Allama Iqbal sought to elevate the collective self in humanity, catalyzing societal change among his compatriots. His educational philosophy, when properly applied, can cultivate a diverse, inclusive society in Pakistan that values acceptance, tolerance, and respect for all individuals, regardless of their background.
Allama Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan who is a thinker, philosopher, politician, and prolific writer, not only envisioned the idea of Pakistan during the All-India Muslim League’s Annual Meeting in December 1930 but also outlined the underlying ideology. His sources of knowledge and wisdom are the Holy Quran, hadith, sunnah, fiqh, history, philosophy, logic, science, and technology. He was abreast with the development of science and technology and various sociocultural and religious contemporary movements. Therefore, he imparted the core of Islamic education, with a particular emphasis on the spirit of "Iqra" (read) through his orations, proclamations, and, notably, his poetic work. His educational background, encompassing Islamic instruction, the Arabic language, philosophy, and exposure to Cambridge University England and Germany, empowered him to cultivate critical thinking skills and reach conclusions through independent judgment. He emphasized a dynamic and innovative approach to education, focusing on nurturing and unleashing the creative potential in individuals. Iqbal’s vision aimed to instill in students both the aspiration and the ability to explore new frontiers in art, science, knowledge, and power. His educational philosophy was inspired by a hopeful belief in the potential of human destiny. The recurring motifs in Iqbal's poetry include reflections on the lost splendors of Islam, lamentations over its current decline, and appeals for unity and revitalization. Iqbal ardently advocated for revitalizing political and spiritual aspects within the Islamic civilization globally, with a particular emphasis on South Asia. It is quite evident that, strictly speaking, Allama Iqbal was not an educator as he did not outline a specific pedagogical approach or educational philosophy, but he instilled in us a profound dedication to essential and self-evident principles of teaching, which form the bedrock of all sound educational practices. Does Allama Muhammad Iqbal's educational philosophy continue to be relevant for the youth of Pakistan?
Allama Iqbal obtained his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Master of Arts (M.A.) degrees from Government College Lahore. Following that, he was an Arabic instructor at the Oriental College in Lahore from 1899 to 1903. In 1905, he embarked on further educational pursuits in Europe, commencing in England, where he obtained a second B.A. at Trinity College, Cambridge. Afterwards, he pursued legal studies at Lincoln's Inn and continued his education in Germany, culminating in a PhD in philosophy from the University of Munich.
Upon his return to Lahore in 1908, he established a legal practice. However, he soon redirected his focus to writing scholarly works encompassing various subjects, including politics, economics, history, philosophy, and religion. However, Iqbal's reputation primarily revolves around his poetic masterpieces, including his Urdu compositions like Parinde Ki Faryad, Tarana-e-Hindi, Asrar-e-Khudi, Rumuz-e-Bekhudi, and Bang-e-Dara.
Allama Iqbal's educational philosophy can be comprehended through the application of various theories, but the most fitting theory, in my opinion, is ‘Constructivism’. According to this theory, learners are active participants in constructing knowledge rather than passive recipients of information. They build their understanding by engaging with the world and reflecting thoughtfully on their experiences, resulting in the creation of their unique mental frameworks and the integration of new information into their pre-existing knowledge structures or schemas.
If you closely examine his lecture series entitled The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930), which is Allama Iqbal's significant philosophy, it comprises a sequence of profound contemplations on the enduring struggle between science, religion, and philosophy. It culminates in novel perspectives on integrating human knowledge, the human spirit, and the concept of Allah. Allama Iqbal took pride in the illustrious history of Islamic civilization and expressed concern about the current challenging conditions, desiring to rekindle the past greatness. In light of the profound impact of history on our comprehension of the present, Allama Iqbal stressed the crucial importance of teaching history and historical development. He advocated for studying cultural heritage as a means for individuals to derive vitality and inspiration from the rich roots of their cultural traditions.
