Monday, 10 May 2010

What is Muslim Nationalism?

While writing the second part of Secrets and Mysteries (1915-18), Iqbal felt especially excited about expounding "the philosophy of Muslim nationalism in a manner it has never been stated before." What is this philosophy, then? Perhaps we owe it to Iqbal to at least know it.

In fact, apart from its association with Iqbal, there are two other reasons why it is important to be at least familiar with this concept (whether one agrees or not). Firstly, Iqbal's concept did not arrive in a vaccum but was merely the best articulation of various trends that had been developing in the Muslim world since the previous century. Secondly, the thought of Iqbal as well as those trends themselves had a deep impact on the masses in Muslim societies and it remains doubtful whether any subsequent movement has sufficiently replaced these concepts in the collective consciousness of the Muslim world — at least among the masses (the renowned Cambridge scholar A. J. Arberry also had to admit both these points in 1953, even when urging the Western academia to try making these concepts less popular among Muslims).
Iqbal's philosophy of Muslim nationalism can be divided into two sections: the "pillars of Muslim nation-hood" and "special features of the Muslim nation."
1. The Pillars of Muslim Nation-Hood
According to Iqbal, Unity of God and Prophet-hood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) are the two pillars of Muslim nationhood. The implication of the first is that there should be no fear or despair. The second implies liberty, equality and fraternity, since that was the mission of the Holy Prophet:
  • Unity of God;
  • No fear or despair
  • Prophet-hood of Muhammad (peace be upon him)
  • Liberty
  • Equality
  • Brotherhood
Special Features of the Muslim Nation
Iqbal goes on to list nine special features of the Muslim nation, elaborating each in a separate chapter:
  • The Muslim nation is timeless, since its survival has been divinely promised
  • A nation is organized only through a constitution, and the constitution of the Muslim nation is the Quran
  • In times of decadence, conformity is better than speculation
  • The national character acquires power by following the Divine Law
  • The national character acquires beauty by following the manners of the Prophet
  • A nation requires a physical center, and the center of the Muslim nation is the Holy Kabah
  • True solidarity comes from adopting a common ideal, and that the ideal of the Muslim nation is preservation and propagation of Unity
  • The expansion of national life depends upon controlling the forces of the universe
  • The perfection of national life is when a nation becomes aware of its selfhood just like an individual, and that the propagation and perfecting of this awareness is only possible through preservation of national history
In a nutshell, this was the philosophy of Muslim nationalism as stated by Iqbal in Secrets and Mysteries (1915-18). Needless to say, it was further developed in subsequent writings, especially the famous Allahabad Address (1930) where he explained the concept of Pakistan, and his greatest masterpiece Javidnama (1932), which culminates on a grand definition of "nation" coming from "the Voice of Beauty": "A nation is a thousand eyes seeing together. Attain this unity of vision, so that you may possess authority in the world."
In the revised online version of The Republic of Rumi, the pillars of nationhood are presented in Chapter 23 and the special features of the Muslim nation in Chapter 26.


Connie L. Nash said...

We each here in some way have been guided and/or attracted to come together in various vantage points and abilities to protect what is "coming into it's own" in Pakistan. The "winds" are tough...yet there are ways to withstand these forces.

Some ways we do so is to follow common principles while each of us will have our own specific tasks as well.

One way I want to fulfill my part is to learn from and address the roots within my own western background...

Kindly show me where to find some references to Arberry urging Western academia to try making these concepts less popular among Muslims...these roots can perhaps be dealt with by many westerners now to perhaps help cut back on the "crusade mentalities" which are so dangerous today.

Connie L. Nash said...

Must history always recycle and repeat? How can we thwart the most evil aspects of the same today?

While many unfortunate trends raise their ugly heads, there is also the awesome and tangible love and beauty among all manner of people connecting across the globe as never before in history.

Connie L. Nash said...

And we need mutually also, do we not, to address the "hands on contemporary socialists" who are practicing their "religion" in caring for the poor as no one else find the bridge of nonviolence with them...

And to answer why would making American Democracy more and more "Christian" and the Christian Bible be unfair and ugly to our nation as some who hold crusader thinking try to do and yet making the Quran the constitution of Pakistan and other nations may not hold the same problems?

Somehow, I do believe there are huge differences - yet I need help in finding these...

Connie L. Nash said...

Thank You so much for the notes you sent which truly do make a huge difference for me in understanding. I am ready now to keep reflecting and have more background thanks to your patience with my incomplete perspectives on so much of history even that we share.