Updated: Sunday June 22, 2014/AlAhad Sha'ban 24, 1435/Ravivara Asadha 01, 1936, at 06:00:40 PM
The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam
Dr. Muhammad Iqbal
The Qur’ān is a book which emphasizes ‘deed’ rather than ‘idea’. There are, however, men to whom it is not possible organically to assimilate an alien universe by re-living, as a vital process, that special type of inner experience on which religious faith ultimately rests. Moreover, the modern man, by developing habits of concrete thought– habits which Islam itself fostered at least in the earlier stages of its cultural career– has rendered himself less capable of that experience which he further suspects because of its liability to illusion. The more genuine schools of Sufism have, no doubt, done good work in shaping and directing the evolution of religious experience in Islam; but their latter-day representatives, owing to their ignorance of the modern mind, have become absolutely incapable of receiving any fresh inspiration from modern thought and experience. They are perpetuating methods which were created for generations possessing a cultural outlook differing, in important respects, from our own. ‘Your creation and resurrection,’ says the Qur’ān, ‘are like the creation and resurrection of a single soul.’ (31:28) A living experience of the kind of biological unity, embodied in this verse, requires today a method physiologically less violent and psychologically more suitable to a concrete type of mind. In the absence of such a method the demand for a scientific form of religious knowledge is only natural. In these Lectures, which were undertaken at the request of the Madras Muslim Association and delivered at Madras, Hyderabad, and Aligarh, I have tried to meet, even though partially, this urgent demand by attempting to reconstruct Muslim religious philosophy with due regard to the philosophical traditions of Islam and the more recent developments in the various domains of human knowledge. And the present moment is quite favourable for such an undertaking. Classical Physics has learned to criticize its own foundations. As a result of this criticism the kind of materialism, which it originally necessitated, is rapidly disappearing; and the day is not far off when Religion and Science may discover hitherto unsuspected mutual harmonies. 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.
Knowledge and Religious Experience
What is the character and general structure of the universe in which we live? Is there a permanent element in the constitution of this universe? How are we related to it? What place do we occupy in it, and what is the kind of conduct that befits the place we occupy? These questions are common to religion, philo-sophy, and higher poetry. But the kind of knowledge that poetic inspiration brings is essentially individual in its character; it is figurative, vague, and indefinite. Religion, in its more advanced forms, rises higher than poetry. It moves from individual to society. In its attitude towards the Ultimate Reality it is opposed to the limitations of man; it enlarges his claims and holds out the prospect of nothing less than a direct vision of Reality. Is it then possible to apply the purely rational method of philosophy to religion? The spirit of philosophy is one of free inquiry. It suspects all authority. Its function is to trace the uncritical assumptions of human thought to their hiding places, and in this pursuit it may finally end in denial or a frank admission of the incapacity of pure reason to reach the Ultimate Reality. The essence of religion, on the other hand, is faith; and faith, like the bird, sees its “trackless way” unattended by intellect which, in the words of the great mystic poet of Islam, “only waylays the living heart of man and robs it of the invisible wealth of life that lies within.” Yet it cannot be denied that faith is more than mere feeling. It has something like a cognitive content, and the existence of rival parties– scholastics and mystics– in the history of religion shows that idea is a vital element in religion. Apart from this, religion on its doctrinal side, as defined by Professor Whitehead, is “a system of general truths which have the effect of transforming character when they are sincerely held and vividly apprehended.” Now, since the transformation and guidance of man’s inner and outer life is the essential aim of religion, it is obvious that the general truths which it embodies must not remain unsettled. No one would hazard action on the basis of a doubtful principle of conduct. Indeed, in view of its function, religion stands in greater need of a rational foundation of its ultimate principles than even the dogmas of science. Science may ignore a rational metaphysics; indeed, it has ignored it so far. Religion can hardly afford to ignore the search for a reconciliation of the oppositions of experience and a justification of the environment in which humanity finds itself. That is why Professor Whitehead has acutely remarked that “the ages of faith are the ages of rationalism”. But to rationalize faith is not to admit the superiority of philosophy over religion. Philosophy, no doubt, has jurisdiction to judge religion, but what is to be judged is of such a nature that it will not submit to the jurisdiction of philosophy except on its own terms. While sitting in judgement on religion, philosophy cannot give religion an inferior place among its data. Religion is not a departmental affair; it is neither mere thought, nor mere feeling, nor mere action; it is an expression of the whole man. Thus, in the evaluation of religion, philosophy must recognize the central position of religion and has no other alternative but to admit it as something focal in the process of reflective synthesis. Nor is there any reason to suppose that thought and intuition are essentially opposed to each other. They spring up from the same root and complement each other. The one grasps Reality piecemeal, the other grasps it in its wholeness. The one fixes its gaze on the eternal, the other on the temporal aspect of Reality. The one is present enjoyment of the whole of Reality; the other aims at traversing the whole by slowly specifying and closing up the various regions of the whole for exclusive observation. Both are in need of each other for mutual rejuvenation. Both seek visions of the same Reality which reveals itself to them in accordance with their function in life. In fact, intuition, as Bergson rightly says, is only a higher kind of intellect.
The search for rational foundations in Islam may be regarded to have begun with the Prophet himself. His constant prayer was: “God! grant me knowledge of the ultimate nature of things!” The work of later mystics and non-mystic rationalists forms an exceedingly instructive chapter in the history of our culture, inasmuch as it reveals a longing for a coherent system of ideas, a spirit of whole-hearted devotion to truth, as well as the limitations of the age, which rendered the various theological movements in Islam less fruitful than they might have been in a different age. As we all know, Greek philosophy has been a great cultural force in the history of Islam. Yet a careful study of the Qur’an and the various schools of scholastic theology that arose under the inspiration of Greek thought disclose the remarkable fact that while Greek philosophy very much broadened the outlook of Muslim thinkers, it, on the whole, obscured their vision of the Qur’an. Socrates concentrated his attention on the human world alone. To him the proper study of man was man and not the world of plants, insects, and stars. How unlike the spirit of the Qur’an, which sees in the humble bee a recipient of Divine inspiration and constantly calls upon the reader to observe the perpetual change of the winds, the alternation of day and night, the clouds, the starry heavens, and the planets swimming through infinite space! As a true disciple of Socrates, Plato despised sense-perception which, in his view, yielded mere opinion and no real knowledge. How unlike the Qur’an, which regards “hearing” and “sight” as the most valuable Divine gifts and declares them to be accountable to God for their activity in this world. This is what the earlier Muslim students of the Qur’an completely missed under the spell of classical speculation. They read the Qur’an in the light of Greek thought. It took them over two hundred years to perceive– though not quite clearly–that the spirit of the Qur’an was essentially anti-classical, and the result of this perception was a kind of intellectual revolt, the full significance of which has not been realized even up to the present day. It was partly owing to this revolt and partly to his personal history that Ghazālī based religion on philosophical scepticism– a rather unsafe basis for religion and not wholly justified by the spirit of the Qur’an. Ghazālī’s chief opponent, Ibn Rushd, who defended Greek philosophy against the rebels, was led, through Aristotle, to what is known as the doctrine of Immortality of Active Intellect, a doctrine which once wielded enormous influence on the intellectual life of France and Italy, but which, to my mind, is entirely opposed to the view that the Qur’an takes of the value and destiny of the human ego. Thus Ibn Rushd lost sight of a great and fruitful idea in Islam and unwittingly helped the growth of that enervating philosophy of life which obscures man’s vision of himself, his God, and his world. The more constructive among the Ash‘arite thinkers were no doubt on the right path and anticipated some of the more modern forms of Idealism; yet, on the whole, the object of the Ash‘arite movement was simply to defend orthodox opinion with the weapons of Greek dialectic. The Mu‘tazilah, conceiving religion merely as a body of doctrines and ignoring it as a vital fact, took no notice of non-conceptual modes of approaching Reality and reduced religion to a mere system of logical concepts ending in a purely negative attitude. They failed to see that in the domain of knowledge– scientific or religious– complete independence of thought from concrete experience is not possible.
It cannot, however, be denied that
Ghazālī’s mission was almost apostolic like that of Kant in
During the last five hundred years
religious thought in Islam has been practically stationary. There was a time
when European thought received inspiration from the world of Islam. The most
remarkable phenomenon of modern history, however, is the enormous rapidity with
which the world of Islam is spiritually moving towards the West. There is
nothing wrong in this movement, for European culture, on its intellectual side,
is only a further development of some of the most important phases of the
culture of Islam. Our only fear is that the dazzling exterior of European culture
may arrest our movement and we may fail to reach the true inwardness of that
culture. During all the centuries of our intellectual stupor
The main purpose of the Qur’an is to awaken in man the higher consciousness of his manifold relations with God and the universe. It is in view of this essential aspect of the Qur’anic teaching that Goethe, while making a general review of Islam as an educational force, said to Eckermann: “You see this teaching never fails; with all our systems, we cannot go, and generally speaking no man can go, farther than that.” The problem of Islam was really suggested by the mutual conflict, and at the same time mutual attraction, presented by the two forces of religion and civilization. The same problem confronted early Christianity. The great point in Christianity is the search for an independent content for spiritual life which, according to the insight of its founder, could be elevated, not by the forces of a world external to the soul of man, but by the revelation of a new world within his soul. Islam fully agrees with this insight and supplements it by the further insight that the illumination of the new world thus revealed is not something foreign to the world of matter but permeates it through and through.
Thus the affirmation of spirit sought by Christianity would come not by the renunciation of external forces which are already permeated by the illumination of spirit, but by a proper adjustment of man’s relation to these forces in view of the light received from the world within. It is the mysterious touch of the ideal that animates and sustains the real, and through it alone we can discover and affirm the ideal. With Islam the ideal and the real are not two opposing forces which cannot be reconciled. The life of the ideal consists, not in a total breach with the real which would tend to shatter the organic wholeness of life into painful oppositions, but in the perpetual endeavour of the ideal to appropriate the real with a view eventually to absorb it, to convert it into itself and illuminate its whole being. It is the sharp opposition between the subject and the object, the mathematical without and the biological within, that impressed Christianity. Islam, however, faces the opposition with a view to overcome it. This essential difference in looking at a fundamental relation determines the respective attitudes of these great religions towards the problem of human life in its present surroundings. Both demand the affirmation of the spiritual self in man, with this difference only that Islam, recognizing the contact of the ideal with the real, says “yes” to the world of matter and points the way to master it with a view to discover a basis for a realistic regulation of life.
What, then, according to the
Qur’an, is the character of the universe which we inhabit? In the first place,
it is not the result of a mere creative sport:
We have not created the Heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in sport. We have not created them but for a serious end: but the greater part of them understand it not.
It is a reality to be reckoned
Verily in the creation of the Heavens and of the earth, and in the succession of the night and of the day, are signs for men of understanding; who, standing and sitting and reclining, bear God in mind and reflect on the creation of the Heavens and of the earth, and say: “Oh, our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain (3: 190-91).
It is not a block universe, a
finished product, immobile and incapable of change. Deep in its inner being
lies, perhaps, the dream of a new birth:
Say– go through the earth and see how God hath brought forth all creation; hereafter will He give it another birth (29:20).
In fact, this mysterious swing and impulse of the universe, this noiseless swim of time which appears to us, human beings, as the movement of day and night, is regarded by the Qur’an as one of the greatest signs of God:
God causeth the day and the night to take their turn. Verily in this is teaching for men of insight (24: 44).
This is why the Prophet said: “Do
not vilify time, for time is God.” And this
immensity of time and space carries in it the promise of a complete subjugation
by man whose duty is to reflect on the signs of God, and thus discover the
means of realizing his conquest of Nature as an actual fact:
See ye not how God hath put under you all that is in the Heavens, and all that is on the earth, and hath been bounteous to you of His favours both in relation to the seen and the unseen? (31: 20).
And He hath subjected to you the night and the day, the sun and the moon, and the stars too are subject to you by His behest; verily in this are signs for those who understand. (16: 12).
Such being the nature and promise of the universe, what is the nature of man whom it confronts on all sides? Endowed with a most suitable mutual adjustment of faculties he discovers himself down below in the scale of life, surrounded on all sides by the forces of obstruction:
That of goodliest fabric We created man, then brought him down to the lowest of the low (95: 4-5).
And how do we find him in this environment? A “restless” being engrossed in his ideals to the point of forgetting everything else, capable of inflicting pain on himself in his ceaseless quest after fresh scopes for self-expression. With all his failings he is superior to Nature, inasmuch as he carries within him a great trust which, in the words of the Qur’an, the heavens and the earth and the mountains refused to carry:
Verily We proposed to the Heavens and to the earth and to the mountains to receive the trust (of personality), but they refused the burden and they feared to receive it. Man alone undertook to bear it, but hath proved unjust, senseless! (33: 72).
His career, no doubt, has a beginning, but he is destined, perhaps, to become a permanent element in the constitution of being:
Thinketh man that he shall be thrown away as an object of no use? Was he not a mere embryo? Then he became thick blood of which God formed him and fashioned him, and made him twain, male and female. Is not He powerful enough to quicken the dead? (75: 36-40).
When attracted by the forces
around him, man has the power to shape and direct them; when thwarted by them,
he has the capacity to build a much vaster world in the depths of his own inner
being, wherein he discovers sources of infinite joy and inspiration. Hard his
lot and frail his being, like a rose-leaf, yet no form of reality is so
powerful, so inspiring, and so beautiful as the spirit of man! Thus in his
inmost being man, as conceived by the Qur’an, is a creative activity, an
ascending spirit who, in his onward march, rises from one state of being to
But, Nay! I swear by the sunset’s redness and by the night and its gatherings and by the moon when at her full, that from state to state shall ye be surely carried onward (84: 16- 19).
It is the lot of man to share in
the deeper aspirations of the universe around him and to shape his own destiny
as well as that of the universe, now by adjusting himself to its forces, now by
putting the whole of his energy to mould its forces to his own ends and
purposes. And in this process of progressive change God becomes a co-worker
with him, provided man takes the initiative:
Verily God will not change the condition of men, till they change what is in themselves (13: 11).
If he does not take the initiative, if he does not evolve the inner richness of his being, if he ceases to feel the inward push of advancing life, then the spirit within him hardens into stone and he is reduced to the level of dead matter. But his life and the onward march of his spirit depend on the establishment of connexions with the reality that confronts him It is knowledge that establishes these connexions, and knowledge is sense-perception elaborated by understanding.
When thy Lord said to the Angels, “Verily I am about to place one in my stead on earth”, they said, “Wilt Thou place there one who will do ill and shed blood, when we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness?” God said, “Verily I know what ye know not!” And He taught Adam the names of all things, and then set them before the Angels, and said, “Tell me the names of these if ye are endowed with wisdom”. They said, “Praise be to Thee! We have no knowledge but what Thou hast given us to know. Thou art the Knowing, the Wise”. He said, “O Adam, inform them of the names”. And when he had informed them of the names, God said, “Did I not say to you that I know the hidden things of the Heavens and of the earth, and that I know what ye bring to light and what ye hide?” (2: 30-33).
The point of these verses is that
man is endowed with the faculty of naming things, that is to say, forming
concepts of them, and forming concepts of them is capturing them. Thus the
character of man’s knowledge is conceptual, and it is with the weapon of this
conceptual knowledge that man approaches the observable aspect of Reality. The
one noteworthy feature of the Qur’an is the emphasis that it lays on this
observable aspect of Reality. Let me quote here a few verses:
Assuredly, in the creation of the Heavens and of the earth; and in the alternation of night and day; and in the ships which pass through the sea with what is useful to man; and in the rain which God sendeth down from Heaven, giving life to the earth after its death, and scattering over it all kinds of cattle; and in the change of the winds, and in the clouds that are made to do service between the Heavens and the earth– are signs for those who “understand” (2:164).
And it is He Who hath ordained for you that ye may be guided thereby in the darkness of the land and of the sea! Clear have We made Our signs to “men of knowledge”. And it is He Who hath created you of one breath, and hath provided you an abode and resting place (in the womb). Clear have We made Our signs for “men of insight”! And it is He Who sendeth down rain from Heaven: and We bring forth by it the buds of all the plants and from them bring We forth the green foliage, and the close-growing grain, and palm trees with sheaths of clustering dates, and gardens of grapes, and the olive, and the pomegranate, like and unlike. Look you on their fruits when they ripen. Truly herein are signs unto people who believe (6: 97-99).
Hast thou not seen how thy Lord lengthens out the shadow? Had He pleased He had made it motionless. But We made the sun to be its guide; then draw it in unto Us with easy in drawing (25: 45-46).
Can they not look up to the clouds, how they are created; and to the Heaven how it is upraised; and to the mountains how they are rooted, and to the earth how it is outspread? (88: 17-20).
And among His signs are the creation of the Heavens and of the earth, and your variety of tongues and colours. Herein truly are signs for all men (30: 22).
No doubt, the immediate purpose of
the Qur’an in this reflective observation of Nature is to awaken in man the
consciousness of that of which Nature is regarded a symbol. But the point to
note is the general empirical attitude of the Qur’an which engendered in its
followers a feeling of reverence for the actual and ultimately made them the
founders of modern science. It was a great point to awaken the empirical spirit
in an age which renounced the visible as of no value in men’s search after God.
According to the Qur’an, as we have seen before, the universe has a serious
end. Its shifting actualities force our being into fresh formations. The intellectual
effort to overcome the obstruction offered by it, besides enriching and
amplifying our life, sharpens our insight, and thus prepares us for a more
masterful insertion into subtler aspects of human experience. It is our
reflective contact with the temporal flux of things which trains us for an
intellectual vision of the non-temporal. Reality lives in its own appearances;
and such a being as man, who has to maintain his life in an obstructing
environment, cannot afford to ignore the visible. The Qur’an opens our eyes to
the great fact of change, through the appreciation and control of which alone
it is possible to build a durable civilization. The cultures of
There is no doubt that the
treatment of religious experience, as a source of Divine knowledge, is historically
prior to the treatment of other regions of human experience for the same
purpose. The Qur’an, recognizing that the empirical attitude is an
indispensable stage in the spiritual life of humanity, attaches equal
importance to all the regions of human experience as yielding knowledge of the
Ultimate Reality which reveals its symbols both within and without. One indirect
way of establishing connexions with the reality that confronts us is
reflective observation and control of its symbols as they reveal themselves to
sense-perception; the other way is direct association with that reality as it
reveals itself within. The naturalism of the Qur’an is only a recognition of
the fact that man is related to nature, and this relation, in view of its
possibility as a means of controlling her forces, must be exploited not in the
interest of unrighteous desire for domination, but in the nobler interest of a
free upward movement of spiritual life. In the interests of securing a complete
vision of Reality, therefore, sense-perception must be supplemented by the
perception of what the Qur’an describes as Fu’ād or Qalb, i.e.
God hath made everything which He hath created most good; and began the creation of man with clay; then ordained his progeny from germs of life, from sorry water; then shaped him, and breathed of His spirit unto him, and gave you hearing and seeing and heart: what little thanks do ye return? (32: 7-9).
The “heart” is a kind of inner intuition or insight which, in the beautiful words of Rūmī, feeds on the rays of the sun and brings us into contact with aspects of Reality other than those open to sense-perception. It is, according to the Qur’an, something which “sees”, and its reports, if properly interpreted, are never false. We must not, however, regard it as a mysterious special faculty; it is rather a mode of dealing with Reality in which sensation, in the physiological sense of the word, does not play any part. Yet the vista of experience thus opened to us is as real and concrete as any other experience. To describe it as psychic, mystical, or supernatural does not detract from its value as experience. To the primitive man all experience was super-natural. Prompted by the immediate necessities of life he was driven to interpret his experience, and out of this interpretation gradually emerged “Nature” in our sense of the word. The total-Reality, which enters our awareness and appears on interpretation as an empirical fact, has other ways of invading our consciousness and offers further opportunities of interpretation. The revealed and mystic literature of mankind bears ample testimony to the fact that religious experience has been too enduring and dominant in the history of mankind to be rejected as mere illusion. There seems to be no reason, then, to accept the normal level of human experience as fact and reject its other levels as mystical and emotional. The facts of religious experience are facts among other facts of human experience and, in the capacity of yielding knowledge by interpretation, one fact is as good as another. Nor is there anything irreverent in critically examining this region of human experience. The Prophet of Islam was the first critical observer of psychic phenomena. Bukhārī and other traditionists have given us a full account of his observation of the psychic Jewish youth, Ibn Sayyād, whose ecstatic moods attracted the Prophet’s notice. He tested him, questioned him, and examined him in his various moods. Once he hid himself behind the stem of a tree to listen to his mutterings. The boy’s mother, however, warned him of the approach of the Prophet. Thereupon the boy immediately shook off his mood and the Prophet remarked: “If she had let him alone the thing would have been cleared up.” The Prophet’s companions, some of whom were present during the course of this first psychological observation in the history of Islam, and even later traditionists, who took good care to record this important fact, entirely misunderstood the significance of his attitude and interpreted it in their own innocent manner. Professor Macdonald, who seems to have no idea of the fundamental psychological difference between the mystic and the prophetic consciousness, finds “humour enough in this picture of one prophet trying to investigate another after the method of the Society for Psychical Research.” A better appreciation of the spirit of the Qur’an which, as I will show in a subsequent lecture, initiated the cultural movement terminating in the birth of the modern empirical attitude, would have led the Professor to see something remarkably suggestive in the Prophet’s observation of the psychic Jew. However, the first Muslim to see the meaning and value of the Prophet’s attitude was Ibn Khaldūn, who approached the content of mystic consciousness in a more critical spirit and very nearly reached the modern hypothesis of subliminal selves. As Professor Macdonald says, Ibn Khaldūn “had some most interesting psychological ideas, and that he would probably have been in close sympathy with Mr. William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience.” Modern psychology has only recently begun to realize the importance of a careful study of the contents of mystic consciousness, and we are not yet in possession of a really effective scientific method to analyze the contents of non-rational modes of consciousness. With the time at my disposal it is not possible to undertake an extensive inquiry into the history and the various degrees of mystic consciousness in point of richness and vividness. All that I can do is to offer a few general observations only on the main characteristics of mystic experience.
1. The first point to note is the immediacy of this experience. In this respect it does not differ from other levels of human experience which supply data for knowledge. All experience is immediate. As regions of normal experience are subject to interpretation of sense-data for our knowledge of the external world, so the region of mystic experience is subject to interpretation for our knowledge of God. The immediacy of mystic experience simply means that we know God just as we know other objects. God is not a mathematical entity or a system of concepts mutually related to one another and having no reference to experience.
2. The second point is the unanalysable wholeness of mystic experience. When I experience the table before me, innumerable data of experience merge into the single experience of the table. Out of this wealth of data I select those that fall into a certain order of space and time and round them off in reference to the table. In the mystic state, however vivid and rich it may be, thought is reduced to a minimum and such an analysis is not possible. But this difference of the mystic state from the ordinary rational consciousness does not mean discontinuance with the normal consciousness, as Professor William James erroneously thought. In either case it is the same Reality which is operating on us. The ordinary rational consciousness, in view of our practical need of adaptation to our environment, takes that Reality piecemeal, selecting successively isolated sets of stimuli for response. The mystic state brings us into contact with the total passage of Reality in which all the diverse stimuli merge into one another and form a single unanalysable unity in which the ordinary distinction of subject and object does not exist.
3. The third point to note is that to the mystic the mystic state is a moment of intimate association with a Unique Other Self, transcending, encompassing, and momentarily suppressing the private personality of the subject of experience. Considering its content the mystic state is highly objective and cannot be regarded as a mere retirement into the mists of pure subjectivity. But you will ask me how immediate experience of God, as an Independent Other Self, is at all possible. The mere fact that the mystic state is passive does not finally prove the veritable “otherness” of the Self experienced. This question arises in the mind because we assume, without criticism, that our knowledge of the external world through sense-perception is the type of all knowledge. If this were so, we could never be sure of the reality of our own self. However, in reply to it I suggest the analogy of our daily social experience. How do we know other minds in our social intercourse? It is obvious that we know our own self and Nature by inner reflection and sense-perception respectively. We possess no sense for the experience of other minds. The only ground of my knowledge of a conscious being before me is the physical movements similar to my own from which I infer the presence of another conscious being. Or we may say, after Professor Royce, that our fellows are known to be real because they respond to our signals and thus constantly supply the necessary supplement to our own fragmentary meanings.
Response, no doubt, is the test of the presence of a conscious self, and the Qur’an also takes the same view:
And your Lord saith, call me
and I respond to your call (40: 60).
And when My servants ask thee concerning Me, then I am nigh unto them and answer the cry of him that crieth unto Me (2: 186).
It is clear that whether we apply the physical criterion or the non-physical and more adequate criterion of Royce, in either case our knowledge of other minds remains something like inferential only. Yet we feel that our experience of other minds is immediate and never entertain any doubt as to the reality of our social experience. I do not, however, mean, at the present stage of our inquiry, to build on the implications of our knowledge of other minds, an idealistic argument in favour of the reality of a Comprehensive Self. All that I mean to suggest is that the immediacy of our experience in the mystic state is not without a parallel. It has some sort of resemblance to our normal experience and probably belongs to the same category.
4. Since the quality of mystic experience is to be directly experienced, it is obvious that it cannot be communicated. Mystic states are more like feeling than thought. The interpretation which the mystic or the prophet puts on the content of his religious consciousness can be conveyed to others in the form of propositions, but the content itself cannot be so transmitted. Thus in the following verses of the Qur’an it is the psychology and not the content of the experience that is given:
It is not for man that God should speak to him, but by vision or from behind a veil; or He sendeth a messenger to reveal by His permission what He will: for He is Exalted, Wise (42: 51).
By the star when it setteth,
Your compatriot erreth not, nor is he led astray.
Neither speaketh he from mere impulse.
The Qur’an is no other than the revelation revealed to him:
One strong in power taught it him,
Endowed with wisdom with even balance stood he
In the highest part of the horizon: Then came he nearer and approached,
And was at the distance of two bows or even closer
And he revealed to the servant of God what he revealed:
His heart falsified not what he saw:
What! will ye then dispute with him as to what he saw?
He had seen him also another time
Near the Sidrah tree which marks the boundary:
Near which is the garden of repose:
When the Sidrah tree was covered with what covered it: His eye turned not aside, nor did it wander:
For he saw the greatest of the signs of the Lord (53: 1-18).
The incommunicability of mystic experience is due to the fact that it is essentially a matter of inarticulate feeling, untouched by discursive intellect. It must, however, be noted that mystic feeling, like all feeling, has a cognitive element also; and it is, I believe, because of this cognitive element that it lends itself to the form of idea. In fact, it is the nature of feeling to seek expression in thought. It would seem that the two– feeling and idea– are the non-temporal and temporal aspects of the same unit of inner experience. But on this point I cannot do better than quote Professor Hocking who has made a remarkably keen study of feeling in justification of an intellectual view of the content of religious consciousness:
What is that other-than-feeling in which feeling may end? I answer, consciousness of an object. Feeling is instability of an entire conscious self: and that which will restore the stability of this self lies not within its own border but beyond it. Feeling is outward-pushing, as idea is outward-reporting: and no feeling is so blind as to have no idea of its own object. As a feeling possesses the mind, there also possesses the mind, as an integral part of that feeling, some idea of the kind of thing which will bring it to rest. A feeling without a direction is as impossible as an activity without a direction: and a direction implies some objective. There are vague states of consciousness in which we seem to be wholly without direction; but in such cases it is remarkable that feeling is likewise in abeyance. For example, I may be dazed by a blow, neither realizing what has happened nor suffering any pain, and yet quite conscious that something has occurred: the experience waits an instant in the vestibule of consciousness, not as feeling but purely as fact, until idea has touched it and defined a course of response. At that same moment, it is felt as painful. If we are right, feeling is quite as much an objective consciousness as is idea: it refers always to something beyond the present self and has no existence save in directing the self toward that object in whose presence its own career must end!
Thus you will see that it is because of this essential nature of feeling that while religion starts with feeling, it has never, in its history, taken itself as a matter of feeling alone and has constantly striven after metaphysics. The mystic’s condemnation of intellect as an organ of knowledge does not really find any justification in the history of religion. But Professor Hocking’s passage just quoted has a wider scope than mere justification of idea in religion. The organic relation of feeling and idea throws light on the old theological controversy about verbal revelation which once gave so much trouble to Muslim religious thinkers. Inarticulate feeling seeks to fulfil its destiny in idea which, in its turn, tends to develop out of itself its own visible garment. It is no mere metaphor to say that idea and word both simultaneously emerge out of the womb of feeling, though logical understanding cannot but take them in a temporal order and thus create its own difficulty by regarding them as mutually isolated. There is a sense in which the word is also revealed.
5. The mystic’s intimate association with the eternal which gives him a sense of the unreality of serial time does not mean a complete break with serial time. The mystic state, in respect of its uniqueness, remains in some way related to common experience. This is clear from the fact that the mystic state soon fades away, though it leaves a deep sense of authority after it has passed away. Both the mystic and the prophet return to the normal levels of experience, but with this difference that the return of the prophet, as I will show later, may be fraught with infinite meaning for mankind.
For the purposes of knowledge, then, the region of mystic experience is as real as any other region of human experience and cannot be ignored merely because it cannot be traced back to sense-perception. Nor is it possible to undo the spiritual value of the mystic state by specifying the organic conditions which appear to determine it. Even if the postulate of modern psychology as to the interrelation of body and mind is assumed to be true, it is illogical to discredit the value of the mystic state as a revelation of truth. Psychologically speaking, all states, whether their content is religious or non-religious, are organically determined. The scientific form of mind is as much organically determined as the religious. Our judgement as to the creations of genius is not at all determined or even remotely affected by what our psychologists may say regarding its organic conditions. A certain kind of temperament may be a necessary condition for a certain kind of receptivity; but the antecedent condition cannot be regarded as the whole truth about the character of what is received. The truth is that the organic causation of our mental states has nothing to do with the criteria by which we judge them to be superior or inferior in point of value. “Among the visions and messages”, says Professor William James,
some have always been too patently silly, among the trances and convulsive seizures some have been too fruitless for conduct and character, to pass themselves off as significant, still less as divine. In the history of Christian mysticism the problem how to discriminate between such messages and experiences as were really divine miracles, and such others as the demon in his malice was able to counterfeit, thus making the religious person twofold more the child of hell he was before, has always been a difficult one to solve, needing all the sagacity and experience of the best directors of conscience. In the end it had come to our empiricist criterion: By their fruits ye shall know them, not by their roots.
The problem of Christian mysticism alluded to by Professor James has been in fact the problem of all mysticism. The demon in his malice does counterfeit experiences which creep into the circuit of the mystic state. As we read in the Qur’an:
We have not sent any Apostle or Prophet before thee among whose desires Satan injected not some wrong desire, but God shall bring to naught that which Satan had suggested. Thus shall God affirm His revelations, for God is Knowing and Wise (22: 52).
And it is in the elimination of the satanic from the Divine that the followers of Freud have done inestimable service to religion; though I cannot help saying that the main theory of this newer psychology does not appear to me to be supported by any adequate evidence. If our vagrant impulses assert themselves in our dreams, or at other times we are not strictly ourselves, it does not follow that they remain imprisoned in a kind of lumber room behind the normal self. The occasional invasion of these suppressed impulses on the region of our normal self tends more to show the temporary disruption of our habitual system of responses rather than their perpetual presence in some dark corner of the mind. However, the theory is briefly this. During the process of our adjustment to our environment we are exposed to all sorts of stimuli. Our habitual responses to these stimuli gradually fall into a relatively fixed system, constantly growing in complexity by absorbing some and rejecting other impulses which do not fit in with our permanent system of responses. The rejected impulses recede into what is called the “unconscious region” of the mind, and there wait for a suitable opportunity to assert themselves and take their revenge on the focal self. They may disturb our plans of action, distort our thought, build our dreams and phantasies, or carry us back to forms of primitive behaviour which the evolutionary process has left far behind. Religion, it is said, is a pure fiction created by these repudiated impulses of mankind with a view to find a kind of fairyland for free unobstructed movement. Religious beliefs and dogmas, according to the theory, are no more than merely primitive theories of Nature, whereby mankind has tried to redeem Reality from its elemental ugliness and to show it off as something nearer to the heart’s desire than the facts of life would warrant. That there are religions and forms of art, which provide a kind of cowardly escape from the facts of life, I do not deny. All that I contend is that this is not true of all religions. No doubt, religious beliefs and dogmas have a metaphysical significance; but it is obvious that they are not interpretations of those data of experience which are the subject of the sciences of Nature. Religion is not physics or chemistry seeking an explanation of Nature in terms of causation; it really aims at interpreting a totally different region of human experience– religious experience– the data of which cannot be reduced to the data of any other science. In fact, it must be said in justice to religion that it insisted on the necessity of concrete experience in religious life long before science learnt to do so. The conflict between the two is due not to the fact that the one is, and the other is not, based on concrete experience. Both seek concrete experience as a point of departure. Their conflict is due to the misapprehension that both interpret the same data of experience. We forget that religion aims at reaching the real significance of a special variety of human experience.
Nor is it possible to explain away the content of religious consciousness by attributing the whole thing to the working of the sex-impulse. The two forms of consciousness– sexual and religious– are often hostile or, at any rate, completely different to each other in point of their character, their aim, and the kind of conduct they generate. The truth is that in a state of religious passion we know a factual reality in some sense outside the narrow circuit of our personality. To the psychologist religious passion necessarily appears as the work of the subconscious because of the intensity with which it shakes up the depths of our being. In all knowledge there is an element of passion, and the object of knowledge gains or loses in objectivity with the rise and fall in the intensity of passion. That is most real to us which stirs up the entire fabric of our personality. As Professor Hocking pointedly puts it:
If ever upon the stupid day-length time-span of any self or saint either, some vision breaks to roll his life and ours into new channels, it can only be because that vision admits into his soul some trooping invasion of the concrete fullness of eternity. Such vision doubtless means subconscious readiness and subconscious resonance too,– but the expansion of the unused air-cells does not argue that we have ceased to breathe the outer air:– thevery opposite!
A purely psychological method, therefore, cannot explain religious passion as a form of knowledge. It is bound to fail in the case of our newer psychologists as it did fail in the case of Locke and Hume.
The foregoing discussion, however, is sure to raise an important question in your mind. Religious experience, I have tried to maintain, is essentially a state of feeling with a cognitive aspect, the content of which cannot be communicated to others, except in the form of a judgement. Now when a judgement which claims to be the interpretation of a certain region of human experience, not accessible to me, is placed before me for my assent, I am entitled to ask, what is the guarantee of its truth? Are we in possession of a test which would reveal its validity? If personal experience had been the only ground for acceptance of a judgement of this kind, religion would have been the possession of a few individuals only. Happily we are in possession of tests which do not differ from those applicable to other forms of knowledge. These I call the intellectual test and the pragmatic test. By the intellectual test I mean critical interpretation, without any presuppositions of human experience, generally with a view to discover whether our interpretation leads us ultimately to a reality of the same character as is revealed by religious experience. The pragmatic test judges it by its fruits. The former is applied by the philosopher, the latter by the prophet. In the lecture that follows, I will apply the intellectual test.
Reference here is to the following verse from the mystical allegorical work: Mantiq al-Tair (p. 243, verse, 5), generally considered the magnum opus of one of the greatest Sufi poets and thinkers, Farīd al-Dīn ‘Attār (d. c. 618/1220). Also available in English translation, see, Peter Avery, Speech of the Birds, Islamic Text Society, Cambridge, England, 2004. The verse reads as follows:
لیک آں علم جدل چوں رہ زند
بیشتر بر مردم آگہ زند
Allahumma arinā haqā’iq al-ashyā’i kamā hiya, a tradition, though not cited in the six canonical Hadith Collections, is to be found in the well-known Sufi works in one form or other, for example, ‘Ali b. ‘Uthmān al-Hujwīri (d. c. 465/1072), Kashf al-Mahjūb, p. 166; Mawlānā Jalāl al-Din Rūmī (d. 672/1273), Mathnawī-i Ma‘nawī, ii, 466-67; iv, 3567-68; v, 1765; Mahmūd Sbahistarī (d. 720/1320), Gulshan-i Rāz, verse 200, and ‘Abd al-Rahmān Jāmī (d. 898/1492), Lawā’ih, p. 3.
Ibid., 17: 36. References here as also at other places in the Lectures to a dozen Qur’anic verses in two sentences bespeak of what is uppermost in Allama Iqbal’s mind, i.e. Qur’anic empiricism which by its very nature gives rise to a Weltanschauung of the highest religious order. He tells us, for example, that the general empirical attitude of the Qur’an engenders a feeling of reverence for the actual and that one way of entering into relation with Reality is through reflective observation and control of its perceptually revealed symbols (cf. below, pp. 11-12, italics mine; also Lecture V, p. 102, note 9).
Cf. R. A. Tsanoff, The Problem of Immortality, pp. 75-77, and B. H. Zedler, ‘Averroes and Immortality’, New Scholasticism (1954), pp. 436-53. It is to be noted that Tsanoff marshals the views of S. Munk (Melanges de philosophie, pp. 454 ff.), E. Rénan (Averröes et l’ averroisme, pp. 152, 158), A. Stockl (Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, II, 117, 119), de Boer (Geschichte der Philosophie, p. 173) and M. Horten (Die Hauptlehren des Averroes, pp. 244 ff.) as against those of Carra de Vaux as presented by him in his work Avicenne, pp. 233 ff., as well as in the article: ‘Averroes’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, II, 264-65, and clinches the matter thus: “certainly– and this is more significant for our purpose– it was as a denier of personal immortality that scholasticism received and criticised Averroes” (p. 77, lines, 16-19). For a recent and more balanced view of Ibn Rushd’s doctrine of immortality, cf. Roger Arnaldez and A. Z. Iskander, ‘Ibn Rushd’, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, XII, 7a-7b.
This comes quite close to the contemporary French philosopher Louis Rougier’s statement in his Philosophy and the New Physics, p. 146, lines. 17-21. This work, listed at S. No. 15 in the Descriptive Catalogue of Allama Iqbal’s Personal Library, is cited in Lecture III, p. 59.
Reference here is to
Tevfik Fikret, pseudonym of Mehmed Tevfik, also known as Tevfik Nazmī, and
not to Tawfik Fitrat as it got printed in the previous editions of the present
work. Fikret, widely considered the founder of the modern
It is for Turkish-Persian scholars to determine the extent to which Fikret made use of the great poet-thinker Bedil (d. 1133/1721) for “the anti-religious and especially anti-Islamic propaganda in
The Qur’an criticises
monasticism; see 57: 27; 2: 201 and 28: 77. Cf. also L. A. Sherwani, (Ed.), Speeches,
Writings and Statements of Iqbal,
Qur’an, 44: 38-39. There are many verses of the Qur’an wherein it has been maintained that the universe has not been created in sport (lā‘ibīn) or in vain (bātilan) but for a serious end or with truth (bi ’l-haqq). These are respectively: (a) 21: 16 (b) 3: 191; 38: 27 (c) 10: 5; 14: 19: 15: 85: 16: 3; 29: 44; 30: 8; 39: 5; 45: 22; 46:3: and 64: 3.
See also the Qur’anic verse 51: 47 wherein the phrase innā la-mūsi‘ūn has been interpreted to clearly foreshadow the modern notion of the “expanding universe” (cf. M. Asad, The Message of the Qur’an, p. 805, note 31).
Reference here is in
particular to the Prophetic tradition worded as: lā tasubbu ’l-dahr fa
inn Allāh huwa ’l-dahr, (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, V, 299
and 311). Cf. also Bukhārī, Sahīh, ‘Tafsīr’; 45;
‘Tawhīd’ 35; ‘Ādāb’ 101; and Muslim, Sahīh,
‘Alfaz’ 2-4; for other variants of the hadīth see, Sahīfa
Hammām Ibn Munabbih (ed. Dr. M. Hamidullah), hadīth 117, gives
one of its earliest recorded texts.
In an exceedingly important section captioned Al-Waqtu Saifun (Time is a Sword) of his celebrated Asrār-i Khudī (Secrets of the Self), Allama Iqbal has referred to the above hadīth thus:
زندگی از دہر و دہر از زندگی است
"لا تسبوا الدھر" فرمانِ نبیؐ است
Life is of Time and Time is of Life;
‘Do not abuse Time!’ was the command of the
This is very close to the
language of the Qur’an which speaks of the hardening of the hearts, so that
they were like rocks: see 2: 74, 5: 13; 6: 43; 39: 22; and 57: 16.
This shows that Allama Iqbal, through his keenly perceptive study of the Qur’an, had psychically assimilated both its meanings and its diction so much so that many of his visions, very largely found in his poetical works, may be said to be born of this rare assimilation; cf. Dr. Ghulām Mustafā Khan’s voluminous Iqbāl aur Qur’an (Urdu), Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, 1994. Also see Hāmid Saeed Akhtar, “Qur’ān aur Iqbāl”, Iqbāliyāt, Journal of the Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, Vol. 43, No. 1, 2002, pp. 17-28; T. H. Tanūlī, “Fikr i Iqbāl aur Fehm i Qur’ān kī Jihāt”, Iqbāliyāt, Vol. 48, No. 2, 2007, pp. 75-94.
حسِ ابدان قوت ظلمت می خُورد
حسِ جان از آفتابے می چرد
The bodily sense is eating the food of darkness
The spiritual sense is feeding from a sun.
Cf. Bukhārī, Sahīh, ‘Janā’iz’, 79, ‘Shahādah’ 3, ‘Jihad’, 160, 178; Muslim, Sahīh, ‘Fitan’, 95-96. D. J. Halperin’s article: ‘The Ibn Sayyād Traditions and the Legend of al-Dajjal’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, XCII/ii (1976), 213-25, gives an atomistic analytic account of the Hadīth narratives listed by him.
