A+ A A-

Iqbal’s Idea of Taqdir (Destiny)

Iqbal’s Idea of Taqdir (Destiny)

by Prof. Muhammad Munawwar

No great poet or thinker can ever be treated as a representative of some particular school, era, country or race. He looks ahead of his time and his influence transcends all racial and geographical boundaries. Yet no great poet or thinker can remain uninfluenced by his immediate surroundings. The socio-economic and political lot of his people is bound to be reflected in his views. He shares the hopes and fears of his society and partakes of the reactions of the milieu to different kinds of currents and cross-currents, impulses, drives, and also impediments. It is but natural that a “visionary” should, firstly, interpret his impressions only. Such interpretation normally mirrors the general attributes and aptitudes of his people. But he gradually rises to the position of a critic and then to that of a mentor. That criticism and guidance, if it is intrinsically beneficial, becomes the spiritual and intellectual inheritance of all nations. Thus being lauded and loved by the whole world that person becomes “uncircumscribed,” like moonlight. It is then that no particular race or country can lay exclusive claim to him in respect of his person. Almost similar is the case with Allama Muhammad Iqbal. He has become “boundless” and universal.

An attempt has been made in the following paragraphs to explain his criticism of one of the notions current among almost all religious communities, Muslims included. That is the notion or concept of Taqdir, a term for which there appears to be no appropriate equivalent word in the English language. Destiny or predestination does not serve the purpose satisfactorily. Yet I have preferred to use destiny to connote Taqdir. The idea of Taqdir or destiny, according to Iqbal, has been given a wrong significance. The effect of that wrong significance alongwith many other misjudged and misinterpreted notions had turned the Muslim Ummah, in the era of decline, into a horde of fatalists or a veritable herd of sheep.

The term was being taken to signify as predestined and unalterable fortune of all existences including human beings. This belief or notion tended to kill the very urge to do anything for one’s own betterment or that of one’s society. Naturally, if everything stands decided once and for all, then why to bother? Then utter resignation could be the only best policy. In a quatrain Iqbal explains this state of complacent defeatism prevalent among the Muslims, with a masterly touch of an artist critic. He say:-


“The Europeans bagged their game from the Sanctuary of the Ka’ba and other places of worship but the voice that was raised in the monasteries spoke: ‘None else’ (but God Himself ordains all things). I related this story to the Mulla who prayed: “O Lord! Make the end (life hereafter) pleasant.”

This is how Iqbal depicts that comfortable defeatism of the spiritual and religious guides of the Muslim nations. If that was the case, then how could the Muslims be expected to break the shackles of slavery and drive the European Imperialists away? Iqbal could not but react to it.

It was for the good of Muslim Ummah and particularly the Muslims of the Pak-India subcontinent that God had bestowed on Iqbal the faculty of a lofty, revolutionary vision and analysis. He penetrated deep into the alleys of this misleading idea of Taqdir. As he himself has declared many a time that the basis of all his thought is the Qur’an, hence we can very safely imagine that his idea of Taqdir also is based on the meanings that this word or term holds in the Qur’an. We know that Taqdir is derived from Qadr or Qadar which signifies estimate, measure, judgement, capacity, etc. Let us now refer to a few verses of the Qur’an:-


“Not just estimate of God do they make………….”


“He it is who cleaves the day-break (from the Dark). He makes the night for rest and tranquility. And the sun and the moon for reckoning (of time). Such is the Judgement and Ordering of Him, the Exalted in power, the Omniscient.”


“And the moon – We have measured for her mansions (to traverse) till she returns like the old(and withered) lower part of a datestalk.”


“Verily all things have We created in proportion and measure”.


“Nor has he a partner in His Dominion. It is He Who created all things and ordered in due proportion.”

