Thursday, December 8, 2011

To Live Means to Create...Iqbal's Injunction to Us Today

The following is taken from an eye-opening text by preeminent Iqbal biographer-scholar Khurram Ali Shafique for an online class. The text is based on Javid Nama (or book of Eternity) a book styled as a children's book and written by the famous poet/philosopher Allama Iqbal especially for his son (yet for all who might be open to this vision.)

In this small yet rich/dense book of wisdom and beauty for all ages (both meanings) when Iqbal "arrives at the doorstep of God...." (in his dreamlike vision of taking a journey with his mentor, Rumi)..."there, he looks at God in His Infinite Beauty present in ever changing glories. Iqbal is lost in the secrets of creation: all creatures belong to the same family of light and fire; a mirror is placed in front of his soul, and his sense of wonder is mingled with his faith. The past and the future stand together before a present morning. God is there with all His mysteries and looking at Himself through Iqbal’s eyes.

'Iqbal asks why there is so much misery in the world. God answers, “The pen of destiny wrote whatever We chose from the good and the bad. Do you know the meaning of life? To live means to create through Our power. Make your own world if you are alive, for whoever lacks the power to create is indeed an infidel in Our eyes.” "

William James in his article "Great Men And Their Environment" uses the word "energetic" for leaders who use their inner impetus to create good for our world and selves:

Hegel speaks of revolutions or transformations in human societies as dependent upon extra-ordinary persons who serve the World-Spirit yet who often are fighters or rulers and who's lives often don't end well.

As other scholars say it better and more thoroughly, William James' view in contrast with Hegel's is more inclusive and more positive. According to James, a dynamic Hero (or Heroine) might emerge at any time from anywhere. These are individuals who - by transforming societies - along with themselves - become corner stones or turning points in the journey on history's highway.

Some philosophers have asked if such dynamos were just going along with their fate or World-Spirit (as Hegel believed) or did they serve the Divine purpose?

My favorite interpreters of the Quran demonstrate that we are all born with unlimited creative potentials. In order to achieve good creative or co-creative acts in this world we need guidance from our Creator. Yet, the Creator wants us to be a full part of such a partnership in creating within history itself. We are not expected nor required to be just like other examples in history but free to be who we are and free to choose good within the designs of our own personality and culture.

We are not made to be mechanical objects. We are not mass-production..

The Muslim Ummah, as a number of emerging scholars insist, was neither a racial, territorial or even an entity depending on a certain language. This Ummah stood for spiritual brotherhood of mankind.

So IF Allama Iqbal's message was, like this above mentioned Ummah, beyond nationality and non-racial, than, how might we ALL worldwide, learn to incorporate his surprisingly universal and historically far-reaching message today?

Perhaps only a poet well-versed in history, philosophy,theology and law could come up with such a vision for his time and ours.

Iqbal - in my limited grasp of his content and intent - did not want to wage war on other nations or religions. Yet he did want to declare war on despondency, self-destruction and hopelessness.

If, as I understand, every kind of person from students to well-known leaders were invited to talk with him, what kind of conversations might we be holding with him in our day - around the world?


Special credit goes also to Muhammad Munawwar Mirza, a world-noted scholar on Allama Iqbal, for some of his ideas which I tried to capture and re-phrase from my own understanding.

I am grateful beyond speech for the wonderful course I just finished under the direction of Khuram Ali Shafique Sahib and with some of the most creative fellow students you'd ever meet anywhere.


Khurram Ali Shafique said...

Thank you very much for this wonderful introduction.

"Iqbal...did not want to wage war on other nations or religions." This is true.

This issue was discussed by him in detail in a letter to the Cambridge scholar R. A. Nicholson. Iqbal suggested that territorial conquest was not a part of the original plan of Islam and whatever historical circumstances prompted it in the past seem to have exhausted themselves now.

CN said...

I am so glad for this theme within Iqbal. How comforting to recognize the same vision for peace and understanding in Igbal's writings that I've seen among other great philosophers and poets of compassion and goodwill.

Further, to see this vision coming out of the depth of personal faith has been reassuring in my own interfaith journey.

My limited yet growing understanding of Islam, Iqbal and also of the world-famous poet Rumi, has been first and foremost via Khurram Ali Shafique.

Visitors here may want to see more at Shafique Sahib's most interactive website: