Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WHITEHEAD: Religion in the Making

Science (at least as a temporary methodological device) can rest upon a naive faith; religion is the longing for justification. When religion ceases to seek for penetration, for clarity, it is sinking back into its lower forms. The ages of faith are the ages of rationalism.
The excerpt is from Religion in the Making (1926) by Alfred North Whitehead. It was quoted by Iqbal in the first lecture of The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930-34).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Liaquat Ali Khan: Iqbal's Pakistan

The greatest evils of the modern world have been perpetrated in the name of nation and race, nations which are made by geographical boundaries and races which are made by the accident of the birth. In such a world Islam has a very great contribution to make, and I feel that if the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent are able to establish an independent State they will be helping humanity to build a better and happier world order.

As Iqbal has pointed out, the Quran repeatedly lays emphasis on the history and Nature, these should be subjects of the deepest and most abiding interest for Muslims. We should study the history of peoples and nations to derive lessons for ourselves for the future and we should also build up an army of men and women engaged in the study and conquest of Nature.

Science has a most vital connection with the Islamic Movement; the Prophet said that ‘The pursuit of knowledge is the duty of every man and woman, among Muslims,’ and again, ‘Seek ye knowledge even if you have to go as far as China for it.’ And the most vital part of knowledge is knowledge of Nature which gives man power over her.

It is true that the detailed picture of the State which we Muslims seek to establish in the sub-continent is still to be drawn out but what I have said above is enough to show the direction in which our efforts should lie and the type of training that is essential for our people if we are to succeed in reaching our goal.

(Convocation Address delivered by Liaquat Ali Khan at Aligarh Muslim University, February 16, 1947)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Negative forces in the Muslim world

The ideas presented here by Iqbal
were also repeated by him
in Urdu verses addressed to
contemporary Muslims:
باقی نہ رہی تیری وہ آئینہ ضمیری
اے کشتہءسلطانی و مُلائی و پیری

It may, however, be asked what exactly was the objective of these great Muslims [Syed Ahmad Khan in India, Syed Jamal-ud-Din Afghani in Afghanistan and Mufti Alam Jan in Russia]. The answer is that they found the world of Islam ruled by three main forces and they concentrated their whole energy on creating a revolt against these forces.
  • Mullaism: The ulema have always been a source of great strength to Islam. But during the course of centuries, especially since the destruction of Baghdad, they became extremely conservative and would not allow any freedom of Ijtihad i.e. the forming of independent judgment in matters of law. The Wahabi movement which was a source of inspiration to the nineteenth-century Muslim reformers was really a revolt against this rigidity of the Ulema. Thus the first objective of the nineteenth-century Muslim reformers was a fresh orientation of the faith and a freedom to reinterpret the law in the light of advancing experience.
  • Mysticism: The masses of Islam were swayed by the kind of mysticism which blinked actualities, enervated the people and kept them steeped in all kinds of superstition. From its high state as a force of spiritual education mysticism had fallen down to a mere means of exploiting the ignorance and the credulity of the people. It gradually and invisibly unnerved the will of Islam and softened it to the extent of seeking relief from the rigorous discipline of the law of Islam. The nineteenth-century reformers rose in revolt against this mysticism and called Muslims to the broad daylight of the modern world. Not that they were materialists. Their mission was to open the eyes of the Muslims to the spirit of Islam which aimed at the conquest of matter and not flight from it.
  • Muslim Kings: The gaze of Muslim Kings was solely fixed on their own dynastic interests and, so long as these were protected, did not hesitate to sell their countries to the highest bidder. To prepare the masses of Muslims for a revolt against such a state of things in the world of Islam was the special mission of Syed Jamal-ud-Din Afghani.
(Excerpt from 'Islam and Ahmadism', an article by Iqbal published in January 1936; included in Writings, Speeches and Statements of Iqbal compiled by Latif Ahmad Sherwani and published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Portrait of the Artist as Waheed Murad

“And he sets his mind to unknown arts”

[From the mailing list of Saleena Karim, author of Secular Jinnah and Pakistan (2010), Monday, November 21, 2011. The article attached with the mail is being copied after it.]

Hello Folks,

This week marks the 28th death anniversary of Pakistani actor/filmmaker Waheed Murad. For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work, Waheed Murad is one of Pakistan's biggest ever screen legends. The title character in one of his best known films, Armaan, was the inspiration behind Iqbal Academy's recent TV film, 'Iqbal', which I mentioned to you all a few months ago, and which is available on YouTube.

So why, you may ask, am I mentioning Waheed Murad here? What has he to do with Jinnah, Iqbal, or the story of Pakistan? Perhaps more than you think. Iqbal Academy researcher Khurram Ali Shafique has been collecting material on the filmmaker for a number of years. He has found some interesting links between Murad and Iqbal (personal and intellectual) and has done some presentations exploring what Murad has to offer as an artist. The attached article written by Mr Shafique is sure to intrigue you, and is a good introduction for anyone who doesn't know about Murad.

In the meantime, the links take you to a series of short articles, including clips from his movies that have been used in Mr Shafique's presentations.
  1. Know Thyself (Opening Clip)
  2. The World of Consensus Literature (a hymn about the Unity of God = unity of humankind)
  3. Bezar Sahib (elitist literature)
  4. The Last Song (Mysteries of Time)
  5. The Wind-Up
Comments are welcome, and in fact encouraged.
Take Care Folks,
Saleena Karim,
author of Secular Jinnah

A Portrait of the Artist as Waheed Murad
By Khurram Ali Shafique
Nukta Art Mag, Karachi; 2010

“And he sets his mind to unknown arts”. Ovid wrote it in Latin, James Joyce cited it as epigram of his famous novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914-16), and I am using the English translation for describing Waheed Murad (1938-1983).

Ulysses by James Joyce inspired
Waheed Murad while he was studying
English literature. Research into the
"stream of consciousness" led him
to other works by Joyce and
works by Henry James, Virgina Woolf
and William Faulkner
Given the nature of its content, a good way of beginning the present article would be to remind the reader about Joyce’s novel and the stream of consciousness technique used there, and then to show how Waheed translated the literary technique to cinema, with a different purpose, in Ishara (1969), a movie written, produced and directed by him.

