Allama Muhammad Iqbal is one of the most outstanding poet-philosophers of the Indian sub-continent belonging to the modern period. His intellectual genius has reigned supreme in the arena of Islamic philosophy during the twentieth century and is likely to direct and influence the Islamic Intellectual tradition in the twenty first century as well. His sublime poetry and philosophy inspired millions of Muslims to wake up to the reality of the times and forge a destiny for themselves. Iqbal explained evolution on the basis of his religious knowledge as well as his experiences in the western society.
One of the facets of Iqbal’s genius is the fluidity with which he displays his in-depth knowledge and critical analysis of both Islamic and Western philosophies, theories and concepts. He compared the Quranic concepts of evolution with the western ones. Then, he gave his own concept of evolution.
Allama Iqbal’s Concepts of Evolution:
Allama Iqbal is against the concept of a fixed and static universe.
He consistently upholds that existence reveals itself in constant change. If there is anything which is constant, it is the change itself. According to him, God‘s creative activity is ever-continuing and He is constantly sustaining this universe. God is not only the cause but also the reason of the universe. He believed that the Ultimate Ego was Allah, who, though transcendent in His essence, was intimately connected to human beings through His amr. For Iqbal amr stood for the creative power and will of God. He gave the concept of ‘egos’. At the lowest level egos are unconscious, in the higher order of being, they become conscious. Egos achieve utmost consciousness and finally become self-consciousness in human beings, the highest being in nature and the vicegerent of God.
Man is the only being awarded with moral freedom and responsibility. Using his freedom of choice with responsibility, humans approach closer and closer the excellence that is divine. Being conscious of one’s real self i.e self realization is the goal of moral actions. Self, according to him, is of two kinds. The efficient self which actually operates and has dealings with others in spatio-temporal world. The appreciative self which is the real ‘I-amness’ and is divine in nature.
It is the self which has to be recognized to have a new and different perspective about the world. The process of evolution and self-realization is not aimless. Iqbal believes that it is purely purposive in nature. However, there is no pre-determined single purpose towards which evolution moves. Rather, fresh goals ever continue to be created during the evolutionary course. Obedience, self-discipline and vicegernce of God are three degrees of development of self in man by passing through which he attain the ideal of a perfect manhood.
This theory explains evolution in a very unique way. Being a muslim, i find no fault in this theory as it explains everything very clearly and its evidence can also be found in the Quranic verses. The way he has explained everything in the islamic context makes it very difficult to contradict with this theory. Following is the elaboration and analysis of this evolutionary theory on the basis of Iqbal’s explanation, in my own words.
Concept of Change:
As he was of the opinion that the universe is not static, this is true. We can also find it in the verses of Surah Yaseen. God has talked about the way sun, moon, stars and all the planets keep moving all day and night long. Physicists have also proved that things which appear to be solid and motionless are also in constant state of motion. Their particles also vibrate in a specific manner but we can not sense or feel it. Evolution itself is a process which denotes change. There are hundreds and millions of processes which are occurring in the universe in a continuous manner. So, Iqbal’s idea of an ever-changing universe is true.
Concept of Evolution:
His answer to the question “how did man first emerge?” is “he arose through evolution.” For this purpose, we can quote the following verses of Quran: “Does not man bear in mind that we made him at first when he was naught?” (19:67) “Yet we are not thereby hindered from replacing you with others your likes or from producing you in a form which ye knew not! Ye have known the first creation, will you not reflect” (56:60-62). He explained his answer on the basis of above mentioned verses. Iqbal claims that, “this suggestive argument embodied in the last verses of the two passages quoted above did in fact open a new vista to Muslim philosophers.
It was Jahiz who first hinted at the changes in animal life covered migrations and environment generally. The association known as the ‘Brethren Of Purity’ further amplified the views of Jahiz – Ibu Miskawaih, however, was the first Muslim thinker to give a clear and in many respects thoroughly modern theory of the origin of man.” In this context, we can say that Darwin said nothing new as the concept of evolution was already present in Islam from the very beginning.
Iqbal is not in the favour of deism according to which God became uninterested in this universe after creating it and now it is operating on its own. This is not possible and in accordance with the rules of nature. God is continuously in contact with the universe and is governing every bit and part of it. Being a muslim he added the concept of Tawheed, oneness of God in the theory of evolution. He believed that the concept of tawḥīd contained within it the unity of the spirit and matter, body and soul, the individual and society.
