Iqbal died several years ago; but his influence lives and grows, day by day and year by year, throughout the Muslim World, whose representatives, when they assembled in Karachi in 1951 at the Motamer, listened rapturously to an Arabic version of his Tarana-i-Milli.
"China and Arabia are ours: India is ours – We are Muslims and the whole world is our native land. "
With those representatives, there were hundreds of Muslims present. Their faces clearly showed that they were really inspired by that elevating song. Iqbal thus lives though dead; and of this every part of the Muslim World is becoming increasingly conscious – Turkey with its new enthusiasm for the Islamic way of life proudly acclaims him as the lineal descendant and lawful heir of her Great son Jalaludin Rumi. Rumi was the master and Iqbal his disciple, a disciple who excelled the master. Iran acknowledges him as a lord of her language and a master of melodious metres. India still remembers his patriotic poems and his intense love of Independence. Pakistan pays her homage to him, daily and yearly, remembering that Pakistan itself was first conceived in his mind; and that for many years till his death Iqbal was the guide, philosopher and friend of the Quaid-e-Azam. Arabia cannot forget Iqbal’s love of the Prophet – "The heart of the Muslims is the abode of Mustafa: Our glory is due to the name of Mustafa". And Arabia is anxious to establish a close contact with him by decking his thoughts with her own language. In this picture where do we come? We of Ceylon cannot understand our present unless we do know our past.
At the beginning of the century when Iqbal was about twenty seven years of age, we, in our Island home, were culturally isolated, educationally backward, and politically insignificant. We who had been exposed to the influence of alien cultures were even told that Islam was already a spent force and that it had no message to deliver and no contribution to make to the Modern World of ours, dazzled and dominated by the West. We were, therefore, naturally dispirited, despairing and despondent, with gnawing doubts in our hearts about Islam’s validity, its ability to find solutions to the pressing problems of our time and about its entire future.
Allama Dr. Sir Mohammad Iqbal, the Philosopher-Poet of Islam came to us at this critical stage with a special message. By this poems and philosophy, by his speeches and writings, by his political activities and personal discourses, he dissipated our doubts and restored our faith, brought us conviction and courage, and thus exhorted and inspired us. He stressed that Islam was a complete pattern of living with a Code of Life and not a mere religion in the narrow and somewhat popular sense of the word.
Iqbal was born in the year 1873 and died in the early hours of the 21st of April, 1938 with a smile on his face and with "Allah" as the last word he uttered in life. We are reminded of one of his own verses:
"I tell you the sign of a ‘Momin’
When death comes there is smile on his lips. "
Half an hour before his death, he recited the following verses:
"The departed melody may recur or not
Zephyr may blow once more from Hejaz or not
The days of this Faqir have come to an end,
Another wiseman may come or not! "
Another wise man has not come yet to inspire us in his manner.
Iqbal received his early education in his mome town of Sialkot where he came under the influence of Shamsul Ulema Mir Hassan, a great Oriental scholar. In 1895 Iqbal went to Lahore for higher studies and there became intimately acquainted with Sir Thomas Arnold. On his advice, Iqbal went to Europe in 1905, and returned to India as a graduate and barrister in 1908. During this short period of three years he obtained a degree from Cambridge and a doctorate from Munich. Iqbal had thus learnt from both Mir Hassan and Arnold, and had studied at Madras as well as at Munich. He knew the East and he knew the West, and had by now become well versed in their philosophies. He was also well acquainted with the mysticism of the East and the science of the West; had critically appraised them and was thus familiar with the good and the bad points of the cultural heritage of both the East and the West. He had also reflected deeply on the problems connected with their clashes and contacts. It was the cultural relationship between the East and the West that was the most significant single item in the history of the period. Due to the successful efforts of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the Indian Mussalmans of the day no longer adopted an attitude of abhorrence towards the culture of the West. Instead, an extremism of a different type was developing. Many of them were now tending to become blind worshippers of the West, thus repudiating Sir Syed to the detriment of Islam and the values enshrined in its culture. Thus were they oblivious of the crisis overtaking the West, of which Iqbal was acutely cognizant.
"O residents of the West, God’s earth is not a shop.
The gold you are thinking to be genuine will now prove to be of low value.
Your civilization is going to commit suicide with her own dagger.
The nest which is made on a frail bough cannot but be insecure. "
"The modern man with his philosophies of criticism and scientific specialism finds himself in a strange predicament. His naturalism has given him an unprecedented control over the forces of Nature but has robbed him of faith is his own future…. Wholly over-shadowed by the result of his intellectual activity, he has ceased to live soulfully, i.e. from within. In the domain of thought he is living in open conflict with himself, and in the domain of economic and political life he is living in open conflict with others. He finds himself unable to control his ruthless energy and infinite gold hunger which is gradually killing all higher striving in him and bringing him nothing but life-weariness. "
"The glitter of the modern civilization dazzles the eyesight; but this is merely an artistry of false beads. "
"You have reconciled yourself to the slavery of the West,
My grudge is against you, not against the West, "
"Modern knowledge is the greatest blind. Idol-making, idol-selling, idol-worshipping!