Hence I am now on the Wikipedia page about the novel. The link to Spark Notes gives me that handy definition which I needed for sharing with readers, “stream of consciousness, a stylistic form in which written prose seeks to represent the characters’ stream of inner thoughts and perceptions rather than render these characters from an objective, external perspective.” Precisely, but Waheed replaced “written prose” with movie and sought to represent a combined “stream of inner thoughts and perceptions” of two characters: he and the viewer. The film begins with the subjective camera moving into a street and a voiceover welcomes the viewer. Thus it gets established that what you see is what passes through the stream of your “inner thoughts and perceptions” while you watch the movie. This also makes you the main character in the story, which now becomes a story about your exploration of a new world, and the world is the movie you have entered.

A second character is introduced almost simultaneously. It is the welcoming voice, “Mera naam Amir hai…” (“My name is Amir…”). The voice tells you that it lives in that street, and soon you are taken to the room where Amir is painting pictures. The voice belongs to him, which is Waheed himself in the role of an aspiring painter who has a good taste but is also passionate about feedback from the uninitiated. Out of the three little children from the neighborhood who watch him making the picture, the first child likes it, the second doesn’t and the third dislikes. Now it may become clear that the street in the opening shot represented the world of cinema, the room is the mind of Waheed Murad and pictures are metaphor for movies (in Urdu, both were called “tasveer”). Three little children are the entire range of feedback you may offer about the “picture” (read “movie”) that is being made in front of you: like it, don’t like it or dislike it but your feedback is essentially immature right now because you are new to this world and are yet to understand its ways, just like those children (be any of them or all of them, they are your alter egos).

Bildungsroman means "formation novel".
Wilhelm Miester by Goethe (above) is a famous
example. Ishara, written and directed
by Waheed Murad is also a film about the
coming of age: it traces the psychological and
 moral growth of the viewer
in the act of engaging with the film.  
I would have liked to write here what happens in the story but Wikipedia has distracted me with the term bildungsroman. “The bildungsroman (German: "formation novel") is a genre of the novel which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood,” says Wikipedia. “The birth of the bildungsroman is normally dated to the publication of Goethe’s The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister in 1795-96.” However, a famous earlier example is the Arabic romance Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, named by its 11th century writer Ibn Tufail after a Persian story by Bu Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna) of a century before. Ibn Sina’s story was about an old sage instructing the young reader about mysteries of the universe – active intellect informing the rational human soul. Ibn Tufail told a story about an abandoned child growing up to maturity through inquiry and reasoning.

Ishara is a coming of age story but it is the viewer who grows up: you enter the world of the artist as if newly born into another world, you see yourself as one (or all) of three little children and then you see the artist falling in love with Aliya, a college student. It is not impossible for the viewers to identify themselves with Aliya at this point: in real life, it was the name of the filmmaker’s infant daughter, born around this time. Iqbal used the name of his son, Javid, to represent posterity. Waheed used the name of his daughter as a metaphor for the next generation, as he instructed them about mysteries just like the old sage of Avicenna’s story, transforming them from the children of the first scene to the college student of the main story.

The instruction is offered, and the story told, through “stream of inner thoughts and perceptions” that typically passes through the imagination of a viewer while watching a movie of mainstream cinema, especially Indo-Pakistan. Destiny intervenes and the aspiring artist gets noticed by a woman who is young, rich and single. Reshma falls in love but Amir’s heart and soul belong to Aliya. Hence Reshma probably represents the artist’s contemporaries who help him gain recognition but the artist remains committed to generations that shall come later (“I am the Voice of the Poet of Tomorrow,” said Iqbal. “Turning away from my contemporaries, I have a word to share with the new generation”). The posterity shall return the artist’s love but may have its own issues to sort out first: Aliya is under obligation to marry Ishrat, the son of her aunt and guardian. Of course, destiny intervenes again in the end and things get sorted out as they should be – but what is that?

The theory of art presented in Ishara (1969)
by Waheed Murad is distinctively from
Allama Iqbal (above).
In presenting Ishara, Waheed relied exclusively on stock items of mainstream cinema but he managed to make some pertinent statements. Foremost among these was his theory of art. In A Portrait, Joyce’s protagonist had famously viewed family, nation and religion as constraints an artist must avoid for growing wings. Around the very same time, in 1915, Iqbal offered a different view of art in ‘Secrets of the Self’ (Asrar-i-Khudi), where family, nation and religion worked as catalysts for the artist. In Ishara, the artist belongs distinctively to this school of thought.

His first song is a hymn in praise of the Almighty, by Whose grace destiny has smiled on all who share the artist’s world. While singing and dancing (with abundant allusions to well-known moves of Waheed from his other movies), he pulls together the entire range of society from burqa-clad women to girls in teddy shalwars, and from the roadside worker to men in evening suites. Bringing them together in pairs from three successive generations of children, youth and seniors, he makes them dance in a circle around him while he revolves, not very unlike a whirling dervish, in the centre. Gradually he moves out but the circle keeps revolving even then (“Nations are born in the hearts of the poets,” says Iqbal. “They prosper and die in the hands of politicians”).

This is a portrait of the artist as a force that binds together diverse schools and classes in ecstasy and joy. The poetics of this artist is summarized in his advice to friend and neighbor Bezar, the penniless but proud maestro of classical music. “Times have moved on,” says Amir. “People shall keep running away from you unless you sing to the tune of Time. There is nothing wrong with your music but very few people can understand this type of music. In my humble opinion, keep pace with Time, and truly there is none like you in the whole world.”

Bezar happens to be an epitome of the Joyce-like artist who seeks isolation. Amir’s advice leads him into a fantasy where he sees himself on the stage of a night club, singing a pop song and performing like Fred Astair (and parodying Shammi Kapoor), while all the musicians of the orchestra are his own clones (played by the same actor). He feels irritated when they go on praising him senselessly (“Wah bhai wah wah, wah bhai wah wah…”) but gets upset again when they stop that. In the end we are shown that even the high-brow audience, including women, are Bezar himself in so many roles.

How different is the inner world of this artist from what we saw of the Waheed-Amir school of thought! In this comparison, differences between high and popular, classical or pop, or traditional and modern forms of art become secondary. The real criterion is how an artist connects with the people, and whether or not they have a place in the artist’s inner world (the elitist journal where Joyce’s novel was first published was called, quite appropriately, The Egoist).

