From 1st century BCE, the Roman empire had grown in power expanding its rule over Europe, Mediterranean Africa, and the Middle East. By the 2nd CE it was at its peak and the Imperial culture, with its emphasis on power, risked the values of scholarship and philosophy from ancient times. In the following epoch, political thinking was subordinated to religious dogma and the ideas of ancient Greece were largely neglected. In the 7th century Islam emerged as a powerful religion that spread from Arabia into Asia and Africa and also inspired the political thinking in Christian Europe. Unlike Christianity, Islam was open to secular political thinking and urged wide scholarships and the study of other philosophies. Libraries were set up in cities throughout the Islamic empire to conserve classical texts and many scholars incorporated the ideas of ancient learning into their practices. Cities like Baghdad became centers of learning and scholars such as Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Ibn Khaldun emerged as political theorists.
It would then take an immense influence of the Islamic culture to bring fresh ideas to medieval Europe, as scholars rediscovered the classical texts. In the 12th century the texts that Islamic scholars had preserved and translated became a source of inspiration for the Christian scholars, particularly in Spain where the two faiths co-existed. As the Middle Ages drew to an end, the introduction of secular thinking into intellectual life had a profound effect in the West and there was a rush to find and translate not only the texts but also Islamic commentaries. Search for knowledge and a desire to seek aspiration were the traits of an Islamic society that were gradually understood and adopted by the West.
With the rise of colonialism and fall of the Muslim empire, the Muslim society was in a dire need of awakening. They had slowly let go of their Islamic virtues that were keenly observed by the western civilization. Many thinkers and reformers sought to bring the true spirit of Muslim values amongst the masses and in this regard the works of our national poet Allama Iqbal are a true asset for every being. Sir Muhammad Iqbal (9th November 1877), a South Asian poet and ideological innovator was a philosopher, poet, politician, and a social reformer. Influenced by Islamic determination as well as ancient philosophies, Allama Iqbal, was a huge advocate for the revival of Islamic identity while promoting independence from slavery and western domination. His poetic ideas are dominated by the active self that is not passive. Being alive and aware is the fundamental virtue of being a faithful identity. One would have to make an extraordinary journey of transformation to embrace that divine spark which Iqbal refers to as Khudi in his works. According to him one would have to go through many experiences in life before finally arriving at the point of realization, leading to Self-discovery.
In his major works, Iqbal has expressed in many ways that the whole universe revolves around the nature of the Self. The aim of life is not destruction, but it is self-awareness and self-knowledge. Asrar-i-Khudi, The Secrets of the Self; published in Persian, was an amazing philosophical poetry book of Iqbal. This book deals mainly with the individual identity, while his other work Rumuz-i-Bekhudi addresses the social interaction of an individual. One of his masterpieces, the Javid-Nama, Book of Eternity, depicts the poet's journey through the universe, guided by the great Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi while encountering a wide range of mythic and historical figures. His works also stress on the political and social awakening of Islamic civilization across the world. His famous lectures published under ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ put forth his social and religious philosophy, which aims at forming a dynamic and democratic society inspired by the life of Hz. Muhammad ﷺ.
Rejecting the idea of Muslims as an oppressed nation, Iqbal went into politics as president of Muslim League in 1930, his participation in the London RT Conferences of 1931 and 1932, brought forth an optimistic vision of a social and political order. He travelled across Europe and West Asia to harvest political and financial support for the ML.
Sir Muhammad Iqbal influenced the religious thoughts of Muslims, not only in the sub-continent but also in Europe, Asia, and Africa. His philosophy about religious and political issues made him one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. He revived the divine spirit of freedom not only for his contemporary Muslim society but also for many generations to come. He did not approve of relaxing in mere spiritual aura nor did he believe in chanting in the hollow pleasures of the western materialistic approach. His ideas were international that were open to every race and culture. His poetry ‘Chin o Arab Hamara, Hindustan Hamara’ depicts cultural unity with the Chinese and Arab world. Iqbal’s social and political views that are appreciated by the common people of our country are more dynamic and global with a deep meaning that has been widely appreciated by other reformers as well. Many scholars and leaders in Iran realized the importance of Iqbal's poetry during the rise of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Iqbal's Asrare-i-Khudi and Bal-i-Jibreel are very popular in Iran. Ali Shariati, a revolutionary activist, and a sociology professor described Iqbal as someone who gave a message of "rejuvenation" and "awakening" to the Muslim world.
Allama Iqbal passed away in 1938 but even today millions are mesmerized with the beauty and effect of his poetry. He deciphered the purpose of human existence, streamlined the philosophy of life, and revived the teachings of Islam to awaken the masses. He spread the message of hope and courage to stand-up and struggle collectively for the true Muslim identity. He believed that self-realization could light the spark to live with hope and freedom. Human life exists due to movement and the spirited breath that flows in it. A heart that is full of life is the only secret to an active life. Only a humble human that realizes its true potential is worthy of being called the most eminent of God’s creatures.
‘O Nightingale, sing thee, for with thy intonation,
A falcon’s heart emerges in the pigeon’s frail creation,
Disguised within your heart is the secret of life...’
We all realize the need for a mass awakening in this world, thus Allama’s poetry is relevant now more than ever. We wish to revive the message of Allama Iqbal for our own sake and practice self-awareness in a world that seems to be lost in a digital slumber of technology and western dominated social media. Iqbal was a Sufi poet and a reformer who believed in the supremacy of the awakened soul over the frail body, and of love over hopeless enslavement.