Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Educational Philosophy of Allama Iqbal: For Students

In view of Allama Iqbal's death anniversary this month (21st April), Taleem Portal has decided to pay homage to the greatest teacher of Indo-Pak Muslims. The following is the first of a series of articles which are going to be published on this blog: 
The Educational Philosophy of Allama Iqbal: For Students

As a prayer, my longing flows through my lips,
May my life be a beacon of light, Dear God!

Let my vigor perish the darkness the world’s engulfed in,
Let my radiance illuminate the far corners of the world!

Make my country magnificent through my energy,
As a garden beautified through a flower!

Like a moth let me live this life, Dear God!
Fallen hopelessly in love with the flame of knowledge, Dear God!

Make it my duty to serve the poor and needy,
To be a source of comfort to the weak and elderly!

My Allah, shield me from evil and wicked deeds,
And, guide me on a path which is marked by good and piety!
-          English Translation, Allama Iqbal’s “Bachay ki dua” (A Child’s Prayer)

Allama Iqbal is today honored as the poet & philosopher of the East and nation Pakistan. We have sung the above poem in our school assemblies and music classes countless number of times. Yet, how many of us have actually reflected on what we sang or were made to memorize? Or perhaps at a larger level, how many of us have actually wondered what Allama Iqbal envisioned for us that made him our national poet? What was the philosophy of the ‘Greatest 20th century Muslim philosopher’?
Mark Twain once said:

“Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned”

So let us look beyond the poems and statements we learnt by rote at school or understood only to the extent of passing the exam. For Iqbal was a man who believed little in such bookish methods, in Bal-e-Jibrael he prays for us:

“God acquaint you with some storm,
For the waters of your sea are tideless and still!
The book cannot be your salvation,
For, you are only its reader,
It has not been revealed upon you!”

Iqbal, wants us to be swept away by the tides of the ocean and know no rest or comfort in order to become action oriented and learned. For it is the rule of nature that man discovers hidden talents and his vitality doubles when circumstances push him to the edge. Furthermore, it is explained in Kulliyat-e-Iqbal that it is inherent in man’s personality and characteristics that he remain in a constant state of action:

The glory of man, made of clay; lies, in his ever fresh activities!
The moon and the stars do what they have always been doing.

As opposed to experience, the bookish approach to learning does not stand in favor of Iqbal for he wants us to be worthy of writing one ourselves instead of reading another's. Originality of thought, action, deeds and vision was something very dear to Iqbal and in Payam-e-Mashrik he held it a sin to blindly follow others in life: 

Cut your path with an axe of your own,
It is a sin to tread the beaten paths of others!
If you achieve something unique and original,
Even a sin becomes a virtue!

However, this does not mean that Allama Iqbal believed in leaving us to ourselves to experience and learn only through trial and error. He had the wisdom to understand how important right ideals are for youth to follow. He understood Din Islam as the only way to gain a true purpose and method for existence, meaning it wasn’t just a religion but a complete system for life. The Marde Momin he wished to create was not a man restricting religion to beads and prayer but instead having his Self fully aware and in love with Allah. Allama Iqbal expounds this form of worship in Bal-e-Jibrael:

Either a persistent remembrance of Lord’s name, in the wide expanse of the heavens!
Or prayers and counting of the beads, in the lap of the Earth!
The former is the religion of God-intoxicated, Self-conscious individuals,
And the later is the religion of the priests, plants and stones!

He took the essence of Islam and cleansed it of all that made man’s life hopelessly a series of events predetermined and beyond his control. Again in Bal-e-Jibrael he writes:

How long will my dust remain subordinate to the stars?
Either I am not there or revolving of the heavenly stars!

Allama Iqbal gave us the concept of Khudi, man’s Ego and Self, in order to make man a dynamic being. Man carries a Devine spark within him and his personality reflects it by making an individual out of him. Dr. Iqbal felt that a man’s Self needs to be protected at all costs and should be raised, nourished and allowed to fully develop. He could not hold back his melancholy when he saw the young one’s conforming themselves and killing that spark which was the key to all creativity in man’s endeavors. In Bal-e-Jibrael he pines:

Will there remain any luster in the sun,
If it grows indifferent to its rays?

The great philosopher was highly moved and inspired by the Prophet Mohammed’s (P.B.U.H.) saying,
“Inculcate Devine attributes”

He felt that a student must realize the responsibility on his shoulders as a Khalifa of Allah and try his level best to rise above his “human” weaknesses. In his highly intellectual work ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’, Allama Iqbal beautifully defines the role of man in relation to the Creator and the Universe through the Ayats of the Quran:

“It is the lot of man to share in the deeper aspirations of the universe around him and to shape his own destiny as well as that of the universe, now by adjusting himself to its forces, now by putting the whole of his energy to mold its forces to his own ends and purposes. And in this process of progressive change God becomes a co-worker with him, provided man takes the initiative: 

‘Verily God will not change the condition of men, till they change what is in themselves’ (13:11)

If he does not take the initiative, if he does not evolve the inner richness of his being, if he ceases to feel the inward push of advancing life, then the spirit within him hardens into stone and he is reduced to the level of dead matter.

