Week 11: Sir Muhammad Iqbal and the Creation of Pakistan; the Iranian Revolution


The Achievement of Khudi

This week, we delved deeper into cases studies of reform and revolution: one in Pakistan inspired by Muhammad Iqbal, and the other, the Iranian Revolution. Thinkers like Iqbal emerged during the reform movements in the postcolonial era. They believed in empowering Muslims through adaptive and integrative methods, in other words integrating Western “foreign” models within an “Islamic” framework. Muhammad Iqbal was an Indian-Muslim poet and philosopher who was influenced by European and Islamic thinkers like Rumi and Al-Hallaj. He criticized nationalism and materialism. In Ralph Russell’s Iqbal and His Message, he discusses the effort Iqbal made to speak not only to Muslims in Pakistan but all throughout the South Asian world. He famously interpreted the Quranic verse (23:14) that God was the “best of creators” to signify that humans were also creators in their own rite (p. 177). He also makes an innovative interpretation of the word khalifa, or leader, based on the Quranic verse (2:30), which says that God created Adam to be a leader on Earth. He argued that God entrusted everyone with the ability to be a leader on Earth and constantly adapt to new situations by using the Prophet’s example and guidance from the Quran (p. 177).

He also introduced the term khudi, which is a new conceptualization of the self. Different from the Sufi term nafs, which is the ego that must be annihilated in order to bring a person closer to God, one’s khudi should be embraced. Iqbal uses the Quranic principle that God will help those who help themselves to bolster the idea of khudi.  I was inspired by the concept of khudi when I decided to draw this image above. It suggests that humans were born in a pure state and throughout our lives, we are working towards our purpose: self-actualization of our God-given potentials. I drew this picture to represent the soul slowly attaining khudi. The soul is the white form and it has almost achieved its true form, in other words becoming yellow and purely full of light. The green background represents the impact this purified soul has had on the world around it. Since the soul has acted like a khalifa, it was able to improve the world around it like Iqbal describes. I left the head of the soul white because the mind is the hardest part to change in a person. Iqbal says that that one must forfeit aql (rationality) to achieve ishq (love) in this spiritual transformation (p.178). The author criticizes this extreme replacement of aql for ishq, which I agree with, and which is why I also left the head white (p. 179). I agree with the author in that a person can use ishq and aql together to face the world and makes changes.

Leave a Reply