Iqbal’s Envisioned New World Order
Prof. Abdul Moghni
Allama Iqbal was certainly a visionary. He was a philosopher as well as a poet, and was no less of a statesman. In all these capacities, he was one of the greatest thinkers of his time. During the first half of the 20th century, he wrote, spoke and acted copiously in a manner to reassure as well as warn the world about its future. About half a century earlier than the modern world powers, Iqbal envisaged a new world order for an enduring international peace, universal liberty, global fraternity and equality of man with man, in general.
In this respect, he was acutely critical of the western politics and way of life dominating the world at the time he had started writing and gone to Europe for higher education. There is a lyric, dated March 1907, in the first collection of his Urdu poems, Bang-e-Dara (peal of the Gong), when he was still in Europe where he had gone in 1904, having got himself admitted to Cambridge in England. Several lines from that early work indicate his assessment of the situation prevailing in the very beginning of the present century, now in its concluding year:-
O the inhabitants of the West, God’s world is not a shop,
What you have been taking as pure will now prove false gold
Your culture will kill itself with its own sword,
The nest built on a delicate bough will not last.1
In the same early work, Iqbal evinces a universal concern for humanity:-
Lovers of God are thousands wandering in wilderness,
I shall serve the person who will love God’s creatures.2
In another early poem dated 1912, entitled Shama Aur Shair (Lamp and the Poet), Iqbal again warns the West:-
You will see the end of the stupendous wave of the sea,
The restless wave itself will stop its flow.
The birds will chirp, as the hunter will lament.
The bud will gain colour from the blood of the flower-picker.3
The two great poems of the first Urdu collection, namely Khizr-e-Rah (the Guide) and Tulu-e-Islam (The Rise of Islam), both written in the first quarter of the century, reflect the ethos of the world under the impact of the First Great War (1914-18):-
A new sun has arisen from under the earth,
O heaven, how far will you lament the sunken stars.4
The vision of universal freedom contemplated by Islam
Has come true today, O the Muslim.5
The discrimination between master and slave is violation of humanity,
Beware, O the tyrants, the punishment by Nature is severe.
The reality is one in every thing, made either of earth or light,
The blood of the Sun will drop, if the core of a grain is split.
Lust has shattered mankind into shreds,
Make a declaration of fraternity and love.
So far, man is an abject victim of imperialism,
How horrible, man is hunting man!
The sight is dazzled by the shine of modern civilization,
But this is an artistry of false gems.
The Science of which the Western intellectuals were proud,
Is only a sword of war in the bloody hand of lust.
The sorcery of statesmanship cannot strengthen
The civilization based in the world on capitalism.6
These lines indicate that Iqbal criticizes the western way of life as an old, effete and dying order of things. He thinks that this order has failed mankind of our times. As such, a new, better and more beneficial order is urgently required. In this regard, Iqbal’s modern sensibility is very acute. He assessed the decline and fall of the British Empire much before the sun set over it. After the First Great War, Iqbal’s first collection of Persian Poems, Payam-e-Mashriq (Message of the East) was published in 1923. In its Urdu preface, he made the following observations:-
“The fact is that the inner unrest of the nations of the world, the significance of which we cannot correctly assess, as we are ourselves affected by it, portends a resurrection that finished the old world order, in all respects; and now Nature is creating a new man and building a new world for him to live in from the ashes of the (present) culture and civilization. A dim sketch of the same we may find in the works of Einstein and Bergson. Europe has seen with its own eyes the horrible consequences of its intellectual, moral and economic ideal …..But, sadly enough, its sharp witted yet conservative statesmen could not correctly assess that wonderful revolution that is happening just now in human conscience.”7
This is a documentary evidence of what Iqbal thought of the old world order prevailing up to the first quarter of this century. It also clearly suggests how Iqbal would have liked a new world order to take place. He envisioned it in the impact of the scientific theory of relativity propounded by Einstein or the philosophical indications of Bergson’s philosophy. The idea behind Iqbal’s intellectual speculations was that the materialistic ideology of the West, coming down from nineteenth century observations of science, had failed mankind. Therefore, the spiritual ideology of the East would come to the rescue of a divided humanity into chauvinistic regions. Hence in the same preface quoted above the thinker-poet referred to a verse of the Quran that calls it imperative for any external revolution to come out of an internal reform. Though Iqbal died just a year before the outbreak of the Second Great War (1939-45), he fully envisaged a new world order in his various works, thereby formulating a system for world peace.
Iqbal concluded the aforesaid preface with the following words:-
“At this time, in the countries of the East as well as the whole world, every such effort is appreciable as may aim at lifting the sight of individuals and nations above the frontiers of geography and creating or reviving in them a right and strong character.”
The poet interpreted Einstein’s theory of relativity as a negation of materialistic, narrow-mindedness and a justification of spiritual universalism. He has given vent to this interpretation in a poem on Hakeem Einstein in his first Persian collection,” Message of the East”.8 A similar point has been stressed in the poem,” Message of Bergson” in the same collection..9
Iqbal’s comments on the then League of Nations, the predecessor of United Nations, underline his critical estimate of such Western attempts at a world order and peace, and against a possible oriental or Islamic outlook upon the subject. A Persian poem, Jamiatul Aqwaam in the aforesaid Persian collection, Payam-e-Mashriq notes derisively:-
I do not know except that some thieves of shrounds
Have formed an association to distribute graves.10
An Urdu poem on the same subject, in the collection, Zarb-e-Kaleem (The Stroke of Moses) predicts the demise of the League of Nations in near future and condemns its devilish character:-
May be, this concubine of the Western lords
Survives for a few days on the charm of the Devil.11
As an alternative to the Western dispensation for world peace, Iqbal proposes Jamiat-e-Aqwaam-e-Mashriq (League of the Nations of the East), in Urdu collection just referred to:-
If Tehran is made the Geneva of the nations of the East,
May be, the destiny of the globe is changed for better.12
What Iqbal was aiming at was the universal concept of human brotherhood spelt out in the following poem of the above mentioned collection:-
Nations usually meet in this age,
But unity of man is still invisible.
The Western diplomacy aims at dividing nations;
Whereas Islam aims at only creating a community of man.
Mecca has given Geneva this message:
A League of Men or a League of Nations? 13
Mecca and Geneva
This idea of unity of man in the world order envisioned by Iqbal is obviously based upon the concept of monotheism revealed to the world by the ideology of Islam. One man under one and only God is the Credo and motto of this ideology that has formulated a whole system of life and code of conduct for mankind, in general. Arnold J. Toynbee has viewed, in Civilization of Trial (Oxford University Press, London, 4th Edition., 1953) that Islamic monotheism is the only emotional bond that can unite man with man, irrespective of race, region, colour and class. He thinks that the League of Nations failed and the United Nations is failing, due to lack of this bond. Iqbal presaged this thought, first of all, in the modern times. He has amply dealt with all the various aspects of the unity of mankind brought about by monotheism. Of course, this universal angle of Iqbal’s vision has been presented from the East, as inspired by the faith rising in the East. The fundamental point of this approach to a new world order and world peace has been made crystal clear by the clarion call given by Iqbal in his famous poem, Shua-e-Ummeed (The Ray of Hope in the third Urdu collection, Zarb-e-Kaleem (The Stroke of Moses). Describing the darkness pervading the modern world and despairing of the West, the symbolic ray of the sun has been shown to have risen from the East and made the following declaration:-
Don’t be disgusted with the East, nor do avoid the West,
Nature be tokens that night everywhere be turned into dawn.14
In order to achieve peace and prosperity as well as a balanced progress in the modern world, Iqbal wanted a radical revolution in the prevailing system dominated by the West. For this purpose, he desired resurgence of Islam, in its true universal spirit, as an egalitarian ideology of cosmic proportions that might redress the imbalance of science, technology, economy, politics and culture, under the Western scheme of things, while incorporating the beneficial features of this scheme. He even thought that the modern Western civilization had originally been inspired by Islam, right from the time of Renaissance and Reformation, both brought about by the encounter of the Christian society with the Muslim society, first in Islamic Spain, then during the Crusades. But, according to Iqbal, the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century tainted the West with excessive materialism and drunken with power, it lost its bearings and ran amok. Hence imperialism, both in the form of Capitalism and that of communism, corrupted America as well as Europe. The slogan of Democracy raised by both is hollow and deceptive. The concept of aggressive nationalism ruined humanitarianism. Otherwise, human progress could go beyond the stars. Therefore, a reorientation of thought and action was urgently required. The positive and constructive process, Iqbal concluded, would begin in the East, inspired by a total view of Islam, as a way of life for the whole mankind.
