Iqbal's Vision of a New World Order
Addressing the annual session of All India Muslim Conference in 1932, Iqbal had declared himself a “Visionary idealist”,1 a title which suits him most appropriately. Surely, he occupies a cherished position of an idealist who dreamt of the creation of Pakistan, of the Muslim renaissance and of a new world order. He earnestly believed that sheer speculative philosophy, shorn of practical considerations, gives birth to inertia and inactivity. How apt he is when he declares:
If the heaven-hunting-speculation does not make life on earth easy for man, it is good for nothing.
This is how Iqbal thought on the fate of man. The sole aim of Iqbal’s life seems to discern the correlative affinity of God, Man and the Universe. In his philosophical thinking, this trinity assumes a unity. In his above-mentioned presidential address he had said further:
“The problem of ancient Indian thought was how the one became many without sacrificing its oneness. Today this problem has come down from its ethereal heights to the grosser plane of our political life and we have to solve it in its reversed form i.e. how the many can become one without sacrificing its plural character.”3
If we look deeper into the present political and cultural world scenario, what seems to be the pivotal question is: “How the many can become one without sacrificing its plural character?”
Iqbal is equally wedded to permanence and contingence A staunch Muslim as he is, he naturally envisions a new, creative, dynamic Muslim world, emerging out of its ashes, but it does not stop him from equally dreaming of a new world order based on liberty, fraternity, equality and justice. He firmly believed that man could be maintained on this earth only by honouring mankind. He was of the view that only one unity was dependable—the unity and brotherhood of man which is above race, nationality, colour and language. Like a true visionary, he feels sorry for the modern man who has ceased to live soulfully and has gone down deep into the abyss of gross materialism, territorial nationalism, fascism and atheistic socialism. These “isms” cannot cure the ills of despairing humanity. Iqbal believes that modern man stands in need of a biological renewal. “It is only by rising to fresh vision of his origin and future, his whence and wither that man will eventually triumph over a society motivated by an inhuman competition and a civilization which has lost its spiritual unity by its inner conflict of religious and political values.”4
Iqbal had a dynamic and optimistic view of the universe and, as such, had a rare propensity towards seeing thins objectively. His love for humanity and his keen sense of pathos regarding human miseries is amply evident in his poetical and prose writings. His preference of soul to body begs no explanation.
Life to him is nothing but
i.e., to dissipate and to lay bare the mysteries of the low and high, i.e. the Universe. He has written elsewhere in Payam-e-Mashriq”.
How can one who has lost himself
Know where my songs come from?
My world is not
A rare, universal soul as he is, Iqbal is above race, colour, language and territorial nationalism. The logical positivists believed to “see in order to foresee.” Iqbal was no positivist but his strong predilection to see and to go deeper into the layers of the mysterious universe was always tinged with the spiritual evanescence. What he said about the God-man in his “Pas Cheh Bayad Kard” What should be done O, people of the East? Is equally applicable to Iqbal himelf:
“The God-man recreates himself
He sees himself with the light of Allah Almighty
He evaluates himself with the touch-stone of the Prophet.
So as to create a new world order”.
The kinetic force behind this new world order is the belief which sprouts forth from Islam—a belief which does not see evil as something essential and inevitable to the universe. The universe according to this view can be improved upon and the existence of evil can be eliminated gradually.
Iqbal had got a deep insight into human nature and his love and respect for humanity knew no bounds. He was of the view that though man was weak and frail like a rose-petal, “yet no form of reality was so powerful, so inspiring and so beautiful as the spirit of man”.8 Man according to him is a standard-bearer of evolution and in this evolutionary process, God becomes a co-worker with him, provided man takes the initiative. Discussing the effects of “concept” and “deed” in his last discourse” Is Religion Possible?”, Iqbal has given his verdict in favour of “deed” as a more potential element. He says,”
“A wrong concept misleads the understanding, a wrong deed degrades the whole man, and may eventually demolish the structure of the human ego. The mere concept affects life only partially, the deed is dynamically related to reality and issues from a generally constant attitude of the whole man towards reality.”9
Iqbal is fully aware of the predicament of the modern man. His deeper scientific consciousness has, no doubt, made him a master of nature but he is equally fearful with regard to his future. It is here that Iqbal comes to his rescue. Fully conscious of the “radiant brain” and the “dark heart” that the modern man possesses simultaneously, he (Iqbal) like a prophet of Israel declares in a passionate tone:
“He is true guide and teacher of your age;
who can with present fill your mind with rage.
