In the previous posts of this series, we have seen that the unschooled masses among us have been participating in “the life of the communal self”, but this participation is mostly unconscious. We are now going to consider the implications of participating “consciously”.
Iqbal defined the relationship of an individual with the society in the following words:
His thoughts, his aspirations, his ways of life, his entire mental and physical outfit, the very number of days which he lives, are all determined by the needs of the community of whose collective life he is only a partial expression.‘The Muslim Community – A Sociological Study’ (1911)
The idea that the life span of an individual (“the very number of days which he lives”) could be closely linked with the needs of the communal self, later became an important point in Iqbal’s description of his ideal society. The description appears in the fourth chapter of his great Persian poem, Javid Nama (1932), where it is given the name of Marghdeen. The chapter is divided into four parts, which can be summarized as below.
Iqbal and his mentor Jalaluddin Rumi step into an unnamed dimension of Time, and visit the planet Mars. They find that Martians have transcended the duality of spirit and matter. Their thought has become unitive, so that their souls are now more discernible than their appearances. A Martian can even foretell his or her own death a few days in advance, and without fear or anxiety.
A Martian informs them that they are standing in the vicinity of Marghdeen, a city-state inhabited by the descendants of Barkhia. Farzmarz (apparently the Devil in the language of Mars) had tried to tempt Barkhia with the idea of “a world in whose administration God does not interfere.” Barkhia rejected it. God rewarded his progeny by giving them Marghdeen, “a God-given kingdom” (“mulk-i-khudadad”).
Iqbal and Rumi visit the city-state of Marghdeen to see that there is no poverty, injustice or crime. People do not grow old. They have an advanced knowledge of science, but use their knowledge selflessly. Currency is practically unknown because gold can be extracted from the light of the sun. There is neither police, nor government as such. Their guide explains this mode of living as a natural consequence of rejecting the duality of spirit and matter, and adopting a unitive mode of thinking. “View the world differently, and it will become different,” he adds, “Heaven and earth will also readjust.”
In the outskirts, they observe a damsel sent by Farzmarz to misguide the people of Marghdeen. She is preaching an ideology that negates love, and reduces the importance of the future in adopting a present course of action. Rumi comments on her speech by saying to Iqbal, “Religion is the root of civilization, and the root of religion is Love … Learn religion from the company of the lords of Love.”
It is implied at the very beginning of the story that our mind can access a dimension of Time that is free from the distinction of past, present and future. This possibility was discussed by Iqbal in scientific terms in The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1934). Some of his arguments, such as the dynamic nature of thought, were common among thinkers who held the same worldview (see the image slider below).
In the company of these thinkers, Iqbal does not appear to be someone whose ideas were completely different. He seems only to have stepped a little ahead of his companions, especially when he conceived the soul (and the ego) as “directive energy” (“khudi“) – one of his most original contributions to human thought. His “Mars”, therefore, need not be the red planet that appears in the sky, nor his “Martians” true aliens. The story can be interpreted as an allegory about a future state of human being, seen by Iqbal in those depths of his soul where, according to his belief, the distinction of past, present and future did not apply.
These “Martians”, or new human beings, have completely rejected the duality of spirit and matter. Skipping the more theoretical aspects, the duality in its most practical form requires that the affairs of the world should be separated from the affairs of the Hereafter. On the same basis, the individual and the society may be seen as separate entities, and hence the existence of political parties can be justified. The most famous implication, of course, is the separation of religion and politics, or what is called the separation of the Church and the State.