The measuring, estimation, proportion, ordering, judgement, fitness, capacity and what not demand different degrees of application. Lifeless bodies require quite a particular treatment. Living bodies with active intelligence are to be handled in a different manner. Man as such belongs to the last category. Man in general does possess a highly active intelligence, hence he has to look after himself, as a responsible being. In that respect he must put to use the faculty of analysis and therefore “choose” with knowledge and purpose. He should not feel just “left to himself” as a block of wood or a stone, or a tree, or an animal. He has foresight, he has memory, i.e. he can learn through experience and make this lot better if that is true, then he has always to be alert. It does not behove him to bow brainlessly and leg-tied like a blade of grass before every wind that blows.

Iqbal in his lectures The reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam has not devoted a full separate lecture to the exposition of his concept of Taqdir. However, he has expressed himself on this point in the second, third and the fourth lectures. But the impact of his concept of Taqdir is manifestly perceptible and pervasive throughout the Lectures and the major portion of his poetry, and is the pivot of all his philosophy. The essence of his philosophy is the Self; and if Taqdir (Destiny) is taken for “Fate”(alt) in its prevalent sense, the advocacy and affirmation of the “Self” will be off the mark, leading us to the negation of the “Self”. In his own words:-

“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 thinks that Islam amounts to a complete negation of the ego.”8

Iqbal views this world as a field of action for man, where he has to realize all his possibilities and potentialities. Iqbal has made this point clear in his poem “Ruh-i-Ardi Adam Ka Istqbal Karti Hai”:-


“These clouds, these rains, this dome of heavens, all the silent space – mountains and deserts, oceans and winds are under your sway.”

“Till yesterday you looked to the gestures of angels but today you have to observe your own behaviour in the mirror of Time.”

“The spark within you contains the brightness of the world-illumining sun. A new universe flourishes in your skill. It does not behove you to accept Paradise in charity. Your Paradise lies hidden in your capacity to be engaged in blood-consuming exertions and foils. O you, who are an embodiment of dust, look for the reward of incessant toil.”

Iqbal asks us to remember that the universe we belong to is yet to be completed and perfected. It is neither a blocked nor a locked universe because according to Iqbal:-


“Every moment things are being ordered to “become” and they are becoming.”

This means that in Iqbal’s views the process of creation is still going on. To him it is an organic world. He substantiates the process of recurrent creation and an ever-expanding universe by arguing from the Quran:-


“Every day is He (God Almighty) engaged in some new work.”
And Similarly


“He adds to the creation what He wills.”

The following extract from Iqbal’s second Lecture elucidates this point:-

It (the universe) is present in its nature as an open possibility. It is time regarded as an organic whole that the Qur’an describes ‘Taqdir or the destiny – a word which had been so much misunderstood both in and outside the world of Islam. Destiny is time regarded as prior to the disclosure of its possibilities.”12

He has given poetic expression to this concept in the following verses:-


“The chain of day and night is like a silken thread of two colours (black and white) and with this thread God prepares the robe of His Attributes.”

“This universe is perhaps still not complete for every moment things are being ordered to ‘become’ and they are becoming.”

“There are more worlds yet to emerge. The recesses of ‘being’ have not become empty.”

This universe, which is an organic whole to Iqbal is an open possibility because it is not a blocked and locked universe. It is developing and expanding. It is not a “finished whole”. Were it so, the universe would stand shorn of all creative process and its duration would have meant a mere repetition; that is why he labelled Nietzsche’s “Eternal Recurrence” as Eternal Repetition or a rigid mechanism.16 And


[Every day is He engaged in some new work] is declared by the Qur’an. ‘To exist in real time is not to be bound by the fetters of serial time, but to create it from moment to moment and to be absolutely free and original in creation. In fact, all creative activity is free activity. Creation is opposed to repetition which is a characteristic of mechanical action.”17

His poem “Zamana” (“Time”) has the following verse:-


“(Says Time:) From my goblet new possibilities emerge drop after drop. It tell every bead of my rosary. This is my prayer of the day, this is my prayer of the night.”

Iqbal pushes his argument a step further.

