Some Possible Historical Roots of Iqbalian ‘Ishq’:

Posted by Magellanic Cloud on August 19, 2006

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Some Historical Facts About “Ishq”:

In the context of Iqbalian ‘Ishq’, it is important not only to differentiate between ‘Haqiqi’ and ‘Majazi’ Ishq, but also to differentiate between “ishq vs Fear” and “ishq vs Rationality”. It is clear now that Iqbal, in his work has compared Ishq with Rationality. The difference beween ‘Haqiqi’ and ‘Majazi’ Ishq is quite famous. So here I only shall mention some historical facts regarding “Ishq vs Fear” and “Ishq vs Rationality”.

“Ishq vs Fear” has been the issue of religion whereas “ishq vs Rationality” has been the issue of Philosophy. Haqiqi and Majazi Ishq, on the other hand, have been the issues of religion and Sufism.

1- Ishq vs Fear:

Since most religions require their followers to offer certain prayers. The issue in various religions has been that what should be the reason of prayers. Should humans offer prayers in order to ensure some worldly benefits? Or should they offer prayers with the view to avoid punishment in after life? Or with the view to acquire good status in paradise, surely in the after life? In other words, the issue has been that should humans offer prayers because of worldly gains, or because of fear of God, or because of anything else?

Aryian Vedas are the most ancient religious teachings which are available to us. Contents of Rig-Vadas show that the ancient Arians had been offering their whatever form of prayers with the view to ensure worldly benefits for them. For example they used to offer those prayers so that they might get good crops, or so that they win wars against their enemies etc.

Soon Arian religion turned into a strict but invisible code of many customs and traditions. Vedas did not contain any mention about the stratification of society into caste system. At first, Arians had been just fighting against the native Indians, throughout the time of Vedas. Eventually, they however had to include the native Indians also in their society. This was the time when they felt the need of splitting up their society into various castes so as to ensure the survival of their distinct identity from the native Indians. In the main classification of four castes, first three i.e. Berhaman, Khashtaries and Vesh were Arians whereas Shudars were the Native Indians. With the view to introduce such a social stratification, they brought about many changes in their religious doctrines as well. Now reason for offering prayers also changed, for them. Previously, they had been offering prayers with the view to ensure worldly benefits, now on ward, they would offer prayers with the view to avoid “Janam-Chacker”, which was a new introduction to the religious outlook of Indian people. Actually, with the view to legitimize such a rigid caste system, Hindu religious leaders had developed a philosophy of “kerma”. This philosophy asserted that after death, the soul again would take birth in some other body. Whether the soul would go to some inferior body or to some superior body, would be determined by the “karams” (i.e. Aamals …. doings) of the person. A person who did good aamals in his life, after his death his soul would go to superior body. For example the soul of a good vesh would again take birth in the body of a Khashtari or even Berhaman. Similarly, the soul of a bad Berhaman could go in the body of Shudar or even in some other inferior animal. In this way, this philosophy of “kerma” “successfully” legitimized the rigid caste system. This philosophy deprived shudars, of their right to complaint against their such a low status in society because according to this philosophy, their low status was the result of their own bad kermas (aamal) in their previous life. So the basis of Aamal (or prayers etc.), in those days, had been the fear of bad transmigration as well as the fear of social punishments because of strict social customs and traditions.

With the passage of time, Janeism and Buddhism emerged mainly as a reaction to this caste system and the philosophy of Kerma. Both Janeism and Buddhism rejected caste system and introduced the idea of Nirvana with the view to end up the evil “janam chacker”.

Rapid success of Janeism and Buddhism posed severe threat to Hinduism. Hindu religious leaders again felt the need to introduce new reforms in their religion in order to counter the threat of Janeism and Buddhism as well as to win the popularity of Hinduism among the general public.

Emergence of such literature as Ramayein and Maha-Bharata relates to this point in time. Bhagwat Geeta is the important portion of Maha-Bharata. Philosophy of Bhagwat Geeta provided for a new basis for why humans should offer their prayers. Philosophy of Bhagwat Geeta is also not in favour of caste system. Secondly this philosophy asserts that basis of prayers should be the LOVE OF HUMANS FOR GOD. According to this philosophy, this love should be unconditional — means the basis of this love should not be the fear of punishment, or expectation of reward after death. Humans should love God without any hidden or secondary motive, and Such a love for God should be the reason for the offer of religious prayers.

