“Science and Islam Are Wings of the Same Bird”, Meet the Great Philosopher Muhammad Iqbal

Despite the fact that he passed away before Pakistan was established, Iqbal is seen as the spiritual father of the country. He was born on the 9th of November, 1877 within the Punjab Province of British India, as the son of sufi parents. Since his childhood, he was intrigued by the Qur’an. His father said to him: “My son, read the Qur’an as if it was sent down specifically to you.” Iqbal is considered to be one of the most important figures in Urdu literature with literary work in both Urdu and Persian.

Education and career

Iqbal’s teacher at the mosque, where the Arabic language and the Qur’an were being teached, noticed very soon that Iqbal was a bright child and should have the chance to study in schools with a higher quality. Being motivated at a young age, Iqbal continued his education, leading him to receive a Master degree in arts and ranking first place in the University of Punjab.

Sir Thomas Arnold, who strongly influenced the education system of England, was Iqbal’s philosophy teacher at the Government college in Lahore, where Iqbal studied philosophy, English literature and Arabic. Upon his return to England, he advised Iqbal to study in the West. The following years contained lots of travelling for the sake of education. In 1905 Iqbal was qualified for a scholarship from the University of Cambridge, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts and, only two years later, he moved to Munich to do his PhD on ‘The development of Metaphysics in Persia’.

After his studies abroad, he returned to Lahore as a professor of philosophy and English literature.

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Pakistan’s National Poet

For the Pakistanis and Indians, but also for researchers around the world, he is seen as an excellent poet. Iqbal is considered to be one of the most important figures in Urdu and Persian literature. Most of his poems are in Persian, “Even though in sweetness Hindi is sugar, but speech method in Dari (Persian dialect) is sweeter.”
In much of South Asia and the Urdu speaking places, Iqbal is called the ‘Shair-e-Mashriq‘, Poet of the East. He has studied closely the poetry of Ghalib, urfi and Naziri and was considerably influenced by their technique. He imbibed deeply the mystical ideas of Rumi and Hafiz.

His Tarana-e-Hind is a song that is widely used in India as a patriotic song. His birthday is annually celebrated in Pakistan as ‘Iqbal Day’ and many public institutions, like universities, are named after him.  Both governmental and public organisations have sponsored and stimulated the establishment of educational institutions, colleges and schools dedicated to Iqbal. They also have established the Iqbal Academy Pakistan to research, teach and preserve his works, literature and philosophy.

The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam

Mohammed Iqbal’s philosophical position was articulated in The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1934), a volume based on six lectures delivered in 1928–29. He argued that a rightly focused man should unceasingly generate vitality through interaction with the purposes of the living God. The Muslim community in the present age should, through the exercise of ijtihad, the principle of legal advancement, devise new social and political institutions.

Like many other thinkers of his generation, Iqbal felt that Islam had suffered for centuries under an intellectual paralysis, “The task before the modern Muslim is, therefore, immense. He has to rethink the whole system of Islam without completely breaking with the past.” He was advocating that the only course open to us is “to approach modern knowledge with a respectful but independent attitude and to appreciate the teachings of Islam in the light of that knowledge.” This brings me to the sayings of Said Nursi, another thinker of his generation, who said that the Qur’an and science are like wings of a bird, if you cut one of the wings, the bird will fall and eventually die.

Rumi and Goethe

Muhammad Iqbal had the chance to live and study in the East and in the West. Thus, he was influenced by philosophers and scholars from both sides.

If the Mathnavi of Rumi was an interpretation of the Qur’an for the people of 1300 A.D., the work of Iqbal is an interpretation of the Qur’an to reconstruct religious thought in Islam, in the light of modern knowledge of philosophy and science for people of the 20th century“, was how his son Javed Iqbal describes hist father’s work.
Of all the European poets and philosophers, the one closest to Iqbal was none other than Goethe. He has a poem ‘Jalal-o-Goethe ( Jalal and Goethe), in the collection in which Iqbal brings Goethe and Rumi together, thus implying that East and West are actually not apart and distinct. In this poem, the two great sages are depicted as having an intimate meeting and an intellectual conversation in Paradise. Here, Goethe reads to Rumi about his work on Dr. Faust, the Devil, and the divine plan.

Pakistan’s Spiritual Father

Iqbal supported the idea of the establishment of Pakistan. “I would like to see the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire. The formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.”

Iqbal stated that a separate state for Muslims would be in the best interests of India and of Islam. He explained: “For India, it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power. For Islam, [it means] an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilize its law, its education, its culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times.’

Pakistan, Iqbal’s dream, was established in 1940. He never had to chance to see his dream come true. He closed his eyes in Lahore in 1938, after suffering for months from a mysterious throat illness.

Islam and Knowledge: Al Faruqi’s Concept of Religion in Islamic Thought – Late Ottoman Society: The Intellectual Legacy –  The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam – https://www.britannica.com/biography/Muhammad-Iqbal –

Written by Ethem Bukey

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