He has negated repetition, hence the question, “is the universe with its possibilities predetermined by an extraneous discipline?” Or “has every thing been endowed with a capacity of self-development to undergo a consummative process with the passage of time?” Iqbal thinks that time is an open possibility and the universe is rich with its potentialities that exhibit themselves by virtue of their inner reach ingrained in their nature. Iqbal says:-

“A time-process cannot be conceived as a line already drawn. It is a line in the drawing – an actualization of open possibilities.”19

Perhaps by open possibilities Iqbal meant unlimited possibilities. Now in order to understand the point further, we should consider the following statement as well:-

“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 of its extention 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 limits’ (53:14).20

Such is the nature of the universe man inhabits. It is the educative centre as well as his “bench”. Man is to determine himself in it by his intrinsic worth. Everyone is a responsible entity, and everyone has to bear the burden of his own deeds:-


And then everyone has to appear in person before God on the Day of judgment:-


It is quite obvious that man is answerable for his deeds because he is responsible for them, otherwise his amenability would seem to amount to a farce. It further means that he is prescient, volitive and elective. Whether he is sentient and spry in his self-development or not is of the greatest moment. Thus the poem “Zamana” (“Time”) becomes a mouthpiece of the poet:-


“I am everybody’s acquaintance, but my dealings with them vary from person to person. For some I am a rider; for some I am a mount; while for some others I am a whip of warning.”

“If you did not respond to the invitation, the fault is yours and not mine.

It is not my way to withhold night-drinks for the sake of anybody (who is absent).

Iqbal’s first lecture begins thus:-

“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?”

The last sentence implies Iqbal’s innate belief that man is not a predestined being. “What is the kind of conduct that befits the place we occupy?” Shows that man himself is to determine his own action. Choice is his.

Iqbal takes strong exception to the interpretation of destiny as luck or fate. This interpretation entails that even after having stepped into the race of world man has no right to freedom of action and that he has been set in a prescribed mould which he cannot outgrow. Consequently we can presume that whatever has been ordained, that must be. Human struggle is out and out alien to the scheme of life and that we can neither better nor mar our present or future with the “art” of human efforts. This is a state of affairs better described as a state of doing nothing and waiting for the inevitable. Such a situation led the Muslims to the idea of predestination, hence the materialist West equipped with modern technological weapons fell upon them with full and irresistible force and then ruled them with an iron hand.

This idea or belief implies utter self-negation. Those who subscribe to such an idea are shorn of inspiration and resolution. They vegetate and fossilize – a state absolutely unbecoming to the best of all creation, the Vicegerent of God. Every individual must himself choose his destiny and the “destinies of individuals put together make the star of the destiny of a nation.”


How do the individuals choose? What is the reliable yardstick of enthusiasm for and will to progress. What are the aims? How much unity is there in their ends? If the individuals in a society are cowards or myopic “in themselves,” they will evolve a society beset with various evils. How can different individuals indifferent to the unity and beauty of purpose lay sound foundation of a society that provides to it a basis to stand on. It is quite possible that an edified and strong-willed majority may absorb a base minority, but it is impossible that an unworthy predominant majority may escape the collective punishment at the hands of Nature. Says Iqbal:-


“Nature may overlook the individuals, i.e. may not punish them here for their misdeeds, but it never forgives the sins of a nation.”

Iqbal has dealt with this concept in his lecture entitled “The Spirit of Muslim Culture”. That in the light of the Qur’an . He maintains that:

“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.”26

In short, if the individuals are lazy and languorous, the society cannot collectively be characterized as efficient. Such societies never aspire for self-security nor exhibit any gusto for progress. Human struggle to “go beyond the sunset” rouses all perceptive forces in him because it is concentrative and selective. Aimless nations come to a standstill; they sink in torpor; and having no bright present, they can think of no cherishable future. But they do look back, now and then, to the dreamland of their past.

Iqbal found the contemporary world of Islam given to inaction and wedded to ‘fate’ and as he was viewing the Pak-India sub-continent closely hence fatalistic attitude tormented him directly. He says sarcastically:-


“There is a Paradise for the holymen of the Ka’bah, i.e. Muslims (who do good and never indulge in impurities). And there is a Paradise for those who have will and determination.”

