Thursday, August 30, 2012

A syllabus for "Marghdeen"

As suggested in a previous post, it appears that in every domain of knowledge the current perceptions are just the opposite of Iqbal's. In 2017: The Battle of Marghdeen, I have tried to make a list of five key differences, for those who may be interested.

My contention is that our perception of our world changes drastically if we adopt these changes. In my understanding, much of what has been written about the ideas of Iqbal has suffered from the fact that writers, especially after 1953, passively accepted the academically accepted premise in every domain of knowledge and attempted to interpret Iqbal accordingly. Whereas, I believe, Iqbal questioned those very positions.

Further details can be found in 2017, and the supporting evidence for these statements is abundantly available in my third biography of Iqbal recently published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan in Urdu. Each statement forms the main objective of an online course at Marghdeen Learning Centre.

1. History:

  • We are usually told that the present times are an age of spiritual decline (a view which was originally articulated by Oswald Spengler and H.G. Wells during and after the First World War).
  • We need to know that Iqbal believed the world to be already on the verge of “a great spiritual and cultural revolution” in 1923. He believed that Nature was “building up in the depths of life a new human being and a new world for him to live in” and therefore the spirit of modern times is fully consonant with spiritual advancement.

2. Art and Literature:
  • We are usually told that pessimistic art and literature are more worthy of respect and attention than those products which present a desirable fantasy (an idea popularized by the French poet Charles Baudelaire in 1857, who called his poems The Flowers of Evil and described hypocrisy to be his ideal).
  • We need to know that art and literature are collective dreams that come true, according to Iqbal. Therefore, they should present the world as it should be, and not as it appears to be.

3. Politics:
  • We are usually told that democracy is against the spirit of Islam (a point of view popularized by scholars like A. J. Arberry, who pioneered an intellectual movement against Islam, Pakistan and Iqbal in 1953).
  • We need to know that “Democracy, then, is the most important aspect of Islam regarded as a political ideal,” according to Iqbal, as he stated in a seminal paper in 1909 (all his political views, which he offered subsequently, were elaborations on this basic idea).

4. Religion and Science:
  • We are usually told that religion and science are locked in a perpetual conflict.
  • We need to know that Iqbal observed in 1930, “The day is not far off when Religion and Science may discover hitherto unsuspected mutual harmonies.” By that estimate, we should be able to discover those mutual harmonies now.

5. Education:
  • We are usually told that education is either an end in itself or preparation for a career.
  • We need to know that “Education, like other things, is determined by the needs of a community,” according to Iqbal. Chief among these needs is to achieve “a real collective ego” by passing on the common ideals of the society from generation to generation.

Beethoven Symphony No.9

Beethoven's death mask
by Austrian painter
Josef Danhauser (1805-1845)
"Who was it that at last became familiar with the secret of Oneness? Who is the wise one that has true awareness?" (Iqbal, Persian Psalms; 1927)

Now famously called The Choral Symphony, The Symphony of Joy or sometimes even The Ultimate Symphony, the last symphony of Beethoven was first performed in Vienna in 1824. Initially applauded by some and described by some others as "the fading glimmers of a dying genius", it soon came to be regarded as possibly the greatest symphony ever composed.

The lines from the German poet Schiller which Beethoven introduced in finale (against the convention of symphony up to that time), actually prophecy a new age when "all men shall become brothers." The later French composer Hector Berlioz found "the novelty of the form" of the ninth symphony justified "by an intention that is quite independent of any philosophical or religious thought, which might seem equally reasonable and beautiful to anyone, be he a fervent Christian, a pantheist or an atheist, in short by an intention of a purely musical and poetic kind." (See The Hector Berlioz Website).

Video: Symphony No.9 (Complete)
0:00 First Movement
15:26 Second Movement
26:36 Third Movement
42:36 Fourth Movement
[Ode to Joy 46:01; Choral 48:31; Bliss 55:21]

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reinhold Friedrich Alfred Hoernlé

R. F. A.  Hoernlé (1880-1943)

The following excerpt from Matter, life, mind, and God (1923) by Reinhold Friedrich Alfred Hoernlé was summarized by Iqbal in the second lecture of The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930-34).
Now, the theory of “matter”—the “materialism” of common parlance—which we have to discuss and which we shall find reason to reject as untenable, is a particular theory of the nature of sense-objects and of their relation, on the one side, to the percipient’s mind, and, on the other, to “scientific objects.”