Along with many of his Urdu and Persian poems, interspersed in his several collections, and the magnum opus, Jawed Nama (To Eternity), a dramatic poem of space travel in Persian, Iqbal wrote a philosophical book, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, based upon his famous Madras Lectures. Therein a chapter dealing with Ijtehad, captioned as “The Principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam”, interpreting the Quran and Sunnah in changing times, presented a very significant view of Islam, as applied to the modern age. This view is reflected in numerous poems as well. However, the thinker-poet was not a mere theoretician or ideologue. His constant interest in the politics of the day is enough to show that he was also an activist, who tried to translate his dreams into a reality. His ideas in the celebrated early Persian works, Asrar-e-Khudi (Secrets of Self) and Rumuz-e- Bekhudi (Mysteries of Selflessness), were obviously meant to enthuse people to take effective, dignified, and constructive action, in extremely adverse circumstances, and restore to mankind its lost glory. These ideas moved and rejuvenated at least the people of the East, to begin with.
Iqbal’s works indicate the nature and importance of Jehad for peace. His concept of Jehad also suggests what tolerance and its opposite, intolerance, really mean in the Islamic perspective. The Arabic term, Jehad literally signifies maximum effort. In the Quran and Sunnah, the term has been used for struggle in the way of God and goodness. As for war and peace or violence and non-violence, Islam allows for both, provided that any thing is called for peace and non-violence are to be normally observed. Tolerance is the spirit of Islam. But those determined to create trouble are to be dealt with deterrently by the state. Individuals, in any case, are not permitted to take the law into their own hands. Even groups cannot do any thing without the sanction of the state.
The peaceful nature of Islamic Jehad, with its defensive character, even when violence is called for, and the pervasive concept of tolerance in Islam, in all cases and in every circumstance, may be amply witnessed in Iqbal’s idea of power, that forms a bedrock of his philosophy of dynamic action. The following lines of a poem, entitled Jehad, should be studied for this purpose:-
Those should be educated to eschew Jehad
Whose bloody hands might endanger the world.
Europe is clad in arms from the shoulder to the waste,
Just to safeguard the majesty of an untruth.
I ask the church-friendly Muslim don,
If war is an evil for the East, is it not evil for the West?
If you are concerned about the truth, is it proper
To take Islam to account and connive at the West?15
In perspective, the above lines were meant to refute Mirza Gholam Ahmad Qadiani, who had decreed that fight with sword was no longer permissible for Muslims. Iqbal, as such, asserted the relevance of Islamic injunction to fight, with any weapon, for the right cause, particularly when the Western imperialism was making all the aggression, so violently and militantly. This was nothing negative or only a retaliation. He was motivated by a very positive and constructive concept of power, as shown in a poem, Quwwat aur Deen (Power and Religion):-16
Alexander and Genghis with their hands in the world
Tore to pieces the clothes of man a hundred times.
It is the eternal message of the history of nations,
O the insighted, that the intoxication of power is perilous.
This swift flood, inundating the earth,
Sweeps away, like straw and dust, intellect, vision, knowledge and skill.
If irreligious, it is worse than a lethal poison,
If applied to save religion, power is an antidote to every poison.
Pondering the above suggestion, it becomes evident that, according to Iqbal, power used for the sake of power or worldly aggrandizement, is very dangerous and ruinous. But, when applied for a divine and moral purpose or the security of a creed and an egalitarian ideology, it may prove beneficial and constructive. As such, tolerance for oppressive violence ought to be fought down. Passive non-violence in the face of aggression would be pusillanimity. There is no question of tolerating crime and invasion. But terrorism is not to be allowed in any case. Mischief is to be curbed. Particularly, trouble causing social loss is to be crushed. However, every body is at liberty to practice his belief or propagate his view, within the limits of the peace of the people or without wounding others’ sentiments. This is the teaching of Islam, which Iqbal has widely and forcefully enunciated in his writings.
