Allama Iqbal's Concept of 'Knowledge and Humanism'
By Dr. Mushtaq Ahmed Gania
The poet of the East laid down the foundation of a great concept. Among the modem Muslim thinkers, Allama Iqbal holds a unique distinction. He saw and studied life with all its philosophy and message. In fact Allama had a very broad intellectual canvass, which stored a rich knowledge of world, intellectual traditions. He reflects on life in its universal context. As a fruit of his global perspective, he is not only one of the thinkers of Muslim culture, but also he, is one of the universal thinkers' of humankind. '
In this context H. Nasser very a0ly writes, “the need of the hour is to rediscover Iqbal in his true perspective and not to keep him confined to a narrow limit. Infact, Iqbal is a common heritage of whole humanity and his message should be allowed to reach uninterrupted and unhindered to all the citizens of the world."
Allama Iqbal's approach towards the problem of the nature of religious experience is conceptual as well as practical: It is conceptual because he searches for a possibility of a meaningful expression of religious experience. His approach is practical also, because he seeks to understand the meaning of religious experience within the total life experience. . Allama Iqbal rightly writes that ‘to earn something and to try to achieve it is itself an ideal otherwise life will change into death.’
This is why he made the practical dimension of Quranic vision, on the subject matter in his famous book, The Reconstruction of religious thought in Islam, that "The Quran is a book which emphasis 'deed' rather than 'idea'."
It shows that Allama Iqbal's approach is practical towards the fife, and religion. That is why he says in his Reconstruction lectures that "Religion is not a departmental affair, it is neither a mere thought, nor mere feeling, nor mere action; it is the expression of the whole man." These quotations from Allam's valuable writings emphasis, that he has a firm faith-on the religious philosophy and ideology of Islam.
As a multidimensional personality, he is also very conscious about the Muslim culture and education. The dimension of life is very important before him, because education is a part and parcel of the culture of a nation , and is the very important instrument through which a culture perpetuates itself. Therefore the two cannot be separated from each other in just as the flesh cannot be separated from the bone.
According to Allama Iqbal, one country safely profit from the experiences of others. But great care should' be taken in respect of values, principles and ideas. Because consciously or unconsciously blind adaption of other culture and education can destroy the entire fabric of a particular nation's culture, So Allama is very clear on this point and cautions, us that:
Look into thy own clay for the fire that is wanted
The light of another is not worth stringing for.
Thus, it is clear that Allama Iqbal was--totally opposed to borrowed educational and cultural ideas. According to him every system, programmme or plan of education is the creation of an ideal society. So the text books, the mentality of the teacher and his general attitude towards life, the views of the managing and governing authorities, etc reflects this ideal. Therefore, the ideal is continuously attracting pupils towards itself. This education becomes a servant of great ideals and can be adapted to serve every one of them equally. These very ideals can inculcate the action and sacrifice among the teachers as well as their taught. But when a nation lacks these great ideals, they gradually lose their grip on history and so their decline follows. That is why Allama says:
Individual dies If the life flow ceases.
Nation dies if the ideal of life disappears.
Life of the Individual depends on relationship of the body and the soul. Life of the nation depends on the preservation of its tradition and culture.
Maulana Rumi says:
"Knowledge is a snake for you or poison, if you use It `to increase your mat&-131 body alone. But if knowledge is used for the emancipation of the soul, then it is your best friend. "
So, before Allama Iqbal Islam -and Islamization should be the purpose of a Muslim Pupil and teacher. So his whole educational and cultural basis should-be, based upon this goal. In this respect Allama Iqbal once wrote to one of his close associate, the well known educationist Kh. K. G. Saieedein. In this letter he clearly emphasizes his ideology about education as:
"By Ilm, I mean that knowledge, which is based on senses. Usually I have used the word in this very sense. This knowledge yields physical powers which should be subservient to Deen (i.e. the religion of Islam). If it is not subservient to Deen then it is demonic, pure and simple...."
It is incumbent on Muslims to Islamize knowledge.
"Abu Lahab should be metamorphosed into Haiyder." If this Abu Lahab becomes Haider-e-Karrar, or in other words, if it (i.e. Know- ledge and the power it wields) becomes subservient to Deen, then it would be an unmixed blessing into mankind."
But when he saw the learners are inspired by me love of wrong ideals, ideologies and philosophies through the agencies the institutions that embody the educational systems created by those ideals, he strongly criticized these schools. He says:
"The school is unaware of its aims and objects until it has an access to the urge within.
As long as knowledge does not take the fruits of love; it is nothing but an exhibition of thoughts:
He clearly showed his resentment against those teachers and pupils whose ideology was not firm about Islamization of knowledge and said:
(These Idols of the present era the product of the school , are endowed with the neither with the manners of the infidels nor with masterly cut of Abraham's father.)
