Iqbal’s Qalandar and the Idea of Pakistan

Dr. Muhammad Iqbal was a poet and a philosopher of considerable intellectual prowess. Though he had initially supported and then joined the Khilafat Committee (1919-24), his stay in it was short-lived. Khurram A. Shafique in his book, Iqbal: His Life and Our Times wrote that Iqbal resigned from the Committee after accusing its leaders of being ‘overtly sentimental.’ He then went on to deride the Ottomans for ‘being a shame to the Muslims’.  In fact, he believed that the fall of the Ottoman caliphate in Turkey could be catalytic to the emergence of a renaissance in Islam. He also applauded the take-over of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal – a secular-nationalist who abolished the caliphate and declared Turkey to be a modern republic. On Kemal’s reforms, Iqbal wrote:   
The truth is that among the Muslim nations today, Turkey alone has shaken off its dogmatic slumber and attained self-consciousness…’
Even though, later on in life, Iqbal would begin to alter his views about Kemal’s reforms, for a while he did see the new Turkish republic as a dynamic political and social model of Muslim evolution, the sort which should be emulated by the Muslims of India.
Iqbal became increasingly aware of the nature of changes that had swept across India’s Muslim community during and after the eruption and collapse of the Khilafat Movement. By the late 1920s, a Muslim business class had emerged. Historians such as W.C. Smith suggest that this class began to find many of its avenues (of growth) ‘blocked by the Hindus and the British’ and its members ‘could not develop large-scale capital.’ 
This was one overriding reason why the Muslim business class had supported the Khilafat Movement. A Muslim middle-class too had emerged, largely from within the paradigm and rules of engagement drawn by the great 19th century Muslim reformer, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. 
In the aftermath of the Khilafat Movement, these two classes were feeling extremely vulnerable. As a consequence, sections of these classes hurried out to support the radical Islamic groups which had emerged from the movement; whereas the rest tried to figure out what course Muslim politics would take after the All India Muslim League (AIML) had been weakened by infighting. Mr. Jinnah had refused to back the movement, fearing that it would unleash damaging religious passions among India’s Hindus and Muslims. That’s exactly what it did. 
Iqbal would become the intellectual by-product and expression of this turmoil which was whirling within the Muslim community after the Khilafat Movement had buckled. More than just an expression, he became a (possible) answer. 
Iqbal was conscious of the fact that the post-1857 Muslim community in India was evolving with two competing sets of ideas: one which encouraged the community to embrace western education and political concepts to regenerate itself as a separate and modern cultural entity; and one which explained South Asia’s Muslims as part of a global Muslim community (ummah) striving to cleanse itself and move towards the formation of a pious caliphate.  

Cobwebs of religious dogma and obscurantism on the one side, and a blind adherence to European ideas and values on the other, had to be done away with. Doing this would be the new Muslim man who was morally and politically strengthened by a self-affirmation that can inspire collective action.

Iqbal uniquely merged the two tendencies to come up with a complex synthesis which would go a long way in adding a weighty ideological dimension to the AIML, and, eventually, become an important building block in the construction of what would become Pakistani nationalism. 
Iqbal thought highly of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. He praised him for being the first Muslim (in India) ‘to glimpse the positive character of the age which was coming.’
However, though appreciative towards Sir Syed’s endeavors of putting so many Muslims in schools, colleges and universities, Iqbal lamented that these Muslims had submerged themselves too much in (European) values which contradicted those present in their culture and religion. Iqbal believed that this had uprooted them from the collective history of their own land and community. In a way, Iqbal was lauding Khan’s reformist spirit and modernist outlook; but at the same time lamenting that those Muslims who had been rescued from religious obscurantism and social stagnation by Khan’s deeds, had thoughtlessly hurled themselves to the other side of the divide.
Iqbal agreed that the Muslims of India were part of a larger global Muslim nation, but he believed that this idea was being upheld by men who wanted to retain a stagnant and dogmatic status quo. Iqbal maintained that the only way Muslim distinctiveness in India could be realized was through a jolting rejuvenation of Islam. 
He wrote that this duty was in the hands of ‘half-educated religionists’ and regressive clerics (mullahs). He wanted this obligation to be snatched away from them and put in the hands of the new Muslim man which he was out to create. To him this new Muslim man should choose a path which ran between ‘animal instinct’ and rationalism. He wrote the new Musalmaan should choose the path of intuition which was the essence of both instinct as well as reason. 
Iqbal called such a man, qalander. The term qalander is often associated with a quietest spiritual vagabond, but as we shall see, Iqbal was not talking about the  quietest vagabond, but someone having three main aspects of intuition: ishq (love); yaqin (certainty) and iman (belief).    
Cobwebs of religious dogma and obscurantism on the one side, and a blind adherence to European ideas and values on the other, had to be done away with. Doing this would be the new Muslim man who was morally and politically strengthened by a self-affirmation that can inspire collective action.
The self-affirmation was to be gained from a firm and clear realization of one’s inherent ethical and spiritual strengths buried beneath the weight of ignorance. Iqbal called this realization, khudi – or an expression of informed individualism. Khudi is a glorification of the ego, but Iqbal presented it as an attribute which did not lead to selfishness or conceit, but to the spiritual and intellectual blossoming of a human being, and, consequently, of the community he was a part of.
The idea first appeared in its matured form in Iqbal’s Asrar-i-Khudi (The Secrets of the Self). In it he asserted that God had created man and blessed him with khudi so that he is fit for the role of being His vicegerent on earth. The new Muslim man’s purpose was to discover his khudi by demolishing the torpors of obscurantism, dogmatism and inertia. He was then to inspire khudi in his community which would inspire the community to turn itself into a polity driven by a dynamic, ever-advancing Islam. This process will lead to the creation of a powerful nation of forward-looking and motivated Muslims.
Iqbal wrote that after achieving khudi, the self-realized and rejuvenated Muslim polity should elect a national assembly made up of members who were well-versed in both Islamic as well as modern (secular) sciences, laws and philosophies. Such an assembly will make sure that the spiritual as well as political and economic interests and issues of the polity are advanced and resolved according to the progressive and dynamic spirit of its faith, and a consensus (ijma) is reached which is representative of the whole community. 
Iqbal was also in favor of Ijtihad (the Islamic concept of independent reasoning). He lamented that this Islamic tradition was lost especially after the 11th century defeat of the early Islamic rationalists (the Mu’tazilites) at the hands of the conservative ulema. He also blamed the post-12th century emergence of Sufism whose leaders held the quietest and ‘otherworldly’ disposition, cutting themselves off from the political and social realities of the world. 
According to Iqbal, Muslim law was not an irrevocable code. He wrote that ‘under the impact of ijtihad it could be changed and altered to meet the requirements of modern-day society.’ To Iqbal another ancient Islamic tool could also be used to modernize and rejuvenate Islam in times of rapid change. That tool was ijma. Ijma, meaning consensus was traditionally seen as the domain of the ulema. Syed Ahmad Khan and Chiragh Ali had disputed this position and claimed that it was open to all. Iqbal expanded upon Khan and Ali’s prerogative and explained ijma (in the modern world) to mean a consensus achieved by an elected parliament. 
In his 1930 magnum-opus, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Iqbal wrote, ‘The pressures of new world forces and the political experience of European nations are impressing on the mind of modern Islam the value and possibilities of the idea of ijma. He saw the possibility of ijtihad being transferred from a small circle of ulema to an elected parliament (in a Muslim republic) and through it ijma on various issues can be reached with the help of common Muslims (or those responsible of putting the decision-makers in the parliament). 
According to celebrated historian and scholar, Aziz Ahmad, Iqbal’s thoughts on ijtihad and ijma became the political bedrocks of 20th century Muslim Modernism in India as they gave the AIML the essentials to compliment Sir Syed’s social and theological Muslim modernity with Iqbal’s ideological and political Islamic modernity. This opened the party up to debate and then reach a consensus to demand a separate Muslim republic which was to become a modern, democratic and progressive expression of Muslim nationhood in the region. 
Using the essential Muslim article of faith, La ilaha illallah (no god but God), Iqbal wrote that in the dialects of existence the law of a negative thesis and a positive antithesis operates in order to arrive at a synthesis of truth. The la (no) in this context to him was the negative practical in Muslim assertion of faith; whereas the conditional illa (but) is a positive construction. He added that the nature of life was a movement from la to illa. To him la in isolation connoted destruction but when coupled with illa it symbolized a movement from destructive and combative action to a constructive and progressive consequence. 
Pakistan was thus to be agitated for by saying no to united India but once created, this country was to become a bastion of positive and progressive action.

The writer is a Pakistani journalist, cultural critic and satirist. He is the author of two books ‘End of the Past’ and ‘The Pakistan Anti-Hero.’
E-mail: [email protected]

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