In Arabic: law taraktuhu bayyana, an invariable part of the text of a number of Hadīth accounts about Ibn Sayyād; cf. D. B. Macdonald, The Religious Attitude and Life in Islam, pp. 35 ff.; this book, which represents Macdonald’s reputed Haskell Lectures on Comparative Religion at Chicago University in 1906, seems to have attracted Allama’s attention in the present discussion. Also see Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah, trans. Rosenthall, Vol. III, Section vi, Discourse: ‘The Science of Sufism’; D. B. Macdonald, Religious Attitude and Life in Islam, pp. 165-74, and M. Syrier, ‘Ibn Khaldūn and Mysticism’, Islamic Culture, XXI/ii(1947), 264-302.
The term ‘subliminal self’ was coined by F. W. H. Myers in the 1890’s which soon became popular in ‘religious psychology’ to designate what was believed to be the larger portion of the self lying beyond the level of consciousness yet constantly influencing thought and behaviour as in para-psychic phenomena. With William James the concept of subliminal self came to stand for the area of human experience in which contact with the Divine Life may occur (cf. The Varieties of Religious Experience, pp. 511-15).
W. E. Hocking, The Meaning of God in Human Experience, p. 66. It is important to note here that according to Richard C. Gilman this concept of the inextricable union of idea and feeling is ‘the source of the strong strain of mysticism in Hocking’s philosophy, but it is a mysticism which does not abandon the role of intellect in clarifying and correcting intuition; cf. article: ‘Hocking, William Ernest’, Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, IV, 47 (italics mine).
Reference here perhaps is to the hot and long-drawn controversy between the Mu‘tazilites (early Muslim rationalists) and the Ash‘arties (the orthodox scholastics) on the issue of Khalq al-Qur’an, i.e. the createdness or the eternity of the Qur’an; for which see Lecture VI, note 9. The context of the passage, however, strongly suggests that Allama Iqbal means to refer here to the common orthodox belief that the text of the Qur’an is verbally revealed, i.e. the ‘word’ is as much revealed as the ‘meaning’. This has perhaps never been controverted and rarely if ever discussed in the history of Muslim theology– one notable instance of its discussion is that by Shāh Walī Allah in Sata‘āt and Fuyūd al-Haramain. Nevertheless, it is significant to note that there is some analogical empirical evidence in Allama’s personal life in support of the orthodox belief in verbal revelation. Once asked by Professor Lucas, Principal of a local college, in a private discourse, whether, despite his vast learning, he too subscribed to belief in verbal revelation, Allama immediately replied that it was not a matter of belief with him but a veritable personal experience for it was thus, he added, he composed his poems under the spells of poetic inspiration– surely, Prophetic revelations are far more exalted. Cf. ‘Abdul Majīd Sālik, Dhikr-i Iqbāl, pp. 244-45 and Faqīr Sayyid Wahīd-ud-Dīn, Rūzgār-i Faqīr, pp. 38-39. After Allama’s epoch-making Mathnawī: Asrār-i Khudī (Secrets of the Self) was published in 1915 and it had given rise to some bitter controversy because of his critique of Persianate Sufism and the great Hāfiz, he in a letter dated 14 April 1916 addressed to Maharāja Kishen Parshād Shād confided strictly in a personal way: ‘I did not compose the mathnawi myself; I was made to (guided to), to do so’; cf. M. ‘Abdullah Quraishī, ‘Nawādir-i Iqbāl’ (Ghair Matbu‘ah Khutut)’, Sahīfah, Bazm i Iqbal, Lahore, ‘Special Iqbal Issue’ (October 1973), Letter No. 41, p. 168.
The designation ‘apostle’ (rasūl) is applied to bearers of divine revelations which embody a new doctrinal system or dispensation; a ‘prophet’ (nabī), on the other hand, is said to be one whom God has entrusted with enunciation and elucidation of ethical principles on the basis of an already existing dispensation, or of principles common to all dispensations. Hence, every apostle is a prophet as well, but every prophet is not an apostle.
The Philosophic Test of the Revelations of Religious Experience
Scholastic philosophy has put forward three arguments for the existence of God. These arguments, known as the Cosmological, the Teleological, and the Ontological, embody a real movement of thought in its quest after the Absolute. But regarded as logical proofs, I am afraid; they are open to serious criticism and further betray a rather superficial interpretation of experience.
The cosmological argument views the world as a finite effect, and passing through a series of dependent sequences, related as causes and effects, stops at an uncaused first cause, because of the unthinkability of an infinite regress. It is, however, obvious that a finite effect can give only a finite cause, or at most an infinite series of such causes. To finish the series at a certain point, and to elevate one member of the series to the dignity of an uncaused first cause, is to set at naught the very law of causation on which the whole argument proceeds. Further, the first cause reached by the argument necessarily excludes its effect. And this means that the effect, constituting a limit to its own cause, reduces it to something finite. Again, the cause reached by the argument cannot be regarded as a necessary being for the obvious reason that in the relation of cause and effect the two terms of the relation are equally necessary to each other. Nor is the necessity of existence identical with the conceptual necessity of causation which is the utmost that this argument can prove. The argument really tries to reach the infinite by merely negating the finite. But the infinite reached by contradicting the finite is a false infinite, which neither explains itself nor the finite which is thus made to stand in opposition to the infinite. The true infinite does not exclude the finite; it embraces the finite without effacing its finitude, and explains and justifies its being. Logically speaking, then, the movement from the finite to the infinite as embodied in the cosmological argument is quite illegitimate; and the argument fails in toto. The teleological argument is no better. It scrutinizes the effect with a view to discover the character of its cause. From the traces of foresight, purpose, and adaptation in nature, it infers the existence of a self-conscious being of infinite intelligence and power. At best, it gives, us a skilful external contriver working on a pre-existing dead and intractable material the elements of which are, by their own nature, incapable of orderly structures and combinations. The argument gives us a contriver only and not a creator; and even if we suppose him to be also the creator of his material, it does no credit to his wisdom to create his own difficulties by first creating intractable material, and then overcoming its resistance by the application of methods alien to its original nature. The designer regarded as external to his material must always remain limited by his material, and hence a finite designer whose limited resources compel him to overcome his difficulties after the fashion of a human mechanician. The truth is that the analogy on which the argument proceeds is of no value at all. There is really no analogy between the work of the human artificer and the phenomena of Nature. The human artificer cannot work out his plan except by selecting and isolating his materials from their natural relations and situations. Nature, however, constitutes a system of wholly interdependent members; her processes present no analogy to the architect’s work which, depending on a progressive isolation and integration of its material, can offer no resemblance to the evolution of organic wholes in Nature. The ontological argument which has been presented in various forms by various thinkers has always appealed most to the speculative mind. The Cartesian form of the argument runs thus:
To say that an attribute is contained in the nature or in the concept of a thing is the same as to say that the attribute is true of this thing and that it may be affirmed to be in it. But necessary existence is contained in the nature or the concept of God. Hence it may be with truth affirmed that necessary existence is in God, or that God exists.
Descartes supplements this argument by another. We have the idea of a perfect being in our mind. What is the source of the idea? It cannot come from Nature, for Nature exhibits nothing but change. It cannot create the idea of a perfect being. Therefore, corresponding to the idea in our mind, there must be an objective counterpart which is the cause of the idea of a perfect being in our mind. This argument is somewhat of the nature of the cosmological argument which I have already criticized. But whatever may be the form of the argument, it is clear that the conception of existence is no proof of objective existence. As in Kant’s criticism of this argument the notion of three hundred dollars in my mind cannot prove that I have them in my pocket. All that the argument proves is that the idea of a perfect being includes the idea of his existence. Between the idea of a perfect being in my mind and the objective reality of that being there is a gulf which cannot be bridged over by a transcendental act of thought. The argument, as stated, is in fact a petitio principii: for it takes for granted the very point in question, i.e. the transition from the logical to the real. I hope I have made it clear to you that the ontological and the teleological arguments, as ordinarily stated, carry us nowhere. And the reason of their failure is that they look upon “thought” as an agency working on things from without. This view of thought gives us a mere mechanician in the one case, and creates an unbridgeable gulf between the ideal and the real in the other. It is, however, possible to take thought not as a principle which organizes and integrates its material from the outside, but as a potency which is formative of the very being of its material. Thus regarded thought or idea is not alien to the original nature of things; it is their ultimate ground and constitutes the very essence of their being, infusing itself in them from the very beginning of their career and inspiring their onward march to a self-determined end. But our present situation necessitates the dualism of thought and being. Every act of human knowledge bifurcates what might on proper inquiry turn out to be a unity into a self that knows and a confronting “other” that is known. That is why we are forced to regard the object that confronts the self as something existing in its own right, external to and independent of the self whose act of knowledge makes no difference to the object known. The true significance of the ontological and the teleological arguments will appear only if we are able to show that the human situation is not final and that thought and being are ultimately one. This is possible only if we carefully examine and interpret experience, following the clue furnished by the Qur’an which regards experience within and without as symbolic of a reality described by it, as “the First and the Last, the Visible and the Invisible.” This I propose to do in the present lecture.
Now experience, as unfolding itself in time, presents three main levels– the level of matter, the level of life, and the level of mind and consciousness– the subject-matter of physics, biology, and psychology, respectively. Let us first turn our attention to matter. In order exactly to appreciate the position of modern physics it is necessary to understand clearly what we mean by matter. Physics, as an empirical science, deals with the facts of experience, i.e. sense-experience. The physicist begins and ends with sensible phenomena, without which it is impossible for him to verify his theories. He may postulate imperceptible entities, such as atoms; but he does so because he cannot otherwise explain his sense-experience. Thus physics studies the material world, that is to say, the world revealed by the senses. The mental processes involved in this study, and similarly religious and aesthetic experience, though part of the total range of experience, are excluded from the scope of physics for the obvious reason that physics is restricted to the study of the material world, by which we mean the world of things we perceive. But when I ask you what are the things you perceive in the material world, you will, of course, mention the familiar things around you, e.g. earth, sky, mountains, chairs, tables, etc. When I further ask you what exactly you perceive of these things, you will answer– their qualities. It is clear that in answering such a question we are really putting an interpretation on the evidence of our senses. The interpretation consists in making a distinction between the thing and its qualities. This really amounts to a theory of matter, i.e. of the nature of sense-data, their relation to the perceiving mind and their ultimate causes. The substance of this theory is as follows:
The sense objects (colours, sounds, etc.) are states of the perceiver’s mind, and as such excluded from nature regarded as something objective. For this reason they cannot be in any proper sense qualities of physical things. When I say, “The sky is blue”, it can only mean that the sky produces a blue sensation in my mind, and not that the colour blue is a quality found in the sky. As mental states they are impressions, that is to say, they are effects produced in us. The cause of these effects is matter, or material things acting through our sense organs, nerves, and brain on our mind. This physical cause acts by contact or impact; hence it must possess the qualities of shape, size, solidity and resistance.
It was the philosopher Berkeley who first undertook to refute the theory of matter as the unknown cause of our sensations. In our own times Professor Whitehead– an eminent mathematician and scientist– has conclusively shown that the traditional theory of materialism is wholly untenable. It is obvious that, on the theory, colours, sounds, etc., are subjective states only, and form no part of Nature. What enters the eye and the ear is not colour or sound, but invisible ether waves and inaudible air waves. Nature is not what we know her to be; our perceptions are illusions and cannot be regarded as genuine disclosures of Nature, which, according to the theory, is bifurcated into mental impressions, on the one hand, and the unverifiable, imperceptible entities producing these impressions, on the other. If physics constitutes a really coherent and genuine knowledge of perceptively known objects, the traditional theory of matter must be rejected for the obvious reason that it reduces the evidence of our senses, on which alone the physicist, as observer and experimenter, must rely, to the mere impressions of the observer’s mind. Between Nature and the observer of Nature, the theory creates a gulf which he is compelled to bridge over by resorting to the doubtful hypothesis of an imperceptible something, occupying an absolute space like a thing in a receptacle and causing our sensation by some kind of impact. In the words of Professor Whitehead, the theory reduces one-half of Nature to a “dream” and the other half to a “conjecture”. Thus physics, finding it necessary to criticize its own foundations, has eventually found reason to break its own idol, and the empirical attitude which appeared to necessitate scientific materialism has finally ended in a revolt against matter. Since objects, then, are not subjective states caused by something imperceptible called matter, they are genuine phenomena which constitute the very substance of Nature and which we know as they are in Nature. But the concept of matter has received the greatest blow from the hand of Einstein– another eminent physicist, whose discoveries have laid the foundation of a far-reaching revolution in the entire domain of human thought. Mr. Russell says:
The theory of Relativity by merging time into space-time has damaged the traditional notion of substance more than all the arguments of the philosophers. Matter, for common sense, is something which persists in time and moves in space. But for modern relativity-physics this view is no longer tenable. A piece of matter has become not a persistent thing with varying states, but a system of inter-related events. The old solidity is gone, and with it the characteristics that to the materialist made matter seem more real than fleeting thoughts.
According to Professor Whitehead,
therefore, Nature is not a static fact situated in an a-dynamic void, but a structure
of events possessing the character of a continuous creative flow which thought
cuts up into isolated immobilities out of whose mutual relations arise the
concepts of space and time. Thus we see how modern science utters its agreement
Zeno asks how can you go from one position at one moment to the next position at the next moment without in the transition being at no position at no moment? The answer is that there is no next position to any position, no next moment to any moment because between any two there is always another. If there were, infinitesimals movement would be impossible, but there are none. Zeno therefore is right in saying that the arrow is at rest at every moment of its flight, wrong in inferring that therefore it does not move, for there is a one-one correspondence in a movement between the infinite series of positions and the infinite series of instants. According to this doctrine, then it is possible to affirm the reality of space, time, and movement, and yet avoid the paradox in Zeno’s arguments.
Thus Bertrand Russell proves the reality of movement on the basis of Cantor’s theory of continuity. The reality of movement means the independent reality of space and the objectivity of Nature. But the identity of continuity and the infinite divisibility of space is no solution of the difficulty. Assuming that there is a one-one correspondence between the infinite multiplicity of instants in a finite interval of time and an infinite multiplicity of points in a finite portion of space, the difficulty arising from the divisibility remains the same. The mathematical conception of continuity as infinite series applies not to movement regarded as an act, but rather to the picture of movement as viewed from the outside. The act of movement, i.e. movement as lived and not as thought, does not admit of any divisibility. The flight of the arrow observed as a passage in space is divisible, but its flight regarded as an act, apart from its realization in space, is one and incapable of partition into a multiplicity. In partition lies its destruction.
With Einstein space is real, but
relative to the observer. He rejects the Newtonian concept of an absolute
space. The object observed is variable; it is relative to the observer; its
mass, shape, and size change as the observer’s position and speed change.
Movement and rest, too, are relative to the observer. There is, therefore, no
such thing as a self-subsistent materiality of classical physics. It is,
however, necessary here to guard against a misunderstanding. The use of the
word “observer” in this connexion has misled Wildon Carr into the view that the
Theory of Relativity inevitably leads to Monadistic Idealism. It is true that according
to the theory the shapes, sizes, and durations of phenomena are not absolute.
But as Professor Nunn points out, the space-time frame does not depend on the
observer’s mind; it depends on the point of the material universe to which his body
isattached. In fact, the “observer” can be easily replaced by a recording
apparatus. Personally, I believe that the ultimate character of Reality is
spiritual: but in order to avoid a widespread misunder-standing it is necessary
to point out that Einstein’s theory, which, as a scientific theory, deals only
with the structure of things, throws no light on the ultimate nature of things
which possess that structure. The philosophical value of the theory is twofold.
First, it destroys, not the objectivity of Nature, but the view of substance as
simple location in space– a view which led to materialism in Classical Physics.
“Substance” for modern Relativity-Physics is not a persistent thing with
variable states, but a system of interrelated events. In Whitehead’s
presentation of the theory the notion of “matter” is entirely replaced by the
notion of “organism”. Secondly, the theory makes space dependent on matter. The
universe, according to Einstein, is not a kind of island in an infinite space;
it is finite but boundless; beyond it there is no empty space. In the absence
of matter the universe would shrink to a point. Looking, however, at the theory
from the standpoint that I have taken in these lectures, Einstein’s Relativity
presents one great difficulty, i.e. the unreality of time. A theory which takes
time to be a kind of fourth dimension of space must, it seems, regard the
future as something already given, as indubitably fixed as the past. Time as a free creative movement has no meaning for the theory.
It does not pass. Events do not happen; we simply meet them. It must not,
however, be forgotten that the theory neglects certain characteristics of time
as experienced by us; and it is not possible to say that the nature of time is
exhausted by the characteristics which the theory does note in the interests of
a systematic account of those aspects of Nature which can be mathematically
treated. Nor is it possible for us laymen to understand what the real nature of
Einstein’s time is. It is obvious that Einstein’s time is not Bergson’s pure
duration. Nor can we regard it as serial time. Serial time is the essence of
causality as defined by Kant. The cause and its effect are mutually so related
that the former is chronologically prior to the latter, so that if the former
is not, the latter cannot be. If mathematical time is serial time, then on the
basis of the theory it is possible, by a careful choice of the velocities of
the observer and the system in which a given set of events is happening, to
make the effect precede its cause. It appears to me that time regarded as a fourth dimension of
space really ceases to be time. A modern Russian writer, Ouspensky, in his book
called Tertium Organum, conceives the fourth dimension to be the
movement of a three-dimensional figure in a direction not contained in itself. Just as the movement of the point, the line and the surface in a
direction not contained in them gives us the ordinary three dimensions of
space, in the same way the movement of the three-dimensional figure in a
direction not contained in itself must give us the fourth dimension of space.
And since time is the distance separating events in order of succession
and binding them in different wholes, it is obviously a distance lying in
a direction not contained in the three-dimensional space. As a new dimension
this distance, separating events in the order of succession, is incommensurable
with the dimensions of three-dimensional space, as a year is incommensurable
Passing now to other levels of
experience– life and consciousness. Consciousness may be imagined as a
deflection from life. Its function is to provide a luminous point in order to
enlighten the forward rush of life. It is a case of tension, a state of self concentration, by means
of which life manages to shut out all memories and associations which have no
bearing on a present action. It has no well-defined fringes; it shrinks and
expands as the occasion demands. To describe it as an epiphenomenon of the
processes of matter is to deny it as an independent activity, and to deny it as
an independent activity is to deny the validity of all knowledge which is only
a systematized expression of consciousness. Thus consciousness is a variety of
the purely spiritual principle of life which is not a substance, but an
organizing principle, a specific mode of behaviour essentially different to the
behaviour of an externally worked machine. Since, however, we cannot conceive
of a purely spiritual energy, except in association with a definite combination
of sensible elements through which it reveals itself, we are apt to take this
combination as the ultimate ground of spiritual energy. The discoveries of
It is thus evident that although we find within the living body many phenomena which, so long as we do not look closely, can be interpreted satisfactorily as physical and chemical mechanism, there are side by side other phenomena [i.e. self-maintenance and reproduction] for which the possibility of such interpretation seems to be absent. The mechanists assume that the bodily mechanisms are so constructed as to maintain, repair, and reproduce themselves. In the long process of natural selection, mechanisms of this sort have, they suggest, been evolved gradually.
Let us examine this hypothesis. When we state an event in mechanical terms we state it as a necessary result of certain simple properties of separate parts which interact in the event.... The essence of the explanation or re-statement of the event is that after due investigation we have assumed that the parts interacting in the event have certain simple and definite properties, so that they always react in the same way under the same conditions. For a mechanical explanation the reacting parts must first be given. Unless an arrangement of parts with definite properties is given, it is meaningless to speak of mechanical explanation.
To postulate the existence of a self-producing or self-maintaining mechanism is, thus, to postulate something to which no meaning can be attached. Meaningless terms are sometimes used by physiologists; but there is none so absolutely meaningless as the expression “mechanism of reproduction”. Any mechanism there may be in the parent organism is absent in the process of reproduction, and must re-constitute itself at each generation, since the parent organism is reproduced from a mere tiny speck of its own body. There can be no mechanism of reproduction. The idea of a mechanism which is constantly maintaining or reproducing its own structure is self-contradictory. A mechanism which reproduced itself would be a mechanism without parts, and, therefore, not a mechanism.
Life is, then, a unique phenomenon and the concept of mechanism is inadequate for its analysis. Its “factual wholeness”, to use an expression of Driesch– another notable biologist– is a kind of unity which, looked at from another point of view, is also a plurality. In all the purposive processes of growth and adaptation to its environment, whether this adaptation is secured by the formation of fresh or the modification of old habits, it possesses a career which is unthinkable in the case of a machine. And the possession of a career means that the sources of its activity cannot be explained except in reference to a remote past, the origin of which, therefore, must be sought in a spiritual reality revealable in, but non-discoverable by, any analysis of spatial experience. It would, therefore, seem that life is foundational and anterior to the routine of physical and chemical processes which must be regarded as a kind of fixed behaviour formed during a long course of evolution. Further, the application of the mechanistic concepts to life, necessitating the view that the intellect itself is a product of evolution, brings science into conflict with its own objective principle of investigation. On this point I will quote a passage from Wildon Carr, who has given a very pointed expression to this conflict:
If intellect is a product of evolution the whole mechanistic concept of the nature and origin of life is absurd, and the principle which science has adopted must clearly be revised. We have only to state it to see the self-contradiction. How can the intellect, a mode of apprehending reality, be itself an evolution of something which only exists as an abstraction of that mode of apprehending, which is the intellect? If intellect is an evolution of life, then the concept of the life which can evolve intellect as a particular mode of apprehending reality must be the concept of a more concrete activity than that of any abstract mechanical movement which the intellect can present to itself by analyzing its apprehended content. And yet further, if the intellect be a product of the evolution of life, it is not absolute but relative to the activity of the life which has evolved it; how then, in such case, can science exclude the subjective aspect of the knowing and build on the objective presentation as an absolute? Clearly the biological sciences necessitate a reconsideration of the scientific principle.
I will now try to reach the
primacy of life and thought by another route, and carry you a step farther in
our examination of experience. This will throw some further light on the
primacy of life and will also give us an insight into the nature of life as a
psychic activity. We have seen, that Professor Whitehead describes the
universe, not as something static, but as a structure of events possessing the
character of a continuous creative flow. This quality of Nature’s passage in
time is perhaps the most significant aspect of experience which the Qur’an
especially emphasizes and which, as I hope to be able to show in the sequel,
offers the best clue to the ultimate nature of Reality. To some of the verses
(3: 190-91; 2: 164; 24: 44) bearing on the point I have already drawn your attention. In view
of the great importance of the subject I will add here a few more:
Verily, in the alternations of night and of day and in all that God hath created in the Heavens and in the earth are signs to those who fear him (10: 6).
And it is He Who hath ordained the night and the day to succeed one another for those who desire to think on God or desire to be thankful (25:62).
Seest thou not that God causeth the night to come in upon the day, and the day to come in upon the night; and that He hath subjected the sun and the moon to laws by which each speedeth along to an appointed goal (31: 29).
It is of Him that the night returneth on the day, and that the day returneth on the night (39: 5).
And of Him is the change of the night and of the day (23: 80).
There is another set of verses which, indicating the relativity of our reckoning of time, suggests the possibility of unknown levels of consciousness; but I will content myself with a discussion of the familiar, yet deeply significant, aspect of experience alluded to in the verses quoted above. Among the representatives of contemporary thought, Bergson is the only thinker who has made a keen study of the phenomenon of duration in time. I will first briefly explain to you his view of duration and then point out the inadequacy of his analysis in order fully to bring out the implications of a completer view of the temporal aspect of existence. The ontological problem before us is how to define the ultimate nature of existence. That the universe persists in time is not open to doubt. Yet, since it is external to us, it is possible to be sceptical about its existence. In order completely to grasp the meaning of this persistence in time we must be in a position to study some privileged case of existence which is absolutely unquestionable and gives us the further assurance of a direct vision of duration. Now my perception of things that confront me is superficial and external; but my perception of my own self is internal, intimate, and profound. It follows, therefore, that conscious experience is that privileged case of existence in which we are in absolute contact with Reality, and an analysis of this privileged case is likely to throw a flood of light on the ultimate meaning of existence. What do I find when I fix my gaze on my own conscious experience? In the words of Bergson:
I pass from state to state. I am warm or cold. I am merry or sad, I work or I do nothing, I look at what is around me or I think of something else. Sensations, feelings, volitions, ideas– such are the changes into which my existence is divided and which colour it in turns. I change then, without ceasing.
Thus, there is nothing static in
my inner life; all is a constant mobility, an unceasing flux of states, a
perpetual flow in which there is no halt or resting place. Constant change,
however, is unthinkable without time. On the analogy of our inner experience,
then, conscious existence means life in time. A keener insight into the nature
of conscious experience, however, reveals that the self in its inner life moves
from the centre outwards. It has, so to speak, two sides which may be described
as appreciative and efficient. On its efficient side it enters into relation
with what we call the world of space. The efficient self is the subject of
associationist psychology– the practical self of daily life in its dealing with
the external order of things which determine our passing states of
consciousness and stamp on these states their own spatial feature of mutual
isolation. The self here lives outside itself as it were, and, while retaining
its unity as a totality, discloses itself as nothing more than a series of
specific and consequently numberable states. The time in which the efficient
self lives is, therefore, the time of which we predicate long and short. It is
hardly distinguishable from space. We can conceive it only as a straight line
composed of spatial points which are external to one another like so many
stages in a journey. But time thus regarded is not true time, according to
Bergson. Existence in spacialized time is spurious existence. A deeper analysis
of conscious experience reveals to us what I have called the appreciative side
of the self. With our absorption in the external order of things, necessitated
by our present situation, it is extremely difficult to catch a glimpse of the
appreciative self. In our constant pursuit after external things we weave a
kind of veil round the appreciative self which thus becomes completely alien to
us. It is only in the moments of profound meditation, when the efficient self
is in abeyance, that we sink into our deeper self and reach the inner centre of
experience. In the life-process of this deeper ego the states of consciousness
melt into each other. The unity of the appreciative ego is like the unity of
the germ in which the experiences of its individual ancestors exist, not as a
plurality, but as a unity in which every experience permeates the whole. There
is no numerical distinctness of states in the totality of the ego, the
multiplicity of whose elements is, unlike that of the efficient self, wholly
qualitative. There is change and movement, but change and movement are
indivisible; their elements interpenetrate and are wholly non-serial in
character. It appears that the time of the appreciative-self is a single “now”
which the efficient self, in its traffic with the world of space, pulverizes
into a series of “nows” like pearl beads in a thread. Here is, then, pure
duration unadulterated by space. The Qur’an with its characteristic simplicity
alludes to the serial and non-serial aspects of duration in the following
And put thou thy trust in Him that liveth and dieth not, and celebrate His praise Who in six days created the Heavens and the earth, and what is between them, then mounted His Throne; the God of mercy (25: 58-59).
All things We have created with a fixed destiny: Our command was but one, swift as the twinkling of an eye (54: 49-50).
If we look at the movement
embodied in creation from the outside, that is to say, if we apprehend it
intellectually, it is a process lasting through thousands of years; for one
Divine day, in the terminology of the Qur’an, as of the Old Testament, is equal
to one thousand years. From another point of view, the process of creation, lasting
through thousands of years, is a single indivisible act, “swift as the
twinkling of an eye”. It is, however, impossible to express this inner
experience of pure duration in words, for language is shaped on the serial time
of our daily efficient self. Perhaps an illustration will further elucidate the
point. According to physical science, the cause of your sensation of red is the
rapidity of wave motion the frequency of which is 400 billions per second. If
you could observe this tremendous frequency from the outside, and count it at
the rate of 2,000 per second, which is supposed to be the limit of the
perceptibility of light, it will take you more than six thousand years to
finish the enumeration. Yet in the single momentary mental act of perception you hold
together a frequency of wave motion which is practically incalculable. That is
how the mental act transforms succession into duration. The appreciative self,
then, is more or less corrective of the efficient self, inasmuch as it
synthesizes all the “heres” and “nows”– the small changes of space and time,
indispensable to the efficient self– into the coherent wholeness of
personality. Pure time, then, as revealed by a deeper analysis of our conscious
experience, is not a string of separate, reversible instants; it is an organic
whole in which the past is not left behind, but is moving along with, and
operating in, the present. And the future is given to it not as lying before,
yet to be traversed; it is given only in the sense that it is present in its
nature as an open possibility. It is time regarded as an organic whole that the Qur’an describes
as Taqdir or the destiny– a word which has been so much misunderstood
both in and outside the world of Islam. Destiny is time regarded as prior to the
disclosure of its possibilities. It is time freed from the net of causal
sequence– the diagrammatic character which the logical understanding imposes on
it. In one word, it is time as felt and not as thought and calculated. If you
ask me why the Emperor Humāyūn and Shah Tahmāsp of
On the analogy of our conscious experience, then, the universe is a free creative movement. But how can we conceive a movement independent of a concrete thing that moves? The answer is that the notion of “thing” is derivative. We can derive “things” from movement; we cannot derive movement from immobile things. If, for instance, we suppose material atoms, such as the atoms of Democritus, to be the original Reality we must import movement into them from the outside as something alien to their nature. Where as if we take movement as original, static things may be derived from it. In fact, physical science has reduced all things to movement. The essential nature of the atom in modern science is electricity and not something electrified. Apart from this, things are not given in immediate experience as things already possessing definite contours, for immediate experience is a continuity without any distinctions in it. What we call things are events in the continuity of Nature which thought spatializes and thus regards as mutually isolated for purposes of action. The universe which seems to us to be a collection of things is not a solid stuff occupying a void. It is not a thing but an act. The nature of thought according to Bergson is serial; it cannot deal with movement, except by viewing it as a series of stationary points. It is, therefore, the operation of thought, working with static concepts, that gives the appearance of a series of immobilities to what is essentially dynamic in its nature. The co-existence and succession of these immobilities is the source of what we call space and time.
According to Bergson, then, Reality is a free unpredictable, creative, vital impetus of the nature of volition which thought spatializes and views as a plurality of “things”. A full criticism of this view cannot be undertaken here. Suffice it to say that the vitalism of Bergson ends in an insurmountable dualism of will and thought. This is really due to the partial view of intelligence that he takes. Intelligence, according to him, is a spatializing activity; it is shaped on matter alone, and has only mechanical categories at its disposal. But, as I pointed out in my first lecture, thought has a deeper movement also. While it appears to break up Reality into static fragments, its real function is to synthesize the elements of experience by employing categories suitable to the various levels which experience presents. It is as much organic as life. The movement of life, as an organic growth, involves a progressive synthesis of its various stages. Without this synthesis it will cease to be organic growth. It is determined by ends, and the presence of ends means that it is permeated by intelligence. Nor is the activity of intelligence possible without the presence of ends. In conscious experience life and thought permeate each other. They form a unity. Thought, therefore, in its true nature, is identical with life. Again, in Bergson’s view the forward rush of the vital impulse in its creative freedom is unilluminated by the light of an immediate or a remote purpose. It is not aiming at a result; it is wholly arbitrary, undirected, chaotic, and unforeseeable in its behaviour. It is mainly here that Bergson’s analysis of our conscious experience reveals its inadequacy. He regards conscious experience as the past moving along with and operating in the present. He ignores that the unity of consciousness has a forward looking aspect also. Life is only a series of acts of attention, and an act of attention is inexplicable without reference to a purpose, conscious or unconscious. Even our acts of perception are determined by our immediate interests and purposes. The Persian poet ‘Urfī has given a beautiful expression to this aspect of human perception. He says:
نقص تشنہ لبی
دان بعقل خویش
دلت فریب گر از جلوۂ سراب نخورد
If your heart is not deceived by the mirage, be not proud of the sharpness of your understanding;
for your freedom from this optical illusion is due to your imperfect thirst.
The poet means to say that if you had a vehement desire for drink, the sands of the desert would have given you the impression of a lake. Your freedom from the illusion is due to the absence of a keen desire for water. You have perceived the thing as it is because you were not interested in perceiving it as it is not. Thus ends and purposes, whether they exist as conscious or subconscious tendencies, form the warp and woof of our conscious experience. And the notion of purpose cannot be understood except in reference to the future. The past, no doubt, abides and operates in the present; but this operation of the past in the present is not the whole of consciousness. The element of purpose discloses a kind of forward look in consciousness. Purposes not only colour our present states of consciousness, but also reveal its future direction. In fact, they constitute the forward push of our life, and thus in a way anticipate and influence the states that are yet to be. To be determined by an end is to be determined by what ought to be. Thus past and future both operate in the present state of consciousness, and the future is not wholly undetermined as Bergson’s analysis of our conscious experience shows. A state of attentive consciousness involves both memory and imagination as operating factors. On the analogy of our conscious experience, therefore, Reality is not a blind vital impulse wholly unilluminated by idea. Its nature is through and through teleological.
Bergson, however, denies the teleological character of Reality on the ground that teleology makes time unreal. According to him “the portals of the future must remain wide open to Reality.” Otherwise, it will not be free and creative. No doubt, if teleology means the working out of a plan in view of a predetermined end or goal, it does make time unreal. It reduces the universe to a mere temporal reproduction of a pre-existing eternal scheme or structure in which individual events have already found their proper places, waiting, as it were, for their respective turns to enter into the temporal sweep of history. All is already given somewhere in eternity; the temporal order of events is nothing more than a mere imitation of the eternal mould. Such a view is hardly distinguishable from mechanism which we have already rejected. In fact, it is a kind of veiled materialism in which fate or destiny takes the place of rigid determinism, leaving no scope for human or even Divine freedom. The world regarded as a process realizing a preordained goal is not a world of free, responsible moral agents; it is only a stage on which puppets are made to move by a kind of pull from behind. There is, however, another sense of teleology. From our conscious experience we have seen that to live is to shape and change ends and purposes and to be governed by them. Mental life is teleological in the sense that, while there is no far-off distant goal towards which we are moving, there is a progressive formation of fresh ends, purposes, and ideal scales of value as the process of life grows and expands. We become by ceasing to be what we are. Life is a passage through a series of deaths. But there is a system in the continuity of this passage. Its various stages, in spite of the apparently abrupt changes in our evaluation of things, are organically related to one another. The life-history of the individual is, on the whole, a unity and not a mere series of mutually ill-adapted events. The world-process, or the movement of the universe in time, is certainly devoid of purpose, if by purpose we mean a foreseen end– a far-off fixed destination to which the whole creation moves. To endow the world-process with purpose in this sense is to rob it of its originality and its creative character. Its ends are terminations of a career; they are ends to come and not necessarily premeditated. A time-process cannot be conceived as a line already drawn. It is a line in the drawing– an actualization of open possibilities. It is purposive only in this sense that it is selective in character, and brings itself to some sort of a present fulfilment by actively preserving and supplementing the past. To my mind nothing is more alien to the Qur’anic outlook than the idea that the universe is the temporal working out of a preconceived plan. As I have already pointed out, the universe, according to the Qur’an, is liable to increase. It is a growing universe and not an already completed product which left the hand of its maker ages ago, and is now lying stretched in space as a dead mass of matter to which time does nothing, and consequently is nothing.
We are now, I hope, in a position to see the meaning of the verse– “And it is He Who hath ordained the night and the day to succeed one another for those who desire to think on God or desire to be thankful.” A critical interpretation of the sequence of time as revealed in our selves has led us to a notion of the Ultimate Reality as pure duration in which thought, life, and purpose interpenetrate to form an organic unity. We cannot conceive this unity except as the unity of a self– an all-embracing concrete self– the ultimate source of all individual life and thought. I venture to think that the error of Bergson consists in regarding pure time as prior to self, to which alone pure duration is predicable. Neither pure space nor pure time can hold together the multiplicity of objects and events. It is the appreciative act of an enduring self only which can seize the multiplicity of duration– broken up into an infinity of instants– and transform it to the organic wholeness of a synthesis. To exist in pure duration is to be a self, and to be a self is to be able to say “I am”. Only that truly exists which can say “I am”. It is the degree of the intuition of “I-amness” that determines the place of a thing in the scale of being. We too say “I am”. But our “I-amness” is dependent and arises out of the distinction between the self and the not-self. The Ultimate Self, in the words of the Qur’an, “can afford to dispense with all the worlds.” To Him the not-self does not present itself as a confronting “other”, or else it would have to be, like our finite self, in spatial relation with the confronting “other”. What we call Nature or the not-self is only a fleeting moment in the life of God. His “I-amness” is independent, elemental, absolute. Of such a self it is impossible for us to form an adequate conception. As the Qur’an says, “Naught is like Him”; yet “He hears and sees.” Now a self is unthinkable without a character, i.e. a uniform mode of behaviour. Nature, as we have seen, is not a mass of pure materiality occupying a void. It is a structure of events, a systematic mode of behaviour, and as such organic to the Ultimate Self. Nature is to the Divine Self as character is to the human self. In the picturesque phrase of the Qur’an it is the habit of Allah. From the human point of view it is an interpretation which, in our present situation, we put on the creative activity of the Absolute Ego. At a particular moment in its forward movement it is finite; but since the self to which it is organic is creative, it is liable to increase, and is consequently boundless in the sense that no limit to its extension is final. Its boundlessness is potential, not actual. Nature, then, must be understood as a living, ever-growing organism whose growth has no final external limits. Its only limit is internal, i.e. the immanent self which animates and sustains the whole. As the Qur’an says: “And verily unto thy Lord is the limit.” (53: 42) Thus the view that we have taken gives a fresh spiritual meaning to physical science. The knowledge of Nature is the knowledge of God’s behaviour. In our observation of Nature we are virtually seeking a kind of intimacy with the Absolute Ego; and this is only another form of worship.
The above discussion takes time as an essential element in the Ultimate Reality. The next point before us, therefore, is to consider the late Doctor McTaggart’s argument relating to the unreality of time. Time, according to Doctor McTaggart, is unreal because every event is past, present, and future. Queen Anne’s death, for instance, is past to us; it was present to her contemporaries and future to William III. Thus the event of Anne’s death combines characteristics which are incompatible with each other. It is obvious that the argument proceeds on the assumption that the serial nature of time is final. If we regard past, present, and future as essential to time, then we picture time as a straight line, part of which we have travelled and left behind, and part lies yet untravelled before us. This is taking time, not as a living creative moment, but as a static absolute, holding the ordered multiplicity of fully-shaped cosmic events, revealed serially, like the pictures of a film, to the outside observer. We can indeed say that Queen Anne’s death was future to William III, if this event is regarded as already fully shaped, and lying in the future, waiting for its happening. But a future event, as Broad justly points out, cannot be characterized as an event. Before the death of Anne the event of her death did not exist at all. During Anne’s life the event of her death existed only as an unrealized possibility in the nature of Reality which included it as an event only when, in the course of its becoming, it reached the point of the actual happening of that event. The answer to Doctor McTaggart’s argument is that the future exists only as an open possibility, and not as a reality. Nor can it be said that an event combines incompatible characteristics when it is described both as past and present. When an event X does happen it enters into an unalterable relation with all the events that have happened before it. These relations are not at all affected by the relations of X with other events which happen after X by the further becoming of Reality. No true or false proposition about these relations will ever become false or true. Hence there is no logical difficulty in regarding an event as both past and present. It must be confessed, however, that the point is not free from difficulty and requires much further thinking. It is not easy to solve the mystery of time. Augustine’s profound words are as true today as they were when they were uttered: “If no one questions me of time, I know it: if I would explain to a questioner I know it not.” Personally, I am inclined to think that time is an essential element in Reality. But real time is not serial time to which the distinction of past, present, and future is essential; it is pure duration, i.e. change without succession, which McTaggart’s argument does not touch. Serial time is pure duration pulverized by thought– a kind of device by which Reality exposes its ceaseless creative activity to quantitative measurement. It is in this sense that the Qur’an says: “And of Him is the change of the night and of the day.”
But the question you are likely to ask is– “Can change be predicated of the Ultimate Ego?” We, as human beings, are functionally related to an independent world-process. The conditions of our life are mainly external to us. The only kind of life known to us is desire, pursuit, failure, or attainment– a continuous change from one situation to another. From our point of view life is change, and change is essentially imperfection. At the same time, since our conscious experience is the only point of departure for all knowledge, we cannot avoid the limitation of interpreting facts in the light of our own inner experience. An anthropomorphic conception is especially unavoidable in the apprehension of life; for life can be apprehended from within only. As the poet Nāsir ‘Alī of Sirhind imagines the idol saying to the Brahmin:
بر صورت خویش
برون از خویشتن آخر چہ دیدی؟
Thou hast made me after Thine own image!
It was the fear of conceiving Divine life after the image of human life that the Spanish Muslim theologian Ibn Hazm hesitated to predicate life of God, and ingeniously suggested that God should be described as living, not because He is living in the sense of our experience of life, but only because He is so described in the Qur’an. Confining himself to the surface of our conscious experience and ignoring its deeper phases, Ibn Hazm must have taken life as a serial change, a succession of attitudes towards an obstructing environment. Serial change is obviously a mark of imperfection; and, if we confine ourselves to this view of change, the difficulty of reconciling Divine perfection with Divine life becomes insuperable. Ibn Hazm must have felt that the perfection of God can be retained only at the cost of His life. There is, however, a way out of the difficulty. The Absolute Ego, as we have seen, is the whole of Reality. He is not so situated as to take a perspective view of an alien universe; consequently, the phases of His life are wholly determined from within. Change, therefore, in the sense of a movement from an imperfect to a relatively perfect state, or vice versa, is obviously inapplicable to His life. But change in this sense is not the only possible form of life. A deeper insight into our conscious experience shows that beneath the appearance of serial duration there is true duration. The Ultimate Ego exists in pure duration wherein change ceases to be a succession of varying attitudes, and reveals its true character as continuous creation, “untouched by weariness” and unseizable “by slumber or sleep”. To conceive the Ultimate Ego as changeless in this sense of change is to conceive Him as utter inaction, a motiveless, stagnant neutrality, an absolute nothing. To the Creative Self change cannot mean imperfection. The perfection of the Creative Self consists, not in a mechanistically conceived immobility, as Aristotle might have led Ibn Hazm to think. It consists in the vaster basis of His creative activity and the infinite scope of His creative vision. God’s life is self-revelation, not the pursuit of an ideal to be reached. The “not-yet” of man does mean pursuit and may mean failure; the “not-yet” of God means unfailing realization of the infinite creative possibilities of His being which retains its wholeness throughout the entire process.
In the Endless, self-repeating
flows for evermore The Same.
Myriad arches, springing, meeting,
hold at rest the mighty frame.
Streams from all things love of living,
grandest star and humblest clod.
All the straining, all the striving
is eternal peace in God. (Goethe)
Thus a comprehensive philosophical criticism of all the facts of experience on its efficient as well as appreciative side brings us to the conclusion that the Ultimate Reality is a rationally directed creative life. To interpret this life as an ego is not to fashion God after the image of man. It is only to accept the simple fact of experience that life is not a formless fluid, but an organizing principle of unity, a synthetic activity which holds together and focalizes the dispersing dispositions of the living organism for a constructive purpose. The operation of thought which is essentially symbolic in character veils the true nature of life, and can picture it only as a kind of universal current flowing through all things. The result of an intellectual view of life, therefore, is necessarily pantheistic. But we have a first-hand knowledge of the appreciative aspect of life from within. Intuition reveals life as a centralizing ego. This knowledge, however imperfect as giving us only a point of departure, is a direct revelation of the ultimate nature of Reality. Thus the facts of experience justify the inference that the ultimate nature of Realty is spiritual, and must be conceived as an ego. But the aspiration of religion soars higher than that of philosophy. Philosophy is an intellectual view of things; and, as such, does not care to go beyond a concept which can reduce all the rich variety of experience to a system. It sees Reality from a distance as it were. Religion seeks a closer contact with Reality. The one is theory; the other is living experience, association, intimacy. In order to achieve this intimacy thought must rise higher than itself, and find its fulfilment in an attitude of mind which religion describes as prayer– one of the last words on the lips of the Prophet of Islam.
Cf. H. Barker, article: ‘Berkeley’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, especially the section: ‘Metaphysics of Immaterialism’; see also Lecture IV, p. 83, for Allama Iqbal’s acute observations in refutation of ‘the hypothesis of matter as an independent existence.’
Cf. A. N. Whitehead, The Concept of Nature, p. 30. This is what Whitehead has called the ‘theory of bifurcation of Nature’ based on the dichotomy of ‘simply located material bodies of Newtonian physics’ and the ‘pure sensations’ of Hume. According to this theory, Nature is split up into two disparate or isolated parts; the one known to us through our immediate experiences of colours, sounds, scents, etc., and the other, the world of unperceived scientific entities of molecules, atoms, electrons, ether, etc.– colourless, soundless, unscented– which so act upon the mind through ‘impact’ as to produce in it the ‘illusions’ of sensory experiences in which it delights. The theory thus divides totality of being into a reality which does not appear and is thus a mere ‘conjecture’ and appearances which are not real and so are mere ‘dream’. Whitehead outright rejects ‘bifurcation’ and insists that the red glow of sunset is as much ‘part of Nature’ as the vibrations of molecules and that the scientist cannot dismiss the red glow as a ‘psychic addition’ if he is to have a coherent ‘Concept of Nature’. This view of Whitehead, the eminent mathematician, expounded by him in 1920 (i.e. four years before his appointment to the chair of Philosophy at Harvard at the age of sixty-three) was widely accepted by the philosophers. Lord Richard Burton Haldane, one of the leading neo-Hegelian British philosophers, said to be the first philosophical writer on the Theory of Relativity, gave full support to Whitehead’s views on ‘bifurcation’ as well as on ‘Relativity’ in his widely-read Reign of Relativity to which Allama Iqbal refers in Lecture III, p. 57, and tacitly also perhaps in Lecture V. The way Lord Haldane has stated in this work his defence of Whitehead’s views on Relativity (enunciated by him especially in Concept of Nature) as against those of Einstein, one is inclined to surmise that it was perhaps Reign of Relativity (incidentally also listed at Sr. No. 276 in the Descriptive Catalogue of Allama’s Personal Library) more than any other work that led Allama Iqbal to make the observation: ‘Whitehead’s view of Relativity is likely to appeal to Muslim students more than that of Einstein in whose theory time loses its character of passage and mysteriously translates itself into utter space’ (Lecture V, p. 106).
Allama Iqbal states here Zeno’s first and third arguments; for all the four arguments of Zeno on the unreality of motion, see John Burnet, Greek Philosophy; Thales to Plato, p. 84; they generally go by names; the ‘dichotomy’; the ‘Achilles’; the ‘arrow’; and the ‘stadium’. It may be added that our primary source for Zeno’s famous and controversial arguments is Aristotle’s Physics (VI, 9. 239b) which is generally said to have been first translated into Arabic by Ishāq b. Hunain (c. 845-910/911), the son of the celebrated Hunain b. Ishāq. Aristotle’s Physics is also said to have been commented on later by the Christian Abū ‘Alī al-Hasan b. al-Samh (c. 945-1027); cf. S. M. Stern, ‘Ibn al-Samh’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1956), pp. 31-44. Even so it seems that Zeno’s arguments as stated by Aristotle were known to the Muslim thinkers much earlier, maybe through Christian-Syriac sources, for one finds the brilliant Mu‘tazilite Nazzām (d. 231/845) meeting Zeno’s first argument in terms of his ingenious idea of tafrah or jump referred to by Allama Iqbal in Lecture III, pp. 55-56.
Cf. T. J. de Boer, article ‘Atomic Theory (Muhammadan)’, in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, II, 202-03; D. B. Macdonald, Development of Muslim Theology, pp. 201 ff. and Majid Fakhry, Islamic Occasionalism, pp. 33-43.
Views of H. Wildon Carr and especially of Sir T. Percy Nunn on
relativity in the present context are to be found in their symposium papers on
‘The Idealistic Interpretation of Einstein’s Theory’ published in the Proceedings
of the Artistotelian Society, N. S. XXII (1921-22), 123-27 and 127-30.
Wildon Carr’s doctrine of Monadistic Idealism, however, is to be found much
more fully expounded in his General Principle of Relativity (1920) and
A Theory of Monads: Outlines of the Philosophy of the Principle of
Relativity (1922); passages from both of these books have been quoted in
the present Lecture (cf. notes 16 and 23 below).
T. Percy Nunn, best known as an educationist, wrote little philosophy; but whatever little he wrote, it made him quite influential with the leading contemporary British philosophers: Whitehead, Samuel Alexander, Russell, Broad, and others. He is said to have first formulated the characteristic doctrines of neo-Realism, an important philosophical school of the century which had its zealot and able champions both in
On this rather debatable interpretation of Einstein’s theory of relativity see Dr. M. Razi-ud-din Siddiqi, ‘Iqbal’s Conception of Time and Space’ in Iqbal as A Thinker,, pp. 29-31, and Philipp Frank, ‘Philosophical Interpretations and Misinterpretations of the Theory of Relativity, in H. Feigel and Mary Brodbeck (eds.), Readings in the Philosophy of Science, pp. 222-26, reprinted from his valuable work, Interpretations and Misinterpretations of Modern Physics (1938).
This is a passage from J. S. Haldane’s Symposium Paper: ‘Are Physical, Biological and Psychological Categories Irreducible?’ read in July 1918 at the joint session of the Aristotelian Society, the British Psychological Society and the Mind Association; see Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, XVII, (1917-1918), 423-24, reproduced in H. Wildon Carr (ed.), Life and Finite Individuality, pp. 15-16.
The Qur’an says: ‘And behold a day with thy sustainer is as a thousand years of your reckoning’ (22: 47). So also, according to the Old Testament: ‘One day is with the Lord as a thousand years’ (Psalms, xc. 4).
See among others the Qur’anic verses 25: 2; 54: 49 and the
earliest on this subject in the chronological order of the surahs: 87: 2-3.
These last two short verses speak of four Divine ways governing all creation
and so also man, viz. God’s creating a thing (khalaqa), making it
complete (fa sawwā), measuring out its attributes or determining
its nature (qaddara) and guiding it to its fulfilment (fa hadā).
Allama Iqbal’s conception of destiny (taqdīr) as ‘the inward reach of a thing, its realizable possibilities which lie within the depth of its nature, and serially actualize themselves without any feeling of external compulsion’ [italics mine] understood in terms of the Divine ways embodied in the above two short verses, seems to be singularly close to the text and the unique thought-forms of the Qur’an. There is no place in this conception of destiny for the doctrine of Fatalism as preached by some Muslim scholastic theologians whose interpretation of the verses of the Qur’an for this purpose is more often a palpable misinterpretation (Lecture IV, p. 89); nor for the doctrine of determinism as expounded by the philosophers who, cut off from the inner life-impulse given by Islam, think of all things in terms of the inexorable law of cause and effect which governs the human ego as much as the ‘environment’ in which it is placed. They fail to realize that the origin of the law of ‘cause and effect’ lies in the depths of the transcendental ego which has devised it or caused it under divine guidance to realize its divinely assigned destiny of understanding and mastering all things (p. 86); also cf. Asrār-i Khudī, many verses especially those in the earlier sections.
McTaggart’s argument referred to here was advanced by him in his article; ‘The Unreality of Time’ in Mind (N. S.), XVII/68 (October 1908), 457-74, re-produced later in Nature of Existence, II, 9-31, as well as in the posthumous Philosophical Studies, pp. 110-31. McTaggart has been called ‘an outstanding giant in the discussion of the reality or unreality of time’ and his aforesaid article has been most discussed in recent philosophical literature on Time. Of articles in defence of McTaggart’s position, mention may be made of Michael Dummett: ‘A Defence of McTaggaat’s Proof of the Unreality of Time’ in Philosophical Review, XIX (1960), 497-504. But he was criticised by C. D. Broad, the greatest expositor of his philosophy (cf. his commentary: Examination of McTaggart’s Philosophy, Vol. I, 1933, and Vol. II in two parts, 1938), in Scientific Thought, to which Allama Iqbal has referred in the present discussion, as well as in his valuable article: ‘Time’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, XII, 339a; and earlier than Broad by Reyburn in his article ‘Idealism and the Reality of Time’ in Mind (Oct. 1913), pp. 493-508 which has been briefly summarized by J. Alexander Gunn in Problem of Time: A Historical and Critical Study, pp. 345-47.
مرا بر صُورتِ خود آفریدی
بُرون از نقش خُود آخر چہ دیدی؟
Reference here is to the Prophet’s last words: al-salātu, al-salātu wa mā malakat aimānukum (meaning: be mindful of your prayers and be kind to persons subject to your authority) reported through three different chains of transmitters in Ahmad b. Hanbal’s Musnad: VI, 290, 311 and 321.
The Conception of God and the Meaning of Prayer
We have seen that the judgment based upon religious experience fully satisfies the intellectual test. The more important regions of experience, examined with an eye on a synthetic view, reveal, as the ultimate ground of all experience, a rationally directed creative will which we have found reasons to describe as an ego. In order to emphasize the individuality of the Ultimate Ego the Qur’an gives Him the proper name of Allah, and further defines Him as follows:
Say: Allah is One:
All things depend on Him;
He begetteth not, and He is not begotten;
And there is none like unto Him (112: 1-4)
But it is hard to understand what exactly is an individual. As Bergson has taught us in his Creative Evolution, individuality is a matter of degrees and is not fully realized even in the case of the apparently closed off unity of the human being. “In particular, it may be said of individuality”, says Bergson:
that while the tendency to individuate is everywhere present in the organized world, it is everywhere opposed by the tendency towards reproduction. For the individuality to be perfect, it would be necessary that no detached part of the organism could live separately. But then reproduction would be impossible. For what is reproduction but the building up of a new organism with a detached fragment of the old? Individuality, therefore, harbours its own enemy at home.
In the light of this passage it is
clear that the perfect individual, closed off as an ego, peerless and unique,
cannot be conceived as harbouring its own enemy at home. It must be conceived
as superior to the antagonistic tendency of reproduction. This characteristic
of the perfect ego is one of the most essential elements in the Qur’anic
conception of God; and the Qur’an mentions it over and over again, not so much with
a view to attack the current Christian conception as to accentuate its own view
of a perfect individual. It may, however, be said that the history of religious thought
discloses various ways of escape from an individualistic conception of the
Ultimate Reality which is conceived as some vague, vast, and pervasive cosmic
element, such as light. This is the view that Farnell has taken in his
Gifford Lectures on the Attributes of God. I agree that the history of religion
reveals modes of thought that tend towards pantheism; but I venture to think
that in so far as the Qur’anic identification of God with light is concerned
Farnell’s view is incorrect. The full text of the verse of which he quotes a
portion only is as follows:
God is the light of the Heavens and of the earth. His light is like a niche in which is a lamp– the lamp encased in a glass– the glass, as it were, a star (24: 35).
No doubt, the opening sentence of the verse gives the impression of an escape from an individualistic conception of God. But when we follow the metaphor of light in the rest of the verse, it gives just the opposite impression. The development of the metaphor is meant rather to exclude the suggestion of a formless cosmic element by centralizing the light in a flame which is further individualized by its encasement in a glass likened unto a well-defined star. Personally, I think the description of God as light, in the revealed literature of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, must now be interpreted differently. The teaching of modern physics is that the velocity of light cannot be exceeded and is the same for all observers whatever their own system of movement. Thus, in the world of change, light is the nearest approach to the Absolute. The metaphor of light as applied to God, therefore, must, in view of modern knowledge, be taken to suggest the Absoluteness of God and not His Omnipresence which easily lends itself to a pantheistic interpretation.
There is, however, one question which will be raised in this connexion. Does not individuality imply finitude? If God is an ego and as such an individual, how can we conceive Him as infinite? The answer to this question is that God cannot be conceived as infinite in the sense of spatial infinity. In matters of spiritual valuation mere immensity counts for nothing. Moreover, as we have seen before, temporal and spatial infinities are not absolute. Modern science regards Nature not as something static, situated in an infinite void, but a structure of interrelated events out of whose mutual relations arise the concepts of space and time. And this is only another way of saying that space and time are interpretations which thought puts upon the creative activity of the Ultimate Ego. Space and time are possibilities of the Ego, only partially realized in the shape of our mathematical space and time. Beyond Him and apart from His creative activity, there is neither time nor space to close Him off in reference to other egos. The Ultimate Ego is, therefore, neither infinite in the sense of spatial infinity nor finite in the sense of the space-bound human ego whose body closes him off in reference to other egos. The infinity of the Ultimate Ego consists in the infinite inner possibilities of His creative activity of which the universe, as known to us, is only a partial expression. In one word God’s infinity is intensive, not extensive. It involves an infinite series, but is not that series.
The other important elements in the Qur’anic conception of God, from a purely intellectual point of view, are Creativeness, Knowledge, Omnipotence, and Eternity. I shall deal with them serially.
Finite minds regard Nature as a confronting “other” existing per se, which the mind knows but does not make. We are thus apt to regard the act of creation as a specific past event, and the universe appears to us as a manufactured article which has no organic relation to the life of its maker, and of which the maker is nothing more than a mere spectator. All the meaningless theological controversies about the idea of creation arise from this narrow vision of the finite mind. Thus regarded the universe is a mere accident in the life of God and might not have been created. The real question which we are called upon to answer is this: Does the universe confront God as His “other”, with space intervening between Him and it? The answer is that, from the Divine point of view, there is no creation in the sense of a specific event having a “before” and an “after”. The universe cannot be regarded as an independent reality standing in opposition to Him. This view of the matter will reduce both God and the world to two separate entities confronting each other in the empty receptacle of an infinite space. We have seen before that space, time, and matter are interpretations which thought puts on the free creative energy of God. They are not independent realities existing per se, but only intellectual modes of apprehending the life of God. The question of creation once arose among the disciples of the well-known saint Bā Yazīd of Bistām. One of the disciples very pointedly put the common-sense view saying: “There was a moment of time when God existed and nothing else existed beside Him.” The saint’s reply was equally pointed. “It is just the same now”, said he, “as it was then.” The world of matter, therefore, is not a stuff co-eternal with God, operated upon by Him from a distance as it were. It is, in its real nature, one continuous act which thought breaks up into a plurality of mutually exclusive things. Professor Eddington has thrown further light on this important point, and I take the liberty to quote from his book, Space, Time and Gravitation:
We have a world ofpoint-events with their primary interval-relations. Out ofthese an unlimited number of more complicated relations and qualities can be built up mathematically, describing various features of the state ofthe world. These exist in nature in the same sense as an unlimited number of walks exist on an open moor. But the existence is, as it were, latent unless someone gives significance to the walk by following it; and in the same way the existence of any one of these qualities ofthe world only acquires significance above its fellows ifa mind singles it out for recognition. Mind filters out matter from the meaningless jumble of qualities, as the prism filters out the colours of the rainbow from the chaotic pulsations of white light. Mind exalts the permanent and ignores the transitory; and it appears from the mathematical study ofrelations that the only way in which mind can achieve her object is by picking out one particular quality as the permanent substance ofthe perceptual world, partitioning a perceptual time and space for it to be permanent in, and, as a necessary consequence of this Hobson’s choice, the laws of gravitation and mechanics and geometry have to be obeyed. Is it too much to say that the mind’s search for permanence has created the world of physics?
The last sentence in this passage is one of the deepest things in Professor Eddington’s book. The physicist has yet to discover by his own methods that the passing show of the apparently permanent world of physics which the mind has created in its search for permanence is rooted in something more permanent, conceivable only as a self which alone combines the opposite attributes of change and permanence, and can thus be regarded as both constant and variable.
There is, however, one question
which we must answer before we proceed further. In what manner does the
creative activity of God proceed to the work of creation? The most orthodox and
And no one thing is here, but with Us are its store-houses; and We send it not down but in fixed quantities. (15: 21).
The rise and growth of atomism in
Islam– the first important indication of an intellectual revolt against the
Aristotelian idea of a fixed universe– forms one of the most interesting
chapters in the history of Muslim thought. The views of the school of Basrah
were first shaped by Abū Hāshim (A. D. 933) and those of the school of Baghdad by that most exact
and daring theological thinker, Abū Bakr Bāqillānī (A. D. 1013). Later in the beginning of the thirteenth century we
find a thoroughly systematic description in a book called the Guide of the
Perplexed by Moses Maimonides– a Jewish theologian who was educated in the
Muslim universities of
According to the Ash‘arite school of thinkers, then, the world is compounded of what they call jawāhir– infinitely small parts or atoms which cannot be further divided. Since the creative activity of God is ceaseless the number of the atoms cannot be finite. Fresh atoms are coming into being every moment, and the universe is therefore constantly growing. As the Qur’an says: “God adds to His creation what He wills.” The essence of the atom is independent of its existence. This means that existence is a quality imposed on the atom by God. Before receiving this quality the atom lies dormant, as it were, in the creative energy of God, and its existence means nothing more than Divine energy become visible. The atom in its essence, therefore, has no magnitude; it has its position which does not involve space. It is by their aggregation that atoms become extended and generate space. Ibn Hazm, the critic of atomism, acutely remarks that the language of the Qur’an makes no difference in the act of creation and the thing created. What we call a thing, then, is in its essential nature an aggregation of atomic acts. Of the concept of “atomic act”, however, it is difficult to form a mental picture. Modern physics too conceives as action the actual atom of a certain physical quantity. But, as Professor Eddington has pointed out, the precise formulation of the Theory of Quanta of action has not been possible so far; though it is vaguely believed that the atomicity of action is the general law and that the appearance of electrons is in some way dependent on it.
Again we have seen that each atom occupies a position which does not involve space. That being so, what is the nature of motion which we cannot conceive except as the atom’s passage through space? Since the Ash‘arites regarded space as generated by the aggregation of atoms, they could not explain movement as a body’s passage through all the points of space intervening between the point of its start and destination. Such an explanation must necessarily assume the existence of void as an independent reality. In order, therefore, to get over the difficulty of empty space, Nazzām resorted to the notion of Tafrah orjump; and imagined the moving body, not as passing through all the discrete positions in space, but as jumping over the void between one position and another. Thus, according to him, a quick motion and a slow motion possess the same speed; but the latter has more points of rest. I confess I do not quite understand this solution of the difficulty. It may, however, be pointed out that modern atomism has found a similar difficulty and a similar solution has been suggested. In view of the experiments relating to Planck’s Theory of Quanta, we cannot imagine the moving atom as continuously traversing its path in space. “One of the most hopeful lines of explanation”, says Professor Whitehead in his Science and the Modern World,
is to assume that an electron does not continuously traverse its path in space. The alternative notion as to its mode of existence is that it appears at a series of discrete positions in space which it occupies for successive durations of time. It is as though an automobile, moving at the average rate of thirty miles an hour along a road, did not traverse the road continuously, but appeared successively at the successive milestones, remaining for two minutes at each milestone.
Another feature of this theory of creation is the doctrine of accident, on the perpetual creation of which depends the continuity of the atom as an existent. If God ceases to create the accidents, the atom ceases to exist as an atom. The atom possesses inseparable positive or negative qualities. These exist in opposed couples, as life and death, motion and rest, and possess practically no duration. Two propositions follow from this: (i)Nothing has a stable nature. (ii)There is a single order of atoms, i.e. what we call the soul is either a finer kind of matter, or only an accident.
I am inclined to think that in view of the idea of continuous creation which the Ash‘arite intended to establish there is an element of truth in the first proposition. I have said before that in my opinion the spirit of the Qur’an is on the whole anticlassical. I regard the Ash‘arite thought on this point as a genuine effort to develop on the basis of an Ultimate Will or Energy a theory of creation which, with all its shortcomings, is far more true to the spirit of the Qur’an than the Aristotelian idea of a fixed universe. The duty of the future theologians of Islam is to reconstruct this purely speculative theory, and to bring it into closer contact with modern science which appears to be moving in the same direction.
The second proposition looks like pure materialism. It is my belief that the Ash‘arite view that the Nafs isan accident is opposed to the real trend of their own theory which makes the continuous existence of the atom dependent on the continuous creation of accidents in it. It is obvious that motion is inconceivable without time. And since time comes from psychic life, the latter is more fundamental than motion. No psychic life, no time: no time, no motion. Thus it is really what the Ash‘arite call the accident which is responsible for the continuity of the atom as such. The atom becomes or rather looks spatialized when it receives the quality of existence. Regarded as a phase of Divine energy, it is essentially spiritual. The Nafs isthe pure act; the body is only the act become visible and hence measurable. In fact the Ash‘arite vaguely anticipated the modern notion of point-instant; but they failed rightly to see the nature of the mutual relation between the point and the instant. The instant is the more fundamental of the two; but the point is inseparable from the instant as being a necessary mode of its manifestation. The point is not a thing, it is only a sort of looking at the instant. Rūmī: is far more true to the spirit of Islam than Ghazālī when he says:
از ماہست شد
نے ما ازو
بادہ از مامست شد نے ما ازو
Reality is, therefore, essentially spirit. But, of course, there are degrees of spirit. In the history of Muslim thought the idea of degrees of Reality appears in the writings of Shihābuddīn Suhrawardī Maqtūl. In modern times we find it worked out on a much larger scale in Hegel and, more recently, in the late Lord Haldane’s Reign of Relativity, which he published shortly before his death. I have conceived the Ultimate Reality as an Ego; and I must add now that from the Ultimate Ego only egos proceed. The creative energy of the Ultimate Ego, in whom deed and thought are identical, functions as ego-unities. The world, in all its details, from the mechanical movement of what we call the atom of matter to the free movement of thought in the human ego, is the self-revelation of the “Great I am”. Every atom of Divine energy, however low in the scale of existence, is an ego. But there are degrees in the expression of egohood. Throughout the entire gamut of being runs the gradually rising note of egohood until it reaches its perfection in man. That is why the Qur’an declares the Ultimate Ego to be “nearer to man than his own neck-vein.” Like pearls do we live and move and have our being in the perpetual flow of Divine life.
Thus a criticism, inspired by the best traditions of Muslim thought, tends to turn the Ash‘arite scheme of atomism into a spiritual pluralism, the details of which will have to be worked out by the future theologians of Islam. It may, however, be asked whether atomicity has a real seat in the creative energy of God, or presents itself to us as such only because of our finite mode of apprehension. From a purely scientific point of view I cannot say what the final answer to this question will be. From the psychological point of view one thing appears to me to be certain. Only that is, strictly speaking, real which is directly conscious of its own reality. The degree of reality varies with the degree of the feeling of egohood. The nature of the ego is such that, in spite of its capacity to respond to other egos, it is self-centred and possesses a private circuit of individuality excluding all egos other than itself. In this alone consists its reality as an ego. Man, therefore, in whom egohood has reached its relative perfection, occupies a genuine place in the heart of Divine creative energy, and thus possesses a much higher degree of reality than things around him. Of all the creations of God he alone is capable of consciously participating in the creative life of his Maker. Endowed with the power to imagine a better world, and to mould what is into what ought to be, the ego in him aspires, in the interests of an increasingly unique and comprehensive individuality, to exploit all the various environments on which he may be called upon to operate during the course of an endless career. But I would ask you to wait for a fuller treatment of this point till my lecture on the Immortality and Freedom of the Ego. In the meantime, I want to say a few words about the doctrine of atomic time which I think is the weakest part of the Ash‘arite theory of creation. It is necessary to do so for a reasonable view of the Divine attribute of Eternity.
The problem of time has always
drawn the attention of Muslim thinkers and mystics. This seems to be due partly
to the fact that, according to the Qur’an, the alternation of day and night is
one of the greatest signs of God, and partly to the Prophet’s identification of
God with Dahr (time) in a well-known tradition referred to before. Indeed, some of the greatest Muslim Sufis believed in the mystic
properties of the word Dahr. According to Muhyiddin Ibn
al-‘Arabī, Dahr is one of the beautiful names of God, and
Rāzī tells us in his commentary on the Qur’an that some of the Muslim
saints had taught him to repeat the word Dahr, Daihūr, or Daihār.
The Ash‘arite theory of time is perhaps the first attempt in the history
of Muslim thought to understand it philosophically. Time, according to the
Ash‘arite, is a succession of individual “nows”. From this view it obviously
follows that between every two individual “nows” or moments of time, there is
an unoccupied moment of time, that is to say, a void of time. The absurdity of
this conclusion is due to the fact that they looked at the subject of their
inquiry from a wholly objective point of view. They took no lesson from the
history of Greek thought, which had adopted the same point of view and had
reached no results. In our own time
Contrary to the ancient adage, natura nihil facit per saltum (nature hates all sudden changes. Ed.)it becomes apparent that the universe varies by sudden jumps and not by imperceptible degrees. A physical system is capable of only a finite number of distinct states. . . . Since between two different and immediately consecutive states the world remains motionless, time is suspended, so that time itself is discontinuous: there is an atom of time.
The point, however, is that the constructive endeavour of the Ash‘arite, as of the moderns, was wholly lacking in psychological analysis, and the result of this shortcoming was that they altogether failed to perceive the subjective aspect of time. It is due to this failure that in their theory the systems of material atoms and time-atoms lie apart, with no organic relation between them. It is clear that if we look at time from a purely objective point of view serious difficulties arise; for we cannot apply atomic time to God and conceive Him as a life in the making, as Professor Alexander appears to have done in his Lectures on Space, Time, and Deity. Later Muslim theologians fully realized these difficulties. Mullā Jalāluddīn Dawwānī in a passage of his Zaurā, which reminds the modern student of Professor Royce’s view of time, tells us that if we take time to be a kind of span which makes possible the appearance of events as a moving procession and conceive this span to be a unity, then we cannot but describe it as an original state of Divine activity, encompassing all the succeeding states of that activity. But the Mullā takes good care to add that a deeper insight into the nature of succession reveals its relativity, so that it disappears in the case of God to Whom all events are present in a single act of perception. The Sufi poet ‘Irāqī has a similar way of looking at the matter. He conceives infinite varieties of time, relative to the varying grades of being, intervening between materiality and pure spirituality. The time of gross bodies which arises from the revolution of the heavens is divisible into past, present, and future; and its nature is such that as long as one day does not pass away the succeeding day does not come. The time of immaterial beings is also serial in character, but its passage is such that a whole year in the time of gross bodies is not more than a day in the time of an immaterial being. Rising higher and higher in the scale of immaterial beings we reach Divine time– time which is absolutely free from the quality of passage, and consequently does not admit of divisibility, sequence, and change. It is above eternity; it has neither beginning nor end. The eye of God sees all the visibles, and His ear hears all the audibles in one indivisible act of perception. The priority of God is not due to the priority of time; on the other hand, the priority of time is due to God’s priority. Thus Divine time is what the Qur’an describes as the “Mother of Books” in which the whole of history, freed from the net of causal sequence, is gathered up in a single super-eternal “now”. Of all the Muslim theologians, however, it is Fakhruddīn Rāzī who appears to have given his most serious attention to the problem of time. In his Eastern Discussions, Rāzī subjects to a searching examination all the contemporary theories of time. He too is, in the main, objective in his method and finds himself unable to reach any definite conclusions. “Until now,” he says,
I have not been able to discover anything really true with regard to the nature of time; and the main purpose of my book is to explain what can possibly be said for or against each theory without any spirit of partisanship, which I generally avoid, especially in connexion with the problem of time.
The above discussion makes it perfectly clear that a purely objective point of view is only partially helpful in our under-standing of the nature of time. The right course is a careful psychological analysis of our conscious experience which alone reveals the true nature of time. I suppose you remember the distinction that I drew in the two aspects of the self, appreciative and efficient. The appreciative self lives in pure duration, i.e. change without succession. The life of the self consists in its movement from appreciation to efficiency, from intuition to intellect, and atomic time is born out of this movement. Thus the character of our conscious experience our point of departure in all knowledge– gives us a clue to the concept which reconciles the opposition of permanence and change, of time regarded as an organic whole or eternity, and time regarded as atomic. If then we accept the guidance of our conscious experience, and conceive the life of the all-inclusive Ego on the analogy of the finite ego, the time of the Ultimate Ego is revealed as change without succession, i.e. an organic whole which appears atomic because of the creative movement of the ego. This is what Mīr Muhammad Bāqir Dāmād means when they say that time is born with the act of creation by which the Ultimate Ego realizes and measures, so to speak, the infinite wealth of His own undetermined creative possibilities. On the one hand, therefore, the ego lives in eternity, by which term I mean non-successional change; on the other, it lives in serial time, which I conceive as organically related to eternity in the sense that it is a measure of non-successional change. In this sense alone it is possible to understand the Qur’anic verse: “To God belongs the alternation of day and night.” But on this difficult side of the problem I have said enough in my preceding lecture. It is now time to pass on to the Divine attributes of Knowledge and Omnipotence.
The word “knowledge”, as applied to the finite ego, alwaysmeans discursive knowledge– a temporal process which moves round a veritable “other”, supposed to exist per se and confronting the knowing ego. In this sense knowledge, even if we extend it to the point of omniscience, must always remain relative to its confronting “other”, and cannot, therefore, be predicated of the Ultimate Ego who, being all-inclusive, cannot be conceived as having a perspective like the finite ego. The universe, as we have seen before, is not an “other” existing per se in opposition to God. It is only when we look at the act of creation as a specific event in the life-history of God that the universe appears as an independent “other”. From the standpoint of the all-inclusive Ego there is no “other”. In Him thought and deed, the act of knowing and the act of creating, are identical. It may be argued that the ego, whether finite or infinite, is inconceivable without a confronting non-ego, and if there is nothing outside the Ultimate Ego, the Ultimate Ego cannot be conceived as an ego. The answer to this argument is that logical negations are of no use in forming a positive concept which must be based on the character of Reality as revealed in experience. Our criticism of experience reveals the Ultimate Reality to be a rationally directed life which, in view of our experience of life, cannot be conceived except as an organic whole, a something closely knit together and possessing a central point of reference. This being the character of life, the ultimate life can be conceived only as an ego. Knowledge, in the sense of discursive knowledge, however infinite, cannot, therefore, be predicated of an ego who knows, and, at the same time, forms the ground of the object known. Unfortunately, language does not help us here. We possess no word to express the kind of knowledge which is also creative of its object. The alternative concept of Divine knowledge is omniscience in the sense of a single indivisible act of perception which makes God immediately aware of the entire sweep of history, regarded as an order of specific events, in an eternal “now”. This is how Jalāluddīn Dawwānī, ‘Irāqī, and Professor Royce in our own times conceived God’s knowledge. There is an element of truth in this conception. But it suggests a closed universe, a fixed futurity, a predetermined, unalterable order of specific events which, like a superior fate, has once for all determined the directions of God’s creative activity. In fact, Divine knowledge regarded as a kind of passive omniscience is nothing more than the inert void of pre-Einsteinian physics, which confers a semblance of unity on things by holding them together, a sort of mirror passively reflecting the details of an already finished structure of things which the finite consciousness reflects in fragments only. Divine knowledge must be conceived as a living creative activity to which the objects that appear to exist in their own right are organically related. By conceiving God’s knowledge as a kind of reflecting mirror, we no doubt save His fore-knowledge of future events; but it is obvious that we do so at the expense of His freedom. The future certainly pre-exists in the organic whole of God’s creative life, but it pre-exists as an open possibility, not as a fixed order of events with definite outlines. An illustration will perhaps help us in understanding what I mean. Suppose, as sometimes happens in the history of human thought, a fruitful idea with a great inner wealth of applications emerges into the light of your consciousness. You are immediately aware of the idea as a complex whole; but the intellectual working out of its numerous bearings is a matter of time. Intuitively all the possibilities of the idea are present in your mind. If a specific possibility, as such, is not intellectually known to you at a certain moment of time, it is not because your knowledge is defective, but because there is yet no possibility to become known. The idea reveals the possibilities of its application with advancing experience, and sometimes it takes more than one generation of thinkers before these possibilities are exhausted. Nor is it possible, on the view of Divine knowledge as a kind of passive omniscience, to reach the idea of a creator. If history is regarded merely as a gradually revealed photo of a predetermined order of events, then there is no room in it for novelty and initiation. Consequently, we can attach no meaning to the word “creation”, which has a meaning for us only in view of our own capacity for original action. The truth is that the whole theological controversy relating to predestination is due to pure speculation with no eye on the spontaneity of life, which is a fact of actual experience. No doubt, the emergence of egos endowed with the power of spontaneous and hence unforeseeable action is, in a sense, a limitation on the freedom of the all-inclusive Ego. But this limitation is not externally imposed. It is born out of His own creative freedom whereby He has chosen finite egos to be participators of His life, power, and freedom.
But how, it may be asked, is it possible to reconcile limitation with Omnipotence? The word “limitation” needs not frighten us. The Qur’an has no liking for abstract universals. It always fixes its gaze on the concrete which the theory of Relativity has only recently taught modern philosophy to see. All activity, creational or otherwise, is a kind of limitation without which it is impossible to conceive God as a concrete operative Ego.
Omnipotence, abstractly conceived, is merely a blind, capricious power without limits. The Qur’an has a clear and definite conception of Nature as a cosmos of mutually related forces. It, therefore, views Divine omnipotence as intimately related to Divine wisdom, and finds the infinite power of God revealed, not in the arbitrary and the capricious, but in the recurrent, the regular, and the orderly. At the same time, the Qur’an conceives God as “holding all goodness in His hands.” If, then, the rationally directed Divine will is good, a very serious problem arises. The course of evolution, as revealed by modern science, involves almost universal suffering and wrongdoing. No doubt, wrongdoing is confined to man only. But the fact of pain is almost universal, though it is equally true that men can suffer and have suffered the most excruciating pain for the sake of what they have believed to be good. Thus the two facts of moral and physical evil stand out prominent in the life of Nature. Nor can the relativity of evil and the presence of forces that tend to transmute it be a source of consolation to us; for, in spite of all this relativity and transmutation, there is something terribly positive about it. How is it, then, possible to reconcile the goodness and omnipotence of God with the immense volume of evil in His creation? This painful problem is really the crux of Theism. No modern writer has put it more accurately than Naümann in his Briefe überg Religion. “We possess”, he says:
a knowledge of the world which teaches us a God of power and strength, who sends out life and death as simultaneously as shadow and light, and a revelation, a faith as to salvation which declares the same God to be father. The following of the world-God produces the morality of the struggle for existence, and the service of the Father of Jesus Christ produces the morality of compassion. And yet they are not two gods, but one God. Somehow or other, their arms intertwine. Only no mortal can say where and how this occurs.
To the optimist Browning all is well with the world; to the pessimist Schopenhauer the world is one perpetual winter wherein a blind will expresses itself in an infinite variety of living things which bemoan their emergence for a moment and then disappear forever. The issue thus raised between optimism and pessimism cannot be finally decided at the present stage of our knowledge of the universe. Our intellectual constitution is such that we can take only a piecemeal view of things. We cannot understand the full import of the great cosmic forces which work havoc, and at the same time sustain and amplify life. The teaching of the Qur’an, which believes in the possibility of improvement in the behaviour of man and his control over natural forces, is neither optimism nor pessimism. It is meliorism, which recognizes a growing universe and is animated by the hope of man’s eventual victory over evil.
But the clue to a better understanding of our difficulty is given in the legend relating to what is called the Fall of Man. In this legend the Qur’an partly retains the ancient symbols, but the legend is materially transformed with a view to put an entirely fresh meaning into it. The Qur’anic method of complete or partial transformation of legends in order to besoul them with new ideas, and thus to adapt them to the advancing spirit of time, is an important point which has nearly always been overlooked both by Muslim and non-Muslim students of Islam. The object of the Qur’an in dealing with these legends is seldom historical; it nearly always aims at giving them a universal moral or philosophical import. And it achieves this object by omitting the names of persons and localities which tend to limit the meaning of a legend by giving it the colour of a specific historical event, and also by deleting details which appear to belong to a different order of feeling. This is not an uncommon method of dealing with legends. It is common in non-religious literature. An instance in point is the legend of Faust, to which the touch of Goethe’s genius has given a wholly new meaning.
Turning to the legend of the Fall we find it in a variety of forms in the literatures of the ancient world. It is, indeed, impossible to demarcate the stages of its growth, and to set out clearly the various human motives which must have worked in its slow transformation. But confining ourselves to the Semitic form of the myth, it is highly probable that it arose out of the primitive man’s desire to explain to himself the infinite misery of his plight in an uncongenial environment, which abounded in disease and death and obstructed him on all sides in his endeavour to maintain himself. Having no control over the forces of Nature, a pessimistic view of life was perfectly natural to him. Thus, in an old Babylonian inscription, we find the serpent (phallic symbol), the tree, and the woman offering an apple (symbol of virginity) to the man. The meaning of the myth is clear– the fall of man from a supposed state of bliss was due to the original sexual act of the human pair. The way in which the Qur’an handles this legend becomes clear when we compare it with the narration of the Book of Genesis. The remarkable points of difference between the Qur’anic and the Biblical narrations suggest unmistakably the purpose of the Qur’anic narration.
1. The Qur’an omits the serpent
and the rib-story altogether. The former omission is obviously meant to free
the story from its phallic setting and its original suggestion of a pessimistic
view of life. The latter omission is meant to suggest that the purpose of the
Qur’anic narration is not historical, as in the case of the Old Testament,
which gives us an account of the origin of the first human pair by way of a
prelude to the history of
We created you; then fashioned you; then said We to the angels, ‘prostrate yourself unto Adam’ (7: 11).
2. The Qur’an splits up the legend into two distinct episodes– the one relating to what it describes simply as “the tree” and the other relating to the “tree of eternity” and the “kingdom that faileth not.” The first episode is mentioned in the 7th and the second in the 20th Sūrah of the Qur’an. According to the Qur’an, Adam and his wife, led astray by Satan whose function is to create doubts in the minds of men, tasted the fruit of both the trees, whereas according to the Old Testament man was driven out of the Garden of Eden immediately after his first act of disobedience, and God placed, at the eastern side of the garden, angels and a flaming sword, turning on all sides, to keep the way to the tree of life.
3. The Old Testament curses the
earth for Adam’s act of disobedience; the Qur’an
declares the earth to be the “dwelling place” of man and a “source
of profit” to him for the
possession of which he ought to be grateful to God.
And We have established you on the earth and given you therein the supports of life. How little do ye give thanks! (7: 10).
Nor is there any reason to suppose that the word Jannat (garden) as used here means the supersensual paradise from which man is supposed to have fallen on this earth. According to the Qur’an, man is not a stranger on this earth. “And We have caused you to grow from the earth”, says the Qur’an. The Jannat, mentioned in the legend, cannot mean the eternal abode of the righteous. In the sense of the eternal abode of the righteous, Jannat isdescribed by the Qur’an to be the place “wherein the righteous will pass to one another the cup which shall engender no light discourse, no motive to sin.” It is further described to be the place “wherein no weariness shall reach the righteous, nor forth from it shall they be cast.” In the Jannat mentioned in the legend, however, the very first event that took place was man’s sin of disobedience followed by his expulsion. In fact, the Qur’an itself explains the meaning of the word as used in its own narration. In the second episode of the legend the garden is described as a place “where there is neither hunger, nor thirst, neither heat nor nakedness.” I am, therefore, inclined to think that the Jannat in the Qur’anic narration is the conception of a primitive state in which man is practically unrelated to his environment and consequently does not feel the sting of human wants the birth of which alone marks the beginning of human culture.
Thus we see that the Qur’anic legend of the Fall has nothing to do with the first appearance of man on this planet. Its purpose is rather to indicate man’s rise from a primitive state of instinctive appetite to the conscious possession of a free self, capable of doubt and disobedience. The Fall does not mean any moral depravity; it is man’s transition from simple consciousness to the first flash of self-consciousness, a kind of waking from the dream of nature with a throb of personal causality in one’s own being. Nor does the Qur’an regard the earth as a torture-hall where an elementally wicked humanity is imprisoned for an original act of sin. Man’s first act of disobedience was also his first act of free choice; and that is why, according to the Qur’anic narration, Adam’s first transgression was forgiven. Now goodness is not a matter of compulsion; it is the self’s free surrender to the moral ideal and arises out of a willing co-operation of free egos. A being whose movements are wholly determined like a machine cannot produce goodness. Freedom is thus a condition of goodness. But to permit the emergence of a finite ego who has the power to choose, after considering the relative values of several courses of action open to him, is really to take a great risk; for the freedom to choose good involves also the freedom to choose what is the opposite of good. That God has taken this risk shows His immense faith in man; it is for man now to justify this faith. Perhaps such a risk alone makes it possible to test and develop the potentialities of a being who was created of the “goodliest fabric” and then “brought down to be the lowest of the low.” As the Qur’an says: “And for trial will We test you with evil and with good” (21: 35). Good and evil, therefore, though opposites, must fall within the same whole. There is no such thing as an isolated fact; for facts are systematic wholes the elements of which must be understood by mutual reference. Logical judgement separates the elements of a fact only to reveal their interdependence.
Further, it is the nature of the self to maintain itself as a self. For this purpose it seeks knowledge, self-multiplication, and power, or, in the words of the Qur’an, “the kingdom that never faileth.” The first episode in the Qur’anic legend relates to man’s desire for knowledge, the second to his desire for self-multiplication and power. In connexion with the first episode it is necessary to point out two things. Firstly, the episode is mentioned immediately after the verses describing Adam’s superiority over the angels in remembering and reproducing the names of things. The purpose of these verses, as I have shown before, is to bring out the conceptual character of human knowledge. Secondly, Madame Blavatsky who possessed a remarkable knowledge of ancient symbolism, tells us in her book, called Secret Doctrine, that with the ancients the tree was a cryptic symbol for occult knowledge. Adam was forbidden to taste the fruit of this tree obviously because his finitude as a self, his sense-equipment, and his intellectual faculties were, on the whole, attuned to a different type of knowledge, i.e. the type of knowledge which necessitates the toil of patient observation and admits only of slow accumulation. Satan, however, persuaded him to eat the forbidden fruit of occult knowledge and Adam yielded, not because he was elementally wicked, but because being “asty” (‘Ajūl) by nature he sought a short cut to knowledge. The only way to correct this tendency was to place him in an environment which, however painful, was better suited to the unfolding of his intellectual faculties. Thus Adam’s insertion into a painful physical environment was not meant as a punishment; it was meant rather to defeat the object of Satan who, as an enemy of man, diplomatically tried to keep him ignorant of the joy of perpetual growth and expansion. But the life of a finite ego in an obstructing environment depends on the perpetual expansion of knowledge based on actual experience. And the experience of a finite ego to whom several possibilities are open expands only by method of trial and error. Therefore, error which may be described as a kind of intellectual evil is an indispensable factor in the building up of experience.
The second episode of the Qur’anic legend is as follows:
But Satan whispered him (Adam): said he, O Adam! shall I show thee the tree of Eternity and the Kingdom that faileth not? And they both ate thereof, and their nakedness appeared to them, and they began to sew of the leaves of the garden to cover them, and Adam disobeyed his Lord, and went astray. Afterwards his Lord chose him for Himself, and was turned towards him, and guided him. (20: 120-22).
The central idea here is to suggest life’s irresistible desire for a lasting dominion, an infinite career as a concrete individual. As a temporal being, fearing the termination of its career by death, the only course open to it is to achieve a kind of collective immortality by self-multiplication. The eating of the forbidden fruit of the tree of eternity is life’s resort to sex-differentiation by which it multiplies itself with a view to circumvent total extinction. It is as if life says to death: “If you sweep away one generation of living things, I will produce another”. The Qur’an rejects the phallic symbolism of ancient art, but suggests the original sexual act by the birth of the sense of shame disclosed in Adam’s anxiety to cover the nakedness of his body. Now to live is to possess a definite outline, a concrete individuality. It is in the concrete individuality, manifested in the countless varieties of living forms that the Ultimate Ego reveals the infinite wealth of His Being. Yet the emergence and multiplication of individualities, each fixing its gaze on the revelation of its own possibilities and seeking its own dominion, inevitably brings in its wake the awful struggle of ages. “Descend ye as enemies of one another”, says the Qur’an. This mutual conflict of opposing individualities is the world-pain which both illuminates and darkens the temporal career of life. In the case of man in whom individuality deepens into personality, opening up possibilities of wrongdoing, the sense of the tragedy of life becomes much more acute. But the acceptance of selfhood as a form of life involves the acceptance of all the imperfections that flow from the finitude of selfhood. The Qur’an represents man as having accepted at his peril the trust of personality which the heavens, the earth, and the mountains refused to bear:
Verily We proposed to the heavens and to the earth and to the mountains to receive the “trust” but they refused the burden and they feared to receive it. Man undertook to bear it, but hath proved unjust, senseless! (33: 72).
Shall we, then, say no or yes to the trust of personality with all its attendant ills? True manhood, according to the Qur’an, consists in “patience under ills and hardships.” At the present stage of the evolution of selfhood, however, we cannot understand the full import of the discipline which the driving power of pain brings. Perhaps it hardens the self against a possible dissolution. But in asking the above question we are passing the boundaries of pure thought. This is the point where faith in the eventual triumph of goodness emerges as a religious doctrine. “God is equal to His purpose, but most men know it not.” (12: 2 1).
I have now explained to you how it is possible philosophically to justify the Islamic conception of God. But as I have said before, religious ambition soars higher than the ambition of philosophy. Religion is not satisfied with mere conception; it seeks a more intimate knowledge of and association with the object of its pursuit. The agency through which this association is achieved is the act of worship or prayer ending in spiritual illumination. The act of worship, however, affects different varieties of consciousness differently. In the case of the prophetic consciousness it is in the main creative, i.e. it tends to create a fresh ethical world wherein the Prophet, so to speak, applies the pragmatic test to his revelations. I shall further develop this point in my lecture on the meaning of Muslim Culture. In the case of the mystic consciousness it is in the main cognitive. It is from this cognitive point of view that I will try to discover the meaning of prayer. And this point of view is perfectly justifiable in view of the ultimate motive of prayer. I would draw your attention to the following passage from the great American psychologist, Professor William James:
It seems probable that in spite of all that “science” may do to the contrary, men will continue to pray to the end of time, unless their mental nature changes in a manner which nothing we know should lead us to expect. The impulse to pray is a necessary consequence of the fact that whilst the innermost of the empirical selves of a man is a Self of the social sort, it yet can find its only adequate Socius [its “great companion”] in an ideal world.
....most men, either continually or occasionally, carry a reference to it in their breast. The humblest outcast on this earth can feel himself to be real and valid by means of this higher recognition. And, on the other hand, for most of us, a world with no such inner refuge when the outer social self failed and dropped from us would be the abyss of horror. I say “for most of us”, because it is probable that individuals differ a good deal in the degree in which they are haunted by this sense of an ideal spectator. It is a much more essential part of the consciousness of some men than of others. Those who have the most of it are possibly the most religious men. But I am sure that even those who say they are altogether without it deceive themselves, and really have it in some degree.
Thus you will see that, psychologically speaking, prayer is instinctive in its origin. The act of prayer as aiming at knowledge resembles reflection. Yet prayer at its highest is much more than abstract reflection. Like reflection it too is a process of assimilation, but the assimilative process in the case of prayer draws itself closely together and thereby acquires a power unknown to pure thought. In thought the mind observes and follows the working of Reality; in the act of prayer it gives up its career as a seeker of slow-footed universality and rises higher than thought to capture Reality itself with a view to become a conscious participator in its life. There is nothing mystical about it. Prayer as a means of spiritual illumination is a normal vital act by which the little island of our personality suddenly discovers its situation in a larger whole of life. Do not think I am talking of auto-suggestion. Auto-suggestion has nothing to do with the opening up of the sources of life that lie in the depths of the human ego. Unlike spiritual illumination which brings fresh power by shaping human personality, it leaves no permanent life-effects behind. Nor am I speaking of some occult and special way of knowledge. All that I mean is to fix your attention on a real human experience which has a history behind it and a future before it. Mysticism has, no doubt, revealed fresh regions of the self by making a special study of this experience. Its literature is illuminating; yet its set phraseology shaped by the thought-forms of a worn-out metaphysics has rather a deadening effect on the modern mind. The quest after a nameless nothing, as disclosed in Neo-Platonic mysticism– be it Christian or Muslim– cannot satisfy the modern mind which, with its habits of concrete thinking, demands a concrete living experience of God. And the history of the race shows that the attitude of the mind embodied in the act of worship is a condition for such an experience. In fact, prayer must be regarded as a necessary complement to the intellectual activity of the observer of Nature. The scientific observation of Nature keeps us in close contact with the behaviour of Reality, and thus sharpens our inner perception for a deeper vision of it. I cannot help quoting here a beautiful passage from the mystic poet Rūmi in which he describes the mystic quest after Reality:
آہو دید و بر
The Sufi stalks the
game like a hunter
he sees the musk-deer’s track and follows the footprints.
For some while the track of the deer is the proper clue for him
but afterwards it is the musk-gland of the deer that is his guide.
To go one stage guided by the scent of the musk-gland
is better than a hundred stages of following the track and roaming about.
The truth is that all search for knowledge is essentially a form of prayer. The scientific observer of Nature is a kind of mystic seeker in the act of prayer. Although at present he follows only the footprints of the musk-deer, and thus modestly limits the method of his quest, his thirst for knowledge is eventually sure to lead him to the point where the scent of the musk-gland is a better guide than the footprints of the deer. This alone will add to his power over Nature and give him that vision of the total-infinite which philosophy seeks but cannot find. Vision without power does bring moral elevation but cannot give a lasting culture. Power without vision tends to become destructive and inhuman. Both must combine for the spiritual expansion of humanity.
The real object of prayer,
however, is better achieved when the act of prayer becomes congregational. The
spirit of all true prayer is social. Even the hermit abandons the society of
men in the hope of finding, in a solitary abode, the fellowship of God. A
congregation is an association of men who, animated by the same aspiration,
concentrate themselves on a single object and open up their inner selves to the
working of a single impulse. It is a psychological truth that association
multiplies the normal man’s power of perception, deepens his emotion, and
dynamizes his will to a degree unknown to him in the privacy of his
individuality. Indeed, regarded as a psychological phenomenon, prayer is still
a mystery; for psychology has not yet discovered the laws relating to the
enhancement of human sensibility in a state of association. With Islam,
however, this socialization of spiritual illumination through associative
prayer is a special point of interest.
As we pass from the daily congregational prayer to the
annual ceremony round the central mosque of
Prayer, then, whether individual or associative, is an expression of man’s inner yearning for a response in the awful silence of the universe. It is a unique process of discovery whereby the searching ego affirms itself in the very moment of self-negation, and thus discovers its own worth and justification as a dynamic factor in the life of the universe. True to the psychology of mental attitude in prayer, the form of worship in Islam symbolizes both affirmation and negation. Yet, in view of the fact borne out by the experience of the race that prayer, as an inner act, has found expression in a variety of forms, the Qur’an says:
To every people have we appointed ways of worship which they observe. Therefore let them not dispute this matter with thee, but bid them to thy Lord for thou art on the right way: but if they debate with thee, then say: God best knoweth what ye do! He will judge between you on the Day of Resurrection, as to the matters wherein ye differ (22: 67-69).
The East and West is God’s: therefore whichever way ye turn, there is the face of God. (2: 115).
There is no piety in turning your faces towards the East or the West, but he is pious who believeth in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and the scriptures, and the prophets; who for the love of God disburseth his wealth to his kindred, and to the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and those who ask, and for ransoming; who observeth prayer, and payeth the legal alms, and who is of those who are faithful to their engagements when they have engaged in them; and patient under ills and hardships, in time of trouble: those are they who are just, and those are they who fear the Lord (2: 177).
Yet we cannot ignore the important consideration that the posture of the body is a real factor in determining the attitude of the mind. The choice of one particular direction in Islamic worship is meant to secure the unity of feeling in the congergation, and its form in general creates and fosters the sense of social equality inasmuch as it tends to destroy the feeling of rank or race superiority in the worshippers. What a tremendous spiritual revolution will take place, practically in no time, if the proud aristocratic Brahmin of South India is daily made to stand shoulder to shoulder with the untouchable! From the unity of the all-inclusive Ego who creates and sustains all egos follows the essential unity of all mankind. The division of mankind into races, nations, and tribes, according to the Qur’an, is for purposes of identification only. The Islamic form of association in prayer, therefore, besides its cognitive value, is further indicative of the aspiration to realize this essential unity of mankind as a fact in life by demolishing all barriers which stand between man and man.
Lecture III: The Conception of God
See Qur’an, for example, 2: 163, 4: 171, 5: 73. 6: 19, 13: 16, 14: 48, 21: 108, 39: 4 and 40: 16, on the Unity of Allah and 4: 171, 6: 101, 10: 68, 17: 111, 19: 88-92 emphatically denying the Christian doctrine of His sonship.
For the long-drawn controversy on the issue of the creation of the universe, see, for instance, Ghazālī, Tahāfatu al-Falāsifah, English translation by S. A. Kamālī: Incoherence of the Philosophers, pp. 13-53 and Ibn Rushd, Tahāfatu al-Tahāfah, English translation by Simon van den Bergh: The Incoherence of the Incoherence, pp. 1-69. A more accurate and annotated translation with the critical text of the Tahāfatu al-Falāsifah wsa made by Michael E. Marmura in his Incoherence of the Philosophers, Bagham University Press, Rep. Suhail Academy, Lahore, 2007. Cf. also G. F. Hourani, ‘Alghazālī and the Philosophers on the Origin of the World’, The Muslim World, XLVII/2(1958), 183-91, 308-14 and M. Saeed Sheikh, ‘Al-Ghazalī: Metaphysics’, A History of Muslim Philosophy, ed. M. M. Sharif, pp. 598-608.
For Abū Hāshim’s theory of atomism cf. T. J. de Boer, ‘Atomic Theory (Muhammadan)’, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, II, 202-03, De Boer’s account is based on Abū Rashid Sa‘īd’s Kitāb al-Masā’il fi ’l-Khilāf, edited and translated into German by Arthur Biram (Leyden, 1902).
Cf. Ibn Khaldūn, Muqaddimah, English translation by F. Rosenthal, III, 50-51, where Bāqillānī is said to have introduced the conceptions of atom (al-jawhar al fard), vacuum and accidents into the Ash‘artie Kalām. R. J. McCarthy, who has edited and also translated some of Bāqillānī’s texts, however, considers this to be unwarranted; see his article ‘al-Bākillānī’, in the Encyclopaedia of Islam (New edition), I, 959. From the account of Muslim atomism given in Al-Ash‘arī’s Maqālāt al-Islāmiyīn. This much has to be conceded that atomism was keenly discussed by the Muslim scholastic theologians long before Bāqillānī.
For life and works of Maimonides and his relationship with Muslim philosophy, cf. S. Pines, The Guide of the Perplexed (new English translation, Chicago University Press, 1963), ‘Introduction’ by the translator and an ‘Introductory Essay’ by L. Strauss; also Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, II, 369-70, and 376-77.
D. B. Macdonald, ‘Continuous Re-creation and Atomic Time in Moslem Scholastic Theology’, The Moslem World, XVIII/i (1928), 6-28; reprinted from Isis, IX (1927), 326-44. This article is focussed on Maimonides’ well-known ‘Twelve Propositions of the Kalām’.
For an account of Nazzām’s notion of al-tafrah or jump, see Ash‘arī, Maqālāt al-Islāmiyīn, II, 18; Ibn Hazm, Kitāb al-Fisal. V, 64-65, and Shahrastānī, Kitāb al-Milal wa ’l-Nihal, pp. 38-39; cf. also Isfrā’īnī, Al-Tabsīr, p. 68, and Majid Fakhry, Islamic Occasionalism, p. 39.
For Ash‘arite’s theory of the perpetual re-creation of the universe basing it on the Absolute Power and Will of God, cf. Majid Fakhry, Islamic Occasionalism, pp. 15, 117 ff. and M. Saeed Sheikh, ‘Al-Ghazālī; Metaphysics’, in op. cit., I, 603-08.
از ما مست شد
نے ما ازو
قالب از ما ہست شد نے ما ازو
Wine became intoxicated with us, not we with it;
the body came into being from us, not we from it.
Viscount Richard Burton Haldane, the elder brother of John Scott Haldane, from whose Symposium Paper Allama Iqbal has quoted at length in Lecture II p. 35, was a leading neo-Hegelian British philosopher and a distinguished statesman who died on 19 August 1928. Allama’s using the expression ‘the late Lord Haldane’ is indicative of the possible time of his writing the present Lecture which together with the first two Lectures was delivered in Madras (5-8 Jan. 1929). The ‘idea of degrees of reality and knowledge is very vigorously expounded by Haldane in The Reign of Relativity (1921) as also in his earlier two-volume Gifford Lectures: The Pathway to Reality (1903-04) in which he also expounded the Principle of Relativity on purely philosophical grounds even before the publication of Einstein’s theory; cf. Rudolf Metz, A Hundred Years of British Philosophy, p. 315.
Cf. Louis Rougier, Philosophy and the New Physics (An
Essay on the Relativity Theory and the Theory of Quanta), p. 143.The work
belongs to the earlier phase of Rougier’s philosophical output, a phase in which
he was seized by the new discoveries of physicists and mathematicians such as
Henry Poincare (celestial mechanics and new geometry), Max Planck (quantum
theory) Nicolas L. Carnot (thermodynamics), Madame Curie (radium and its
compounds) and Einstein (principle of relativity). This was followed by his
critical study of theories of knowledge: rationalism and scholasticism, ending
in his thesis of the diversity of ‘metaphysical temperaments’ and the
‘infinite plasticity’ of the human mind whereby it takes delight in ‘quite
varied forms of intelligibility’. To the final phase of Rougier’s philosophical
productivity belongs La Métaphysique et le langage (1960)in which he
elaborated the conception of plurality of language in philosophical discourse.
Rougier also wrote on history of ideas (scientific, philosophical, religious)
and on contemporary political and economical problems– his Les Mystiques
politiques et leurs incidences internationales (1935) and Les
Mystiques économiques (1949)are noteworthy.
It is to be noted that both the name ‘Louis Rougier’ and the title of his book ‘Philosophy and the New Physics’ cited in the passage quoted by Allama Iqbal are given puzzlingly incorrectly in the previous editions of Reconstruction including the one by Oxford University Press (London, 1934); and these were not noticed even by Madame Eva Meyerovitch in her French translation: Reconstruire la pensée religieuse de l’ Islam (Paris, 1955, p. 83).It would have been well-nigh impossible for me to find out the author’s name and title of the book correctly had I not received the very kind help of the Dutch scholar the Reverend Dr. Jan Slomp and Mlle Mauricette Levasseur of Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, who also supplied me with many useful particulars about the life and works of Rougier. The last thing that I heard was that this French philosopher who taught in various universities including the ones in
Cf. Space, Time and Deity, II, 396.98;also Allama Iqbal’s letter dated 24January 1921 addressed to R. A. Nicholson (Letters of Iqbal, ed. B. A. Dar, pp. 141-42)where, while disagreeing with Alexander’s view of God, he observes: ‘I believe there is a Divine tendency in the universe, but this tendency will eventually find its complete expression in a higher man, not in a God subject to Time, as Alexander implies in his discussion of the subject.’
TheSufi poet named here as well as in Lectures V and VII as (Fakhr
al-Dīn) ‘Irāqī, we are told, is really ‘Ain al-Qudāt
Abū ’l-Ma‘ālī ‘Abdullāh b. Muhammad b. ‘Alī b.
al-Hasan b. ‘Alī al-Miyānjī al-Hamadānī
(492-525/1098-1131) whose tractate on space and time: Ghāyat
al-Imkān fi Dirāyat al-Makān (54 pp.)has been
edited by Rahīm Farmanish (Tehran, 1338 S/1959); cf. English translation
of the tractate by A. H. Kamali, section captioned: ‘Observations’, pp. i-v;
also B. A. Dar, ‘Iqbal aur Mas’alah-i Zamān-o-Makān’in Fikr-i
Iqbal ke Munawwar Goshay, ed. Salim Akhtar, pp. 149-51. Nadhr
Sābirī, however, strongly pleads that the real author of the tractate
was Shaikh Tāj al-Dīn Mahmūd b. Khudādād Ashnawī
(d. c. 619/1222),as also hinted by Allama Iqbal in his Presidential Address
delivered at the Fifth Indian Oriental Conference (1928) (Speeches,
Writings and Statements of Iqbal, p. 137). Cf. Shaikh Mahmūd
Ashnawī’s tractate: Ghāyat al-Imkān fi Ma‘rifat
al-Zamān wa ’l-Makān (42 pp.)edited by Nadhr Sābirī
(Campbellpur, 1401/1981), ‘Introduction’ embodying the editor’s research about
the MSS of the tractate and the available data of its author; also
Hājī Khalifah, Kashf al-Zunūn, II, 1190, and A.
Monzavi, A Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts, Vol. II, Part I, MSS
7556-72. Cf. also Maulānā Imtiāz ‘Alī Khān
‘Arshī, ‘Zamān-o-Makān kī Bahth ke Muta‘alliq Allāmah
Iqbāl kā aik Makhadh: ‘Irāqī ya Ashnawī’, Maqālāt:
Iqbāl Alamī Kāngras (Iqbal Centenary Papers Presented at the
International Congress on Allama Mohammad Iqbal: 2-8December 1977),IV,
1-10 wherein Maulānā ‘Arshī traces a new MS of the tractate in
the Rida Library, Rampur, and suggests the possibility of its being the one
used by Allama Iqbal in these Lectures as well as in his Address: ‘A Plea for
Deeper Study of Muslim Scientists’.
It may be added that there remains now no doubt as to the particular MS of this unique Sufi tractate on ‘Space and Time’ used by Allama Iqbal, for fortunately it is well preserved in the Allama Iqbal Museum, Lahore (inaugurated by the President of Pakistan on 26September 1984). The MS, according to a note in Allama’s own hand dated 21October 1935, was transcribed for him by the celebrated religious scholar Sayyid Anwar Shāh Kāshmīrī, Cf. Dr. Ahmad Nabi Khan, Relics of Allama Iqbal (Catalogue),p. 12.
For purposes of present annotation we have referred to Rahīm Farmanish’s edition of Hamadānī’s Ghāyat al-Imkān fi Dirāyat al-Makān (Tehran, 1338/1959) and to A. H. Kamali’s English translation of it (
(واعلم) انی الی الان ما وصلت الی حقيقة الحق فی الزمان فليکن طمعک من هذا الکتاب استقصاء القول فيما يمکن ان يقال من کل جانب و اما تکلف الاجوبة الضّعيفة تعصّبا لقوم دون قوم و لمذهب دون مذهب فذلک مما لا افعله فی کثير من المواضع و خصوصا فی هذہ المسئلة۔
Iqbal’s original words read “Mīr Dāmād and Mulla Bāqir” which refer to two different personalities, the former being a theologian and Kalam scholar while the latter is the well known Shī‘ite religious scholar Mulla Bāqir Majlisī.
Cf. Lecture II, p. 49, where, summing up his philosophical ‘criticism’ of experience, Allama Iqbal says: ‘facts of experience justify the inference that the ultimate nature of Reality is spiritual and must be conceived as an ego.’
About the cosmic harmony and unity of Nature the Qur’an says: ‘Thou seest no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent. Then look again. Canst thou see any disorder? Then turn thy eye again and again– thy look will return to thee confused while it is fatigued’ (67: 3-4).
Cf. Joseph Friedrich Naumann, Briefe über Religion,
p. 68; also Lecture VI, note 38. The German text of the passage
quoted in English is as under:
‘Wir haben eine Welterkenntnis, wie uns einen Gott der Macht and Starke lehrt, der Tod und Leben wie Schatten und Licht gleichzeitig versendet, und eine Offenbarung, einen Heilsglauben, der von demselben Gott sagt, dass er Vater sei. Die Nachfolge des Weltgottes ergibt die Sittlichkeit des Kampfes ums Dasn, und der Dienst des Vaters Jesu Christi ergibt die Sittlichkeit der Barmherzigkeit. Es sind aber nicht zwei Gotter, sondern einer. Irgendwie greifen ihre Arme imeinander. Nur kann kein Sterblicher sagen, wo and wie das geschicht.
Madame Helena Petrovna
Blavatsky (1831-1891) is a noted spiritualist and theosophist of Russian birth,
who in collaboration with Col. H. S. Olcott and W. A. Judge founded
Theosophical Society in
For the mention of tree as ‘a cryptic symbol for occult knowledge’ in The Secret Doctrine, cf. I, 187: ‘The Symbol for Sacred and Secret knowledge in antiquity was universally a Tree, by which a scripture or a Record was also meant’; III, 384: ‘Ormzad ... is also the creator of the Tree’ (of Occult and Spiritual Knowledge and Wisdom) from which the mystic and the mysterious Baresma is taken’, and IV, 159: ‘To the Eastern Occultist the Tree of Knowledge (leads) to the light of the eternal present Reality’.
It may be added that Allama Iqbal seems to have a little more than a mere passing interest in the Theosophical Society and its activities for, as reported by Dr. M. ‘Abdullāh Chaghata’i (Iqbal ki Suhbat Men, p. 330), he, during his quite busy stay in Madras (5-8 Jan. 1929) in connection with the present Lectures, found time to pay a visit to the head office of the Society at Adyar. One may also note in Development of Metaphysics in Persia (p. 10, note 2) reference to a small work Reincarnation by the famous Annie Besant (President of the Theosophical Society, 1907-1933, and the first and the only English woman who served as President of the Indian National Congress in 1917) and added to this are the two books published by the Theosophical Society in Allama’s personal library (cf. Descriptive Catalogue of Allama Iqbal’s Personal Library, No. 81 and Relics of Allama Iqbal; Catalogue IV. 11). All this, however, does not enable one to determine the nature of Allama Iqbal’s interest in the Theosophical Society.
Qur’an, 17: 11; also 21: 37. The tree which Adam was forbidden to approach (2: 35 and 7: 19), according to Allama Iqbal’s remarkably profound and rare understanding of the Qur’an, is the tree of ‘occult knowledge’, to which man in all ages has been tempted to resort in unfruitful haste. This, in Allama’s view, is opposed to the inductive knowledge ‘which is most characteristic of Islamic teachings.’ He indeed tells us in Lecture V (p. 101) that ‘the birth of Islam is the birth of Inductive intellect.’ True, this second kind of knowledge is so toilsome and painfully slow: yet this knowledge alone unfolds man’s creative intellectual faculties and makes him the master of his environment and thus God’s true vicegerent on earth. If this is the true approach to knowledge, there is little place in it for Mme Blavatsky’s occult spiritualism or theosophism. Allama Iqbal was in fact opposed to all kinds of occultism. In one of his dialogues, he is reported to have said that ‘the forbidden tree’ (shajr-i mamnū‘ah)of the Qur’an is no other than the occultistic tasawwuf which prompts the patient to seek some charm or spell rather than take the advice of a physician. The tasawwuf, he added, which urges us to close our eyes and ears and instead to concentrate on the inner vision and which teaches us to leave the arduous ways of conquering Nature and instead take to some easier spiritual ways, has done the greatest harm to science. [Cf. Dr. Abu ’l-Laith Siddīqī (ed.), Malfūzāt-i Iqbāl, pp. 138-39].It must, however, be added that Allama Iqbal does speak of a genuine or higher kind of tasawwuf which soars higher than all sciences and all philosophies. In it the human ego so to say discovers himself as an individual deeper than his conceptually describable habitual selfhood. This happens in the ego’s contact with the Most Real which brings about in it a kind of ‘biological transformation’, the description of which surpasses all ordinary language and all usual categories of thought. ‘This experience can embody itself only in a world-making or world-shaking act, and in this form alone’, we are told, ‘can this timeless experience .... make itself visible to the eye of history’ (Lecture VII, p. 145).
Cf. ibid., Vol. IV,
2(Books i and ii– translation), p. 230. It is to be noted that quite a few
minor changes made by Allama Iqbal in Nicholson’s English translation of the
verses quoted here from the Mathnawī are due to his dropping
Nicholson’s parentheses used by him for keeping his translation literally as
close to the text as it was possible. Happily, Allama’s personal copies of
Volumes 2-5 and 7of Nicholson’s edition of the Mathnawī are preserved
The Human Ego– His Freedom and Immortality
The Qur’an in its simple, forceful manner emphasizes the individuality and uniqueness of man, and has, I think, a definite view of his destiny as a unity of life. It is in consequence of this view of man as a unique individuality which makes it impossible for one individual to bear the burden of another, and entitles him only to what is due to his own personal effort, that the Qur’an is led to reject the idea of redemption. Three things are perfectly clear from the Qur’an:
(i) That man is the chosen of God:
Afterwards his Lord chose him [Adam] for himself and turned towards him, and guided him. (20: 122).
(ii) That man, with all his
faults, is meant to be the representative of God on earth:
When thy Lord said to the angels, “Verily I am about to place one in my stead on Earth”, they said, “Wilt Thou place there one who will do ill therein and shed blood, when we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness?” God said, “Verily I know what you know not.” (2: 30).
And it is He Who hath made you His representatives on the Earth, and hath raised some of you above others by various grades, that He may try you by His gifts. (6: 165)
(iii) That man is the trustee of a
free personality which he accepted at his peril:
Verily we proposed to the Heavens, and to the Earth, and to the mountains to receive the “trust”, but they refused the burden and they feared to receive it. Man undertook to bear it, but hath proved unjust, senseless! (33: 72).
Yet it is surprising to see that
the unity of human consciousness which constitutes the centre of human
personality never really became a point of interest in the history of Muslim
thought. The Mutakallimūn regarded the soul as a finer kind of matter or a
mere accident which dies with the body and is re-created on the Day of
Judgement. The philosophers of Islam received inspiration from Greek thought.
In the case of other schools, it must be remembered that the expansion of Islam
brought within its fold peoples belonging to different creed-communities, such
as Nestorians, Jews, Zoroastrians, whose intellectual outlook had been formed
by the concepts of a culture which had long dominated the whole of middle and
In the history of modern thought it is Bradley who furnishes the best evidence for the impossibility of denying reality to the ego. In his Ethical Studies he assumes the reality of the self; in his Logic he takes it only as a working hypothesis. It is in his Appearance and Reality that he subjects the ego to a searching examination. Indeed, his two chapters on the meaning and reality of the self may be regarded as a kind of modern Upanishad on the unreality of the Jivatma. According to him, the test of reality is freedom from contradiction and since his criticism discovers the finite centre of experience to be infected with irreconcilable oppositions of change and permanence, unity and diversity, the ego is a mere illusion. Whatever may be our view of the self– feeling, self-identity, soul, will– it can be examined only by the canons of thought which in its nature is relational, and all “relations involve contradictions.” Yet, in spite of the fact that his ruthless logic has shown the ego to be a mass of confusion, Bradley has to admit that the self must be “in some sense real,” “in some sense an indubitable fact.” We may easily grant that the ego, in its finitude, is imperfect as a unity of life. Indeed, its nature is wholly aspiration after a unity more inclusive, more effective, more balanced, and unique. Who knows how many different kinds of environment it needs for its organization as a perfect unity? At the present stage of its organization it is unable to maintain the continuity of its tension without constant relaxation of sleep. An insignificant stimulus may sometimes disrupt its unity and nullify it as a controlling energy. Yet, however thought may dissect and analyze, our feeling of egohood is ultimate and is powerful enough to extract from Professor Bradley the reluctant admission of its reality.
The finite centre of experience,
therefore, is real, even though its reality is too profound to be
intellectualized. What then is the characteristic feature of the ego? The ego
reveals itself as a unity of what we call mental states. Mental states do not
exist in mutual isolation. They mean and involve one another. They exist as
phases of a complex whole, called mind. The organic unity, however, of these
interrelated states or, let us say, events is a special kind of unity. It
fundamentally differs from the unity of a material thing; for the parts of a material
thing can exist in mutual isolation. Mental unity is absolutely unique. We
cannot say that one of my beliefs is situated on the right or left of my other
belief. Nor is it possible to say that my appreciation of the beauty of the
Tāj varies with my distance from
Another important characteristic of the unity of the ego is its essential privacy which reveals the uniqueness of every ego. In order to reach a certain conclusion all the premises of a syllogism must be believed in by one and the same mind. If I believe in the proposition “all men are mortal”, and another mind believes in the proposition “Socrates is a man”, no inference is possible. It is possible only if both the propositions are believed in by me. Again, my desire for a certain thing is essentially mine. Its satisfaction means my private enjoyment. If all mankind happen to desire the same thing, the satisfaction of their desire will not mean the satisfaction of my desire when I do not get the thing desired. The dentist may sympathize with my toothache, but cannot experience the feeling of my toothache. My pleasures, pains, and desires are exclusively mine, forming a part and parcel of my private ego alone. My feelings, hates and loves, judgements and resolutions, are exclusively mine. God Himself cannot feel, judge, and choose for me when more than one course of action are open to me. Similarly, in order to recognize you, I must have known you in the past. My recognition of a place or person means reference to my past experience, and not the past experience of another ego. It is this unique interrelation of our mental states that we express by the word ‘I’, and it is here that the great problem of psychology begins to appear. What is the nature of this ‘I’?
To the Muslim school of theology of which Ghazālī is the chief exponent, the ego is a simple, indivisible, and immutable soul-substance, entirely different from the group of our mental states and unaffected by the passage of time. Our conscious experience is a unity, because our mental states are related as so many qualities to this simple substance which persists unchanged during the flux of its qualities. My recognition of you is possible only if I persist unchanged between the original perception and the present act of memory. The interest of this school, however, was not so much psychological as metaphysical. But whether we take the soul-entity as an explanation of the facts of our conscious experience, or as a basis for immortality, I am afraid it serves neither psychological nor metaphysical interest. Kant’s fallacies of pure reason are well known to the student of modern philosophy. The “I think”, which accompanies every thought is, according to Kant, a purely formal condition of thought, and the transition from a purely formal condition of thought to ontological substance is logically illegitimate. Even apart from Kant’s way of looking at the subject of experience, the indivisibility of a substance does not prove its indestructibility; for the indivisible substance, as Kant himself remarks, may gradually disappear into nothingness like an intensive quality or cease to exist all of a sudden. Nor can this static view of substance serve any psychological interest. In the first place, it is difficult to regard the elements of our conscious experience as qualities of a soul-substance in the sense in which, for instance, the weight of a physical body is the quality of that body. Observation reveals experience to be particular acts of reference, and as such they possess a specific being of their own. They constitute, as Laird acutely remarks, “a new world and not merely new features in an old world.” Secondly, even if we regard experiences as qualities, we cannot discover how they inhere in the soul-substance. Thus we see that our conscious experience can give us no clue to the ego regarded as a soul-substance; for by hypothesis the soul-substance does not reveal itself in experience. And it may further be pointed out that in view of the improbability of different soul-substances controlling the same body at different times, the theory can offer no adequate explanation of phenomena such as alternating personality, formerly explained by the temporary possession of the body by evil spirits.
Yet the interpretation of our conscious experience is the only road by which we can reach the ego, if at all. Let us, therefore, turn to modern psychology and see what light it throws on the nature of the ego. William James conceives consciousness as “a stream of thought”– a conscious flow of changes with a felt continuity. He finds a kind of gregarious principle working in our experiences which have, as it were, “hooks” on them, and thereby catch up one another in the flow of mental life. The ego consists of the feelings of personal life, and is, as such, part of the system of thought. Every pulse of thought, present or perishing, is an indivisible unity which knows and recollects. The appropriation of the passing pulse by the present pulse of thought, and that of the present by its successor, is the ego. This description of our mental life is extremely ingenious; but not, I venture to think, true to consciousness as we find it in ourselves. Consciousness is something single, presupposed in all mental life, and not bits of consciousness, mutually reporting to one another. This view of consciousness, far from giving us any clue to the ego, entirely ignores the relatively permanent element in experience. There is no continuity of being between the passing thoughts. When one of these is present, the other has totally disappeared; and how can the passing thought, which is irrevocably lost, be known and appropriated by the present thought? I do not mean to say that the ego is over and above the mutually penetrating multiplicity we call experience. Inner experience is the ego at work. We appreciate the ego itself in the act of perceiving, judging, and willing. The life of the ego is a kind of tension caused by the ego invading the environment and the environment invading the ego. The ego does not stand outside this arena of mutual invasion. It is present in it as a directive energy and is formed and disciplined by its own experience. The Qur’an is clear on this directive function of the ego:
And they ask thee of the soul. Say: the soul proceeded from my Lord’s Amr [Command]: but of knowledge, only a little to you is given’ (17: 85).
In order to understand the meaning of the word Amr, we must remember the distinction which the Qur’an draws between Amr and Khalq. Pringle-Pattison deplores that the English language possesses only one word– “creation”– to express the relation of God and the universe of extension on the one hand, and the relation of God and the human ego on the other. The Arabic language is, however, more fortunate in this respect. It has two words, Khalq and Amr, to express the two ways in which the creative activity of God reveals itself to us. Khalq is creation; Amr is direction. As the Qur’an says: “To Him belong creation and direction.” The verse quoted above means that the essential nature of the soul is directive, as it proceeds from the directive energy of God, though we do not know how Divine Amr functions as ego-unities. The personal pronoun used in the expression Rabbi (“MyLord”) throws further light on the nature and behaviour of the ego. It is meant to suggest that the soul must be taken as something individual and specific, with all the variations in the range, balance, and effectiveness of its unity. “Every man acteth after his own manner: but your Lord well knoweth who is best guided in the path” (17: 84). Thus my real personality is not a thing; it is an act. My experience is only a series of acts, mutually referring to one another, and held together by the unity of a directive purpose. My whole reality lies in my directive attitude. You cannot perceive me like a thing in space, or a set of experiences in temporal order; you must interpret, understand, and appreciate me in my judgements, in my will-attitudes, aims, and aspirations.
Now of fine clay have We created man: Then We placed him, a moist germ, in a safe abode; then made We the moist germ a clot of blood: Then made the clotted blood into a piece of flesh; then made the piece of flesh into bones: and We clothed the bones with flesh: Then brought forth man of yet another make. Blessed, therefore, be God– the most excellent of makers. (23: 12-14).
The “yet another make” of man develops on the basis of physical organism– that colony of sub-egos through which a profounder Ego constantly acts on me, and thus permits me to build up a systematic unity of experience. Are then the soul and its organism two things in the sense of Descartes, independent of each other, though somehow mysteriously united? I am inclined to think that the hypothesis of matter as an independent existence is perfectly gratuitous. It can be justified only on the ground of our sensation of which matter is supposed to be at least a part cause, other than myself This something other than myself is supposed to possess certain qualities, called primary which correspond to certain sensations in me; and I justify my belief in those qualities on the ground that the cause must have some resemblance with the effect. But there need be no resemblance between cause and effect. If my success in life causes misery to another man, my success and his misery have no resemblance with each other. Yet everyday experience and physical science proceed on the assumption of an independent existence of matter. Let us, therefore, provisionally assume that body and soul are two mutually independent, yet in some mysterious way united, things. It was Descartes who first stated the problem, and I believe his statement and final view of the problem were largely influenced by the Manichaean inheritance of early Christianity. However, if they are mutually independent and do not affect each other, then the changes of both run on exactly parallel lines, owing to some kind of pre-established harmony, as Leibniz thought. This reduces the soul to a merely passive spectator of the happenings of the body. If, on the other hand, we suppose them to affect each other, then we cannot find any observable facts to show how and where exactly their interaction takes place, and which of the two takes the initiative. The soul is an organ of the body which exploits it for physiological purposes, or the body is an instrument of the soul, are equally true propositions on the theory of interaction. Lange’s theory of emotion tends to show that the body takes the initiative in the act of interaction. There are, however, facts to contradict this theory, and it is not possible to detail these facts here. Suffice it to indicate that even if the body takes the initiative, the mind does enter as a consenting factor at a definite stage in the development of emotion, and this is equally true of other external stimuli which are constantly working on the mind. Whether an emotion will grow further, or that a stimulus will continue to work, depends on my attending to it. It is the mind’s consent which eventually decides the fate of an emotion or a stimulus.
Thus parallelism and interaction are both unsatisfactory. Yet mind and body become one in action. When I take up a book from my table, my act is single and indivisible. It is impossible to draw a line of cleavage between the share of the body and that of the mind in this act. Somehow they must belong to the same system, and according to the Qur’an they do belong to the same system. “To Him belong Khalq (creation) and Amr (direction).” How is such a thing conceivable? We have seen that the body is not a thing situated in an absolute void; it is a system of events or acts. The system of experiences we call soul or ego is also a system of acts. This does not obliterate the distinction of soul and body; it only brings them closer to each other. The characteristic of the ego is spontaneity; the acts composing the body repeat themselves. The body is accumulated action or habit of the soul; and as such undetachable from it. It is a permanent element of consciousness which, in view of this permanent element, appears from the outside as something stable. What then is matter? A colony of egos of a low order out of which emerges the ego of a higher order, when their association and interaction reach a certain degree of coordination. It is the world reaching the point of self-guidance wherein the Ultimate Reality, perhaps, reveals its secret, and furnishes a clue to its ultimate nature. The fact that the higher emerges out of the lower does not rob the higher of its worth and dignity. It is not the origin of a thing that matters, it is the capacity, the significance, and the final reach of the emergent that matters. Even if we regard the basis of soul-life as purely physical, it by no means follows that the emergent can be resolved into what has conditioned its birth and growth. The emergent, as the advocates of the Emergent Evolution teach us, is an unforeseeable and novel fact on its own plane of being, and cannot be explained mechanistically. Indeed the evolution of life shows that, though in the beginning the mental is dominated by the physical, the mental, as it grows in power, tends to dominate the physical and may eventually rise to a position of complete independence. Nor is there such a thing as a purely physical level in the sense of possessing a materiality, elementally incapable of evolving the creative synthesis we call life and mind, and needing a transcendental Deity to impregnate it with the sentient and the mental. The Ultimate Ego that makes the emergent emerge is immanent in Nature, and is described by the Qur’an, as “the First and the Last, the Visible and the Invisible.”
This view of the matter raises a very important question. We have seen that the ego is not something rigid. It organizes itself in time, and is formed and disciplined by its own experience. It is further clear that streams of causality flow into it from Nature and from it to Nature. Does the ego then determine its own activity? If so, how is the self-determination of the ego related to the determinism of the spatio-temporal order? Is personal causality a special kind of causality, or only a disguised form of the mechanism of Nature? It is claimed that the two kinds of determinism are not mutually exclusive and that the scientific method is equally applicable to human action. The human act of deliberation is understood to be a conflict of motives which are conceived, not as the ego’s own present or inherited tendencies of action or inaction, but as so many external forces fighting one another, gladiator-like, on the arena of the mind. Yet the final choice is regarded as a fact determined by the strongest force, and not by the resultant of contending motives, like a purely physical effect. I am, however, firmly of the opinion that the controversy between the advocates of Mechanism and Freedom arises from a wrong view of intelligent action which modern psychology, unmindful of its own independence as a science, possessing a special set of facts to observe, was bound to take on account of its slavish imitation of physical sciences. The view that ego-activity is a succession of thoughts and ideas, ultimately resolvable to units of sensations, is only another form of atomic materialism which forms the basis of modern science. Such a view could not but raise a strong presumption in favour of a mechanistic interpretation of consciousness. There is, however, some relief in thinking that the new German psychology, known as Configuration Psychology, may succeed in securing the independence of Psychology as a science, just as the theory of Emergent Evolution may eventually bring about the independence of Biology. This newer German psychology teaches us that a careful study of intelligent behaviour discloses the fact of ‘insight’ over and above the mere succession of sensations. This “insight” is the ego’s appreciation of temporal, spatial, and causal relation of things– the choice, that is to say of data, in a complex whole, in view of the goal or purpose which the ego has set before itself for the time being. It is this sense of striving in the experience of purposive action and the success which I actually achieve in reaching my “ends” that convinces me of my efficiency as a personal cause. The essential feature of a purposive act is its vision of a future situation which does not appear to admit any explanation in terms of Physiology. The truth is that the causal chain wherein we try to find a place for the ego is itself an artificial construction of the ego for its own purposes. The ego is called upon to live in a complex environment, and he cannot maintain his life in it without reducing it to a system which would give him some kind of assurance as to the behaviour of things around him. The view of his environment as a system of cause and effect is thus an indispensable instrument of the ego, and not a final expression of the nature of Reality. Indeed in interpreting Nature in this way the ego understands and masters its environment, and thereby acquires and amplifies its freedom.
Thus the element of guidance and directive control in the ego’s activity clearly shows that the ego is a free personal causality. He shares in the life and freedom of the Ultimate Ego who, by permitting the emergence of a finite ego, capable of private initiative, has limited this freedom of His own free will. This freedom of conscious behaviour follows from the view of ego-activity which the Qur’an takes. There are verses which are unmistakably clear on this point:
And say: The truth is from your Lord: Let him, then, who will, believe; and let him who will, be an unbeliever. (18: 29).
If ye do well to your own behoof will ye do well; and if ye do evil against yourselves will ye do it. (17: 7).
Indeed Islam recognizes a very important fact of human psychology, i.e. the rise and fall of the power to act freely, and is anxious to retain the power to act freely as a constant and undiminished factor in the life of the ego. The timing of the daily prayer which, according to the Qur’an, restores “self-possession” to the ego by bringing it into closer touch with the ultimate source of life and freedom, is intended to save the ego from the mechanizing effects of sleep and business. Prayer in Islam is the ego’s escape from mechanism to freedom.
It cannot, however, be denied that the idea of destiny runs throughout the Qur’an. This point is worth considering, more especially because Spengler in his Decline of the West seems to think that Islam amounts to a complete negation of the ego. I have already explained to you my view of Taqdīr (destiny) as we find it in the Qur’an. As Spengler himself points out, there are two ways of making the world our own. The one is intellectual; the other, for want of a better expression, we may call vital. The intellectual way consists in understanding the world as a rigid system of cause and effect. The vital is the absolute acceptance of the inevitable necessity of life, regarded as a whole which in evolving its inner richness creates serial time. This vital way of appropriating the universe is what the Qur’an describes as Imān. Imān is not merely a passive belief in one or more propositions of a certain kind; it is living assurance begotten of a rare experience. Strong personalities alone are capable of rising to this experience and the higher “Fatalism” implied in it. Napoleon is reported to have said: “I am a thing, not a person.” This is one way in which unitive experience expresses itself. In the history of religious experience in Islam which, according to the Prophet, consists in the “creation of Divine attributes in man,” this experience has found expression in such phrases as “I am the creative truth” (Hallāj), “I am Time” (Muhammad), “I am the speaking Qur’an” (‘Alī), “Glory to me” (Bā Yazīd). In the higher Sufism of Islam unitive experience is not the finite ego effacing its own identity by some sort of absorption into the Infinite Ego; it is rather the Infinite passing into the loving embrace of the finite. As Rūmī says:
Divine knowledge is lost in the knowledge of the saint! And how is it possible for people to believe in such a thing?’
The fatalism implied in this attitude is not negation of the ego as Spengler seems to think; it is life and boundless power which recognizes no obstruction, and can make a man calmly offer his prayers when bullets are showering around him.
But is it not true, you will say,
that a most degrading type of Fatalism has prevailed in the world of Islam for
many centuries? This is true, and has a history behind it which requires
separate treatment. It is sufficient here to indicate that the kind of Fatalism
which the European critics of Islam sum up in the word Qismat was due
partly to philosophical thought, partly to political expediency, and partly to
the gradually diminishing force of the life-impulse, which Islam originally
imparted to its followers. Philosophy, searching for the meaning of cause as
applied to God, and taking time as the essence of the relation between cause
and effect, could not but reach the notion of a transcendent God, prior to the
universe, and operating upon it from without. God was thus conceived as the
last link in the chain of causation, and, consequently, the real author of all
that happens in the universe. Now the practical materialism of the opportunist
Umayyad rulers of
Hegel’s view of Reality as an infinitude of reason from which follows the essential rationality of the real, and Auguste Comte’s society as an organism in which specific functions are eternally assigned to each organ, are instances in point. The same thing appears to have happened in Islam. But since Muslims have always sought the justification of their varying attitudes in the Qur’an, even though at the expense of its plain meaning, the fatalistic interpretation has had very far-reaching effects on Muslim peoples. I could, in this connexion, quote several instances of obvious misinterpretation; but the subject requires special treatment, and it is time now to turn to the question of immortality.
No age has produced so much literature on the question of immortality as our own, and this literature is continually increasing in spite of the victories of modern Materialism. Purely metaphysical arguments, however, cannot give us a positive belief in personal immortality. In the history of Muslim thought Ibn Rushd approached the question of immortality from a purely metaphysical point of view, and, I venture to think, achieved no results. He drew a distinction between sense and intelligence probably because of the expressions, Nafs and Rūh, used in the Qur’an. These expressions, apparently suggesting a conflict between two opposing principles in man, have misled many a thinker in Islam. However, if Ibn Rushd’s dualism was based on the Qur’an, then I am afraid he was mistaken; for the word Nafs does not seem to have been used in the Qur’an in any technical sense of the kind imagined by Muslim theologians. Intelligence, according to Ibn Rushd, is not a form of the body; it belongs to a different order of being, and transcends individuality. It is, therefore, one, universal, and eternal. This obviously means that, since unitary intellect transcends individuality, its appearance as so many unities in the multiplicity of human persons is a mere illusion. The eternal unity of intellect may mean, as Renan thinks, the everlastingness of humanity and civilization; it does not surely mean personal immortality. In fact Ibn Rushd’s view looks like William James’s suggestion of a transcendental mechanism of consciousness which operates on a physical medium for a while, and then gives it up in pure sport.
In modern times the line of argument for personal immor-tality is on the whole ethical. But ethical arguments, such as that of Kant, and the modern revisions of his arguments, depend on a kind of faith in the fulfilment of the claims of justice, or in the irreplaceable and unique work of man as an individual pursuer of infinite ideals. With Kant immortality is beyond the scope of speculative reason; it is a postulate of practical reason, an axiom of man’s moral consciousness. Man demands and pursues the supreme good which comprises both virtue and happiness. But virtue and happiness, duty and inclination, are, according to Kant, heterogeneous notions. Their unity cannot be achieved within the narrow span of the pursuer’s life in this sensible world. We are, therefore, driven to postulate immortal life for the person’s progressive completion of the unity of the mutually exclusive notions of virtue and happiness, and the existence of God eventually to effectuate this confluence. It is not clear, however, why the consummation of virtue and happiness should take infinite time, and how God can effectuate the confluence between mutually exclusive notions. This inconclusiveness of metaphysical arguments has led many thinkers to confine themselves to meeting the objections of modern Materialism which rejects immortality, holding that consciousness is merely a function of the brain, and therefore ceases with the cessation of the brain-process. William James thinks that this objection to immortality is valid only if the function in question is taken to be productive. The mere fact that certain mental changes vary concomitantly with certain bodily changes, does not warrant the inference that mental changes are produced by bodily changes. The function is not necessarily productive; it may be permissive or transmissive like the function of the trigger of a crossbow or that of a reflecting lens. This view which suggests that our inner life is due to the operation in us of a kind of transcendental mechanism of consciousness, somehow choosing a physical medium for a short period of sport, does not give us any assurance of the continuance of the content of our actual experience. I have already indicated in these lectures the proper way to meet Materialism. Science must necessarily select for study certain specific aspects of Reality only and exclude others. It is pure dogmatism on the part of science to claim that the aspects of Reality selected by it are the only aspects to be studied. No doubt man has a spatial aspect; but this is not the only aspect of man. There are other aspects of man, such as evaluation, the unitary character of purposive experience, and the pursuit of truth which science must necessarily exclude from its study, and the understanding of which requires categories other than those employed by science.
There is, however, in the history of modern thought one positive view of immortality– I mean Nietzsche’s doctrine of Eternal Recurrence. This view deserves some consideration, not only because Nietzsche has maintained it with a prophetical fervour, but also because it reveals a real tendency in the modern mind. The idea occurred to several minds about the time when it came to Nietzsche like a poetic inspiration, and the germs of it are also found in Herbert Spencer. It was really the power of the idea rather than its logical demonstration that appealed to this modern prophet. This, in itself, is some evidence of the fact that positive views of ultimate things are the work rather of Inspiration than Metaphysics. However, Nietzsche has given his doctrine the form of a reasoned out theory, and as such I think we are entitled to examine it. The doctrine proceeds on the assumption that the quantity of energy in the universe is constant and consequently finite. Space is only a subjective form; there is no meaning in saying that the world is in space in the sense that it is situated in an absolute empty void. In his view of time, however, Nietzsche parts company with Kant and Schopenhauer. Time is not a subjective form; it is a real and infinite process which can be conceived only as “periodic”. Thus it is clear that there can be no dissipation of energy in an infinite empty space. The centres of this energy are limited in number, and their combination perfectly calculable. There is no beginning or end of this ever-active energy, no equilibrium, no first or last change. Since time is infinite, therefore all possible combinations of energy-centres have already been exhausted. There is no new happening in the universe; whatever happens now has happened before an infinite number of times, and will continue to happen an infinite number of times in the future. On Nietzsche’s view the order of happenings in the universe must be fixed and unalterable; for since an infinite time has passed, the energy-centres must have, by this time, formed certain definite modes of behaviour. The very word “Recurrence” implies this fixity. Further, we must conclude that a combination of energy‑centres which has once taken place must always return; otherwise there would be no guarantee for the return even of the superman.
Everything has returned: Sirius and the spider, and thy thoughts at this moment and this last thought of thine that all things will return... Fellow-man! your whole life, like a sand-glass, will always be reversed, and will ever run out again. This ring in which you are but a grain will glitter afresh forever.
Such is Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence. It is only a more rigid kind of mechanism, based not on an ascertained fact but only on a working hypothesis of science. Nor does Nietzsche seriously grapple with the question of time. He takes it objectively and regards it merely as an infinite series of events returning to itself over and over again. Now time, regarded as a perpetual circular movement, makes immortality absolutely intolerable. Nietzsche himself feels this, and describes his doctrine, not as one of immortality, but rather as a view of life which would make immortality endurable. And what makes immortality bearable, according to Nietzsche? It is the expectation that a recurrence of the combination of energy-centres which constitutes my personal existence is a necessary factor in the birth of that ideal combination which he calls “superman”. But the superman has been an infinite number of times before. His birth is inevitable; how can the prospect give me any aspiration? We can aspire only for what is absolutely new, and the absolutely new is unthinkable on Nietzsche’s view which is nothing more than a Fatalism worse than the one summed up in the word Qismat. Such a doctrine, far from keying up the human organism for the fight of life, tends to destroy its action-tendencies and relaxes the tension of the ego.
Passing now to the teachings of the Qur’an. The Qur’anic view of the destiny of man is partly ethical, partly biological. I say partly biological because the Qur’an makes in this connexion certain statements of a biological nature which we cannot understand without a deeper insight into the nature of life. It mentions, for instance, the fact of Barzakh – astate, perhaps of some kind of suspense between Death and Resurrection. Resurrection, too, appears to have been differently conceived. The Qur’an does not base its possibility, like Christianity, on the evidence of the actual resurrection of an historic person. It seems to take and argue resurrection as a universal phenomenon of life, in some sense, true even of birds and animals (6: 38).
Before, however, we take the details of the Qur’anic doctrine of personal immortality we must note three things which are perfectly clear from the Qur’an and regarding which there is, or ought to be, no difference of opinion:
When death overtaketh one of
them, he saith, “Lord! send me back again, that I may do the good that I have
left undone!” By no means, these are the very words which he shall speak. But
behind them is a barrier (Barzakh), until the day when they shall be
raised again. (23: 99-100).
And by the moon when at her full, that from state to state shall ye be surely carried onward. (84: 18-19).
The germs of life– Is it ye who create them? Or are we their Creator? It is We Who have decreed that death should be among you; yet We are not thereby hindered from replacing you with others, your likes, or from creating you again in forms which ye know not! (56: 58-61).
Verily there is none in the heavens and in the earth but shall approach the God of Mercy as a servant. He hath taken note of them and numbered them with exact numbering: and each of them shall come to Him on the Day of Resurrection as a single individual. (19: 93-95).
This is a very important point and must be properly understood with a view to secure a clear insight into the Islamic theory of salvation. It is with the irreplaceable singleness of his individuality that the finite ego will approach the infinite ego to see for himself the consequences of his past action and to judge the possibilities of his future.
And every man’s fate have we fastened about his neck: and on the Day of Resurrection will We bring forthwith to him a book which shall be proffered to him wide open: “Read thy book: there needeth none but thyself to make out an account against thee this day.(17: 13-14).
Whatever may be the final fate of man it does not mean the loss of individuality. The Qur’an does not contemplate complete liberation from finitude as the highest state of human bliss. The “unceasing reward” of man consists in his gradual growth in self-possession, in uniqueness, and intensity of his activity as an ego. Even the scene of “Universal Destruction” immediately preceding the Day of Judgement cannot affect the perfect calm of a full-grown ego:
Who can be the subject of this exception but those in whom the ego has reached the very highest point of intensity? And the climax of this development is reached when the ego is able to retain full self-possession, even in the case of a direct contact with the all-embracing Ego. As the Qur’an says of the Prophet’s vision of the Ultimate Ego: “His eye turned not aside, nor did it wander.” (53: 17).
This is the ideal of perfect manhood in Islam. Nowhere has it found a better literary expression than in a Persian verse which speaks of the Holy Prophet’s experience of Divine illumination:
ز ہوش رفت بیک
تو عین ذات می نگری در تبسمی
Pantheistic Sufism obviously cannot favour such a view, and suggests difficulties of a philosophical nature. How can the Infinite and the finite egos mutually exclude each other? Can the finite ego, as such, retain its finitude besides the Infinite Ego? This difficulty is based on a misunderstanding of the true nature of the Infinite. True infinity does not mean infinite extension which cannot be conceived without embracing all available finite extensions. Its nature consists in intensity and not extensity; and the moment we fix our gaze on intensity, we begin to see that the finite ego must be distinct, though not isolated, from the Infinite. Extensively regarded I am absorbed by the spatio-temporal order to which I belong. Intensively regarded I consider the same spatio-temporal order as a confronting “other” wholly alien to me. I am distinct from and yet intimately related to that on which I depend for my life and sustenance.
With these three points clearly
grasped, the rest of the doctrine is easy to conceive. It is open to man,
according to the Qur’an, to belong to the meaning of the universe and become
Thinketh man that he shall be left as a thing of no use? Was he not a mere embryo?
Then he became thick blood of which God formed him and fashioned him; and made him twain, male and female. Is not God powerful enough to quicken the dead? (75 : 36-40).
It is highly improbable
that a being whose evolution has taken millions of years should be thrown away
as a thing of no use. But it is only as an ever-growing ego that he can belong
to the meaning of the universe:
By the soul and He Who hath balanced it, and hath shown to it the ways of wickedness and piety, blessed is he who hath made it grow and undone is he who hath corrupted it. ( 9 1: 7-10).
And how to make the soul grow and save it from corruption? By action:
Blessed be He in Whose hand is the Kingdom! And over all things is He potent, who hath created death and life to test which of you is the best in point of deed; and He is the Mighty and Forgiving. (67: 1-2).
Life offers a scope for ego-activity, and death is the first test of the synthetic activity of the ego. There are no pleasure-giving and pain-giving acts; there are only ego-sustaining and ego-dissolving acts. It is the deed that prepares the ego for dissolution, or disciplines him for a future career. The principle of the ego-sustaining deed is respect for the ego in myself as well as in others. Personal immortality, then, is not ours as of right; it is to be achieved by personal effort. Man is only a candidate for it. The most depressing error of Materialism is the supposition that finite consciousness exhausts its object. Philosophy and science are only one way of approaching that object. There are other ways of approach open to us; and death, if present action has sufficiently fortified the ego against the shock that physical dissolution brings, is only a kind of passage to what the Qur’an describes as Barzakh. The records of Sufistic experience indicate that Barzakh is a state of consciousness characterized by a change in the ego’s attitude towards time and space. There is nothing improbable in it. It was Helmholtz who first discovered that nervous excitation takes time to reach consciousness. If this is so, our present physiological structure is at the bottom of our present view of time, and if the ego survives the dissolution of this structure, a change in our attitude towards time and space seems perfectly natural. Nor is such a change wholly unknown to us. The enormous condensation of impressions which occurs in our dream-life, and the exaltation of memory, which sometimes takes place at the moment of death, disclose the ego’s capacity for different standards of time. The state of Barzakh, therefore, does not seem to be merely a passive state of expectation; it is a state in which the ego catches a glimpse of fresh aspects of Reality, and prepares himself for adjustment to these aspects. It must be a state of great psychic unhingement, especially in the case of full-grown egos who have naturally developed fixed modes of operation on a specific spatio-temporal order, and may mean dissolution to less fortunate ones. However, the ego must continue to struggle until he is able to gather himself up, and win his resurrection. The resurrection, therefore, is not an external event. It is the consummation of a life-process within the ego. Whether individual or universal it is nothing more than a kind of stock-taking of the ego’s past achievements and his future possibilities. The Qur’an argues the phenomenon of re-emergence of the ego on the analogy of his first emergence:
Man saith: “What! After I am
dead, shall I in the end be brought forth alive?” Doth not man bear in mind
that We made him at first when he was naught? (19: 66-67).
It is we who have decreed that death should be among you. Yet We are not thereby hindered from replacing you with others your likes, or from producing you in a form which ye know not! Ye have known the first creation: will you not reflect? (56: 60-62).
How did man first emerge? This
suggestive argument embodied in the last verses of the two passages quoted
above did in fact open a new vista to Muslim philosophers. It was Jāhiz
(d. 255 A.H.) who first hinted at the changes in animal life caused by
migrations and environment generally. The association known as the “Brethren of Purity” further
amplified the views of Jāhiz. Ibn Maskawaih (d. 421 A.H.), however, was the first Muslim
thinker to give a clear and in many respects thoroughly modern theory of the
origin of man. It was only natural and perfectly consistent with the spirit of
the Qur’an, that Rūmī regarded the question of immortality as one of
biological evolution, and not a problem to be decided by arguments of purely
metaphysical nature, as some philosophers of Islam had thought. The theory of
evolution, however, has brought despair and anxiety, instead of hope and
enthusiasm for life, to the modern world. The reason is to be found in the
unwarranted modern assumption that man’s present structure, mental as well as
physiological, is the last word in biological evolution, and that death,
regarded as a biological event, has no constructive meaning. The world of today
needs a Rūmī to create an attitude of hope, and to kindle the fire of
enthusiasm for life. His inimitable lines may be quoted here:
First man appeared in the class of inorganic things,
Next he passed there from into that of plants.
For years he lived as one of the plants,
Remembering naught of his inorganic state so different;
And when he passed from the vegetive to the animal state
He had no remembrance of his state as a plant,
Except the inclination he felt to the world of plants,
Especially at the time of spring and sweet flowers.
Like the inclination of infants towards their mothers,
Which know not the cause of their inclination to the breast...
Again the great Creator, as you know,
Drew man out of the animal into the human state.
Thus man passed from one order of nature to another,
Till he became wise and knowing and strong as he is now.
Of his first souls he has now no remembrance.
And he will be again changed from his present soul.
The point, however, which has
caused much difference of opinion among Muslim philosophers and theologians is
whether the re-emergence of man involves the re-emergence of his former
physical medium. Most of them, including Shāh Wali Allāh, the last
great theologian of Islam, are inclined to think that it does involve at least
some kind of physical medium suitable to the ego’s new environment. It seems to
me that this view is mainly due to the fact that the ego, as an individual, is
inconceivable without some kind of local reference or empirical background. The
following verses, however, throw some light on the point:
What! when dead and turned to dust, shall we rise again? ‘Remote is such a return. Now know We what the Earth consumeth of them and with Us is a book in which account is kept. (50: 3-4).
To my mind these verses clearly suggest that the nature of the universe is such that it is open to it to maintain in some other way the kind of individuality necessary for the final working out of human action, even after the disintegration of what appears to specify his individuality in his present environment. What that other way is we do not know. Nor do we gain any further insight into the nature of the “second creation” by associating it with some kind of body, however subtle it may be. The analogies of the Qur’an, only suggest it as a fact; they are not meant to reveal its nature and character. Philosophically speaking, therefore, we cannot go farther than this– that in view of the past history of man it is highly improbable that his career should come to an end with the dissolution of his body.
However, according to the teachings of the Qur’an the ego’s re-emergence brings him a “sharp sight” (50: 22) whereby he clearly sees his self-built “fate fastened round his neck.” Heaven and Hell are states, not localities. Their descriptions in the Qur’an are visual representations of an inner fact, i.e. character. Hell, in the words of the Qur’an, is “God’s kindled fire which mounts above the hearts” – the painful realization of one’s failure as a man. Heaven is the joy of triumph over the forces of disintegration. There is no such thing as eternal damnation in Islam. The word “eternity” used in certain verses, relating to Hell, is explained by the Qur’an itself to mean only a period of time (78: 23). Time cannot be wholly irrelevant to the development of personality. Character tends to become permanent; its reshaping must require time. Hell, therefore, as conceived by the Qur’an, is not a pit of everlasting torture inflicted by a revengeful God; it is a corrective experience which may make a hardened ego once more sensitive to the living breeze of Divine Grace. Nor is Heaven a holiday. Life is one and continuous. Man marches always onward to receive ever fresh illuminations from an Infinite Reality which “every moment appears in a new glory”. And the recipient of Divine illumination is not merely a passive recipient. Every act of a free ego creates a new situation, and thus offers further opportunities of creative unfolding.
Lecture IV: The Human Ego—His Freedom and Immortality
Cf. Qur’an, 6:94, 19:80 and 19:93–95; see also p. 93 where Allama Iqbal, referring to these last verses, affirms that in the life hereafter the finite ego will approach the Infinite Ego ‘with the irreplaceable singleness of his individuality.’
This is, in fact, translation of the Qur’anic text: wa lā taziru wāziratan wizra ukhrā which appears in verses 6: 164; 17: 15; 35: 18; 39: 7 and 53: 38. Chronologically the last verse 53: 38 is the earliest on the subject. The implication of this supreme ethical principle or law is three-fold: a categorical rejection of the Christian doctrine of the ‘original sin’, refutation of the idea of ‘vicarious atonement or redemption’, and denial of the possibility of mediation between the sinner and God (cf. M. Asad, The Message of the Qur’an, p. 816, note 31).
Cf. O. Spengler, The Decline of the West, 1, 306-07. Also
Lecture V, p. 114 where Allama Iqbal makes the important statement: ‘Indeed my
main purpose in these lectures has been to secure a vision of the spirit of
Islam as emancipated from its Magian overlaying’ (italics mine). This may be
read in conjunction with Allama’s reply to a Parsi gentleman’s letter published
in Statesman. This reply makes it clear that: ‘Magian thought and
religious experience very much permeate Muslim theology, philosophy and Sufism.
Indeed, there is evidence to show that certain schools of Sufism known as
Islamic have only repeated the Magian type of religious experience... There is
definite evidence in the Qur’an itself to show that Islam aimed at opening up
new channels not only of thought but the religious experience as well. Our
Magian inheritance, however, has stifled the life of Islam and never allowed
the development of its real spirit and aspirations’ (Speeches, Writings and
Statements of Iqbal, ed. L. A. Sherwani, p. 170). It is important to note
that, according to Allama Iqbal, Bahaism and Qadianism are ‘the two forms which
the modern revival of pre-Islamic Magianism has assumed’; cf. his article
‘Qadianis and Orthodox Muslims’, ibid., p. 162. This is reiterated in
‘Introduction to the Study of Islam’, a highly valuable synopsis of a book that
Allama contemplated to write. Under section ‘E’ Sub-section (iii) one of the
topics of this proposed book is: ‘Babi, Ahmadiyya, etc. Prophecies, All More or
Less Magian’ (Letters and Writings of Iqbal, p. 93; italics mine).
Earlier on pp. 87-88 there is an enlightening passage which reads: ‘Empire
brought men belonging to earlier ascetic cultures, which Spengler describes as
Magian, within the fold of Islam. The result was the conversion of Islam to a
pre-Islamic creed with all the philosophical controversies of these creeds: Rūḥ, Nafs; Qur’an: Hādith
or Qadīm. Real Islam had very little chances.’ This may be
compared with Allama’s impassioned statement in his article: ‘Islam and
Mysticism’ (Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, p. 122): ‘The
Moslems of Spain, with their Aristotelian spirit, and away from the enervating
influences of the thought of Western and Central Asia, were comparatively much
closer to the spirit of Islam than the Moslem races of Asia, who let Arabian
Islam pass through all the solvents of ‘Ajam and finally divested it of its
original character. The conquest of
Cf. Husain b. Mansūr al-Hallāj, Kitāb al-Tawāwsīn, English translation by ‘Aisha ‘Abd Ar-Rahman, Diwan Press. Also by Gilani Kamran (Ana al-Haqq Reconsidered, pp. 55-108), Tāsīn VI, 23, containing Al-Hallij’s ecstatic utterance: anā’ al-Haqq, and L. Massignon’s explanatory notes on it translated by R. A. Butler in his article ‘Kitāb al-Tawāsīn of al-Hallaj’, Journal of the University of Baluchistan, I/2 (Autumn 1981), 79-85; cf. also A. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, pp. 66 ff.
It may be noted that Allama Iqbal in his, in many ways a very valuable, article ‘McTaggart’s Philosophy’ (Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, pp. 143-51), compares McTaggart to Hallāj (pp. 148-49). In the system of this ‘philosopher-saint’, ‘mystical intuition, as a source of knowledge, is much more marked than in the system of Bradley.... In the case of McTaggart the mystic revelation of Reality came to him as a confirmation of his thought... When the mystic Sultan Abū Sa‘īd met the philosopher Abu ‘Ali ibn Sina, he is reported to have said, ‘I see what he knows.’ McTaggart both knew and saw (pp. 145-46). The key to McTaggart’s system, indeed, is his mysticism as is borne out from the concluding sentence of his first work Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic: ‘All true philosophy must be mystical, not indeed in its methods, but in its final conclusions.’
This in-depth article on ‘McTaggart’s Philosophy’ also contains Allama Iqbal’s own translation of two passages from his poem The New Garden of Mystery (Gulshan-i Rāz Jadīd) dealing with Questions VI and VIII; the latter Question probes into the mystery of Hallāj’s ecstatic utterance: ‘I am the Truth’. Cf. B. A. Dar (tr.), Iqbal’s Gulshan-i Rāz Jadīd and Bandagi Namah, pp. 42-43, 51-54.
Note Iqbāl’s trenchant observation that ‘modern psychology has not yet touched even the outer fringe of religious life and is still far from the richness and variety of what is called religious experience’ (Lecture VII, p. 152).
Jivatma is the individual mind or consciousness of man or his soul distinguished from the cosmic mind, cosmic consciousness or world-soul; cf. ‘Atman’, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, II, 195, also XII, 597.
Reference here is to what Kant named ‘Paralogisms of Pure Reason’, i.e. fallacious arguments which allege to prove substantiality, simplicity, numerical identity and eternality of the human soul; cf. Critique of Pure Reason, pp. 328-83.
Ibid., pp. 372-73; this is, in fact, Kant’s argument in refutation of the German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn’s ‘Proof of the Permanence of the Soul’; cf. Kemp Smith, Commentary to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, pp. 470-71.
Ibid., p. 339; cf. Critique of Pure Reason, p. 342, note (a) where Kant gives an illustration of a series of elastic balls in connection with the third paralogism to establish the numerical identity of the ego. Kemp Smith in his Commentary p. 461, has rightly observed that William James’s psychological description of self-consciousness is simply an extension of this illustration.
Cf. pp. 84-85, where Allama Iqbal gives a philosophical answer to this question in terms of contemporary theory of emergent evolution as expounded by S. Alexander (Space, Time and Deity, 2 vols., 1920) and C. L. Morgan (Emergent Evolution, 1923). The theory distinguishes between two kinds of effects: ‘resultants’ which are the predictable outcome of previously existing conditions and ‘emergents’ which are specifically new and not completely predictable. According to Alexander, who in his original conception of emergence was indebted to Morgan (cf. Space, Time and Deity, II, 14), mind is ‘an “emergent” from life, and life an emergent from a lower physicochemical level of existence’ (ibid.). When physicochemical processes attain a certain degree of Gestalt-like structural complexity, life emerges out of it. Life is not an epiphenomenon, nor is it an entelechy as with Hans Driesch but an ‘emergent’– there is no cleft between life and matter. At the next stage of ‘configurations’ when neural processes in living organisms attain a certain level of structural complexity, mind appears as a novel emergent. By reasonable extrapolation it may be assumed that there are emergents (or ‘qualities’) higher than mind.
This is very close to Maulānā Rūmī’s ‘biological future of man’, ‘Abd al-Karim al-Jili’s ‘Perfect Man’ and Nietzsche’s ‘Superman’. No wonder that Allama Iqbal in his letter dated 24 January 1921 to R. A. Nicholson (Letters of Iqbal, pp. 141-42), while taking a strict notice of E. M. Forster’s review of The Secrets of the Self (translation of his epoch-making Asrār-i Khudī) and particularly of the Nietzschean allegation against him (cf. Forster’s review in Dr. Riffat Hassan, The Sword and the Sceptre, p. 284) writes: ‘Nor does he rightly understand my idea of the Perfect Man which he confounds with the German thinker’s Super-man. I wrote on the Sufi doctrine of the Perfect Man more than twenty years ago, long before I had read or heard anything of Nietzsche... The English reader ought to approach this idea, not through the German thinker, but through an English thinker of great merit (italics mine)– I mean Alexander– whose Gifford Lectures (1916-18) delivered at Glasgow were published last year.’ This is followed by a quotation from Alexander’s chapter on ‘Deity and God’ (op. cit., II, 347, 11. 1-8) ending in a significant admission: ‘Alexander’s thought is much bolder than mine’ (italics mine).
More generally known as James-Lange theory of emotions. This
theory was propounded by the Danish physician and psychologist. Carl George
Lange in a pamphlet
More generally known as Gestalt Psychology, this German school of psychology was the result of the combined work of M. Wertheimer, K. Koffka and W. Köhler during 1912-14. It came as a reaction against the psychic elements of analytic or associationistic psychology, insisting upon the concept of gestalt, configuration, or organized whole which, if analyzed, it was averred, would lose its distinctive quality. Thus it is impossible to consider the phenomenon of perception as in any way made up of a number of isolable elements, sensory or of any other origin, for what we perceive are ‘forms’, ‘shapes’ or ‘configurations’. From ‘perception’ the gestalt-principle has been extended throughout psychology and into biology and physics. Important for Iqbal scholars are the suggestions recently made to discern some ‘points of contact’ between the Gestalt and the philosophies of J. C. Smuts (holism) and A.N. Whitehead (philosophy of organism); cf. K. Koffka, ‘Gestalt’, Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, VI, 642-46; also J. C. Smuts, Holism’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, XI, 643.
The concept of ‘insight’ was first elaborately expounded by
In the history of Islamic thought, this is one of the finest arguments to resolve the age-long controversy between determinism and indeterminism and to establish the soundest basis for self-determinism.
Cf. The Decline of the West, II, 240, where Spengler says: ‘But it is precisely the impossibility of an Ego as a free power in the face of the divine that constitutes Islam’ (italics by Spengler); earlier on p. 235 speaking of Magian religions (and for him Islam is one of them) Spengler observes: ‘the impossibility of a thinking, believing, and knowing Ego is the presupposition inherent in all the fundamentals of all these religions’.
See Ibn Qutaibah, Kitāb al-Ma‘ārif ed.
‘Ukāshah, p. 441; cf. also J. Obermann, ‘Political Theology in Early
Islam: Hasan al-Basri’s, Treatise on Qadar, Journal of the American
Cf. D. B. Macdonald, Development of Muslim Theology, pp. 123-24, for a brief mention of ‘the origin of the theory of the accomplished fact’ with reference to the political attitude of the Murji’ites, also Khuda Bukhsh, Politics in Islam, p. 150, for Ibn Jamā‘ah’s view on the subject as contained in his work on constitutional law of Islam: Tahrīr al-Ahkām fi Tadbīr Ahl al-Islam (ed. Hans Kofler), p. 357. It may be added that Allama Iqbal did take notice of Ibn Jamā‘ah’s view (of bai‘ah through force) and observed: ‘This opportunist view has no support in the law of Islam:’ cf. his article ‘Political Thought in Islam’, Sociological Review, I (1908), 256, lines 15-16; reproduced in Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, ed. L. A. Sherwani, p. 115.
Cf. Lecture V, p. 113, where Iqbal says: ‘Whatever may be the criterion by which to judge the forward steps of creative movement, the movement itself, if conceived as cyclic, ceases to be creative. Eternal recurrence is not eternal creation, it is eternal repetition’.
Barzakh, according to Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon, means ‘a thing that intervenes between any two things, or a bar, an obstruction, or a thing that makes a separation between two things.’ As signifying the state between death and resurrection the word barzakh occurs in the Qur’an, 23: 100.
This alludes to the difference of the Prophet’s encounter with God as stated in the Qur’anic verse 53: 17 from that of Prophet Moses’ as given in verses 7: 143. Referring to the Persian verse (ascribed by some to the Sufi poet Jamālī of Delhi who died in 942/1535), Iqbal in his letter to Dr. Hadi Hasan of Aligarh Muslim University observes: ‘In the whole range of Muslim literature there is not one verse like it and these two lines enclose a whole infinitude of ideas.’ See B. A. Dar (ed.), Letters and Writings of Iqbal, pp. 2-3.
So important is ‘action’ or ‘deed’ according to the Qur’an that there are more than one hundred verses urging the believers to act righteously–hence, the opening line of Allama Iqbal’s Preface to the Lectures; cf. M. Fu’ād ‘Abd al-Baqī’s Al-Mu‘jam al-Mufahras li Alfāz al-Qur’an al-Karim: ‘.m.l, s.l.h and h.s.n.
This, according to Helmholtz, one of the greatest scientists of the nineteenth century, was about thirty metres per second. Before Helmholtz the conduction of neural impulse was thought to be instantaneous, too fast to be measured. After he had demonstrated its measurement through his experimental studies; his researches came to be used in experiments on reaction time (cf. Gardner Murphy, Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology, p. 138 and N. A. Haynie’s article: ‘Helmholtz, Hermann von (1821-1894)’ in Encyclopaedia of Psychology, II, 103. Allama Iqbal’s hypothetical statement with reference to Helmholtz’s discovery: ‘If this is so, our present physiological structure is at the bottom of our present view of time’ is highly suggestive of new physiological or biological studies of time. It is to be noted that some useful research in this direction seems to have been undertaken already; cf. articles: ‘Time’ and ‘Time Perception’ in The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (Macropaedia), XVIII, 420-22.
See George Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, I, 597, where it is said that the Kitāb al-Hayawān of Al-Jāhiz contains the germs of many later theories: evolution adaptation, animal psychology. Cf. also M. Plessner, ‘Al-Jāhiz’ in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, VII, 63-65.
See Lecture V, p. 107, for Ibn Maskawaih’s very clear conception of biological evolution, which later found expression in the ‘inimitable lines’ of ‘the excellent Rūmī’ quoted in the next passage as well as in Lecture VII, pp. 147-48.
Cf. E. H. Whinfield (tr.), Masnavi, pp. 216-17; this is translation of verses 3637-41 and 3646-48 of Book iv of Rūmī’s Mathnawī– cf. Allama Iqbal’s observation on these verses in his Development of Metaphysics in Persia, p. 91.
Reference here is to the Qur’anic description of life hereafter such as is to be found in verses 37: 41-49 and 44: 51-55 for the state of life promised to the righteous, and 37: 62-68 and 44: 43-49 for the kind of life to be suffered by the wicked. See also 32: 17.
See the Qur’anic verse 57: 15 where the fire of hell is spoken of as man’s friend (mawlā), i.e. ‘the only thing by which he may hope to be purified and redeemed’ (cf. M. Asad, The Message of the Qur’an, p. 838, note 21).
The Spirit of Muslim Culture
“Muhammad of Arabia ascended the highest Heaven and returned. I swear by God that if I had reached that point, I should never have returned.” These are the words of a great Muslim saint, ‘Abd al-Quddūs of Gangoh. In the whole range of Sufi literature it will be probably difficult to find words which, in a single sentence, disclose such an acute perception of the psychological difference between the prophetic and the mystic types of consciousness. The mystic does not wish to return from the repose of “unitary experience”; and even when he does return, as he must, his return does not mean much for mankind at large. The prophet’s return is creative. He returns to insert himself into the sweep of time with a view to control the forces of history, and thereby to create a fresh world of ideals. For the mystic the repose of “unitary experience” is something final; for the prophet it is the awakening, within him, of world-shaking psychological forces, calculated to completely transform the human world. The desire to see his religious experience transformed into a living world-force is supreme in the prophet. Thus his return amounts to a kind of pragmatic test of the value of his religious experience. In its creative act the prophet’s will judges both itself and the world of concrete fact in which it endeavours to objectify itself. In penetrating the impervious material before him the prophet discovers himself for himself, and unveils himself to the eye of history. Another way of judging the value of a prophet’s religious experience, therefore, would be to examine the type of manhood that he has created, and the cultural world that has sprung out of the spirit of his message. In this lecture I want to confine myself to the latter alone. The idea is not to give you a description of the achievements of Islam in the domain of knowledge. I want rather to fix your gaze on some of the ruling concepts of the culture of Islam in order to gain an insight into the process of ideation that underlies them, and thus to catch a glimpse of the soul that found expression through them. Before, however, I proceed to do so it is necessary to understand the cultural value of a great idea in Islam– I mean the finality of the institution of prophethood.
A prophet may be defined as a type of mystic consciousness in which “unitary experience” tends to overflow its boundaries, and seeks opportunities of redirecting or refashioning the forces of collective life. In his personality the finite centre of life sinks into his own infinite depths only to spring up again, with fresh vigour, to destroy the old, and to disclose the new directions of life. This contact with the root of his own being is by no means peculiar to man. Indeed the way in which the word Wahy (inspiration) is used in the Qur’an shows that the Qur’an regards it as a universal property of life; though its nature and character are different at different stages of the evolution of life. The plant growing freely in space, the animal developing a new organ to suit a new environment, and a human being receiving light from the inner depths of life, are all cases of inspiration varying in character according to the needs of the recipient, or the needs of the species to which the recipient belongs. Now during the minority of mankind psychic energy develops what I call prophetic consciousness– a mode of economizing individual thought and choice by providing ready-made judgements, choices, and ways of action. With the birth of reason and critical faculty, however, life, in its own interest, inhibits the formation and growth of non-rational modes of consciousness through which psychic energy flowed at an earlier stage of human evolution. Man is primarily governed by passion and instinct. Inductive reason which alone makes man master of his environment, is an achievement; and when once born it must be reinforced by inhibiting the growth of other modes of knowledge. There is no doubt that the ancient world produced some great systems of philosophy at a time when man was comparatively primitive and governed more or less by suggestion. But we must not forget that this system-building in the ancient world was the work of abstract thought which cannot go beyond the systematization of vague religious beliefs and traditions, and gives us no hold on the concrete situations of life.
