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Iqbal: poor philosophy, rich poetry

32 20 260
09.11.2018

The state and its propaganda apparatus have been a great hindrance in the development of an objective approach or objective approaches to Iqbal. Yet, one can ask whether Iqbal didn’t really come handy to a regressive state.

Letting Iqbal entirely off the hook and attributing the problem mostly to the state has been the tendency in influential segments of the liberal intellectuals and in the Marxist left in Pakistan, which suddenly discovered in Iqbal a philosophical genius that they had failed to spot before – when they were condemning him for what was seen as fascism and fascistic symbols adorning his poetry. All that changed after some Soviet scholars, perhaps working under Soviet state guidelines, saw in Iqbal a great anti-imperialist and ‘anti-capitalist humanist’.

An acute sense of social injustice is indeed powerfully present in parts of Iqbal’s poetry. What should be noted is that, despite using Marxist insights in those parts, Iqbal has no place for even a tinge of Marxism in his serious ‘philosophical’ efforts, as is evident from his ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’. In fact what these lectures make clear in places is that a fear of the spread of socialism is one of the factors driving Iqbal’s ‘Reconstruction’.

His reactionary idealism is positively at odds with Marxism. Our leftists confuse his poetic devices and a few romantic, and no doubt powerful, invocations by him of Marx and Lenin with what they call his philosophy. Often, these invocations serve to attack colonialism and fascism as evil fruits of secularism, nationalism, democracy, liberalism and reason.

What has been lacking in most of Iqbal’s admirers on both the Right and the Left is an intellectual commitment to the plain truth. Instead, what has proved irresistible is the desire to use Iqbal’s name to be acceptable to the people among whom Iqbal came to enjoy great ‘intellectual’ influence and popularity. As a result, with very few exceptions, little honest discussion on Iqbal’s lectures has taken place here.

Iqbal attacked reason, science, philosophy, literature, art and free thought at a very crucial stage of our social and political history.........

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