Iqbal’s vision aimed to instill in students both the aspiration and the ability to explore new frontiers in art, science, knowledge, and power. His educational philosophy was inspired by a hopeful belief in the potential of human destiny. The recurring motifs in Iqbal's poetry include reflections on the lost splendors of Islam, lamentations over its current decline, and appeals for unity and revitalization.
Shaheen's (Eagle’s) Vision: Allama Iqbal's Philosophy of Youth and Education
Allama Iqbal symbolizes youth with the 'Eagle' and expresses, "I hold affection for those young minds who reach for the stars." Iqbal's idea of youth pertains to those who are creatively inclined, akin to a falcon that both hunts and claims its prize. Iqbal emphasized that the world you inhabit is the one you craft on your own, not the mere stones and bricks that exist. He emphasized the need for individuals to investigate and intentionally transform their environment systematically. He aimed to establish a loftier standard for the new generation, and to instill within them a drive for innovation and exploration. The youth are expected to lead and elevate the nation to self-reliance and sovereignty. His vision of youth is not one of contemplation but of proactive individuals, modest in words but fervent in deeds, whether on the battlefield or in the company of friends. Their purity of mind and heart characterizes them.
“Woh jahan hay tera jis ko tu karay paida,
Ye sang-o-khisht nahi jo teri nigah mein hay”
Iqbal emphasizes that the world you inhabit is the one you craft on your own, not the mere stones and bricks that exist. He emphasizes the need for individuals to investigate and intentionally transform their environment systematically.
Allama Iqbal asserted that education is a societal tool, and its policies should adapt to the unique characteristics of the communities it caters to. He believed that for education to be meaningful, it must align with the values and culture of the community it represents. Establishing an educational framework is necessary to define the standards that learners should acquire. His philosophy is not confined to passive contemplation but has practical implications across various aspects of life. His innovative contributions address significant challenges and propose effective solutions, reflecting his deep understanding of every facet of society, be it the economic system, politics, or education, while remaining forward-thinking. Thinking marked by fluency, adaptability, originality, and elaboration demands novel perspectives and actions. According to him, the educational system should instill a sense of creativity in children, enabling students to explore the expansive realms of scientific knowledge, including the arts.
Iqbal consistently encouraged young individuals to develop tolerance, as this capacity safeguards against extreme emotional outbursts, including anger. He firmly believed that education without practical training is ineffectual, asserting that "Such knowledge is shallow and limited if it fails to enlighten the seeker and nature, akin to Musa (PBUH), and exclude profound philosophical understanding."
Khudi: The Path to Self-Realization and Moral Education
“Khudi Ka Sirr-e-Nihan La Ilaha Illallah”
Iqbal’s central point in poetry is Khudi (self-realization), and he envisioned education as an ongoing endeavor to attain higher levels of self-realization or Khudi. According to Iqbal, the inner experience manifests the ego, or Khudi, in action. Indeed, our understanding of the ego, as it engages in perception, judgment, and volition, ultimately hinges on the belief that Khudi is a genuine existence and not just a product of the mind's illusion. Khudi represents a universal reality that exists at various levels. He criticized self-doubt and resignation as direct outcomes of defeatism. He consistently emphasized the significance of a moral perspective, where individuals can distinguish between right and wrong. This leads to a cognitive process of decision-making, involving the thoughtful selection of an action from various available choices. This is the cognitive process through which individuals seek solutions to challenging situations. Iqbal consistently emphasized the importance of nurturing creativity in children. Creativity is invaluable when it comes to resolving problems.
Furthermore, as adolescents focus on and understand human values, such as the importance of making the right choices, love, peace, truth, and non-violence, they integrate these values into their daily lives. With a solid foundation in living by these human values and moral virtues, they can set objectives and aspirations for their future. This aptitude for problem-solving is just one of the many skills in a comprehensive life skills education.
Fostering Gender Equality: Insights from Allama Iqbal
Allama Iqbal, a forward-thinking Muslim scholar, recognized the pivotal role of women in society. He championed gender equality and underscored the significance of educating women and advocating for equal opportunities. Iqbal believed in providing women with moral, spiritual, and religious education to cultivate elevated values and enhance their comprehension of Islamic principles. He rejected the concept of male dominance and endorsed women's empowerment, acknowledging their influence on societal development. He stressed the importance of education rooted in psychology and the cultural heritage of the nation, as he believed that any other approach would be superficial and ineffectual.
