Iqbal and the words of the Quran
There is no doubt that the first verse of the Quran revealed to the Holy Prophet (S.A.S.) was
اقراء باسم ربک الذی خلق
"Read in the name of thy Sustainer, Who has created."
Interpreting اقراء Muhammad Asad writes;
"The imperative Iqra may be rendered as "read" or "recite". The former rendering is to my mind, by far preferable in this context inasmuch as the concept of "reciting" implies no more than the oral delivery… with or without understanding — of something already laid down in writing or committed to memory, whereas reading primarily signifies a conscious taking-in, with or without an audible utterance but with a view to understanding them, of words or ideas received from an outside source: in this case the message of the Quran."
Whether it be "read" or "recited", one thing is obvious that the Message was being conveyed in words. Telepathically also things can be conveyed, messages can be imparted but without words no message can take a form similarly it cannot be understood without words uttered or unuttered. There can be no thought without words. Then how could only the meaning be inspired in respect of the book which had to offer clear guidance to mankind till eternity with injunctions, prohibitions and commands meant to be made home to them.
Iqbal does not bother about what the Mu'tazalites (معتزلہ) and the Ash'arites (اشاعرہ) held in this regard. For him the words of the Quran were also eternal and above any shadow of doubt. They being words of Allah could not entertain any change, doubt or falsehood. He says:
"There is no doubt about the meaning of its words. Nor can they be changed.
It does not allow misinterpretation of its verses".
This is what God Almighty Himself proclaims about the Quran, in the words of the Quran:
"Behold! It is we Ourselves Who have bestowed from on high, step by step, this reminder (i.e. Quran) and behold! it is We Who shall truly guard it (from all corruption)."
"No falsehood can ever attain to it openly and neither in a stealthy manner, it is bestowed from on high by One who is truly wise, ever to be praised."
Thus Quran is the only revealed book which remained free from all sorts of changes and alterations. Nothing was added to it nor was anything deleted from its text, since the moment it was revealed to the Holy Prophet (S.A.S.). From the very first verse to the last, it retains its form, every word as it was. Nobody could dare tamper with the Quran openly nor could one corrupt its words surreptitiously it order to confuse its meanings.
Iqbal in the verses quoted above has laid down his belief in and appreciator of the Quran. It was his firm faith that the Quran being the last revealed book had to be guarded against all corruptions. It was his ardent conviction that as the Quran was the everlasting wisdom for the guidance of man till eternity hence its every word was a living word. No word could become obsolete because it neither contained any doubtful word in its original text nor could it ever afterwards enter tarn an iota of questionable expression.
There have been theologians as well as philosophers who addressed the question whether it were the meanings only which were revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) or the words also came from God. In other words we may say that the question baffled some critics, logicians and analysts because according to them the purpose, the object, and meanings were inspired but the words were from the Prophet (peace be upon him). As far as Iqbal's stance is concerned, he unquestioningly believed that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the very words it contained. Not the sense only, the vocabulary also was Divine. In this regard Faqir Sayyed Waheed-ud-Din relates:
"Once Iqbal was in jolly mood of talking I availed of the opportunity and put him a question as to how he composed verses. He answered that I had started an interesting discussion but asked me to listen to an anecdote first. He narrated that the Annual Meeting of the Forman Christian College was being held. Dr. Lucas, the then Principal of the college, invited him also. Tea was served at the end of the meeting. Dr. Lucas approached him and asked him not to go away after tea because he wanted to discuss with him something very important. When the tea was over Dr. Lucas came to him and took him to a corner and stated that he wanted to know whether it was only the sense and meanings of the Quran that were revealed to his (Iqbal's) Prophet (peace be upon him) which he translated in his own language or the words of the Quran also were revealed to him. In brief, was the Quran revealed to his (Iqbal's) Prophet (peace be upon him) in words or in "meanings". Iqbal's answer was that words of the Quran were also revealed. And according to him the verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Arabic language. On hearing the this unexpected reply Dr. Lucas was taken aback and remarked amazedly 'I wonder how a man of your wisdom can believe without any reason that the words of the Quran were also revealed'. Iqbal's explanation was that when he composed a verse it was revealed to him as a whole. Then how could it be possible-that the last of Prophets who was sent' for the guidance of the worlds, the Quran should not have been revealed as a whole, meanings and words. In Iqbal's view there was nothing extra-ordinary about that. Thus, Iqbal stated that he silenced Dr. Lucas on the strength of that argument."5
It was quite obvious that Iqbal when composed verses it was not thought without words that came to his mind. No thought can ever be visualized without words, especially when the thought is to be conveyed to somebody else. It was the Angel who was the medium of the revelation. As though God put the message into the Angel's mind without words, who in turn conveyed it to the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) without words, a Message aiming at transforming the whole lot of humanity from every walk of life, individually and collectively. Not only that but to prepare them for the Day of Judgement and for life after death. Either one should believe in the revelation or one should reject it as a whole.
Prof. F. K. Hitti endorses Iqbal's view and supports his faith in respect of this aspect of the Quran:
"Bible, as is evident from the very word is a 'library' written in different languages, places and times. Its writing extends over eight hundred years. But the Quran was revealed to a person within a few years and almost at a place. The Bible was inspired, the Quran was dictated. You can quote the Quran by saying 'God said'. But Bible has undergone editorial and amendment changes but not so the Quran."
Quran's own declaration about itself is clear, no ambiguity of any kind.
"Now behold this (divine book) has indeed been bestowed from on high by the Sustainer of all worlds, trustworthy divine inspiration has alighted with it from high upon your heart (0, Muhammad) so that you may be among those who warn and preach, in clear Arabic language."