In this perspective, Iqbal’s envisioned new world order envisages unity of the Islamic world as an effective means to ensure world peace. Hence his message for the resurgence of the East. He was against capitalism prevailing in the West, that had colonized, enslaved and exploited the East, but, though welcoming communism, as an antidote, for some time and for certain purpose, initially and partially, he was soon disillusioned with it and rejected it as an ideology. His poems, Lenin (in Presence of God), in the Urdu collection, Baal-e-Jibreel (The Wing of Gabreil) ), and Iblees ki Majlis-e-Shoora ( The parliament of Beelzebub), in the posthumous collection, Armaghan-e-Hajaz (A presentation to Arabia- the Urdu portion) bear out my analysis.17 Paigham-e-Afghani ba Millat-e-Rusiah. (Afghani’s Message to Soviet Russia), a convincing denunciation of communism by jamaluddin Afghani, in Jawed Nama, is very thought-provoking.18 So had Iqbal called Western type of democracy a form of imperialism in Khizr-e-Rah of the first Urdu collection.19 A poem entitled Jamhuriat( Democracy), in the Persian collection, Payam-e-Mashriq, suggests the same fact.20 Even Western version of nationalism the poet had rejected in the very first Urdu collection, in a piece entitled Wataniat ( as a political concept)21 though he was a great patriot whose anthem of India, Tarana-e-Hindi, is still very popular. Iqbal’s idea of a state was Hukumat-e-Elahi (Divine Government), as copiously enunciated in Jawed Nama.22
A notable poem of the first Urdu collection23 had ended on this rapturous prediction:-
At last, the night will pass with the rise of the sun,
This garden (of the world ) will resound with the melody of monotheism
Shama aur Shair
The poet-thinker’s vision of Islamic monotheism is, however, of universal proportions, covering the whole globe. Iqbal was cosmopolitan rather than either a communalist or a nationalist, in a common and conventional sense. Despairing of the Western world order, under any political or ideological system, he wanted the Islamic world to rise from the East and unite to guide the modern society and mankind to progress in the right direction and towards a true destination. So that a reorientation take place in the best interest of humanity and for the culmination of a balanced and comprehensive human progress, along the lines shown by the Prophet (PBUH), under the guidance of God, the Creater and Master of the universe.
The following pronouncements in various works attest to the above points:-
The solidarity of the Islamic community is the salvation of the East
The people of Asia are not yet aware of this point.24
Let the Muslims units to guard their centre,
From the shore of the Nile to the land of Kashghar.25
The liberty of the common man dreamt of by Islam,
O the Muslim, see the fulfillment of this dream today.26
Your (Muslim’s ) nature is the respository of the potentials of life
As if you are the test of the hidden essence of the world.27
This is the object of Nature, this is the secret of Islam;
Universal fraternity, abundance of love.28
The blood of the sun will drop, if an atom is split.29
Lust has divided mankind into sections.
Proclaim brotherhood and declare love for all.30
In a very suggestive six-line stanza of the famous Jawab-e-shikwa ( Reply to Plaint ), in the first Urdu collection, the poet had made the following points as a Divine reminder to the Islamic community of its significance and mission in the world, for the present as well as future:-
Your reality is concealed from the eyes of the nations,
The sphere of existence is still in need of you,
Your warmth keeps the times alive,
Your caliphate is the star of the destiny of possibilities:
There is no time for leisure, the work is still to be done
The light of monotheism is yet to be completed.31
As new world order, Iqbal has rejected the prevailing Western civilization, particularly its political or philosophical ideologies and concepts, along with the economic theories, social fashions, and cultural modes, all of which he has frequently condemned as distortion of nature and desecration of humanity. He has suggested the Islamic way of life, as an alternative and better ideology and system of life. This is the new world order indicated by Iqbal.
About ” The Man of Modern Times”, he says:-
The one who is in search of the tracks of stars
Could not explore the world of his own thoughts.
He got entangled in the intricacies of his science so much
That he could not, so far, decide the loss and gain of his life.
The one who tapped the rays of the sun
Could not enlighten the dark night of life.32
This is an indictment of the “Western culture”:-
The Western culture corrupts the heart and the eye,
As the soul of this civilization has not remained chaste.
If there is no chastity in the soul, there disappear
Pure conscience, high thinking, and fine taste.33
Like the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the Western empire of the 19th century had also fallen, and for the same historical reasons as the previous one, in the first quarter of the 20th century, the Soviet Russia was also exposed very soon after the communist revolution of 1917, due to its dictatorship and materialism of atheist type. The United States of America, with its republican character and moral force, did emerge as a ray of hope after the First Great War (1914-18) of the century. But capitalism of the worst materialistic nature spoiled it, due to its indulgence in luxuries and power politics. So Iqbal posed a question before Afro-Asia, in a momentous book of couplets, with the following significant title:-
“Then what should you do,
O the Nations of the East?”
The answer Iqbal chose to give was meant as a new world order for the whole mankind, which he spelt out suggestively in a poem entitled Madaniat-e-Islam (Islamic Civilization):-
Do I tell you what the life of a Muslim is ?
It is the culmination of thought and enthusiasm.
Its fall turns into a rise, like that of the sun
Unique and diverse, as is the Time.
Neither is the immodesty of the modern times therein,
Nor the myth and magic of the ancient times.
It is life and not the enigma of Plato.
Its elements derive from the aesthetic taste of the Holy Spirit.
The natural beauty of Persia combined with the internal glow of Arabia.34
This universal view of Islam, in its elements, was further elaborated in Iqbal’s famous poem, Iblees ki majlis-e-Shoora.
Beware of the law of the Prophet, a hundred times,
It safeguards the honour of the woman, and tests as well as rears man.
