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Iqbal -  A Manifestation of Self-reconstruction and Reformation   

 by: Dr. Ali Shariati

If one were to reconstruct the form of Islam, which has been made to
degenerate over the course of history, re-assemble it in such a way that its
spirit could return to a complete body, and transform the present
disorientated elements of Islam into that spirit, as if the trumpet of
Israfil were to blow in the 20th century over a dead society and awaken its
movement, power, spirit, and meaning, it is then that exemplary Muslim
personalities like Muhammad Iqbal would be reconstructed and reborn.

Muhammad Iqbal is not just a Muslim mystic who is solely concerned with
mysticism or gnosis as were Ghazzali, Muhyi Din ibn Arabi, and Rumi. They
emphasized individual evolution, purification of the soul, and the inner
illuminated 'self'. They only developed and trained a few people like
themselves but, for the most part, remained oblivious to the outside world,
having been almost unaware of the Mongol attack and the subsequent despotic
rule and suppression of the people.

Iqbal is also not like Abu Muslim, Hasan Sabah or Saladin Ayyubi and
personalities like them who, in the history of Islam, are simply men of the
sword, power, war, and struggle and who consider the exercise of power and
the defeat of the enemy enough to effect reform and revolution in the minds
of the people and in their social relationships.

Nor is Iqbal similar to those learned individuals like Sir Sayyid Ahmad
Khan, who imagined that no matter in what situation Islamic society is (even
if it is under the domination of a British viceroy), it can be revived with
modern scholarly interpretations or with 20th century scientific and logical
commentaries on Islamic tenets and Quranic verses, as well as through
profound philosophical and scholarly research.

Iqbal is not among some Western people who consider science to be sufficient
for human salvation, for evolution, and for curing anguish. He is not one of
those philosophers who thinks meeting economic needs is tantamount to meeting
all human needs. Nor is he like his fellow countrymen, that is, the great
Hindu and Buddhist thinkers who consider peace of mind and spiritual
salvation to be transmigration, or who consider the cycle of kanna to
Nirvana to be the fulfillment of the mission of humanity, and who imagine
that in a society where there is even one hungry person, where slavery,
deprivation and disgrace exist, one can still develop pure, elevated spirits
and disciplined, educated people who have attained well-being and even a
sense of morality !

No. Iqbal demonstrates through his very being and through his School of
Thought that thoughts which are related to Islam are thoughts which, while
paying careful attention to this world and the material needs of humanity,
also give the human being a heart. As he himself says, "I find the most
beautiful states of life during the yearnings and meditations between
daybreak and dawn."

He is a great mystic, with a pure spirit, delivered from materialism and, at
the same time, a man who respects and honors science, technological progress,
and the advancement of human reason in our age. He is not a thinker who
debases science, reason, and scientific advancement having had his emotions
aroused by Sufism, Christianity, the religion of Lao Tzu, or
Buddha. Neither is he a proponent of "dry" factual science like the science
of Francis Bacon or Claude Bernard, which is limited to the discovery of the
relationships between phenomena or material manifestations and the employment
of natural forces for material life. At the same time, he is not a thinker
who links philosophy, illumination, science, religion, reason, and
revelation together in an incongruous way, as some have done. Rather, in his
outlook and attitude towards this world, he regards reason and science in the
very sense they are understood today as allies of love, emotion, and
inspiration in the evolution of the human spirit, but he does not accept
their goals.

The greatest advice of Iqbal to humanity is: Have a heart like Jesus,
thought like Socrates, and a hand like the hand of a Caesar, but all in one
human being, in one creature of humanity, based upon one spirit in order to
attain one goal. That is, to be like Iqbal himself: A man who attains the
height of political awareness in his time to the extent that some people
believe him to be solely a political figure and a liberated, nationalist
leader who is a 20th century anti-colonialist. A man who, in philosophical
thought, rises to such a high level that he is considered to be a
contemporary thinker and philosopher of the same rank as Bergson in the West
today or of the same level as Ghazzali in Islamic history.

At the same time, he is a man we regard as being a reformer of Islamic
society, who thinks about the conditions of human and Islamic society, a
society in which he himself lives and for which he performs jihad (i.e.
struggles nobly in the way of God) for the salvation, awareness, and
liberation of Muslim people. His efforts are not just casual and scientific
or of the kind that Sartre called "intellectual demonstrations of political,
pseudo-leftists" but rather of the kind exhibited by responsible individuals.
He struggles and strives and, at the same time, he is also a lover of Rumi.
He journeys with him in his spiritual ascensions and burns from the lover's
flames, anguishes, and spiritual anxieties. This great man does not become
one-dimensional, does not disintegrate, does not become a one-sided or
one-dimensional Muslim. He is a complete Muslim. Even though he loves Rumi,
he is not obliterated by him.