Destiny appears to be a significant motif
in Waheed Murad's Ishara
Needless to say, names are symbolic. The name Amir comes from the same root as the Arabic words for culture and civilization, architecture and society. Moreover, it was the surname of Qais (the legendary lover better known as Majnun). Aliya literally means the Exalted, and as the real-life name of the filmmaker’s infant daughter it symbolizes the posterity. Bezar means “Fed Up”, Reshma has connotations of silk while Ishrat means luxury. In choosing Amir instead of Ishrat, destiny has preferred culture and civilization over luxury for Aliya but her guardian, despite being a well-wisher, is in conflict with the youth’s destiny.

A cliché in most other mainstream films, destiny becomes a powerful motif in Ishara and is dramatized in full bloom in the final fantasy of the artist. In the beginning we had entered a black and white movie but in the very last reel, when the artist realizes that he cannot be united with Aliya and goes into fantasy, the film turns into color: while the mind of the artist was presented in black and white, his imagination is shown in color – imagination is so much more colorful and possibly also more important. A troupe of mysterious dancers leads Amir into a park. Standing on a lower plane, he finds himself in the presence of Aliya who stands on a higher plane. A chorus of eight dancers accompanies each of them, bringing the total number of people on each sphere to nine, which is identical with the number of stairs between the two planes. “My love, do not be sad,” says Amir as he begins the song. “You stand on one side, I on the other and the insensitive Time between us.” Ascending the nine steps, he moves over to the other plane but the mysterious dancers drag Aliya away and out of the park. The gate closes on Amir, leaving him trapped inside.

After this grand vision of destiny, Amir returns from fantasy and back into his real world where things get sorted out miraculously: Ishrat has learnt the truth and now he dramatically unites the lovers, who fly off to Islamabad, never to be parted again. This is how things ought to be resolved where destiny itself is in the leading strings but there might be a catch. Although the artist has come out of his fantasy, the film never returns to black and white, and ends in color. So, is the happy ending occurring in real or is it part of the fantasy too? Can it be a current which, although unknown to us, is always flowing beneath our “stream of inner thoughts and perceptions”?

These questions draw diverse answers whenever I raise them in my workshops and presentations. Recently, I posted five clips from the movie on my blog,, and the following comments may give the reader an idea about how viewers approach the unusual wind-up of this movie:
  • “The opening sequence was an artist's vision for consensus which realizes in this closing sequence as here everyone seems to be helping the artist in realizing his dreams. Those who once were seen singing and dancing to their own tunes are now seen helping others. Consensus has taken place and the artist's vision for a better tomorrow has dawned.”
  • “The film which started with black and white has ended with color. With the color of his soul, Amir – the artist – succeeded in painting his outer world in colors. No one is sad and everyone, including Ishrat and Reshma, supports Amir in achieving his desire as similar to the starting of the film. A society which makes its decision with consensus achieves its desire and its goal.”
  • “The symmetry – complete with rich colors and light, morning and night, and then the dramatic blacks – the moonlight whites and shadows – all provide a grand design. This backdrop provides a mirror sometimes and other times a frame for Amir's reflective and pre-occupied moments. Against this design he moves alone and then back in touch (slowly) with others and the crowd. This design shows others’ movements away and toward him and his away and toward them.”
Waheed Murad (1938-1983)
It may be a good idea to provide some relevant biographical information about Waheed Murad before ending this article. His grandfather was Zahoor Ilahi Murad, a lawyer from Sialkot and also an acquaintance of Iqbal according to the oral tradition in the Murad family. Zahoor’s son, Nisar Murad, was born in Sialkot in 1915, the same year when Joyce finished serializing A Portrait and Iqbal published ‘Secrets of the Self’. Nisar shifted to Karachi and was twenty-three when his only child was born on October 2, 1938. This was Waheed Murad.

Waheed started his schooling in the prestigious Lawrence College, Ghora Gali (Murree), where he lived in a hostel. His parents missed him too much, called him back after Grade 2 and got him admission in Mary Colasso School, one of the best in Karachi. He was only nine when Pakistan came into being, Karachi became the capital and Waheed saw his father celebrating the newfound independence by changing the name of his film distribution company to Pakistan Films. New friends arrived at school. One of them was Javid Ali Khan, a nephew once-removed of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Another was Pervez Malik, the son of an army officer. At the end of the schooling, Waheed and Pervez wanted to acquire a Masters in filmmaking from California but Waheed’s parents didn’t want to part with their only child for such a long period. They gave him the money but asked him to acquire the learning by producing his own films in Karachi rather than going abroad. Film Arts was the name the young man chose for his new production house, and the name could have told something about the idea behind it.

This hands-on experience had to be backed up with a Masters in English Literature from Karachi University, where Waheed also won a prize in some elocution competition that would have remained insignificant if the prize was not Ulysses, the sequel to A Portrait by James Joyce. The “stylistic form in which written prose seeks to represent the characters’ stream of inner thoughts and perceptions” fired his imagination and he tried to familiarize himself with as many masters of the stream of consciousness as he could – especially Henry James, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. Soon, he started dreaming about making a mainstream Pakistani film utilizing the stream of consciousness technique. The idea must have sounded bizarre, absurd and practically impossible at first.

Ishara was released on February 14, 1969. It was written, produced and directed by Waheed Murad. Dialogue and lyrics were by Masroor Anwar (who later wrote the famous national song ‘Sohni Dharti’) and music by Sohail Rana. Playback singers were Mala, Mehdi Hassan, Naseem Begum, Ahmed Rushdi, Waheed Murad and Deeba (the last two were not credited). Actors included Waheed Murad (as Amir), Deeba (as Aliya), Rozina (as Reshma), Lehri (as Bezar) and Talat Hussain (in his debut role as Ishrat). The movie ran for a little over 25 cumulative weeks (Silver Jubilee), which was considered to be not very well-received in those days.

