In my book 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen, published five years ago, I wrote that a major turning point would occur in the history of Pakistan in 2017. I wish to thank those friends and readers who have been recalling it in the light of the recent developments in the country.
It is true that the political development in Pakistan appears to fulfil one of the ‘predictions’ offered in my book, and a few more for the years to come are also there in it. However, my main purpose was to apply the conceptual framework of Iqbal to the study of history. One of the things claimed about the framework by Iqbal himself was that it gives insight into the future. So, I could hardly help it if his claim got corroborated when put to test.
The basic idea on which the framework is based is that our collective will shapes our destiny. My book is an outline of the history of the collective will of humanity from 1887 to 2026, with special focus on Pakistan (including in principle the present-day Bangladesh and India).
I cannot overemphasize the need for remembering the difference between the collective will and ‘the will of everyone’. The two are not the same, as Rousseau tried to explain long ago.
The hazards of giving in to the will of everyone are shown in the famous story where an old man and his son walked with their donkey. Somebody objected why they were not riding the beast and saving themselves the trouble of walking on foot. They did so, and were soon criticized for overburdening the poor animal. Consequently, the old man got down and let his son ride alone, which again led to the objection that the son was selfish. The father and the son exchanged positions, and then it was the father who was accused of being selfish. So, they tied the donkey to a pole and carried it together. As they were crossing the bridge, some passers-by became perplexed by this strange spectacle, and their reactions led the donkey to jump and fall into the river. The old father proclaimed with some sadness, ‘We tried our best to please everybody but it seems to have been the will of God that we should lose our donkey.’
This is a very good example of what happens in the absence of a collective will.
The father and son in the story were following the will of everyone, none of which could be called the collective will, the common will, the general will or any such thing. That would have been possible, for instance, if the father and son had gathered all their critics and asked them to agree on what should be done.
This is the kind of idea we find in the parable of Rumi where four travellers find a coin and start quarrelling over what should be purchased. They were all asking for grapes, but in different languages and none of them understood the language of another. Rumi says that if only there were a person who understood all four languages, such a person would have said to them, ‘Give me your one coin, and I’ll bring you what will satisfy all four of you.’
I believe that this is the case of humanity today. I mentioned it first in my book The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality (2007). In 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen, I tried to elaborate it further in the light of recent history.
The gist of my book is that in principle, humanity agrees on having a certain kind of society. I call it Marghdeen, to use the name of Iqbal’s ideal world. It has already been willed by humanity, collectively, and therefore the basic stages necessary required for its evolution have become pre-destined—not due to any supernatural intervention but as a natural consequence of our free will. A correct response to each stage can bring benefit and the failure can bring harm, but the course of the journey cannot be altered unless and until the entire humankind alters its collective will. That I believe to be impossible.
In Pakistan, we are again hearing the rhetoric that none of the prime ministers has been able to complete his tenure. In my opinion, it is the case of the donkey falling off the bridge every time, because the political parties and their intelligentsia is unwilling to give in to the collective will. They try to substitute it with ‘the will of everyone’, and the consequence turns out every time to be similar to what happened in the story.
The so-called ‘predictions’ offered in my book are actually those necessary stages and turning points, listed with reference to Pakistan (often including the present-day Bangladesh, understandably). If you have not read the book and would like to, you can purchase the hard copy online or download a PDF copy for free.
2017: The Battle for Marghdeen was published by Libredux, Nottingham, in 2012.