Looking at the matter from this point of view, then, the Prophet of Islam seems to stand between the ancient and the modern world. In so far as the source of his revelation is concerned he belongs to the ancient world; in so far as the spirit of his revelation is concerned he belongs to the modern world. In him life discovers other sources of knowledge suitable to its new direction. The birth of Islam, as I hope to be able presently to prove to your satisfaction, is the birth of inductive intellect. In Islam prophecy reaches its perfection in discovering the need of its own abolition. This involves the keen perception that life cannot for ever be kept in leading strings; that, in order to achieve full self-consciousness, man must finally be thrown back on his own resources. The abolition of priesthood and hereditary kingship in Islam, the constant appeal to reason and experience in the Qur’an, and the emphasis that it lays on Nature and History as sources of human knowledge, are all different aspects of the same idea of finality. The idea, however, does not mean that mystic experience, which qualitatively does not differ from the experience of the prophet, has now ceased to exist as a vital fact. Indeed the Qur’an regards both Anfus (self) and Āfāq (world) as sources of knowledge. God reveals His signs in inner as well as outer experience, and it is the duty of man to judge the knowledge-yielding capacity of all aspects of experience. The idea of finality, therefore, should not be taken to suggest that the ultimate fate of life is complete displacement of emotion by reason. Such a thing is neither possible nor desirable. The intellectual value of the idea is that it tends to create an independent critical attitude towards mystic experience by generating the belief that all personal authority, claiming a supernatural origin, has come to an end in the history of man. This kind of belief is a psychological force which inhibits the growth of such authority. The function of the idea is to open up fresh vistas of knowledge in the domain of man’s inner experience. Just as the first half of the formula of Islam has created and fostered the spirit of a critical observation of man’s outer experience by divesting the forces of Nature of that Divine character with which earlier cultures had clothed them. Mystic experience, then, however unusual and abnormal, must now be regarded by a Muslim as a perfectly natural experience, open to critical scrutiny like other aspects of human experience. This is clear from the Prophet’s own attitude towards Ibn Sayyād’s psychic experiences. The function of Sufism in Islam has been to systematize mystic experience; though it must be admitted that Ibn Khaldūn was the only Muslim who approached it in a thoroughly scientific spirit.
But inner experience is only one source of human knowledge. According to the Qur’an, there are two other sources of knowledge– Nature and History; and it is in tapping these sources of knowledge that the spirit of Islam is seen at its best. The Qur’an sees signs of the Ultimate Reality in the “sun”, the “moon”, “the lengthening out of shadows”, “the alternation of day and night”, ‘the variety of human colour and tongues”, “the alternation of the days of success and reverse among peoples”– in fact in the whole of Nature as revealed to the sense-perception of man. And the Muslim’s duty is to reflect on these signs and not to pass by them “as if he is dead and blind”, for he “who does not see these signs in this life will remain blind to the realities of the life to come.” This appeal to the concrete combined with the slow realization that, according to the teachings of the Qur’an, the universe is dynamic in its origin, finite and capable of increase, eventually brought Muslim thinkers into conflict with Greek thought which, in the beginning of their intellectual career, they had studied with so much enthusiasm. Not realizing that the spirit of the Qur’an was essentially anti-classical, and putting full confidence in Greek thinkers, their first impulse was to understand the Qur’an in the light of Greek philosophy. In view of the concrete spirit of the Qur’an, and the speculative nature of Greek philosophy which enjoyed theory and was neglectful of fact, this attempt was foredoomed to failure. And it is what follows their failure that brings out the real spirit of the culture of Islam, and lays the foundation of modern culture in some of its most important aspects.
This intellectual revolt against Greek philosophy manifests itself in all departments of thought. I am afraid I am not competent enough to deal with it as it discloses itself in Mathematics, Astronomy, and Medicine. It is clearly visible in the metaphysical thought of the Ash‘arite, but appears as a most well-defined phenomenon in the Muslim criticism of Greek Logic. This was only natural; for dissatisfaction with purely speculative philosophy means the search for a surer method of knowledge. It was, I think, Nazzām who first formulated the principle of “doubt” as the beginning of all knowledge. Ghazālī further amplified it in his Revivification of the Sciences of Religion, and prepared the way for Descartes’ Method’. But Ghazālī remained on the whole a follower of Aristotle in Logic.
In his Qistās he
puts some of the Qur’anic arguments in the form of Aristotelian figures, but forgets the Qur’anic Sūrah known as Shu‘arā’ where
the proposition that retribution follows the gainsaying of prophets is
established by the method of simple enumeration of historical instances. It was
Ishrāqī and Ibn Taymiyyah who undertook a systematic refutation of Greek
Logic Abū Bakr Rāzī was perhaps the first to criticize
Aristotle’s first figure and in our own times his objection, conceived in a thoroughly
inductive spirit, has been re-formulated by John Stuart Mill. Ibn Hazm, in his Scope
of Logic emphasizes sense-perception as a source of knowledge; and Ibn
Taymiyyah in his Refutation of Logic, shows that induction is the only
form of reliable argument. Thus arose the method of observation and experiment.
It was not a merely theoretical affair. Al-Bīrūnī’s discovery of
what we call reaction-time and Al-Kindī’s discovery that sensation is
proportionate to the stimulus, are instances of its application in psychology. It is a mistake to suppose that the experimental method is a
European discovery. Dühring tells us that Roger Bacon’s conceptions of science
are more just and clear than those of his celebrated namesake. And where did
Roger Bacon receive his scientific training?– in the Muslim universities of
.. it was under their successors at that
Science is the most momentous
contribution of Arab civilization to the modern world, but its fruits were slow
in ripening. Not until long after Moorish culture had sunk back into darkness
did the giant to which it had given birth rise in his might. It was not science
For although there is not a single aspect of European growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the paramount distinctive force of the modern world, and the supreme source of its victory– natural science and the scientific spirit. (p. 190).
The debt of our science to that of
the Arabs does not consist in startling discoveries or revolutionary theories;
science owes a great deal more to Arab culture, it owes its existence. The
ancient world was, as we saw, pre-scientific. The astronomy and mathematics of
the Greeks were a foreign importation never thoroughly acclimatized in Greek
culture. The Greeks systematized, generalized, and theorized, but the patient
ways of investigation, the accumulation of positive knowledge, the minute
methods of science, detailed and prolonged observation, experimental inquiry,
were altogether alien to the Greek temperament. Only in Hellenistic Alexandria
was any approach to scientific work conducted in the ancient classical world.
What we call science arose in
The first important point to note about the spirit of Muslim culture then is that, for purposes of knowledge, it fixes its gaze on the concrete, the finite. It is further clear that the birth of the method of observation and experiment in Islam was due not to a compromise with Greek thought but to a prolonged intellectual warfare with it. In fact, the influence of the Greeks who, as Briffault says, were interested chiefly in theory, not in fact, tended rather to obscure the Muslims’ vision of the Qur’an, and for at least two centuries kept the practical Arab temperament from asserting itself and coming to its own. I want, therefore, definitely to eradicate the misunderstanding that Greek thought, in any way, determined the character of Muslim culture. Part of my argument you have seen; part you will see presently.
Knowledge must begin with the concrete. It is the intellectual capture of and power over the concrete that makes it possible for the intellect of man to pass beyond the concrete. As the Qur’an says:
O company of Jinn and men, if you can overpass the bounds of the Heaven and the earth, then overpass them. But by power alone shall ye overpass them. (55: 33).
But the universe, as a collection
of finite things, presents itself as a kind of island situated in a pure
vacuity to which time, regarded as a series of mutually exclusive moments, is
nothing and does nothing. Such a vision of the universe leads the reflecting
mind nowhere. The thought of a limit to perceptual space and time staggers the
mind. The finite, as such, is an idol obstructing the movement of the mind; or,
in order to overpass its bounds, the mind must overcome serial time and the
pure vacuity of perceptual space. “And verily towards thy God is the limit”,
says the Qur’an. This verse embodies one of the deepest thoughts in the Qur’an;
for it definitely suggests that the ultimate limit is to be sought not in the
direction of stars, but in an infinite cosmic life and spirituality. Now the
intellectual journey towards this ultimate limit is long and arduous; and in
this effort, too, the thought of Islam appears to have moved in a direction
entirely different to the Greeks. The ideal of the Greeks, as Spengler tells
us, was proportion, not infinity. The physical presentness of the finite with
its well-defined limits alone absorbed the mind of the Greeks. In the history
of Muslim culture, on the other hand, we find that both in the realms of pure
intellect and religious psychology, by which term I mean higher Sufism, the
ideal revealed is the possession and enjoyment of the Infinite. In a culture,
with such an attitude, the problem of space and time becomes a question of life
and death. In one of these lectures I have already given you some idea of the
way in which the problem of time and space presented itself to Muslim thinkers,
especially the Ash‘arite. One reason why the atomism of Democritus never became
popular in the world of Islam is that it involves the assumption of an absolute
space. The Ash‘arite were, therefore, driven to develop a different kind of
atomism, and tried to overcome the difficulties of perceptual space in a manner
similar to modern atomism. On the side of Mathematics it must be remembered that
since the days of Ptolemy (A. D. 87-165) till the time of Nasīr
Tūsī (A. D. 1201-74) nobody gave serious thought to the difficulties
of demonstrating the certitude of
Al-Bīrūnī took a definite step forward towards what Spengler describes as chronological number which signifies the mind’s passage from being to becoming. Indeed, more recent developments in European mathematics tend rather to deprive time of its living historical character, and to reduce it to a mere representation of space. That is why Whitehead’s view of Relativity is likely to appeal to Muslim students more than that of Einstein in whose theory time loses its character of passage and mysteriously translates itself into utter space.
Side by side with the progress of mathematical thought in Islam we find the idea of evolution gradually shaping itself. It was Jāhiz who was the first to note the changes in bird-life caused by migrations. Later Ibn Maskawaih who was a contemporary of Al-Bīrūnī gave it the shape of a more definite theory, and adopted it in his theological work Al-Fauz al-Asghar. I reproduce here the substance of his evolutionary hypothesis, not because of its scientific value, but because of the light which it throws on the direction in which Muslim thought was moving.
According to Ibn Maskawaih plant-life at the lowest stage of evolution does not need any seed for its birth and growth. Nor does it perpetuate its species by means of the seed. This kind of plant-life differs from minerals only in some little power of movement which grows in higher forms, and reveals itself further in that the plant spreads out its branches, and perpetuates its species by means of the seed. The power of movement gradually grows farther until we reach trees which possess a trunk, leaves, and fruit. At a higher stage of evolution stand forms of plant-life which need better soil and climate for their growth. The last stage of development is reached in vine and date-palm which stand, as it were, on the threshold of animal life. In the date-palm a clear sex-distinction appears. Besides roots and fibres it develops something which functions like the animal brain, on the integrity of which depends the life of the date-palm. This is the highest stage in the development of plant-life, and a prelude to animal life. The first forward step towards animal life is freedom from earth-rootedness which is the germ of conscious movement. This is the initial stage of animality in which the sense of touch is the first, and the sense of sight is the last to appear. With the development of the senses the animal acquires freedom of movement, as in the case of worms, reptiles, ants, and bees. Animality reaches its perfection in the horse among quadrupeds and the falcon among birds, and finally arrives at the frontier of humanity in the ape which is just a degree below man in the scale of evolution. Further evolution brings physiological changes with a growing power of discrimination and spirituality until humanity passes from barbarism to civilization.
But it is really religious psychology, as in ‘Irāqī and Khawājah Muhammad Pārsā, which brings us much nearer to our modern ways of looking at the problem of space and time. ‘Irāqī’s view of time-stratifications I have given you before. I will now give you the substance of his view of space.
According to ‘Irāqī the existence of some kind of space in relation to God is clear from the following verses of the Qur’an:
Dost thou not see that God
knoweth all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth? Three persons
speak not privately together, but He is their fourth; nor five, but He is their
sixth; nor fewer nor more, but wherever they be He is with them. (58: 7)
Ye shall not be employed in affairs, nor shall ye read a text out of the Qur’an, nor shall ye do any work, but We will be witness over you when you are engaged therein; and the weight of an atom on earth or in heaven escapeth not thy Lord; and nor is there aught that is less than this or greater, but it is in the Perspicuous Book. (10: 61).
We created man, and we know what his soul whispereth to him, and we are closer to him than his neck-vein. (50: 16)
But we must not forget that the words proximity, contact, and mutual separation which apply to material bodies do not apply to God. Divine life is in touch with the whole universe on the analogy of the soul’s contact with the body. The soul is neither inside nor outside the body; neither proximate to nor separate from it. Yet its contact with every atom of the body is real, and it is impossible to conceive this contact except by positing some kind of space which befits the subtleness of the soul. The existence of space in relation to the life of God, therefore, cannot be denied; only we should carefully define the kind of space which may be predicated of the Absoluteness of God. Now, there are three kinds of space– the space of material bodies, the space of immaterial beings, and the space of God. The space of material bodies is further divided into three kinds. First, the space of gross bodies of which we predicate roominess. In this space movement takes time, bodies occupy their respective places and resist displacement. Secondly, the space of subtle bodies, e.g. air and sound. In this space too bodies resist each other, and their movement is measurable in terms of time which, however, appears to be different to the time of gross bodies. The air in a tube must be displaced before other air can enter into it; and the time of sound-waves is practically nothing compared to the time of gross bodies. Thirdly, we have the space of light. The light of the sun instantly reaches the remotest limits of the earth. Thus in the velocity of light and sound time is reduced almost to zero. It is, therefore, clear that the space of light is different to the space of air and sound. There is, however, a more effective argument than this. The light of a candle spreads in all directions in a room without displacing the air in the room; and this shows that the space of light is more subtle than the space of air which has no entry into the space of light. In view of the close proximity of these spaces, however, it is not possible to distinguish the one from the other except by purely intellectual analysis and spiritual experience. Again, in the hot water the two opposites– fire and water– which appear to interpenetrate each other cannot, in view of their respective natures, exist in the same space. The fact cannot be explained except on the supposition that the spaces of the two substances, though closely proximate to each other, are nevertheless distinct. But while the element of distance is not entirely absent, there is no possibility of mutual resistance in the space of light. The light of a candle reaches up to a certain point only, and the lights of a hundred candles intermingle in the same room without displacing one another.
Having thus described the spaces of physical bodies possessing various degrees of subtleness ‘Irāqī proceeds briefly to describe the main varieties of space operated upon by the various classes of immaterial beings, e.g. angels. The element of distance is not entirely absent from these spaces; for immaterial beings, while they can easily pass through stone walls, cannot altogether dispense with motion which, according to ‘Irāqī, is evidence of imperfection in spirituality. The highest point in the scale of spatial freedom is reached by the human soul which, in its unique essence, is neither at rest nor in motion. Thus passing through the infinite varieties of space we reach the Divine space which is absolutely free from all dimensions and constitutes the meeting point of all infinities.
From this summary of ‘Irāqī’s view you will see how a cultured Muslim Sufi intellectually interpreted his spiritual experience of time and space in an age which had no idea of the theories and concepts of modern Mathematics and Physics. ‘Irāqī is really trying to reach the concept of space as a dynamic appearance. His mind seems to be vaguely struggling with the concept of space as an infinite continuum; yet he was unable to see the full implications of his thought partly because he was not a mathematician and partly because of his natural prejudice in favour of the traditional Aristotelian idea of a fixed universe. Again, the interpenetration of the super-spatial “here” and super-eternal “now” in the Ultimate Reality suggests the modern notion of space-time which Professor Alexander, in his lectures on Space, Time, and Deity, regards as the matrix of all things. A keener insight into the nature of time would have led ‘Irāqī to see that time is more fundamental of the two; and that it is not a mere metaphor to say, as Professor Alexander does say, that time is the mind of space. ‘Irāqī conceives God’s relation to the universe on the analogy of the relation of the human soul to the body; but, instead of philosophically reaching this position through a criticism of the spatial and temporal aspects of experience, he simply postulates it on the basis of his spiritual experience. It is not sufficient merely to reduce space and time to a vanishing point-instant. The philosophical path that leads to God as the omnipsyche of the universe lies through the discovery of living thought as the ultimate principle of space-time. ‘Irāqī’s mind, no doubt, moved in the right direction, but his Aristotelian prejudices, coupled with a lack of psychological analysis, blocked his progress. With his view that Divine Time is utterly devoid of change a view obviously based on an inadequate analysis of conscious experience– it was not possible for him to discover the relation between Divine Time and serial time, and to reach, through this discovery, the essentially Islamic idea of continuous creation which means a growing universe.
Thus all lines of Muslim thought converge on a dynamic conception of the universe. This view is further reinforced by Ibn Maskawaih’s theory of life as an evolutionary movement, and Ibn Khaldūn’s view of history. History or, in the language of the Qur’an, “the days of God”, is the third source of human knowledge according to the Qur’an. It is one of the most essential teachings of the Qur’an that nations are collectively judged, and suffer for their misdeeds here and now. In order to establish this proposition, the Qur’an constantly cites historical instances, and urges upon the reader to reflect on the past and present experience of mankind.
Of old did we send Moses with
Our signs, and said to him: “Bring forth thy people from the darkness into the
light, and remind them of the days of God.” Verily, in this are signs for every
patient, grateful person. (14: 5)
And among those whom we had created are a people who guide others with truth and in accordance therewith act justly. But as for those who treat Our signs as lies, We gradually bring them down by means of which they know not; and though I lengthen their days, verily, My stratagem is effectual. (7: 181-83)
Already, before your time, have precedents been made. Traverse the earth then and see what hath been the end of those who falsify the signs of God. (3: 137)
If a wound hath befallen you, a wound like it hath already befallen others; We alternate the days of successes and reverses among peoples. (3: 140)
Every nation hath its fixed period. (7: 34)
The last verse is rather an instance of a more specific historical generalization which, in its epigrammatic formulation, suggests the possibility of a scientific treatment of the life of human societies regarded as organisms. It is, therefore, a gross error to think that the Qur’an has no germs of a historical doctrine. The truth is that the whole spirit of the Prolegomena of Ibn Khaldūn appears to have been mainly due to the inspiration which the author must have received from the Qur’an. Even in his judgements of character he is, in no small degree, indebted to the Qur’an. An instance in point is his long paragraph devoted to an estimate of the character of the Arabs as a people. The whole paragraph is a mere amplification of the following verses of the Qur’an:
The Arabs of the desert are
most stout in unbelief and dissimulation; and likelier it is that they should
be unaware of the laws which God hath sent down to His Apostle; and God is
Of the Arabs of the desert there are some who reckon what they expend in the cause of God as tribute, and wait for some change of fortune to befall you: a change for evil shall befall them! God is the Hearer, the Knower. (9: 97-98)
However, the interest of the Qur’an in history, regarded as a source of human knowledge, extends farther than mere indications of historical generalizations. It has given us one of the most fundamental principles of historical criticism. Since accuracy in recording facts which constitute the material of history isan indispensable condition of history as a science, and an accurate knowledge of facts ultimately depends on those who report them, the very first principle of historical criticism is that the reporter’s personal character is an important factor in judging his testimony. The Qur’an says: “O believers! if any bad man comes to you with a report, clear it up at once. (49: 6)
It is the application of the principle embodied in this verse to the reporters of the Prophet’s traditions out of which were gradually evolved the canons of historical criticism. The growth of historical sense in Islam is a fascinating subject. The Qur’anic appeal to experience, the necessity to ascertain the exact sayings of the Prophet, and the desire to furnish permanent sources of inspiration to posterity– all these forces contributed to produce such men as Ibn Ishāq, Tabarī, and Mas‘ūdī. But history, as an art of firing the reader’s imagination, is only a stage in the development of history as a genuine science. The possibility of a scientific treatment of history means a wider experience, a greater maturity of practical reason, and finally a fuller realization of certain basic ideas regarding the nature of life and time. These ideas are in the main two; and both form the foundation of the Qur’anic teachings.
We are now in a position to see the true significance of the intellectual revolt of Islam against Greek philosophy. The fact that this revolt originated in a purely theological interest shows that the anti-classical spirit of the Qur’an asserted itself in spite of those who began with a desire to interpret Islam in the light of Greek thought.
It now remains to eradicate a
grave misunderstanding created by Spengler’s widely read book, The Decline
of the West. His two chapters devoted to the problem of Arabian culture constitute a most important contribution to the cultural history
By the expression “Magian culture” Spengler means the common culture associated with what he calls “Magian group of religions”, i.e. Judaism, ancient Chaldean religion, early Christianity, Zoroas-trianism, and Islam. That a Magian crust has grown over Islam, I do not deny. Indeed my main purpose in these lectures has been to secure a vision of the spirit of Islam as emancipated from its Magian overlayings which, in my opinion, have misled Spengler. His ignorance of Muslim thought on the problem of time, as well as of the way in which the “I”, as a free centre of experience, has found expression in the religious experience of Islam, is simply appalling. Instead of seeking light from the history of Muslim thought and experience, he prefers to base his judgement on vulgar beliefs as to the beginning and end of time. Just imagine a man of overwhelming learning finding support for the supposed fatalism of Islam in such Eastern expressions and proverbs as the “vault of time”, and “everything has a time!” However, on the origin and growth of the concept of time in Islam, and on the human ego as a free power, I have said enough in these lectures. It is obvious that a full examination of Spengler’s view of Islam, and of the culture that grew out of it, will require a whole volume. In addition to what I have said before, I shall offer here one more observation of a general nature. Spengler says:
The kernel of the prophetic teaching is already Magian. There is one God– be He called Yahweh, Ahuramazda, or Marduk-Baal– who is the principle of good, and all other deities are either impotent or evil. To this doctrine there attached itself the hope of a Messiah, very clear in Isaiah, but also bursting out everywhere during the next centuries, under pressure of an inner necessity. It is the basic idea of Magian religion, for it contains implicitly the conception of the world-historical struggle between Good and Evil, with the power of Evil prevailing in the middle period, and the Good finally triumphant on the Day of Judgement.
If this view of the prophetic teaching is meant to apply to Islam it is obviously a misrepresentation. The point to note is that the Magians admitted the existence of false gods; only they did not turn to worship them. Islam denies the very existence of false gods. In this connexion Spengler fails to appreciate the cultural value of the idea of the finality of prophethood in Islam. No doubt, one important feature of Magian culture is a perpetual attitude of expectation, a constant looking forward to the coming of Zoroaster’s unborn sons, the Messiah, or the Paraclete of the fourth gospel. I have already indicated the direction in which the student of Islam should seek the cultural meaning of the doctrine of finality in Islam. It may further be regarded as a psychological cure for the Magian attitude of constant expectation which tends to give a false view of history. Ibn Khaldūn, seeing the spirit of his own view of history, has fully criticized and, I believe, finally demolished the alleged revelational basis in Islam of an idea similar, at least in its psychological effects, to the original Magian idea which had reappeared in Islam under the pressure of Magian thought.
Lecture V: The Spirit of Muslim Culture
محمد مصطفی درقاب قوسین او ادنی رفت و باز گردید۔ واللہ ما بازنگردیم۔
Reference may also be made here to very pithy and profound jottings of Allama Iqbal on the back cover of his own copy of William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience, especially to those under the sub-heading: ‘Mystical and Prophetic Consciousness’ with an explicit mention of ‘Abd al-Quddūs Gangohī; see Muhammad Siddīq, Descriptive Catalogue of Allama Iqbal’s Personal Library, Plate No. 8.
This great idea is embodied in the Qur’anic verse 33: 40, i.e. ‘Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle and the Seal of all Prophets’ (Rasūl Allah wa khātaman nabiyyīn), and has also been variously enunciated in the Hadith literature: (i) yā Muhammad anta rasūl Ullāhi wa khātam al-anbiyā: ‘O Muhammad! You are Allah’s Apostle and the Seal of all Prophets’; this is what other Prophets would proclaim on the Day of Resurrection (Bukhari, Al-Sahīh, ‘Tafsir’: 17). (ii) Wa ana khātamun nabīyyīn: ‘And I am the last of the Prophets’ (ibid., ‘Manāqib’: 7; Muslim, Al-Sahīh, Īmān: 327). (iii) Laysa nabīyya ba‘dī: ‘There is no Prophet after me’ (Bukhārī, ‘Maghāzī’: 77). (iv) Lā nabīyya ba‘dī: ‘There is no Prophet after me’ (ibid., ‘Anbīyā’’: 50; Muslim, ‘Imārah’: 44; Fadā’il al-Sahābah: 30-31). (v) Wa lā nabiyya ba‘dahū: ‘And there is no Prophet after him’, said so by Abū Awfā as narrated by Ismā‘īl (Bukhāri, ‘Ādāb’: 109). (vi) Lā nubuwwah ba‘dī: ‘There is no prophethood after me’ (Muslim, Fadā’il al-Sahābah: 30-32).
Though wahy matluww (revelation which is recited or worded revelation) is specific to the Prophets, the Qur’an speaks of revelation in connection with earth (99: 5), heavens (41: 12), honey-bee (16: 68-69), angels (8: 12), mother of Moses (28: 7) and disciples of Jesus (5: 111). As to the different modes of revelation see 42: 51.
Reference here is to the last but one passage of the Qur’anic verse 5: 3 which reads: ‘This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you and have chosen for you as religion al-Islām’. This passage, according to all available ahādīth on the testimony of the Prophet’s contemporaries, was revealed at ‘Arafāt in the afternoon of Friday, the 9th of Dhu ’l-Hijjah 10 A.H., the year of the Prophet’s last pilgrimage to Makkah (cf. Bukhāri, ‘Īmān’:34, where this fact is authenticated by ‘Umar b. al-Khattāb). It is to be noted that the Prophet’s death took place eighty-one or eighty-two days after the revelation of this verse and as it speaks of the perfection of religion in Islam, no precept of legal import whatsoever was revealed after it; cf. Rāzī, Al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr.
The first half of the formula of Islam is: lā ilāh ill Allāh, i.e. there is no god but God, or nothing whatever is worthy of worship except Allah. The other half is: Muhammadu Rasūlullāh, i.e. Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. The expression ‘formula of Islam’ signifies that by bearing witness to the truth of these two simple propositions a man enters the fold of Islam.
Cf. Bukhārī, ‘Janā’iz’: 78;
‘Shahādah’: 3, and ‘Jihād’: 160 and 178 (
Cf. Muqaddimah, trans. Rosenthall, Vol. III, Section vi, Discourse: ‘The Science of Sufism’; D. B. Macdonald, Religious Attitude and Life in Islam, pp. 165-74, and M. Syrier, ‘Ibn Khaldūn and Mysticism’, Islamic Culture, XXI/ii(1947), 264-302.
Reference here is to the Qur’anic verses: 41: 37; 25: 45; 10: 6; 30: 22 and 3: 140 bearing on the phenomena of Nature which have quite often been named in the Qur’an as āyāt Allah, i.e. the ‘apparent signs of God’ (Rāghib, Al-Mufradāt, pp. 32-33); this is followed by reference to verses 25: 73 and 17: 72 which in the present context clearly make it as much a religious duty of the `true servants of the Most Gracious God’ to ponder over these apparent signs of God ‘as revealed to the sense-perception of man’ as to ponder over the Divine communications (āyat al-Qur’an) revealed to the Holy Prophet– this two-way God-consciousness alone ensures man’s physical and spiritual prosperity in this life as well as in the life hereafter.
Cf. G. H. Lewes, The Biographical History of Philosophy (1857),
p. 306, II. 4-8, where Lewes says: ‘It is this work (“Revivification of the
Sciences of Religion”) which M. Schmölders has translated. It bears so
remarkable a resemblance to the Discours de la méthode of Descartes,
that had any translation of it existed in the days of Descartes, everyone would
have cried against the plagiarism’. The second sentence of this passage was
quoted by Allama Iqbal in his doctoral dissertation: The Development of
Metaphysics in Persia (1908), p. 73, note (1), in support of his statement
that Ghazālī ‘anticipated Descartes in his philosophical method’.
It is to be noted that Schmölders’ Essai sur les écoles philosophiques chez les Arabes (
Cf. Al-Qistās al-Mustaqīm, trans. D. P. Brewster (The Just Balance), chapters ii-vi and translator’s Appendix III: ‘Al-Ghazālī and the Syllogism’, pp. 126-30; cf. also Michael E. Marmura, ‘Ghazalī’s Attitude to the Secular Sciences and Logic’, Essays on Islamic Philosophy and Science, ed. G. F. Hourani, Section II, pp. 102-03, and Susanna Diwald’s detailed review on Al-Qistās in Der Islam (1961), pp. 171-74.
For an account of Ishrāqī’s criticism of Greek logic
contained in his Hikmat al-Ishrāq, cf. S.Hossein Nasr,
‘Shihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī Maqtūl’, A History of Muslim
Philosophy, I,384-85; a fuller account of Ishrāqī’s logic,
according to Nicholas Rescher, is to be found in his Kitāb
al-Talwihāt and Kitāb al-Lamahāt cf. Development
of Arabic Logic, p. 185). It is to be noted that the earliest explanation
of Ishrāqī’s disagreement with Aristotle that logical definition is
genus plus differentia, in terms of modern (Bosanquet’s) logic, was given by
Allama Iqbal in his Development of Metaphysics in Persia, pp. 97-98.
For an expose of Ibn Taymiyyah’s logical masterpiece Al-Radd ‘alā ’l-Mantiqiyīn (‘Refutation of the Logicians’) cf. Serajul Haque, ‘Ibn Taimīyyah’ in A History of Muslim Philosophy, II, 805-12; also Majid Fakhry, A History of Islamic Philosophy (pp. 352-53) for a lucid summing up. A valuable study of Ibn Taymiyyah’s logical ideas is that by ‘Alī Sāmī al-Nashshār in Manāhij al-Bahth ‘inda Mufakkiri ’l-Islām wa Naqd al-Muslimīn lil Mantiq al-Aristatlīsī, chapter III, sections ii and iii. Al-Nashshār has also eidted Suyūtī’s Jahd al-Qarīhah fi Tajrīd al-Nasīhah, an abridgment ofIbn Taymiyyah’s Al-Radd ‘alā ’l-Mantiqiyīn.
Aristotle’s first figure, al-shakl al-awwal or al-qiyās
al-kāmil ofthe Muslim logicians, is a form of syllogism in which the
middle term occurs as a subject in the first premise and as a predicate in the
second premise. It is the only form of syllogism in which the conclusion
becomes available in the form of a general (universal) proposition needed for
scientific purposes; cf. M. Saeed Sheikh, A Dictionary of Muslim
As to the criticism of the first figure referred to here, it is more rightly to be ascribed to Fakhr al-Dīn Rāzī (1149-1209), who, besides his own now available logical works, wrote quite a few critical commentaries on the works of Ibn Sīnā (980-1037), rather than to the eminent physician of Islam, Abu Bakr Zakariyya Rāzī 1864-c. 925), none ofwhose short treatises on some parts ofthe Aristotelian Organon seems to have survived; cf. Nicholas Reacher, The Development of Arabic Logic, pp. 117-18. Happily this stands confirmed by Allama Iqbal’s Presidential comments (almost all of which have been incorporated in the present passage) on Khwājah Kamāl’s Lecture (in Urdu) on ‘Islam and Modern Sciences’ in the third session of the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference, 1911, in Delhi; see S. A. Vahid (ed.), Maqālāt-i Iqbāl, pp. 239-40; cf. also Allama’s letter dated 1 February 1924 to Sayyid Sulaimān Nadvī, Iqbālnāmah, I,127-28; reference in both cases is to Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzi and not to Abū Bakr Rāzī.
It is to be noted that of all the writings of Allama Iqbal including his more than 1200 letters Abū Bakr Rāzi is mentioned only in Development of Metaphysics in Persia: ‘as a physician and as a thinker who admitted the eternity of matter, space and time and possibly looked upon light as the first creation’ (pp. 24, 96). In a significant passage on p. 96 of this work Allama has listed about ten Muslim thinkers who were highly critical either of Greek philosophy in general or Greek logic in particular– Abū Bakr Rāzī’s name does not appear in this list.
This is Ibn Hazm’s Hudūd al-Mantiq referred to in
his well-known Kitāb al-Fisal (I,4 and 20; V, 70 and 128) under
somewhat varied titles; also mentioned by his contemporary and compatriot
Sa‘īd b. Ahmad al-Andalūsī in his Tabaqāt al-Umam (p.
118) and later listed by Brockelmann in GAL; Supplementbände (I,
696). C. van Arendonk, however, in his article on ‘Ibn Hazm’ in The
Encyclopaedia of Islam (II, 385) and I. Goldziher, s.v. in Encyclopaedia
of Religion and Ethics, VII,71 have declared that ‘the work has not
survived’. And certainly very little was heard of this work until Dr.
Ihsān ‘Abbās of the
Cf. Development of Metaphysics in Persia (1964), p. 64,
where it is stated that ‘Al-Bīrūnī (d. 1048) and Ibn Haitham (d.
1038) ... anticipated modern empirical psychology in recognizing what is called
reaction-time’: in the two footnotes to this statement Allama Iqbal quotes from
de Boer’s History of Philosophy in Islam, pp. 146 and 150, to
establish the positivism, i.e. sense-empiricism of Al-Bīrūnī and
Ibn Haitham. On pp. 151-52 of de Boer’s work is a passage (possibly referred to
by Allama Iqbal here) which describes reaction-time very much in the modern
sense: ‘not only is every sensation attended by a corresponding change
localized in the sense-organ, which demands a certain time, but also, between
the stimulation of the organ and consciousness of the perception an interval
of time must elapse, corresponding to the transmission of stimulus for some
distance along the nerves.’
As to Al-Kindī’s discovery that sensation is proportionate to stimulus, cf. de Boer, op. cit., p. 101, where he speaks of ‘the proportional relation existing between stimulus and sensation’ in connection with Al-Kindī’s mathematized theory of compound remedies. This is given in Al-Kindī’s celebrated treatise: Risālah fi Ma‘rifah Quwwat ’l-Adwiyyāt al-Murakkabah which was at least twice translated into Latin (Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, II, 342 and 896).
Cf. Opus Majus, trans. Robert Belle Burke, Vol. II, Part
V (pp. 419-82). It is important to note that Sarton’s observation on Roger
Bacon’s work on optics is very close to that of Allama Iqbal. ‘His optics’,
says Sarton, ‘was essentially based upon that of Ibn al-Haitham, with small
additions and practical applications’ (op. cit., II, 957).As reported
by Dr. M. S. Nāmūs, Allama Iqbal helped him in understanding the
rotographs of the only MS (No. 2460in Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris) of Ibn
Haitham’s Tahrīr al Manāzir for a number of days; cf. Ibn
al-Haitham: Proceedings of the Celebrations of 1000th Anniversary (held in
November 1969 under the auspices of Hamdard National Foundation Pakistan,
Karachi), p. 128.
See, however, Professor A. I. Sabra’s scholarly article: ‘Ibn al-Haytham’ in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, VI, 189-210, especially p. 205where he gives up-to-date information about the MSS of Ibn Haitham’s Kitāb Manāzir. According to Professor Sabra, ‘The reference in Brockelmann to a recension of this work in the
‘Ibn Hazm’ here is a palpable misprint for ‘Ibn Haitham’– the context of the passage more fittingly demands the latter rather than the former name. Ibn Hazm’s influence on Roger Bacon’s Opus Majus, a predominantly science-oriented work, looks somewhat odd. There seems to be no evidence of it in the text of Opus Majus – Ibn Hazm is not even so much as mentioned by name in this work. Sarton, despite his great praise for Ibn Hazm’s scholarship (I, 713), nowhere hints at his contributions to ‘science’ or his influence on Roger Bacon, nor is this to be found in other standard works, for example, in the sixteen-volume Dictionary of Scientific Biography.
For Tūsī’s discussion of the parallel postulate (also named ‘axiom of parallelism’), see his ‘Al-Risālat al-Shāfiyah ‘an al-Shakk fi ’l-Khutūt al-Mutawāziyah’in (Tūsī’s) Rasā’il, Vol. II, Pt. viii, pp. 1-40.Commenting on this work Sarton observes (op. cit. II, 1003): ‘Nasīr al-Din’s discussion was remarkably elaborate’. Cf. also Cajori, A History of Elementary Mathematics, p. 127, Q. Hāfiz b. Tauqān, Turāth al-‘Arab al-‘Ilmī, pp. 97-98,R. Bonola, Non-Euclidean Geometry, pp. 12-13 and 37-38and Dr. S. H. Nasr’s article: ‘Al-Tūsī’ in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, XIII, 508-14especially p. 510.
This passage may be read in conjunction with Allama Iqbal’s
observation on Tūsī in his Sectional Presidential Address (delivered
at the Fifth Oriental Conference, Lahore, on 20 November 1928): ‘A Plea for the
Deeper Study of Muslim Scientists’: ‘It is Tusi’s effort to improve the
parallel postulate of Euclid that is believed to have furnished a basis in
Europe for the problem of space which eventually led to the theories of Gauss
and Riemann’ (Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, p.
138).Euclid’s parallel postulate is Postulate V of the first book of his Elements.
What it means to say is that through a given point ‘P’ there can be only
one straight line ‘L’ parallel to a given straight line. It is to be noted that
These non-Euclidean geometries were developed in the nineteenth century by certain European mathematicians: Gauss (1777-1855) in
This in short is the movement of the idea of parallel postulate from
Cf. a fairly long passage from Spengler’s Decline of the West (I,
75) quoted in Allama’s Address: ‘A Plea for Deeper Study of the Muslim
Scientists’ and an account of the way he went into the authentication of
Al-Bīrūnī’s view of mathematical function (Speeches,
Writings and Statements of Iqbal, pp. 135-36).Allama’s interest in
‘mathematical idea of function’ seems to be two-fold: religio-philosophical and
scientific. The function-idea, he says, ‘turns the fixed into the variable, and
sees the universe not as being but as becoming’. This is in full accord with
the Qur’anic view of the universe which God has built with power and it is He
Who is steadily expanding it (cf. M. Asad, The Message of the Qur’an, p.
805,note 31) and again ‘He adds to His creation whatever He wills: for
verily, God has the power to will anything’ (35: 1). The Qur’anic view of the
growing universe is thus ‘a clear departure’ from the Aristotelian view of the
fixed universe. Aristotle’s doctrine of potentiality passing into actuality
fails to resolve the mystery of becoming, in its living historicity and novelty
or, as W. D. Ross has put it: ‘The conception of potentiality has often been
used to cover mere barrenness of thought’ (cf. his Aristotle, p.
176). Hence, Allama’s repeated pronouncements, that the spirit of the
Qur’an is essentially anti-classical. Philosophically speaking, time, which in
the present context has been linked up with the notion of functionality and
rightly so, is the most indispensable condition for the very possibility and
reality of human experience, cognitive or moral. This explains, partly at
least, why ‘Time’ is the recurring theme in Allama’s works in both prose and
In mathematics function is a relationship of correspondence between two variables called independent variable and dependent variable and is expressed by saying ‘y is a function of x’ which means y changes with x. so that for a certain value of x, y has a certain value (or values). In Europe though the term ‘function’ in its full mathematical sense was used by Leibniz in 1694, the theory of functions had already emerged with the analytic geometry of Pierce Fermat in 1629and that of the father of modern philosophy Rene Descartes– Descartes’ La Geometrie appeared along with his better known Discours de la méthode in 1637. After that such rapid advances took place in mathematics that within, say, fifty years it was completely metamorphosed into its modern form or, as Spengler puts it: ‘Once this immense creation found wings, its rise was miraculous’. Being well versed in mathematics, Spengler gives an exciting account of the new discoveries of the Western mathematicians and their impact on European science and arts (op. cit., I, 74-90).Two of his statements are to be noted. ‘Not until the theory of functions was fully evolved’, says Spengler, ‘could this mathematics be unreservedly brought to bear in the parallel sphere of our dynamic Western physics’. Generally speaking, this means that Nature speaks the subtle and complex language of mathematics and that without the use of this language the breath-taking progress of science in the West, since the seventeenth century, would have been a sheer impossibility. Spengler, however, did not care to know that the mathematical idea of function originated, not in the West, but in the East, more particularly with the most brilliant Al-Bīrūnī’s Al-Qānūn al-Mas‘ūdī in1030, i.e. six hundred years before Fermat and Descartes.
The second statement to be noted is that, according to Spengler, ‘The history of western knowledge is thus one of progressive emancipation from classical thought’ (op. cit, p. 76). As it is, Allama Iqbal has the least quarrel with Spengler on the truth of this statement for he says: ‘The most remarkable phenomenon of modern history, however, is the enormous rapidity with which the world of Islam is spiritually moving towards the West. There is nothing wrong in this movement, for European culture, on its intellectual side, is only a further development of some of the most important phases of the culture of Islam’ (Lecture I, p. 6: italics mine). And further, ‘Spengler’s view of the spirit of modern culture is, in my opinion, perfectly correct’ (p. 114). What Allama Iqbal, however, rightly insists is ‘that the anticlassical spirit of the modern world has really arisen out of the revolt of Islam against Greek thought’ (ibid.). This revolt consists in Islam’s focussing its vision on ‘the concrete’, ‘the particular’ and ‘the becoming’ as against the Greeks’ search for ‘the ideal’, ‘the universal’ and ‘the being’. Spengler failed to see these Islamic ingredients of modern culture because of his self-evolved thesis ‘that each culture is a specific organism, having no point of contact with cultures that historically precede or follow it’. Spengler’s thesis has its roots, not in any scientifically established dynamics of history, but in his uncompromising theory of cultural holism (note the sub-title of the first volume of his work: Gestalt and Wirklichkeit). Cf. W. H. Dray’s article, ‘Spengler, Oswald’, in Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, VII, 527-30for critical evaluation of Spengler’s philosophical position.
Cf. M. A. Kazim, ‘Al-Bīrūnī and Trignometry’, Al-Bīrūnī Commemoration Volume, esp. pp. 167-68, for the English translation of the passage from Al-Bīriurī’s Al-Qānūn al-Mas‘ūdī (Vol. I, Maqālah III, chapter 8, last article) wherein Al-Bīrūnī generalizes his interpolation formula ‘from trignometrical function to any function whatever’. This is likely the passage pointedly referred to by Allama Iqbal in his ‘A Plea for Deeper Study of the Muslim Scientists’ (Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, p. 136).See, however, Professor E. S. Kennedy’s highly commendable article on ‘al-Bīrūnī’ in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, II, 147-58. He bases Al-Bīrūnī’s theory of function on his ‘Treatise on Shadows’ already translated by him.
Cf. M. R. Siddiqi, ‘Mathematics and Astronomy’, A History of Muslim Philosophy, ed. M. M. Sharif, II, 1280, and Juan Vernet, ‘Mathematics, Astronomy, Optics’, The Legacy of Islam, ed. Joseph Schacht and C. E. Bosworth, pp. 466-68.According to Sarton, Al-Khawārizmī ‘may be called one of the founders of analysis or algebra as distinct from geometry’ and that his astronomical and trignometric tables were the Muslim tables which contained, not simply the sine function, but also the tangent’ (op. cit., I, 563).
