Mysteries of the Self

By Athar, Shahid | Islamic Horizons, July/August 2017 | Go to article overview

Mysteries of the Self


Athar, Shahid, Islamic Horizons


"[ALLAMA MOHAMMAD] IQBAL IS A man of faith and knowledge, intellect and emotion, philosophy and literature, gnosis and politics; a man of yesterday and today; a devotee during [the] night and a lion during [the] day. He thinks like [the French philosopher Henri] Bergson (d. 1941) and loves like Rumi. He fights for the liberation of Muslim lands like Jamal Afghani (d. 1897), like Luther (d. 1546) and Calvin (d. 1564). He makes [it] his goal to revive the religious thought and Islamic renaissance in this age," proclaimed Dr. Ali Shariati - the Iranian revolutionary and sociologist - during a lecture on Iqbal in Tehran in 1970.

He also stated: "The greatest advice of Iqbal to humanity is: Have a heart like Jesus [ 'alayhi al-salaam], thought like Socrates, and a hand like the hand of a Caesar, but all in one human being, in one creature of humanity, based upon one spirit in order to attain one goal: [to] become a human being who attains to the heights of political awareness in his time. Iqbal achieved this to the extent that some people believe him to be solely a political figure and a liberated, nationalist leader who was a 20th -century anti-colonialist."

Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, speaking at the opening session of the First International Conference on Iqbal (Tehran, March 1986), reminded the audience that Iqbal's revolt "was a cultural, political and revolutionary movement."

WHAT IS THE SELF AND WHAT ARE ITS HIDDEN SECRETS?

For Iqbal, who wrote extensively on attaining khudi (self), the physical body was just the soul's container. One's consciousness, which lives in the heart, guides the brain in terms of giving orders to carry out the task. To him, khudi is not in fana (annihilation) but in baqa (preservation) of the self, "Even if there are idols in the rows of worshipers, I have been ordered to make the adhan; There is no God except the One God."

Total submersion, which he referred to as "I have left both worlds and submerged [myself] in my self," means to go beyond the verbal by being a Muslim in heart and sight, for polluting one's heart and eyes violates hijab. Shams Tabrizi (1185-1248), hearing his pupil Rumi state that he had 14 proofs of God's existence, replied, "First find reasons to prove your own existence, for God does not need to prove His existence."

Iqbal considers recognition of one's self as recognition of the Creator: Арпе тип me doob ke paja suragh e zindagi / tu agar mera nahí banta na bun, appna tuo bun (If you are searching forthe secrets of life, lookinto selfishness to selflessness which liberates us from the shackles and walls around us). It also brings God's tasleem (Total Submission, Salutation) and raza (pleasure [of God]), for Raazia turn marzia (God is pleased with those who are pleased with Him; Quran 58:22).

To comprehend God's rahma (mercy) one has to ponder on rahm (womb), which protects and sustains the fetus, and how God sends water from the ocean to the clouds and then returns it to Earth as rain. Iqbal concludes that a Muslim's destiny lies in discovering, sustaining and advancing the self to such an extent that it can merge with the One. Many Muslims misunderstood Mansur al-Hallaj's (858-922) declaration of Ana Haqq (I am the Truth) believing that he was claiming divinity or was engulfed in a mystical annihilation of the ego that allowed God to speak through him. The caliph imprisoned him and ultimately ordered his execution.

In a letter to Prof. R.A. Nicholson (18681945), - who has translated some of Iqbal's works - Iqbal wrote: "Western philosophers are of opinion that man should annihilate his individual self to become one with God, but I am of opinion that man should preserve his individual self and let God be absorbed in his self. Man should not fight his nafs (desires within) but subdue it. Only then he can become a true vice-regent of God. Once man recognizes the greatness of God (azmate dahÎ), he recognizes his own greatness. …

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