Monday, December 22, 2008

Iqbal: A Message from the East

It can be outside the scope of a historian to study the roots of literary trends but a poet-philosopher may analyze them for a prophetic insight about the future of a society. Hence, when in the 1970s distinguished British historian A. J. P. Taylor observed that Great Britain experienced its best times soon after the First World War and therefore the pessimism of British writers of that period was unrealistic, he concluded, "It is not easy to understand why they thus cut themselves off." However, even back in 1923, Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal had tried to analyze that emerging problem of world literature and observed:
Regarded from a purely literary standpoint, the debilitation of the forces of life in Europe after the ordeal of the war is unfavourable to the development of a correct and mature literary ideal. Indeed, the fear is that the minds of the nations may be gripped by that slow-pulsed Magianism which runs away from life’s difficulties and which fails to distinguish between the emotions of the heart and the thoughts of the brain. (Preface to A Message from the East)
Iqbal acknowledged that the First World War had left scars on the hearts of sensitive writers and unfortunately there were not enough remedies in colonial Europe to help these writers regain their grip on reality. Iqbal believed that remedies could possibly come from America and the East (especially the Muslim East). However, they both should realize that "the flame of life cannot be borrowed from others. It has to be kindled in the temple of one's own soul."
This takes us back to the questions:
  • Why the views of people like Iqbal and Taylor have been blacked out so completely in academic circles?
  • Why a normal student does not even get to know that alternate views exist which are not so pessimistic?

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