The essence of this theory is to be found in the following propositions:
(1)   Sense-objects (colours, sounds, etc.) are “sensations” and, as such, states of the perceiver’s mind. They are “subjective.”
(2)   By this classification of sense-objects as “mental states,” or “mental impressions,” they are, at once, excluded from Nature as “physical” (“material,” “objective”).
(3)   Hence, they cannot be in any proper sense qualities of physical things (theory of “secondary qualities”: strictly, we should not say, “the sky is blue,” but, “it produces a blue sensation in our minds”).
(4)   As mental states they are effects produced in us.
(5)   The cause of these effects is matter, or material things, acting through our sense-organs, nerves, and brain on our minds.
(6)   The manner of this causation is mechanical, i.e., by contact, or impact; hence the physical cause must possess the “primary qualities” of shape, size, solidity, resistance.

Two points, especially, stand out in this materialistic theory. The first is that the world of Nature is stripped of all sense-objects, of all colour, sound, smell, temperature, etc., which are all denied to Nature by being classed under the heading of “mind,” with the twofold result that (a) our ordinary way of speaking of perceptual objects and their qualities involves a complete illusion, and (b) that what remains of Nature must be conceived as consisting only of imperceptible entities, possessing only the primary qualities. The second point is a causal theory of perception: the sense-objects which we perceive are the effects produced in our minds by the action of the imperceptible entities on our sense-organs. In short, it is a theory, not merely of what Nature is, or is known to be, but also of what Nature does to the mind of the percipient.

The net result is that Nature is split in two. What we directly perceive (the tissue of sense-objects) is divorced from the realm of scientific objects, which latter now figure precariously as the hypothetical and unverifiable causes of the impressions in our minds.

Some physicists, straying into the field of philosophy of Nature, have endorsed this materialistic theory under the impression that it is at least in harmony with, if not actually implied by, the science of physics itself. But these adventurers are misguided. For, closely considered, nothing could well be less in harmony with this theory than the actual method of scientific investigation. As observer and experimenter, the physicist gets his evidence of what Nature is, and does, in the first instance through his senses. Yet, on the theory, this evidence consists of nothing but subjective impressions in his mind, and he is still separated from Nature by a gap which he can bridge only by means of a precarious hypothesis concerning the imperceptible Somewhat which may caused his sensations. In fact, were his practice not better than this theory, he could hardly move a step. Fortunately, in actual practice he forgets all about the theory and accepts all he observes as bona fide disclosures of Nature. He does not hamper himself by labelling “mental” whatever he perceives, and then guessing at the “physical” world “behind the veil.” He never thinks of sensations, but only of phenomena, and of what may be needed to explain them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Organic Model of Social Sciences

We can change any walk of life indirectly by working only in our own area of influence. The key is understanding - and for now, I mean an understanding of "the new beginning" of Iqbal Studies. Without this understanding, even a well-meaning political leader with all the support of the people is more likely to fail than succeed.

This is one of the major implications of the "new beginning" for Iqbal Studies (see previous post). It has been summed up as an "Organic Model of Social Sciences" in the final chapter of 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen. The following diagram is meant to explain it.