And for Iqbal the words of the Quran being divine contained light, blessing, benediction. This is why Iqbal says addressing Niazud-Din Ahmad Khan: "One should read Quran more and more so that the heart may find a relation with Muhammad (peace be upon him). To get at this relation the knowledge of its meanings is not necessary. To read the Quran with a sincere heart is sufficient."8
An anecdote related by Professor Rashid Ahmad Siddiqui throws ample light on Iqbal's belief in the blessings of the words of Quran. In an article the Professor writes:
"Iqbal intensely loved Sir Ross Masood and vice versa. Lady Ross Masood too had great respect for Iqbal and looked after his health. Lady Masood was pregnant. Iqbal got appointed a Qari who, with a sweet voice recited the Quran to the Lady every day early in the morning for half an hour. Iqbal believed that during pregnancy, it was highly beneficial to the child if the mother listened to the Quran being recited melodiously."9
Since the Quran contains words of God hence when a person reads it he in fact, establishes contact with God. Quran serves as a medium between God and man. Abu-Saeed al-Khudri has reported a saying of the Holy Prophet:
کتاب اللہ ھو الحبل الممدودمن السّماء الی الارض ط
"The Book of God is the rope extending from the heavens to the earth."
Iqbal has expressed the same idea in the following verses:
"We are all dust and a heart, wide awake, is the Quran.
Hold on to it firmly, this is God's rope.
Knit yourself well in it like jewels in a thread,
Otherwise you will scatter and vanish like dust."
Iqbal's belief in the Gracefulness of the Revelation as a whole leads him to the conclusion that the words of the Quran themselves are a Light, a Benediction and a Blessing. Does not the Quran itself declare about its status, for example:
من القرآن ما ھو شفاء وّ رحمۃ للمؤمنین
"And we reveal of the Quran that which is a healing and a mercy for believers."3)
یاایّھا النّاس قد جاء کم برھان رّبکم و آنزلنا الیکم نورا مبّینا
"O, mankind, now a proof from your Lord has come unto you, and we have sent unto you a clear Light." (4)
ھذا کتاب انزلنا، مبارک فاتّبعو و اتّقوالعلکم ترحمون
"And this blessed Book which we have revealed. So follow it and ward off evil, that you may find mercy." (5)
It means that it is not only the meanings of the Quran which are a Light, a Healing and a Blessing which purify and enlighten human hearts and souls and lead human beings to the righteous path but its words also disseminate their heavenly influence over and above their contents. Even a baby in the womb of the mother could benefit from the words of the Quran. This is how Iqbal looked at the Quran.
In the "Armughan-e-Hijaz", while addressing the "Daughters of the Ummah", Allama Iqbal spotlighted this fact with reference to 'Umar's acceptance of Islam. History stands witness as to how 'U mar had left his home and made for the abode of the Prophet (S.A.S.) with a determination to put an end to his life. But on his way to the Prophet he was told that his own sister had embraced Islam, the religion preached by Muhammad (S.A.S.). In order to sweep before his own door first he returned towards his sister to take her to task. At his sister's dwelling the words of the Quran which were being recited by the sister fell on his ears. The words moved him ('Umar), who till that moment was an arch enemy of the Prophet (S.A.S.) went straight to him and declared with all earnest and in it :state of submission that he had come for the sake of embracing Islam. Says Iqbal:
"From our evening dusk get a dawn anew;
To seeing eyes read the Quran anew;
From your readings warmth you know
That you changed altogether the destiny of 'Umar."
There transpired a complete change in 'Umar's destiny. And he had heard only the words of the Quran. As is obvious he till then did not know the meanings of what the Quran contained and what the principles of Islam were. It was 'Umar who had intended to kill the Prophet (S.A.S.). And it was the same 'Umar who became one of his best companions who was nominated Caliph by Hazrat Abu Bakr-e-Siddique to succeed him, who was the first to assume the title of the "Commander of the Faithful", and who set the brightest examples in the art of governing, administering justice and evolving practical shape of collective fraternity and social equality unsurpassed in human history.
As to the luminosity of the words of the Quran, Khawaja Nizam-ud-Din of Delhi once related how a God-fearing man and gnostic Hassan Afghan, although absolutely unlettered could distinguish the words of the Quran from other writings. People would come to him and show him some piece of writing Arabic and Persian, and ask him as to where was the Quran in those lines. Hassan always put his finger correctly on the Quranic verse or verses. Whenever asked how he could so correctly distinguish the Quran from other text although he had not read the Quran, his reply always was that the words of the Quran were luminous whereas the others were not. This shows that even an illiterate person can avail of the Blessings of the Quran according to the degree of his inner purity. A saintly person was asked whether one could benefit from reading the Quran without knowing its meanings. The answer was that a medicine works even if the patient might not be knowing the ingredients of the medicine. The Quran is much more than a medicine prepared by human hands.
We should not refute such facts in a hurry. On the contrary, we should accept that God has stored in man subtle delicacies and endowed him with infinite possibilities. So far we have not been able to comprehend the scope of our sense-perception, the turn of the inner sensations will come a bit later. Come it must.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. The Message of the Quran, p. 963.
2. Kulliyat-e-Iqbal (Persian), p. 121/121.
5. Ruzgar-i-Faqir, (1950), pp. 55, 56, 57.
6. Islam — A Way of Life, Oxf. Press, (1970), p. 27.
8. Iqbal Aur Quran, Iqbal Academy, p. 10. i
9. Ganjhai Giran Mayah ( ) Three Friends Publishers, Urdu 'Bazar, Rawalpindi.
10. Faiz-ul-Qadeer, Vol. II, p. 83.
15. Armughan-e-Hijaz, Kulliyat-i-Iqbal (Persian),. 94/976.