Iqbal’s Concept of Khudi (Ego)

The significance of the Self in an individual is that it is the source through which we can bring ourselves closest to the Ultimate. Let us, therefore, study the nature and immense power that lies in the human self. Iqbal has gone so deep into the ocean of the self that it has become difficult for a common person to dive with him to that depth. This is why he had to face severe criticism during his lifetime particularly from religious people. In fact he possessed a very high aesthetic sense, on account of which he adopted a highly literary and poetic method to explain his creative ideas with respect to developing the rich faculties of the human mind through the self. Since the language used by him contains very rich poetic imagination, it creates some difficulty for the reader to understand him, especially when it comes to the expression of his intuitive ideas.

Iqbal’s famous book on Khudi in Persian language is “Asrar-i Khudi”. His learned teacher Professor R.A. Nicholson of Cambridge translated the book during Iqbal’s lifetime and named it as “Secrets of the Self”. While translating the book Professor Nicholson wrote a letter to Iqbal in search of certain answers. The reply from Iqbal received by Professor Nicholson was so interesting that he published the whole of it in the introductions of the Secrets of the Self,which was published at London in 1920. The introduction to this book alone covers twenty-five pages. Since we are trying to understand the nature of human Self, a few words from the the translater about Iqbal’s idea are quoted hereunder:

“Everyone, I suppose, will acknowledge that the substance of the ´Asrar-i-Khudi` is striking enough to command attention. In the poem, naturally, this philosophy (i.e.Self) presents itself under a different aspect. ………….., its logical brilliancy dissolves in the glow of feeling and imagination, and it wins the heart before taking possession of the mind.”

A prominent modern writer S.S. Hawi says about Søren Kierkegaard, the great Danish philosopher, that ‘Kierkegaard recognised the limits of science and reason in understanding the self and the apprehension of religious faith.’ For Kierkegaard and Iqbal he asserts that ‘their humanistic psychology is a victory over the brute facts of science and behaviourism’. A passage from the said article of Hawi, quoted below, will help us to understand the dynamic power of the self which Iqbal advocates in his various verses that will come under review later in this article. He wrties:

“Along with the dynamic concept of the self, if we explore further horizons in Kierkegaard’s writings, the self emerges as a vital entity in the individual, an entity which is energetic and productive. Therefore, at the heart of kierkegaard’s conception of the self is a definite element of vitalism, Such a vitalism renders the self an internal dynamic activity with intensity of volition, feeling and thought.”

The above passage highlights the dynamic power of thought and feeling of the self emerging as vital entity. Iqbal has similar feelings about the dynamic power of the self,but with it he includes Love as an essential ingredient for development of the self.

According to Iqbal man is the care-taker of all possibilities of life; (in a verse he says: ‘Tiree fitrat ameen hai mumkinat-i zindgani ki,’ (Your nature is care-taker of the possibilities of life). In fact the human being is the master of both the seen and the unseen as well as capable of exploring what is still not known to the temporal eye. It is one’s selfwhich is capable of seeing and doing what apparently looks a miracle. The selfin an individual is speculative and also possesses a sharp insight that sees the whole. It sees not merely the observable part of an object but the whole of it. According to Kierkegaard, if a person possessing such an insight stands on a high point and gazes out over a flat region he will see roads running parallel to each other with fields in between. But a person lacking this insight will either see only the roads and not the fields or just see fields and not the roads.

There are signs of God’s existence everywhere in the universe even in man himself. God says to us: “ON EARTH AND IN YOURSELVES, THERE ARE SIGNS FOR FIRM BELIEVERS. CAN YOU NOT SEE?” Your realexistence is your own self. If you want to understand God you have to understand your self first. To understand and then awaken your self you have to pass through strenuous stages; and the most difficult task for you is to fight against yourself. Although it looks odd to fight against one’s own self, this fight is actually self control, for which Iqbal says: ‘Self control in individuals builds families; in countries, it builds empires.’ The self is not a ghost in you but it is you in real, it is your very existence, of which you are unaware. Your awareness about yourself is the discovery of selfin you, and for that purpose you have to undergo a long fight against external forces. These external forces determine your actions as long as you are unaware of the power of your self.Once you are free of the grip of external forces you are the master of your destiny. There are different methods of achieving this including meditations and prayers. However faith and love play a major role in this direction. On this way Kierkegaard says that ‘the first part is ethical and spiritual growth, after that the growth of love.’ Defining the process in respect of ‘upbuilding belief which builds up love in the believer;’ he writes:
‘Spiritually understood, what are the ground and foundation of the life of the spirit, which are to bear the building? In very fact it is love; love is the origin of everything, and spiritually understood love is the deepest ground of the life of spirit. Spiritually understood, thefoundation is laid in every person in whom there is love. And the edifice which spiritually understood, is to be constructed, is again love.’This means that love is the foundation material of every thing including self-knowledge. Iqbal says,

“Love is the foundation of life, Love is the flashing sword of death.
The hardest rocks are shivered by love’s glance.”

