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Allama Iqbal and Transformation of Man

Allama Iqbal and Transformation of Man
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Transformation of man in the contemporary age needed a new look not only at man-god relationship but also at man-state relationship. The significance of Iqbal lies not in the fact that he gave precise answers to the questions arising out of this inquiry but in the fact that he made these questions a subject of his personal intellectual concern.

In his movements of thought, Iqbal at one stage arrived at the idea that the world awaits the emergence of a new type of man. His discontent with the present man had increased and he started dreaming about the possibility of the realization of genuine human potentialities which had hitherto remained concealed. This hope very soon transformed itself into a passionate desire, an imperative and he unconsciously felt that, perhaps on him had fallen the Prophetic responsibility of conveying this good news to the present humanity. That which to Rumi was a passionate longing appeared in Iqbal’s vision as the next stage of human evolution, something of a historic necessity. Iqbal, like some of his contemporary revolutionaries was being moved by a desire for the emergence of new man and he vouches for the fact that a new human order needs a new type of man. The scientific revolution of the twentieth century and transformation of nature by man created a new image of man, entirely different from the previous image held by man about himself. While the great psychological revolution showed some dark spots in this image, yet the final lesson of this revolution too was that these dark spots represent the creative energy and are not insurmountable barriers in the way of transformation.

Man’s transformation of nature and the possibility of man’s self-transformation led to the faith in human autonomy. This idea of autonomy made it necessary to also have a new look at the classical idea of man-god relationship. This new theological scheme, without making god irrelevant makes man responsible to himself. The significance of Iqbal lies in the fact he drew the outlines of a new theology based on the idea of the centrality of man in the cosmic scheme, in the religious and spiritual context of the east, particularly the Islamic east. Since Iqbal represented the dependent and exploited east, his new man has a definite and a well-marked political direction. Transformation of man in the contemporary age needed a new look not only at man-god relationship but also at man-state relationship. The significance of Iqbal lies not in the fact that he gave precise answers to the questions arising out of this inquiry but in the fact that he made these questions a subject of his personal intellectual concern. There was a constant tension between the universal and the particular; a tension between humanity as such which knows no distinction of the east and the west and a particular humanity which had a glorious history and yet finds itself at odds at the given historical juncture. In Iqbal’s case, this present historical juncture serves to provide a concrete ground, a contemporary place to his reflections on man. A comparison constantly goes on between the past and the concrete present and the universal and the particular, both situated in historic places or spaces, which in his case are east and west. It is a matter of importance that the past and the universal both have symbolic and utopic elements. Had they been purely symbolic and utopic, Iqbal would have lost his relevance to the contemporary age. The tension between symbolic and real, and utopic and historical, which is immanent in his poetic philosophy, not only makes him evermore relevant but also gives to his poetic personality a tragic dimension. He unveils this mystery and says:

Tera yek nukta e sar basta goyem ; agar dars e hayat az man bageeri

Bameeri ghar ba tan jaani na dare ; wagar jaani ba tan daari nameeri

(To make you understand life’s mystery, I tell you one thing in all secrecy. You die if you do not possess a soul, but if you do you live eternally.)

Like Europe was not mere a geographic territory but a cultural idea for Nietzsche, similarly for Iqbal “east represented a spiritual idea, the ultimate destiny of the universal man”. Iqbal rediscovered the east. Iqbal examined spiritual significance of science which changes the nature of man-god relationship and makes man a co-worker with god and secondly Iqbal resolved the paradox of continuity and change; thus, if people had been active in the past, they can be reactivated again and if man has changed his destiny in one part of the world, he can do it in another part too. Implicit in these assertions is the transformation of man, his ability to conquer the world, meaning identity of humanity lies in its possibility of self-transformation.

Iqbal believed that since time and place assumes a personalist significance in the world of man, this hiatus can be removed by active intervention of human will. Iqbal discovered will mediates between past and future and arousal of will alone can make east and west, meet again as equals. It’s by awakening of the vitalistic impulse that man in the east can knock the doors of fate. It was the moment of the birth of Rumi in the soul of Iqbal. Iqbal asks, is not the science itself a manifestation of the awakened vitalistic impulse? Iqbal felt man-nature continuum is not a straight line but represent an ascending order, and is never a completed and closed order and divine carving is not complete yet; the ascension is a dynamic intimate continuous process and it is man who becomes the agent of this infinite continuity. Through his poetic insights, he reconciled the idea of man’s autonomy with the theistic impulse. It’s here that the west acquires a symbolic form: it represented to man the demonic aspect of ascending order of man-nature continuum. It’s not total fall, it’s an aberration caused by the dialectics of the process itself and imperialism is its manifestation. Not that Iqbal reduced the institutional framework of imperialism into mere human terms, he only emphasized its human aspect; the will losing its way and forgetting the upward direction of the ascending order. While slavery arrests the dynamic nature of this continuum and deprives man of aesthetic and ethical sensibility, imperialism distorts it and limits this dynamic movement to itself. Man devalues himself whether he is a bondsman or a master.

Iqbal realized that the fulfilment of genuine human possibilities needs a new world order. With this a new element enters the spiritual tradition of the east. The intersection of the vertical with the horizontal dimension of human personality. He provided solutions which were not of a transitory nature, not merely metaphysical but satisfied the total being of man, the synthesis of earthly and the divine. Iqbal asserted that an ideal has to be discovered which lies in the realm of possibility yet transcends the limits of temporal present and the mere spatial here. To be in the world and yet be free, to be in time and yet not be its prisoner are the basis of Iqbal’s transformation of man. It means mediating human will needs a reference of transcendence and it provides a dynamic limit to human will and Iqbal says idea of limit has always been an essential element of religious consciousness but has been generally conceived as static line, a line drawn in space from eternity, an idea which robs the human will of its creativity and makes man-nature and man-god relationship fixed.

Iqbal considers man’s existence in the world “the result of divine conjunction and anti-divine demands, later referred as “iblis” by Iqbal. He says anti-divine demand, the temptation of earthly- colorful existence is an ever-recurring fact of human existence. Man is self-creative, self-destructive and self-discerning. In Payam e Mashriq, he represents birth of man as “an event which caused turmoil in the entire order of nature, while the love, cosmic creative force, showed that a courageous and adventurous being is born, beauty trembled that a beholder has emerged on the theatre of existence”. He wants man’s transformation to reach its pinnacle, which he calls ‘faqr’. it’s the state of unity between creator and creative creature, his hopes are few and ideals lofty.  It is a t this stage that freedom can be shared. Since paucity of space limits further elaboration but this mystic poetic notion of faqr demands a deeper understanding and reflection, since it’s the final image of Iqbal’s transformation of man, known as “Mard e Moomin. Iqbal is a living willing ego, cutting across the time, he is as relevant today as he was during his time. He raises valid questions in his prose and answers them in his poetry and because people differentiate between the two and otherise or don’t ponder upon or probe deeper into his ideas, they end up with an injustice and misrepresentation of Iqbal and he acrimoniously condemns such intellectual apathy by saying:

“Ziyan beeni zi seer I bostaanam ; agar jaanat Shaheed e justujoo neest

Nama yem aanchi Hast andar rag e gul ; Bahar man tilsm e rang o bu neest”

(Do not come to my garden if you have an uninquiring mind, which does not crave to know the souls of flowers. My spring is not mere smell and color, no mere surface wave).

Author  is a Doctoral Candidate in Political Economy at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He can be reached at

Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of Oracle Opinions.

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