These concepts have been rejected completely by the new human beings symbolized as “Martians” in the story. Some of the best representatives of the Western thought at least since one hundred and fifty years before the birth of Iqbal had also been trying to reject these concepts. A sample of quotes from some of those thinkers has already been presented in the slider above. To that we might add the following:
Conscious evolution is the key to that larger view of democracy which we are embracing to-day. The key? Every man sharing in the creative process is democracy; this is our politics and our religion. People are always inquiring into their relation to God. God is the moving force of the world, the ever-continuing creating where men are the co-creators … Man and God are correlates of that mighty movement which is Humanity self-creating. God is the perpetual Call to our self-fulfilling. We, by sharing in the life-process which binds all together in an active, working unity are all the time sharing in the making of the Universe. This thought calls forth everything heroic that is in us; every power of which we are capable must be gathered to this glorious destiny. This is the True Democracy.Mary Parker Follett, “The New State” (1918)
These thinkers did not see the individual and the society as two separate entities, and Iqbal went as far as suggesting that even the life span of an individual (“the very number of days which he lives”) might have something to do with the needs of the communal self. In the light of his quote presented at the beginning of this post, the ability of his Martians to foresee their deaths should indicate an awareness of two things:
- the destiny of one’s community
- one’s specific role in the fulfillment of that destiny
Most thinkers who opposed the duality of spirit and matter in the same manner as Iqbal did, might have conceded that we could possibly develop this kind of awareness after we have succeeded in a total rejection of the duality.
Paradoxically, the imperialists of Europe were tempting the less developed nations to accept the same duality as a modern idea, especially through the separation of the Church and the State:
Europe uncritically accepted the duality of spirit and matter probably from Mannichaean thought. Her best thinkers are realizing this initial mistake to-day, but her statesmen are indirectly forcing the world to accept it as an unquestionable dogma.Iqbal, the “Allahabad Address” (1930)
These “statesmen”, then, were the real-world entities symbolized in the story as Farzmarz. The latter had tried to tempt Barkhia with the idea of “a world in whose administration God does not interfere.” That is just what Iqbal saw the British rulers suggesting to the Indian Muslims in his days (with the full support of the Hindu leadership of the post-1927 era).
Just as Barkhia had rejected the idea of a Godless state in the story, the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent rejected it when they adopted the Delhi Resolution in April 1946.
Barkhia symbolizes in the story the role which history later assigned to Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and those countless Muslims of the Indian subcontinent who took the pledge of loyalty to the All-India Muslim League just like him.
This event was yet to happen when the story was first published in 1932. Still, Iqbal could be expected to narrate it in the past tense because, by his own admission, he took it for granted that such a thing was going to happen. In the Allahabad Address, he had described himself as a man “who believes that Islam is itself Destiny and will not suffer a destiny!“
Therefore, the birth of the state of Marghdeen that occurs in the story as a result of Barkhia’s action was also something that had not yet happened, but which Iqbal foresaw as happening inevitably:
Self-Government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims at least of the North-West India.Iqbal, the “Allahabad Address” (1930)
In the story, God has rewarded Barkhia by entrusting his children with Marghdeen. In history, the direct outcome of the Delhi Resolution has been Pakistan, while indirectly the resolution has continued to shape the destiny of the entire South Asia – now including even Afghanistan, with further expansion of the circle possible in the future (see “the seven stages of Pakistan“). In the story, Marghdeen is described as a gift from God, and this is how the pioneers of Pakistan saw their newborn state:
Never did I, for a single moment, doubt that Pakistan would survive. For I think – indeed I believe – that we had not done anything to deserve so high a boon as Pakistan, and that God will not deprive us of this boon unless and until we prove ourselves, by our misdeed, to be unworthy of it.Liaquat Ali Khan, address to Pakistan Muslim League Council, Karachi, 20 February 1949
In the story, Marghdeen is called “a God-given kingdom” (mulk-i-khudadad”), and the same epithet is commonly used for Pakistan, “mumlikat-i-khudadad“.
Life in Marghdeen, as described in the story, might seem too good to be true, but actually it is a carefully calculated account of what Iqbal believed possible and achievable as a scholar of political economy (the subject of his first published book). Details can also be figured out but in short, he saw this as a consequence of rejecting the duality of spirit and matter (as already mentioned in the synopsis of the third section of the story).
This was still a thing of the distant future when the story was first published in 1932. Iqbal described it in the present tense because in the depth of his soul (in his “appreciative self”), he might have seen it as the natural outcome of the choices which he was sure that his people were going to make – adopting the Delhi Resolution of 1946 and pledging loyalty to it, and then offering great sacrifices for keeping the pledge.
Since those prerequisites were fulfilled by 1947, we should understand that ever since then we have been living in a state that is Marghdeen in its embryonic phase.
