Excellent Special Issue on Allama Iqbal
I was delighted to see the March/April issue of Islamic Horizons the flagship publication of ISNA [the Islamic Society of North America]. It is a special issue dedicated to the ideas of Allama Iqbal the visionary philosopher-poet from South Asia.
The issue includes several articles on the various themes, vicegerency, selfhood, superman, solidarity and reconstruction of Islamic thought, from Iqbal’s multidimensional intellectual legacy.
All the articles are thought provoking and inspiring. Articles that I found particularly stimulating are “A Message for Our Times” by Dr. Dilnawaz Siddiqui, which includes a wonderful selection of Iqbal’s poetry with translation and “Iqbal and Democracy” by Ambassador S. Ali Ahsani that includes a teaser on Islam and Democracy. Dr. Siddiqui’s article is very good and will be a useful handout for undergraduate classes dealing with Islam and modernity and contemporary Islamic thought.
Jerusha Lamptey provides a very interesting selection from Iqbal’s The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. For those who are unfamiliar with Iqbal’s brilliant work, this section provides an excellent appetizer.
Unfortunately there is no article that takes a critical look at Iqbal’s thought. Allama Iqbal was clearly one of the most dynamic thinkers of our times. What made him stand out from others was the depth of critical thinking in his approach to Islam’s heritage. I wish IH had invited a critical assessment of his work, particularly with an eye on the challenges that face American Muslims.
Iqbal, more than others is particularly relevant to us because he explored the tensions between Islamic tradition and modernity at a more profounder level than most. He has already visited topics that are key issues of for us now, such as Ijtihad, Islam and democracy, the challenge of reform and of revival.
It is also interesting to note that hardly anyone discussed the impact of Western education on Iqbals’ Islamic thought. This is particularly relevant given the emergence of a growing thread of Islamic thought from Muslims in the West. Was Iqbal a prototype of a Western Muslim intellectual? A hybrid of Iqbal’s traditionalism and Western modernism?
Siddiqui and Naqvi make an interesting observation in their article, “Muslim Reformers” on p. 42. They write:
“This particular problem solving skill of analogy and analysis is known as ijtihad.”
I found their definition of Ijtihad very interesting. I wish they had expanded upon it further in the light of Iqbal’s thought. Unlike most jurists who systematically try to stifle freedom of thought among Muslims by narrowly defining Ijtihad’s scope and exclude everyone from exercising it except themselves, Islamic reformers have always defined Ijtihad broadly, essentially as a license to think outside the box [the pandora’s box called fiqh].
You can read more about this debate on Ijtihad in a recent article titled, “Who Owns Islamic Law?” in the Chronicle of Higher education.
Congratulations to IH for a wonderful issue, hope that in the near future they will think of doing a special issue on Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the father of Islamic modernism, and also perhaps on Imam Al Shatibi, the grand father of Islamic Modernism. In my opinion his doctrine of Maqasid Al Shariah opens the door of Ijtihad to Islamic Modernism].