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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Iqbal and reconstruction of religious thought In Islam إقبال والتعمير في الفكر الديني في الإسلام

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Nineteenth century was very critical for Islam and Islamic theology. Islamic theology had remained static for centuries. It evolved up to first three century and then became static, particularly after sack of Baghdad in 1258 A.D. Sack of Baghdad was a critical moment for the Islamic world. It delivered severe blow not only to the Abbasid Caliphate but also to Islamic thought. In fact the decline had begun from 11th century itself. The Muslim power was weakening and sense of security was lost. For flowering of a civilisation and culture, peace and stability is very essential. 


It is true that other Muslim empires did come into existence after fall of Baghdad and those empires like Fatimid and Safavid empires on one had and regional empires like the Moghul Empire, on the other. These empires were also great empires and provided stability and peace for several centuries. Yet, the Abbasid Empire, for various reasons, had become in the words of Toyenbee, a ‘universal state’ of Islam. Its decline had great psychological impact on the minds of Muslims. Many scholars maintain that the gates of ijtihad (intellectual assertion) were closed after the fall of the Abbasid Empire.

The stagnation in theological thinking continued until the beginning of the colonial period in various Islamic countries including India. India, though not an Islamic country, was under the Muslim (Moghul) rule until 1857. The colonial rule gave a great jolt to Muslim thinkers in most of the colonised world. Jamaluddin Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and several others were product of this crisis situation in the Muslim world. The mainstream theology, however, continued unchanged. But some major thinkers emerged in all these countries who realised the significance of re-thinking theological issues.

It is important to note that the external situation has great effect on the thinking of human mind. The external challenges create new responses and increased challenges create greater response and it is creative minority, which creatively responds to the external challenges. And it is creative intellectuals in these Muslim countries who responded to the external challenge posed by the colonial rule. From India those who responded to the British colonial challenge were, among others, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Dr. Mohammad Iqbal, Maulavi Chiragh Ali, Maulavi Mumtaz Ali Khan and several others.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Maulavi Chiragh Ali and Maulavi Mumtaz Ali Khan were brilliant thinkers and Islamic scholars. They chose to respond to the crisis in Muslim society created by the colonial rule and wrote on related topics. Their contributions to Islamic thought in India were quite seminal. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan also began to write a new commentary on the holy Qur’an but could not complete due to storm of opposition from the orthodox theologians. His priority was to spread modern education among Muslims. But Maulavi Chiragh Ali and others continued their campaign for re-thinking issues and responding to new challenges. This was their priority.
Dr. Iqbal came later on the scene. He too had an opportunity for both traditional and modern education. Iqbal was product of intense crisis period in modern Indian history, particularly the crisis Muslims in India were facing. The Indian Muslim elite had lost political power and now had to compete with the Hindu elite for government jobs and elected offices. In addition to loss of power they were nursing minority complex as well. Thus they were suffering from double challenge – loss of power and minority status.

Iqbal was acutely aware of this situation and was quite sensitive. On top of all this the Muslims in India felt great shock at the fall of Turkish Khilafat after the First World War. The Khilafat movement became a big issue in Indian freedom movement as well. It was after fall of Turkish Empire that Iqbal wrote his moving poem Khizr-e-Rah. And it was during this period of intense crisis that Iqbal developed the concept of khudi i.e. self. This concept of self was meant to overcome the sense of deprivation among the Muslim elite and give them sense of self esteem and generate power-consciousness among them. Iqbal admires power precisely because the Muslim elite was suffering from the feeling of powerlessness.