Friday, February 17, 2012

The World of Quran

The great Muslim reformer
Syed Jamaluddin Afghani.
Lesson 3.4 in the online course 'Self-Development through Iqbal' is about "the World of Quran" as explained by Syed Jamaluddin Afghani in the second chapter of Iqbal's Javid Nama (1932). Quite understandably, participants like it very much: they all seem to like the notion that a world of Quran is coming into being in our times, and so on.

I seriously wonder if they would still like it if they knew what it actually meant. To begin with, the text says that the World of Quran lies in the hearts of Muslims. In our times we have come to presume that "Muslim" in this sense only refers to "practising Muslims" or perhaps only those Muslims which fit our definition of what a good Muslim is, and they would be very few at least by our standards. The rest of the Muslim nation, or at least the majority of Muslims in any case, are not deserving of the label "Muslim" according to us, and therefore the World of Quran does not exist in their hearts.

Quite the contrary. Iqbal's usage of the word "Muslim" in this sense included the sinners and the deluded too. Throughout his life he insisted that the consensus of the Muslim community should be binding on all its individuals - and he did not exclude any Muslim from this as long as they believed in the Unity of God and the finality of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

In 1931, when he was leaving for the Round Table Conference, he was asked by a journalist what would he do if all Muslims gave up separate electorates and decided in favour of join electorates. Now, Iqbal believed that giving up separate electorates would mean the end of Islam in India but his answer was that although he is quite sure that Muslims would never give it up, but if they do, then he would happily follow the unanimous decision of his nation.

Can we expect any of our religiously-inclined politicians to say this? Or our liberals and progressives? No, the irony is that the leadership which emerged soon after the birth of Pakistan, whether religiously inclined or secular, has been insisting that its own ideas are the best and whoever doesn't agree with them is either misinformed or dishonest and their opinions should not be regarded.

As long as we take this position, no new ideal can be discovered because we are essentially imposing our pre-discovered ideal on the nation rather than giving it a chance to show us something which we do not already know: a "new world" emerging out of the hearts of those who, whether saints or sinners, are chained together by the love of their Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

I thought it was important that I highlight this fundamental difference which exists between our perception of things and Iqbal's. To him, the personal opinion of any scholar, whether religious or secular, could not overrule the consensus of the nation - and he was himself ever-ready to change his position if dictated by the consensus of his nation. The interview from which I have quoted above is just an example. Other examples are too numerous to be quoted here, but a detailed exposition of this philosophy occurs in 'Mysteries of Selflessness' (رموزِ بیخودی), the second part of Secrets and Mysteries. The same idea is summed up in countless verses, such as this most famous one where he says that individuals have no existence of their own, just as waves cannot be conceived outside the sea:

فرد قائم ربطِ ملت سے ہے تنہا کچھ نہیں
موج ہے دریا میں اور بیرونِ دریا کچھ نہیں

Young people often ask me how they should start if they want to follow Iqbal. In my humble opinion the first step is to acknowledge this difference which exists between Iqbal's perception and our own. You do not have to change your position at once. Give it a thought and even feel free to reject it. But at least know that this difference exists. That is the first step, or else you would be rowing your boat in a mirage: you were born in a veil and would die without ever having lifted it.


  1. Greetings,

    Khurram Ali Shafique, Thank you very much for this interesting post.

    I'm told that there is a saying attributed to Hazrat Khwaja Mo'inuddin Chishti that "Islam is whatever brings you closer to God."

    I'm very wary of any human definitions (or terminology) that contribute to us versus them. I like definitions that contribute to "we-ing" humanity. Oddly, though, humanity doesn't often come up with those definitions. *This* is one thing I really sense (and like) aobut what I understand of Iqbal's philosophy, that is, that there is a seeming emphasis upon discovering a new oneness.

    In my opinion, we don't make it to "we-ing" as long as we're attached to all the many conceptions and standards with which we're very comfortable. As this article incidates, our pre-existing beliefs are a veil that prevents travel into the depths of the sea.

    Thanks so much for this article.

    All good wishes,


  2. @Robert. Thanks. Also, Iqbal has stated at many places that the purpose is to expand this into multi-religious communities centred around the idea of Unity.

    So, my understanding is that in a case like Pakistan it is the consensus of the entire nation including its non-Muslim citizens which is binding on all individual members.

  3. Greetings,

    @ Khurram Ali Shafique, Thank you for sharing this. As always, you open up doors for me.

    Kindest wishes,


  4. Greetings,

    @ Khurram Ali Shafique, When you say "binding on all individual members," can you please expand on this?

    I suppose, when I read or hear the word, "binding," it conveys a certain restrictive tone. Of course, restriction can simply be a boundary to keep the water in a drinking glass, or a lid sealing a pot to cook ingredients into a tasty meal.


    All good wishes,


  5. @Robert: binding in the sense that if a course of action has been adopted through consensus, then let everybody contribute towards it.

    It goes without saying that the course should not contradict the universal ideals and also, it should not be the matter of a simple majority but "consensus": every segment of society has agreed to it after free deliberations.

