In the eighth part of this dynamic series examining the problematic book of Iqbal, Islam and Ahmadism, we will look at some of the materialist and anti-Islamic ideas which either originate with or were reinforced by Iqbal.
First, consider the fact that much of the destructive ‘political Islamic’ or so-called ‘Islamist’ stream look to Iqbal of Lahore for inspiration and regard him a religious reformer and idealogue. It was Iqbal who raised the loudest voice against ‘mysticism’ and ‘inward’ expressions of Islam. It was this notion that was latched onto by the modern so-called ‘Islamist’ thinkers like Mawdudi, G. A. Parwez, Syed Qutb, Ali Shariati and others. Iqbal severely attacks ‘mysticism’, writing: “Nor will Islam tolerate any revival of mediaeval mysticism which has already robbed its followers of their healthy instincts and given them only obscure thinking in return.” (pp. 34-35) One sees clearly that Iqbal’s real grievance with ‘mysticism’ is its consumption of the Muslim attention toward the inwardly spiritual pursuits and away from the material/worldly concerns, especially the political. The crude fikr of Iqbal to establish a new expression of Islam that is primarily concerned with the material/worldly was refined by the various political thinkers and activists who came after him, especially the likes of Mawdudi, Parwez, Islahi, Dr. Israr Ahmad, etc.
Iqbal identifies the Ahmadi/Qadiani movement as “a strange mixture of Semitic and Aryan mysticism with whom spiritual revival consists not in the purification of the individual’s inner life according to the principles of the old Islamic Sufism, but in satisfying the expectant attitude of the masses by providing a ‘Promised’ Messiah.” (p. 38) Iqbal explains that this was in fact a reaction to the modernism and call for Muslims to embrace Western education by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, naturally coming from the North-West of India, which Iqbal describes as “saint-ridden”.
But the reality is that the Muslim expectation for a Promised Messiah, especially when that expectation is expressed as a spiritual thirst and emotional yearning, is a result of the influence of “the old Islamic Sufism”. The reader may be misled to believe, based on Iqbal’s words, that this movement neglected “purification of the individual’s inner life” and simply substituted this goal of classical Sufism with Messianism. The truth is that the contribution of Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian in this regard was to give the Messianic expectation, an established Islamic doctrine, a Sufi/mystic coloring, and correlate it with the primary objective and subject of Sufism, i.e., inner purification.
Next, Iqbal goes on to mention the contribution of various Islamic reform movements as revolts against the three forces of Mullaism, Mysticism, and the corruption of dynastic Muslim rulers. Regarding Mullaism, Iqbal states that the ‘Wahhabi’ movement, perhaps better termed ‘Salafism’ was primarily concerned with a rejection of Mullaism, which Iqbal defines as essentially the stifling spirit of Taqlid resulting from the closing of the gates of Ijtihad. As for mysticism, Iqbal states that the modern Muslim reformers who revolted against it, revolted against the aspect of mysticism which results in neglect of the material. While there is certainly some truth in Iqbal’s criticism of what he defines as Mullaism and Mysticism, his coupling of these two along with the corruption of dynastic Muslim rulers as the great crises of his day reveals the alignment of Iqbal with the novel political fikr that was developed in the 20th century. As has already preceded, it was this political fikr which was refined in greater detail by the likes of Mawdudi, Parwez, Qutb, Shariati, Khomeini, and others.