest feat yet witnessed by history. should we perish. a C U a t t I b existed or not.b " Although we are gripped with anguish like the unopened bud . But this fateful position to establish an order in the world which is truly divine precisely because it is truly human is earned sL 1 3J9 .g. i. to Islam. confined to Muslim community This is a terrible superficiality. they are committed by their express allegiance to the Qur'iin and the Holy Prophet. viz. ie. Iqbiil became narrow and sectarian. that he meant this call only for Muslims and not for humanity. e. However.

H e must not weave a vacant web of pure speculation but feed his speculation on these materials. 136.iil-as well as on the fruits of the efforts of the social sciences of the present. to do constant stock-taking : f> 03 C-3 & ~ J Y 6 ~ 1 .-tj & 2 1 3Lj p 5 L GJ "That people is like the sword in the hands of Fate. p. Lahore 1959. This is neither an easy task nor a lazy one. 3. neither Iqbal nor Islam nor Muslims have much chance to live. they will be replaced by others : " who would not be like you "7 Again. he was told. t o provide the middleterm links in an order of priorities between the day-to-day actual and the transcendental. Iqbal lives . 2. The Qur'an tells i t in no unclear terms. 278. NOTES 1. indeed. p./C- IQBAL'S IDEA OF THE MUSLIM 445 through incessant endeavour and creativeness at all levels and in all the fields and through sacrifice. Bat-i Jibril. Biil-i Jibril." The Community is thus charged with this task and this role and should it fail to fulfil it. when Abraham asked God in prayer whether his leadership of men would be I1 transmitted to his heirs. that if Muslims will not do the job properly in the world. Darb-a Kalim. My promise extends not to the u n j u ~ t " . Zbid. The Qur'an declares. p. Lahore 1959. p. let alone to fuEl the role assigned to them by the Qur'an. 5. 139. p. 8. The Qur'an makes all these demands . Anna&ln-i Hijiiz. Asriir-u Rumiiz. 57. ~The task of the Muslim philosopher is to formulate this vision in clear terms for the Community.. 6. 7. 112. Darb-i Kalim. according to the Qur'an. 4. I1 :124.if it does not. in order t o direct our work. which constantly takes stock of its actions. Lahore 1948. down must it go. XLVII :38. 30. Even so does I q b d call upon us to act and work and. Besides a constructive will and an acute mind the philosopher must feed himself thoroughly upon the rich legacy of Islam in the past-the last great link in this chain being 1qb. p. . God commands all this and only then makes the promise. This is what I understand t o be the legacy of Iqbal. If this lives. Qur'm. that God makes no unilateral promises and in fact i t accuses the Jews of claiming such unilateral promises from God. Lahore 1959.