Explanatory Note

Question 3 of Iqbal corresponds to Question 9 of Shabistari which discusses the possibility of union of the contingent and the necessary, of man and God, and the significance of "near" and "far" in the context of this union.

According to Shabistari, union (as discussed by him in Question 8) means annihilation of the sense of selfhood and otherness. He who has completely thrown away the dust of contingency from himself is "near" the Absolute and he who is not aware of his non-being is "far." As such, man is totally determined; he has no will or action of his own. The idea of free-will or free causality is only an illusion.

Iqbal's conception of union of the contingent with the Necessary is quite different from Shabistari's. According to Iqbal, union means the capacity of man to achieve divine point of view. What is this and how can we achieve it? The world of Nature confronts us as something "other," existing Per se, which the mind knows but does not make. But to the Infinite Mind, the distinction of self and not-self does not exist. "The ultimate Self, in the words of the Quran, can afford to dispense with all the world.' To Him the not-self does not present itself as a confronting other,' or else it would have to be, like our finite self, in spatial relation with the confronting other.' What we call Nature or the not self is only a fleeting moment in the life of God. His I-amness' is independent, elemental, absolute."15 Again, our conception of Nature as subject to space and time is only an interpretation which our intellect puts on the continuous creative activity of God. Our mathematical space and time, Which is the subject-matter of science, is only a partial manifestation of the behaviour of the Ultimate Ego who is beyond these limitations. "At a particular moment in its forward movement it [i.e. Nature] is finite; but since the self to which it is organic is creative, it is liable to increase, and is consequently boundless in the sense that no limit to its extension is final. Its boundlessness is potential, not actual [lines 11-16] Nature, then, must be understood as a living, ever-growing organism whose growth has no final external limits. Its only limit is. internal, i.e., the immanent self which creates and sustains, the whole. As the Quran says, 'And verily unto thy Lord is the limit' (53 : 14) ."16

How can we attain this divine point of view? According to Iqbal, there are three ways of attaining it. The first is the mystic way which consists in directing our total energy to plumbing the depth of the heart to the exclusion of other interests. It enables an individual to gain a vision of the Absolute but, unfortunately, there is a danger of "the possible relaxation of his activity caused by his enjoyment of and absorption in the experiences that precede the final experience."17 This lack of activity on the part of the mystic has had dangerous consequences in the development of Muslim society as influenced by mystic thought. "The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something but to be something" and it is due to the unwillingness on the part of the mystic to go beyond mere seeing that Iqbal rejects this method of attaining the divine point of view of appropriating the universe. The mystic rivets his eyes on the Real and, although he theoretically accepts that the Appearance is a manifestation of the Absolute, is totally neglectful of the observable aspect of Reality and thus reduces his gain in one field to the total loss of the over-all development of human personality.

The other way is intellectual, the method adopted by the modern scientific man. It consists in understanding the world as a rigid system of cause and effect and thus controls it for the purpose of human betterment. But as it is now too evident to need any exposition, this method has failed to achieve its end. Instead of contributing to the welfare of mankind, it has tended to the destruction of the human race.

The last way is what Iqbal calls vital, which he explains as "the absolute acceptance of the inevitable necessity of life, regarded as a whole which in evolving its inner richness creates serial time. This vital way of appropriating the universe is what the Quran describes as 'Iman,' 'Iman,' is not merely a passive belief in one or more propositions of a certain kind; it is living assurance begotten of a rare experience. Strong personalities alone are capable of rising to this experience. . . ."18 This experience results from rising from the efficient to the appreciative level of self which is achieved by what Iqbal calls Love. Here man feels himself at the height of his creative power and freedom, above the limitations of time and space; "now" and then," "to-morrow" and " Yesterday," "here" and "there," "near" and "far" lose their significance for him; his time becomes coterminous with eternity. But this retirement to the inner core of personality, this detachment, must be the culmination as well as the starting-point of our active participation in the affairs of the world, the aspect of attachment. As Bergson says, attachment and detachment are the twin poles of our social life ; without either of them our life would degenerate into either destructive lust for power or unhealthy monasticism. It is this comprehensive view of life which led Iqbal to assert that to look upon body and mind as two entities absolutely different from each other, as Descartes advocated, is a totally false view of Reality. just as consciousness is a spiritual principle which in its development comes into contact with material environment, so mind or soul is a spiritual principle which uses body as a mode of its manifestation. In Javid Namah, Iqbal says, "What is soul? It is a spiritual principle characterised by love and ecstasy, which enables an individual to overstep the bounds of sky and earth. What is body? It is to familiarise the individual with the limitations of this mundane world. The distinction of ‘near' and 'far' is due to our attachment to body. What is ascension? It is to change this consciousness of 'far' and near' by resort to love and ecstasy."19 In the Reconstruction.., he says that "the 'Nafs' [soul] is the pure act; the body is only the act become visible and hence measurable. "20 As a consequence of this view, Iqbal advocates the union of religion and State in political matters. According to him, the true development of society must suffer miserably if the politics of a nation is divorced from moral and religious ideology as was done in the West and in Turkey.

[See Notes]