Iqbal“The inspiration behind these articles is the article by my friend Raza Rumi “Almost forgotten radical message of Iqbal”. I will approach it as a “Problem of Knowledge” , Knowledge being “To Know”


The principle failure in understanding Iqbal in Pakistan, which Raza has highlighted very thoughtfully is most profoundly an academic failure above every thing else! Iqbal has been studied and explained in the following academic paradigms:


1, Logical-Analytical Paradigm, which understood Iqbal as a “Reformer” in Modern sense! As the motor of modernity in Indian subcontinent was over overwhelmingly Marxist and Leftist, it historicized Iqbal highlighting his “Reformist Project”, Luther style, his Internationalism, his libertarian-Leftist leanings esp reading his work in light of his work on economics, and his poetic work on Europe , his concept of “eternal change” which was confused with Hegelian dialectics. This trend took shape by the efforts of Syed Sajjad Zaheer, Jan Nisar Akhtar and Syed Sibete Hassan. etc later is progressed further outside the Marxist-Leftist umbrella. By far this can be considered most academic of the trends but by no means true to Iqbal. The principle failure of this trend is the failure of its methodology itself, i.e. Logic and Analysis. Because of it Iqbal appears “contradictory” [Logic cannot over come contradiction, to this day Logic cant explain “Motion” very satisfactorily] Iqbal was a “Nationalist” but he opposes “Nationalism”, Iqbal was a “Socialists” but he opposes “Socialism”, Iqbal was lover of India but proposed “Partition”. Iqbal was a Sufi and Saint, but Iqbal vehemently opposed Sufism. Iqbal was an Islamist but he rejected every known version of Islam!!! All these are logical contradictions, due to use of Logic in Analyzing Iqbal but resulted in perception of Iqbal either as confused or an opportunist, changing his positions over time—

2. Second academic paradigm “Islamic Paradigm”, which was driven simply by ignorance. It considered Iqbal as a Sufi, a Saint and Messiah for Islam. Its spirit was simply icon worship. It developed in his life time as a “cult of Personality”, It never bothered about academic rigor or reading Iqbal. This trend didnt continued apart from “cult of Personality” that still exists in Pakistani Public

3. Third trend was the “Islamist Paradigm“. It also was a trend of Modernity but looked toward Fascism as its soul, Maududi and Hassan of Egypt were to extend this trend. This trend saw the “Power” and “Passion” axis in Iqbal as driving force of his Philosophy. It developed the existing understanding of “Islamic Revivalism” “Islamic Nationhood”, “Martyrdom” “segregation” “Sexism” “Anti westernism, later Anti Modernism” “Anti Communism” “glorification of Arab Imperialism” etc. This understanding was inoculated in Iqbal [Meaning was given to Iqbalian text]. This was Logical Anti thesis of the first trend! Due to formation of Pakistan and later her association with Imperialism it became the dominant trend in Iqbal Studies , the “Canonized” version of Iqbal. Neo Fascist Zia ul Haq’s destruction of Academy in Pakistan resulted in its dominance .”Knowledge departed” what was left was “Iqbal Academy“. Strictly speaking this was the “Revisionism”. All the ideology that was imposed on Iqbal was by one way or another rejected by him in the first place. Most of the academic work that emerged within this trend can easily be called “academic dishonesty.” Distortion, ideological motivated hermeneutic studies,selective reading, was one thing but most recently “out right” “de factulization” of historical Iqbal is underway. A typical example I saw a out right “denial” of the most severe opposition of Iqbal’s “Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” by the traditional Islamic clerics of India, some of whom were the friends of Iqbal. This trend progressed from “Right wing revisionism” of Iqbal to “Ahistorical and Antihistorical analysis” Neo Fascist style. Result is Iqbal is perceived In Pakistani class rooms as Poet with Sword in hands urging the Muhammed Bin Kassims and Mehmoods of Ghazna of Islam to crush, loot and plunder the infidels , no one bothers to tell or explain that “opposition to Arab Imperialism” was actually one of Iqbal’s most cherished ideals. Opposition so great that Iqbal rejected the very understanding of Islam [Islam we know and practiced] that developed under its umbrella.

These are the 3 main academic paradigms which intend to decode and reveal Iqbal, all 3 of them actually hide and distort him, his image and his Philosophy. Ill like to comment on few sub-trends , that never gained general acceptance but nevertheless are worth mentioning


  1. Allama GA Pervez: A Modern academic of first rank, Pervez is included in the first trend because Philosophically he is Logical and Analytical, and represent the Indian version of “Linguistic turn” that Analytical Philosophy took after Wittgenstein. He studied Iqbal in strict Logcal-linear way and from him got 3 point on which he started his Project of “Islamic Reformation”
    1. Charge sheet against traditional “Islam”
    2. Analysis of Koran in Modern way
    3. Anti clericalism

Pervez expanded Iqbal’s theory of “Adulteration of Islam” by Arab Imperialism and Persian Metaphysics. Unlike Iqbal his sword was Logic, the result was an excellent attack on Hadith Literature, the Fikkah and Kalam, none of which could withstand his rigorous attacks. His work is iconoclastic and has influenced a whole generation of Liberals, and secularists in Pakistan. He subjected Koran to “Linguistic Analysis”, which gave importance to “structure of Prose”, “Syntax of Language” and “grammar” instead of “tradition”. In theory he “completed” the Lutheran style “Reformation” of Islam. The result is not very consistent with Iqbal’s Islam, becausein place of worshiping graves this is subjugation to Language! Anti clericals have become new Clerics and “Talou e Islam” a “Khankha” of Koran it self


  1. Ali Abbas Jalalpuri

Ali Abbas Jalalpuri was a very rigorous historian of Philosophy and Epistemology. As the dominant mode of Philosophy in Indian Subcontinent has been “Analytical” I include him in the first trend as well. He is amongst first of the Modern Pakistani academics who took interest in the “Question of Civilization”, “History of Ideas” and “Academic Clarity”, “Relationship of Metaphysics, Language and Folklore”, the questions which would eventually become most important issues for European Philosopher especially after “Structuralist” revolution in Paris. Jalalpuri was aware of the inconsistencies and contradictions in explaining Iqbal when subjected to traditional Analytical Model of Philosophy. Where to place Iqbal in the Web of Modern Philosophical Ideas?” was the question he faced and he thought he had theperfect solution. Instead of trying to put Iqbal in the Project of Modernity and face the problem of Contradiction, Jalalpuri placed Iqbal in the in traditional Islamic Philosophers or the “Kalamist”. So the “Paradox” is “Avoided”, Instead of Philosopher, Iqbal is a “Schoolmen” trying to complete “Islamic Scholasticism” after Ghezali. Jalalpuri is rigorous in his work. due to non existent academy , the trend ended with him. “Completing Islamic Scholasticism” is certainly a part of Iqbal’s work, but it’s a Part , not the whole.


On Knowing “Iqbal” what is my take , the model I think can explain iqbal will be next.



To be continued—