While valuing the role of knowledge in life, Iqbal acknowledged the perils of excessive intellectualism. He emphasized that knowledge alone cannot bring peace or salvation, as its primary function is to question and lead to exploration. Knowledge must be supplemented by the illumination obtained through intuition, which allows for a direct connection with reality. In his work, Rumuz-e-Bekhudi, Iqbal stressed the importance of preserving one's individuality while acknowledging that self-realization cannot occur in isolation from society. Some of his poems revolved around an ideal community, Islamic ethical and social principles, and individual connections.
Iqbal believed in providing women with moral, spiritual, and religious education to cultivate elevated values and enhance their comprehension of Islamic principles. He rejected the concept of male dominance and endorsed women's empowerment, acknowledging their influence on societal development. He stressed the importance of education rooted in psychology and the cultural heritage of the nation, as he believed that any other approach would be superficial and ineffectual.
Iqbal regarded the heart as the seat of emotions and the epicenter of human inner consciousness, making its purification the first and foremost step in self-awareness. Approaching one's true self involves self-reflection, as a person is the best judge of their shortcomings through self-questioning. This introspective process is integral to purifying the heart, which involves a relentless battle against external influences that might lead an individual astray. In this way, one can remain aligned with moral and religious boundaries. It is crucial to not only recognize emotions but also to acquire the ability to regulate them. Strong emotions, such as anger and sadness, if not handled appropriately, can adversely affect a person's well-being. Iqbal viewed the heart as the center of feelings and emotions, the deepest seat of self-awareness. Iqbal consistently encouraged young individuals to develop tolerance, as this capacity safeguards against extreme emotional outbursts, including anger. He firmly believed that education without practical training is ineffectual, asserting that "Such knowledge is shallow and limited if it fails to enlighten the seeker and nature, akin to Musa (PBUH), and exclude profound philosophical understanding."
Allama Iqbal advocated for an education system with a profound and comprehensive curriculum. This curriculum is structured as per Islamic principles with the dual purpose of preserving national honor and fostering global harmony. He emphasized subjects that would facilitate the holistic development of students, encompassing physical, intellectual, social, cultural, moral, and spiritual dimensions of their personalities. He also emphasized that sciences are crucial in preserving life, and their instruction should be grounded in unwavering ethical values. Considering the ongoing progress in science and technology, subjects like physics, chemistry, and artificial intelligence (AI) should be given substantial prominence. This education is designed to instill in them both the aspiration and the capability to explore new frontiers in art and science, as well as to attain knowledge and power. A hopeful belief in the future of humanity drives it.
Allama Iqbal's message to the youth of the Muslim world conveys his conviction that young individuals inherently possess the capacity to achieve exceptional accomplishments. Just as the eagle soars to impressive heights, he believes the youth share a similar potential. He emphasizes that this quality is an integral aspect of our nation and is deeply ingrained in our people. He says: “Sitaron say aagay jahan or bhi hain.”
Allama Iqbal’s ultimate goal was to promote the recognition of the collective self at a higher level within humanity. He catalyzed societal change, igniting the power of the collective self among his compatriots. When his educational philosophy is correctly implemented, it can foster a diverse society in Pakistan that champions principles of acceptance, tolerance, and respect for all individuals, regardless of their religion, color, creed, or ethnicity. In summary, by applying the theory of ‘Constructivism’, which proposes that learners actively build knowledge rather than passively absorbing information, individuals engage with the world, reflect on their experiences, and develop their mental frameworks while assimilating new information into their existing knowledge structures or mental frameworks. He advocates for Ijtihad (independent reasoning) and aligns his ideas with contemporary concepts, endorsing scientific progress like AI as the outcome of human intellect and emphasizing its role in enhancing humanity.
The author formerly served as the Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of the Punjab, Lahore.
E-mail: [email protected]
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