Iqbal describes the individual human personality as “a series of actions held together by a directive purpose.” Thus, actions, given coherence by a purposeful directive force, make up the unity of the self. Iqbal finds this understanding of the personality to be self-evident. The actions of the self—and their relatedness or the lack thereof—are a matter of evident observation by all other individuals who come into contact with it. And the directive force—born out of a sense of purpose and controlling the actions for the sake of achieving that purpose—is a matter of evident observation by the introspective self. In Iqbal’s view, strengthening the individual ego is the ultimate aim of life; if the human personality is rationally directed action, to live is to act, to be passive is to die.As we shall see later, mere activity, or even rationally directed activity, is not the desirable end. Correct development of the khudi involves a particular kind of activity directed by a particular kind of purpose. However, the treatment of this point makes more sense when discussing the self in relation to the community, and so will be carried out later in the paper. Such an understanding of the human personality implies a standard of good and evil: all that strengthens the directive purpose, leading to and controlling actions, is good; all that weakens it is evil. However, this preceding statement—that all that strengthens the self is good; all that weakens it is evil—in itself implies some interaction between this ‘all’ and the ‘self’; moreover it implies that this interaction affects the self in decisive ways. As we shall see, this ‘all’ refers to the reality outside the self, both Natural and Historical. But in order to understand all the ways that the human personality can be affected by the outside world, it is necessary to understand Iqbal’s theory of knowledge.
The concept of the khudi (the self, individual
ego or human personality) is the bedrock of Iqbal’s philosophy, and his
“main contribution to the thought of his times.” In fact, it is one of the
two concepts that is fundamental enough that he devotes a separate chapter
to it in his seminal prose work, The Reconstruction of religious thought in
Islam; (the other concept is the existence of God, and is also treated
separately in its own chapter).