Cf. Al-Fauz al-Asghar, pp. 78-83;also Development of Metaphysics in Persia, p. 29where an account of Ibn Maskawaih’s theory of evolution is given as summed up by Shiblī Nu‘mānī in his ‘Ilm al-Kalām, pp. 141.43.
This is a reference to the views of Khwājah Muhammad
Pārsā (d. 822/ 1420)as contained in his short but valuable tractate
on time and space: Risālah dar Zamān-o-Makān, the only
extant MS of which, perhaps, is the one listed by A. Monzavi in his Catalogue
of Persian Manuscripts, Vol. II, Part I, p. 800. I am
greatly indebted to Qāzī Mahmūd ul-Haq of British Library,
Cf. Space, Time and Deity, II, 41; also R. Metz, A Hundred Years of British Philosophy, pp. 634-38, and article ‘S. Alexander’ in The Dictionary of Philosophy, ed. D. D. Runes, wherein it is made clear that the term ‘deity’ is not used by Alexander in any theological sense but in terms of his doctrine of emergent evolution: ‘The quality next above any given level (of evolution) is deity to the beings on that level’.
Alexander’s metaphor that time is mind of space is to be found in
statements such as this: ‘It is that Time as a whole and in its parts bears to
space as a whole and its corresponding parts a relation analogous to the
relation of mind .. . or to put the matter shortly that Time is the mind of
Space and Space the body of Time’ (Space Time and Deity, II, 38).
Allama Iqbal’s references to Alexander’s Space, Time and Deity, in the
sufistic account of space and time in the present Lecture as also in his
address earlier: ‘A Plea for Deeper Study of Muslim Scientists’ (Speeches,
Writings and Statements, p. 142) coupled with his commendatory
observations on Alexander’s work in his letter dated 24 January 1921 addressed
to R. A. Nicholson (Letters of Iqbal, p. 141) are suggestive of
Allama’s keen interest in the metaphysical views of Alexander.
Of all the British philosophers, contemporaries of Allama Iqbal, Alexander can be singled out for laying equal emphasis on space and time as central to all philosophy. ‘All the vital problems of philosophy’, says Alexander, ‘depend for their solution on the solution of the problem what Space and Time are and, more particularly, in how they are related to each other’. According to Allama Iqbal, ‘In [Muslim] . . . culture the problem of space and time becomes a question of life and death’ (p. 105). ‘Space and Time in Muslim Thought’ was the subject selected by Allama for his proposed Rhodes Memorial Lectures at
Attention may be called here also to an obviously unfinished two-page draft on ‘The Problem of Time in Muslim Philosophy’ in Allama’s own hand preserved in the
This is a reference to the Qur’anic verses: 6: 6; 9: 39; 17: 16-17; 18: 59; 21: 11; 22: 45-46; 36: 31. God’s judgment on nations, also called ‘judgment in history’, according to the Qur’an, is said to be more relentless than God’s judgment on individuals– in the latter case God is forgiving and compassionate. Nations are destroyed only for their transgression and evil doings. And when a nation perishes, its good members meet the same doom as its bad ones for the former failed to check the spread of evil (11: 116); cf. F. Rahman, Major Themes of the Quran, p. 53.
Abū ‘Abdullah Muhammad b. Ishāq (d. c. 150/767) has the distinction of being the first biographer of the Holy Prophet. His work Kitāb Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (‘The Life of the Apostle of God’) has, however, been lost and is now known only through Ibn Hishām’s recension of it.
Abu Ja‘far Muhammad b. Jarīr al-Tabarī (225-311/839-923) is one of the greatest Muslim historians. His remarkably accurate monumental history Kitāb Akhbār al-Rusul wa ’l-Mulūk (‘Annals of the Apostles and the Kings’), the first comprehensive work in the Arabic language, has been edited by M. J. de Goeje and others in 15 volumes (Leiden, 1879-1901). Al-Tabarī is equally well known for his commendable commentary on the Qur’an: Jāmi‘ al-Bayān fi Tafsīr al-Qur’an in 30 volumes– a primal work for the later commentators because of its earliest and largest collection of the exegetical traditions.
Abū ’l-Hasan ‘Ali b. al-Husain b. ‘Ali al-Mas‘ūdī (d. c. 346/957), after Al-Tabarī, is the next greatest historian in Islam– rightly named as the ‘Herodotus of the Arabs’. He inaugurated a new method in the writing of history: instead of grouping events around years (annalistic method) he grouped them around kings, dynasties and topics (topical method); a method adopted also by Ibn Khaldūn. His historico-geographical work Murūj al-Dhahab wa ’l-Ma‘ādin al-Jawāhir (‘Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems’) also deals with Persian, Roman and Jewish history and religion.
See Robert Flint, History of the Philosophy of History, p. 86. Flint’s eulogy of Ibn Khaldūn, expressive of his sentiment of a discovery of a genius, now stands more or less confirmed by the realistic assessments made of Ibn Khaldūn by eminent scholars such as A. Toynbee, A Study of History, III, 322; Sarton, op. cit., III, 1262; Gaston Bouthoul in his Preface to de Slane’s Les Prolégomènes d’ Ibn Khaldoun (second edition, Paris, 1934-38) and R. Brunschvig, La Berbérie orientale sous les Hafsides, II, 391.
Cf. Muqaddimah, Chapter III, section 51: ‘The
Fatimid.....’, trans. Rosenthal, II, 156-200. Ibn Khaldūn recounts
formally twenty-four traditions bearing upon the belief in Mahdī (none of
which is from Bukhārī or Muslim) and questions the authenticity of
them all. Cf. also the article ‘al-Mahdī’ in Shorter Encyclopaedia of
Islam and P. K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, pp. 439-49, for the
religio-political background of the imam-Mahdī idea.
Reference may also be made to Allama Iqbal’s letter dated 7 April 1932 to Muhammad Ahsan wherein, among other things, he states that, according to his firm belief (‘aqīdah), all traditions relating to Mahdī, masīhiyyat and mujaddidiyyat are the product of Persian and non-Arab imagination; and he adds that certainly they have nothing to do with the true spirit of the Qur’an (Iqbālnāmah, II, 231).
And finally it shall be rewarding to read this last paragraph in conjunction with Allama’s important notes on the back cover of his own copy of Spengler’s Decline of the West, facsimile of which is reproduced in Descriptive Catalogue of Allama Iqbal’s Personal Library. Plate No. 33.
The Principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam
As a cultural movement Islam
rejects the old static view of the universe, and reaches a dynamic view. As an
emotional system of unification it recognizes the worth of the individual as
such, and rejects blood-relationship as a basis of human unity.
Blood-relationship is earth-rootedness. The search for a purely psycho-logical
foundation of human unity becomes possible only with the perception that all
human life is spiritual in its origin. Such a perception is creative of fresh loyalties without any
ceremonials to keep them alive, and makes it possible for man to emancipate
himself from the earth. Christianity which had originally appeared as a
monastic order was tried by
It seemed then that the great civilization that it had taken four thousand years to construct was on the verge of disintegration, and that mankind was likely to return to that condition of barbarism where every tribe and sect was against the next, and law and order were unknown ... The old tribal sanctions had lost their power. Hence the old imperial methods would no longer operate. The new sanctions created by Christianity were working division and destruction instead of unity and order. It was a time fraught with tragedy. Civilization, like a gigantic tree whose foliage had overarched the world and whose branches had borne the golden fruits of art and science and literature, stood tottering, its trunk no longer alive with the flowing sap of devotion and reverence, but rotted to the core, riven by the storms of war, and held together only by the cords of ancient customs and laws, that might snap at any moment. Was there any emotional culture that could be brought in, to gather mankind once more into unity and to save civilization? This culture must be something of a new type, for the old sanctions and ceremonials were dead, and to build up others of the same kind would be the work of centuries.
The writer then proceeds to tell
us that the world stood in need of a new culture to take the place of the
culture of the throne, and the systems of unification which were based on
blood-relationship. It is amazing, he adds, that such a culture should have
The word literally means to exert.
In the terminology of Islamic law it means to exert with a view to form an
independent judgement on a legal question. The idea, I believe, has its origin
in a well-known verse of the Qur’an– “And to those who exert We show Our
path.” We find it more definitely adumbrated in a tradition of the Holy
Prophet. When Ma‘ādh was appointed ruler of
1. We are all familiar with the
Rationalist movement which appeared in the
The rise and growth of ascetic Sufism, which gradually developed under influences of a non-Islamic character, a purely speculative side, is to a large extent responsible for this attitude. On its purely religious side Sufism fostered a kind of revolt against the verbal quibbles of our early doctors. The case of Sufyān Thawrī is an instance in point. He was one of the acutest legal minds of his time, and was nearly the founder of a school of law, but being also intensely spiritual, the dry-as-dust subtleties of contemporary legists drove him to ascetic Sufism. On its speculative side which developed later, Sufism is a form of free thought and in alliance with Rationalism. The emphasis that it laid on the distinction of zāhir and bātin (Appearance and Reality) created an attitude of indifference to all that applies to Appearance and not to Reality.
This spirit of total other-worldliness in later Sufism obscured men’s vision of a very important aspect of Islam as a social polity, and, offering the prospect of unrestrained thought on its speculative side, it attracted and finally absorbed the best minds in Islam. The Muslim state was thus left generally in the hands of intellectual mediocrities, and the unthinking masses of Islam, having no personalities of a higher calibre to guide them, found their security only in blindly following the schools.
3. On the top of all this came the
Ibn Taimiyyah was brought up in
Hanbalite tradition. Claiming freedom of Ijtihād for, himself he
rose in revolt against the finality of the schools, and went back to first
principles in order to make a fresh start. Like Ibn Hazm– the founder of
Zahirī school of law– he rejected the Hanafite principle of reasoning by analogy and Ijmā‘
as understood by older legists; for he thought agreement was the basis of all superstition. And there is no doubt that, considering the moral and
intellectual decrepitude of his times, he was right in doing so. In the
sixteenth century Suyūtī claimed the same privilege of Ijtihād
to which he added the idea of a renovator at the beginning of each century. But the spirit of Ibn Taimīyyah’s teaching found a fuller
expression in a movement of immense potentialities which arose in the
eighteenth century, from the sands of
Passing on to
I now proceed to give you some
idea of religio-political thought in
The truth is that the Turkish Nationalists assimilated the idea of the separation of Church and State from the history of European political ideas. Primitive Christianity was founded, not as a political or civil unit, but as a monastic order in a profane world, having nothing to do with civil affairs, and obeying the Roman authority practically in all matters. The result of this was that when the State became Christian, State and Church confronted each other as distinct powers with interminable boundary disputes between them. Such a thing could never happen in Islam; for Islam was from the very beginning a civil society, having received from the Qur’an a set of simple legal principles which, like the twelve tables of the Romans, carried, as experience subsequently proved, great potentialities of expansion and development by interpretation. The Nationalist theory of state, therefore, is misleading inasmuch as it suggests a dualism which does not exist in Islam.
The Religious Reform Party, on the other hand, led by Sa‘īd Halīm Pāshā, insisted on the fundamental fact that Islam is a harmony of idealism and positivism; and, as a unity of the eternal verities of freedom, equality, and solidarity, has no fatherland. “As there is no English Mathematics, German Astronomy or French Chemistry,” says the Grand Vizier, “so there is no Turkish, Arabian, Persian or Indian Islam. Just as the universal character of scientific truths engenders varieties of scientific national cultures which in their totality represent human knowledge, much in the same way the universal character of Islamic verities creates varieties of national, moral and social ideals.” Modern culture based as it is on national egoism is, according to this keen-sighted writer, only another form of barbarism. It is the result of an over-developed industrialism through which men satisfy their primitive instincts and inclinations. He, however, deplores that during the course of history the moral and social ideals of Islam have been gradually deislamized through the influence of local character, and pre-Islamic superstitions of Muslim nations. These ideals today are more Iranian, Turkish, or Arabian than Islamic. The pure brow of the principle of Tawhid has received more or less an impress of heathenism, and the universal and impersonal character of the ethical ideals of Islam has been lost through a process of localization. The only alternative open to us, then, is to tear off from Islam the hard crust which has immobilized an essentially dynamic outlook on life, and to rediscover the original verities of freedom, equality, and solidarity with a view to rebuild our moral, social, and political ideals out of their original simplicity and universality. Such are the views of the Grand Vizier of Turkey. You will see that following a line of thought more in tune with the spirit of Islam, he reaches practically the same conclusion as the Nationalist Party, that is to say, the freedom of Ijtihād with a view to rebuild the laws of Sharī‘ah in the light of modern thought and experience.
Let us now see how the Grand
National Assembly has exercised this power of Ijtihād in regard
to the institution of Khilāfat. According to Sunni Law, the appointment of
an Imām or Khalīfah is absolutely indispensable. The first question
that arises in this connexion is this– Should the Caliphate be vested in a
In order to understand the Turkish
view let us seek the guidance of Ibn Khaldūn– the first philosophical
historian of Islam. Ibn Khaldūn, in his famous Prolegomena,
mentions three distinct views of the idea of Universal Caliphate in Islam: (1) That Universal Imamate is a Divine institution, and is
consequently indispensable. (2) That it is merely a matter of expediency. (3)
That there is no need of such an institution. The last view was taken by the
Khawārij. It seems that modern
To my mind these arguments, if
rightly appreciated, indicate the birth of an International ideal which, though
forming the very essence of Islam, has been hitherto overshadowed or rather
displaced by Arabian Imperialism of the earlier centuries of Islam. This new
ideal is clearly reflected in the work of the great nationalist poet Ziya whose
songs, inspired by the philosophy of Auguste Comte, have done a great deal in
shaping the present thought of
In order to create a really effective political unity of Islam, all Muslim countries must first become independent: and then in their totality they should range themselves under one Caliph. Is such a thing possible at the present moment? If not today, one must wait. In the meantime the Caliph must reduce his own house to order and lay the foundations of a workable modern State.
In the International world the weak find no sympathy; power alone deserves respect.
These lines clearly indicate the trend of modern Islam. For the present every Muslim nation must sink into her own deeper self, temporarily focus her vision on herself alone, until all are strong and powerful to form a living family of republics. A true and living unity, according to the nationalist thinkers, is not so easy as to be achieved by a merely symbolical overlordship. It is truly manifested in a multiplicity of free independent units whose racial rivalries are adjusted and harmonized by the unifying bond of a common spiritual aspiration. It seems to me that God is slowly bringing home to us the truth that Islam is neither Nationalism nor Imperialism but a League of Nations which recognizes artificial boundaries and racial distinctions for facility of reference only, and not for restricting the social horizon of its members.
From the same poet the following passage from a poem called “Religion and Science” will throw some further light on the general religious outlook which is being gradually shaped in the world of Islam today:
“Who were the first spiritual leaders of mankind? Without doubt the prophets and holy men. In every period religion has led philosophy; from it alone morality and art receive light. But then religion grows weak, and loses her original ardour! Holy men disappear, and spiritual leadership becomes, in name, the heritage of the Doctors of Law! The leading star of the Doctors of Law is tradition; they drag religion with force on this track; but philosophy says: “My leading star is reason: you go right, I go left.”
“Both religion and philosophy claim the soul of man and draw it on either side!”
“When this struggle is going on” pregnant experience delivers up positive science, and this young leader of thought says, “Tradition is history and Reason is the method of history! Both interpret and desire to reach the same indefinable something!”
“But what is this something?”
“Is it a spiritualized heart?”
“If so, then take my last word– Religion is positive science, the purpose of which is to spiritualize the heart of man!”
It is clear from these lines how
beautifully the poet has adopted the Comtian idea of the three stages of man’s
intellectual development, i.e. theological, metaphysical, and scientific– to
the religious outlook of Islam. And the view of religion embodied in these
lines determines the poet’s attitude towards the position of Arabic in the
educational system of
The land where the call to prayer
resounds in Turkish; where those who pray understand the meaning of their
religion; the land where the Qur’an is learnt in Turkish; where every man, big
or small, knows full well the command of God; O! Son of
If the aim of religion is the
spiritualization of the heart, then it must penetrate the soul of man, and it
can best penetrate the inner man, according to the poet, only if its
spiritualizing ideas are clothed in his mother tongue. Most people in
In another passage the poet gives his ideal of womanhood. In his zeal for the equality of man and woman he wishes to see radical changes in the family law of Islam as it is understood and practised today:
“There is the woman, my mother, my sister, or my daughter; it is she who calls up the most sacred emotions from the depths of my life! There is my beloved, my sun, my moon and my star; it is she who makes me understand the poetry of life! How could the Holy Law of God regard these beautiful creatures as despicable beings? Surely there is an error in the interpretation of the Qur’an by the learned.”
“The foundation of the nation and the state is the family!
As long as the full worth of the woman is not realized, national life remains incomplete.”
“The upbringing of the family must correspond with justice; Therefore equality is necessary in three things– in divorce, in separation, and in inheritance.”
“As long as the woman is counted half the man as regards inheritance and one-fourth of man in matrimony, neither the family nor the country will be elevated. For other rights we have opened national courts of justice.”
“The family, on the other hand, we have left in the hands of schools.”
“I do not know why we have left the woman in the lurch?”
The truth is that among the Muslim
nations of today,
We heartily welcome the liberal
movement in modern Islam, but it must also be admitted that the appearance of
liberal ideas in Islam constitutes also the most critical moment in the history
of Islam. Liberalism has a tendency to act as a force of disintegration, and
the race-idea which appears to be working in modern Islam with greater force
than ever may ultimately wipe off the broad human outlook which Muslim people
have imbibed from their religion. Further, our religious and political
reformers in their zeal for liberalism may overstep the proper limits of reform
in the absence of check on their youthful fervour. We are today passing through
a period similar to that of the Protestant revolution in
I have given you some idea of the
history and working of Ijtihād in modern Islam. I now proceed to
see whether the history and structure of the Law of Islam indicate the
possibility of any fresh interpretation of its principles. In other words, the
question that I want to raise is– Is the Law of Islam capable of evolution?
Horten, Professor of Semitic Philology at the
The spirit of Islam is so broad that it is practically boundless. With the exception of atheistic ideas alone it has assimilated all the attainable ideas of surrounding peoples, and given them its own peculiar direction of development.
The assimilative spirit of Islam is even more manifest in the sphere of law. Says Professor Hurgronje– the Dutch critic of Islam:
When we read the history of the development of Mohammedan Law we find that, on the one hand, the doctors of every age, on the slightest stimulus, condemn one another to the point of mutual accusations of heresy; and, on the other hand, the very same people, with greater and greater unity of purpose, try to reconcile the similar quarrels of their predecessors.
These views of modern European critics of Islam make it perfectly clear that, with the return of new life, the inner catholicity of the spirit of Islam is bound to work itself out in spite of the rigorous conservatism of our doctors. And I have no doubt that a deeper study of the enormous legal literature of Islam is sure to rid the modern critic of the superficial opinion that the Law of Islam is stationary and incapable of development. Unfortunately, the conservative Muslim public of this country is not yet quite ready for a critical discussion of Fiqh, which, if undertaken, is likely to displease most people, and raise sectarian controversies; yet I venture to offer a few remarks on the point before us.
(a) The Qur’an. The primary source of the Law of Islam is the Qur’an. The Qur’an, however, is not a legal code. Its main purpose, as I have said before, is to awaken in man the higher consciousness of his relation with God and the universe. No doubt, the Qur’an does lay down a few general principles and rules of a legal nature, especially relating to the family – the ultimate basis of social life. But why are these rules made part of a revelation the ultimate aim of which is man’s higher life? The answer to this question is furnished by the history of Christianity which appeared as a powerful reaction against the spirit of legality manifested in Judaism. By setting up an ideal of other-worldliness it no doubt did succeed in spiritualizing life, but its individualism could see no spiritual value in the complexity of human social relations. “Primitive Christianity”, says Naumann in his Briefe über Religion, “attached no value to the preservation of the State, law, organization, production. It simply does not reflect on the conditions of human society.” And Naumann concludes: “Hence we either dare to aim at being without a state, and thus throwing ourselves deliberately into the arms of anarchy, or we decide to possess, alongside of our religious creed, a political creed as well.” Thus the Qur’an considers it necessary to unite religion and state, ethics and politics in a single revelation much in the same way as Plato does in his Republic.
The important point to note in this connexion, however, is the dynamic outlook of the Qur’an. I have fully discussed its origin and history. It is obvious that with such an outlook the Holy Book of Islam cannot be inimical to the idea of evolution. Only we should not forget that life is not change, pure and simple. It has within it elements of conservation also. While enjoying his creative activity, and always focusing his energies on the discovery of new vistas of life, man has a feeling of uneasiness in the presence of his own unfoldment. In his forward movement he cannot help looking back to his past, and faces his own inward expansion with a certain amount of fear. The spirit of man in its forward movement is restrained by forces which seem to be working in the opposite direction. This is only another way of saying that life moves with the weight of its own past on its back, and that in any view of social change the value and function of the forces of conservatism cannot be lost sight of. It is with this organic insight into the essential teachings of the Qur’an that modern Rationalism ought to approach our existing institutions. No people can afford to reject their past entirely, for it is their past that has made their personal identity. And in a society like Islam the problem of a revision of old institutions becomes still more delicate, and the responsibility of the reformer assumes a far more serious aspect. Islam is non-territorial in its character, and its aim is to furnish a model for the final combination of humanity by drawing its adherents from a variety of mutually repellent races, and then transforming this atomic aggregate into a people possessing a self-consciousness of their own. This was not an easy task to accomplish. Yet Islam, by means of its well-conceived institutions, has succeeded to a very great extent in creating something like a collective will and conscience in this heterogeneous mass. In the evolution of such a society even the immutability of socially harmless rules relating to eating and drinking, purity or impurity, has a life-value of its own, inasmuch as it tends to give such society a specific inwardness, and further secures that external and internal uniformity which counteracts the forces of heterogeneity always latent in a society of a composite character. The critic of these institutions must, therefore, try to secure, before he undertakes to handle them, a clear insight into the ultimate significance of the social experiment embodied in Islam. He must look at their structure, not from the standpoint of social advantage or disadvantage to this or that country, but from the point of view of the larger purpose which is being gradually worked out in the life of mankind as a whole.
Turning now to the groundwork of legal principles in the Qur’an, it is perfectly clear that far from leaving no scope for human thought and legislative activity the intensive breadth of these principles virtually acts as an awakener of human thought. Our early doctors of law taking their clue mainly from this groundwork evolved a number of legal systems; and the student of Muhammadan history knows very well that nearly half the triumphs of Islam as a social and political power were due to the legal acuteness of these doctors. “Next to the Romans,” says von Kremer, “there is no other nation besides the Arabs which could call its own a system of law so carefully worked out.” But with all their comprehensiveness these systems are after all individual interpretations, and as such cannot claim any finality. I know the Ulema of Islam claim finality for the popular schools of Muhammadan Law, though they never found it possible to deny the theoretical possibility of a complete Ijtihād. I have tried to explain the causes which, in my opinion, determined this attitude of the Ulema; but since things have changed and the world of Islam is confronted and affected today by new forces set free by the extraordinary development of human thought in all its directions, I see no reason why this attitude should be maintained any longer. Did the founders of our schools ever claim finality for their reasoning’s and interpretations? Never. The claim of the present generation of Muslim liberals to reinterpret the foundational legal principles, in the light of their own experience and the altered conditions of modern life is, in my opinion, perfectly justified. The teachings of the Qur’an that life is a process of progressive creation necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessors, should be permitted to solve its own problems.
You will, I think, remind me here
of the Turkish poet Ziya whom I quoted a moment ago, and ask whether the
equality of man and woman demanded by him, equality, that is to say, in point
of divorce, separation and inheritance, is possible according to Muhammadan
Law. I do not know whether the awakening of women in
With regard to the Turkish poet’s demand, I am afraid he does not seem to know much about the family law of Islam. Nor does he seem to understand the economic significance of the Qur’anic rule of inheritance. Marriage, according to Muhammadan Law, is a civil contract. The wife at the time of marriage is at liberty to get the husband’s power of divorce delegated to her on stated conditions, and thus secure equality of divorce with her husband. The reform suggested by the poet relating to the rule of inheritance is based on a misunderstanding. From the inequality of their legal shares it must not be supposed that the rule assumes the superiority of males over females. Such an assumption would be contrary to the spirit of Islam. The Qur’an says: “And for women are rights over men similar to those for men over women.” (2: 228).
The share of the daughter is determined not by any inferiority inherent in her, but in view of her economic opportunities, and the place she occupies in the social structure of which she is a part and parcel. Further, according to the poet’s own theory of society, the rule of inheritance must be regarded not as an isolated factor in the distribution of wealth, but as one factor among others working together for the same end. While the daughter, according to Muhammadan Law, is held to be full owner of the property given to her by both the father and the husband at the time of her marriage; while, further, she absolutely owns her dower-money which may be prompt or deferred according to her own choice, and in lieu of which she can hold possession of the whole of her husband’s property till payment, the responsibility of maintaining her throughout her life is wholly thrown on the husband. If you judge the working of the rule of inheritance from this point of view, you will find that there is no material difference between the economic position of sons and daughters, and it is really by this apparent inequality of their legal shares that the law secures the equality demanded by the Turkish poet. The truth is that the principles underlying the Qur’anic law of inheritance– this supremely original branch of Muhammadan Law as von Kremer describes it– have not yet received from Muslim lawyers the attention they deserve. Modern society with its bitter class-struggles ought to set us thinking; and if we study our laws in reference to the impending revolution in modern economic life, we are likely to discover, in the foundational principles, hitherto unrevealed aspects which we can work out with a renewed faith in the wisdom of these principles.
(b) The Hadīth. The second great source of Muhammadan Law is the traditions of the Holy Prophet. These have been the subject of great discussion both in ancient and modern times. Among their modern critics Professor Goldziher has subjected them to a searching examination in the light of modern canons of historical criticism, and arrives at the conclusion that they are, on the whole, untrustworthy! Another European writer, after examining the Muslim methods of determining the genuineness of a tradition, and pointing out the theoretical possibilities of error, arrives at the following conclusion:
It must be said in conclusion that the preceding considerations represent only theoretical possibilities and that the question whether and how far these possibilities have become actualities is largely a matter of how far the actual circumstances offered inducements for making use of the possibilities. Doubtless, the latter, relatively speaking, were few and affected only a small proportion of the entire sunnah. It may therefore be said that . . . for the most part the collections of sunnah considered by the Moslems as canonical are genuine records of the rise and early growth of Islam (Mohammedan Theories of Finance).
For our present purposes, however,
we must distinguish traditions of a purely legal import from those which are of
a non-legal character. With regard to the former, there arises a very important
question as to how far they embody the pre-Islamic usages of
(c) The Ijmā‘. The
third source of Muhammadan Law is Ijmā‘ which is, in my opinion,
perhaps the most important legal notion in Islam. It is, however, strange that
this important notion, while invoking great academic discussions in early
Islam, remained practically a mere idea, and rarely assumed the form of a
permanent institution in any Muhammadan country. Possibly its transformation
into a permanent legislative institution was contrary to the political
interests of the kind of absolute monarchy that grew up in Islam immediately
after the fourth Caliph. It was, I think, favourable to the interest of the
Umayyad and the Abbaside Caliphs to leave the power of Ijtihād to
individual Mujtahids rather than encourage the formation of a
permanent assembly which might become too powerful for them. It is, however,
extremely satisfactory to note that the pressure of new world-forces and the
political experience of European nations are impressing on the mind of modern
Islam the value and possibilities of the idea of Ijmā‘. The
growth of republican spirit and the gradual formation of legislative assemblies
in Muslim lands constitute a great step in advance. The transfer of the power
of Ijtihād from individual representatives of schools to a Muslim
legislative assembly which, in view of the growth of opposing sects, is the
only possible form Ijmā‘ can take in modern times, will secure
contributions to legal discussion from laymen who happen to possess a keen
insight into affairs. In this way alone can we stir into activity the dormant
spirit of life in our legal system, and give it an evolutionary outlook. In
But there are one or two questions
which must be raised and answered in regard to Ijmā‘. Can Ijmā‘
repeal the Qur’an? It is unnecessary to raise this question before a Muslim
audience, but I consider it necessary to do so in view of a very misleading
statement by a European critic in a book called Mohammedan Theories of
Finance– published by the
But supposing the companions have unanimously decided a certain point, the further question is whether later generations are bound by their decision. Shaukānī has fully discussed this point, and cited the views held by writers belonging to different schools. I think it is necessary in this connexion to discriminate between a decision relating to a question of fact and the one relating to a question of law. In the former case, as for instance, when the question arose whether the two small Sūrahs known as Mu‘awwidhatān formed part of the Qur’an or not, and the companion’s unanimously decided that they did, we are bound by their decision, obviously because the companions alone were in a position to know the fact. In the latter case the question is one of interpretation only, and I venture to think, on the authority of Karkhī, that later generations are not bound by the decision of the companions. Says Karkhī: “The Sunnah of the companions is binding in matters which cannot be cleared up by Qiyās, but it is not so in matters which can be established by Qiyās.”
One more question may be asked as to the legislative activity of a modern Muslim assembly which must consist, at least for the present, mostly of men possessing no knowledge of the subtleties of Muhammadan Law. Such an assembly may make grave mistakes in their interpretation of law. How can we exclude or at least reduce the possibilities of erroneous interpretation? The Persian constitution of 1906 provided a separate ecclesiastical committee of Ulema– “conversant with the affairs of the world”– having power to supervise the legislative activity of the Mejliss. This, in my opinion, dangerous arrangement is probably necessary in view of the Persian constitutional theory. According to that theory, I believe, the king is a mere custodian of the realm which really belongs to the Absent Imām. The Ulema, as representatives of the Imām, consider themselves entitled to supervise the whole life of the community, though I fail to understand how, in the absence of an apostolic succession, they establish their claim to represent the Imām. But whatever may be the Persian constitutional theory, the arrangement is not free from danger, and may be tried, if at all, only as a temporary measure in Sunnī countries. The Ulema should form a vital part of a Muslim legislative assembly helping and guiding free discussion on questions relating to law. The only effective remedy for the possibilities of erroneous interpretations is to reform the present system of legal education in Muhammadan countries, to extend its sphere, and to combine it with an intelligent study of modern jurisprudence.
(d) The Qiyās. The
fourth basis of Fiqh is Qiyās, i.e. the use of analogical
reasoning in legislation. In view of different social and agricultural
conditions prevailing in the countries conquered by Islam, the
If the upholders of this fiction mean that the previous writers had more facilities, while the later writers had more difficulties, in their way, it is, nonsense; for it does not require much understanding to see that ijtihad for later doctors is easier than for the earlier doctors. Indeed the commentaries on the Koran and sunnah have been compiled and multiplied to such an extent that the mujtahid of today has more material for interpretation than he needs.
This brief discussion, I hope,
will make it clear to you that neither in the foundational principles nor in
the structure of our systems, as we find them today, is there anything to
justify the present attitude. Equipped with penetrative thought and fresh
experience the world of Islam should courageously proceed to the work of
reconstruction before them: This work of reconstruction, however, has a far
more serious aspect than mere adjustment to modern conditions of life. The
Great European War bringing in its wake the awakening of
Lecture VI: The Principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam
Constantine the Great was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. He was converted to Christianity, it is said, by seeing a luminous cross in the sky. By his celebrated Edict of Toleration in 313 he raised Christianity to equality with the public pagan cults in the Empire. For his attempt at the unification of Christianity, cf. Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, pp. 655-61, and The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 1, chapter i.
Flavius Claudius Julianus (331-363), nephew of
The principle of Divine Unity is embodied in the Qur’anic proclamation: lā ilāha illa Allāh: there is no god except God. It is a constant theme of the Qur’an and is repeatedly mentioned as the basic principle not only of Islam but of every religion revealed by God.
Reference is to the Qur’anic verse 29: 69. During the course of his
conversation with one of his admirers, Allama Iqbal is reported to have made
the following general observation with reference to this verse: ‘All efforts in
the pursuit of sciences and for attainment of perfections and high goals in
life which in one way or other are beneficial to humanity are man’s exerting in
the way of Allah (Malfūzāt-i Iqbāl, ed. and annotated
Dr. Abū ’l-Laith Siddīqī, p. 67).
Translating this verse thus: ‘But as for those who strive hard in Our cause– We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto us’, Muhammad Asad adds in a footnote that the plural ‘paths’ for subul used here is obviously meant to stress the fact– alluded to often in the Qur’an– that there are many paths which lead to a cognizance (ma‘rifah) of God’ (The Message of the Qur’an, p. 616, note 61).
Cf. Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, ‘Aqdiyā’: 11; Tirmidhī, ‘Ahkām’: 3. and Dārimī, Kitāb al-Sunan, I, 60; this hadīth is generally regarded as the very basis of ijtihād in Islam. On the view expressed by certain scholars that this hadīth is to be ranked as al-mursal, cf. ‘Abd al-Qādir, Nazarah ‘Āmmah fī Tārikh al-Fiqh al-Islāmī, 1, 70 and 210, and Sayyid Muhammad Yūsuf Binnorī as quoted by Dr. Khālid Mas‘ūd, ‘Khutubāt-i Iqbāl men Ijtihād ki Ta‘rīf. Ijtihād kā Tārīkhī Pas Manzar’, Fikr-o-Nazar, XV/vii-viii (Islamabad, Jan.-Feb. 1978), 50-51. See also Ahmad Hasan (tr.), Sunan Abū Dāwūd, I11, 109, note 3034 based on Shams al-Haqq, ‘Awn al-Ma‘būd li halli Mushkilāt Sunan Abī Dāwūd, III, 331.
These three degrees of legislation in the language of the later
jurists of Islam are: ijtihād fi ’l-shar‘, ijtihfid fi ’l-madhhab
and ijtihād fi ’l-masā’il; cf. Subhī
Mahmasānī, Falsafat al-Tashrī‘ fi ’l-Islām,
English trans. F. J. Ziadeh, p. 94, and N. P. Aghnides, Mohammeden Theories
of Finance, pp. 121-22. For somewhat different schemes of gradation of the
jurists (for example the one laid down by the Ottoman scholar and Shaikh
al-Islam Kemāl Pāshazādeh (d. 940/1534) in his Tabaqāt
al-Fuqahā’ and minor differences in nomenclature in different schools
of law (Hanafis, Shāfi‘ī and others), cf. Zāhid
al-Kawtharī, Husn al-Taqādī fī Sīrat al-Imām
abī Yūsuf al-Qādī, pp. 24-25.
It is the possibilities anew of the first degree of Ijtihād– complete authority in legislation– that Allama Iqbal proposes to consider in what he calls (and this is to be noted) ‘this paper’ rather than ‘this lecture’ as everywhere else in the present work. This is a manifest reference to a ‘paper on Ijtihād’ that he read on 13 December 1924 at the annual session of Anjuman-i Himāyat-i Islām. Cf. M. Khālid Mas‘ūd, ‘Iqbal’s Lecture on Ijtihād’, Iqbal Review, XIX/iii (October 1978), p. 8. quoting in English the announcement about this Lecture published in the Daily Zamīndār, Lahore, 12 December 1924; and also S. M. Ikram, Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan, p. 183, note 19 where the worthy author tells us that he ‘was present at this meeting as a young student’.
Among Allama Iqbal’s letters discovered only recently are the four of them addressed to Professor M. Muhammad Shafi‘ of
Cf. M. Hanīf Nadvī, ‘Mas’alah Khalq-i Qur’an’ in Aqliyāt-i
Ibn Taimīyyah (Urdu), pp. 231-53, and A. J. Arberry, Revelation
and Reason in Islam, pp. 23-27.
References to this hotly debated issue of the eternity or createdness of the Qur’an are also to be found in Allama Iqbal’s private notes, for example those on the back cover of his own copy of Spengler’s Decline of the West (cf. Descriptive Catalogue of Allama Iqbal’s Personal Library, Plate No. 33) or his highly valuable one-page private study notes preserved in Allama Iqbal Museum, Lahore (cf. Relics of Allama Iqbal: Catalogue, I. 26). It is, however, in one of his greatest poems ‘Iblīs ki Majlis-i Shūra’ (‘Satan’s Parliament’) included in the posthumous Armughān-i Hijāz that one is to find his final verdict on this baseless scholastic controversy:
کلام اللہ کے الفاظ
حادث یا قدیم؟
امّت مرحوم کی ہے کس عقیدے میں نجات
کیا مسلماں کے لیے کافی نہیں اس دور میں
یہ الہٰیات کے ترشے ہوئے لات و منات؟
Are the words of the Qur’an created or untreated?
In which belief does lie the salvation of the ummah?
Are the idols of Lāt and Manāt chiselled by Muslim theology
Not sufficient for the Muslims of today?
Cf. Development of Metaphysics in Persia, p. 54, where it is stated that rationalism ‘tended to disintegrate the solidarity of the Islamic Church’; also W. M. Watt, ‘The Political Attitudes of the Mu‘tazilah’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, (1962), pp. 38-54.
Cf. Muhammad al-Khudari, Tārikh al-Tashrī‘ al-Islāmī, Urdu trans. ‘Abd al-Salām Nadvī, p. 323; Ibn Qutaibah, Ma‘ārif, p. 217, and J. Schacht, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, p. 242. According to A. J. Arberry, Sufyān al-Thaurī’s school of jurisprudence survived for about two centuries; cf. Muslim Saints and Mystics, p. 129 translator’s prefatory remarks.
On the distinction of zāhir and bātin, see Allama Iqbal’s article “Ilm-i Zāhir wa ‘Ilm-i Bātin” (Anwār-i Iqbāl, ed. B. A. Dar, pp. 268-77) and also the following passage from Allama Iqbal’s article captioned as ‘Self in the Light of Relativity’ (Thoughts and Reflections of Iqbal, ed. S. A. Vahid, pp. 113-14): ‘The mystic method has attracted some of the best minds in the history of man-kind. Probably there is something in it. But I am inclined to think that it is detrimental to some of the equally important interests of life, and is prompted by a desire to escape from the arduous task of the conquest of matter through intellect. The surest way to realize the potentialities of the world is to associate with its shifting actualities. I believe that Empirical Science– association with the visible– is an indispensable stage in the life of contemplation. In the words of the Qur’an, the Universe that confronts us is not bātil. It has its uses, and the most important use of it is that the effort to overcome the obstruction offered by it sharpens our insight and prepares us for an insertion into what lies below the surface of phenomena.
The founder of Zāhirī school of law was Dāwūd
b. ‘Alī b. Khalaf (c. 200-270/c. 815-884) who flourished in
Cf. Serajul Haque, ‘Ibn Taimiyya’s Conception of Analogy and Consensus’, Islamic Culture, XVII (1943), 77-78; Ahmad Hasan, The Doctrine of Ijmā‘ in Islam, pp. 189-92, and H. Laoust, ‘Ibn Taymiyya’, Encyclopaedia of Islam (New edition), III, 954.
Suyūtī, Husn al-Mūhadarah 1, 183; also
‘Abd al-Muta‘āl al-Sa‘idī, Al-Mujaddidūn fi ’l-Islām,
pp. 8-12. Cf. also Allama Iqbal’s ‘Rejoinder to The Light’ (Speeches,
Writings and Statements of Iqbal. pp. 167-68) wherein, commenting on the
tradition that mujaddids appear at the head of every century (Abū
Dawūd, Malāhim: 1), he observed that the tradition ‘was probably
popularised by Jalāl-ud-Dīn Suyūti in his own interest and much
importance cannot be attached to it.’
Reference may also be made here to Allama’s letter dated 7 April 1932 addressed to Muhammad Ahsan wherein, among other things, he observes that, according to his firm belief (‘aqīdah), all traditions relating to mujaddidiyat are the product of Persian and non-Arab imagination and they certainly are foreign to the true spirit of the Qur’an (cf. Iqbālnāmah, II, 231).
For Allama Iqbal’s statements issued from time to time in
clarification of meanings and intentions of pan-Islamic movement or
pan-Islamism see: Letters and Writings of Iqbal, pp. 55-57: Speeches,
Writings and Statements of Iqbal. p. 237; Guftār-i Iqbāl,
ed. M. Rafīq Afdal, pp. 177-79 and 226– the earliest of these statements
is contained in Allama’s letter dated 22 August 1910 to Editor: Paisa
Akhbār reproduced in Riaz Hussain, ‘1910 Men Dunyā-i Islam ke
Hālāt’ (Political Conditions of the Islamic World in 1910), Iqbal
Review, XIX/ii (July 1978), 88-90.
In three of these statements Allama Iqbal has approvingly referred to Professor E. G. Browne’s well-grounded views on ‘Pan-Islamism’, the earliest of which were published (s.v.) in Lectures on the History of the Nineteenth Century, ed. F. Kirpatrick (Cambridge, 1904).
It may be added that Allama’s article ‘Political Thought in Islam’, Sociological Review, I (1908), 249-61 (reproduced in Speeches, Writings and Statements, pp. 107-21), was originally a lecture delivered by him in a meeting of the Pan-Islamic Society, London, founded by Abdullah Suhrawardy in 1903– the Society also had its own journal: Pan-Islam. Incidentally, there is a mention of Allama’s six lectures on Islamic subjects in London by his biographers (cf. Abdullah Anwar Beg, The Poet of the East, p. 28, and Dr Abdus Salām Khurshīd, Sarguzasht-i Iqbāl, pp. 60-61) which is supported by Allama’s letter dated 10 February 1908 to Khwājah Hasan Nizāmī, listing the ‘topics’ of four of these lectures as (i) ‘Islamic Mysticism’, (ii) ‘Influence of Muslim Thought on European Civilization’, (iii) ‘Muslim Democracy’, and (iv) ‘Islam and Reason’ (cf. Iqbalnāmah, II, 358). Abdullah Anwar Beg, however, speaks of Allama’s extempore lecture on ‘Certain Aspects of Islam’ under the auspices of the Pan-Islamic Society, which, it is said, was reported verbatim in a number of leading newspapers, the next day (ibid.).
Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhāb’s date of birth is now more
generally given as 1115/1703; cf., however, Khair al-Dīn al-Ziriklī, Al-A‘lām,
VII, 138 (note) and A History of Muslim Philosophy, ed. M. M. Sharif,
II, 1446, in support of placing it in 1111/1700.
