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True scholarship must subject all knowledge - including Iqbāl’s thought - to critical evaluation
Let me begin by recognizing Dr Muhammad Iqbāl to be one of the great scholars and poets of Islam of the modern age. That is my opinion after having spent a lifetime (I am now 68 years old) devoted to the pursuit of knowledge of Islam. I pray, and I urge my gentle readers to join me in the prayer, that Allah Most Kind might bless him, forgive him his sins and grant him the reward of the highest heaven. Amīn.
We are not concerned in this essay with Iqbal the Poet and Sufi since his thoughts as expressed in poetry do not appear to have contributed in any way whatsoever to Pakistan’s present predicament. If anything, Iqbal the poet may have helped to keep Pakistan alive up to this day. Rather it is Iqbal’s scholarship as expressed in the English language which has created a significant problem for those in Pakistan and elsewhere who have been led to believe that Muslims can create their own modern republican state which can somehow function as a valid replacement for the Islamic Caliphate (Khilāfah) and Dār al-Islām.
True scholarship must subject all knowledge, including Iqbāl’s thought, to critical evaluation. Even the Qur’ān invites mankind to critically examine its credentials as divine revelation and goes on to challenge doubters to find any inconsistency or contradiction in the book:
﴿ أ َفَلاَ يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللّهِ لَوَجَدُواْ فِيهِ اخْتِلاَفًا كَثِيرًا ﴾
“Will they not then ponder over (the phenomenon of) this Qur’an; for had it issued from any but Allah (Most High) they would surely have found in it many contradictions (internal as well as external)!”
(Qur’ān, al-Nisā, 4:82)
This writer is disturbed and dismayed to discover a strangely intolerant Muslim mind in Pakistan in particular, that brooks no critical Islamic assessment of either Iqbāl’s or Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s thought. Pain in this respect is compounded by the fact that both Iqbāl and Jinnah themselves displayed a marvelous intellectual integrity that was completely alien to and different from those who mindlessly ascribe infallibility to them.
In the passage quoted below Iqbāl commended that attitude towards knowledge which made it possible for this essay to be written: “It must, however, be remembered that there is no such thing as finality in philosophical thinking. As knowledge advances and fresh avenues of thought are opened, other views, and probably sounder views than those set forth in these Lectures, are possible. Our duty is carefully to watch the progress of human thought, and to maintain an independent critical attitude towards it.” (Muhammad Iqbāl, Preface to Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam). We can do no more than to commend the above to those who would raise holy objections to this essay – while showing little or no regard for the validity of the arguments raised therein.
Iqbal (1877-1938) had the good fortune to live at the tail-end of British colonial rule over Hind and he died just nine years before Britain finally decolonized while transferring power to the Republics of India and Pakistan. One would have expected an outstanding Islamic scholar to so penetrate the reality that confronted the world at that time that he would have recognized in it Signs of the Last Day. We have not found such recognition in Iqbal’s thought.
Dajjal the false Messiah has a mission to accomplish of ruling the world from Jerusalem, and hence from a Holy State of Israel. Only at that time when he rules the world from Jerusalem can he declare himself to be the Messiah. In order to accomplish that mission he not only has to establish his political economic and military control over all of mankind but, in addition, he has to do the following:
- liberate the Holy Land from Muslim rule;
- bring the Jews back to the Holy Land to reclaim it as their own;
- restore a State of Israel in the Holy Land and get the Jews to embrace it as the Holy Israel of David and Solomon (‘alaihim al-Salām);
- cause that State of Israel to constantly grow in strength until it becomes the ruling State in the world.