An Organic Model of Social Sciences
What we see here is that:
  • History is the force that moves the human world. As such, it is a mystery to be unraveled. It is more than a record of the past because it is not just what is known. It is the complete series of goals collectively adopted and achieved by humanity, and those goals are influencing us whether we know them or not. Those choices, made by the people in the past are our destiny because they are influencing us just as our choices today are going to influence those who will come after us. 
  • Choices are not always made consciously. In fact, they are often made by our souls rather than our minds, and unfortunately the significance is usually overlooked because the act of making such choices is known by the name of “entertainment”. Whether it is a sitcom or a play by Shakespeare, it becomes a collective dream when enjoyed by many, and the dream comes true eventually. Literature commonly enjoyed by all segments and schools of thought in a society is the collective dream of that society.
  • Dreams chosen through literature are turned into reality through politics (“Nations are born in the hearts of poets; they prosper and die in the hands of politicians,” Iqbal wrote in his notebook in 1910). Therefore, politics is not an independent activity (and most problems of today might be rooted in a failure to accept this). Politicians, as well as intellectuals and think-tanks working with them, may presume that their job is to wish anything they like and to try achieving it. In reality, it shall always turn out that they achieved only what the society had already dreamt of.
  • Religion and science answer our questions about the reality around us. Since that reality is shaped through social and political action, interpretations offered by religion and science also evolve accordingly (“Ideas act and react on each other,” Iqbal wrote in his private notebook in 1910. “The growing spirit of individualism in politics is not without its influence on contemporary scientific thought. Modern thought regards the universe a democracy of living atoms.”).
  • Through education, a society passes on its knowledge of things to the next generations. Since that knowledge is filtered through religion and science, education is invariably moderated by them. In turn, it affects the choice of literature in future.

By understanding this connection between five important domains of knowledge, one can work in any walk of life, or even in one’s home, and still contribute towards social change with an informed vision.

This is why we need "a new beginning" of Iqbal Studies. We need to have at least one key statement about each subject consistent with the vision of Iqbal. That statement need not be accepted just because Iqbal said so. It should be tested and tried, and accepted only if it yields a positive social change.

Iqbal Studies: a New Beginning

Did you find it difficult to download 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen from Smashwords? Just email me, and I shall send you the PDF. However, the advantage of registering with Smashwords is that you can review the book on their website and enjoy other privileges of membership.

Soon after reading the book, my senior friend and veteran educationist Dr. Irfan Hyder wrote to me: 

"This may be a summary or a prologue to a much more voluminous undertaking or multiple volumes effort."
Actually, this is true. 2017 is a summary of key points which are being elaborated in some 6000 pages in the series of six books of Iqbal's biography in Urdu (the third book was recently published, as you may remember).

It all started with the awareness that Iqbal Studies cannot be and should not be the study of Iqbal in the light of existing paradigms. Unfortunately, that has been generally the case. Some Iqbal scholars may disagree with me but it is my honest and humble opinion that we have only seen Iqbal through the eyes of the world and never seen the world through the eyes of Iqbal.

This problem was pointed out by Iqbal himself and his earliest friends and followers as early as the 1920s. I have offered substantial evidence in the recently published third book of Iqbal's biography, Iqbal Darmiani Daur. See, for instance, my account of A Voice from the East, the first full-length monograph about Iqbal written and published by his associate Sir Zulfiqar Ali Khan in 1922. Many of the reviews published in Urdu after the English translation of 'Asrar-i-Khudi' have also been excerpted in my book, and they voice the same concern. The concern was voiced most boldly by Waheed Ahmad Masud, whose excellent article has been included in entirety as appendix in my book, for this very reason.

The major concern voiced by all these writers, headed by Iqbal himself, was that it is not sufficient to see Iqbal from the perspective of the existing knowledge, whether Eastern or Western. In fact, it could be dangerous and misleading. Instead of seeing Iqbal through the eyes of the world (or at least in addition to doing so), we must also see the world through the eyes of Iqbal.

This was the line of thinking that led to the creation of Pakistan. Unfortunately, it was abandoned almost completely soon after the birth of Pakistan. 

If we look at the aims and objectives listed in the journals of Iqbal Studies started in Pakistan in the 1950s,  we see a list of subjects in which Iqbal was interested or which had been touched upon in his writings, such as history, literature, social sciences, religion, education and so on. There is no mention that these subjects need to be studied in the light of Iqbal's views.

Quite the contrary, an unwritten convention soon developed that Iqbal's views on all the subjects must be regarded as "dated" (actually, as "outdated"). Since Iqbal had died in 1938, the views and theories which had emerged in social sciences and humanities after that time should be followed and the works of Iqbal should only be interpreted in the light of these new theories.