I find no better words to summarize or explain what Allama Iqbal had to say, he expounded his point in the most clear, concise and loveliest of manner. He took us from slavery of the predetermined and thrust upon us the realization of what we can make of ourselves if only we exercise control over our destiny and environment. 

Once Islam had occupied a pivotal place in a man’s life, Allama Iqbal felt that automatically he would be liberated from fear. He considered that once Ishq (love) of Allah finds a place in man’s heart he would learn to fear none but Him and love none above Him. In Asrar-e-Khudi he describes man’s emancipation from fear in the following words:

Fear of the world and of the world to come, fear of death
Fear of all the pains of earth and heaven,
Love of riches and power, love of native land,
Love of self and kindred and women
So long as you hold fast to the staff of La-Illah,
You will break every spell of fear!

Dr. Iqbal firmly believed that today’s students and leaders of tomorrow need to understand that being weak spirited is not to become a part of their personality. He felt that life losses all purpose if one shows weakness and didn’t hesitate to consider it the reason for decline of nations in history. He warns in Bal-e-Jibrael:

It is the eternal decree of the Judge sitting in judgment on destinies,
That whosoever, commits the crime of being weak, the punishment for him is unexpected death!

In pursuit of building a character in students, Dr. Iqbal felt that they had to be tolerant towards other fellow human beings. Even in those days he felt that the Muslims failed to acknowledge those of other religion as creation of the same God. Not only was knowledge to be gained from their experience of modern sciences and arts but also due respect given to them. In Javed Nama it is written:
It is a sin to utter harsh words,
For the believer or unbeliever are alike in creation of God.

Being inspired by the saying of Prophet Mohammed (P.B.U.H.):

Faqr is my pride.”

Allama Iqbal propounded the need for developing this characteristic in students. He felt that often we suffer from pride, vanity and love for the materialistic side of life which destroys our soul with never ending temptations and corrupts us to a point where our Khudi (Self) starts to carry a price tag. In Javaid Nama, he speaks to the posterity through his son:

Excess of riches steals compassion from the heart
And substitute pride for humility!

Faqr was what Dr. Iqbal believed to be ‘shield’ against evil. He was not one of the conservatives who believed that protection lied in turning away from the world and practicing asceticism. Instead, he felt that the world was a Muslim’s mosque and his life a complete worship. Therefore, the need was to prepare students for the world instead of discouraging them away from it. Furthermore, in his pursuit to make his idea of Mard-e-Momin a reality, he wanted us to be detached from the love of material things so that we could learn to stand for higher values and ideals no matter what it cost us. He not only liberated man with Faqr but in fact armed him with it, so he could accomplish his vision thwarting every attack of evil no matter what his circumstances. In Bal-e-Jibrael he writes:

In power, as in subjection, Faqr is the shield,
That protects the pure-hearted!

Iqbal imparted his idea of mankind’s perfection through his wonderful poetry and lectures. He held a great vision for the Muslim youth and dedicated his entire life inculcating the spirit of a Shaheen in them. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he literally did shake the pillars of Heavens and the Earth to awaken the slumbering youth. Even today his words hold the same relevance and serve as a beacon of guidance and a source of true inspiration. Let us find our Khudi and formulate the personality that he envisioned in us!

On the one hand, he is like a drop of dew that pleases the heart of poppy flower,
And on the other, he is such a furious gale that makes the spirit of rivers quiver!

‘Educational Philosophy of Iqbal’, Dr. Tariq Masoodi. A.P.H Publishing Corporation New Delhi
‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’, Allama Iqbal


Unknown said...

very motivating and well crafted piece of writing!

ZSyed said...

Very well-written. These words are the need of the hour!!

Topper Learning said...

nice post! It’s something I have never thought about, really, but it makes a whole lot of sense. Thanks for sharing Education Portal of allama iqbal

Asif Ali said...

Find the huge collection of poetry shayari and quotes of dr. iqbal sahab.
beautiful quotes by dr. iqbal sahab

Khalid Mehmood said...

thank u shooo much for the translation

Muzher Hussain said...

Allama Iqbal is such a great person whom I cannot express in words. I love and like mentioning the name of Allama Iqbal.


allama iqbal was one most informative person.i like him becouse his pkilosaphy,and his contributions.

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