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Iqbal’s vision of Islamic revolution

At the beginning of the 20th century, Allama Muhammad Iqbal played his momentous role in laying down the intellectual foundations of Islamic Renaissance. His revolutionary thought can be summarized as follows: In the first place, he proved that the intellectual and scientific progress that was achieved by Europe during the last few centuries was actually a manifestation and unfolding of the Qur’anic spirit. According to Iqbal, it was the Qur’anic emphasis on observation and experience, which gave rise to the scientific method of inquiry. 

The Qur’an commanded to give up all superstitious and fanciful beliefs, to rely on the senses and the faculty of reason for gaining knowledge of the material world, and to contemplate the physical and natural phenomena because these are signs of Almighty Allah (SWT). He also proved that the concepts of political and economic rights of man, which seem to have been born and developed in the West, were in fact derived and borrowed from the teachings of Islam. Thus, to say that all human beings are born equal, that every human being has certain inalienable rights (especially the provision of basic necessities of life) concerning which there must not be any discrimination on the basis of gender, race, color, caste, or creed, and that all forms of exploitation — whether political or economic — must not be allowed to continue in a decent and humane society.

Two related achievements of Iqbal that we are going to discuss here are as follows: first, his challenge to the dominant Western thought and civilization, especially his forceful criticism and condemnation of two fundamental socio-political concepts of the West, i.e, secularism and territorial nationalism; secondly, the ingenious manner in which he reconstructed the Islamic revolutionary thought and presented the Islamic System of Social Justice on the highest intellectual level, harmonizing it with the highest ideals of human rights, as well as his presentation of a brief yet comprehensive description of the methodology for bringing about the envisioned Islamic Revolution.

Iqbal’s ideas concerning secularism and territorial nationalism are so well known and crystal-clear that we need not go into their details. Secularism, according to Iqbal, is the biggest evil in today’s world, and the separation of Divine guidance from state authority is the root cause of all corruption. Human sovereignty is kufr as well as shirk, irrespective of whether it manifests itself in the form of individual sovereignty (autocracy and kingship) or in the form of popular sovereignty (democracy and people’s rule).

Similarly, the modern concept of territorial nationalism constitutes a virulent and lethal disease, which, by causing discord and animosity among different groups of people and by producing mutual rivalry and antagonism, leads to a type of politics, which is devoid of morality and a kind of trade, which becomes an instrument of Imperialism. All this results in destruction and devastation of weaker nations at the hands of stronger ones. Islam as such demands its followers to establish a complete constitutional framework as well as a politico-socio- economic system of Islam, which would become the starting point of a new global civilization. It is precisely this “threat” of Islam as a living force which is so repulsive to Satan and his agents as well as to the Jews and the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) that even the slightest progress in this direction disturbs them in a most serious manner.

Iqbal was also cognizant of the fact that, in today’s world, economic and financial matters have assumed central importance in the human society, and that man has now been reduced to Homo economics for all practical purposes. Regarding the issue of “Capital”, Iqbal made it clear that while Islam takes advantage of the human desire for profit and encourages investment as well as cultivates a healthy competitive environment, there is absolutely no chance whatsoever of the menace of capitalism taking root in a true Islamic society, as the very foundation of capitalism – interest or usury – has been strictly prohibited by the Qur’an. Iqbal recognized and expressed the immorality and vice of riba, which was simply non-existent in the writings of any other scholar or intellectual. 

Concerning the domination of “Feudalism”, Iqbal asserted that this is in diametric opposition to the economic teachings of Islam. He passionately maintained that land, the source of sustenance for humans and animals, couldn’t be the private property of kings or landlords. 

The earth belongs to Almighty Allah (SWT), and its productive capacities are meant by the Creator to be equally available to all those who are in need of it. The practice of absentee landlordism is not only highly cruel and unjust to the ill-fated farmer, but it is the principal cause of the concentration of politico-economic power in the hands of a few hundred families, which allows them to control the legislative and policy-making process with highly deleterious consequences for the nation. The credit for voicing the strongest condemnation of this in our times goes to Iqbal who, with a boldness that was unique to him, proclaimed that a revolution is needed to eradicate the evils of feudalism and absentee landlordism.

In short, Iqbal fully understood and did his best to educate others regarding the three logical corollaries of the doctrine of Tawheed, that had a direct bearing on the Islamic System of Social Justice; Since all human beings are the creation of a single Creator, there is no inherent or congenital inequality on the basis of race, color, or gender; absolute sovereignty belongs only to Almighty Allah (SWT), and human beings are His vicegerents who must not transgress the limits set by the Sovereign; and the sacred right of absolute ownership belongs to Almighty Allah (SWT) alone, and human beings are only trustees who must not use anything they may find in their possession against the wishes of the rightful Owner.

As a logical upshot of the above understanding of the meaning of Tawheed, Iqbal made a forceful call for a revolution to replace the existing state of repression and exploitation with the Islamic System of Social Justice. In addition to his role in pinpointing the ultimate goal of the struggle for an Islamic state – which is the establishment of Justice – Iqbal also elucidated the methodology for bringing about the envisioned revolution.

According to Iqbal, the first stage in the process of an Islamic Revolution is to inculcate the teachings and the message of the Holy Qur’an. People must change from within before they can change the world. It is this internal and psychological revolution in the personalities of individuals that would cause any meaningful and stable change in the politico-socio-economic system. The only instrument that was employed for exhortation, admonition, purification of the soul, and reformation in the revolutionary struggle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was nothing but the Holy Qur’an.

In addition, there are two more components of the initial or preliminary phase of the revolutionary process, and these can be described as “organisation” and “passive resistance.” What is meant by “organisation” is that all those who have accepted the revolutionary ideology – those who have consciously come to believe in the Qur’an – must be organized in the form of a party. This organization must be highly disciplined, since the task ahead is to replace a deeply entrenched corrupt and satanic system, and, therefore, the achievement of the proverbial army discipline of “listen and obey” is to be the goal of this organization. 

During the initial stages, when the number of dedicated and committed workers will be rather low, a policy of “passive resistance” is adopted. What is meant by “passive resistance” is that all persecution, whether verbal or physical, must be endured without any retaliation. There must not be any retreat of any kind; yet there must not be any revenge or counterstrike either, not even in self-defense. This perseverance and passive resistance must continue till the time when there is enough strength available, both in terms of the number of workers and their training, morale, discipline, and their willingness to sacrifice, that a challenge can be thrown to the defenders of the status quo. 

The purpose of this fighting (or Qitaal) is for the cause of Allah (SWT), meaning the elimination of fitnah, the rule of falsehood, and establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth rather than a kingship or an empire. 

It was with a strong desire to revive the revolutionary teachings of Islam and to pave the way for an actual Islamic Revolution that Iqbal vehemently opposed the prevalent pantheistic trend in Islamic mysticism, which in his view was responsible for watering down the spirit of action and dynamism among the Muslims and had led to their pathetic state of virtual paralysis. Although Iqbal addressed the sufia as well as the ulema, and tried to wake them up from their deep slumber, it was actually the educated youth of Muslim that were the real target of his poetry. As disclosed recently by the late Dr Burhan Ahmad Faruqi – Iqbal not only deeply felt the need for such a revivalist struggle but came very close to achieving this goal as well.





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