This is the convention which I want to challenge, and challenge it boldly. I understand that I shall end up offending many Iqbal scholars (some of them very well-meaning), but it is my humble and honest opinion that the name "Iqbal Studies" can only be given to the study of things from the perspective of Iqbal, and not to anything else.
  • To study the philosophical ideas of Iqbal in the light of existing conventions of philosophy is not Iqbal Studies. It is just the subject of Philosophy, with Iqbal added to the syllabus.
  • To study the poetry of Iqbal in the light of existing conventions of literary criticism is not Iqbal Studies. It is just Urdu Literature, or Persian Literature, and so on.
  • So on with history, religion, science and education.
This is not just an academic debate. It is a matter of life and death (in my opinion, and I do not mean any disrespect to those who may think that I am exaggerating).

I say this because in every field of study - in every area of human perception and understanding - the results change drastically when the principles of Iqbal are applied independently. In some areas, what we consider medicine is poison according to Iqbal and what we usually shun as poison is the necessary food according to him, without which we may die.

For Pakistan, the major implication is that we find a clearly defined list of options from which we can choose in order to solve our present problems and, perhaps, turn Pakistan into a world leader with least resistance and minimum effort. For the world, it holds a promise of peace, happiness and self-discovery on an unimaginable scale.

This is what I have tried to describe in 2017, and the supporting evidence is coming out in thousands of pages in the six-book series of Iqbal's biography.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beethoven Symphony No.8

Beethoven in 1815 by German painter
Willibrord Joseph Mahler (1778–1860)
"What point does the claim, ‘I am the Creative Truth’ imply? Do you think that this mystery was mere nonsense?" (Iqbal, Persian Psalms; 1927)

The eighth symphony of Beethoven was first performed in 1814, when Beethoven was 43 and was growing increasingly deaf. It would turn out to be the shortest of all his nine symphonies. himself called "The Little Symphony in F". Critical acclaim would forever remain divided: it is said that Beethoven himself was asked why it was less popular than his seventh  and he replied, "Because the Eighth is so much better." (See Wikipedia).

Generally, the posterity has described the symphony as "light-hearted, though not lightweight, and in many places cheerfully loud" whereby "various passages in the symphony are heard by some listeners to be musical jokes." (See Wikipedia).

Video: Symphony No.8 (Complete)
1. Allegro vivace e con brio @0:00
2. Allegretto scherzando @7:15
3. Tempo di Menuetto @10:53
4. Allegro vivace @15:00

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Meaning of God in Human Experience

[The following is a passage from The Meaning of God in Human Experience: A Philosophic Study of Religion (1912) by William Ernest Hocking. A smaller excerpt from this passage was quoted by Iqbal in the first lecture of The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930-34).]

Religious passion, at length, is the best illustration of all this: for this is the mark of religious passion, that a specific view of the whole makes conscious connection with one's practical ultimata. The “deepest of all inborn impulses,” says Professor Pratt, “is the ‘instinct for self-preservation’”: and what is to set that impulse trembling? “a belief in the impossibility of real annihilation.” Belief founded on what? founded back on the instinct itself? doomed then to death and silence. Founded on vision perhaps? If ever upon the stupid day-length time-span of any self, or saint either, some vision breaks to roll his life and ours into new channels, it can only be because that vision admits into his soul some trooping invasion of the concrete fulness of eternity. Such vision doubtless means sub- conscious readiness, and subconscious resonance too, but the expansion of unused air-cells does not argue that we have ceased now to breathe the outer air: the very opposite!

No. The so-called wisdom of feeling is of the same stuff and substance with other wisdom, positive, objective, belonging to our world of ideas. The religious vista is large and open: in integral continuity with the field-lines of our overt existence (not narrowly caught by peering up back-chimney-flues of consciousness). Whatever is thus continuous with the real known in idea is itself known in idea, not otherwise. There are vague ideas, and unfinished ideas, uncertain predicates, qualities only dimly divined known most certainly by their difference from others, their negative bearing but none of this haze and floating outline affects the intent and category of the scene-contents. Whatever is, or can be, predicate of idea is itself idea-stuff, whether or not yet successfully defined and connected.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2017: Collect your free copy now

Title: 2017: The Battle For MarghdeenAuthor: Khurram Ali Shafique
Publisher: Libredux, UK
Word: 16358 (Approx)
Price: $1.99
Buy from Smashwords

Dear Visitor,

You are cordially invited to collect your free copy of this ebook from Smashwords by using the coupon: UH45Q

At midnight Pakistan Standard Time, 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen went live at Smashwords. You can pick it up by following the link below. And, for a short time only, the 65th Independence Day of Pakistan and Laylatul Qadr are being celebrated by leaving it open for free download to anyone who uses the coupon code available below.