Shackled in the prison-house of phenomena,
It has not overleaped the limits of the sensible, "
"Pass beyond the Intellect-post.
It merely lights the way;
It is not the goal. "
"Intellect lights up the way-farer’s eyes;
What is Intellect? A lantern by the road-side;
The storms and stresses that rage inside the house.
What does the road-side lamp know about them. "
And he further warns us thus:
"Incur not an obligation to the glass-makers of the West,
Fashion thy flagon and thy cup with the clay of Ind. "
Iqbal does not, however, advocate a total repudiation of the West; nor does he think that the Eastern Society should close itself hermetically against the culture of the West. Instead, he advocates a critical appraisal of the West and the understanding of its sources of strength as well as of its weakness with a view to the adoption and assimilation by the East of all that is good in the culture of the West without any hindrance to the organic development of the culture and traditions of the East. Iqbal finds that science is really the source of the dominance of the West:
"The secret of the West’s strength is not in the lute and guitar.
Nor in the promiscuous dancing of her daughters
Nor in the charms of her bright-faced beauties,
Nor in bare shins, nor in bobbed hair,
Her strength is not from irreligiousness.
Nor is her rise due to Latin characters.
The strength of the West is due to knowledge and science.
Her lamp is alight from this fire only.
Knowledge does not depend on the style of your garment.
And a turban is no obstacle to the acquisition of knowledge. "
"Arts and Sciences, O Lively and eager youth,
Require a keen intellect not western clothes,
What is needed in this quest is Vision,
Nor this or that particular head dress!
If you have a subtle intellect and a discriminating mind.
They would suffice to guarantee success. "
"The slave of the West, anxious for display,
Borrows from her only their dance and music;
He barters his precious soul for frivolous sports;
Self-indulgent, he grasps what is easy,
And his weak nature accepts it with readiness;
But the choice of what is easy in life
Proves that the spirit had fled from the body. "
And yet the experimental method of science and technology is certainly not an European discovery. Iqbal proves that it was something inspired and greatly encouraged by the Holy Quran and was practiced assiduously by the Muslims till Muslim Society was undermined by the extraneous influence of Greek speculation and degenerate mysticism that unfortunately became popular, during a later period. Neglect of science was, therefore, not due to any basic defect in the Islamic teaching itself. With a wealth of illustrations and quotations from the Holy Quran, Iqbal demonstrates that Islam is definitely opposed to a static view of the universe and encourages Man’s conquest of Nature. Of all the creations of God, Man alone is possessed of a personality and is endowed with the status of God’s Vicegerent – Khalifa, which enables him to become "an active participant in the creative activity of his Maker." Iqbal stresses that Man is born free and therefore should not choose the path of the slave. He need not be a serf to any priest or potentate.
"It is the lot of man to share in the deeper aspirations of the universe around him and to shape his own destiny as well as that of the universe, now by adjusting himself to its forces, now by putting the whole of his energy to mould its forces to his own ends and purposes. And in this process of progressive change God becomes a co-worker with him provided man takes the intiative. "
Man thus supplements the creation of God. And this idea is beautifully expressed by Iqbal in one of his poems where man addresses God:
"Thou did’st create the night and I made the lamp.
Thou did’st create clay and I made the cup.
Thou did’st create the deserts, mountains and forests.
I produced the orchards, gardens and the groves.
It is I who make glass, out of stone,
And it is I who turn a poison into an antidote.”
World and matter are thus to be subordinated to human personality and human ends and not to be regarded as just illusions, to be abhorred or ignored. "True self-development according to Islam would come not by renunciation but through a proper adjustment of man’s relations to the external world in the light of inspiration received from the inner world.”
Western Science is therefore not alien to Islam but a part of it, and there should therefore be no difficulty in the assimilation of this Science. In fact, true Islam demands such an assimilation. In this process, the deficiencies of the West should not however be forgotten, namely:
"The West has got embroiled in the world and neglected God"
And as a result:
"Europe is a radiant with the splendours of arts and sciences,
Forsooth this Valley of Darkness is without the fount of Life. ”
"The history of nations teaches this lesson:
If you are wise, beware of the intoxication of power
For it is a dangerous possession
Before its blind, world-embracing rush and fury.
Art and Science and reason are all like powerless dust,
Power cut adrift from religion, is a deadly poison;
Wedded to religion, it is an antidote for all poisons.”
– that is the quintessence of Iqbal’s philosophy.
For the salvation of this world it is necessary “to lay the foundation of a new world by wedding Intellect to Love.” And both the East and the West could and should co-operate in this quest – in terms of free partnership uncorrupted by imperialist motives or serfish mentality.
The East saw God but failed to see the world of matter;
The West got embroiled in the world and neglected God.”
Without Religion there is no salvation for mankind. And Iqbal emphasized that Power without Vision and Science without Religion and Politics without Morality would lead Humanity to be sure perdition both in the Here and Hereafter.
