As we have seen, Iqbal does not view the human personality as static; it can be strengthened and weakened. Knowledge, in Iqbal’s philosophy, plays a crucial role in this process. Knowledge can lead to action or passivity, and it can lead to a strong sense of purpose and direction and also to a weakening of this directive force. Thus the nature of knowledge acquired by the ego is crucial to its development. Since there are three modes of knowledge-acquisition, knowledge derived from one mode should not inhibit the acquisition of knowledge form other modes. This is especially important with respect to History, and crucial with respect to inner experience. As we have seen, historical knowledge is contained within nature—reality outside the self—therefore this reality determines what kind of historical knowledge will be transmitted to the individual. Thus nature determines the character of the historical knowledge transmitted to the individual. Moreover, while sense perception comes naturally, followed by the gradual development of analytic intellect—which Iqbal describes as the ability to make patterns out of, and derive meanings from, sense-perceptions—inner experience is the last faculty in the sequential development of the human personality. And it has to be consciously acquired—intuition is a faculty that has to be cultivated. And so it is most susceptible to be undermined by knowledge acquired from the other sources (History and Nature). In short: knowledge impacts the development of the self; specifically, nature determines the kind of historical knowledge that the self receives—and hence the degree of continuity with the past that it imbibes—and knowledge derived from nature and history together determine the extent to which the individual will be able to develop his intuitive faculty—and hence, the extent to which he can be an active participant in knowledge-creation and aware of the nature of his own self and all of reality. In this whole process, the importance of nature—the reality outside the self—can clearly be discerned. It is the repository of knowledge, including of the historical kind, and plays a crucial role in the development of the human personality. Since community constitutes an overwhelming portion of the ‘reality outside the self,’ it should now be clear how crucial the community is in Iqbal’s philosophy of the khudi.
The individual and the community
The origin of the human personality or ego is independent of community; however, its temporal existence in space-time and its development occur firmly within the context of its communal environment. The reason for this should be clear from the preceding discussion: the community is the repository of the knowledge, including historical knowledge, that is imparted to the individual. Its institutions (educational, political, economic, etc), its values, mores, its religious inclinations, practices and ideas—all play a crucial role in determining the way the individual ego will perceive its past, whether it will develop its intuitive faculty, whether it will be spurred into action, and hence life, or whether it will be lulled into passivity, which is death. However, it is not only the development of the khudi that occurs within the community—its actions are also carried out within it. In fact, Iqbal was convinced that even more than occurring within nature, human activity changes nature, including community, in important ways. As Iqbal puts is “streams of causality flow from nature to the individual and vice versa.”
The fact that activity does not occur in isolation but impacts its environment made Iqbal carry his philosophy a step further: it was not enough to develop the ego and make it active, but to develop it and make it active in a particular way. The particular method of development and activity was also determined by Iqbal’s concept of the khudi—the development and activity of each individual must be such that other individuals are also allowed to develop their individuality. This is the point where Iqbal goes from elaborating the ideal goal for the individual—the development of its rationally directed, purposeful activity—to the ideal goal for the community—the knowledge it imparts to the individual should not only make it active, but should make it active in a way that allows for the development of all other individuals who are part of the same community.
The question no longer is: what kind of community will develop active individuals? Rather, it is: what kind of community will develop individuals whose activity does not hamper the development of other active individuals? It is here that Iqbal moves from the creation of unique, self-concentrated individuals to self-concentrated but like-minded individuals who identify with each other; this is so because Iqbal firmly believed that unless individuals identify with others, their activity will not be transformed from exclusionary of, and harmful to, others, to inclusionary of, and beneficial to, others. Once again, Iqbal’s sources of knowledge are crucial here: Historical awareness and the religious values, ethical standards, communal mores embodied in the environment outside the self are crucial to the creation of like-minded individuals. But does not this creation of like-mindedness inhibit the individuality and creativity of the human personality? Not according to Iqbal. While like-mindedness means that these individuals come together in a cohesive bond, it does not mean that they loose their individuality—through inner experience, their assimilation of knowledge remains a unique, and creative process. Like-mindedness, thus, does not mean passivity; it means individual creativity and activity that leads to communal harmony and cohesion. To put it differently, individuals participate in the creation of their own like-mindedness, and therefore remain active and creative. However, as we have seen, if the creation of like-mindedness is not to lead to passivity and weakening of the ego, the factors that create like-mindedness must be verified by inner experience—and for this, these factors must be verifiable! Thus, like-mindedness cannot be based on some artificial communal value, or a reconstructed history; it can only be created by a historical awareness that reflects the facts as they are, and a value that can is universally verifiable by each individual ego through its own inner experience. It is for this reason that Iqbal stresses the importance of shared spiritual values—for him, spiritual values alone can be intuitively known and verified, held strongly enough to mould action, and transmitted over time through social structures.
Continuity and change in the ideal community
Thus we arrive at Iqbal’s ideal individual, one who is active and creative. Moreover, because of his like-mindedness with other individuals (on the basis of shared spiritual values and historical memory) he comes together with them to form a community. Through participation with this community, he expresses his creativity; because it is a community of like-minded individuals, sharing spiritual values (that ensure, above all else, respect for other individuals), participation in the community amplifies his freedom, not reduces it—it empowers him to achieve communally what would be impossible individually. He benefits from the power of the community, and the community benefits from his creativity. Moreover, the values of this community—the spiritual values that create like-mindedness, a respect for other individuals, and also encourage the development of each individual’s ego and creativity—are embodied in institutions. And the preservation of these institutions is essential in order to transmit the values of the community over time. Thus, there is a tension: even as the individual expands his creativity, the community attempts to retain its structure. For Iqbal, the continuity provided by the community is important; but so is change. The products of individual creativity must be reflected in the society; but this change must be cautious and informed by the past, if it is to ensure the continuity of the community. Once again, historical knowledge provides this sense of continuity with the past, and also acts as a conservative force on the individual and the community. Sudden changes in the communal structure would threaten to dissolve the environment that fosters individual growth. Thus, even as knowledge increases, institutions change, and the individuals and the society progress; but this change must be cautious, so as to retain the environment that is conducive to proper individual development.
From the community to humanity
No community can exist in isolation to other communities. Even as individual egos within a community cannot help but affect other egos through their activity, likewise, each community cannot help but affect other communities, and hence, the development of the egos in those communities. Iqbal was universalistic; he could not be satisfied with providing a solution for one community, with disregard to others. Indeed, one of the major concerns of his life was how the preoccupation of each European nation with its own economic development had led it to disregard the well being of other peoples. Thus, he was very much concerned with creating a world order that would be conducive to the development of individuals in all of its constituent communities
As we have seen, Iqbal considered that for one ego to identify with another, it would have to perceive some similarity in it, feel some affinity for it. Moreover, since he was convinced that since the real nature of the human individual was spiritual and not physical, he was loathe to base this affinity on physical characteristics, like race or language. Given the individual’s spiritual nature, it was more organic to cultivate affinities based on shared values; and if these spiritual values were in accord with Reality, they could also be verified by each individual; this would lead to conviction, and also to a willing and active consent in their acceptance. Such an outlook proved particularly useful in a global context—physical similarity seemed impossible in the world; there were too many languages and races to create a sense of affinity through such characteristics. But which spiritual value was to form the basis of a global sense of community? A value, which would lead to a respect for all its constituent communities as well as the individuals in it, and so lead to the creation of an environment where all individuals in the world, in all communities, could develop their khudi? Iqbal came to the conclusion that faith in monotheism, in the one God, was the only way possible of achieving this on a global scale.
For Iqbal, God—understood as the Ultimate Ego expressing itself in all of creation—could be verified by each individual. Thus, faith in monotheism would not be a result of a passive acceptance of a myth—it would be the result of active verification of Reality by each individual. And so, it would not weaken the ego, but strengthen it. Moreover, faith in God—due to its magnitude and due to its verifiability—would be strong enough to create a meaningful level of like-mindedness in the individuals who shared it. And like-mindedness stemming from faith in God would be a special kind of like-mindedness—it would not only lead to a sense of affinity with all people who shared the same value, it would also lead to a respect for all people who shared the same God. This last point was crucial in Iqbal’s vision of the world—given the racial, linguistic, cultural, and religious diversity of the world, he had found, in the form of faith in God, that single spiritual value that would allow for diversity, and yet lead to a sense of affinity with, and a respect for, all peoples.
The ideal and reality
Thus we see in Iqbal’s thought two major themes. First, widening circles of association (from the individual to the community, to all of humanity) based on the creation of like-mindedness (through the sharing of spiritual values) and all with the primary aim of ensuring the development of each individual ego in the world (by ensuring the development of its intuitive and creative faculties, and leading to purposeful, rationally directed activity). And second, essential but cautious change in the community, reflecting the creativity of individuals and other communities, but also being informed by the past, so that the cohesion and harmony of the community, as well as the environment conducive to the development of the khudi, remains intact.
This was Iqbal’s vision of the ideal world, one that shaped his attitude towards politics. However, as we shall see, it was not only the ideal vision that would shape his views on politics; indeed, he was more than willing to compromise on his ideals as he believed in not just what was good, but what was good and achievable. What he would condemn, then, is not something that did not incorporate his ideals, but rather than which debarred his ideals from ever being translated into reality. In other words, he was willing to concede a reality that was not ideal; but he was not willing to concede a reality that could never be ideal. This approach is characteristic of his views on all major political issues and ideologies of his time, namely: imperialism, nationalism, socialism and democracy.