  1. Go to the page for the book
  2. Scroll down the page and choose a format - epub, Kindle, PDF etc.
  3. Apply this code: UH45Q


Note: This offer expires at midnight, 18 August (California time).

Marghdeen is the name of the ideal society conceived by Iqbal, the foremost Muslim thinker of modern times, in 1932. It is a world where life is inside-out, people know their destinies and there is no poverty, neediness, crime or injustice. In 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen, the author shows how such a society can be achieved in a short space of time, as long as we are prepared to change our perception of history and other domains of knowledge. 
This book presents the basic principles for achieving Marghdeen. They are illustrated with examples from modern history. There is a special emphasis on Pakistan and the Muslim world, but the principles can be applied anywhere in the world. 
“One of the finest achievements of the human mind is to see, to understand, and to put the things seen and understood into a greater perspective. With Khurram Ali Shafique, some kind of thinking of the heart has returned into the arena: a greater perspective, so to speak.” Dr. Thomas Stemmer

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book launch tonight: "Online"

Would you like a free ebook of 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen as soon as it is published tonight? Some coupons will be made available from this blog for a limited time.
Marghdeen is an ideal city presented by Iqbal in Javid Nama. There is no poverty, crime or injustice. Life is inside-out and people know their destinies. 
In my new book, 2017, I have tried to explain that Marghdeen is a parable about our times. It describes what can be achieved today, if we are willing to understand the principles and bring a change in how we see the world. 
The book is just 80 pages, but has taken me five years to write. I hope that everybody will find it readable and interesting - some kind of "non-fiction thriller". 
It will be released electronically by Libredux, UK, tonight at midnight when Pakistan celebrates its 65th Independence Day. A special post will be uploaded on this blog and sent out in the newsletter at that time. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

Remembering Hazrat Ali

Shrine of Hazrat Ali in Najaf
On 19 Ramazan, 40 AH, the Kharijite Ibn Muljam sneaked a poison-coated sword into the grand mosque of Kufa, where the caliph Ali was supposed to lead the morning prayers. The assassin stood in the first row when the caliph led the prayers, and struck him on the head when he went down in prostration.

The attacker was caught, bound in ropes and brought before him. Suffering from the pain of a fatal wound in his forehead, Ali was still quick to notice that the ropes were so tight that they were cutting into the flesh of his assassin. He ordered the knots to be loosened, and the assassin be treated humanely. 

He also ordered that in the case of his death, only the assassin should be punished and no harm must come to the culprit's family. Of course, if Ali survived, the attacker was going to be pardoned because Ali did not believe in personal revenge.

Ali passed out three days later. Ramazan 21 is the anniversary of his martyrdom. Translation of the famous verses of Iqbal about Hazrat Ali are being shared on this occasion (the original are in Persian):

ALI is the first Muslim and the King of men,
In Love's eyes Ali is the treasure of the Faith.
Devotion to his family inspires me with life
So that I am as a shining pearl.
Like the narcissus, I am enraptured with gazing:
Like perfume, I am straying though his pleasure garden.
If holy water gushes from my earth, he is the source;
If wine pours from my grapes, he is the cause.
I am dust, but his sun hath made me as a mirror:
Song can be seen in my breast.
From Ali's face the Prophet drew many a fair omen,
By his majesty the true religion is glorified
His commandments are the strength of Islam:
All things pay allegiance to his House.
The Apostle of God gave him the name Bu Turab;
God in the Koran called him "the Hand of Allah."
Every one that is acquainted with Life's mysteries
Knows what is the inner meaning of the names of Ali.