Iqbal holds up the Islamic Society outlined in the Holy Quran as fulfilling the demands of the New Social Order, and expounds the Islamic conception of the Good Life.
He explains that Islam demands of its votaries the strengthening of the Self – Khudi, with the aid of a Society characterized by the conception of the Oneness of God, and the finality of the Holy Prophet; and every one of the five principles of Islam has a special significance in the journey of the Self towards its freedom.
The social or sociological implications of such developed Selves living in such a Society are not left unexpounded by Iqbal;
“Islam recognizes the worth of the individual, and disciplines him to give away his all to the service of God and man. Its possibilities are not yet exhausted. It can still create a new world where the social rank of man is not determined by his caste or colour, or the amount of dividend he earns, but by the kind of life he lives; where the poor tax the rich, where human society is founded not an the equality of stomachs but on the equality of spirits…. where private ownership is a trust and where capital cannot be allowed to accumulate so as to dominate the real producer of wealth.”
These Iqbal points out are derived from the distinctive features of the Islamic Society some of which are specifically treated in his poems and lectures: Islam’s abolition of all the artificial and pernicious distinctions of caste, creed, colour and economic status, its abhorrence of narrow nationalism and its strong advocacy of patriotism, Islam’s encouragement of science and self-development, its emphasis on equality, solidarity, freedom and tolerance, its distinctive doctrine of unadulterated and unalloyed monotheism – tawhid which banishes all fears except the fear of God, Islam’s acceptance of the inspired leadership of the Last Prophet, its possession of a Code for the guidance of Society in all spheres of Life, its goal of man as the Vicegerent of God, its emphasis on Man as the trustee of a free personality which he accepted at his peril and which betokens God’s trust in Man, its conception of Taqdir or destiny and its conception of the Ideal Character.
“This Society of Islam has thus one single purpose running through its mind, a unity of sentiments inspiring its being and a single criterion for good and evil, and a basis enshrined in the sanctuary of our hearts.”
The Quranic description of the righteous as “those who believe and do good” makes it clear that in the living religion of Islam there is no division between dogma and deed, between creed and conduct; nor is there dissociation of belief from behavior, or faith from action. Deed without dogma would inevitably imply animality undiminished, and dogma without deed would undoubtedly become mere mataphysics. In the words of Iqbal, a Muslim is exhorted to:
“Take not thy banquet on the shore, for there
Too gently flows the melody of life:
Plunge in the sea, to battle with the waves,
For immorality is won in strife.”
“In such a life, even the enemy has a place of honour for
Thine enemy is thy friend
His existence crowns thee with glory.
To the seed of man the enemy is as a rain cloud;
He awakens its potentialities.”
“Be one, make visible the Unity:
Let action turn the unseen into seen;
Activity augments the joy of faith.”
But faith is dead that issues not in deeds. In other words a life of action devoid of faith could be likened to a tree without roots, and faith unresulting in action to a tree without fruits.
A good Muslim according to Iqbal is one, “who develops all his powers and strengthens his individuality through active contact with his material and cultural environment. This strong, concentrated individuality sharpened and steeled through a life of an active experience, is to be dedicated to the service of the Lord in whose name he is out to conquer the world. But when the world lies conquered at his feet, he is strong enough to stand aloof from and superior to, the well nigh irresistible temptations which weaken the moral fibre. His self-respect gives him courage and adventurousness: his tolerance and respect for the rights and personality of others make him sensitive to the claims which their common humanity makes on him. In the pursuit of his ideals he is strong enough to defy with contempt the vested interests and forces which stand in the way of their realization.”
This is how Iqbal has expressed the idea of an Ideal Man in one of his poems:
“The hand of the Momin is the hand of Allah,
Dominant, resourceful, creative, ensuring success
Born of clay, he has the nature of light
A creature with the attributes of the Creator;
His heart is indifferent to the riches of the two worlds:
His desires are few, but his purposes are great,
His ways are graceful, his glance fascinating;
He is soft of speech but warm in his quest, 
In war as in peace his heart and mind are pure.”
“He is a flashing sword against untruth,
And a protecting shield for truth;
His affirmation and negation
Are the criteria for Good and Evil;
Great is his forgiveness, his justice, his generosity and his grace,
Even in anger he knows how to be kind.”
Iqbal thus belongs to our century; he has a special message for our time and a solution for the cultural conflicts of our period. He asks us to achieve a synthesis of the cultures of the East and the West, gaining a new vitality from the healthy sources of our past culture. He has given us a glimpse of Islam, pristine and pure and has exhorted us to go in quest of it, trusting in the Almighty and placing reliance in ourselves and without being oppressed or overwhelmed by the extremes of either scholasticism or sufism. Iqbal thus becomes our modern guide of Islam, who has shown us the old path, having himself cleared it of the dead leaves and fallen trees that were impeding the progress of the travelers. And to Humanity in general Iqbal has given a dynamic message of a life of striving and courage motivated by the fear of God with dread of Nought.

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