Iqbal goes to Europe and becomes a philosopher. He comes to know the
European Schools of philosophy and makes them known to others. Everyone
admits that he is a 20th-century philosopher, but he does not surrender to
Western thinking. On the contrary, he conquers the West. He lives with a
critical mind and the power of choice in the 20th century and in the Western
civilization. He is devoted to and a disciple of Rumi to an extent that does
not contradict and is not incompatible with the authentic dimensions of the
Islamic spirit.

Sufism says "As our fate has been pre-determined in our absence, if it is
not to your satisfaction, do not complain". Or, "If the world does not agree
with you or suit you, you should agree with the world". But Iqbal, the
mystic, says "If the world does not agree with you, arise against it!". "The
world" means the destiny and life of human beings. The human being is a wave,
not a static shoreline. His or her being and becoming is in motion. What do I
mean? It is to be in motion. In the mysticism of Iqbal, which is neither
Hindu mysticism nor religious fanaticism, but Quranic mysticism, the human
being must change the world. Quranic Islam has substituted "heavenly fate" in
which the human being is nothing, with "human fate" in which the
human being plays an important role. This is the greatest revolutionary, as
well as progressive and constructive principle which Islam has created by its
world view, philosophy of life, and ethics.

The greatest criticism that humanism and liberal intellectuals have leveled
and continue to level against religion is that religious beliefs have been
interpreted as being founded on absolute determinism or Divine Will, and thus
the absolute subjugation of human will, so the human being is logically
reduced to being weak in terms of free-choice in relation to the Absolute.
If this were true, it would be a disgrace. It would be servitude and a means
for the negation of power, freedom, and responsibility. It would be to submit
to the status quo, to 'whatever will be, will be', to accept any fate which
is imposed upon the human being in this world and to admit to the futility
and uselessness of life. As past, present, and future events have been and
will continue to be dictated by fate, in this view, any criticism or
objection, then, or efforts to attain our hearts' desires or to change
the situation, must be subjugated to "whatever has been pre-destined for
us". In this way, the human being's attempts to change, convert, and amend
the status quo become impossible, unreasonable, and ill-advised.

But in the philosophy of Islam, although the One God has Absolute Power and
is Almighty and although for Him is the Creation, Guidance, Expediency, and
Rule over the universe, "His is the Creation and the Command." (7:54), at the
same time, the human being, in this extensive universe, is considered in such
a way that while one cannot dissociate oneself from the rule of God and
from Divine Sovereignty, one can live freely. A Muslim has free will and the
power to rebel and surrender. Thus, he or she is responsible and the maker of
his or her own image. "Every soul is held in pledge for what he earns"
(74:38). "And the human being shall have nothing but what he strives for"

In his mystic journey with the Quran, Iqbal described this principle, that
is, the principle of authenticity of deed and responsibility towards human
beings, that which humanists, existentialists, or radicals endeavor to help
humanity achieve by negating religion and denying God. These people, quite
rightly, see the religion and the God conceived by the minds of human beings
to be incompatible with human freedom, esteem, authenticity, and
responsibility, whereas Islam, without resorting to philosophical
justification and interpretation, clearly declares "the day when the human
being shall see what his two hands have sent before" (78:40).

With his outlook, his orientation to faith and his Islamic mysticism, Iqbal
passed through all the philosophical and spiritual states of this age. It can
be said that he was a Muslim migrant who appeared in the depths of the Indian
Ocean and rose to the highest peaks of honor of the majestic European
mountains, but he did not remain there. He returned to us to offer his nation
- that is, to offer us - whatever he had learned on his wondrous journey.
Through his personality, I see that once again Islam in the 20th
century presents a model, an example, for the anguished but confused new
generation which has some degree of self-awareness. A shining spirit, full of
Eastern inspiration, is selected from the land of the heart of spiritual
culture and illumination. The great thoughts of the West, the land of
civilization, intellect, and knowledge with the power of creativity and
advancement are placed in his mind. Then, with all of this investment, he
becomes knowledgeable of the 20th century. He is not one of those
reactionaries and worshippers of the past who have enmity towards the West
and whatever is new; who oppose new civilization without a sound reason. He
is also not like those who imitate and are absorbed by the West without
having the courage to criticize and to choose. On the one hand, he employs
science and, on the other, he senses its inadequacies and shortcomings in
meeting the spiritual needs and the evolutionary requirements of humanity. He
offers solutions for its completion. Iqbal is a person who has a world view,
and he has developed philosophical-spiritual interpretations based upon it
which he offers to the world and its people. Iqbal is a person who bases his
social teaching upon his world view, and then offers his spiritual
and philosophical interpretations of it. Based upon the culture and history
with which he is associated, he develops the concept of a person based on the
standard of an "Ali", to the extent that the material for developing such a
human being in our century allows.

