Thus, we see in Iqbal a philosopher not just lost in his own idealism, but grappling with the pressing issues in the lives of men and the world they lived in. In doing so, he proposed and lobbied for a worldview that placed the individual and his development in center stage. It has been rightly remarked, “Iqbal’s philosophy began with the individual and ended with it”—not just one individual in one community, but all individuals in all communities. This, for Iqbal was the only acceptable state of affairs. But this did not imply that all else was utterly unacceptable. As we have seen, for Iqbal, it was not necessary (or possible) for the ideal to be realized at once. But it was essential that the ideal remain relevant at all times. Thus, when moving from the ideal to the real, Iqbal was careful to discern between the reality in which the ideal was an operating force and the reality in which the ideal was reduced to irrelevance. The former he accepted critically—as a critical attitude towards reality was one way in which it could be shaped in accordance with the ideal—and the latter he rejected vociferously. This is why he accepted capitalist republican democratic states—provided they accept the primacy of individuals within them, encourage the creation of an environment where the community (or communities, in the case of multi-cultural states) could develop through the strengthening of the individual personalities in them, and finally, accept their role as members of a world system where all states were equal—in their subservience to individual development. Six decades after his death, today’s world—where emphasis is shifting from democratic institutions to democratic practice; where countries are being mapped less and less on the basis of shared skin color and more on the basis of shared values; where debates on colonialism are focused on authenticity and intellectual agency rather than just land; where multiculturalism is becoming a central issue in politics as nationalist wars create doubts about the whole notion of territorial nationalism; and most importantly, a world where conceptions of individual human dignity, worth and potential (though still not universally practiced) are becoming universal enough to be enshrined in international declarations and charters—this world, then, bears testimony to the vision of a 20th century Muslim activist and his universalistic worldview.

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