Friday, 25 April 2014

Reading Ali Shariati on Iqbal

How great minds think alike and have humility to acknowledge each other.

After the century has passed, I think if we have to determine the most important thinker, public intellectual, philosopher and poet the world of Islam has produced, and make reading him essential part of curriculum, we should have no difficulty in naming Iqbal. If we are asked to name two thinkers who may be counted amongst the most influential, most informed, most daring, most passionately concerned about Muslim decline, also most powerful writers writing great poetry and prose respectively and who can help us steer past the challenges of new century and who have creatively appropriated Islamic tradition, there is hardly any difficulty in naming Iqbal and Shariati. If Sunni and Shia approaches to Islam are providential interpretations that are required for a comprehensive expression of Divine Message as argued by another great philosopher Syed Hussain Nasr, we find in Iqbal and Shariati together providential spokespersons for two approaches, united at deeper mystical and metaphysical plane. Reading them coupled with Nasr’s more metaphysical and mystical works and something from Fazlur Rahman and Arkoun means one reads almost everything important on Islam vis-a-vis Modernity.
For those who ask why talk so much about Iqbal let me state the case for Iqbal as made by Ali Shariati.
Today we read Ali Shariati on Iqbal illustrating how great minds think alike and have humility to acknowledge each other. In fact Shariati’s is the best tribute paid to Iqbal by one of the greatest minds and fellow travellers in terms of importance of the arguments and their relevance today.
For Shariati, Hazrat Ali (RA) is the model and the distinctive achievement of him was to reassemble or integrate all the fragmented aspects of Islam in his personality and mission. But the question is how to link Ali(a.s) today in a world that will not understand Ali’s language and requires an intellectual, a philosopher mastering contemporary thought and responding to its challenges and that is none other than Iqbal.Why Iqbal alone qualifies as Ali guna (Ali like) and thus provides link to Ali today is thus argued by Sharati:
Iqbal not only tried to gather the scattered dimensions and shattered parts of the Islamic ideology—the lively Islamic body that has been cut into pieces in the course of history by political deceits and/or by contradictory philosophical and social tendencies, where each piece is kept among a group of Muslims—and compile them and reconstruct them: not only is his masterpiece the book The Reconstruction of Religious Thought, but his greater masterpiece is the formation of the rare, multidimensional, and whole character of himself. It is the reconstruction of a "whole Muslim" in his own person.
 At the sarne time Iqbal is not a thinker who merely assembles together philosophy and intuition, science and religion, and reason and revelation, as very inadequately as did Dara Shiküh and others.He paraphrases Iqbal’s philosophy in this way:
"Iqbal' s "secret of self" is this: apart from the fact that the "mystical- religious consciousness" in comparison with the "philosophical-scientific consciousness" is of a different kind, what distinguishes [the former] is that this consciousness is moulded with the three elements of "pain," "love," and "action." Three elements of which Hegel's complicated philosophy and Francis Bacon's "dry, scientific eye" are deprived, and the lack of which has made the powerful civilization of the new era so harsh and spiritless, and has made the contemporary, advanced man cold and stone-like •.. and so weak and vulnerable.This means Iqbal is able to present the key to spiritual renewal of modern man, as none else in modern Western world. He also argues how he is able to ground ethics in a world hounded by relativism:
 Iqbal in his mystical journey with the Qur'an has reached to this principle, i.e., the primacy of action and responsibility in man •... Which is what Humanists or existentialists or radicals try to lead man to, with the negation of religion and the denial of God.
Shariati, the mystic few know, was a great advocate of Irfan though he criticized institutionalized Sufism as Iqbal did. “Man in Iqbal's Irfan--which is neither Indian Sufism, nor religious fanaticism, rather it is "Qur'anic lrfan"—should change the times. The Qur'an's Islam has replaced "heavenly destiny," in which man is vain and null, with "human destiny," in which man has the fundamental role.”
For Shariati Iqbal is equally concerned with Irfan, freedom and social justice that he identifies as three key aspects of Islam. We need Shariati for his brilliant appropriation and critique of Marx, liberal humanism and existentialism and Iqbal for an informed response and critique of Modernity and both are agreed that we keep struggling to wean the soul of modern man from dehumanizing industrialism and Capitalism. We don’t even suspect Shia-Sunni sectarian consciousness. We find them both united in their quest for values and advocating art for life and art conscious of the sacred.

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