Khurram Ali Shafique is the author of Iqbal: an Illustrated Biography (2006), which won the Presidential Iqbal Award. His official website is The Republic of Rumi and email is

Friday, November 18, 2011

Syed Jamaluddin Afghani

Syed Jamaluddin Afghani
(sometimes also known as 'Asadabadi')

Maulana Syed Jamal-ud-Din Afghani was a man of a different stamp. Strange are the ways of Providence. One of the most advanced Muslims of our time, both in religious thought and action, was born in Afghanistan! A perfect master of nearly all the Muslim languages of the world and endowed with the most winning eloquence, his restless soul migrated from one Muslim country to another influencing some of the most prominent men in Persia, Egypt and Turkey. Some of the greatest theologians of our time, such as Mufti Muhammad ‘Abduhu, and some of the men of the younger generation who later became political leaders, such as Zaghlul Pasha of Egypt, were his disciples. He wrote little, spoke much and thereby transformed into miniature Jamal­ud-Dins all those who came into contact with him. He never claimed to be a prophet or a renewer; yet no man in our time has stirred the soul of Islam more deeply than he! His spirit is still working in the world of Islam and nobody knows where it will end.

(Excerpt from 'Islam and Ahmadism', an article by Iqbal published in January 1936; included in Writings, Speeches and Statements of Iqbal compiled by Latif Ahmad Sherwani and published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

MUSIC: Iqbal's Translation of Browning ("Chamak Teri Ayan")

From TauseefQAU's Channel at Youtube:
Singer: Tarannum Naz
This is translation of Robert Browning's Saul (Number XVII), which starts like this:

In the star, in the stone, in the flesh,
In the soul and the cloud.

It is perfect Urdu translation by Iqbal; lyrics are here:

چمک تیری عیاں بجلی میں

چمک تیری عیاں بجلی میں ، آتش میں ، شرارے میں
جھلک تیری ہویدا چاند میں ،سورج میں ، تارے میں
بلندی آسمانوں میں ، زمینوں میں تری پستی
روانی بحر میں ، افتادگی تیری کنارے میں
شریعت کیوں گریباں گیر ہو ذوق تکلم کی
چھپا جاتا ہوں اپنے دل کا مطلب استعارے میں
جو ہے بیدار انساں میں وہ گہری نیند سوتا ہے
شجر میں ، پھول میں ، حیواں میں ، پتھر میں ، ستارے میں
مجھے پھونکا ہے سوز قطرۂ اشک محبت نے
غضب کی آگ تھی پانی کے چھوٹے سے شرارے میں
نہیں جنس ثواب آخرت کی آرزو مجھ کو
وہ سوداگر ہوں ، میں نے نفع دیکھا ہے خسارے میں
سکوں نا آشنا رہنا اسے سامان ہستی ہے
تڑپ کس دل کی یا رب چھپ کے آ بیٹھی ہے پارے میں
صدائے لن ترانی سن کے اے اقبال میں چپ ہوں
تقاضوں کی کہاں طاقت ہے مجھ فرقت کے مارے میں

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

GIBBON: Toleration

There is the toleration of the philosopher to whom all religions are equally true; of the historian to whom all are equally false; and of the politician to whom all are equally useful. There is the toleration of the man who tolerates other modes of thought and behaviour because he has himself grown absolutely indifferent to all modes of thought and behaviour. There is the toleration of the weak man who, on account of sheer weakness, must pocket all kinds of insults heaped on things or persons that he holds dear.
Edward Gibbon is best known for his multi-volume book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (published from 1776 to 1788). I have not been able to check his writings for tracing this excerpt but  it was quoted by Iqbal with attribution to Gibbon in 'Islam and Ahmedism', an article published in January 1936.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

UMRAO SINGH SHER GIL: The Value of Iqbal’s work

Photograph of Iqbal taken by
Umrao Singh Sher Gil
in Paris in 1933
has become iconic since then

The following is a foreword written by Umrao Singh Sher Gil for A Voice from the East (1922) by Sir Zulfiqar Ali Khan. Umrao Singh also translated Iqbal’s Urdu poems for the volume. A close friend of Iqbal, he was also the father of the renowned Indian painter Amrita Sher Gil.

Sir Zulfiqar Ali Khan has tried in this paper to throw some light on the springs of Iqbal's genius as a poet and a thinker, who through his powerful expression draws the attention of the world to those constructive principles which underlie religion – Islam in this case particularly. To try to fathom the depths of genius is a profitable task for the individual, but as hopeless as fathoming nature. Unlike the platitudes of the common mind it does not yield to anyone, but presents a vista of vision which unfolds with the progress of the race. The poet writes not for the past or even for the present, but for the coming age, and therein lies the possibility of his partial or fuller achievement. We skim the surface of the deep and take our fill.

To speak of the real value of Iqbal’s poetry would be to scandalize the current notions. To do this with some restraint of enthusiasm is difficult but necessary. So far as his aesthetic value is concerned, for those who are endowed with some redefined feeling for the charm for real beauty and harmony of words which have at the same time something to convey, touch with Iqbal’s verse can be likened to one thing only, the feeling of sublimated and purified love. It is akin to reading the highest masters of Persian verse. Besides, his verse contains the concentrated mass of thought which characterizes other masters of Persian verse who do not possess the aesthetic charm developed to that degree was we find for example in Hafiz. He combines idea with beauty of expression which one hardly finds in his precursors who represent either one or other quality in its excellence but who lack necessarily that something modern which preeminently belongs to him.

As to the constructive idea which he has tried to represent in his longer Persian poems, it is an attempt, and a very legitimate one, to prevent the premature broadening of the mystic sense of religious feeling which leads to seeming toleration but hides indifference towards duty, and neutralizes and destroys the function of religion by trying to pour into unworthy vessels the elixir of experience which they cannot possibly contain. Men talk and profess things which they do not understand, and thus misinterpret, leading to chaos and decay and absence of that strength which characterizes real faith and belief based on living experience, and thus help the disintegration of the social organism which religious feeling alone can hold together and help forward to progress. In this, his work is akin to that which the Bhagwad Gita essayed to accomplish for Brahmanism, and which consisted in the application of the religio-philosophical idea to the maintenance and progress of human society from which it had been divorced and the neglect of which resulted in its disintegration. What looks like a narrowing tendency in these later poems is nothing but an attempt at wedding together of these two and bringing about a union between them. The poet had seen long ago the chaos which materialism has engendered in Europe and the world, but which at first seemed to be the forerunner of progress. He aims at eliminating the weakness of undefined mysticism on the one hand and the still worse disintegrating tendency of materialism on the other. Read in this sense, as it seems to me these poems are meant, they are of universal application, though apparently addressed merely to the Islamic world.