Indian Nationalism

The first session of Indian National Congress, 1885

It is extremely interesting to watch the birth and growth of a new ideal among a people. O! the enthusiasm it inspires and the force with which it attracts all the energies of a people to one common centre. The modern Hindu is quite a phenomenon. To me his behaviour is more of a psychological than a political study. It seems that the ideal of political freedom which is an absolutely new experience to him has seized his entire soul, turning the various streams of his energy from their wonted channels and bringing them to pour forth their whole force into this new channel of activity. When he has passed through this experience he will realise his loss. He will be transformed into an absolutely new people – new in the sense that he will no longer find himself dominated by the ethical ideals of his ancestors whose sublime fancies have been a source of perpetual consolation to many a distressed mind. Nations are mothers of ideals; but ideals, in course of time, become pregnant and give birth to new nations.
Iqbal, 1910
Please post comments at Selfless Devotion

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pakistan on the Night of Destiny

Recitation of Surah Qadr
with text, transliteration and translation

Laylah tul Qadr, or "the Night of Destiny" is one of the odd-numbered nights among the last ten of Ramazan (it is also translated as the night of Power, Majesty or Grandeur). According to Chapter 97, 'al-Qadr', the  Quran was revealed ("bestowed from on high") on this night. According to a common Muslim belief, this was 27 Ramazan, 13 years before migration to Madinah (some authorities suggest alternate dates).

Someone who reads the Quran after absorbing the spirit of Iqbal's message cannot help observing the connections which this brief surah establishes between Quran, Destiny and the mysteries of Time:
  1. Behold, from on high have We bestowed this on Night of Destiny.
  2. And what could make you conceive what it is, that Night of Destiny? 
  3. The Night of Destiny is better than a thousand months: 
  4. in hosts descend in it the angels, bearing divine inspiration by their Sustainer's leave; from all that may happen 
  5. does it make secure, until the rise of dawn.  
(This is approximately how Muhammad Asad translates the chapter). In Pakistan, this chapter of the Quran is also a reminder of a happy coincidence. Pakistan was "the final destiny" of its people, according to Iqbal, and it was also described by him as "an unborn world of the Quran". This unborn world of Quran came into being on the same night which was the anniversary of the revelation of Quran itself: 27 Ramazan (coinciding with the midnight of August 14-15, 1947).

Pakistan was born on the Night of Destiny. Can the country also work as a clue for showing us how destiny works in our lives? "Never did I, for a single moment, doubt that Pakistan would survive," said the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. "For I think, indeed I believe, that we had not done anything to deserve so high a boon as Pakistan, and that God will not deprive us of this boon unless and until we prove ourselves, by our misdeed, to be unworthy of it."

Let's remember this when we celebrate the Independence Day this year. The electronic edition of my new book will also be released on that date. The print edition will follow later. The book is in English, and is approximately 80 pages. It is called 2017: the Battle for Marghdeen. I hope that it will offer some more explanation of issues which I have briefly touched upon in this post.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My two new books

اقبال: درمیانی دَور

This Ramazan, I am announcing two new books. The first is Iqbal: Darmiani Daur (Urdu). The other will be a non-fiction thriller, released internationally on the midnight of August 14 (Pakistan Standard Time) - for a reason.

In January 1914, the nations of the East were at their lowest ebb. The Ottoman Empire had been recently humiliated in Tripoli and Balkans. The Muslim states of Northern Africa were being devoured by European powers, one by one. Persia's vulnerability to the expansionist designs of Russia and Britain had been exposed. Afghanistan was hardly independent and South Asia was under the British rule.

Nine years later, by December 1922, East was rejoicing in its awakening and brimming with confidence. Turkey had emerged as a new republic, promising to be more stable than the war-weary nations of Europe. British India was shaking with a full-scale movement for independence, more widespread and better organized than the "mutiny" of 1857. Afghanistan had regained full independence and started to modernize itself. Persia and Egypt were on the verge of regaining their past glories. Morocco had inflicted humiliating defeat on Spanish invaders, using guerilla techniques that were already inspiring a young Mao Tse-tung in China, and would later serve as role model for Che Guevara.

How did this happen? This is the question which I have tried to answer in my new book, Iqbal: Darmiani Daur. It is a biography of Iqbal in the middle years of his life: 1914 to 1922. However, it is much more than a biography. I am trying to tell a true story that has never been told before, and the story is not about the past. It is about the origins of our present.

The book is almost one thousand pages, and the cover price is Rs.1000 (One Thousand Rupees). However, discounts are available since the publisher, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, is dedicated to spreading the message of Iqbal. If you are interested, kindly let me know and I shall see how the book can reach you as conveniently as possible.

More to follow...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Iqbal and Quran: "the new method"

"Your creation and resurrection
are like the creation and resurrection of a single soul."
Iqbal's "method" for discovering the Unseen in one's soul
is based on this verse (28 in Surah Luqman)

Many online services allow us to create multiple identities. Hence, if you are William James, you can be as well as, and so on. You would be the real person while these profiles or avatars would be your virtual selves, and you may have as many as you like.

According to Iqbal, we are like these virtual profiles. We are not real. "The existence of individuals is virtual; the existence of the nation is real," he wrote in a ghazal in 1906 (وجود افراد کا مجازی ہے، ہستیء قوم ہے حقیقی). Five years later he elaborated the point in a paper:
"...the individual as such is a mere abstraction, a convenient expression for facility of social reference, passing moment in the life of the group to which he happens to belong." 
A year later he wrote in Urdu, "The individual exists only with reference to the nation, and is nothing on his own; the wave is in the river, and nothing outside it."
فرد قائم ربطِ ملت سے ہے تنہا کچھ نہیں
موج ہے دریا میں اور بیرونِ دریا کچھ نہیں

He kept repeating this idea until his very last breath: his last poem, 'The Human Being' (حضرتِ انساں) was an ode to humanity as a collective ego.

Our reluctance to accept that this is what Iqbal believed is perhaps the main reason why we fail to understand him. Not only our education but even the social, political and religious institutions in the post-colonial world seem to be conditioning us in the opposite direction.

Is that why we have become so unreal? Iqbal believed that we become real only when we annihilate our individual self, ego or soul, in the collective ego. He called it "bekhudi" (بیخودی) - translated by A. J. Arberry as "selflessness".

This selflessness, or the diminishing of the individual self in the collective ego, has an educational purpose. It is the method suggested by Iqbal for discovering the "Unseen" in our souls.

The "Unseen" thus discovered is not a magic lantern of spirits. It is a living experience of the kind of biological unity implied in the famous verse of Quran, "Your creation and resurrection are like the creation and resurrection of a single soul." (31:28). It gives us personal, moral and political power - power which can be verified and used in the real world.

It goes without saying that there need not be any quarrel with those who understand or practice these matters differently. What Iqbal has offered is just a new method, which may be tried out to see whether it gives what it promises: secrets, mysteries and moral power.
Any questions? I would try to address them in the next post if you post them as comments or email me at 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Iqbal and Quran

Illustration by Tabassum Khalid;
Courtesy: Iqbal Academy Pakistan

“Alif. Lam. Mim. This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil). Those who believe in the Unseen, establish daily prayer, and spend out of what We have given them.”

This is a translation of the first three verses of the second chapter of the Quran. In my humble opinion, any attempt at understanding Iqbal’s approach to Quran can be much more fruitful if it begins with these verses, and how he interpreted them – especially the third verse.

In his doctoral thesis (written between 1905 and 1908), Iqbal cited the third verse as the Quran’s definition of Muslims: “Those who believe in the Unseen, establish daily prayer, and spend out of what We have given them.” He then went on to explain what is meant by “the Unseen”, in which one has to believe in order to be a Muslim.

“The Quran replies that the Unseen is in your own soul,” Iqbal wrote. To support his argument, he quoted the verses 20-21 from Chapter 51: “And in the earth there are signs to those who believe, and in yourself; What! Do you not then see!”

The Unseen is in your own soul. This is the central theme not only in Iqbal’s understanding of the Quran, but even in his overall philosophy. Latern on, he discarded many of the other observations presented in his doctoral thesis, yet he retained this one to the very end. We find it repeated endlessly, in his English prose, and in his poetry written in Urdu and Persian.

So, how do we discover this Unseen in our souls? In my understanding, Iqbal has given us a proper and systematic method for this, which I shall try to share in the next few posts.

To be continued, tomorrow.