In Semitic religions like Judaism and Christianity, the reasons for why humans should offer prayers have been both (i) to ensure worldly benefits and; (ii) the fear of punishment or expectation of reward in the after-life. The examples of worldly benefits include that Jews were promised for the acquisition of ‘promised land’. Hazrat Isa (RA) had promised for the ‘heavenly kingship’ for his nation.

In Islam, the reason for offer of prayers include (i) spiritual growth, (ii) fear of punishment and expectation of reward in the after-life, (iii) Love for and obedience to Prophet of Islam (PBUH). etc. (iv) As a thanks to God.

The concept of ‘love of human for God’, in an elaborated and transparent form, has been evolved after 1st century of the emergence of Islam. By that time, many ‘Abid-o-Zahid’ Muslims had lost the spiritual basis of their prayers. They used to offer their prayers just to show before others that how much ‘ibadat-guzar’ they were. The ‘riakary’ of such ‘Abid-o-Zahid’ persons was apparent in their dishonest conducts and attitudes in various worldly matters. Sufism, in Islam, has been emerged, originally as a reaction to this type of ‘riakary’ of such type of ‘Abid-o-Zahid’ persons. Early Sufis differentiated between ‘Zahir’ and ‘Batan’. They took the initiative to offer their prayers with such purpose as the purification of their inner-self (batan), instead of just to make show of their number of prayers to others. In those days, Hazrat Rabia Basri (RA) happened to be the first Muslim scholar who introduced the idea of ‘Love of Human for God’, as a basis for the prayers.

This original idea of ‘Love of Human for God’, later on was contaminated by later Sufis with the Greek notion of ‘Ishq’. Actually later Sufis had adopted various elements of ‘Immanatalist’ doctrines of Indian ‘Vedantas’ and Greek’s ‘Neo-Platonist’ theologies. I shall discuss about the historical development of ‘Neo-Platonism’ theology later in this post. Here I shall discuss only the main doctrine of this ‘Neo-Platonism’. This theology, or philosophy, was developed by the 1st century B.C philosopher Platinus. According to him, the whole reality or the source of origin of everything is a single unity which he calls ‘Zat-e-Behet’. This entity, according to him, transcends the universe but everything of the universe which are (i) First Intellect, (ii) Ruh-e-Kul, (iii) Ruh-e-Alvi of humans, (iv) Ruh-e-Safli of humans and (v) matter; have been EMANATED from that ‘zat-e-behet’. ‘Emanation’ means just like light emits from sun in such way that no loss is suffered by the sun.

According to the details, first of all ‘first intellect’ emanated directly from ‘zat-e-behet’. Then Ruh-e-Kul emanated from the intellect. Then Ruh-e-Alvi of humans emanated from that Ruh-e-Kul. Then this Ruh-e-Alvi lost its true status and became inclined to matter and thus became ‘Ruh-e-Safli’. According to Platinus, human body is composed of matter. Human soul has been imprisoned in matter in this way. The highest goal before human is to try to purify his soul (through ‘riazat’, ‘maraqba’ etc. etc.) so that the soul may get freedom from the imprisonment in matter. After getting freedom from matter, the ‘purified’ souls then starts backward, or better to say, up-ward movement towards Ruh-e-Kul, then to intellect and finally again units with the ‘zat-e-behet’.

Platinus says that when human soul is in imprisonment of matter, it feels intense missing of ‘zat-e-behet’ and the soul acquirs the feeling of ‘Be-Qarari’ for meeting or uniting with ‘zat-e-behet’. This feeling of ‘Be-Qarari’ of human soul for uniting with ‘zat-e-Behet’ has been named as ‘Ishq’ by Platinus.

It is this ‘Ishq’ which compells humans to do such things as ‘maraqbas’, ‘riazat’ etc. etc. so that the soul may be purified and get freedom from the imprisonment of matter. To get his soul re-united with the zat-e-behet is the ultimate real goal for any human, according to this doctrine.

