The distinction between Free Man (hurt) and its antithesis,. Slave (‘abd), belongs to the pre-Islamic Arab society which, like the Greek and other ancient societies, was feudal in character, divided into free men and slaves. The Qur’an refers to both these categories of people in ii. 178, using the words hurr and ‘abd. The word ‘abd was retained by the Qur’an to designate the ideal type of man in relation to God.

These two words, hurt and ‘abd, were used by Iqbal first in Asrar-i Khudi (pp. 82 if.). It is, however, to be noted that these 18 verses dealing with the characteristics of two types of people were not there in the first edition, published in 1915, not even in the second edition, and, therefore, were not included in Nicholson’s translation of the Asrar, which was based on the second edition of the text.

One type of people, the slave, is devoted to the pursuit of material ends and employs reason as an exclusive tool of approach. As such these people are confined within the net of space and time and their vision, therefore, does not rise higher than mornings and nights which weave their shrouds round their bodies. They are subject to the inexorable law of fate, and are contentedly happy with the old repetitive phenomena of life. They are given to sloth and, like fossils, never taste the joy of growth. and development. They feel safe in the cosy mansion of the past, with no concern for the present ever-changing panorama of human history.

The Free Man, on the other hand, does not allow these nights and days to put limitations on the flights of his ambitions. When he bursts forth from the shell of the dust and acquires “heart,” the symbol of the spiritual realm, he becomes the ruler of the universe. He is a creator par excellence on this earth, ever expanding his spiritual dimensions by singing new songs and creating new things and enlightening the hearts and minds of people around him His life is creatively related to the past and inspired by the vision of the future. This Man was described by Iqbal in Asrar-i Khudi, under the heading “God’s Vicegerency” and later while elucidating the “Hidden Meanings of the Names of ‘Ali’” (pp. 52-57).

There is one more point to be considered, viz. Iqbal’s use of the word ‘abduhu for the Perfect Man, most probably under the influence of Hallaj, who, while speaking of him, says: “He (i.e. God) looked in eternity and brought forth from non-existence an image, an image of Himself, endowed with all His attributes and all His names: Adam. The Divine look made that form to be his image into everlasting. God saluted it, glorified it, chose it, and inasmuch as He manifested Himself by it and in it, that created form became Huwa, Huwa, He, He.”1

Rumi has also dealt with this conception of the Perfect Man in great detail. There is a well-known ghazal of Rumi which is included in Nicholson’s Selected Odes (Ode 8) and then in the Mathnavi itself he describes the character of the Perfect Man, for whom he employs the old term, Adam.2

Besides other places where Iqbal has used this word ‘abduhu,3 in Javid Namah (pp. 149-50) he gives his point of view in detail:

[“His Servant” surpasses your understanding
because he is a man, and at the same time essence.”
“Servant” is one thing, “His Servant”4 is another thing
we are all expectancy, he is the expectation”
no man knows the secret of “His Servant”.
“His Servant” is naught but the secret of “save God”. ...
“His Servant” is the how and why of creation”
“His Servant” is the inward mystery of creation.”]

In the end, Iqbal emphasises the importance of associating. with such people. On this subject, Rumi’s following verse is. well known:

[Association with friends of God for a few moments
is better than sincere worship of God for years.]

Armaghan-i Hijaz, p. 158

[Better in the company of a self-knowing person for a few minutes
than to listen to the discourses of Mullas.]

1.         R.A. Nicholson, The Idea of Personality in Sufism. p.40.

2.         Mathnavi, iv, 398-402, etc.

3.         See Asrar-o Rumuz, p. 105; Armaghan-i Hijaz, p. 128

4.         The Qur’an, xvii. 1.

5.         Javid Namah, p. 150. Arberry’s translation, p. 99.