    Dissenting voices are still allowed, of course. What is being suggested here is a principle which people can adopt "voluntarily" after they have seen its benefits, and have understood that far from stifling their personal development it increases their internal freedom through love.

    On a personal note, I did not come to "accept" this principle until I realized that before applying it to politics, we would need to apply it on art and literature - and the result was so desirable that the rest of it became palatable to me. Do I make sense?

    Plus, it is not a submission of "mind" but of "self" - in the Sufi sense: a degree of love between the individual and society which is analogous to Layli and Majnoon, or Romeo and Juliet.

  6. Greetings,

    @ Khurram Ali Shafique, Thank you very much for describing this. Yes, this makes sense. This helps greatly.

    Kindest wishes,


  7. Presently (In the times of IQBAL and in our times) definitions of the term/word “Muslim” is misinterpreted like so many other words are being misinterpreted globally, nationally or even locally. Today’s greatest issue is to clarify the meaning of the terminologies. All most all conflicts are a result of misunderstood the meanings. This is one of those behavior that people rarely pay enough attention to. If we just think about our personal experience, both at work and at home. How much time and effort are wasted because people are not clear on meanings of words. “You were supposed to do this . .. . ” “I thought you said to do that . . . . . . ”.

    Today’s leadership is not sufficiently clear in describing the right path and as a result people get off track even in a very, very small, short-period professional project.

    Iqbal’s usage of the word Muslim is the truthful, exact, and right manipulation. The question is, How you could get ALL to see this word from Iqbal’s eye. Even how could you make someone see the gap between Iqbal’s sight and his/her sight. To shift the angle of vision is the challenging job of the day, I suppose. We each bring our own meanings to language and experience.

    Knowing, understanding and acknowledging the difference which exists between Iqbal's perception and my own, many questions raise in my mind. For instance, “The world of Quran lies in the hearts of Muslims as explained by Syed Jamaluddin Afghani in the second chapter of Iqbal's Javid.” My question is; let suppose that all Muslims have a heart where lies the world of Quran. Should they carry on storing that world in the heart or they become responsible for action? Who will decide to take second, third, fourth and so on steps to make that world into being? When this emerging world would become a reality? When the humans will become humans and lift themselves up?

    At the moment, many other thoughts (questions) are knocking my mind those I feel difficult to represent here.

  8. Greetings,

    @ Muhammad Zeeshan Khan, Thank you for your post. You mentioned, "The question is, How you could get ALL to see this word from Iqbal’s eye."

    I sense, given the feedback of Khurram Ali Shafique, that it comes about by nothing less than a *transformation* of humans and humans as society. I emphasize *transformation*, as I do not think that the goal is achievable by repeating what has been done so far, by doing what we *know*, that is, seeking to inculcate it in others through merely intellectual means. That's what my limited understanding is telling me at this moment.

    All good wishes,


  9. I agree with Robert Islam is whatever brings closer to Allah SWT

    جن کو آتا نہيں دنيا ميں کوئی فن' تم ہو
    نہيں جس قوم کو پروائے نشيمن، تم ہو
    بجلياں جس ميں ہوں آسودہ' وہ خرمن تم ہو
    بيچ کھاتے ہيں جو اسلاف کے مدفن، تم ہو

    ہو نکو نام جو قبروں کی تجارت کرکے
    کيا نہ بيچو گے جو مل جائيں صنم پتھر کے

    صفحہ دہرئے سے باطل کو مٹايا کس نے؟
    نوع انساں کو غلامی سے چھڑايا کس نے؟
    ميرے کعبے کو جبينوں سے بسايا کس نے؟
    ميرے قرآن کو سينوں سے لگايا کس نے؟

    تھے تو آبا وہ تھارے ہی' مگر تم کيا ہو
    ہاتھ پر ہاتھ دھرے منتظر فردا ہو

  10. Rabbana-ghfir lana dhunuubana wa israfana fi amrina wa thabbit aqdamana wansurna 'alal qwamil kafireen

    can i know the meaning of this?

  11. "Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and our transgressions (in keeping our duties to You), establish our feet firmly, and give us victory over the disbelieving folk." (3:147)this is the meaning of the dua that @anonymous has asked for.
    coming to our discussion, we need to understand that the religion Islam has come with its own rules and regulations, and its own 'rule book'.different ppl can give different interpretations of what islam is but that does not mean that they are correct:). there has to be a yardstick that is the deciding factor.....that yardstick we find in the life of Prophet Muhammad(saw).....interpretations by other people of what islam is, is there own opinion and nothing else.

  12. @Umm e Ali: this blog is all about how Allama Iqbal understood various things. That includes the lessons he drew from the life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). This post has discussed one of those lessons, which Iqbal considered to be very important for the life of the Muslim nation.

    If you have understood the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a manner which is different from Iqbal's, you are entitled to your understanding.

  13. @khurram i believe it is my mistake because when i was writing the previous post i shud have mentioned that i was referring to this sentence "Islam is whatever brings you closer to God."