It is important to mention that not only Muslim Sufis, but Muslim rationalist philosophers such as Al-Farabi and Ibn-e-Sina also had adopted this emanation doctrine with its details — but after some modifications. Muslim Sufis have derived their concepts of ‘Ishq-Haqiqi’, ‘Fana-Fi-Allah’, etc. from this doctrine. In addition, various concepts which are found in works of Muslim scholars such as sufli, alvi, first intellect etc. also have Greek origins. Just like in this ‘Neo-Platonism’, where ultimate goal for human is to get his soul re-united with ‘zat-e-behet’, in many forms of Sufism, the ultimate goal before Sufi is also ‘Fana-fi-Allah. Just like in Neo-Platonism, where maraqbas and riazats are required for this purpose, in many forms of Sufism also the same maraqbas and riazats are required for this purpose. In addition, according to Neo-Platonism, since everything has been emanated from a single source, so all the beauty found in universe is just the reflection of that singe source. This concept has been taken up by Sufis by the name of ‘Husn-e-Azal’ and they have named the ‘attraction’ for this ‘Husn-e-Azal’ as Ishq.

Hazrat Muhayyudin Ibn-e-Arabi, the main proponent of Islamic Wahdat-ul-Wajood, has taken many things from Neo-Platonic doctrines. Both ‘Neo-Platonism’ and Ibn-e-Arabi’s ‘Wahdat-ul-Wajood’ are ‘monistic’ doctrines instead of ‘mono-theistic’ doctrines. Monism asserts the unity between God and universe. In other words, according to Monism, God and Universe are one and single thing as no other thing can exist except God. Mono-theism (Islamic Tauheed) on the other hand, asserts that God and universe are two separate entities. The thing which mono-theism emphasizes is that God is only one i.e. there are not more than one gods. But fact remains that one God is considered separate entity than universe. Universe is the creature and the creator is only one God, according to Mono-theism. Secondly Ibn-e-Arabi has described ‘creation’ of universe in Neo-Platonic terminology of emanation etc. In addition, he also has adopted another Greek concept of ‘Logos’, after some modifications.

2- Ishq vs Rationality:

Iqbal, in his work, has compared ‘ishq’ with ‘rationality’. It means that he has taken whole different meanings of ‘ishq’. It is clear by now that the term ‘ishq’ has Greek origins. The meaning, which Iqbal takes of this term, also has very interesting history. In various poetic verses, Iqbal has equalized ‘ishq’ with ‘masti’. Then Iqbal compares this ‘ishq-o-masti’ with ‘rationality’ and then gives preference to ‘ishq-o-masti’ over ‘rationality’. Here, ‘masti’ vs ‘rationality’ also has Greek origins. In ancient Greece, a god of ‘sharaab, masti and be-khudi’ was imported from the nearby island of Kareet. The name of that god was ‘Dyonisus’. The worshipers of that god used to heavily drink ‘sharaab’ in order to get ‘masti’ and ‘be-khudi’. They had the belief that during ‘masti-o-be-Khudi’, their god i.e. Dyonisus entered in their inner selves (halool ker jata hai). A person named ‘Orphios’ is said to be the main proponent of this Dyonisusism. When this god enters into the innerself of a ‘mast-o-be-khud’ person, that person is supposed to acquire ‘irphan’ (i.e. famous ilm-o-irfan’). Note at this point that many Sufis use to call themselves as ‘Arifs’ (i.e. this term has been derived out of this ‘Orphios’ which becomes ‘oriph’ and so ‘Arif’). So this ‘Dyonisusism’ is also known as ‘Oriphism’. ‘Oriphies’ endeavoured to get ‘irphan’ (irfan) in the state of ‘masti-o-be-khudi’.

