Allama Iqbal and The Plight of Pakistani Muslims. By Mohammed Akmal Pasha


The April 21 marks 76th death anniversary of Allama Mohammed Iqbal, an embodiment of a synthetic triplet: poet, philosopher, and a mystique. The figure has largely been misunderstood in the hands of partiality with respect to agglomeration of his three chief characteristics, or over-emphasis on the first two and oblivion as regards his third trait, the mysticism. Ironically, a handful of poets adjudge him only to be a philosopher, while a few trained philosophers deem him a mere poet, and none of these pseudo-intellectual battalions finds him a mystique. On the contrary, seen through the lens of his poetic message, his pedestal primarily bears a stance that of a mystical, while philosophy inadvertently penetrates his mode of expression which is poetry. However, poetry being his tool, philosophy being the tinge of his natural mind-set, and mysticism his personification in its entirety, the empirical impact is that Pakistani Muslims have not bothered adequately to inculcate his marvelous teachings. As a consequence, the moral decay and the deteriorated political mirth are prominent, and both are to a substantial extent ascribable to a sinning; neglecting Iqbal’s mystical teachings.
The proclamation of Iqbal’s mysticism would surprise many of his critiques, especially those with mundane and myopic predispositions. Majority of these, in the name of modernism and scientific thinking are rather retreating to the state of primitiveness and being unscientific. Primitive at heart and with respect to inner soul, polluted with arrogance and prejudice, the trimmed human-person, and unscientific for being conceptually biased and myopic, in this sense these critiques are under the influence of vainglory. If not so, they and those needlessly impressed by the drawing-room-philosophies of these critiques would not have discolored the ethical manifestation of the Pakistani community, in this respect the plight that we observe in our milieu is self-evident.
To start with, the parameters of Iqbal’s mystical message take roots into the ultimate and indomitable belief in God, whereby we are all liable to obey the will of God. Then Quran is the manual to seek ways to earn the will of God. Finally, since God is inaccessible, and Quran in the capacity of being a book bears nothing common with a living man, there arises a categorical need for a human-person to guide as a role-model. Such a person must be capable enough to lead others in order to identify God’s will and the true way to follow Quran. Thus prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) is present, whose character is transparent, who is self-less yet responsible, sincere yet prudent, saint yet social, in a word akin to a layman in his outlook. Not an angel or an airy creation, entirely an ordinary man, rather poor and orphan, Mohammad (s.a.w) is a person such that even a banal believer can have wholesome mettle to feel comfortable in following his teachings and actions.
Now, what is mystical about Iqbal’s message is that he teaches strong belief in God and His Might, where the believer is ultimately and essentially dependent upon and answerable to God. That is, the spirit of belief in God and in His will renders the believer carefree of all stratagems which entice him to become dishonest and unethical, that is God is responsible for providing subsistence, so man need not be unfair in embracing it. Similarly, when God is possessor of all treasures, the believers must not beseech others for worldly gains, hence the concept of ‘self’ in Iqbal’s poetry. Connected with it is the fear of answerability, that is even if escaped from worldly checks, the believer is certainly and severely answerable to God. In fact, the moral and ethical misdeeds are outplaced if these beliefs are properly internalized by Muslims. From the very belief in God stem the concepts of ‘secrets of self’ and ‘implications of selflessness’, (Asraar-e-Khudi and Rumooz-e-Be Khudi respectively, the most popular twin Persian poetic collections of Iqbal).
Several critiques reckon the twin concepts ‘self and selflessness’ as mutually exclusive or simply contradictory. Placed in their proper contexts, the act of realization and solidification of ‘self’ (khudi, the individuality) may be found akin to the famous management scientist Abraham Maslow’s ‘self-realization’ where one becomes cognizant of his true potential. Now, the man is endowed with a multitude of potentialities which have to be dug out through a conscious process of self-exploration with a view to achieve ‘self-realization’. This calls for a meticulous endeavor in order to search one’s own self out of one’s soul, that is the ‘soul-searching’, which carries a lesson of toiling instead of being lethargic; and falsely cushioning at sheer God’s will.
By the same token, the notion of ‘selflessness’ (be khudi) may seemingly reveal hermit-like approach, whereas the case is not so. In fact, ‘selflessness’ is connected with collectivism where the individual ‘self’ is immersed in the collective self of the community. Thus one must be selfless in contributing to the good of society; the greatest good for the greatest number in the words of British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). This especially urges one to stay aloof of ego, hence the key distinction between the two concepts is the thinking that keeps one steadfast in terms of confidence but at the same time restrains him from embracing egoism. How these twin concepts are positively correlated with belief in God? Here the philosophy is, that since God is the Possessor of all providences then why to opt for self-centeredness or selfishness or unethicality? Now, the element that necessitates emphasis is how to achieve the will of God? The answer is by following Quran, and by locating its precepts in the practical life of the role-model, prophet Mohammad (s.a.w).
The Pakistani community has been by and large self-destructive since it has continuously kept itself deprived of the mystic message of Islam as especially interwoven by Iqbal in his poetry. Here the emphasis on understanding Iqbal’s poetic message must not be entertained with absurdity, because the intention here is to vector Pakistani Muslims towards true spirit of Islam that has otherwise been powerfully conveyed by Iqbal. The art of poetic articulation, the philosophic profundity, and above all the sincere objectivity are all at the pinnacle. Although Iqbal’s introduction is not indebted to advocacy of ordinary humans like us, yet just to substantiate, these twin works of Iqbal have widely been translated in almost all famous languages of the world. In our context; several Muslim countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arab, Egypt and Turkey have idealized and profited from his poetic message. The Arabs admire him as ‘Shaaer-us-saayer’; the poet of revolution, revolution in ‘self’; revolution in ‘collective self’. Although other poets have also attempted such virtue sporadically, yet Iqbal can be comfortable singled out as super genius in terms of caliber and soulfulness. He was matchless during his times, is peerless today and potentially next to impossible in future. In Iqbal’s own words:
Surood-e-rafta baaz ayad keh na ayad,
Naseemay az Hijaaz ayad keh na ayad,
Ser aamad roozgaar-e-een faqeeray,
Digar dana-e-raaz ayad keh na ayad.
(The olden song has yet popped up again or not,
In the form of breeze from Madina,
Alas the task of this Madinite Saint has come to an end,
The worry is; whether any other prophet of Divine Secret has yet emerged or not).

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