It is a message of death for every kind of slavery:
Herein is neither any Caesar nor any Lord.
It purges wealth of all its impurities,
And makes the rich only trustees of their property.
What greater revolution of thought and action than
That this earth belongs to God rather than the Kings?35
The question has been put by the Devil, who has been made to comment upon Islam in a dramatic dialogue.
The above quotations give only guide-lines of the new world order for solving the main problems of humanity in our days and the times to come. These are certain ideas of the thinker-poet, who lived and worked in the dawn of a truly international age and acquired a global vision. He was a futurist and an optimist. He could foresees further development of mankind. His concepts of progress knew no bounds except that man had to remain man, a creature and servant of God, the only Lord of the whole universe. As such, he should try to understand the real laws of Nature and observe the true values of life. Then his advancement could reach the last frontiers of the cosmos. One of Iqbal’s lyrics in his second Urdu collection, Ball-e-Jibreel (The Wing of Gabriel) begins with the following lines:-
There are worlds beyond stars,
As yet, there are many tests of love.36
In a poem of the same collection, entitled Saqi Nama ( To the Cup-Bearer), the poet has rapturously given vent to his cosmic ideas of the immense progress of the world and the human self.37
Iqbal’s ideas of progress in a new world order are derived from the Prophet’s Ascension, on which the following poem, entitled Meiraaj, of the third Urdu collection, Zarb-e-Kaleem, (the Stroke of Moses), is very meaningful, insighted, and stimulating:-
One who is given the taste of flight by the zest of love,
That particle of dust can plunder the moon and the sun.
O the friends of garden, the exploit of a falcon is not difficult,
If the breast of the partridge is full of warmth.
The Muslim is an arrow whose target is the loftiest star:
The lesson of the Prophet’s ascension is the secret of the self.
No wonder, you could not understand the meaning of the chapter on star in the Qur’an.
Your ebb and tide are yet caused only by the moon.38
In view of all his writings, Iqbal’s envisioned new world order may be summed up in the following outlines:-
- The universe is a creation of God, designed for certain high objectives of ultimate progress, combining spiritual and material developments in a balanced manner.
- Man has been endowed by God with faculties and also given guidelines to realize these objectives, properly and fully.
- For this purpose, both the self and the cosmos are to be completely explored, realized and utilized.
- The Divine inspiration of the last Prophet, Hazrat Mohammad (Peace be upon Him), is to be followed faithfully for treading the right path to the goal of mankind.
- A universal attitude of the best ideology and system, is to be cultivated and promoted.
- An ideal of life, based upon the best ideology and system, is to be cultivated and promoted.
- There is no limit to the progress of man, except that he has to keep within the bounds of his innate pledge of God and its tangible effect in his life.
- Kulliaat-e-Iqbal,(Urdu), Educational Book House, Aligarh, 1989,p.141
- Ibid., pp. 194-95
- Ibid., p. 263
- Ibid., pp. 263-66.
- Ibid., pp. 271-74
- Kulliaat-e-Iqbal (Farsi), Shaikh Gholam Ali & Sons. Lahore, 1973.
- Ibid., p. 369.
- Ibid., p. 377.
- Ibid., p. 363.
- Ibid., p (Urdu),p.618.
- Ibid., p. 609.
- Ibid., p. 520.
- Ibid., p. 571.
- Ibid., p. 490.
- Ibid., p. 491.
- Ibid., pp.398 and 647.
- Ibid., (Farsi), p.66
- Ibid., (Urdu), p.261.
- Ibid., (Farsi), p.305.
- Ibid., (Urdu),p.160.
- Ibid., (Farsi), p. 659.
- Ibid., (Urdu), p. 195.
- Khizr-e-Rah, Ibid., (Urdu), p.269.
- Ibid., p. 265.
- Ibid., p.266.
- Tulu-e-Islam, Ibid.,(Urdu), p.269
- Ibid., p. 270.
- Ibid., p. 271
- Ibid., p. 273.
- Kulliaat-e-Iqbal(Urdu), p.206.
- Zarb-e-Kaleem,Ibid.,(Urdu), P.531.
- Ibid, p. 533.
- Ibid., pp.510-11.
- Aramaghan-e-Hejaz,Ibid., p.655.
- Kulliaat-e-Iqbal,(Urdu), p. 353.
- Ibid., (Urdu), pp. 418-21.
- Ibid., p. 479
Vice-Chancellor, L.N.Mithila University, Darbhang, Bihar.
Iqbal Congress Papers,
Third Allama Iqbal International Congress,
November 9-11, 1998.
University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan.