Iqbal Review, Volume 47, Number 4, October 2006, pp.42-45


The article offers a few observations on the relationship between two major works of Iqbal The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930/34) and Javid Nama (1932) and explores the question as to whether Iqbal meant the Reconstruction to be a form of commentary on his major work Javid Nama. It is argued that if these two works were read in the light of each other it not only yields deeper insights into Iqbal’s worldview and ideas but some of the problematic areas in the Reconstruction can also be resolved with the help of their corresponding passages in Javid Nama.

I argue that are many reasons why the Reconstruction should be considered as a commentary on Javid Nama, and not the other way round. The first is Iqbal’s own insistence that Javid Nama was his life’s work. Secondly, Javid Nama is a masterpiece of narrative art whereas the Reconstruction is a series of lectures. It is possible to treat a set of lectures as a commentary on a masterpiece of narrative poetry while it would make a very incongruent study if we were to reverse the relationship. Thirdly, the medium of lecture provides more room for discussion and diversions than the confines of a narrative poem, therefore it seems quite proper to derive the more coherent picture of Iqbal’s worldview from Javid Nama but use the lectures for elaborating its various aspects.


Iqbal called Javid Nama (1932) his life’s work. He wrote this great epic poem at the same time when he was also working on the second most important of his books, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930/34). Sadly, it seems that no attempt has ever been made at finding a direct relation between these two books although even a most superficial comparison would yield some striking features and make it a worthy question to consider whether Iqbal meant the Reconstruction to be a form of commentary on his major work Javid Nama.

To begin with, both books have the same number of chapters. In the Reconstruction, there are seven lectures whereas in Javid Nama there are seven stations in the spiritual journey in the search of immortality – Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Beyond the Skies. Each station is designated to a separate chapter and thus the book has seven chapters. The Reconstruction has the same number of chapters. If we compare the two books, we find that each chapter of the first book corresponds to the same chapter in the second book.

For instance, the first chapter in Javid Nama is about the Moon, which stands for intuition, inspiration and revelation – these three being represented in Javid Nama by, respectively, Vishvamitra, Sarosh and the Valley of the Prophets – and the same topic is restated in the very title of the first chapter of the Reconstruction, which is, ‘Knowledge and Religious Experience.’

The second station is Mercury, which has something to do with social change through the application of the revealed guidance as well as about discovering new ideals within the Quran. Correspondingly, the second chapter of the Reconstruction is titled, ‘The Philosophical Test of Religious Experience.’

The third station is Venus where Iqbal and Rumi engage in the refutation of the false idols of the ancient days as well as new and old tyrants who claimed to be demigods; and the third chapter in the Reconstruction is ‘The Concept of God and the Meaning of Prayer.’

The fourth station is Mars, where an ideal world is presented with individuals who have perfected their egos and attained the strength to survive after death; the fourth chapter in the Reconstruction is ‘Human Ego – its Freedom and Immortality.’

The fifth station is Jupiter, where the spirits of Hallaj, Ghalib and Quratul Ain Tahira explain why they have chosen to remain in perpetual movement rather than settling down in paradise; Devil also makes his appearance in the same chapter and yearns for a human being who could defeat him. This station corresponds to the fifth lecture in the Reconstruction where ‘The Spirit Muslim Culture’ is defined as anti-classical.

The sixth station is Saturn, where the decadence and inertia of the Eastern world, especially India, is lamented. The sixth lecture in the Reconstruction is ‘The Principle of Movement in Islam,’ which offers us Iqbal’s views on ijtihad.

The last chapter of Javid Nama begins with a description of Nietzsche stranded between the universe and the world beyond – as a representative of the new mindset born in the post-enlightenment era of the modern history. In the climax Iqbal meets God. Compare this with the title of the last chapter in the Reconstruction, ‘Is Religion Possible’?

It may be interesting to remember that the last lecture was written and delivered after the completion of Javid Nama. It seems that Iqbal left an important clue for us by closing this last chapter on a passage from the opening section of Javid Nama (the terrestrial prologue). Below this passage, at the very end of the Reconstruction, is mentioned the name of the source. Hence the very last word in the Reconstruction is, quite amazingly, “Javid Nama.”

One may ask why the Reconstruction should be considered as a commentary on Javid Nama, and not the other way round. There are many reasons for that. The first is Iqbal’s own insistence that Javid Nama was his life’s work. Secondly, Javid Nama is a masterpiece of narrative art whereas the Reconstruction is a series of lectures. It is possible to treat a set of lectures as a commentary on a masterpiece of narrative poetry while it would make a very incongruent study if we were to reverse the relationship. Thirdly, the medium of lecture provides more room for discussion and diversions than the confines of a narrative poem, therefore it seems quite proper to derive the more coherent picture of Iqbal’s worldview from Javid Nama but use the lectures for elaborating its various aspects.

This is an initial observation on the relationship between the two books. It would be a great contribution to the study of Iqbal if these two works were read in the light of each other. I am offering these observations to print, hoping that other scholars would take up the task especially to see if some of the problematic areas in the Reconstruction can be resolved with the help of their corresponding passages in Javid Nama.


This paper was written sometime in the summer of 2007. The issue of Iqbal Review in which it appeared was backdated.