بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم
Continuing in our series on Iqbal’s book Islam and Ahmadism, we now come to a fresh issue which is Iqbal’s conception of Islam as civilization: “Thus in the year 1799 the political decay of Islam in Asia reached its climax. But just as out of the humiliation of Germany on the day of Jena arose the modern German nation, it may be said with equal truth that out of the political humiliation of Islam in the year 1799 arose modern Islam” (p. 27).
Pay close attention, dear reader, to the wording which Iqbal is using. He does not speak about the political decay of the Muslims or the Ummah, but rather the “political decay of Islam” and the “political humiliation of Islam”. The point to be noted is that Iqbal conceives of Islam as a civilization, whereas we Muslims of (the real) Ahlus Sunnati wal Jama’ah conceive of Islam as a Religion. If the Muslims are practicing Islam properly, and that is evident by the existence of an abundance of saintly and pious, righteous personalities among them, and the common Muslims too focus on the study of the Holy Qur’an and strict adherence to the laws of the Shari’ah, etc., then it can be said that Islam is in a good condition. If the opposite is true, it means that Islam is fading away and the Muslims are in a pitiable and bad condition.
However, we see from the words of Iqbal that he judges the condition of Islam as being contingent to civilizational power. If the Muslims are masters of vast and powerful empires, and they have an abundance of wealth and wordly power, then according to Iqbal Islam itself is in a good condition, otherwise not.
So the reader should keep this important difference between the orthodox conception of Islam as religion and the Iqbalian conception of Islam as civilization or dominion in mind as we examine what Iqbal has to say next:
“the function of Ahmadism in the history of Muslim religious thought is to furnish a revelational basis for India’s present political subjugation” (p. 31).
Whatever the merits of Iqbal’s claim that Ahmadism is a movement that aims to reconcile the Muslims to their subjugation to the British on a “revelational basis”, it must be pointed out that even if this is true, Iqbal has failed to demonstrate how the Muslims being in a state of political subjugation to a foreign power is, in it of itself, the raison d’etre for Islam being in a bad condition. While it is certainly true that if the Muslims become decadent and negligent in their observance of the teachings of Islam, the inevitable result will be all sorts of calamities, political, social and economic, for the Muslims, it is quite something else to posit that the condition of Islam is dependent upon a notion of political ascendancy. In other words, teaching the Muslims to resign themselves to their political subjugation to a foreign, non-Muslim power is not heresy insofar as Religion is concerned. One can legitimately argue whether such a teaching is beneficial or not from a political perspective, but from the religious perspective, such a teaching is not a deviation from Islam, let alone such a major deviation (in Iqbal’s view) as to constitute a major challenge and threat to Islam.
Iqbal’s folly, as we have suggested, is based on his wrong conception of Islam as being a civilization or dominion, and thus his purely political approach to the Religion. It is not surprising that the so called “Islamic” political thinkers like Mawdudi and Dr. Israr Ahmad were so influenced by the wrong ideas of Iqbal. They too view the real danger of Ahmadiyyah as not theological but political. This is why Iqbal claims that the Ulama who opposed Ahmadiyyah at its inception did so because of theological differences, but failed to appreciate it as the source of a dangerous political threat to the solidarity of the Ummah: “The Indian Ulama, therefore, took it to be a purely theological movement and came out with theological weapons to deal with it. I believe, however, that this was not the proper method of dealing with the movement” (pp. 25 – 26).
We see that for Iqbal, heresy or deviation from Islam is not theological in nature. Indeed, as we have shown previously in this series, Iqbal claims that Islamic theology is synthetic, meaning, it has evolved over time to combine and mesh together ideas of distinct sects and schools of theology which were initially at variance and conflict with each other. For Iqbal, the real heresy or deviation from Islam is political dissent from what he considers to be the national interests of the Muslim community.
To be continued ان شاء الله