What does the "standard of Ali" mean? It means a human being with an Eastern
heart and a Western mind. It means a person who thinks deeply and profoundly.
It means a human being who expresses a beautiful and splendid love. It refers
to a person who is well acquainted with the anguish of the spirit as well as
with the sufferings of life. It means a human being who both knows God and
the people. It is a devotee possessing the light of knowledge who burns with
love and faith, and whose penetrating eyes never allow negligence and
ignorance to prevail without questioning the fate of enslaved nations. It is
a person who seeks reform, revolution, and a change of mental attitudes. As a
thinker, he realizes that the spiritless eye of science (according to Francis
Bacon) is incapable of seeing all the realities of the universe. He also
feels that a lovesick heart attains nothing if it is only concerned with
asceticism, self-abasement and purification, because a human being affiliated
with society and affiliated
to life and the material world cannot disentangle the "self" alone. An
individual moves with the caravan of society and cannot choose a way separate
from it.

This is why we wish to have a School of thought and action which both
responds to our philosophical needs, and at the same time develops a thinking
being who is accepted by the world, recognized by civilization and the new
culture of the world, and not one alienated from us and our rich cultural
resources. We wish for a School of thought and action which nurtures a human
being who is closely aware of our culture and all of our good spiritual and
religious assets, who is not alienated from the times,
and who does not live in the 4th or 5th century. We long for it to develop a
human being who can think, who has a scientific mind, yet who does not remain
negligent of the anguish, life, captivity, and hardships of his people. We
desire the development of a human being who, even if he thinks about the real
and material anguish of humanity and about the present confusions and
difficulties of human society or his own society, does not forget the ideal
human being or the significance of the human being or the eternal mission of
humanity in history, and does not lower all human ideals to the level of
material consumption.

All that we seek in these various domains can be found in Iqbal, because the
only thing that Iqbal did - and this is the greatest success of Iqbal as a
Muslim in an Islamic society in the 20th century - was that, based upon the
knowledge he had of the rich new and old cultures, he was able to develop
himself, based on the model which his ideological School, - that is, Islam, -
gave. This is the greatest success of Iqbal in an Islamic society in the 20th
century. We do not say that he is a perfect human being. No. We do not say he
is a symbolic person. No. He is a personality who, after his disintegration,
had been reconstructed into a complete Muslim person and a perfect Islamic
personality in the 20th century. This reconstruction is the starting point
from which we Muslim intellectuals must ourselves begin. We must feel our
greatest responsibility to be in reconstructing ourselves and our society.
Sayyid Jamal was the first who produced such a feeling of re-awakening.
Asking "Who are you? Who were you?", Iqbal was the first fruit from the seed
of the movement which Sayyid Jamal planted in this people. The first product
is a great model, an example, and our very awaken- ing. As Easterners, we are
affiliated to this part of the world. We are connected
with this history. We are human beings confronted by nature and by the West.

But what do we mean when we say Iqbal was a reformer? Can reform really save
a society from all of its misfortunes, anguish, and difficulties? Must not a
sudden, severe, deep-rooted revolution take place in thought and in relation
to society? When we say Iqbal was a reformer, those present who are familiar
with the expressions prevalent among the educated class think "reform" means
something which is the opposite of "revolution" in a socio-political sense.
Most often when we say "reform", we mean gradual change or change in the
superstructure, and when we say "revolution", we mean a sudden,
reconstruction. But when in these changes we say that Iqbal was a reformer,
we are not referring to slow and gradual change in society. Our intention is
not gradual change or external reform, but we use this word in its general
sense which also includes the meaning of "revolution".

When we say Iqbal was a reformer or that the great thinkers after Sayyid
Jamal are known for being the greatest reformers of the century in the world,
it is not in the sense that they supported gradual and external change in
society. No! They were supporters of a deep-seated revolution, a revolution
in thought, in views, in feelings; an ideological and cultural revolution.
Iqbal, Sayyid Jamal, Kawakibi, Muhammad Abduh, Ibn Ibrahim and members of the
Maqrib lJlama Association are great men who shook the East in the last one
hundred years. Their reforms or, still better, "reforming revolutions", stand
upon this principle, for they believe that individual reform is no longer an
answer. It is an altogether different matter if reform affects society. A
person can no longer think and live in a way which he has chosen for himself,
nor accept any influence from his age or his society, and still develop
himself into a pure and real human being in a corrupt age and in a degenerate
society, for if this were to be possible, then "social responsibility and
commitment" would make no sense