“Tell the Indian Muslims to be happy. There is still another Paradise (to which they will be entitled) and that will be given in charity.”

In other words, Iqbal told the Indian Muslims (and Iqbal died nine years before the emergence of Pakistan) that if they cherished high hopes without doing anything practically, they were doomed, for the Holy Writ runs that human beings are given what they desrve:


First deserve then desire, is a vital principle of existence – Happiness is to be earned. It is not granted for nothing. This point is frequently stresses in the Holy Qur’an. Iqbal’s call is:-


“O You, who fall to the ground like a drop of dew, see that you have under your arm a living Book (the Qur’an).”

Why were the Muslims “half-dead” or breathing dead Bodies despite this “living Book” is explained to some extent in the following paragraph:-

“But it is 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 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 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.”30

God is the real author of all that happens in the universe, was all right. But such an attitude was an excuse made, on the other hand, by the luxurious and the ruthless and, on the other hand, by the idle and easygoing to veil their practical discrepancies, maintaining that they did nothing to their own accord nor were they capable of doing anything. If we admit that God endowed man with discriminative faculty in keeping with His Omnipotence and His Decree, that man can tell evil from virtue.


“If you do good you do it for your own selves and if you do evil that too is for your own selves.”

This means God has bestowed on man the faculty of determination, discrimination and endurance. How can this idea lead us to the negation of His Creativity and Omnipotence? God decreed the birth, life and death of all animate things, plants and animals in accordance with fundamental and perennial principles and norms prevalent in this universe. They have limited capacities, possibilities and ends. But He has decreed that man is to subdue all that exists in the universe. God has, as though, created in the form of a mans being epitomizing. His attributes of Creativity, having the distinction of being a part of His Soul.


[I have breathed in him of My Own Breath]. If he were not captain of His Particle of soul, he would not be called upon to inculcate in himself the Divine Character, and it is possible only if his progress is not impeded by the materialistic world. If he fulfils the demands of his instincts like animals, then there can be no line of distinction drawn between common animals and him. Ibn Miskawaih states:


“When man deteriorates in his deeds which fall short of what he was created for, and fall below the norms, he merits to be relegated to the state of animals. And that can happen only if there is a void in human actions and they are not what they ought to be.”

It is evident that God has bestowed on man discriminative skill and that is exactly His Will. That is why, when man cannot practically maintain his station by telling virtue from evil, the Law of Nature chastises him and makes him live as a lower creation despite all his learning, culture and apparently sophisticated manners. Sheer animality animates him, and when this animality gets hold of him on a large scale, Nemesis overtakes him and puts him in an iron cage. He is thus deterred from squeezing the blood out of others. But the fact is that they remain animals. When that cage expands, it is called a Communist Society; viewed from this perspective, Communism is a punishment and not a panacea.

To Iqbal the maintenance of the state of humanity is self-affirmation and its reverse is self-negation. If man were made to promote the forces of the virtue and forbidden to choose vice, then he could rightly say that he had no choice. As he is capable of choosing either vice or virtue and discriminating in them, it is proved that he is not helpless; he is free to pic and choose. According to Iqbal, the ultimate Will has run the risk of choice of vice too, in order to give him a larger freedom of action. This is how he explains this stance:-

“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 opposite of good. That God has taken this risk shows His immense faith in man; it is for man now to justify his faith. Perhaps such a risk alone makes it possible to test and develop the potentialities of a being who was created of ‘goodliest fabric’ and then ‘brought down to be the lowest of the low’.”33

The verses of the Qur’an pertaining to the conquest of heaven, earth and whatever is in them by man and ‘breathing His soul into him’ enjoin upon him the values of solidarity and affirmation, progress and development. The faithful parts company with other creatures which do not have to act in the light of injunctions that appertain to virtue and vice; they have not been given free choice:-


“It is the plants and the inanimate existences which are bound by a preordained destiny. But the believer in God is only to abide by the commands of the Almighty.”

The verse also manifests that when man is divested of faith, he is stripped of humanity too and rolls down through animality to the world of insensate things.

