Iqbāl and Pakistan’s Moment of Truth – FULL ESSAY

There are two Pakistans

This essay directs attention to two divergent dimensions in Iqbāl’s thought, and goes on to suggest that as a consequence, Pakistan has two divergent faces. Islamic scholarship has an obligation to explain this disturbing duality in order that Pakistani Muslims might better be able to recognize the inadequacy of a policy of clinging to Iqbal for theoretical guidance with which to respond to the specific challenges of the moment.

The first Pakistan, which is the one which has prevailed throughout that country’s tortured history (with continuous generous help from Washington in particular), is western and secular and is nurtured by a curious Islamic modernism which has sought for the longest while to so reconstruct Islamic religious thought as to deliver a so-called progressive reinterpretation of Islam. That new modernist version of Islam was required in order to meet the demands of a secular (and hence essentially godless) modern western civilization that came into being in consequence of a mysterious alliance of European Christians and Jews. The Qur’ān has firmly prohibited Muslim friendship and alliance with a Jewish-Christian alliance, and this seems to have escaped Iqbal’s attention (see our essay entitled “Neither Friends nor Allies” on our website). That European Judeo-Christian alliance has consistently stolen or exploited Muslim resources, oppressed and occupied Muslim territories, and colonized and humiliated Muslims who refused to worship them and to adopt their way of life, dress, customs and behavior. It also enslaved the African people for slave labor with which to build a new heaven in America. It committed genocide of indigenous peoples resident in the Americas, Australia, Southern Africa etc. It is still waging holy wars or crusades on Islam and Muslims to this day.

The modern secular state which emerged from modern western civilization has long claimed that it offers the only model of a state in which people belonging to different religions can live together in peace. In fact the harsh reality is that the modern secular state has functioned as a vehicle through which Dajjāl has been dismantling the religious way of life around the world. It has trampled on religious freedom and religious rights to such an extent that liberté in the French Republic does not extend to freedom for Muslim women to cover their heads (Hijāb), and the hapless 100-million-strong Muslim community in the secular republic of India now fears for its very existence.

Modern western civilization also delivered to the world a secular feminist revolution that sought to overturn the status and role of women in society that was established by true religion. That secular feminist revolution succeeded in Pakistan in installing a woman as Prime Minister and head of government in manifest violation of the Qur’anic guidance as well as the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and of his companions. What is even more important is that it deceived Muslim Pakistan to support a previous struggle (in the 1960’s), which did not succeed, in having a woman elected as President and head of government.  (See my essay entitled Can Muslims choose a woman to rule over them?)

The second Pakistan is so adamantly Islamic and religious that many Pakistani Muslims still long, more than fifty years after the birth of the modern republican Pakistan, for the restoration of indigenous Muslim political culture. At the heart of that political culture is the Islamic Caliphate (Khilāfah) and Dār al-Islām that was destroyed by the modern secular west and by their clients in Turkey and Arabia. It was that sacred Islamic model of a state which, for more than a thousand years, successfully maintained peace and harmony between Christians, Jews and Muslims resident in the Holy Land, while the dismal failure of its secular successor and rival has created a dangerous threat for the whole world.

When the Tanzeem-e-Islami, headed by the learned and respected Islamic scholar Dr Israr Ahmad, organized a Khilafat Conference in Lahore, Pakistan, more than a decade ago, the very large Diwan-e-Iqbāl (Iqbāl Hall) where the Conference was held was packed to capacity. This writer, who traveled from New York to participate in that conference, noticed that every square inch of floor space, including sitting on the floor of the aisles, was occupied by those who voted with their very presence in that hall for the restoration of the Caliphate (Khilafah). If such a conference could be reconvened in Pakistan today, attendance would be certainly multiplied many times over.

It is therefore clear that there are two Pakistans, one that is modern and secular and the other that clings to Islam for the establishment of a public order. We argue in this essay that an understanding of Iqbāl’s duality of thought would assist in responding to Pakistan’s ‘duality’ predicament described above.

There is duality in Iqbāl’s thought

There was that knowledge which Iqbāl imparted to his native people –  Indian Muslims who were subjected to brutal and humiliating anti-Muslim and anti-Islam British colonial rule. It touched their very souls and fired them with a scorching reaffirmation of commitment to Islam the religion as well as to indigenous Muslim political culture. It was communicated in verse in their native languages – Urdu and Persian. Had it been communicated in English prose, the European world of scholarship that was waging relentless war on Islam would have rejected it, sneered at it, and viciously opposed it. Iqbāl would have suffered irreparable loss of prestige amongst his Judeo-Christian European peers. He would eventually have been castigated by the west, as well as by those who worship the west, as obscurantist, fundamentalist, jihadist, terrorist, and all the rest of such pathetic epithets. He would never have become Sir Muhammad Iqbal.

And then there was that other knowledge which he communicated in English prose, and which included his views concerning the end of history in his philosophy of history. The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam is far and away his most important work in English and it appeared at the very end of his life and therefore represented the fully mature final expression of his thought. Some of it qualifies as the finest expression of Islamic scholarship in the modern age. It impressed European scholarship, as well as his western-educated countrymen. However it revealed beyond any doubt whatsoever that Iqbal had no proper understanding of Islam’s conception of the end of history and as a consequence he could not discern the architect of modern western civilization. Nor could Iqbal penetrate the grand design for European colonization of non-European humanity and for the offer of decolonization that appeared on the horizon in the last years of his life.

There seems to be a possibility that western civilization’s new secularized eschatology influenced Iqbal’s thought concerning end-time personalities and events, in consequence of which he expressed views clearly implying rejection of belief in the advent of Imām al-Mahdi, of Dajjāl the false Messiah or Anti-Christ, and in the return of the true Messiah, Jesus the son of the Virgin Mary (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon them both). This is indeed an interesting subject for research. Had these views been expressed in Urdu or Persian they would have created serious and abiding problems for him amongst the Muslim masses. He may not have been honored with the title of Allama. To this day, there are Muslims who are inspired by Iqbāl but remain blissfully ignorant of the above, and who would respond to this essay with great anger. As a result of his failure to read history correctly he could not recognize Europe’s strategy with which it was dismantling the indigenous Islamic civilization and was replacing it with political, economic and educational institutions which would ensure that Europe would continue to rule the decolonized world by proxy and that non-Europeans would slowly be absorbed into godless and decadent western civilization. Iqbal most certainly did not realize their plan to rule the world from Jerusalem on behalf of a false Messiah. As a consequence of this failure on the part of Iqbal, succeeding generations of Muslim scholars and thinkers were similarly affected. They are most likely to scornfully dismiss this essay.