Dr. Allama Iqbal, a Sialkot born philosopher and poet, studied literature, law, and philosophy at Government College at Lahore, Cambridge University, and then did his Ph.D at the the University of Munich. Eighty years down the line, his dream of Muslims returning to an early phase of Islam without losing some of the best features of it seems unfulfilled on many fronts. He was both versifier of Islam and a poet of humanity and tried to salvage Muslim community from the dormant mode of life. Being an acknowledged poet of the East and a wise man of the Ummah, he had unparalleled qualities. He believed that it was the narrow conception of patriotism that was responsible for all strife and wars in the world and thought it was an insult to Divine Unity that humanity should be divided into so many sections or tribes or nations. Iqbal felt restless as he found humanity groaning under the burden of the materialistic system of the west with its terrible features of colonialism, imperialism and a bleak civilization. To him, it was nothing short of a crusade to breakdown all the barriers that unfortunately divided humanity even to this day.
Iqbal vehemently condemned the European materialistic and politico-economic theories and institutions for the reason that they had initiated and increased strife, degeneration, and indigence in the Eastern hemisphere. He emphasized that Islamic community will achieve strength and perfect solidarity by adopting the universal code of conduct free from any biased approach. He strongly opposed the western nationalistic concept of life because it provides unlimited powers to the powerful and corrupts the liberty of weak people.
He wrote originally in Urdu, then in Persian to reach a wider Muslim audience. Iqbal admired the role of Jamal-ud-din Afghani who was the first to harmonize his philosophy of Pan-Islamism. He further harmonized it and evolved what came to be known as (Ummah). He expressed his confidence that the new philosophy of the Millat-Islam he had propounded in his Rumuz would certainly prove an eye-opener to those whom he describes as Muslims belonging to the new school to the real nature of Islamic nationalism. This concept is totally in contradiction of which Europe was not proud. He rejected the western thesis of nationalism as a political ideology and did not concede its superiority over Islam. He believed that the acceptance of western nationalism as supreme value leads to fascism. His notion that existing Muslim states are no more than colonial encroachments on the ruins of an Islamic entity was based on his philosophical thought of Islam. These encroachments were erected only to make Muslims feel at home rather than to have them think about living as one Ummah.
Had Iqbal been alive today he must have reprimanded more than 50 Muslim countries which presently are divided on all fronts. Tthere are fifty-eight Muslim countries, with fifty-eight policies and fifty-eight ungodly-infested national anthems, divided interests and unclear strategies. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League which are relatively doing nothing substantial have also divided Muslims into many fronts. Ummah, thus, is seemingly the most dreaded word for those who harbour hatred for Islam and consider followers of Islam as ‘communal’ or so-called‘terrorists.’
The ideology of Islam is the challenge to overcome the anti-Islam alliance of Christian-Zionists and capitalists. By principle in Islam, there is no basis for division among Muslims with respect to the place of birth, ethnicity, culture, language, national boundaries or nationality. Iqbal stressed upon the Muslims to shun down their difference and work under the banner of Ummah because he believed that the faith did not depend upon the region, caste, and colour. His conceptual goal was to analyze the reasons for the decay of Muslim culture and provide the tools by which Muslims may reclaim their faith and reorganize themselves under the banner of Ummah. He had greatly contributed to Islamic revivalism to build a nation state on the ground of Pan-Islamism.
Iqbal was the most important Muslim thinker of the twentieth century, who strongly condemned Muslims for failing to live up to the ideals of Islam. He also condemned various aspects of Western thought, especially secularism and Nationalism and its materialistic ideology that led to colonialism and racism. He abhorred culturally centred views of western thinkers and the political thinkers like Hegel and sociologists like August Comte on the basis that they lead to a fatalistic and deterministic understanding of man’s evolution, denying human freedom and creativity. Iqbal also strappingly condemned all those South Asian Muslims who left their countries and took rehabilitation in comfort zones Western countries. He pointed out that they sold their consciousness and they did not realize the significance of their responsibility. At a time when the Muslim world is commemorating his eightieth death ceremony, the need of the hour for all of us is to follow his message in letter and spirit. Better late than never.
[Note: This article has been co-authored by Bilal Peer and Altaf, both RTI activists]