Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Arab World

The significance of Arabia as the cradle of Islam cannot be overstated. As such, the Arab World is mentioned throughout the works of Iqbal in endearing terms.

“It is only natural that Islam should have flashed across the consciousness of a simple people untouched by any of the ancient cultures, and occupying a geographical position where three continents meet together,” he states in ‘The Principle of Movement in Islam’, the sixth lecture in the Reconstruction (1930-34). “The new culture finds the foundation of world-unity in the principle of Tauhid.”

Apparently for this reason he advised his contemporaries to reconnect with the spirit of the classical Arabic poetry and expand their horizons beyond the Persian heritage (although the Persian heritage was deemed important in its own right).

However, a major thrust of Iqbal’s work is to rid Islam “of the stamp that Arabian Imperialism was forced to give it” (as suggested in the Allahabad Address). According to him, “early Muslims emerging out of the spiritual slavery of pre-Islamic Asia were not in a position to realize” that “in view of the basic idea of Islam that there can be no further revelation binding on man, we ought to be spiritually one of the most emancipated peoples on earth.”

Looking back at the more recent history, Iqbal believed that “the first throb of life in modern Islam” was the movement started by “the great puritan reformer, Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, who was born in 1700, studied in Medina, travelled in Persia, and finally succeeded in spreading the fire of his restless soul throughout the whole world of Islam.” According to Iqbal, “the essential thing to note” about the Wahhabi Movement is “the spirit of freedom manifested in it, though inwardly this movement, too, is conservative in its own fashion…. [since] its vision of the past is wholly uncritical, and in matters of law it mainly falls back on the traditions of the Prophet.” (Perhaps in this matter the legacy of Abdul Wahhab can benefit from the thought of his South Asian contemporary Shah Waliullah).

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