Infact he was of the opinion that for the establishment of a new and progressive Muslim Society, a reform in Islamic culture and education is necessary. For this purpose Allama Iqbal felt the heed for educating and training the Ulema and scholars first. For this purpose, Allama Iqbal wanted to establish an Islamic University for the education of the new scholars, teachers and especially the Ulema " (The learned scholars of Islam). This was necessary for the realization of many objectives, and one of them, as explained by himself was, who does not know that the moral training of the Muslim masses is in the hands of such Ulema and preachers who are not really competent to perform this duty. Their knowledge of Islamic history and sciences is extremely limited. In order to persuade the people to adopt in their lives the moral and religious values of Islam, it is necessary for a preacher of today to be not only familiar with subjects like history, economics and sociology but must also have complete knowledge of the literature and modes of thinking of the community."
Allama had a firm faith in Quranic principles. He wanted that Muslims should build a society based on knowledge. He left a vision behind and we are to implement it. He idealized what, we should put to practice.
The Islamic University was not created. However, in thirties the Aligarh Muslim University thought of introducing a new faculty of Isiamic studies. Aftab Ahmad Khan Chancellor of the University wrote to Allama Iqbal seeking his advice. Allama Iqbal wrote a long letter to him which is very important document. Some of the extracts are: "our first and foremost object should be to create Ulema of proper qualities who could fulfill the spiritual needs of the community. Please note that along with the change in the outlook of the people their spiritual requirements also undergo a change. The changes in the status of the individual, his advancement made by the physical sciences, have completely revolutionized modern life. As a result the kind of Ilim -i-Kalam and the theological understanding which was considered sufficient to satisfy the heart of a Muslim of the middle Ages, does not satisfy him anymore. This is not being stated with the intention to injure the spirit of religion; but in order to rediscover the depths of creative and original thinking (Ijtihad), and to emphasize that it is essential to reconstruct our religious thought......
Like many other matters, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan's farsightedness made him also look into this problem. As you may know, he laid the foundations of his rationalism on the philosophical doctrines of an ancient and bygone age for the resolution of this problem. I am afraid; I do not agree with you the proposed curriculum of Islamic studies. In my view the revival of the faculty of Islamic studies on the old lines would be totally useless. As for the spiritual value of the ancient theology, one can say that is based on antiquated ideas, and as for its educational significance, it is irrelevant in -the face of the emerging new problems or the new presentation of old problems what is needed today is to apply ones mind in a new direction and to exert for the construction of a new theology and a new Ilm-i-Kalam. It is evident that this job can be accomplished only by those who are competent to do it. But how to create sucn Ulema? My suggestion is that if you desire to keep the conservative element of our society satisfied, then you may start with the faculty of Islamic Studies on the old lines. But your ultimate objective should be to gradually bring forward a group of such Ulema who are themselves capable of independent and creative thinking (Ijtihad-I-Fikr) in accordance with my proposed scheme.
In my view the dissemination of modern religious ideas is necessary for the modern Muslim nations. A struggle has already commenced in the Islamic world between the old and new methods of education as well as between the upholders of spiritual freedom and those monopolizing religious power. This movement of independence of human thought is even influencing a conservative country like Afghanistan. You may have read the speech of the Amir of Afghanistan in which he has attempted to control the powers of the Ulema. The emergence of numerous such movements in the other parts of the Muslim world makes one arrive at the same conclusion. Therefore, in your capacity as the Head of a Muslim University, it is your duty to step forward in this new field with courage.
However, it is historically a bitter truth that the educational reforms in the field of religion proposed by Allama Iqbal were not implemented sincerely, even if an attempt was made shortly before his death to establish a Darul-Uloom according to his specifications. For this purpose correspondence started between Allama Iqbal and AI-Muraghi, the Rector of al-Azhar University of Egypt, through the the,n young, energetic and dynamic religious reformist Maulana Syed Abul-Ala Maudodi, but the Egyptians could not produce an Arabic instructor satisfying Allama Iqbal's requirements.
Later on, he invited Maulana Syed Abul-Ala Mawdudi, and committed him that, if he will move to this Darul-Uloom, I will also initiate him in the reinterpreting and reconstructing the Islamic jurisprudence. Unfortunately no sooner Maulana Mawdudi reached from Hyderabad to Darus-Salam, Pathankote, Allama Iqbal passed away
Infact, it was the dearest desire of Allama Iqbal that, an Islamic educational system on modern scientific basis should be given on priority, so that, human kind will satisfy spiritually as well as mentally through this original educational system.