The Ego (Khudi):
According to this theory of creative evolution, the Ultimate Ego manifests itself, from the lowest forms of matter to the highest evolutionary form i.e. the spiritually most advanced human personality. God is the supreme ego from which only egos are produced. In Iqbal’s words, “Indeed the evolution of life shows that, though in the beginning the mental is dominated by the physical, the mental as it grows in power, tends to dominate the physical and may eventually rise to a position of complete independence.” What Iqbal means by this is that the process of creative evolution involves a gradual growth of the human individuality or ego (khudi). Iqbal used the word khudī to denote the ego, the individuality of a person or the self. He described khudi as follows:- “Metaphysically the word khudī (self-hood) is used in the sense of that indescribable feeling of ‘I’ which forms the basis of the uniqueness of each individual.
Ethically the word khudī means (as used by me) self-reliance, self-respect, self-confidence, self-preservation, self-assertion when such a thing is necessary, in the interest of life and power to stick to the cause of truth, justice, duty etc. even in the face of death. Such behaviour is moral in my opinion because it helps in the integration of the forces of the Ego, thus hardening it, as against the forces of disintegration and dissolution, practically the metaphysical ego is the bearer of two main rights that is the right to life and freedom as determined by Divine Law.” Iqbal believed in the gradual rising note of khudi or self-hood in the universe through the process of creative evolution till it reaches its highest potential in human beings. The universe according to Iqbal is the spatio-temporal order, where egos of varying levels dwell, interact and take part in the process of continuous change and continuous evolution. Iqbal’s concept of heaven and hell is deeply connected to his concept of khudi.
Hell is basically a disintegration and dissolution of the self or ego whereas heaven is a state where the personality has reached a heightened sense of self-awareness, self-consciousness and distinction. Hell is nothingness, an annihilation of the self. Heaven is the opposite of nothingness. It is to be real, an important, integral part of the Greater Reality. Iqbal quotes the Quran to support his concept of Khudi, the creative will and power inherent in human beings:- “And they ask thee of the soul. Say: the soul proceedeth from my Lord’s amr (Creative Will and Power) but of knowledge only a little is given to you.” (17:85)
It is this nature of the soul that makes human beings distinct and the chosen ones from the rest of creation. Iqbal translates and interprets the word amr as the ‘Directive, Creative Will and Power of God.’ He believes that human beings can share in the creative activity of God by using their own God given creative will and power. Iqbal is an advocate of the freedom of the human personality. He quotes the Qur’an to substantiate his views: By the soul and He who has balanced it, and has shown to it the ways of wickedness and piety, blessed is he who has made it grow and undone is he who has corrupted it. (91:7-10)
The ego grows from a position of hardly having any freedom from natural laws and natural appetites, to the position where the ego, through the use of its creative will and power, becomes more and more powerful, free, dynamic and independent. Iqbal says, “The ‘unceasing reward’ of man consists in his gradual growth in self-possession, in uniqueness, and intensity of his activity as an ego.” He says, “The fact that the higher emerges out of the lower does not rob the higher of its worth and dignity. It is not the origin of a thing that matters, it is the capacity, the significance, and the final reach of he emergent that matters….
It by no means follows that the emergent can be resolved into what has conditioned its birth and growth.” In fact the ideal of the evolutionary growth of the human personality is presented by Iqbal through the words of the Quran referring to the Prophet’s (PBUH) vision of the Ultimate Ego i.e. Allah at the nocturnal journey called the mi‘raaj: ‘His eye turned not aside, nor did it wander’ (Quran 53:17) When Prophet Moses came into contact with God’s Light, he could not sustain the impact. He lost consciousness due to the overwhelming effect of, in Iqbal’s words, the Ultimate Ego. But the emergence of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave perfection to human personality or ego in the evolutionary scale.
Love or Ishq:
Iqbal believed that behind the process of evolution is the vital impulse of ‘ishq’ or love which is metaphysical in nature and which makes life grow towards higher evolutionary goals.
Goal of Evolution:
Unlike Bergson, Iqbal believed that evolution has a goal. In fact, the evolution or dissolution of life is dependent on how far the individual chooses to use his or her creative will and power. The perfect man of Iqbal’s conception is mujahid who is ready and willing to face the problems of life, culture and society as he is to face the problems of after-life, spiritual welfare and death. The theory of ‘creative evolution’ as envisaged by Iqbal harnesses human creative potential under the spiritual discipline of religion as the instrument with which human beings become co-workers with God, effecting the destiny of the universe. In my point of view, it is a very comprehensive theory and I totally support it. I would like to end this debate in Iqbal’s words. In the Javid Nama God addresses human beings in this stirring call: Life is both mortal and immortal, it is all creativity and eagerness Art thou alive?
Be eager, be creative
Like us encompass the whole universe!
Shatter into pieces what is uncongenial.
Bring forth another world out of thy imagination!
It is irksome to the man who is free, to live in a world of another’s making. He who lacks the power of creation is naught to us but an atheist and an
agnostic! He has not taken his share of our Beauty.
He has not eaten the fruit of the tree of life.
Man of truth! Be sharp and incisive like the sword and forge the destiny of they own world!