|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
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.