No animal can transcend, as an individual, the general level of its kind and keeping the limitations of that kind can be relied upon as such. But man is the the best of all creation. Hence, he can attain to dizzy heights, morally, spiritually and intuitionally, where even angels fear to tread. Yet when he cannot guard and protect his humanity, he rolls down the precipice and reaches the nadir which is beyond the capacity of all animals. The cause is simple; man has infinite possibilities. There he is, the highest of the high, and lowest of the low. Due to his superior faculties he can outdo all animals in being instrumental to the forces of evil. Can we dream of an animal inventing lethal gas-chambers and H-bombs to annihilate his own kind? Mustafa al-Kik has repeated his view citing al-Qadiyyt al-Uluhiyyah (alt) by Prof. ‘Abdul Karim al-Khatib in these words:-


“When man negates his spiritual side and comes down to lead his life only on the assumption that he is nothing but flesh and blood, he cannot outgrow beasts and vultures. His life becomes nothing but a scuffle aimed at vanquishing others; the difference lies in that, instead of long sharp teeth and ferocious paws, he makes use of nuclear roketry and missiles.”35

It is imperative to endow such a creature of infinite possibilities with the sense of discrimination between good and evil, as well as to tame him so as to strike an equilibrium in his personality. Hence, the necessity of the Revelations till human race reached a blissful stage of development wherein their intellect and mind matured and consummated. After imparting him the most perfect Revelation and a living model (in the person of Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) God warned man that the choice is his own: one is the right path, the path of God and His Apostle, while on the other hand there are many other paths each one intriguing and leading to disastrous destination. Albeit, it is man’s own choice. It is man’s pleasure and pride to be honoured with the right to choose.

To arrive at a conclusion after profound thinking is an uphill task. Only those persons who have “Oneness” in their being can arrive at a conclusion after giving serious thought to a situation. A split personality oscillates between “to be” and “not to be”. Such a choice or conclusion is a sort of self-affirmation; and according to Iqbal153 “The ego reveals itself as a unity of what we call mental states”. The unity of “mental states” or unity in personality cannot be achieved but by self-schooling. It cannot be bestowed upon or given away in alms to a person from without; “Unity is achieved, not given.” We can get at this unity through a process of incessant struggle. Socrates said, “Know thyself” and “Choose thyself,” meaning thereby that we should discover ourselves and choose our own personalities. It is tantamount to saying how we live and what we live for during our temporal existence is to be decided by our own selves. It is this decision which Iqbal calls the choice of destiny. We are justified in asking what sort of destiny does one choose because there is every possibility of self-accomplishment in human beings.

If a man knows what he is, he can know what he ought to be; hence his development from moment to moment. The deliberate development of personality or the choice of destiny comes to the fore in Iqbal’s poetry time and again. And from the beginning of the Secrets of Self, which runs parallel to the third part of Bang-i-Dara onward to the end of his poetical works, this attitude has persisted, nay, it has rather been reinforced and reaffirmed. The choice of destiny becomes manifest even in the beginning of the Asrar-i-Khudi:-


“Upon a rose-twig a drop of dew.
Gleamed like a tear in a nightingale’s eye…
The sorely distressed bird hopped under the rose-bush,
The dew-drop trickled into his mouth…
When the bird melted in the fire of his thirst,
It appropriated the life of another…
Never for an instant neglect self-preservation
Be a diamond, not a dewdrop!”

Negligence in self-preservation is a cause of weakness and this weakness pushes man into the greedy clutches of powerful person. So is the case of weak nation or societies which are overwhelmed and devoured by the stronger ones. This theme has been artistically explained in Bal-i-Jibril in a poem captioned “Abdul ‘Ala al-Ma’arri”:-


“It is said that Ma’aari never ate meat. He lived on fruit and vegetables.
“A friend sent him a roasted partridge to allure that clear gentleman into eating meat.
“When Ma’arri saw that elegant tray he, the author of Ghufran and Lazumat said,
“O you helpless little bird, would you tell me your sin for which this punishment has been awarded to you?
“Alas, you did not become a falcon; your eye did not perceive the directives of Nature.
“It is the eternal decree of the Judge sitting in Judgement on destinies – that whosoever commits the crime of being weak, the punishment for him is unexpected death.”