The emergence of modern secular western civilization as the dominant civilization in the world, the emergence of the island of Britain as the ruling State in the world, and consequent British colonial rule over every strategically important part of the non-European world, did not occur by chance. Rather they were designed to play a crucially important role in creating one unified global society and in thus advancing Dajjāl’s mission of ruling the world from Jerusalem. That mission has reached such an advanced stage that Dajjāl is now poised to reach his goal. Neither did Iqbal recognize this, nor have the latter-day Iqbalian drum-beaters recognized it. Yet a British historian who was Iqbal’s contemporary had the intellectual courage to recognize that “Europeans have regarded themselves as the Chosen People. . .” in consequence of which non-European humanity was considered to be gentile. Arnold Toynbee showed at least some insight into the subject of the emergence of a global society and a world government. His ‘Civilization on Trial’ was published in 1946 and in it he recognized that “. . . since AD1500 . . . mankind has been gathered into a single world-wide society. From the dawn of history to about that date, the earthly home of man had been divided into many isolated mansions; since about AD1500, the human race has been brought under one roof.” He recognized the actor who was bringing all of mankind under one roof “Western civilization is aiming at nothing less than the incorporation of all of mankind in a single great society and the control of everything in the earth, air and sea . . .” He recognized globalization to have a political agenda “. . . the world is now on the eve of being unified politically by one means or another . . .” He even ventured to muse “If the United Nations organization could grow into an effective system of world government, that would be much the best solution of our political crux.” Toynbee even discerned the coming trial of strength between Russia and the West that is located in Islam’s conception of the end of history: “In the Islamic world it had come to seem likely that the people’s vote would be cast for westernization in so far as the question of cultural allegiance remained a matter of free choice, but it was clear that the issue would depend , not entirely on the people directly concerned but partly also on a trial of strength between a Western and a Russian world which encircled the Islamic world between them.” All these quotes are taken from Toynbee’s Civilization on Trial, Oxford University Press, 1946.
Iqbal witnessed Britain’s infamous Balfour Declaration in 1917, and also the British conquest of Jerusalem in the same year. He was acutely aware of significant Euro-Jewish immigration into Palestine which followed, and which eventually provoked the Wailing Wall riots of 1929. He participated as a member of a high-powered Indian Muslim delegation to the Al-Aqsa Islamic Conference held in Jerusalem in 1930. That conference was convened for the specific purpose of identifying and articulating the Islamic response to the fast-developing crisis in the Holy Land. A review of the proceedings of that conference reveals no evidence of any recognition by delegates, including Iqbal, of the reality of events that were unfolding in the Holy Land (see my book The Caliphate the Hejaz and the Saudi-Wahhabi Nation-State for a brief review of the proceedings of that conference).
Britain, the ruling State, was a part of a greater whole, to wit, modern western civilization. This civilization emerged full-blown before Iqbal’s very eyes, bringing in its wake the greatest test of religious faith ever witnessed in human history. Western colonization of non-European humanity and subsequent decolonization, which were absolutely unique events in human history, were also designed to put institutions in place that would pave the way for one world government to eventually emerge; and thus would Dajjāl establish his political economic and military control over all of mankind. Iqbal did not penetrate the reality of Dajjāl’s finest achievement.
Iqbal was a keen observer who monitored the progress of Europe’s scientific and technological revolutions that delivered to Europe that unprecedented military power with which to conquer the world. Indeed the Crusades reached their climax in his lifetime with that British conquest of Jerusalem. Iqbal witnessed the destruction of the Islamic Caliphate and the dismemberment of the Ottoman Islamic State and its replacement by the secular made-in-Europe Republic of Turkey. The significantly (and therefore suspiciously) Jewish Bolshevik revolution in Russia broke the back of Christian Czarist Russia, and an essentially godless Soviet Russia replaced it. The world moved significantly before Iqbal’s very eyes towards a messianic end of history which Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) had described in great detail, yet Iqbal failed to read that movement of history towards its climax.
If our critical comments and conclusions in this essay are valid, they do not diminish either Iqbal’s status as a great scholar, or our recognition of the resplendent inner light that Allah Most High bestowed on him. He still remains my teacher’s teacher – and hence my own teacher. Rather they clearly reveal the inadequacy of a policy of clinging to Iqbal for theoretical guidance (rather than motivational fire) with which to respond to Pakistan’s moment of truth. Unless Muslim Pakistan fixes its gaze firmly on the restoration of the Islamic Khilafah as its supreme political goal, even while recognizing that the struggle which has already commenced in Khorasan (Afghanistan and North-West Pakistan are parts of ancient Khorasan) to achieve that goal cannot reach its final success for perhaps another 20-30 years, Pakistani Muslims will remain woefully unprepared to face that moment of truth which has now arrived.