He may make your blood seethe with sense of harm
And on Faqr’s whetstone may to sword transform.11
By offering a deep analysis of the present world situation, Iqbal has not only very convincingly laid bare its negative elements but has also offered solutions to this predicament and has envisioned a new world order. Just three months before his death, he delivered a New Year Message at Lahore Radio Station. Every word of this message speaks volumes for his deep love for humanity, his concern for world peace and his hatred for Imperialism. His deep concern for the fast-decaying social, political and economic conditions of certain countries is equally applicable to the latest world situation. Admitting man’s marvelous advancement in the field of science and technology, Iqbal is constrained to say:
“But in spite of all these developments, the tyranny of Imperialism struts abroad, covering its face in the masks of Democracy, Nationalism, Communism, Fascism and heaven knows what else besides. Under these masks in every corner of the earth, the spirit of freedom and dignity of man are being trampled under foot in a way of which not even the darkest period of human history presents a parallel. The so-called statesmen to whom government and leadership of the men was entrusted have proved demons of bloodshed, tyranny and oppression…After subjugating and establishing their dominion over weaker peoples, they (the rulers) have robbed them of their religions, their morals, of their cultural traditions and their literatures. Then, they sowed divisions among them that they should shed one another’s blood and go to sleep under the opiate of serfdom, so that the leech of Imperialism might go on sucking their blood without interruption.”12
The entire corpus of Iqbal’s writings testifies to the fact that be it Western democracy, nationalism, communism or fascism, all these systems, based as they are on narrow loyalties and independent of the heavenly guidance, are doomed to failure. Iqbal has, on many occasions, stripped off all their pretences and has made things open, bare and clear. He not only castigates severely these western political systems but has also lashed out bitterly at deterministic attitudes of the East, their other wordliness and their superstitious behavior. The perverseness of thought or action, wherever it is found, is a target of Iqbal’s criticism:
“Neither the East nor the West is immune from the malady of the heart and mind.”
In his seventh lecture “Is religion Possible”, Iqbal had rightly declared that both nationalism and atheistic socialism were based on hate, suspicion and rage, and all these banes weaken and desiccate human spirit. Unfortunately, the self-chiselled western idols of nationalism and racism have caused and are still causing death and destruction to the whole of humanity, and the peace and stability of the world have been torn asunder in the name of the so-called anti-terrorist movement and civilizational crusade, and this crusading fervour has been hysterically exhibited by many hypocritical rogue states.14 A word from Dostoevsky is quite an eye-opener when he said elsewhere: “If God is dead, then everything is permissible.”
The awe-inspiring demon of racism, on the one hand, and the idol of territorial nationalism on the other, have been governing for centuries over the destiny of man and have got hold of the spirit of the West in particular and their negative influences are fast spreading in the eastern and Muslim countries. It is an irony that on the one had a philosopher of Socrates’ stature is seen declaring in his “Politics” that slavery is inevitable, and like born masters there are born slaves, and T.E. Lawrence, H. Palmer, John Philby, Giffod Paulgrave, G. Hograth, D. Gobineau and Stuart Chamberlain on the other, intoxicated with a complex of Western superiority and hegemony and armoured with the weapon of Orientalism, serving as agents of western Imperialism, have been trying hard to inculcate the false ideals of racism and territorial Nationalism in the heart of the East. There the nineteenth century French Orientalist Gobineau is seen chanting hymns of praises for the white races and here is a social scientist namely Stuart Chamberlain of the twentieth century who, while enumerating the four contributing elements of civilizations, totally blacks out the contribution of Islam to world civilization. He sees with ease the Greek, Roman, Jewish and of course, Teutonic elements which contributed to modern civilization but is totally oblivious of the universality and the humanizing and moral effects of Islam. And what to speak of Chamberlain alone, this sad omission spans from Spengler to one of the most liberal of twentieth century philosophers, Mr. Karl Popper. It were such gusing, Gobineauic eulogies of the white races which eventually brought forth the Hitleric slogan of the “Aryans the best”. How ironic it is that the West benefited utmost from the best intellectual traditions of Islam but admits it only in a lukewarm way. Desecrates gleans so profusely and magnanimously from al-Ghazzali but never professes it.15 The western Humanism owes much to Islam but the West is tight-lipped in this regard. In a letter written on June 4, 1925 and addressed to Sahibzada Aftab Ahmad Khan, Iqbal had said expressly:
“The Humanist Movement in Europe was due to the forces set free by Muslim thought. It is not at all an exaggeration to say that the fruits of modern European humanism in the shape of modern science and philosophy are in many ways only a further development of Muslim culture.”16
These Orientalists-cum-imperial agents”, a term coined by Edward Saeed—did their utmost to convince many a ruler and intellectual of the Muslim East that Islam had little contribution to world civilization and that their pre-Islamic past had much to offer to them. Iqbal has written elsewhere that it was Vambery, based in central Asia, who had revealed to Sultan Abdul Hameed of Turkey that before coming into the fold of Islam, the Turks had a peculiar script of their own, trying thereby covertly to belittle the Arabic script. How jubilant his soul must have been, if he had learnt that eventually Kamal Ataturk discarded the Arabic script and switched over the Latin one. In Iran, the late Raza Shah Pahlavi had recourse to the ancient Iranian traditions and tried to enliven them and the Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasir showed an enduring fascination for the Pharaohs of the ancient Egypt!
A rather recent manifestation of the superiority complex of the West and especially of Americans can well be gauged from a book written by Francis Fukuyama, previously associated with the U.S. State Department, under the title “The End of the History of the last Man”, Fukuyama is of the view that humanity has by far reached a point where liberal democracy remains the only coherent political aspiration that spans different regions and cultures around the globe (P.xiii) He holds the view that with the advent of the twentieth century, different monarchical systems have accepted defeat and the two strong adversaries of liberal democracy, namely Fascism and Communism, have lost their credentials altogether. As for Islam, it “has virtually no appeal outside those areas that were culturally Islamic to begin with…the days of Islam’s cultural conquest…are over: it can win back lapsed adherents but has no resonance for young people in Berlin, Tokyo or Moscow. And while nearly a billion people are culturally Islamic – one fifth of world’s population – they cannot challenge liberal democracy on its own territory on the level of ideas”.17
He says further:
“Indeed the growth of liberal democracy, together with its companion, economic liberalism, has been the most remarkable macropolitical phenomenon of the last four hundred years.18
Fukuyama expresses his deep sense of satisfaction over the radical change that has occurred in some Muslim countries, which under the influence of the secular West, have imbibed secular nationalism as their guiding principle. Says Fukuyama:
The last major intellectual import accepted from the West by the Islamic world was secular nationalism, represented by the great pan-Arab nationalist movements of Egypt’s Nassar, and the Baath parties of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.19
Fukuyama has further offered a rather ridiculous explanation to the wave of Islamic revivalism in some Muslim countries. He says:
“The strength of the Islamic revival can only be understood if one understands how deeply the dignity of Islamic society had been wounded in its double failure to maintain the coherence of its traditional society and to successfully assimilate the techniques and values of the West.”20
It is a pity that Fukuyama regards liberal democracy as the climax of human thought and expresses utmost satisfaction over the acceptance of secular nationalism by some myopic Muslim rulers. Fukuyama has, perhaps lost sight of the fact that the secular mode of thinking regards religion as a private affair of the man, and, as such, deals a death blow to the vast unity of humanity at large. Iqbal has rightly expressed his dissatisfaction over such a mode of thought which ultimately resulted in:
“A gradual displacement of the universal ethics of Christianity by systems of national ethics.21
Again it was this secularism which resulted in a religious statecraft and territorial Nationalism which has built huge walls of race, colour and language among nations. Toynbee had dubbed this western territorial Nationalism as a “virus and a political malady” and has declared unequivocally the Islamic brotherhood to be a better ideal:
“The Islamic tradition of the brotherhood of Man would seem to be a better ideal for meeting the social need of the times than the western tradition of sovereign independence. In the new situation in which the western community finds itself since the Second World War, its internal partition into about forty sovereign independent national states is threatening to bring about the fall of a house divided against itself…it is to be hoped, that in the Islamic world at any rate, the spread of this western political malady may be arrested by the strength of a traditional Islamic feeling of unity.”22
It is wonder that Fukuyama feels jubilant at the teenage rebellion of the American youth “in which the child openly rejects the parents values and wishes in an almost necessary part of the process of forming the personality of adult human being.”23 Fukuyama has shut his eyes to the sad consequence of this teenage – rebellion which has torn asunder the protective umbrella of home and hearth and has metamorphosed man into a miserable cockroach of a dirty slum!