Allama Iqbal does not define Islam as a theologian but as a philosopher. He says that, Islam is not a religion in the ancient sense of the word. It is an attitude that is to say, Of freedom and even or defiance of universe. It is really a protest against the entire outlook z` the ancient world. Briefly, it is the discovery of man.
Thus by this statement, Allama Iqbal explains that, Islam as a religion and as a culture, is humanistic in its nature. Any interpretation of Islam which sanctifies feudalism and & discriminates between man and man, is not acceptable to Allama Iqbal. Allama's western critics contended at he picked up this humanism from European thought and interpreted Islam in that light.
But Allama Iqbal vehemently claimed that humanism is purely production of Islamic culture and teachings. It is actually z( main gift of Islam to the west.
According to Quranic teachings, Allama believed that many new worlds are concealed in its verses and countless eras yet to come are hidden in its wisdom. Its different interpretations can resolve the problems of the past, present and future ages provided that the Muslims are able to reconcile "Reason" with "Love" and realize that the new world lying buried in their hearts in anxiously waiting to unfold itself on hearing the word "be" from them.
Allama Iqbal describes this Quranic truth as:
By the above Persian verse, Allama Iqbal subscribed to the view of flexible and progressive interpretation of Quranic laws for 'worldly affairs (Muamalaat) in order to cope with the needs and requirements of the changing times. -
He realized that now-a-days Islam requires 'emancipation' from the medieval fancies of theologians and jurists, thus he proclaimed that,
"Spiritually we are living in a prison-house of thoughts and emotions which during the course of centuries, we have weaved round ourselves". For this reason he rejected the dynastic/ hereditary caliphate, Immate or Sultanate as the outmoded forms of government which the Muslims evolved. In this matter, he refers Ibni-Khuldun, the famous historiographers of Islam, who also is in favour of the above mentioned demolition of the hereditary Khilafat. •--~'
Aliamai-i- Iqbai criticizes the western form of democracy as a political system, which is flawed in many ways. Since there is no other acceptable alternative, therefore, the establishment of popular legislative assemblies in some Muslim countries is a return to the original purity of Islam. He explained his views regarding this matter clearly in his, "Reconstruction" in 6th Lecture.
According to Dr. Javid Iqbal, Allama Iqbal is of the opinion about the Quranic rule of obeying those who exercise authority from amongst you (Sura 4: verse 59). In fact means obeying only those leaders who are, like you and not the kings or dynastic rulers. So in this connection he advocates the argument that the powers of the caliphate could be vested in a body of persons or an elected assembly. In this way he favours the collective Ijtehadic system. (,Ijma or consensus of the community of Muslim Ummah) should be intermingled in present days. In this Ijtihad and Ijma there should be lawyers, sociologists, modern thinkers and Islamic jurists together to solve the grim and grave problems of the Muslims on the whole. He explained this unique idea in his "Reconstruction lectures".
Allama lqbal also believes that, the essence of "Tawhid' (Unity of Allah) as a working idea, is human equality, human solidarity and human freedom. According to him, an Islamic state, is "an endeavdu-t6' transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realize them in a definite human
As mentioned earlier Aliama iqbal believes that Islam and Islamization, in real sense has a vast humanistic nature and attitude, so in his proposed Islamic state, Islamic laws cannot be imposed on the non-Muslim minorities. They have always been and shall be covered under their own laws. Allama Iqbal proclaimed categorically in his speeches and statements that:
"The principle that each group is entitled to free development on its own lines is not inspired by the feeling of narrow communalism. There are communalisms and communalisms. A community which is inspired by feeling of ill-will towards other communities is low and ignorable. I entertain the highest respect for the customs, laws, religious and social institutions of other communities. Nay, it is my duty, according to the teaching of the Quran, even to defend their places of worship, if need be.
Here Allama Iqbal's assertion regarding the responsibilities of a Muslim state to safeguard the rights of the minorities is based, on Sura 22, verse 40 of the Quran in which Allah says:
If Allah had not created the group of Muslims to ward off the others aggression, then churches, synagogues, oratories and mosques where Allah is worshipped most, would have been destroyed."
Rt. Justice Dr. ]avid Iqbal, the living legendry son of llama Iqbal interprets this Quranic verse as:
In the early stage of Islamic history this Quranic verse was interpreted as a legal provision for the protection of the places of worship of the "people of the Book" Jews and Christians. After the conquest of Iran this protection was extended by the jurists to the Zoroastrians, who were considered as "like the people of the Book" (Kamisl-Ahle-Kitab). The same protection extended to the Hindu temples during the reign of some Mughal emperors in India.