Now it is quite evident that a partridge cannot transmute itself into a falcon. It is a conceit to explicate. A bird has no option or choice while a man has. It is therefore the difference between a partridge and an eagle that impels us on to decide whether we live as weak persons or as powerful ones, whether we live as slaves or as masters. In Javaid Namah the same tone and theme persists and many lively point regarding the choice of destiny have been brought home to us:-


“If a certain Taqdir has tormented you and you are fed up with that, then pray to God for some other Taqdir.
If you wish another Taqdir, it is quite permissible because there is no limit to the Taqdirat (destinies) ordinable by God.
Its ‘subtle indication’ is hidden in a single phrase, i.e. change yourself
And your destiny stands changed.
Become a drop of dew and you fall. That is your destiny. Become a sea and live for ever. That becomes your destiny.
Become dust and destiny will hand you over to the winds.
Become a stone and destiny will strike you against glasses. (Nature will use you to break the most fragile things/object.”)

From this, we learn that the world of categories is lying before us unhidden. The change of categories changes the estimate, judgement, in the sum total of possibilities. The only handicap is the lack of determination. In fact, this play of categories works as a prompter. It urges to renounce and to acquire-to renounce that which diminishes and to acquire that which grows and enhances. With this background, now we are in a better position to understand the following verse which has already been quoted by speakers and writers on Iqbal:-


“It is the eternal decree of the judge sitting in Judgement on destinies -
that whosoever commits the crime of being weak, the punishment for him is unexpected death”

But in Iqbal’s view, man should pray to God so that He may grant him enough strength to attain a higher destiny and lead him to a more genuinely glorious end. The spectacle of destinies is before our eyes in this world. There are dust-particles and rocks, glasses and hills, drops and oceans, boats and storms, pigeons and falcons, jackals and lions, slaves and masters, rulers and the ruled. Nothing is needless in God’s universe. High and low, big and small, sour and sweet, creeping and flying, eating and being eaten, hard and soft, colourful and colourless, each and every object has to perform the duties assigned to it and has to be rewarded according to its desire – The choice is ours. What do we choose to be?

Yet the power to choose destiny and the mastery over ultimate likes and dislikes cannot be attained easily. Human life is both soul and matter; soul aspires to God for guidance while matter pulls him down; soul is pure while matter is impure, and the latter no doubt has much greater and easier scope to display itself. The soul-entity of man is called Amr which means command and direction, whereas matter-entity of man is called Khalq which means creation. All avarice pertains to materiality of man, i.e., his creation-entity. If somebody turns out to be a slave of avarice, nothing strange about it, as dross must return to dross. If a man, on the other hand, leads an ideological life, is sympathetic, serves humanity, is selfless and always prepared to make sacrifices for the good of others and is not ensnared by avarice, this would be really an amazing phenomenon. Such a person should be esteemed and honoured as it is not easy to transcend matter-entity. Without perpetual struggle and constant crusade, one cannot rise above the physical and cannot rid of its outrageous claims. Perseverance in waging war against the material in a man is an outcome of a total dedication to and love of a higher cause. The highest cause is the cause of Allah, the only God – there is no God but Allah. Say Iqbal:-


“This one prostration (before God) which you feel burden-some rids man of thousands of prostrations.”


“All these worldly possessions and treasures, all relations and connections are nothing but the idols created by false imaginings. The only truth is that there is no God but Allah.”

The claims of the material are is no manner less intense for man than those for an animal. These claims can be termed as instincts. Abdul Qahir ibn ‘Abdullah al-Suhrawardi in his book Awarif-ul-Ma’arif (a book written earlier than that by Shihab-ud-Din al-Suhrawardi), observes:-


“One who knows the basic principles of his self and his instincts realize that he can have control neither on the self nor on its instincts without God’s succour, the Creator and Originator of them. No individual can rise to the level of humanity unless he has dealt with his animal desires with knowledge and equity. This means he keeps a vigilant eye on both the extremes, then and with this method his humanity and its morale become strengthened.”

Iqbal observes:

“Indeed the evolution of life shows that thought 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.”42

Yes, “the mental” may rise to a position of complete independence, but the middle-state tends to render us “suspended,” i.e., the spiritual pulls us up while the physical pulls us down. We are on the horns of the dilemma in this state. Most of the human beings yield to instincts and choose the physical. The Qur’an is most explicit about such individuals:-


“If it had been Our Will We should have elevated him with Our signs, but he stuck to the earth and followed his own vain desires.”

On the one hand, again, it is the pull of the material and on the other there is the shadow of the Divine Soul. According to Qazwini, the author of Ajaib al Makhluqat:-


“The first category of creation is dust (material), the last is that of spiritual.”

In the tug-of-war it is possible that man may become helpless or he may not arrive at a correct decision due to his inner struggle and may take wrong for right. Every choice is a destiny for which either we suffer or we are rewarded. It is obvious that the world of “direction” Amr and that of “creation” Khalq co-exist in one being; they are the closest neighbours and they interact. Inner conflict weakens in those who are overpowered by animality and they live comparatively easy. But those who try to emerge out of animality, they are in a restless state and cannot feel at peace with the material. Why should the material flog the dead horse? It tries to entangle those who tend to be independent of it. In such a state, it is likely that the voice of the material may seem to come from “above” and the listener takes it for a voice from angelic or revelational spheres and be led to a blind alley. It is also possible that the same may lead a man on to avarice and pride. Iqbal has expressed this idea through lively metaphors:-


“It is essential for the minstrel to be always alert because at times the angel (who reveals songs) himself sings out of tune.”

Therefore it is a necessity to keep on praying for better destiny and seeking every moment the guidance from the Creator of all things, temporal, spiritual and inherent:-


The first verse is specially worth considering. The verse means that prayer leaves its impact on the beseecher and thus brings about an inner change in him. All this is obvious in that, when a person prays, he reiterates and thus reminds himself of the aim he is to achieve. This continued repetition creates perseverance and strengthens the determinations. The beseecher’s capability and norm undergoes a change with the development of his determination to achieve his goal. Capability and determination grow together proportionately. The Divine decrees about categories remain what they are. But for the man of resolution and untiring effort no outer category is static. It changes, in the sense that the change occurring within the beseecher affects the outer conditions of fitness. Prayer endows the beseecher with better strength to rise from one level to the other, i.e. from the lower category to the higher one. This is how prayer brings about a change in the mind, spirit, resolution, goal, – and destiny. The Qur’an says:-


“He has created every thing and has meted out for it a measure.”

The possibilities and properties of everything are its destiny. If the particles of dust are thin and weak, they flee before a gust of wind and if they solidify they can even brave storms. This is so because their capacity is changed. Their first destiny was dustiness and second rockiness. There are manifold possibilities latent in the change in destiny. When a stone strikes against glass we can easily imagine what happens and if the same shatters into small tiny fragments, it is as good as dust.

The general properties of water are obvious; when it freezes at a certain temperature, its destiny is rock-like. When it evaporates, its destiny is air-like. When iron is fairly hot, it gives burns if touches; but when it is too hot it melts itself like wax. On the contrary, if wax is solidified, it has a stone like destiny; it can be broken into pieces but cannot be moulded into desired forms. In short, time estimation, measurement, judgement and weighing of possibilities of things is to know their destiny and the change they undergo is a “change in destiny”. The destinies of plants and animals are also manifold. But man has the will , intellect and freedom in far more measure than all other earthly things. He is susceptible to the effects of observation and experience and his superior knowledge of properties of things made angels bow before him and to prostrate. Despite the scope of his superior knowledge if he does not arrive at and choose better norms for himself, he will in fact be a failure in exploiting his destinal potentialities. Ibn Miskawaih observes:-


“When the horse declines in its capabilities and does not perform the task which it ought to, then it is pack-saddled and used like a donkey. It is also true of sword as well as other instruments and weapons when they go below the norms of their peculiar functions, they decline in the scale of their existence and are then used as inferior things.”

