La ilah ill Allah (there is no god except Allah), along with the second proposition that Muhammad is the last of God’s prophets, is the basic creed of Islam which, Iqbal thinks, is essential for the moral regeneration of individuals and societies. It is this simple formula that releases man from bondage to race, country or colour and enables him to keep in direct contact with God, the spiritual basis of our life. He states that “if a dogma must be defined as an ultra-rational proposition which, for the purpose of securing religious solidarity, must be assented to without any understanding of its metaphysical import, then these two simple propositions of Islam cannot be described even as dogmas; for both of them are supported by the experience of mankind and are fairly amenable to rational argument.”1

In the Rumuz, Iqbal says that “human thought is idolatrous and idol-fashioning and is ever in search of new idols. In these days it follows once again Azar’s trade, but the new idols it has created, whose beloved name is colour, fatherland, blood-relationship, is shedding blood.”2

This formula, there is no deity except God, is a synthesis of two aspects, -the negative and the affirmative. Logically, these two aspects seem to be closely interrelated. If, for example, you negate beauty, it implies affirmation of ugliness. The famous Ten Commandments, embodying the negative “thou shalt not,” signify no more than an affirmative order advising the people to refrain from taking certain steps.

Some Hindu thinkers and Muslim mystics have tended to ‘define God in negative terms. The Upanishadic neti neti (it is not so) and the mystic characterisation of the Absolute as in the state of ‘ama (darkness), are indicative of this negative theology,. but, even in this case, negation of different characteristics implies. affirmation of certain other attributes which signify a state that. is above human comprehension and logical expression.

Iblis (Satan) represented as a symbol of denial, negation, destruction. In the economy of human life, this is as necessary as-affirmation, positiveness and construction. Civilisation signifies constructive efforts of several generations of people, but it also implies “destruction of a vast number of natural objects and processes”. As Rumi says

[When you wish to reconstruct on an old site,
You must first dismantle the foundation.]

We meet in life contrasts between good and evil, freedom and determinism, separation and union, love and intellect, peace and war. These contrasts, and several others of this type, represent the two poles of the same lite-process. “Without negation none of these contrasts could be defined, . . . hence negation is an absolutely essential function of our thought and will. Without negation there would be no clearness with regard to values, no knowledge of heaven and hell, of good and evil ;.. hence Mephistopheles is indeed the inseparable companion of the one who is to learn what these distinctions are and is thereby to come into contact with what constitutes their value.”4

Soderblom, in his Gifford Lectures for 1933, says in then same strain “But No is also needed. Without No there will be no proper Yes. For then all that denies and destroys, degrades and delays what is right and good would be allowed to remain unattacked and unabolished. That is why No is necessary in the moral warfare of the individual, in the evolution of religion-and in the history of the race.”5

[Life is a Commentary on the Isharat of the Self;
“no” and “but” are the stations of the Self.]6

That the negation and-denial of Iblis signified something affirmative, both Rumi and Iqbal accept. Rumi, for instance, says:

[When I say “no” my meaning is “but”.]7

Iqbal says:

[Under the veil of “no” I have murmured “yes”.]8

The polarity of affirmation and negation, no and yes, is well illustrated in Rumi who says:

[To anyone who is annihilated in My Face,

“everything is perishing,”10 is not applicable;

because he is in “except” he has gone beyond “no”;

whoever is in the state of “except” is not subject to annihilation]9

Similarly, Iqbal has tried to bring out the significance of this polarity in the following verses (besides what he says in the present book):

[Break down the old and start rebuilding.
Who remains in the whirlpool of “no” never reaches “except”.]11

Iqbal thinks that the present day West is in the state of “no” and so is Russia in spite of her socialistic revolution.

[The beaker of modern thought brims with wine of “no,”
but the Saqi has no bowl of “except” in his hand.]12

He speaks of Nietzsche as being unable to pass from No to Yes

[He remained stuck at No and did not each But,
he remained a stranger to the station of His Servant.]13

Although “no” is as essential to the development of human life as “yes,” yet, if movement from negation to affirmation does not take place at the proper time, the consequences are disastrous.

[In the constitution of life, beginning is with no, and is except
if No and Except remain disjointed, it is a message of death.]14

1.         “Shamloo” Ed., Speeches and Statements of Iqbal, pp. 117-18.

2.         Asrar-o Rumuz, p. 163. See Reconstruction, pp. 147, 154, and “Shamloo,” Ed., op. cit., p. 226.

3.         Rumi, Mathnavi, iv, 2350.

4.         Hastings, Ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, art. “Negation,” p. 270a.

5.         Soderblom, The Living God, p. 298.

6.         Javid Namah, p. 177. Isharat is Bu ‘Ali Sina’s book.

7.         Rumi, Mathnavi, 1, 1759.

8.         Javid Namah, p. 158.

9.         Mathnavi, i, 3053-54.

10.        The Qur’an, xviii. 88.

11.        Zabur-i ‘Ajam, p. 128.

12.        Bal-i Jibril, p. 39.

13.        Javid Namah, p. 178. “His Servant” refers to the Qur’an, xvii.

14.        Darb-i Kalim, p. 60.