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Soon after reading the book, my senior friend and veteran educationist Dr. Irfan Hyder wrote to me:
"This may be a summary or a prologue to a much more voluminous undertaking or multiple volumes effort."
Actually, this is true. 2017 is a summary of key points which are being elaborated in some 6000 pages in the series of six books of Iqbal's biography in Urdu (the third book was recently published, as you may remember).
It all started with the awareness that Iqbal Studies cannot be and should not be the study of Iqbal in the light of existing paradigms. Unfortunately, that has been generally the case. Some Iqbal scholars may disagree with me but it is my honest and humble opinion that we have only seen Iqbal through the eyes of the world and never seen the world through the eyes of Iqbal.
This problem was pointed out by Iqbal himself and his earliest friends and followers as early as the 1920s. I have offered substantial evidence in the recently published third book of Iqbal's biography, Iqbal Darmiani Daur. See, for instance, my account of A Voice from the East, the first full-length monograph about Iqbal written and published by his associate Sir Zulfiqar Ali Khan in 1922. Many of the reviews published in Urdu after the English translation of 'Asrar-i-Khudi' have also been excerpted in my book, and they voice the same concern. The concern was voiced most boldly by Waheed Ahmad Masud, whose excellent article has been included in entirety as appendix in my book, for this very reason.
The major concern voiced by all these writers, headed by Iqbal himself, was that it is not sufficient to see Iqbal from the perspective of the existing knowledge, whether Eastern or Western. In fact, it could be dangerous and misleading. Instead of seeing Iqbal through the eyes of the world (or at least in addition to doing so), we must also see the world through the eyes of Iqbal.
This was the line of thinking that led to the creation of Pakistan. Unfortunately, it was abandoned almost completely soon after the birth of Pakistan.
If we look at the aims and objectives listed in the journals of Iqbal Studies started in Pakistan in the 1950s, we see a list of subjects in which Iqbal was interested or which had been touched upon in his writings, such as history, literature, social sciences, religion, education and so on. There is no mention that these subjects need to be studied in the light of Iqbal's views.
Quite the contrary, an unwritten convention soon developed that Iqbal's views on all the subjects must be regarded as "dated" (actually, as "outdated"). Since Iqbal had died in 1938, the views and theories which had emerged in social sciences and humanities after that time should be followed and the works of Iqbal should only be interpreted in the light of these new theories.
This is the convention which I want to challenge, and challenge it boldly. I understand that I shall end up offending many Iqbal scholars (some of them very well-meaning), but it is my humble and honest opinion that the name "Iqbal Studies" can only be given to the study of things from the perspective of Iqbal, and not to anything else.
- To study the philosophical ideas of Iqbal in the light of existing conventions of philosophy is not Iqbal Studies. It is just the subject of Philosophy, with Iqbal added to the syllabus.
- To study the poetry of Iqbal in the light of existing conventions of literary criticism is not Iqbal Studies. It is just Urdu Literature, or Persian Literature, and so on.
- So on with history, religion, science and education.
This is not just an academic debate. It is a matter of life and death (in my opinion, and I do not mean any disrespect to those who may think that I am exaggerating).
I say this because in every field of study - in every area of human perception and understanding - the results change drastically when the principles of Iqbal are applied independently. In some areas, what we consider medicine is poison according to Iqbal and what we usually shun as poison is the necessary food according to him, without which we may die.
For Pakistan, the major implication is that we find a clearly defined list of options from which we can choose in order to solve our present problems and, perhaps, turn Pakistan into a world leader with least resistance and minimum effort. For the world, it holds a promise of peace, happiness and self-discovery on an unimaginable scale.
This is what I have tried to describe in 2017, and the supporting evidence is coming out in thousands of pages in the six-book series of Iqbal's biography.