If the description of Marghdeen in the story is too good to be true, so is our history since 1947 if seen in the light of the Delhi Resolution of 1946 – our passport to Marghdeen.
We have already seen (in the second episode) that our communal self has been moving in a direction of its own, regardless of us, and now we might deduce that it is actually moving towards a destination where we could become free from fear and want. A state where crime, poverty and injustice might not exist anymore, just as described in the story, should now appear to us as the purpose of that great current of our history which we have summarized as “the seven stages of Pakistan”. This is our “destiny”, if we take Iqbal’s definition of destiny:
The destiny of a thing then is not an unrelenting fate working from without like a task master; it is the inward reach of a thing, its realizable possibilities which lie within the depths of its nature, and serially actualize themselves without any feeling of external compulsion.Iqbal, “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” (1934)
If we want to realize this destiny, i.e. if we want our society to be physically and actually free from poverty, injustice and fear, we may start by participating in the life of our communal self consciously. We have already seen that this means not to change our society but rather to transform ourselves on an individual basis.
We know that this transformation consists of two sides. Internally, we should change our habits of thought by adopting that uniform culture which has resulted from the Muslim Renaissance of South Asia, and which includes the literature of the All-India Muslim League. This can make us aware of the destiny of our nation. The story of Marghdeen that we are studying right now is just some twenty pages out of the thousands that comprise the bulk of that literature. Considering the insight which this little story is giving us, we might imagine the awareness we are likely to get after we have absorbed some more of that literature. To have that awareness would mean that we have acquired the first of the two defining traits of Iqbal’s “Martians”, which is an awareness about the destiny of one’s nation.
The other aspect of transforming ourselves on an individual basis is external, i.e. bringing a change in our action and behaviour by seeking consensus. We have seen (in the previous episode) that it means that each one of us, at an individual level, should seek the revival of that national organization which created Pakistan. If the eventual revival of this organization is our collective destiny, as it seems to be, it means that to know our individual role in achieving this goal is to have the second trait of Iqbal’s “Martians”, i.e. to be aware of one’s specific role in the fulfillment of the destiny of one’s nation.
We, after we have been transformed in this manner, might be the “Martians” described by Iqbal. If so, then our society is already Marghdeen and is just awaiting its informed citizens.
After we become those citizens, we will find that the physical realities of our society have also transformed accordingly. Then we might be saying, “View the world differently, and it will become different. Heaven and earth will also readjust.” The citizen of Marghdeen who speaks these lines in the story could be any of us after our transformation. In all likelihood, Iqbal was seeing you in his vision, as you would be after you have transformed.
What we have seen here are examples of participating in the life of our communal self in a conscious manner, and they reiterate the following principle:
[In] the successful group‑life it is the future which must always control the present; to the species taken as a whole, its unborn members are perhaps more real than its existing members … To this remarkable revelation of biological truth the social and political reformer cannot afford to remain indifferent.Iqbal, “The Muslim Community – A Sociological Study” (1911)
This is what the false preacher in the story of Marghdeen is trying to deny. I hope to discuss elsewhere why Iqbal portrayed her in a certain manner. For now, it would be sufficient for us to see that he described her as someone whom Farzmarz has taught and groomed, and has sent to misguide the citizens of Marghdeen. Since we have already understood Farzmarz to be a symbolic representation of those statesmen of the West who were forcing the world to accept the duality of spirit and matter as “an unquestionable dogma”, the messenger of Farzmarz can only be someone who perpetuated the same dogma in Pakistan after its creation.
Hence, she also belongs to that period of time which still lay in the future when the story was first published. Her actions were described in the present tense because, in all likelihood, Iqbal could foresee that such a thing would inevitably happen at some point after the birth of the new state. She seeks to reduce the importance of the future in adopting a present course of action, and this in any case has been the practical outcome of most of our social and political experiments since 1954.
As we have seen, this mistake can be corrected if we transform ourselves, individually, in the manner suggested by Iqbal and discussed in these episodes. This will enable us to once again base our social and political outlook on the future instead of the present.
In the next episode, which will be the last in this series, we are going to define the new outlook that emerges as an outcome of this transformation, and which can be our contribution to posterity and to the world.