Another famous photograph of Iqbal
taken by Umrao Singh Sher Gil
in Paris in 1933
While reading one of these poems with the poet, I have been struck with the wealth and terseness of constructive ideas which escape one in a cursory reading due to the association of the words with their older significance. He is enriching the content of idea in the words which his poetical genius has so appropriately selected for their phonetic harmony, in a manner which reveals the truly creative nature of his work. The future ages will read more sense into these words and expressions as we find in other languages which have not remained stationary, and the future generations will understand them better than we do now. In this consists the value of his work as a man who has ploughed up the soil of race ideas in their language, adding fresher significance to words, as we find in the works of F. W. Bain who has enriched the content of word and phrase in English language by adding to them the significance of classic India which they hitherto lacked. With the same grace and absence of awkwardness Iqbal has been handling the Persian and Urdu tongues.

The word-harmony and beauty of Hafiz is wedded to the wealth and terseness of a Rumi, which had a happy combination in Saadi, but this is more for the fact of its modernism. And yet Saadi does not touch Hafiz aesthetically, which Iqbal seems surely to do in the ode; and though in the more serious style of the longer poems the aesthetic level cannot be naturally kept up to his odes, in Iqbal you find a Rumi soaring above the halting and laboured style of the latter in which beauty does not keep pace with ideas, and where a certain amount of word-padding is to be found which one so happily misses in Iqbal. This is a thing which no translation can show in the case of Iqbal or any real poet – while the translations from the mediocre poets will sometimes sound better than the original – for, as has become a truism, only a poet can translate a poet, and that is hardly ever necessary.

Often at the house of my friend Sir Zulfiqar have I seen Iqbal enveloped in that blue haze which has become the accompaniment of the genial and magnetic atmosphere thrilling with subtle poetic vibrations which require no stretch of imagination to feel. Converse at such times has ceased through the touch of that spirit which precedes his song. There must be some dull spirits who would remain unaffected, but I find it hard to imagine any existing at such times. The pure and sparkling ambrosia of the gods flows and is demanded again and again, and one feels a wish to share it with other kindred spirits. Partly from these impulses and partly from a desire to light up, though momentarily, an edifice which seldom sees unconventional lights, arose the impulse to write this paper in the breast of my friend, and it may be hoped that though some windows may be closed still, this glow might get in through different chinks, “and steal in through another way,” as Hafiz says. The other day I found one of his verses inscribed in a most unexpected place, and no mean street wall too. I could not help smiling at the ways of life, and I hope I have not smiled for the last time in this matter. All credit to my friend. In the present instance the labor has been strenuous and prolonged, though no burden, I am sure. “The inebriate camel carries lightly,” as Saadi says, and still more so on the way to Hijaz, as in this instance. And this to my mind symbolizes the work, with its poetical wine and the direction to which the caravan happens to be moving.

Umrao Singh Sher Gil
Simla: 15 May 1922
Umrao Singh (left) with Iqbal (right) in Paris, 1933
(Pictures are from my book Iqbal: an Illustrated Biography (2006) and have been reproduced here with the courtesy of Iqbal Academy Pakistan)

ATHANAEUM: Review of Iqbal's PhD Thesis

The Development of Metaphysics in Persia was the thesis on which Iqbal obtained a B.A. degree from the University of Cambridge in March 1907. On recommendations from his English teachers, it was then submitted with modifications to the University of Munich for PhD, which was acquired in June next year. Around the same time, it got published by Luzac & Co., London. The following review appeared in the British literary journal Athenaeum in November 1908.

The Development of Metaphysics in Persia by Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal. (Luzac & Co.) 

This little volume is the work of an Indian scholar who has studied philosophy at Cambridge and Munich, and holds degrees from both these universities. Not only has he read widely and with evident grasp of the subject, but he is also familiar with, and has learnt to employ, European methods of criticism which generally make no profound impression, even on the most gifted Oriental minds. Consequently he has produced a really valuable resume of the history of Persian metaphysics, inevitably sketchy and incomplete, but sound in principle, and trustworthy as far as it goes. In this field the labourers are so few that every one must rely, to a large extent, on his own researches. The materials have to be collected from numberless manuscripts preserved in the great libraries of Europe, and it is only after long and tiresome research that any attempt can be made to reconstruct. To review the work in detail is impossible, on account of the enormous range of speculation which it covers—from Zoroaster and Mani to modern Babism. Naturally there are points to which exception might be taken. In discussing the origin of Sufism the writer claims to have treated the subject in a more scientific manner than previous investigations:—

“They seem completely to have ignored the principle that the full significance of a phenomenon in the intellectual evolution of a people can only be comprehended in the light of those pre-existing intellectual, political, and social conditions which alone make its existence inevitable. Von Kremer and Dozy derive Persian Sufism from the Indian Vedanta; Merx and Mr. Nicholson derive it from Neo-Platonism, while Prof. Browne once regarded it as Aryan reaction against an unemotional Semitic religion. It appears to me, however, that these theories have been worked out under the influence of a notion of causation which is essentially false. That a fixed quantity A is the cause of or produces another fixed quantity B is a proposition which, though convenient for scientific purpose, is apt to damage all inquiry, in so far as it leads us completely to ignore the innumerable conditions lying at the back of a phenomenon.”

We are sure that the scholars mentioned in this passage recognize, as unreservedly as Shaikh Iqbal himself, that Sufism, like all great spiritual and intellectual movements, was ultimately the result of a certain environment, the nature of which is well known to every student of Islam. Their reasons for not laying stress on this fact are obvious enough. The conditions of which the Shaikh speaks enable us to explain the appearance of mysticism in Islam towards the end of the eighth century A.D., but that is all. We cannot hope, by examining these general conditions, to learn how it came to pass that the mystical tendency assumed a particular form, or how the special doctrines which we find in early Sufism arose. No wonder, then, that European Orientalists should have preferred a more fruitful line of inquiry, which has demonstrated the influences of other religions in moulding the development of Sufism. Those who derive it from Neo-Platonism do no more than assert that the early Sufis actually drew their leading ideas from that source; but had these Sufis been ignorant of Greek philosophy, they might still have produced a mysticism of the same type. To suppose that Sufism was created by foreign influence is an absurdity so palpable that its refutation, even in the most scientific manner, hardly constitutes a claim to originality. We have dwelt upon the author’s treatment of this question because it illustrates the one weak spot in his admirable survey. He is rather deficient on the historical side, and is apt to forget that a theory will carry greater conviction if it comes to close quarters with all the relevant facts. 