Pythagoras was actually a reformer of this ‘Oriphism’. The reform which he brought about was that he replaced the method of ‘masti-o-be-khudi’ with the method of applying rational thought and pondering etc. with the view to get ‘irphan’. Although for Pythagoras also, the meaning of ‘irphan’, just like other followers of ‘Orphism’, was not ‘getting of knowledge’. Actually, even in those times (i.e. about 500 BC), some Greeks (including Pythagoras) believed that body was the prison of soul. The objective before human was the same … i.e. to get freedom for soul from the prison of body. These views later on would serve the founding stone of above mentioned Neo-Platonism. The purpose of getting liberty from body could be achieved if a person acquired the state of ‘irphan’. Orphios and other followers of Orphism used to try to get this ‘irphan’ in the state of ‘masti-o-be-khudi’. Pythagoras introduced reforms whereby he replaced the method of ‘mast-o-be-khudi’ with the method of ‘rational thought and pondering’. So this was the first ever comparison between masti and rationality. Masti was older than rationality. But this masti had no any such roots over which Allama Iqbal sahib can feel any pride.

Actually, in old times, the process of acquisition of new knowledge was considered to be the most mysterious one. There was no such idea that rationality could produce new knowledge. In many ancient nations, it was only ‘Kahins’ etc. who used to tell mysterious new things to general public. And those Kahins usually did it in the state of ‘masti-o-be-khudi’. The meaning of Kahin is also that a person who tells mysterious things in the state of masti-o-be-khudi. In the pre-Islamic Arab, whenever any poet used to say any new poetry, common people would consider that it was actually some JIN in the inner self of that poet who was telling that poetry to the poet. It was due to the simple fact that those people did not know that new poetry was just a product of rationality (obviously inspired by intense feelings) of poet. Due to the ignorance of this fact, ancient people only could think that new knowledge or poetry could only be produced in the state of masti and be-khudi when the inner self of person was pre-occupied by some super-natural entity such as Jin or god etc. Comparison of ‘masti’ with ‘rationality’ has this type of history … but Iqbal, in his work has taken immediate inspirations out of the work of Rousseau, who in his work had given preference to passions over rationality. Rousseau was a supporter of dogmatism. Dogmatists are those who think that since they already know all the possible things, so they are not in need to apply their rationality with the view to get knowledge of any new thing. But instead of following the views of Rousseau, we must think that we are behind other nations just because we really do not know so many things. We must accept this clear fact that we are in need of acquiring new knowledge and for this purpose we should apply our rationality. But before applying rationality, we first should give the rationality its due respect, which unfortunately has not been given to rationality by our national heroes. Rather, they unduly have de-graded the rationality by just following the views of some anti-rational type western scholars.


2 Responses to “Some Possible Historical Roots of Iqbalian ‘Ishq’:”

  1. asmakhalil said

    I’m not well versed in all these philosophies. The Idea of “Ishq” in Iqbal, I just mentioned it because it reflects the idea of “being a Muslim”. The definition of Muslim is again very vague. And here when I use the word “Muslim”, I mean someone who has submitted his WHOLE SElf to Allah. Following the doctrines fully and with whole-heartedness.
    And I guess every humanbeing, every book in this world has it’s shortcomings, except for the revealed one.

    Well.. the war would go on but I put my hands up now. There are things in this world which are beyond rationality forexample the way Plato(the father of Rationality) unleashes his Irrational side in Phaedrus.

  2. muhammad umer toor said

    You said that there are contradictions in Iqbals prose and peorty. If you have read his Stray Reflections, he wrote that it is idle to seek logical truth in peotry since the ideal of peotry is not truth but beauty.
    Do yo know Noam chomsky said we don’t know or that things don’t have innate meaning. E.g in dictionary if you look up the meaning of innate, you understand it by some other words from the same dictionary. Things are labeled and our knowledge is not of the innate nature of things but its of their names. Allah gave adam, not put it to his mind, knowledge, but how? He told him names of things and through his conscious mind he learned them by heart. Yes, mind organizes things through perceptions, and perception is about gathering of information. If info is wrong than thinking is wrong. I humbly refer you two books that vitalize the importance of human reasoning. 1 textbook of wisdom by Edward de Bono 2 the critique of reasonableness by stephen Gravey.
    But I am not sure rationality is all, for two reasons 1 I don’t know it much 2 because of my views about modern science: science is an indirect way of looking at things and hence it is not a science of nature. And when I see Quran which, acc to dr. S. H Nasr, and is, a book of science of nature, becuase it reflects Divine mind. I am still a student of 18 yrs old, I seek your special blessings, I hope you guide me and help me in the attainment of knowledge of ultimate nature of things. Thanks. Yours Toor

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