Come learn about Allama Iqbal’s concept of the self from Mahfuza Tarannum’s comprehensive article on the topic…
Muhammad Iqbal, a renowned poet and philosopher, was a leading figure in the Muslim
World renaissance. Born on November 9, 1877, in Sialkot, Punjab, India, he hailed from a noble Muslim family. After early education at home, he excelled in his studies, earning gold medals in Arabic and English. Completing his B.A. with honours in 1899, he went on to earn an M.A. in philosophy.
Iqbal commenced his career as a history and philosophy teacher at the Oriental College in Lahore. Subsequently, he held part-time positions teaching English and Philosophy at Lahore Islamia College and Lahore Government College. In 1905, he pursued higher education in England, obtaining an M.A. in Philosophy from Trinity College, Cambridge University. His academic journey led him to Munich University in Germany, where he earned a doctorate in 1907 with a dissertation on “The Development of Metaphysics in Persia.”
In 1926, Iqbal was elected to the Punjab Legislative Council, where he passionately advocated against the vilification of religious leaders. He also excelled in his legal studies, earning distinction in the bar exam in London.
During his time in London, he briefly taught at London University, bridging the gap between East and West, a fusion reflected in his poetry. Iqbal’s unique blend of poetic excellence and profound intellect captivated many. His poetry stirred the stagnant and despondent spirits of his people, offering hope and activity amidst adversity.
Iqbal’s poetic journey was profoundly influenced by the Sufi poet Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. Although primarily a poet in Urdu and Persian, his words resonated with Muslims worldwide, embodying the concept of Tawheed and the ideal Muslim. The essence of his poetry drew inspiration from the revolutionary verses of the Holy Quran, transcending temporal and geographic boundaries.
A life philosophy of pursuit can be found in Iqbal’s poetry. In various books and poems, he wrote about the nature of Allah, fate-life, metaphysics, politics, education, theology, ethics, Sufism, etc., such as Bange Dara (1924), Bal-e Jibreel (1935), Zarb -e Kaleem (1936),
Asrar-i-Khudi (1915), Rumuz-e-Bekhudi (1918), Zaboor-e-Azam (1027), Javed Nama (1932),
Masnawi Musafir (1934), Palbih Baid (1936), Armaghan-i-Hijaz (1938), his doctoral thesis (1908), Ilm-Al Iqtisad, Makateeb-e-Iqbal (some parts), Shikwah, Jawab-e-Shikwah.
In Iqbal’s philosophy, both the material equality of Marxian socialism and the paper democracy of Western imperialism have come under critique. He said, ‘In Demos‐dress let tyranny’s old demon‐dance be seen, Your fancy calls up Liberty’s blue‐mantled fairy queen!’
About society, Iqbal said that the Oneness of God, sovereignty and human brotherhood are the main issues of Islamic society. Without society, there is no sign of the individual. A sound social system integrates the individual. Social life is essential for people. Intelligence, passion and brilliance are commendable. But intelligence alone is not appropriate. Intelligence is useless without the magic touch of love and principles. Faith, thought and discovery are the three stars of a beautiful life.
Iqbal’s meditation on art science is self-contained. He said, “Art science is a failure without ethics and a sense of right life. Art is the epitome of truth.”
Iqbal’s philosophy is based on the concept of Khudi or soul. According to him, Khudi is a real entity and this entity exists by its power. We can know this entity through the transcendental senses.
As a Philosopher and thinker Iqbal was the first to awaken the community’s self-confidence after noticing the declining state.. He first warned them against the powerless and ineffective creation of Sufism. Because he considered such Sufism to be against the teachings of the Quran. He also gave a new interpretation of fate. During his stay in Europe, Iqbal studied the ‘Evolution of Spiritual Philosophy’ and Sufism. He came to the conclusion that when Islam crossed the borders of Arabia many non-Islamic ideas infiltrated the true Islamic thought and belief and Muslims were influenced by a kind of ‘Sufism’ i.e. Mayaism. As a result, instead of genuine Sufism , the concept of ‘Rohbaniyat’ (renunciation of family) condemned in the Quran and Sunnah was born. Failing to keep up with the flow of time, Muslims resorted to anti-life Sufism. They work and look for ways to get emotional solace despite not getting anything. They say life is fleeting. Everything is an illusion except Allah. There is no use in trying. What is written in fate will be. Trust in Allah. According to Allama Iqbal,
‘Tawakkul without work is the opposite of Tawakkul described in the Quran. So he declared,
“Khudi Ko Kar Buland Itna Ke Har Taqdeer Se Pehle Khuda Bande Se Khud Puche, Bata Teri Raza Kya Hai” means- “Develop the self so that before every decree, God will ascertain from you: “What is your wish?”
Explaining the mystery of life and the world, Iqbal said, the material world is not an illusion; it’s real. The superior personality (Khudi) or soul of man is above all. The advanced soul possesses stability. Its departure from this world is temporary. The more one strengthens the spiritual power through action, the more he will be honoured in this life and the Hereafter. According to Iqbal, the definition of life and death is different. Only having breath does not mean life. Sacrificing one’s life to gain the Lord’s pleasure is the real life.
Iqbal did not deny the true Sufism which is called ‘Tazkiya-e Nafs’ in Quranic terms. Of course, his Sufism is not dissolution of the soul in God. It elevates the soul and teaches to place Allah within it.
Iqbal’s poetry became universal because of this Khudi philosophy. Iqbal’s Khudi philosophy is arranged in three stages: 1. Knowing the world 2. Knowing God 3. Knowing one’s own self. By combining these three stages, Iqbal determined a special criterion of his Khudi. Pantheists have denied the existence of self. They consider the visible world as unreal and illusory. Iqbal was attracted to the philosophy of pantheists in the early stages of his philosophical career. But later he opposed this doctrine after noticing its fatal and harmful effects and proceeded to prove the necessity of Khudi’s existence.
In his critique of pantheism, Iqbal argued that Khudi or soul is real and existent, so self-absolution in the Supreme Being cannot be the goal of Khudi. Self-annihilation in the Supreme Being is contrary to the existence of self. Iqbal says: ‘We can know Khudi directly through transcendental feelings. One can become aware of the existence of Khudi only during important decisions, great actions and deep feelings. Self-expression is the focus of all our actions. Khudi is active in our will-reluctance, judgement, and decision. We do not perceive Khudi with the help of any medium. We directly witness it. The reality and existence of Khudi is known through definition. Iqbal said, this is the elemental force, this is the way of nature, who is on the path of time, and progress will be his religion of love.
Iqbal said about Khudi’s Ihsas or feeling that “There is boundless potential hidden in man. Man must have a real understanding of this infinite power. Almighty Allah said in the Holy Qur’an in this regard:
And all that is between the heavens and the earth has been made subject to you.’”
Iqbal’s entire philosophy is imbued with features of the Qur’an and Islam. Iqbal mentions three things for Khudi’s training: 1. Obedience to God, 2. Self-preservation and 3. Representation of God.
Iqbal said, “Life is hidden in search
And the root of life lies in desire.”
Love makes people great. But Iqbal’s view of love is God-centered. Love helps us develop as individuals.
Iqbal said, “When a person is strengthened by the touch of love, he is nourished by the power of controlling the world.”
Iqbal’s teacher McTaggort said: ‘The universe is an association of individuals.’
Iqbal also held this view, but the peculiarity of his view is that he does not accept this world as an illusion.
Iqbal said that what improves Khudi is good. And that which oppresses the self is evil and renunciation. According to him, Khudi is not only independent but also imperishable. But this immortality of Khudi is attainable. This immortality can be achieved only through constant effort.
Allama Iqbal was equally attuned to politics as to other aspects of life. According to him, ‘Politics has its roots deep in the spiritual life of man’. While most thinkers of modern life have continued to advocate the separation of religion from politics into a purely private affair, Iqbal boldly declares, ‘In Islam God and the world are complementary, soul and matter, place of worship and state.’
To dispel common misconceptions about religion, Iqbal said, “Religion is not a doctrine, nor a priesthood, nor a ceremony, but religion is a way of life which prepares man to fulfil his duties even in the age of science and strengthens his will, thereby enabling him to attain truth.” Iqbal said According to him, Religion is not a departmental affair, it is neither mere thought, nor mere telling for mere action, it is an expression of the whole man. But religion is neither physics nor chemistry, which must be understood by experiments and tests in the laboratory.
Thinking about the contemporary world and life, Iqbal concluded that since man is the best of creation, the basis of man’s superiority over other creations is his moral and spiritual excellence. And the biggest reason for the disaster of modern man is his bankruptcy in this moral and spiritual field. It was as a result of this realization that he was able to declare: today the world wants three things for man, (1) spiritual interpretation of the universe (2) spiritual liberation of the individual and (3) some universal principles for the spiritual development of human society.
No wonder, Amir Shakaib Arselan called Iqbal the greatest thinker of the last thousand years of the Muslim world. Iqbal was a saintly philosopher, poet, language artist, art critic, lawyer, politician and educator.
Metaphysics of Iqbal – Enver Ishrat Hasan.
Allama Iqbal’s attitude towards Sufism &
his unique philosophy of self
– Nurad Din, Abu Said.
Iqbal’s Political Thought
-Muhammad Abdur Rahim.
Muslim Theology and Philosophy
-Dr. Aminul Islam.
Introduction to Muslim Philosophy
-Dr. Rashidul Alam.