The present work, however, is mainly concerned with elucidating the various systems of Persian thought and their relations to each other. Any one at all versed in the subject will perceive the appalling difficulty of the author’s task when he undertook to give a coherent account in less than two hundred pages of the subtle and complex problems which have formed, during thousands of years, the favourite pabulum of a race that has always been distinguished by its passion for metaphysical speculation. Moreover, for a great part of his journey the traveller finds himself on virgin soil, which he must explore and delineate as well as he can without the help of guides. Shaikh Iqbal deserves high praise for what he has accomplished. The immediate result of his labour is considerable, and he has laid a solid foundation for further research. The most notable sections of the volume are perhaps those which describe the Hikmat al-Ishraq, or “Philosophy of Illumination,” expounded by Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi, the famous Sufi thinker who was put to death as a heretic by order of Malik al-Zahir, a son of Saladin; and the Insan al-Kamil, or “Perfect Man,” of al-Jili, whose system in some points curiously anticipates the views of Hegel and Schleiermacher.

We have found a few misspellings of Oriental names, and also one or two statements which we are inclined to question; but there can be no doubt as to the competence of the author’s scholarship and the importance of his work. We hope that this first book (which is dedicated, by the way, to Prof. T. W. Arnold) may soon be followed by a more extensive treatise by the same hand.

Athenaeum, No. 4229, November 14, 1908, pp.601-2

Friday, November 11, 2011

"40 years of tyranny are better than an hour of anarchy"

This is an excerpt from 'Islam as a Moral and Political Ideal', lecture delivered by Iqbal at the anniversary of Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam, Lahore, in April 1909.

The truth is that Islam is essentially a religion of peace. All forms of political and social disturbance are condemned by the Quran in the most uncompromising terms. I quote a few verses from the Quran:
  • “Eat and drink from what God has given you and run not on the face of the earth in the matter of rebels.”
  • “And disturb not the peace of the earth after it has been reformed; this is good for you if you are believers.”
  • “And do good to others as God has done good to thee, and seek not the violation of peace in the earth, for God does not love those who break the peace. That is the home in the next world which we build for those who do not mean rebellion and disturbance in the earth, and the end is for those who fear God.”
  • “Those who rebelled in cities and enhanced disorder in them, God visited them with His whip of punishment.”
One sees from these verses how severely all forms of political and social disorder are denounced by the Quran. But the Quran is not satisfied with mere denunciation of the evil of  fesad. It goes to the very root of this evil. We know that both in ancient and modern times, secret meetings have been a constant source of political and social unrest. Here is what the Quran says about such conferences: “O believers, if you converse secretly that is to say, hold secret conference, converse not for purpose of sin and rebellion”. The ideal of Islam is to secure social peace at any cost. All methods of violent change in society are condemned in the most unmistakable language. Tartushi - a Muslim lawyer of Spain - is quite true to the spirit of Islam when he says: “Forty years of tyranny are better than one hour of anarchy”.

“Listen to him and obey him, even if a negro slave is appointed to rule over you." Muslim mentions another important tradition of the Prophet on the authority of Arfaja, who says: “I heard the Prophet of God say, when you have agreed to follow one man then if another man comes forward intending to break your stick (weaken your strength) or to make you disperse in disunion, kill him”.

Those among us who make it their business to differ from the general body of Musalmans in political views ought to read this tradition carefully, and if they have any respect for the words of the Prophet, it is their duty to dissuade themselves from this mean traffic in political opinion which, though perhaps it brings a little personal gain to them, is exceedingly harmful to the interests of the community. My object, in citing these verses and traditions is to educate political opinion on strictly Islamic lines.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

MUSIC: Ya Rab Dil-e-Muslim Ko

Fareeda Khanum Sings Du'a-E-Allama Iqbal Along With Amanat Ali Khan

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quaid-i-Azam's message on Iqbal Day

To the cherished memory of our National Poet Iqbal, I pay my homage on this day, which is being celebrated in commemoration of that great poet, sage, philosopher and thinker, and I pray to God Almighty that his soul may rest in eternal peace. Amen!

Though he is not amongst us, his verse, immortal as it is, is always there to guide us and to inspire us. His poetry, besides being beautiful in form and sweet in language, presents to us a picture of the mind and heart of this great poet, and we find how deeply he was devoted to the teachings of Islam. He was a true and faithful follower of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), a Muslim first and a Muslim last. He was the interpreter and voice of Islam.

Iqbal was not merely a preacher and philosopher. He stood for courage and action, perseverance and self-reliance, and above all faith in God and devotion to Islam. In his person were combined the idealism of the poet and the realism of the man who takes a practical view of things. Faith in God and unceasing and untiring action is the essence of his message. And in this he emerges truly Islam. He had an unflinching faith in Islamic principles, and success in life meant to him the realization of one's "self", and to achieve this end the only means was to follow the teachings of Islam. His message to himanity is action and realization of one's self.

Although a great poet and philosopher he was no less a practical politician. With his firm conviction and faith in the ideals of Islam, he was one of the few who originally thought over the feasibility of carving out of India such an Islamic state in the North-West and North-East Zones which are historical homelands of Muslims.

I wholeheartedly associate myself with the celebrations of this "Iqbal Day", and pray that we may live up to the ideals preached by our National Poet so that we may be able to achieve and give a practical shape to these ideals in our sovereign state of Pakistan when established.

Originally appeared in The Dawn, December 11, 1944. Cited in Pakistan As Visualized by Iqbal and Jinah by Prof. Dr. G. H. Zulfiqar

Monday, November 7, 2011

Marghdeen Learning Centre

Marghdeen Learning Centre has been established online for offering certificate courses in Iqbal Studies under patronage of Iqbal Academy Pakistan, which also issues certificates for the courses. The courses are promoted internationally by DISNA (Dr. Iqbal Society of North America) and in Pakistan by Topline Publishers.

The idea behind the main website of Marghdeen Learning Centre is that it should be an ideal starting point for those interested in Iqbal Studies: make it your home page for a few days, and you are likely to end up learning something about Iqbal and about the world from his perspective, without much effort.

