The following passage from ‘The Human Ego – His Freedom and Immortality’, the fourth lecture in The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930-34) serves as a good introduction to Iqbal’s position on the issue of destiny and free will, which forms a central theme in his depiction of the Sphere of Mars in the fourth chapter of Javid Nama.
The Quran in its simple, forceful manner emphasizes the individuality and uniqueness of man, and has, I think, a definite view of his destiny as a unity of life. It is in consequence of this view of man as a unique individuality which makes it impossible for one individual to bear the burden of another, and entitles him only to what is due to his own personal effort, that the Quran is led to reject the idea of redemption. Three things are perfectly clear from the Quran:
(i) That man is the chosen of God:
- ‘Afterwards his Lord chose him Adam for himself and turned towards him, and guided him’ (20: 122).
(ii) That man, with all his faults, is meant to be the representative of God on earth:
- ‘When thy Lord said to the angels, “Verily I am about to place one in my stead on Earth”, they said, “Wilt Thou place there one who will do ill therein and shed blood, when we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness?” God said, “Verily I know what you know not’” (2: 30).
- ‘And it is He Who hath made you His representatives on the Earth, and hath raised some of you above others by various grades, that He may prove you by His gifts’. (6: 165)
(iii) That man is the trustee of a free personality which he accepted at his peril:
- ‘Verily we proposed to the Heavens, and to the Earth, and to the mountains to receive the “trust”, but they refused the burden and they feared to receive it. Man undertook to bear it, but hath proved unjust, senseless!’ (33: 72).