In his poetical and prose writings, Iqbal has hinted at a new world order which is to be based on the best of Islam. These Islamic values have a force and essence of the concept of universal brotherhood and the unity of God as its back. Iqbal had a genuine feeling that modern world stood in need of a biological renewal. In his magnum opus, Javid Nameh, he says under the garb of Rumi:
“Freshen out thy worn-out body by carving it anew”
“Subject thine own self to trial and begin to exist.”25
In his last poetic creation Armughan-i-Hijaz, Iqbal had described a very pathetic situation of the world around in his peculiar way:
The world again faces a battle of Spirit and flesh
The so-called civilization has again brought forth its beasts
God alone trusts the perseverance of the Momin
And the Devil relies on the machine of Europe.
In this battle of the Spirit and Flesh, Iqbal gives due importance to the material world, but his preference for the Spirit is too evident to demand any proof. This is what he calls Zauq-e-Yaqin and Iman:
This union of the sun and sand-grain and this conjugation of the spiritual and the material is a corner-stone in Iqbal’s thought: a manifestation of a balanced bard! This balanced view goads the poet to see the universe objectively and creates in him insatiable thirst for revolution. His intuition makes him feel that no construction is possible without destruction, and this is what the mystic-poet Rumi had declared centuries ago:
Iqbal in a similar vein declares in Armaghan-i-Hijaz:
“The Doomsday has rent asunder all the world and lo it has revealed the mysteries of being”
This earthquake has pulverized the mounts and the houses. And they are afloat as clouds!
No new construction is possible without total destruction. And this maximum alone solves the difficulties of life.
In Javid Nameh, Iqbal has delineated the contours of a new world, “Marghadin”, an imaginary world inhabited by men with simple living and high thinking—men who derive gold and silver from light! Here man is not in the clutches of the ruthless machine with cancer-creating clouds of pollution. Here the cultivator is free from the fear of the feudal lord. Here is a new world with no warring forces, with no hack-writers who sell out the sanctity of their pen to the highest bidder and are the mean propagators of lies, falsities and subterfuge. Its lanes and bazaars are free from the clamour of the idlings and no heart-rending and flattering bewailing of the beggars is audible. This free ideal world has no master, no slave!
This ideal world, visualized by the poet could be dubbed as a mere romantic utopia and thus put aside; but it must not be forgotten that centuries in between the ideal and the actual are sometimes eliminated within no time. Man throughout centuries has idealized such utopias, which in later years, though partly was translated into amazing realities, and this is how the caravan of humanity has been proceeding ahead. What is more important in utopias have been devised in world literature before Iqbal. For example in the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh, we find a description of a kind of earthly paradise. Homer described the Elysian fields in his own way. In his “Republic” Plato gave depiction of a state in which rulers were philosophers i.e., Philosopher-Kings and gods and women were communally owned. Sir Thomas More’s (1478-1535) world famous Utopia may be considered in some aspects a prototype of Plato’s “Republic” since it did not admit of private property. Free universal education, free medical treatment and religious liberty were its main features. More than a hundred such Utopias have sprouted forth since More’s time. Shipley had divided the utopias into two categories (i) utopias of escape (ii) utopias of reconstruction. “The first presents an uncontrolled fantasy, or a dream projection, close to the heart of the writer, no matter how remote to form realization…Since the 18th century, however, the utopia of reconstruction has become the more common form”.29 Francis Bacon in his “New Atlantis” has foreshadowed some inventions which suggest the future development of aeroplanes, submarines and telephones”.30 H.G. Wells in his A Modern Utopia conceived Utopia as a world state. Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty Four” offers a very bleak picture but this and similar other fantasies, no doubt, are at heart the imaginative attempts at a transforming what is into what ought to be. Shipley is quite convincing when he declares: “Utopia writers have been the first to point out the social mutations and emergents that were already dimly discernible in their social order. They lifted their contemporaries out of the ruts of habits and familiar associations and gave them a clearer view of the forces working around them…the freedom of imagination that characterized the utopian writers will always be a useful check against a pedestrian realism that goes along with a pedestrian acceptance of life as one finds it.”31
Long before “Marghadin”, Iqbal had given hints of his futuristic approach in his “Secrets of the Self (1915) in an ecstatic way:
My thought hunted down and slung from the saddle a deer
That has not yet leaped forth from the covert non-existence.
My dust is brighter than Jamshid’s cup
It knows things that are yet unborn in the world.
Fair is my garden ere yet the leaves are green.
Unborn roses are hidden in the skirt of my garment.33
And that is what he said precisely in Payam-i-Mashriq (1923):
“Innumerable worlds spring forth like
flowers form the soil of our imagination.”
In his seventh lecture, Iqbal had presented a very thought-provoking point regarding human ego:
“The Ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something but to be something.34
Elaborating the point he had said:
“The world is not something to be merely seen or known through concepts, but something to be made and re-made by continuous action.”35
His dreamland “Marghadin” is characterized by some very peculiar features. For example, the inhabitants holds the view that knowledge and technology are meant for the service of humanity and should not be weighed in the scale of gold i.e. a thing of trade. Here the currency, be it silver or gold, is entirely unknown and the horizon of the city is not darkened by the pollution of smoke. This city is free from the highhandedness of the landlord, hence the peasants are the masters of the land they till and their harvest. In this city there are no forces and hence there is no loot and plunder. The pen here is not used for the spread of lies and falsehood, and what is most fascinating is the fact that it has no slaves and no masters, no begger and no destitute.
If given due consideration, these are almost Islamic ideals. Iqbal is, perhaps one of our foremost poets who showed their strong reaction to pollution. What Iqbal pinpointed in his Mathnavi “Pas Cheh Bayad Kard” is quite in line with his ideal city, Marghadin:
“No one in this world ever remain subservient to other
This is the sole aim and ideal of the Shariah!”
Needless to say that there is no antagonism between Islam and universality; they are synonyms! A statement published in “Ehsan” just a month before his death on March 9, 1938, speaks volumes for the poet’s universal outlook:
“If the purpose of human society is to ensure peace and security for the nations and transform their present social organism into a single social order, then one cannot think of any other social order than that of Islam. This is because, according to my reading of the Quran, Islam does not aim at the moral reformation of the individual alone; it also aims at a gradual but fundamental revolution in the social life of mankind, which should altogether change its national and social viewpoint and create in its place a purely human consciousness. The history of religions conclusively shows that in ancient time, religion was national as in the case of Egyptians, Greeks and Persians. Later on it became racial as that of the Jews. Christianity taught that religion was an individual and private affair. Religion having become synonymous with private beliefs, Europe began to think that the state alone was responsible for the social life of man. It was Islam and Islam alone, which for the first time gave the message to mankind that religion was neither national and racial, nor individual and private, but purely human and that its purpose was to unite and organize mankind despite all its natural distinctions.36
