Islamic Political Thought
“Why a separate volume on Iqbal’s political thought? There are several reasons to bring Iqbal’s political ideas in a sharper focus. First, while Iqbal’s’ poetic aesthetics are much celebrated, his political ideas are not sufficiently understood and appreciated. A great deal of confusion surrounds, for instance, Iqbal’s position such issues as secularism, democracy, Muslim fraternity, and nationalism, to mention only a few. These are also topical themes that hold great practical relevance in our contemporary world.
Second, it is imperative to highlight Iqbal’s political ideals if we wish to implement his vision. Given the radical and ground –breaking nature of his work, powerful lobbies in the Muslim world are at work to deny him, His dynamic influence on the contemporary affairs of the Muslims is resented by those whose vested interests are in conflict with his rediscovery of the original spirit of Islam…
Third, underscoring Iqbal’s political deliberations is both timely and relevant. The world is overtaken by a sentiment of fear and disillusionment today – both in the Muslim and Western worlds. It is important to re-open the lines of communication within The Muslim world and between the Muslim and Western worlds. Reverting to Iqbal’s ideas could provide a good starting pint to re-establish such a dialogue. The time has probably come that we look at these ideas afresh…”
From the Introduction by Fateh Mohammad Malik
Secular is Sacred
Central to Iqbal’s political thought is a belief that there is no fundamental breach between religion and politics in Islam. He considers a divorce between religion and politics as anathema to the spirit of Islam and as a precursor to material greed and barbarism. In Iqbal’s word:
Be it the royalism of monarchs or the jugglery of democrats;
Separate religion from politics and one is left with the barbarism of Genhis Khan
The above verse has been subject to much misinterpretation by fundamentalists of both kind – religious and secular. Reading it out of its context (or at its face value), the religious zealots seek in this verse a case for theocracy. The liberals, on the other hand, have difficulty reconciling the notion of unity of politics and religion with the modern secular traditions of European democracy. The scope of this debate extends beyond purely academic interest. Understanding Iqbal’s thoughts on secularism holds great practical relevance – especially at a time when the very reason for Pakistan’s creation is being passionately debated. The question that is being frequently posed is this: Was Pakistan supposed to be an Islamic Republic or a secular state?
Iqbal’s insights are very clear on the issue and leave little room for ambiguity. He deemed it necessary to open the Allahabad address of 1930 with a discourse on secularism, since he had acutely observed that the “ideas set free by European political thinking” were “rapidly changing the outlook of the younger generation of Muslims”. He was slightly alarmed at the popularity of the idea of secularism of the European concept of secularism, Iqbal foresaw a threat t the spiritual solidarity of Muslim society and the practical possibilities of Islamic ideals. He was, of course, cognizant of the potential of Islam as a “principle of human organization”:
Islam has been the chief formative factor in the life history of the Muslims of India. It has furnished those basic emotions and loyalties, which gradually unify scattered individuals and groups and finally transform them into a well-defined people. Muslim society with its remarkable homogeneity and inner unity has grown to be what it is under the pressure of the laws and institutions associated with the culture of Islam.
A closer look at Iqbal’s prose leaves little room for confusion. He has categorically rejected theocracy, disallowing the clergy any divine right to rule. Far from advocating theocracy, Iqbal seems to be underlining here the need for putting politics in the service of certain universal moral principles. He warned that the practice and principles of politics, if devoid of moral sensitivities, could easily degenerate into Genghism – a permanent subservience to material interests and earthly instincts. Iqbal views such politics with much disdain. In Iqbal’s own words: “politics have their roots in the spiritual life of man. It is my belief that Islam is not a matter of private opinion. It is a society. It is because present day political ideas., they appear to be shaping themselves in India, may affect its original structure and character that I find myself interested in politics...