Horse in its essence is very magnificent for riding and it is a symbol of his master’s esteem. But when it deteriorates in its performance, it is used to carry bricks, corn and debris. In other words, the destiny of the animal no longer was the destiny of a horse; it was now the destiny of a donkey. When a sword loses its peculiarity, it drifts into inferior implements like sickle. It is obvious that the destiny of a sword is different from that of a sickle. A man possessing a sword is a soldier, a mujahid, while he who possesses a sickle is a grass-cuttter. A cow that grows dry is not taken care of like the one which is milked twice a day. And when there remains no hope of its again becoming a milch cow, it is disposed of to a butcher or it is yoked besides an ox for ploughing. Outwardly it remains a cow but its destiny changes into that of an ox. This is common phenomenon in our villages.

In short, when we learn out of Iqbal’s concept of Taqdir, a concept derived from the Qur’an as shown in the beginning of the chapter is that norms are open to us, which means that an infinite number of possibilities and destinies exist and we should choose our destinies sincerely and create in ourselves capabilities which our chosen destiny demands. There are better and still better destinies, and therefore we should advance towards them and choose, seeking God’s help and praying for the change of destiny. In the words of Iqbal, “The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something.”49


  1. Iqbal himself used the word “Destiny,” instead of the word “predestination” pertaining to the meaning of Taqdir.
  2. Armughan-i-Hijaz, p. 101.
  3. Al-Qur’an, VI, 91.
  4. Ibid., VI, 96
  5. Ibid., XXXVI, 39.
  6. Ibid., LIV, 49.
  7. Ibid., XXV, 2.
  8. The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, P. 109.
  9. Bal-i-Jibril,. P.28.
  10. Al-Qur’an, LV, 29.
  11. Ibid., XXXV, I.
  12. Reconstruction, pp. 50-51
  13. Bal-i-Jibril, p. 93.
  14. Ibid., p. 28.
  15. Ibid., p. 128.
  16. Reconstruction p. 115.
  17. Ibid., 51.
  18. Bal-i-Jibril, p. 129.
  19. Reconstruction, p. 56.
  20. Ibid., p. 58
  21. Al-Qur’an, LIII, 38
  22. Ibid., XIX, 95.
  23. Bal-i-Jibril, pp. 129-30.
  24. Armughan-i-Hijaz, p. 230.
  25. Darb-i-Kalim, p. 86.
  26. Reconstruction, p. 138.
  27. Armughan-i-Hijaz, p. 220.
  28. Al-Qur’an , LII, 39.
  29. Asrar-o-Rumuz, p. 165.
  30. Reconstruction, p. 110.
  31. Al-Qur’an, XVII, 7.
  32. Tahdhib-ul-Akhlaq, Darul Maktabatul Hayat, Beirut, p. 16.
  33. Reconstruction, p. 85.
  34. Darb-i-Kalim, p. 64.
  35. Ban-i-Alamain, Alamain, Darul Ma’arif, Egypt, p. 124.
  36. Reconstruction pp. 98-99.
  37. Asrar-o-Rumuz, pp. 54-55.
  38. Javid Namah, pp. 107-08.
  39. Darb-i-Kalim, p. 37.
  40. Ibid., p. 15.
  41. Awarif-ul-Ma’arif (Darul Kitabul Arabi, Beirut) p. 453.
  42. Reconstruction, p. 106.
  43. Al-Quran, 176.
  44. M. Aqqad: Al-Insan fi-l-Qur’an, p. 95.
  45. Bal-i-Jibril, p. 75.
  46. Darb-i-Kalim, pp. 165-66.
  47. Al-Qur’an xxv. 2.
  48. Tahdhibul Akhlaq (Beirut), p. 16.
  49. Reconstruction, p. 198.


Iqbal and Quranic Wisdom,
Iqbal Academy Pakistan, 1992.

Dervish Designs Online