If humanity is regarded as one collective ego (which is how Iqbal interprets the Quran’s conception of humanity), then Muslims can regard the development of human civilization up to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a complete cycle which culminated in the manifestation of that collective ego in the form of one person, i.e. Prophet Muhammad, with whom prophet-hood came to end.
If the following personalities are regarded as “peaks” which divide ancient history into stages, then each stage shall reflect the characteristics of the corresponding valley of Attar’s story:
- Adam (Longing)
- Noah (Love)
- Abraham (Knowledge of Mysteries)
- Moses (Detachment)
- Dhul Qarnayn (Unity)
- Christ (Wonderment)
- Muhammad (Chosen Poverty and Annhilation)
This explains the fundamental difference between Muslim historical thinking (represented by such thinkers as Ibn Khuldun, Shibli, Muhammad Ali Jauhar and Iqbal) and that of certain other cultures. Because it understands a major cycle to have completed, the Muslim mind is eager to move on into a golden age – an unknown world to be discovered through analogy of the past but by no means hampered by it.
Next: how this model works for a better understanding of past, present and future.