This is English ranslation from Iqbal’s Persian poem Asrar-i Khudi by Professor Nicholson.

Transparency or purity of heart is one of the subjects widely dealt with by Iqbal. The place of God, as regarded by Iqbal, is the human heart. It is love that purifies the heart, cleans it up, clears it from wordily rubish, and makes that heart a worthy place for God. The term ‘heart’ as far as it is used by Iqbal, according to M. Suheyl Umar (Director Iqbal Academy Pakistan), ‘ranges from a seat of emotions and feelings to the centre of human interiority, the deepest seat of consciousness and also secret of God.’ Therefore its purification is the foremost step towards self-awareness. Trying to know the selfwith impure heart, says Kierkegaard, is ‘self deceit,’ which he considers a tragedy. Kierkegaard connects Self, edification, spirit, upbuilding, belief, transparency and purity of heart with love. Iqbal carries the love further to the highest point and connects it with God. In one of his verses he says that the ‘beginning of the journey to the self is love and the end is Beauty’.

The way of approaching the self is communication with one’s ownself. In order to understand the real self the individual must question himself and the responses he gets will vary from time to time and state to state of the individual. A person is the best judge of himself, and by questioning himself he knows his weaknesses and his sins. This is part of the process of cleaning up the heart, which involves a hard struggle against opposing external forces, which drag the individual towards the wrong path. In this way one is able to keep himself within the norms of morality and religious limits.

‘The process of edification is a process of constant deepening.’ It can also be described as a process of increasing self-transparency, of making oneself increasingly transparent to oneself. In a beautiful image, Søren Kierkegaardwrites: “Purity of heart, it is a figure of speech that compares the heart to the sea, and why just to this? Simply for the reason that the depth of the sea determines its purity, and its purity determines its transparency…. As the sea mirrors the elevation of heaven in its pure depths, so may the heart when it is calm and deeply transparent mirrors the divine elevation of the Good in its pure depths.”

Benjamin Nelson comments: ‘Freud longed to add a grain to man’s self-knowledge. Toward this end he struggled to plumb the depths of the unconscious and scale the heights of creativity. Midway on his journey he stumbled upon a clue: the road to the heights was by way of the depths.’Another philosopher comments presenting the same idea in these words: ”For thought rises to the heights, when it descends into itself”. His ’itself’ is Iqbal’s Self. Kierkegaard believed that ‘the dynamic character of existence is manifested paradigmatically neither in society nor in the “crowd” but in the inner individual (Den Enkelte) who strives to exist as an authentic person. In the subjective intensification of existence, truth comes to be in the life of an individual.’ Iqbal says Khudi men doobja ghafil ye sirr-i zindgani hay (Dive into your own self, it is the very secret of life).

It is love that deepens the transparency in an individual and with the passage of time his or her heart becomes more and more transparent; the person, in this process, veers nearer and nearer to his/her origin; and a time comes when you see God in your own self. And then, as Kierkegaard once said, the person sees no more, he also said that ‘the process of deepening transparency is a process of increasing silence’. Historically speaking there have been persons, the men of God, the loving and pious intellectuals, who stand witness to it. A famous poet-saint of Indo-Pakistan sub-continent, named Shah Bheek, in his two verses said: “The one who talks about (Truth) he knows not, but one who knows he speaks not.” Another world-known poet-philosopher Rumi (Jalaluddin Rumi of Persia) said that he delivered long lectures on Ultimate Truth to his pupils but when Reality revealed to him he laughed at himself (on what he was preaching).