It is significant to note that whenever Allama Iqbal thought of modernist movements in Islam, he traced them back to the movement of Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhāb; cf. Letters and Writings of Iqbal, pp. 82 and 93. In his valuable article ‘Islam and Ahmadism’ Allama Iqbal observes: ‘Syed Ahmad Khan in
Cf. article ‘Ibn Tumart’ in Encyclopaedia of Islam (New edition), III, 958-60, also in Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam and R. Le Tourneau, The Al-mohad Movement in North Africa in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, by Index.
This is a clear reference to the well-known saying of the Prophet: innama ’l-a‘mālu bi ’l-nniyyāt, i.e. ‘Actions shall be judged only by intention’. It is to be noted that this hadīth of great moral and spiritual import has been quoted by Bukhārī in seven places and it is with this that he opens his Al-Jāmi‘ al-Sahīh.
For this hadīth worded: al-ardu kulluhā masjidun, see Tirmidhī, ‘Salāt’: 119; Nasā’ī, ‘Ghusl’: 26; ‘Masājid’: 3 and 42; Ibn Mājah, ‘Tahārah’: 90, and Dārimī, Siyar: 28 and ‘Salāt’: 111. This superb saying of the Prophet also found expression in Allama’s verse, viz. Kulliyāt-i Iqbāl (Persian), Rumūz-i Bekhudī; p. 114, v. 3, and Pas Chih Bāyad Kard, p. 817, v. 8:
بخشش ہاے آں
مسجد ما شد ہمہ روے زمیں
Through the bounty of the ruler of our faith,
the entire earth became our mosque.
را گفت آں
مسجد من ایں ہمہ روے زمیں
The King of the Faith said to the Muslims:
‘The whole earth is my mosque’ (trans. B. A. Dar).
For the Khawārij’s view of the Caliphate, see Allama Iqbal’s article ‘Political Thought in Islam’ (Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, pp. 119-20); also W. Thomson, ‘Kharijitism and the Kharijites’, Macdonald Presentation Volume, pp. 371-89, and E. Tyan, Institutions du droit public musulman, ii, 546-61.
Cf. F. A Tansel (ed). Ziya Gokalp kulliyati: Surler ve halk
masallar. p. 129. On Allama’s translation of the passages from Ziya
Gokalp’s kulliyati, Dr. Annemarie Schimmel observes: ‘Iqbal did not
know Turkish, has studied his (Ziya Gökalp’s) work through the German
translation of August Fischer, and it is of interest to see how he (Iqbal)
sometimes changes or omits some words of the translation when reproducing the
verses in the Lecture’ (Gabriel’s Wing, p. 242).
It may be added that these changes or omissions are perhaps more due to August Fischer’s German translation as given in his Aus der religiosen Reformbewegung in der Turkei (Religious Reform Movement in
For this comparative study of the German and English translations of passages from Gokalp’s kiilliyati I am very much indebted to Professor S. Qudratullah Fatimi, formerly Director: Regional Cooperation for Development,
Cf. Ziya Gökalp kulliyati, p. 112. According to the Turkish original, the second sentence in this passage should more fittingly have begun with ‘in this period’ rather than with ‘in every period’ as rendered by A. Fischer. Again the next, i.e. the third sentence, may be said to be not so very close to the text; yet it is quite faithful to its German version.
Cf. ibid., p. 113; also Uriel Heyd, Foundation of
Turkish Nationalism: The Life and Teachings of Ziya Gökalp, pp. 102-03,
and Allama Iqbal’s statement ‘On the Introduction of Turkish Prayers by Ghazi
Mustafa Kemal Pasha’ published in the Weekly Light (
On Ibn Tumart’s innovation of introducing the call to prayer in the Berber language, cf. Ibn Abī Zar‘, Raud al-Qirtās, Fr. trans. A. Beaumier, Histoire des souverains du Magreb, p. 250; I. Goldziher, ‘Materalien zur Kenntniss der Almohadenbewegung in Nordafrika’, ZDMG, XLI (1887), 71, and D. B. Macdonald, Development of Muslim Theology, p. 249. This practice, according to Ahmad b. Khālid al-Salāwī, was stopped and call to prayer in Arabic restored by official orders in 621/1224; cf. his Al-Istiqsā li Akhbār Duwal al-Maghrib ’l-Aqsā, II, 212.
Cf. Ziya Gökalp külliyati, p. 133. The word ‘sun’ in the second sentence of this passage stands for Günum in Turkish which, we are told, could as well be translated as ‘day’; some allowance, however, is to be made for translation of poetical symbols from one language into another.
Cf. ibid., p. 161. It is interesting to note how very close is late Professor H. A. R. Gibb’s translation of this passage as well as of the one preceding it (Modern Trends in Islam, pp. 91-92), to that of Allama’s, even though his first reference is to the French version of them in F. Ziyaeddin Fahri’s Ziya Gi Gökalp: sa vie et sa sociologie, p. 240.
For further elucidation of Allama’s observations on Luther and his movement here as also in a passage in his ‘Statement on Islam and Nationalism in Reply to a Statement of Maulana Husain Ahmad’ (Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, p. 254), see his most famous and historical ‘All-India Muslim League Presidential Address of 29 December 1930’, ibid., pp. 4-5. Cf. also the closing passages of the article: ‘Reformation’ in An Encyclopaedia of Religion, ed. Vergilius Farm, p. 642.
This acute observation about the development of legal reasoning in Islam from the deductive to the inductive attitude in interpretation is further elaborated by Allama Iqbal on pp. 140-41. It may be worthwile to critically examine in the light of this observation the attempts made by some of the wellknown western writers on Islamic law to analytically trace the historical development of legal theory and practice in Islam, viz. N. J. Coulson, A History of Islamic Law, chapters, 3-5; J. Schacht, Introduction to Islamic Law, chapters, 7-9 and his earlier pioneering work: Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, by General Index especially under ‘Medinese’ and ‘Iraqians’.
Cf. Briefe über Religion, pp. 72 and 81. The passages
translated here are as under:
Das Urchristentum legte keinen Wert auf die Erhaltung von Staat Recht, Organization, Produktion. Es denkt einfach nicht über die Bedingungen der Existenz der menschlichen Gesellschaft nach.
Also entweder man wagt es, staatslos sein zu woollen, man wirft sich der Anarchie freiwillig in die Arme, oder man entschliesste sich, neben seinem religio-sen Bekenntnis ein politisches bekenntnis zu haben.
Joseph Friedch Naumann (1860-1919), a passage from whose very widely read Briefe über Religion (‘Letters on Religion’) has been quoted in Lecture III, pp. 64-65, was a German Protestant theologian, socialist politician, political journalist and a champion of Mittel- Europa plan. He was on the founders and the first president of German National Socialist Party (1896) which both in its name and its policy in accordeding great importance to the agricultural and working classes in the dveelopement of the state adumbrated Hitler’s Nazi Party (1920). His Mittel-Europa published in 1915 (English translation by C. M. Meredith in 1916) stirred up considerable discussion during World War I as it revived, under the impulse of Pan-Germanism, the idea of a central Europian confederation including Turkey and the Balkan States under Germany’s cultural and economic control. It also contemplated the expansion of the Berlin-Baghdad railway into a grandiose scheme of empire extending from
Except for the year 1912-13, Naumann was the member of Reichstag (German Parliament) from 1907 to 1919. Shortly before his death, he was elected as the leader of Democratic Party. Naumann, known for his wide learning, acumen and personal integrity was very influential with German liberal intellectuals of his day. For the life and works of Naumann, cf. the two articles: ‘Naumann, Friedrich’ and ‘National Socialism, German’ by Theodor Heuss in the Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, XI, 310 and .225a; also The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (Micropaedia), VIII, 561. For some information given in the above note I am deeply indebted to the Dutch scholar the Reverend Dr. Jan Slomp and his younger colleague Mr. Harry Mintjes. Mr. Mintjes took all the trouble to find out what he said was the oldest available edition of Briefe über Religion (Berlin, Georg Reimer, 1916, sixth edition) by making a search for it in all the libraries of
Hence, The Introduction of Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act or Indian Act VIII of 1939. Cf. Maulāna Ashraf ‘Ali Thānawī, Al-Hīlat al-Nājizah lil-Halīlat al-‘Ājizah, p. 99 and Asaf A. A. Fyzee, Outlines of Muhammadan Law, pp. 153-61.
Cf. Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, p. 194,
where, while making an appraisal of Ataturk’s ‘supposed or real innovations’,
Allama Iqbal observes: ‘The adoption of the Swiss code with its rule of
inheritance is certainly a serious error. . . . The joy of emancipation from
the fetters of a long-standing priest-craft sometimes derives a people to
untried courses of action. But
Cf. I. Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien, English trans. C. R. Barber and S. M. Stern, Muslim Studies, II, 18f. This is the view held also by some other orientalists such as D. S. Margoliouth, The Early Development of Mohammedanism, pp. 79-89, and H. Lammens, Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, pp. 65-81. Iqbal did not endorse the views of the early Orientalists on the issue as transpires from his correspondence and the incomplete projects that he had visualized to refutation of these views.
This is the closing paragraph of chapter III of Mohammedan
Theories of Finance: With an Introduction to Mohammedan Law and a
Bibliography by Nicolas P. Aghnides published by
و هذا الامام الذی يجمع الامم علی ملة واحدة يحتاج الی اصول اخری غير الاصول المذکورة فيما سبق . منها ان يدعو قوما الی السنة الراشدة و يزکيهم و يصلح شانهم ثم يتخذهم بمنزلة جوارحه فيجاهد اهل الارض و يفرقهم فی الافاق و هو قوله تعالی: (کنتم خير امة اخرجت للناس) و ذلک لان هذا الامام نفسه لا يتاتی منه مجاهدة امم غير محصورة و اذاکان کذلک وجب ان تکون مادة شريعته ما هو بمنزلة المذهب الطبيعی لاهل الاقاليم الصالحة عربهم و عجمهم ثم ما عند قومه من العلم و الارتفاقات و يراعی فيه حالهم اکثر من غيرهم ثم يحمل الناس جميعا علی اتباع تلک الشريعة لانه لا سبيل الی ان يفوض الامر الی ائمة کل عصر اذ لا يحصل منه فائدة التشريع اصلا و الا الی ان ينظر ما عند کل قوم و يمارس کلا منهم فيجعل لکل شريعة اذا لاحاطة بعاداتهم و ما عندهم علی اختلاف بلد انهم و تباين اديانهم کالممتنع و قد عجز جمهور الرواة عن رواية شريعة واحدة فما ظنک بشرائع مختلفة و الاکثر انه لا يکون انقياد الاخرين الا بعد عدد و مدد لا يطول عمر النبی اليها کما وقع فی الشرائع الموجودة الان فان اليهود و النصاری والمسلمين ما امن من اوآئلهم الا جمع ثم اصجوا ظاهرين بعد ذلک فلا احسن و لا ايسر من ان يعتبر فی الشعائر و الحدود و الارتفاقات عادة قومه المبعوث فيهم و لا يضيق کل التضييق علی الاخرين الذين ياتون بعد۔
This is the passage quoted also in Shiblī
Nu‘mānī’s Al-Kalām (pp. 114-15), a pointed reference to
which is made in Allama Iqbal’s letter dated 22 September 1929 addressed to
Sayyid Sulaimān Nadvī. There are in fact three more letters to Sayyid
Sulaimān Nadvī in September 1929, which all show Allama’s keen
interest in and perceptive study of Hujjat Allah al-Bālighah at
the time of his final drafting of the present Lecture (cf. Iqbālnāmah,
From the study of these letters it appears that Allama Iqbal in his interpretation of at least the above passage from Hujjat Allāh al-Bālighah was much closer to Shiblī Nu‘mānī than to Sayyid Sulaimān Nadvī.
It is to be noted that Allama Iqbal was always keen to seek and study the works of Shāh Walī Allah, whom he considered to be ‘the first Muslim who felt the urge of a new spirit in him’ (Lecture IV, p. 78). Some of these works have been referred to by titles in Allama’s more than 1200 letters and it is noteworthy that their number exceeds that of the works of any other great Muslim thinker; Ghazālī, Fakhr al-Din Rāzī, Jalāl al-Din Rūmī, Ibn Taimīyyah, Ibn Qayyim, Sadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī, or any other. In his letter dated 23 September 1936 to Maulavi Ahmad Ridā Bijnōrī (Iqbālnāmah, II, 241-43), Allama reports that he had not received his copies of Shah Walī Alllah’s Al-Khair al-Kathīr and Tajhiināt supposed to have been dispatched to him through some dealer in Lahore. He also expresses in this letter his keen desire to have the services on suitable terms of some competent Muslim scholar, well versed in Islamic jurisprudence and very well read in the works of Shāh Walī Allāh.
Cf. Aghnides, op. cit., p. 91. This is the statement which, according to Dr. ‘Abdullah Chaghatā’ī (op. cit., pp. 300-04) and Dr. Rafi ‘al-Dīn Hāshimī (op. cit., pp. 313-14) occasioned Allama Iqbal’s fiqhī discussions with a number of renowned religious scholars which finally led to his writing a paper on ijtihād in 1924; the present Lecture is said to be only a developed form of that paper. On the impossible question of Ijmā‘s repealing the Qur’an, one is to note Allama’s two inquiring letters to Sayyid Sulaimān Nadvī and more importantly a letter also to Maulānā Abūl Kalām Azād (Iqbālnāmah, 1, 131-35).
Broadly speaking religious life may be divided into three periods. These may be described as the periods of “Faith”, “Thought”, and “Discovery.” In the first period religious life appears as a form of discipline which the individual or a whole people must accept as an unconditional command without any rational understanding of the ultimate meaning and purpose of that command. This attitude may be of great consequence in the social and political history of a people, but is not of much consequence in so far as the individual’s inner growth and expansion are concerned. Perfect submission to discipline is followed by a rational understanding of the discipline and the ultimate source of its authority. In this period religious life seeks its foundation in a kind of metaphysics– a logically consistent view of the world with God as a part of that view. In the third period metaphysics is displaced by psychology, and religious life develops the ambition to come into direct contact with the Ultimate Reality. It is here that religion becomes a matter of personal assimilation of life and power; and the individual achieves a free personality, not by releasing himself from the fetters of the law, but by discovering the ultimate source of the law within the depths of his own consciousness. As in the words of a Muslim Sufi– “no understanding of the Holy Book is possible until it is actually revealed to the believer just as it was revealed to the Prophet.” It is, then, in the sense of this last phase in the development of religious life that I use the word religion in the question that I now propose to raise. Religion in this sense is known by the unfortunate name of Mysticism, which is supposed to be a life-denying, fact-avoiding attitude of mind directly opposed to the radically empirical outlook of our times. Yet higher religion, which is only a search for a larger life, is essentially experience and recognized the necessity of experience as its foundation long before science learnt to do so. It is a genuine effort to clarify human consciousness, and is, as such, as critical of its level of experience as Naturalism is of its own level.
As we all know, it was Kant who first raised the question:
“Is metaphysics possible?” He answered this question in the negative; and his argument
applies with equal force to the realities in which religion is especially
interested. The manifold of sense, according to him, must fulfil certain formal
conditions in order to constitute knowledge. The thing-in-itself is only a
limiting idea. Its function is merely regulative. If there is some
actuality corresponding to the idea, it falls outside the boundaries of
experience, and consequently its existence cannot be rationally demonstrated.
This verdict of Kant cannot be easily accepted. It may fairly be argued that in
view of the more recent developments of science, such as the nature of matter
as “bottled-up light waves”, the idea of the universe as an act of thought,
finiteness of space and time and Heisenberg’s principle of indeterminacy in Nature, the case for a system of rational theology is not so
bad as Kant was led to think. But for our present purposes it is unnecessary to
consider this point in detail. As to the thing-in-itself, which is inaccessible
to pure reason because of its falling beyond the boundaries of experience,
Kant’s verdict can be accepted only if we start with the assumption that all
experience other than the normal level of experience is impossible. The only
question, therefore, is whether the normal level is the only level of knowledge-yielding
experience. Kant’s view of the thing-in-itself and the thing as it appears to
us very much determined the character of his question regarding the possibility
of metaphysics. But what if the position, as understood by him, is reversed?
The great Muslim Sufi philosopher, Muhyiddīn Ibn al-‘Arabī of
But, apart from the legitimacy of the question, there are important reasons why it should be raised at the present moment of the history of modern culture. In the first place, the scientific interest of the question. It seems that every culture has a form of Naturalism peculiar to its own world-feeling; and it further appears that every form of Naturalism ends in some sort of Atomism. We have Indian Atomism, Greek Atomism, Muslim Atomism, and Modern Atomism. Modern Atomism is, however, unique. Its amazing mathematics, which sees the universe as an elaborate differential equation; and its physics which, following its own methods, has been led to smash some of the old gods of its own temple, have already brought us to the point of asking the question whether the causality-bound aspect of Nature is the whole truth about it? Is not the Ultimate Reality invading our consciousness from some other direction as well? Is the purely intellectual method of overcoming Nature the only method? “We have acknowledged”, says Professor Eddington:
that the entities of physics can from their very nature form only a partial aspect of the reality. How are we to deal with the other part? It cannot be said that other part concerns us less than the physical entities. Feelings, purpose, values, make up our consciousness as much as sense-impressions. We follow up the sense-impressions and find that they lead into an external world discussed by science; we follow up the other elements of our being and find that they lead– not into a world of space and time, but surely somewhere.
In the second place we have to look to the great practical importance of the question. The modern man with his philosophies of criticism and scientific specialism finds himself in a strange predicament. His Naturalism has given him an unprecedented control over the forces of Nature, but has robbed him of faith in his own future. It is strange how the same idea affects different cultures differently. The formulation of the theory of evolution in the world of Islam brought into being Rūmī’s tremendous enthusiasm for the biological future of man. No cultured Muslim can read such passages as the following without a thrill of joy:
Low in the earth
I lived in realms of ore and stone;
And then I smiled in many-tinted flowers;
Then roving with the wild and wandering hours,
O’er earth and air and ocean’s zone,
In a new birth,
I dived and flew,
And crept and ran,
And all the secret of my essence drew
Within a form that brought them all to view– And lo, a Man!
And then my goal,
Beyond the clouds, beyond the sky,
In realms where none may change or die–
In angel form; and then away
Beyond the bounds of night and day,
And Life and Death, unseen or seen,
Where all that is hath ever been,
As One and Whole.
(Rūmī: Thādānī’s Translation.)
On the other hand, the formulation of the same view of
evolution with far greater precision in
Thus, wholly overshadowed by the results of his intellectual activity, the modern man has ceased to live soulfully, i.e. from within. In the domain of thought he is living in open conflict with himself; and in the domain of economic and political life he is living in open conflict with others. He finds himself unable to control his ruthless egoism and his infinite gold-hunger which is gradually killing all higher striving in him and bringing him nothing but life-weariness. Absorbed in the “fact”, that is to say, the optically present source of sensation, he is entirely cut off from the unplumbed depths of his own being. In the wake of his systematic materialism has at last come that paralysis of energy which Huxley apprehended and deplored. The condition of things in the East is no better. The technique of medieval mysticism by which religious life, in its higher manifestations, developed itself both in the East and in the West has now practically failed. And in the Muslim East it has, perhaps, done far greater havoc than anywhere else. Far from reintegrating the forces of the average man’s inner life, and thus preparing him for participation in the march of history, it has taught him a false renunciation and made him perfectly contented with his ignorance and spiritual thraldom. No wonder then that the modern Muslim in Turkey, Egypt, and Persia is led to seek fresh sources of energy in the creation of new loyalties, such as patriotism and nationalism which Nietzsche described as “sickness and unreason”, and “the strongest force against culture”. Disappointed of a purely religious method of spiritual renewal which alone brings us into touch with the everlasting fountain of life and power by expanding our thought and emotion, the modern Muslim fondly hopes to unlock fresh sources of energy by narrowing down his thought and emotion. Modern atheistic socialism, which possesses all the fervour of a new religion, has a broader outlook; but having received its philosophical basis from the Hegelians of the left wing, it rises in revolt against the very source which could have given it strength and purpose. Both nationalism and atheistic socialism, at least in the present state of human adjustments, must draw upon the psychological forces of hate, suspicion, and resentment which tend to impoverish the soul of man and close up his hidden sources of spiritual energy. Neither the technique of medieval mysticism, nor nationalism, nor atheistic socialism can cure the ills of a despairing humanity. Surely the present moment is one of great crisis in the history of modern culture. The modern world stands in need of biological renewal. And religion, which in its higher manifestations is neither dogma, nor priesthood, nor ritual, can alone ethically prepare the modern man for the burden of the great responsibility which the advancement of modern science necessarily involves, and restore to him that attitude of faith which makes him capable of winning a personality here and retaining it hereafter. It is only by rising to a fresh vision of his origin and future, his whence and whither, 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.
As I have indicated before, religion as a deliberate enterprise to seize the ultimate
principle of value and thereby to reintegrate the forces of one’s own
personality, is a fact which cannot be denied. The whole religious literature
of the world, including the records of specialists’ personal experiences,
though perhaps expressed in the thought-forms of an out-of-date psychology, is
a standing testimony to it. These experiences are perfectly natural, like our
normal experiences. The evidence is that they possess a cognitive value for the
recipient, and, what is much more important, a capacity to centralize the
forces of the ego and thereby to endow him with a new personality. The view
that such experiences are neurotic or mystical will not finally settle the
question of their meaning or value. If an outlook beyond physics is possible,
we must courageously face the possibility, even though it may disturb or tend
to modify our normal ways of life and thought. The interests of truth require
that we must abandon our present attitude. It does not matter in the least if
the religious attitude is originally determined by some kind of physiological
disorder. George Fox may be a neurotic; but who can deny his purifying power in
The question for us outsiders is to find out an effective
method of inquiry into the nature and significance of this extraordinary
experience. The Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, who laid the foundations of modern
scientific history, was the first to seriously approach this side of human
psychology and reached what we now call the idea of the subliminal self. Later,
Sir William Hamilton in
must also be made in the realm of religion; there also a psychological consideration is permissible only in respect of the emotional and symbolical phenomena of a religion, where the essential nature of religion is in no way involved, as indeed it cannot be. For were this possible, not religion alone, but art also could be treated as a mere sub-division of psychology.
Yet Jung has violated his own principle more than once in his writings. The result of this procedure is that, instead of giving us a real insight into the essential nature of religion and its meaning for human personality, our modern psychology has given us quite a plethora of new theories which proceed on a complete misunderstanding of the nature of religion as revealed in its higher manifestations, and carry us in an entirely hopeless direction. The implication of these theories, on the whole, is that religion does not relate the human ego to any objective reality beyond himself; it is merely a kind of well-meaning biological device calculated to build barriers of an ethical nature round human society in order to protect the social fabric against the otherwise unrestrainable instincts of the ego. That is why, according to this newer psychology, Christianity has already fulfilled its biological mission, and it is impossible for the modern man to understand its original significance. Jung concludes:
Most certainly we should still understand it, had our
customs even a breath of ancient brutality, for we can hardly realize in this
day the whirlwinds of the unchained libido which roared through the ancient
This is missing the whole point of higher religious life.
Sexual self-restraint is only a preliminary stage in the ego’s evolution. The
ultimate purpose of religious life is to make this evolution move in a
direction far more important to the destiny of the ego than the moral health of
the social fabric which forms his present environment. The basic perception
from which religious life moves forward is the present slender unity of the
ego, his liability to dissolution, his amenability to reformation and the
capacity for an ampler freedom to create new situations in known and unknown
environments. In view of this fundamental perception, higher religious life
fixes its gaze on experiences symbolic of those subtle movements of Reality
which seriously affect the destiny of the ego as a possibly permanent element
in the constitution of Reality. If we look at the matter from this point of
view, modern psychology has not yet touched even the outer fringe of religious
life, and is still far from the richness and variety of what is called
religious experience. In order to give you an idea of its richness and variety
I quote here the substance of a passage from a great religious genius of the
seventeenth century– Shaikh Ahmad of Sirhind– whose fearless analytical
criticism of contemporary Sufism resulted in the development of a new
technique. All the various systems of Sufi technique in
Heavens and Earth and God’s Throne and Hell and
On this the Shaikh replied:
The experience which is described has its origin in the ever varying life of the Qalb; and it appears to me that the recipient of it has not yet passed even one fourth of the innumerable “Stations” of the Qalb. The remaining three-fourths must be passed through in order to finish the experiences of this first “Station” of spiritual life. Beyond this “Station” there are other “Stations” known as Rūh, Sirr-i-Khafī, and Sirr-i-Akhfā, each of these “Stations” which together constitute what is technically called ‘Ālam-i Amr, has its own characteristic states and experiences. After having passed through these “Stations” the seeker of truth gradually receives the illuminations of “Divine Names” and “Divine Attributes” and finally the illuminations of the Divine Essence.
Whatever may be the psychological ground of the
distinctions made in this passage it gives us at least some idea of a whole
universe of inner experience as seen by a great reformer of Islamic Sufism.
According to him this ‘Ālam-i- Amr, i.e. “the world of directive
energy”, must be passed through before one reaches that unique experience which
symbolizes the purely objective. This is the reason why I say that modern
psychology has not yet touched even the outer fringe of the subject.
Personally, I do not at all feel hopeful of the present state of things in
either biology or psychology. Mere analytical criticism with some understanding
of the organic conditions of the imagery in which religious life has sometimes
manifested itself is not likely to carry us to the living roots of human
personality. Assuming that sex-imagery has played a role in the history of
religion, or that religion has furnished imaginative means of escape from, or
adjustment to, an unpleasant reality– these ways of looking at the matter
cannot, in the least, affect the ultimate aim of religious life, that is to
say, the reconstruction of the finite ego by bringing him into contact with an
eternal life-process, and thus giving him a metaphysical status of which we can
have only a partial understanding in the half-choking atmosphere of our present
environment. If, therefore, the science of psychology is ever likely to possess
a real significance for the life of mankind, it must develop an independent
method calculated to discover a new technique better suited to the temper of
our times. Perhaps a psychopath endowed with a great intellect– the combination
is not an impossibility– may give us a clue to such a technique. In modern
The “I am” which he seeketh,
Lieth beyond philosophy, beyond knowledge.
The plant that groweth only from the invisible soil of the heart of man,
Groweth not from a mere heap of clay!
Thus failed a genius whose vision was solely determined by his internal forces, and remained unproductive for want of expert external guidance in his spiritual life, and the irony of fate is that this man, who appeared to his friends “as if he had come from a country where no man lived”, was fully conscious of his great spiritual need. “I confront alone”, he says, “an immense problem: it is as if I am lost in a forest, a primeval one. I need help. I need disciples: I need a master. It would be so sweet to obey.” And again:
Why do I not find among the living men who see higher than I do and have to look down on me? Is it only that I have made a poor search? And I have so great a longing for such.
The truth is that the religious and the scientific processes, though involving different methods, are identical in their final aim. Both aim at reaching the most real. In fact, religion, for reasons which I have mentioned before, is far more anxious to reach the ultimately real than science. And to both the way to pure objectivity lies through what may be called the purification of experience. In order to understand this we must make a distinction between experience as a natural fact, significant of the normally observable behaviour of reality, and experience as significant of the inner nature of reality. As a natural fact it is explained in the light of its antecedents, psychological and physiological; as significant of the inner nature of reality we shall have to apply criteria of a different kind to clarify its meaning. In the domain of science we try to understand its meaning in reference to the external behaviour of reality; in the domain of religion we take it as representative of some kind of Reality and try to discover its meanings in reference mainly to the inner nature of that Reality. The scientific and the religious processes are in a sense parallel to each other. Both are really descriptions of the same world with this difference only that in the scientific process the ego’s standpoint is necessarily exclusive, whereas in the religious process the ego integrates its competing tendencies and develops a single inclusive attitude resulting in a kind of synthetic transfiguration of his experiences. A careful study of the nature and purpose of these really complementary processes shows that both of them are directed to the purification of experience in their respective spheres. An illustration will make my meaning clear. Hume’s criticism of our notion of cause must be considered as a chapter in the history of science rather than that of philosophy. True to the spirit of scientific empiricism we are not entitled to work with any concepts of a subjective nature. The point of Hume’s criticism is to emancipate empirical science from the concept of force which, as he urges, has no foundation in sense-experience. This was the first attempt of the modern mind to purify the scientific process.
Einstein’s mathematical view of the universe completes the
process of purification started by Hume, and, true to the spirit of Hume’s
criticism, dispenses with the concept of force altogether. The passage I have quoted from the great Indian saint shows that
the practical student of religious psychology has a similar purification in
view. His sense of objectivity is as keen as that of the scientist in his own
sphere of objectivity. He passes from experience to experience, not as a mere
spectator, but as a critical sifter of experience who by the rules of a
peculiar technique, suited to his sphere of inquiry, endeavours to eliminate
all subjective elements, psychological or physiological, in the content of his
experience with a view finally to reach what is absolutely objective. This
final experience is the revelation of a new life-process– original, essential,
spontaneous. The eternal secret of the ego is that the moment he reaches this
final revelation he recognizes it as the ultimate root of his being without the
slightest hesitation. Yet in the experience itself there is no mystery. Nor is
there anything emotional in it. Indeed with a view to secure a wholly
non-emotional experience the technique of Islamic Sufism at least takes good
care to forbid the use of music in worship, and to emphasize the necessity of
daily congregational prayers in order to counteract the possible anti-social
effects of solitary contemplation. Thus the experience reached is a perfectly
natural experience and possesses a biological significance of the highest
importance to the ego. It is the human ego rising higher than mere reflection,
and mending its transiency by appropriating the eternal. The only danger to
which the ego is exposed in this Divine quest is the possible relaxation of his
activity caused by his enjoyment of and absorption in the experiences that
precede the final experience. The history of Eastern Sufism shows that this is
a real danger. This was the whole point of the reform movement initiated by the
great Indian saint from whose writings I have already quoted a passage. And the
reason is obvious. The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something,
but to be something. It is in the ego’s effort to be something
that he discovers his final opportunity to sharpen his objectivity and acquire
a more fundamental “I am” which finds evidence of its reality not in the
Cartesian “I think” but in the Kantian “I can.” The end of the ego’s quest is
not emancipation from the limitations of individuality; it is, on the other
hand, a more precise definition of it. The final act is not an intellectual
act, but a vital act which deepens the whole being of the ego, and sharpens his
will with the creative assurance that the world is not something to be merely
seen or known through concepts, but something to be made and re-made by
continuous action. It is a moment of supreme bliss and also a moment of the
greatest trial for the ego:
Art thou in the stage of “life”, “death”, or “death-in-life”
Invoke the aid of three witnesses to verify thy “Station.”
The first witness is thine own consciousness–
See thyself, then, with thine own light.
The second witness is the consciousness of another ego–
See thyself, then, with the light of an ego other than thee.
The third witness is God’s consciousness–
See thyself, then, with God’s light.
If thou standest unshaken in front of this light,
Consider thyself as living and eternal as He!
That man alone is real who dares–
Dares to see God face to face!
What is “Ascension”? Only a search for a witness
Who may finally confirm thy reality–
A witness whose confirmation alone makes thee eternal.
No one can stand unshaken in His Presence;
And he who can, verily, he is pure gold.
Art thou a mere particle of dust?
Tighten the knot of thy ego;
And hold fast to thy tiny being!
How glorious to burnish one’s ego.
And to test its lustre in the presence of the Sun!
Re-chisel, then, thine ancient frame;
And build up a new being.
Such being is real being;
Or else thy ego is a mere ring of smoke!
Lecture VII: Is Religion Possible?
Lecture was delivered in a meeting of the fifty-fourth session of
the Aristotelian Society, London, held on 5 December 1932 with Professor J.
Macmurray in the chair, followed by a discussion by Professor Macmurray and Sir
Francis Young Husband– cf. ‘Abstract of the Minutes of the Proceedings of the
Aristotelian Society for the Fifty-Fourth Session’, in Proceedings of the
Aristotelian Society (New Series), XXXIII (1933), 341. The Lecture was
published in the said Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, pp.
47-64, as well as in The Muslim Revival (Lahore), I/iv (Dec. 1932),
329-49. It now forms the “Seventh Lecture” of Iqbal’s The Reconstruction of
Religious Thought in Islam,
This is a reference to Allama Iqbal’s own father, who was a devout
Sufi; cf. S. Sulaimān Nadvī,
ضمیر پہ جب تک
نہ ہو نزول
گرہ کشا ہے نہ رازی نہ صاحب کشاف
Unless the Book’s each verse and part
Be revealed unto your heart,
Interpreters, though much profound,
Its subtle points cannot expound. (trans. S. Akbar Ali Shah)
Cf. Critique of Pure Reason, Introduction, section vi, pp. 57-58; also Kemp Smith Commentary to Kant’s ‘Critique’, pp. 68-70. Metaphysics, if it means knowledge of the ‘transcendent’, or of things-in-themselves, was rejected by Kant as dogmatic, because it does not begin with a critical examination of human capacity for such knowledge. Reference may here be made to one of the very significant jottings by Allama Iqbal on the closing back page of his own copy of Carl Rahn’s Science and the Religious Life (London, 1928), viz. ‘Is religion possible? Kant’s problem’; cf. Muhammad Siddīq, Descriptive Catalogue of Allama Iqbal’s Personal Library, pp. 21-22 and Plate No. 7.
The ‘principle of indeterminacy’ was so re-christened by A. S. Eddington in his Nature of the Physical World, p. 220. Now more often known as ‘principle of uncertainty’ or ‘uncertainty principle’, it was ‘announced’ by the physicist philosopher Heisenberg in Zeitschrift für Physik, XLIII (1927), 172-98. Broadly speaking, the principle states that there is an inherent uncertainty in describing sub-microscopic processes. For instance, if the position of an electron is determined, there remains a measure of uncertainty about its momentum. As in a complete causal description of a system both the properties must needs be accurately determined, many physicists and philosophers took this ‘uncertainty’ to mean that the principle of causality had been overthrown.
Cf. Fusūs al-Hikam (ed. ‘Afīfī), I, 108, lines. 11-12– the words of ‘the great Muslim Sufi philosopher’ are: al-khalqu ma‘qūlun wa ’l-Haqqu mahsūsun mashhūdun. It is noteworthy that this profound mystical observation is to be found in one of Allama Iqbal’s verses composed as early as 1903; cf. Bāqīyāt-i Iqbāl, p. 146, verse. 2.
For the Sufi doctrine of plurality of time and space stated in Lecture III, pp. 60-61 and Lecture V, pp. 107-10 on the basis of the then a rare Persian MS: Ghāyat al-Imkān fī Drāyat al-Makān (The Extent of Possibility in the Science of Space) ascribed by Allama Iqbal to the eminent Sufi poet (Fakhr al-Dīn) ‘Irāqī (d. 688/1289), see Lecture III, note 34; cf. also Allama’s letter to Dr. M. ‘Abdullāh Chaghatī’ī in Iqbālnāmah, II, 334.
Cf. John Passamore, A Hundred Years of Philosophy, p.98. In fact both these pronouncements on metaphysics are to be found in Hans Vaihinger’s work referred to in the next note. Vaihinger in his chapter on Nietzsche tells us that ‘Lange’s theory of metaphysics as a justified form of “poetry” made a deep impression upon Nietzsche’ (p. 341) and he also alludes to Nietzsche’s patiently asking himself: ‘Why cannot we learn to look upon metaphysics and religion as the legitimate play of grown ups?’ (p. 346, note). Both these passages are under-lined in Allama’s personal copy of Vaihinger’s work (cf. M. Siddīq, op. cit., p. 6).
This is a reference to the title: The Philosophy of “As If” (1924),
translation of Die Philosophic des Als Ob (1911), a work of the German
Kantian philosopher Hans Vaihinger (1852-1933). The “As if” philosophy known as
fictionism is an extreme form of James’s pragmatism or Dewey’s instrumentalism;
it, however, traces its descent from Kant through F. A. Lange and Schpenhauer.
It holds that as thought was originally an aid and instrument in struggle for
existence it still is incapable of dealing with purely theoretical problems.
Basic concepts and principles of natural sciences, economic and political
theory, jurisprudence, ethics, etc., are merely convenient fictions devised by
the human mind for practical purposes– practical life and intuition, in fact,
are higher than speculative thought.
One meets quite a few observations bearing on Vaihinger’s doctrine in Allama’s writings, for example, the following passage in ‘Note on Nietzsche’: ‘According to Nietzsche the “I” is a fiction. It is true that looked at from a purely intellectual point of view this conclusion is inevitable; Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason ends in the conclusion that God, immortality and freedom are mere fictions though useful for practical purposes. Nietzsche only follows Kant in this conclusion’ (Thoughts and Reflections of Iqbal, ed. S. A. Vahid, pp. 239-40).
Also in ‘McTaggart’s Philosophy’: ‘Not William James but Kant was the real founder of modern pragmatism’ (ibid., p. 119).
For a comparative study of Indian, Greek, Muslim and modern theories of atomism, cf. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, II, 197-210, and for a more recent account of modern atomism Niels Bohr’s article: ‘Atom’ in Encyclopaedia Britannica, II, 641-47.
Nānikrām Vasanmal Thādānī, The Garden of the East, pp. 63-64. Cf. Mathnawī, iii, 3901-06, 3912-14, for Rūmī’s inimitable lines on the theme of ‘biological future of man’ which Thādānī has presented here in a condensed form. Thādānī in the Preface to his book has made it clear that ‘The poems.... are not translations or renderings....; they are rather intended to recreate the spirit and idea of each master...
Cf. The Joyful Wisdom, Book V, where Nietzsche denounces ‘nationalism and race-hatred (as) a scabies of the heart and blood poisoning’, also The Twilight of the Idols, chapter viii where he pronounces nationalism to be ‘the strongest force against culture’.
Reference here is to the misguided observations of the orientalists to be found in such works as A. Sprenger, Des Leben and die Lehre des Mohammed (1861), I, 207; D. S. Margoliouth, Mohammed and the Rise of Islam (1905), p. 46; R. A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs (1907), pp. 147-48; and D. B. Macdonald, Religious Attitude and Life in Islam (1906), p. 46.
Cf. Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindī, Maktūbāt-i Imām Rabbānī, vol. I, Letter 253, also Letters 34, 257 and 260. In all these Letters there is listing of the five stations: Qalb (the ‘heart’), Rūh (the ‘spirit’), Sirr (the ‘inner’), Khafī (the ‘hidden’), and Akhfā (the ‘hidden most’); together they have also been named as in Letter 34 Jawāhir-i Khamsah-i ‘Ālam-i Amr (‘Five Essences of the Realm of the Spirit’). Cf. F. Rahman, Selected Letters of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindī, chapter iii (pp. 54-55).
Cf. Stray Reflections, ed. Dr. Javid Iqbal, p. 42, where Nietzsche has been named as a ‘great prophet of aristocracy’; also article: ‘Muslim Democracy’ (Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, pp. 123-24), where a critical notice of Nietzsche’s ‘Aristocracy of Supermen’ ends up in a very significant rhetorical question: ‘Is not, then, the Democracy of early Islam an experimental refutation of the ideas of Nietzsche?’
مقام از عقل و
Compare this with Allama Iqbal’s pronouncement on Nietzsche
in his highly valuable article: ‘McTaggart’s Philosophy’:
A more serious thing happened to poor Nietzsche, whose peculiar intellectual environment led him to think that his vision of the Ultimate Ego could be realized in a world of space and time. What grows only out of the inner depths of the heart of man, he proposed to create by an artificial biological experiment’ (Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal, p.150).
Again in ‘Note on Nietzsche’: “Nietzsche’s Superman is a biological product. The Islamic perfect man is the product of moral and spiritual forces’ (Thoughts and Reflections of Iqbal, ed. S. A. Vahid, p. 242).
بودے در زمان
تارسیدے برسرور سرمدے
Would that he had lived in Ahmad’s time
so that he might have attained eternal joy. (trans. Arberry)
And he himself could be Nietzsche’s spiritual mentor, were he be in Iqbal’s times; see Kulliyāt-i Iqbāl (Urdū), Bāl-i Jibrīl, Pt. II, Ghazal33, verse. 5.
ہوتا وہ مجذوب
تو اقبال اس کو سمجھاتا مقام کبریا کیا ہے!
If that Frankish Sage
Were present in this age
Him Iqbal would teach
God’s high place and reach
(Trans. S. Akbar ‘Alī Shāh).
زندہ ئی یا مردہ ئی یا جان بلب
از سہ شاہد کن شہادت را طلب
شاہد اول شعور خویشتن،
خویش را دیدن بنور خویشتن
شاہد ثانی شعور دیگری
خویش را دیدن بنور دیگری
شاہد ثالث شعور ذات حق
خویش را دیدن بنور ذات حق
پیش این نور اربمانی استوار
حیّ و قائم چون خدا خود را شمار
بر مقام خود رسیدن زندگی است
ذات را بی پردہ دیدن زندگی است
مرد مؤمن در نسازد با صفات
مصطفیٰ راضی نشد الا بہ ذات
چیست معراج آرزوی شاہدی
امتحانی روبروی شاہدی
شاہد عادل کہ بے تصدیق او
زندگی ما را چو گل را رنگ و بو
در حضورش کس نماند استوار
ور بماند ہست او کامل عیار
ذرّہ ئی از کف مدہ تابی کہ ہست
پختہ گیر اندر گرہ تابی کہ ہست
تاب خود را بر فزودن خوشتر است
پیش خورشید آزمودن خوشتر است
پیکر فرسودہ را دیگر تراش
امتحان خویش کن موجود باش
محمود است و
ورنہ نار زندگی دود است و بس
Commenting on Allama’s translation of this passage A.J. Arberry in the Introduction to his translation of Javid Namah observes that this ‘affords a very fair example of how close and how remote Iqbal was prepared to make his own version of himself’. And he adds that for comparison, in addition to the translation of this passage offered by him, the reader may like to consider its verse-paraphrase by Shaikh Muhmud Ahmad in Pilgrimage of Eternity, 230-256.
June 22, 2014