Take a look, and let us know what you think about it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

E. M. Forster on Iqbal's 'Asrar-i-Khudi'

The following is a review by the famous English novelist E. M. Forster of Secrets of the Self (A. R. Nicholson’s translation of Iqbal’s ‘Asrar-i-Khudi’). The review was first published in  December 1920 in the literary magazine Athanaeum and later reprinted in The Sword and the Sceptre (1977) by Riffat Hasan (ed.). It suffers from serious chronological errors (for instance, the poem ‘A New Temple’ was written in 1904 and not in 1916 as asserted by Forster) and Iqbal’s own comment was: “The view of the writer in the Athenaeum [E. M. Forster] is largely affected by some mistakes of fact for which, however, the writer does not seem to be responsible. But I am sure if he had known some of the dates of the publication of my Urdu poems referred to in his review, he would have certainly taken a totally different view of the growth of my literary activity. Nor does he rightly understand my idea of the Perfect Man which he confounds with the German thinker's Superman. I wrote on the Sufi doctrine of the Perfect Man more than twenty years ago, long before I had read or heard anything of Nietzsche. This was then published in the Indian Antiquary, and later in 1908 formed part of my Persian Metaphysics.” (Letter to R. A. Nicholson, January 24, 1921).
By E. M. Forster

It is significant of Empire that we should wait so long for a translation from Iqbal, the writer who has been for the last ten years such a tremendous name among our fellow citizens, the Muslims of India. They respond to him as do Hindus to Tagore, and with greater propriety, for Tagore was little noticed outside Bengal until he went to Europe and gained the Nobel Prize, whereas Iqbal has won his vast kingdom without help from the West. Lahore, Delhi, Aligarh, Lucknow, Bhopal, Hyderabad regard him as a profound thinker and a sublime poet. Will London confirm their verdict? This question cannot be answered until it has been asked, and it has not yet been asked. Mr. Nicholson’s welcome and excellent little book only touches a corner of the subject. When will he, or some other Oriental linguist, gives us the material for a critical judgment? Meanwhile the following remarks may be of some slight help.

Poets in India cannot be spared form politics. Would that they could! but there is no hope in the present circumstances; one could as easily part Dante from Florence. As for the politics, they are triangular. There are two chief communities—Hindu and Muslim—and a ruling class of Englishmen. Owing to their common subjection and common Orientalism, the two communities sometimes draw together and oppose the English; owing to their different religions and to racial and social differences, they sometimes fly asunder. The English view these oscillations with cynicism, but they spring from instincts, deep if contradictory, that exist in every Indian heart. Shall the Indian look to the land he lives in, and try to make it a nation? Or shall he look to his own particular past—to Makkah if he be a Muslim, to the Vedas or Upanishads if Hindu and find in that his inspiration for the future? Heaven forbid that we should assist him in his choice; either goal seems barren if we may deduce form the history of Europe. But the choice itself is living, not to be sneered at, and we can see him hesitating over it even before the English came, advancing towards national unity under Akbar, retiring into religious diversities under Aurangzeb. Poets unless they belong to the school of roses and nightingales (gul and bulbul) cannot abstain from this choice; but since they decide by emotion rather than arithmetic, their attitude is often unstable and vexes the politicians. Iqbal is a case in point. Born in the Punjab, where the feeling between Muslim and Hindu is especially high, he came out at first on the religious rather than the nationalist side. Like his predecessor Hali, he wrote for his community. One of his early poems, ‘A Complaint,’ is addressed to God, and sets forth the great deeds of Muslims, their sufferings, their miserable recompense (“God, we have done all this for you, and for our reward the infidels have houris while if lightning falls from Heaven, it is upon us”). The poem was regarded as daring and had an immense success. In due course, ‘A Reply to the Complaint’ appeared, in which God defends himself by not unfamiliar arguments, retorting that the Muslims are to blame for their own misfortunes, owing to their lethargy and formalism. Both poems breathe the spirit of Aligarh, the great Anglo-Mohammedan College, which was founded to regenerate not India but Islam. ‘A Muslim Song’ begins ‘We are all Muslims, the whole world is our country: China, Arabia and Hindustan are ours,’ and then addresses such lost or ruined cities as Cordova and Baghdad. Iqbal had, however, Hindu friends, who were distressed at the path he was taking and remonstrated. He changed, the other side of his aspirations came to the front (“We are all Indians, our country is Hindustan, we are its bulbuls, it is our garden” very popular among students). This was followed, in 1916, by ‘A New Temple,’ in which the same idea is expressed with greater art. Weary of the narrowness of Muslim divines, the poet calls to the Brahmin priest to turn from his narrowness, and to join him in building a temple more lofty than any the world has yet seen, the Temple of India. The glory of the Courtyard from Makkah shall inhabit that temple; the image in its shrine shall be gold, shall be inscribed Hindustan, shall wear both the Brahmin thread and the Muslim rosary, and the Muezzin shall call worshippers to prayer upon a horn. A national anthem. Some of the poet’s admirers are pleased with ‘A New Temple,’ others displeased, and there is much discussion as to how he will evolve. If an outsider may venture an opinion, he will not evolve but revolve. He has felt, with great sensitiveness, the alternatives that Destiny is now offering to India, and one would expect him to continue hesitating between them, as in the past.

The above poems, like most of Iqbal’s work, are in Urdu, the language in which Anglo-Indians shout to their servants, and which they do not suspect of any other function. But he has also written in Persian, and this brings us to an interesting point. A cultivated Indian writer has more than one language lying ready to his pen, and he will select that which is appropriate to his subject-matter, and even to the state of his mind. If a Muslim is conciliating Hindus, he will certainly write in Urdu, which is becoming their common speech and which furthermore contains a Sanskrit element, within limits variable. The Hindu will, conversely, write in Hindi, which resembles Urdu, though not in script, in vocabulary. But if the poet feels religious rather than nationalist, if he sings not of a new India but of the glorious past of his community, then a more antique and concentrated medium may attract him; if a Muslim he may turn to Persian or even Arabic, if a Hindu to Sanskrit. Thus The Secrets of the Self, the Persian poem under review, though published between ‘Our Hindustan’ and ‘A New Temple,’ is totally opposed to them in spirit. It is addressed to Muslims only, is philosophic, separatist; on its literary side it depends upon classical Persia; and though there are non-Muslim elements in it they do not come from Hindustan: no, from a very different quarter.