Iqbal pinned no confidence on the League of Nations, rather he called it “an assembly of “Shroud-stealers”. He believed in the league of universal brotherhood — a league founded on spirituality. That perhaps is what accounts for his preference to spiritual democracy on secular western democracy. With a view to usher in a balanced new world order, Iqbal declares categorically that humanity is in need of three things, “a spiritual interpretation of the Universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual and basic principles of a universal import, directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis. Modern Europe has, no doubt, built idealistic systems on these lines, but experience shows that truth revealed through pure reason is incapable of bringing that fire of living conviction which personal revelation alone can bring…The idealism of Europe never became a living factor in her life, and the result is a perverted ego, seeking itself through mutually intolerant democracies, whose sole function is to exploit the poor in the interest of the rich. Believe me, Europe today is a greatest hindrance in the way of man’s ethical advancement.”37
It was almost seventy years ago that Iqbal had laid bare the true face of Europe, especially its exploitative aspect. Today the situation has worsened. Europe and America today are exploiting the poor Udees (as the abbreviation goes) ruthlessly in the name of foreign aid—a very dismal chapter of our contemporary history. The high marksup interest has proved fatal and devastating to many a poor nation. Jamal-ud-din Afghani had declared unequivocally more than a century ago that the interest-based western economy darkens human soul and solidifies human heart into a stone tablet and the exploiter emerges a savage sans teeth and clutches. The World Bank, the IMF and the WTO of today are nothing short of the savage mentioned above. These and many such international monetary agencies are under the total sway of the Jews about whom the historic phrase of Chamberlain stands valid even today. Chamberlain had observed that the Jews have always been the cruel exploiters and merciless destroyers of all nations.38 This statement has been corroborated with equal force by Iqbal when he says:
“The Jugular vein of the Europeans is in the powerful grip of the Jews.”
It is also worth-remembering that these exploitative proclivities of the Jews have long before been immortalized by Shakespeare in his world-famous drama “The Merchant of Venice” through the character of “Shylock—the Jew.”
What Iqbal had envisaged was a world order based on self-reliance, self-identity and universal respect for every individual. In a poem addressed to Javid, he had said clearly:
“Don’t accept obligation of the porcelain – makers of the West”
Make your cups and goblets with the indigenous clay”
The same lesson is imparted again in the following verse:
“How long will you remain under the cosy plumes of others.
Try to soar high and freely in the blue skies of the world”.
Iqbal was, nonetheless, a creator of high ideals, a sustainer of new hopes and a moulder of a new world order—a happy synthesis of the world here and the world hereafter.
- Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, 3rd edition, (Sherwani) p. 27.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal (Sheikh Ghulam Ali), p. 473.
- Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, op.cit., p. 28.
- The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (Sh. Ashraf), p. 189.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal (Persian), p. 316.
- A Message from the East, (Hadi Hussain), p. 108.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal, p. 819.
- The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p. 12.
- Ibid., p. 185.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal (Urdu), p. 511, 512.
- The Rod of Moses (Akbar Ali Shah), p. 27.
- Sherwani, op.cit., p. 250.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal, p. 622.
- For the awful details of such horrendous crimes, see Noam Chomsky’s latest book: “Rogue States”, Pluto Press, London.
- For details see History of Philosophy (edit. H. Nasr and OliverLeaman, Vol. 2, p. 1021.
- Letters of Iqbal (Ed. By B.A. Dar), 1978, p. 152.
- The End of History & the Last Man, p. 46.
- Ibid., p. 48.
- Ibid., p. 236.
- Ibid., p. 237.
- The Reconstruction of Religious Thought…p. 163.
- The World and the West, p. 30-31.
- Fukuyama, op.cit., p. 239.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal (Persian), p. 608.
- Iqbal’s Javid Nama, (A.Q. Niaz), 1984, p. 24.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal, p. 658.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal, p. 271.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal, p. 663.
- A Dictionary of World Literary Terms (1955), p. 433.
- A Dictionary of Literary Terms, J.A. Cuddon, p. 734. The above-mentioned details have been mostly taken from Cuddon’s Dictionary.
- A Dictionary of World Literary Terms, p. 434.
- Kulliyat-e-Iqbal, p. 6.
- R.A. Nicholson, The Secrets of the Self, 1983, p. 2.
- The Reconstruction…op.cit., p. 198.
- Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, p. 253-254.
- The Reconstruction (Sh. Ashraf), p. 179.
- Sorokin: “Contemporary Sociological Theories”, 1964, p. 232.