News & Views
Tomorrow, Nov 09 is birthday of Allama Iqbal – a poet, philosopher and a great visionary. To understand his vision, one should go through Allama Iqbal’s address to Annual Session of All-India Muslim League on Nov 29, 1930 when he first time presented Two-Nation Theory. He had dreamt of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the sub-continent, and his dream was converted into reality by Quaid-i-Azam who had spearheaded the Pakistan movement. But is this the Pakistan Allama Iqbal and the Quaid had envisioned? Certainly not. Pakistan today finds itself in the midst of despair; the people entangled in an unending struggle for survival, as there appear to be no integrating forces, no unified meaning and no vision to lead us out of the blind alley. Today, Pakistan is facing economic challenges and threat to internal and external security.
Our economic crisis is the result of continuous plunder and mismanagement of resources by the unscrupulous pack of leaders whose life’s ambition is to acquire power and wealth at the cost of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Though, much emphasis is placed on Allama Iqbal’s poetry, a series of his lectures on ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ are thought-provoking. In his lecture ‘The Principle of Movement in Islam (Ijtihad)’, he inspires the Muslims to understand that the world is not static; life does not standstill and history is constantly on the march, making it necessary to evolve new forms to cope with new developments. Muslims, indeed, had a glorious past. When the West was in the Middle Ages – a part of it was an era of darkness – Spain at that time was the great Islamic civilisation, and acted as a transmitter of knowledge and culture to Europe.
Today, Islam is being demonised by the West; Muslims throughout the world are on the receiving end. Kashmir and a part of Palestine are under occupation. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya face existential threats. One has to revert to the history to understand the causes of the rise and fall of the nations, and what measures were taken for causing a decadent and moribund society plagued by the curse of corruption, immorality, inertia and factionalism like ours to change into a progressive, vibrant and dynamic organism brimming with vitality, ideas and creativity? But where should we look for a model? Allama Iqbal in his lecture ‘Knowledge and Religious Experience’ writes: “European culture on its intellectual side is only a further development of some of the most important phases of the culture of Islam”. Muslims had not only translated the Greek writers and scientists but had also improved on their work.
The Western intellectuals had borrowed ideas from Islamic culture for their progress because the pre-Renaissance Europe was based on Greek thought and philosophy that were speculative and theoretical in nature, whereas Islamic culture draws its spirit from facts and realities of life. Aristotle visualised a fixed universe; Islam on the other hand regards signs of universe as signs of Allah. According to Allama Iqbal, “The Qur’an sees signs of the Ultimate Reality in the sun, moon, the lengthening out the shadows, the alternation of day and night, the variety of human colours and tongues, in fact in the whole nature as revealed to the sense-perception of man. And Muslim’s duty is to reflect on these signs and not pass by them as if dead or blind, for he who does not see the signs in this life will remain blind to the reality of the life to come”.
There is no denying that all religions had revolutionary appeal but with the passage of time religious shysters misinterpreted the message to strengthen the status quo forces. Islam, however, is a complete code of life and Allama Iqbal has tried to explain the true spirit of Islam. Allama Iqbal considers Tauheed as the essence of Islam, and the essence of Tauheed as a working idea is equality, solidarity and freedom. He wrote: “The state from Islamic standpoint is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an inspiration to realize them in a definite human organisation”. Freedom means liberation of mankind from forces of exploitation, oppression, suppression and manipulation. It also means freedom from gods other than God, from idols of traditions and customs, from political and bureaucratic strongholds, from the sorceries of clerics, obscurantist and religious shysters, from ignorance and poverty.
Only when a man is freed from all these thoughts, can he think progressively and feel the existence of one God. Since Prophet Mohammad was the last Prophet, Islam therefore is the deen for all the times to come. And which is why periodic reinterpretation of Islamic teachings in the light of inventions, discoveries and new sciences is imperative so that it can offer inspiration to all the people at all times. The principle of such movement is called Ijtihad, which could provide new perceptions to the world vision. According to Allama Iqbal, “The only effective power that counteracts the forces of decay in a people is the rearing of self-concentrated individuals. Such individuals alone reveal the depth of life. They disclose new standards in the light of which we begin to see that our environment is not wholly inviolable and requires revision”.
Our religious scholars have not seriously tried to ignite the internal combustible spirit in us, and to convert into useful energy. But the problem is that the nation has lost its spiritual unity and is in the process of losing its political unity, because we have lost sight of our origin and are unmindful of our future. Unfortunately, most of our political leaders are deviating from our ideological track and following shadows of opportunism, adventurism and tuteeism. At this point in time when Pakistan is confronting economic challenges and also facing threats to its internal and external security, our politicians have not weaned off the politics of power and pelf. Could there be such a clueless, directionless and inept leadership, even ignorant of how the public feels about its indifference to their sufferings and insouciance to the grave threats to the country.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.