For Iqbal completed his education in Europe; he had degrees from Cambridge and Munich, and keeps in touch with Western philosophy. And like other of his contemporaries he has been influenced by Nietzsche; he tries to find, in that rather shaky ideal of the Superman, a guide through the intricacy of conduct. His couplets urge us to be hard and live dangerously; tigers, not sheep; we are to beware of those sheep who, fearing our claws, come forward with the doctrine of vegetarianism. In an amusing fable he sets forth the consequences:
The fodder blunted their teethAnd put out the awful flashings of their eye…Their souls died and their bodies became tombs.Bodily strength diminished while spiritual fear increased.The wakeful tiger was lulled to slumber by the sheep’s charm:He called his decline Moral Culture.
We are to shun culture. And though Love is indeed good, it has nothing to do with Mercy, Love is appropriation. It is stealing as opposed to begging. It is the enrichment of the Self. If we seek love in this way, a new type will be born, a champion will come forth from this dust.
Appear, O rider of Destiny!
Appear, O light of the dark realm of Chances!…
Mankind are the cornfield and thou the harvest,
The leaves are scattered by Autumn’s fury:
Oh, do thou pass over our gardens as the Spring!
Receive form our downcast brows
The homage of little children and of young men and old.
When thou art there, we will lift up our heads,
Content to suffer the burning fire of this world!

As a guide to conduct, Nietzsche is at a discount in Europe. The drawback of being a Superman is that your neighbours observe your efforts, and try to be Supermen too, as Germany now realizes. But this is no place to criticize Nietzschean doctrine. The significance of Iqbal is not that he holds it, but that he manages to connect it with the Quran. Two modifications, and only two, have to be made: he condemns the Nietzsche who is an aristocrat, and an atheist; his Superman is permitted to spring from any class of society, and is obliged to believe in God. No further difficulty occurs. There is a text in the Quran which says: “Lo, I will appoint a vicegerent upon earth,” and another text relating that the vicegerency was offered to Man after Heaven and the Angels refused it. Legalists quote these texts in support of the Caliphate; Iqbal in support of his Superman. It is our duty to imitate the divine attributes, and to pass through Obedience and Self-Control to His vicegerency.
God’s vicegerent is as the soul of the universe,His being is the shadow of the Greatest Name.He knows the mysteries of part and whole,He executes the command of Allah in the world.
But likeness to God does not mean union with Him. On the contrary. The Hindus are wrong: so are the Sufis, so even is Iqbal’s own master, the great poet Jalaluddin Rumi. The nearer the Superman approaches god the fuller he grows his own individuality. The desire to merge, to renounce the Self, is a sign of decay, and the doctrine has been evolved by subject races as an anodyne.

It may be remarked in passing that Iqbal by no means turns the Pantheistic position; he says that the Self ought not to seek union with God, but he is not clear as to whether it might succeed if it did try; the spectre of Hinduism still haunts him. But this again is a side issue. What is so interesting is the connection that he has effected between Nietzsche and the Quran. It is not an arbitrary or fantastic connection; make Nietzsche believe in God, and a bridge can be thrown. Most Indians, when they turn to the Philosophy of the West, do not know what will be useful to them. Iqbal sure has an eye.

In another poem, The Mysteries of Selflessness, he treats of Islam as an ideal society, a Catholic Church, in which the Believer can lose himself and touch a life greater than his own. How is the Superman to fit in here? It will be interesting to see, and perhaps Mr. Nicholson will give us a translation. But The Mysteries of Selflessness is likewise in Persian, and what we really need is a translation of the Urdu poems, for it is on them that the poet’s reputation rests. That reputation is unchallenged, although purists at Delhi complain of his provincialisms and party leaders regret that he will not come properly to heel. One thinks of him as a sensitive and shifting personality, in whom is possibly the divine fire, as a nightingale vexed by political watchwords which he cannot ignore because of the realities that lie behind them. Neither India nor Islam is at present a garden, and the voice of Iqbal rings clearer when his conscience is lulled and his own true country—though it be a but a mirage—beckons across the arid sands where Muslim and Hindus and Englishman manoeuvre.
My song is of another world than theirs;This bell calls other travellers to take the road.
How many a poet after his deathOpened our eyes when his own be closed,And journeyed forth again form nothingnessWhen roses blossomed o’er the earth of his grace.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Abraham as a pioneer of world literature

Cenotaph of the tomb of Hazrat Ibrahim
(aliha as salam)

This is a special post celebrating the Islamic month of Zil Hajj. In the Muslim world, this time of the year is connected with the memory of Abraham, or Hazrat Ibrahim (alaih as salam).
Iqbal has summarized the spiritual history of the ancient world through seven visions in the first chapter of Javid Nama (1932). Just after introducing the oldest religion Hinduism, and before moving on to later religions such as Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, he presents the mythical figure of Sarosh as the angel who inspires music and poetry. A possible interpretation is that the acquisition of aesthetics and verbal arts (symbolized by Sarosh) occurred sometime before the appearance of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, and was an important landmark in the spiritual development of humanity. Looking for a reference in the Quran to some historical personality who lived around this time and could be regarded as a trendsetter in verbal arts, our most likely choice is Hazrat Ibrahim (alaih as salam).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

MUSIC VIDEO: Khudi ka sirr-i-nihan

From the Youtube Channel Punjaban48:
Shaukat Ali is one of the best and verstile singer in pakistan. He is the only one folk singer in the history of Paksitan who sang GAZHALS, FOLK, KALAM-I-IQBAL, SUFI KALAM, PLAYBACK SONGS, did comparing, acting and wrote two books of poetry. He is a real legend of Pakistan."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WILL DURANT: Knowledge and the common person

For, if knowledge became too great for communication, it would degenerate into scholasticism, and the weak acceptance of authority; mankind would slip into a new age of faith, worshiping at a respectful distance its new priests; and civilization, which had hoped to raise itself upon education disseminated far and wide, would be left precariously based upon a technical erudition that had become the monopoly of an esoteric class monastically isolated from the world by the high birth rate of terminology.
The quotation is from the preface to the 1933-edition of The Story of Philosophy (1926) by Will Durant. The picture is from the website of Will Durant Foundation, which is a good place for finding out more about the American philosopher.

Durant was quoted by Iqbal (not the excerpt given here) in the article 'Islam and Ahmedism' published in January 1936 in reply to a series by Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru.