The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam

The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam

In the present edition of Allama Iqbal’s The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, an attempt has been made at providing references to many authors cited in it and, more particularly, to the passages quoted from their works. The titles of these works have not always been given by the Allama and, in a few […]

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    In the present edition of Allama Iqbal's The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, an attempt has been made at providing references to many authors cited in it and, more particularly, to the passages quoted from their works. The titles of these works have not always been given by the Allama and, in a few cases, even the names of the authors have to be worked out from some such general descriptions about them as 'the great mystic poet of Islam', 'a modern historian of civilization', and the like. The work, however, referred to more often than any other, and quoted most, is the Qur'"n. Of a large number of passages quoted from it, about seventy-seven, generally set apart from the main text, carry numbered references to the Quranic Su`rahs and verses. The unnumbered passages from the Qur'"n, about fifty or so, given within the text are comparatively briefer - sometimes very brief, merely calling attention to a unique expression of the Qur'"n. References to these as well as to many Quranic ideas and quite a few Quranic subjects, alluded to especially in the first five Lectures, have been supplied in the Notes and later also in the Index of Quranic References. A numerical scanning of this Index shows quite significantly that the number of verses bearing on the subjects of 'man', 'Quranic empiricism' and the 'phenomenon of change' (mostly in terms of alternation of the night and the day and also in a wider sense) in each case, is comparatively larger than the number of verses on any other single subject. This may as well be noted in the clustering of such verses or of references to them on quite a few pages of the Reconstruction. Added to the verses quoted from the Qur'"n and references to them, in the present work, are a good number of quite significant observations and statements embodying Allama's rare insight into the Qur'"n born of his peculiarly perceptive and deep study of it. These are to be found scattered all over the work, except in Lecture VII, where one would notice just one observation and complete absence of passages from the Qur'"n, possibly because it was originally addressed to a non-Muslim audience. About sixty-five of these observations and statements have been listed in the general Index under: 'observations and statements based on' as a sub-entry of the 'Qur'"n'. Of the other works quoted from in the Reconstruction, forty-nine that I could work out and later list in the Index, about fifteen are by Muslim authors, mostly mystics and mystic poets. Passages from these Muslim works, originally in Arabic, Persian or Turkish, have been given, with the single exception of Rëmâ's Mathnawi, in their first-ever English translation by Allama Iqbal. Notable among these are passages from Fakhr al-Dân al-R"zâ's Al-Mab"hith al-Mashriqâyah and Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi`'s Maktëb"t and, above all, Ziya Gokalp's Turkish poems, which the Allama was able to render into English from their German version by August Fischer in his Aus der religi? sen Reformbewegung in der Tü rkei (Leipzig, 1922). Equally important and perhaps more are Allama's condensed English versions of considerably longer passages or sections from Ibn Maskawaih's al-Fauz al-Asghar (on evolutionary hypothesis in both the biological and the spiritual sense), Sh"h Walâ'ullah magnum opus al- Hujjat All"h al-B"lighah (on the prophetic method of building up a universal Sharâ'ah) and 'Ir"qâ's Gh"yat al-Imk"n fâ`Dir"yat al-Mak"n (on the plurality of space-orders and time- orders). This last, the longest of all the summarized translations from works in Arabic or Persian, was originally prepared by Allama Iqbal from the, then a rare, Manuscript for his Sectional Presidential Address: 'A Plea for Deeper Study of the Muslim Scientists' presented at the Fifth Oriental Conference, Lahore: 20-22 November 1928. The translation of the passage from Sh"h Walâ 'All"h's Al-Hujjat All"h al-B"lighah however, seems to belong to a still later date. There is a clear reference to this significant passage in Allama Iqbal's letter addressed to Sayyid Sulaim"n Nadvâon 22 September 1929, i.e. a month before he delivered the first six Lectures at the Aligarh Muslim University. All these summarized translations, it may be added, from parts of the main text of Lectures III, V and VI. As to Rëmâ's Mathnawâ, quoted very extensively (six of its verses are quoted even in the original Persian), one is to note that the translations of all the passages from it are not by Allama Iqbal himself but by others: Whinfield, Nicholson (with certain modifications) and Thadani, only in one case has the Allama given his own translation of a verse from Rëmâ (p. 88); but, unbelievable though it is, this verse, according to the Persian translator of the Reconstruction, is to be found neither in the Mathnawânor in the Kulliy"t-i Shams. This certainly needs further research. However, almost every time a passage is quoted from the Mathnawâor even a reference is made to it, the reader is reminded of 'the beautiful words of Rëmâ' and of his being 'far more true to the spirit of Islam than', says, 'Ghazz"`lâ'. Of about thirty-four Western writers from whose works the Allama has quoted, as many as twenty-five were his contemporaries and among these one is to underline the names of Whitehead, Eddington, Wildon Carr, Louis Rougier, and certainly also of Spengler. One is also to note that the works of these and other contemporaries quoted from happen to be mostly those which were published between 1920 and 1928. This is not at all to minimize the importance of quite significant passages quoted from the works of Bergson, James, Hocking and even Aghnides, all published before 1920, but only to refer to the fact of there being a greater number of quotations in the Reconstruction from Western works published within a certain period of time. The year 1920, in fact, happens to be the year of the publication of Einstein's epoch-making Relativity: The Special and the General Theory: A Popular Exposition. And it is the year also of the publication of Eddington's Space, Time and Gravitation and Wildon Carr's General Principle of Relativity in Its Philosophical and Historical Aspect, perhaps the earliest expository works on Relativity by English writers. Passages from both these works are to be found in the Reconstruction. Einstein's own work is catalogued in Allama's personal library along with a dozen others bearing on Relativity-Physics. Mention must also be made here of Alexander's peculiarly difficult two-volume Space, Time and Deity, which on its appearance in 1920 was hailed as 'a philosophical event of the first rank'. This is perhaps the first contemporary work which received Allama's immediate professional comments, even though brief, embodying his significant admission: 'Alexander's thought is much bolder than mine'. Despite Alexander's pronounced realistic (and thereby also naturalistic-empiric tic and so scientific) metaphysics, the Allama seems to have found in his supreme 'principle of emergence' a kind of empirical confirmation of Bergson's creative evolution. It was verily in terms of the principle of emergence that he explained to Nicholson his idea of Perfect Man in contradistinction to that of Nietzsche's Superman in his long, perhaps the longest, letter addressed to him on 24 January 1921. Allama Iqbal's assessment of the works of Western writers, especially of those which received his closest attention, seems to be characterized by the ambivalence of admiration and dissatisfaction, or acceptance and rejection. This is also reflected in one of his most valuable dicta addressed to Muslims: 'Approach modern knowledge with a respectful but independent attitude' (p. 78). Nowhere is this ambivalence perhaps better exemplified than in Allama's treatment of Spengler's Decline of the West; two volumes published in April 1926 and November 1928. He readily accepts some of Spengler's pronouncements such as these: 'The history of Western knowledge is thus one of progressive emancipation from classical thought'; 'The symbol of the West . . . is the (mathematical) idea of function'; 'Not until the theory of functions was evolved' could it become possible for us to have 'our dynamic Western physics'. But the Allama was completely dissatisfied with the very central thesis of The Decline of the West 'that cultures, as organic structures, are completely alien to one another'. In his Address at the Oriental Conference, he pointedly observed that facts 'tend to falsify Spengler's thesis'. It was this thesis or doctrine of 'mutual alienation of cultures' or cultural isolationism, the Allama strongly felt, that blinded Spengler to the undeniable Muslim influences or ingredients in the development of European culture. There is no mention in his otherwise 'extremely learned work' of such known facts of history as the anti-classicism of the Muslim thinkers, which found its clearest expression in the work of the very brilliant Ibn Khaldën - Spengler's Muslim counterpart in many ways. Nor is there any reference, in The Decline of the West, to Al-Bârënâ's 'theory of functions', clearly enunciated in his al-Q"nën al-Mas'ëdâ, six hundred years before Fermat and Descartes - a fact which Spengler had every right to know for he was so well versed in mathematics, and even as a historian of cultures.

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