Iqbal: Mind and Art

Author: Jagan Nath Azad;

Publisher: National House, Urdu Bazar, Lahore (Pakistan) pp..232; Rs.125/—.

Prof. Jagan Nath Azad, who has earned for himself an authoritative niche in Iqbaliat, encompasses in this book the quartet of poetry, politics, philosophy and religion that forms the matrix of Iqbal’s creative genius. In the first chapter, by collecting and collating facts and sifting them logically, he settles the controversy over Iqbal’s date of birth and firmly determines it to be November 9, 1877.

In Indian Background of Iqbal’s Poetry’, Prof. Azad rebutts the lopsided criticism about Iqbal being merely a Pan Islamist. He contends that carping commentators and adoring critics of Iqbal who dichotomise his well-integrated genius hinder an unbiased assessment of his poetry and philosophy. If viewed in proper perspective, a pattern of Indian cultural heritage is discernible in the hinterland of many of Iqbal’s poems, including his magnum opus, ‘Javed Nama’.

In the next two chapters, Prof. Azad discusses some salient aspects of Iqbal as a poet, politician and philosopher and contends that in him- all the three are finely blended. There is nothing schismatic between his concept of nationalism and internationalism based on Islamic brotherhood. What Iqbal deprecated was the perverted, insular nationalism that encouraged atheistic materialism dividing humanity into warring sections. Prof. Azad holds that what turned Iqbal into a Pan Islamist was an urge to save the Islamic world from the throes of the de’ouring European nationalism in the beginning of this century.

One of the greatest among recent Islamic thinkers, Iqbal felt that Europe had learnt much from Islam in the past but had advanced so much that it was now imperative to see how European thought could help in the reconstruction of Islamic religious thought. With his ingrained faith in the permanence of change, he believed that by keeping itself abreast of the physical and metaphysical evolution brought about by human thought and still preserving its own pristine glory could Islam remain a dynamic force. For him religion was not communalism, nor even a conglomeration of fetid dogmas and formalism, preaching renunciation or helpless submission to Cod. He has, therefore, struck a balance between the two attitudes of `know in order to believe and believe in order to know.

Pointing out Iqbal’s affiliations with and deviations from the European thinkers in the context of Islamic thought, Prof. Azad says that, unlike Bergson, Iqbal believed that the `vital impulse in its creative urge’ leads to the amelioration of human life. Unlike Schopenhauer, Iqbal does not regard life as a mere effort to exist. While Nietzsche’s Superman is devoid of all moral obligations, Iqbal’s Mard-i-Momin has scrupulous ethical principles. Regarding fatalism as un-Islamic, Iqbal believed in bold action. This accounts for his recognition of the infinite potentialities of the Self which is in consonance with the Quranic conception of man as “a creative activity” and forms the basis of his preference of action to abstraction.

The appendices include stray notes on Iqbal, Prof. Azad’s letters to newspapers and journals about controversial facets of Iqbal’s evaluation, his reviews of books about Iqbal and his preface to Anand Narain Mulla’s translation of Iqbal’s “Lala-i-Tur”. Prefaced by Dr. Mohammad Maruf’s balanced and perceptive analysis of Prof. Azad’s views and copiously studded with illustrative extracts from Iqbal’s works and their meticulous translations, this valuable compendium on Iqbaliat provides smooth, racy reading in spite of frequent visitations from Printer’s Devil.

Prof Azad Galati