As for the journey to selfhood, we have seen earlier that according to Iqbal its ‘beginning is love and the end is Beauty.’ The destination as regards Iqbal is Beauty (i.e. God). Kierkegaard also says the same but in different words; he says that ‘there is a limit to the process of deepening transparency. The limit is reached when a man, to speak figuratively, achieves a conception of himself – his real self – that is so transparent he sees clear through it, it vanishes as an object and obstacle to his vision, and he sees only the absolute Truth. He sees God.’ This becomes possible when man’s right to choose is applied correctly remaining within ethico-religious limits. Thus the edification of belief paves the way for a transformation of the heart. The transparency of the heart is continued till the heart mirrors the self that leads the person to see God; as ‘the self has its origin in God.’ Iqbal adds further to this idea by saying, ‘The eternal secret of the ego (self) is that the moment he reaches this final revelation he recognises it as the ultimate root of his being without the slightest hesitation. Yet in the experience itself there is no mystery. Nor there is anything emotional in it.’

To Iqbal life is a constant flowing river, it has no beginning and it has no end, its beginning is in eternity and the end also lies in eternity, the rest is not in its nature. Iqbal says that rest means death and death is nowhere in the life of theself. Iqbal says that soul is in constant motion, and that is the fate of the soul. Hegel believed the same; in his “Philosophy of Spirit” he says that spirit is not something motionless but it is ‘absolute unrest.’ Iqbal says it is hope or longing of hope that keeps man alive. Hopelessness is the result of spiritlessness; but ‘spiritlessness is not as being without spirit, it is stagnation of the spirit in a man,’ as maintained by Kierkegaard. It is this hope, which Iqbal narrates in his following couplet of verses:

Na kaheen jahan men amaan mili, jo amaan mili to kahaan mili,
Meray jurm-i khana kharab ko teray afvi banda nawaz men.
(My sins did not find refuge in the whole world, the only place where
I found shelter – O my Lord! – was Thy forgiveness).

According to Kierkegaard ‘the greater the conception of God, the moreself.’ He says that ‘the selfis created and sustained by God,’ and asserts that ‘the more conception of God, the more self; and the more self, the more conception of God.’ He says: ‘God who holds every thing together in His eternal wisdom and who assigned man to be lord of creation by his becoming God’s servant and explained Himself to him by making him His co-worker, and through every explanation that He gives a person, He strengthens and confirms him in the inner being.’

According to Hegel the ‘selfis a unified plurality and a pluralised unity in which universality and particularity are reconciled in concrete individuality. The self can be for itself only insofar as it is for others.’ Iqbal also has the same view. His idea of collective self and individual self, or universal self and individual self, highlights the importance of his understanding of the full scope of the self. Individual self, Iqbal says, ‘consists of the feelings of personal life, and is as such, a part of the system of thought. Every pulse of thought, present or perishing, is an indivisible unity, which knows and recollects. … Inner experience is the ego at work. We appropriate the ego itself in the act of perceiving, judging, and willing.’ A fully developed ego at its height, says Iqbal, is able to retain self-possession, even in the case of a direct contact with the All-embracing Ego (God). Man without losing his identity, remains a part of the Organic Whole. The ego of man i.e. his selfis deeply related to Ultimate Ego or All-embracing Ego, which is the source that ‘awakens in man the higher consciousness of his manifold relations with God and the universe. The selfis a synthesis of ideality and reality, infinitude and finititude, possibility and necessity, eternity and time, universality and individuality.’ The individual selfderives attributes from the All-embracing Ego.

Dr. Jamila Khatoon says that these ‘Divine attributes do not savour of limitations and finititude. Iqbal depicts God as the Dynamic Will, as Thought, Light, Love and Beauty. God is not identified with any one element but all the above-mentioned elements are comprehended in His Essence. Further, He is attributed with Creativeness, Omniscience, Omnipotence, Eternity, Freedom, Wisdom and Goodness. But these attributes and aspects do not imply limitations or restrictions, differentiations, distinctions or duality in the Divine Essence. God is one Organic Whole in which all the above mentioned attributes are comprehended.’

The role of the selfin this world is constructive and fight against destructive forces, In order to perform its role in entirety the selfmust be a part of the society of mankind. Being individual and remaining individual it must nevertheless also be universal as a part of the Whole. ‘The deepest reason for this is to be discovered in the essential characteristic of human existence, that man is an individual and as such is at once himself and the whole race, in such a way that the whole race has part in the individual, and the individual has part in the whole race.’ We learn from history that sometimes a whole nation is faced with the misery of occupation by a foreign nation. According to Hegel such a misfortune as a result of the defeat or fall of a nation, is always due to fragmentation of the individual, and fragmentation of the individual is the result of spiritlessness within him. The Spiritlessness, as already explained earlier, is not being without spirit but it is the stagnation of spirit. The spirit is ‘pure self-recognition in absolute otherness – it is that which relates itself to itself and is determinate, it is other-being and being-for-self, and in this determinateness or in its self-externalisation, abides within itself.’

Iqbal, Hegel and Kierkegard, all the three of them, pointed out the damaging fragmentation of the individual of their respective countries. For Denmark Kierkegaard remarked that his country was stuck on the mud bank of reason. In fact it was not only his country but also his remarks applied to many other nations during 19th. and 20th. centuries. This is the reason that the philosophy of the selfwith all the three revolves around ethico-religious thought as a centre. By applying this method Hegel and Iqbal achieved what they desired, and to a great extent they succeeded in integrating the fragmented individual and managed to build a united society. But Kierkegaard was not fortunate enough to see a change in his nation during his lifetime. It is my hope that we eventually understand what he meant by saying: ‘My whole life is an epigram to make men aware.’

We, human beings on the earth, consist of a small part of universe; the individual is just a tiny atom in it, but in relation to the society of mankind the significance of the individual increases. However, it appears only when the ego (self) is developed in a man and makes him an active organ of the body of mankind. That he is able to play his constructive role in society. The development of such an ego in the individual ultimately culminates in the development of a collective ego in a group of people, which strengthens moral values in them and makes the nation strong in every respect. By developing the collective selfor ego the differences between indual selves are eliminated, and among such a society the desire of an individual does not clash with the collective desire of the society; the ´self’ and ´other` become as collective self in the individuals. This is the higher stage of the voyage to selfhood which started from individual’s efforts to awaken in him the consciousness of self-understanding after overcoming his own weaknesses and short-sightedness and then developing his selfby cleaning his heart from the dust of egotism in order to make it transparent. Thus when the heart is transparent man is able to discover the right path and then continue his journey onward with God given power, wisdom and courage to fulfil his duty and work as a representative of God on this earth. To be more clear at this stage we quote hereunder an extract from ”Wafaring”,which is part of the book “Journeys to Selfhood”:. It says: ‘As soon as a person accepts responsibility for himself as a free agent, other dimensions of selfhood come into sharp focus. Most importantly, the subject clearly distinguishes what it is from what it ought to be by differentiating its givenness and its possibility, its reality and its ideality. The self that the ethicist wills to become is not an abstract self which passes everywhere and hence is nowhere, but (is) a concrete self which stands living in reciprocal relation with these specific surroundings, these conditions of life, this natural order. This self which is the goal (Formaalet)is not merely a personal self, but a social, a civic self. He has, then, himself as a task for an activity in which, as this definite personality, he grasps the relations of life.(267;235).’

Iqbal says; “The final act is not intellectual act, but a vital act which deepens the whole being of the ego, and sharpens his will with the creative assurance that the world is not something to be seen or known through concepts, but something to be made and remade by continuous action. It is a moment of supreme bliss and also a moment for the greatest trial for the ego. Iqbal in his following verses explains the way of such trial (self examination). This is translation of his Persian verses done by Iqbal himself:

“Art thou in the stage of ‘life,’ ‘death,’ or ´death-in-life.’
Invoke the aid of three witnesses to verify thy ‘station.’
The first witness is thine own consciousness–
See thyself, then, with own light.
The second witness is the consciousness of another ego–
See thyself, then, with the light of an ego other than thee.
The third witness is God’s consciousness–
See thyself, then, with God’s light.
If thou standest unshaken in front of this light,
Consider thyself as living and eternal as He!
That man alone is real who dares–
Dares to see God face to face!
What is ‘Ascension?’ Only a search for a witness,
Who may finally confirm thy reality–?
A witness whose confirmation alone makes thee eternal.
No one can stand unshaken in His Presence;
And he who can, verily, he is pure gold.
Art thou a mere particle of dust?
Tighten the knot of thy ego;
And hold fast to thy tiny being!
How glorious to burnish one’s ego.
And to test its lustre in the presence of the Sun!
Re-chisel, then, thine ancient frame; And build up a new being.
Such being is real being;
Or else thy ego is a mere ring of smoke.”

The life of the selfreceives importance in relation to its practical involvement in the affairs of society. Kierkegaard views: ‘The more of the universally human an individual is able to realize in his life, the more extraordinary he is. The less of the universal he is able to take up in his life, the more imperfect he is.’ May-be he becomes an extraordinary person in the eyes of people due to certain reasons but surely ‘not in a good sense,’ says Kierkegaard.

During the journey of self-development the individual is aloneanddespite all the hustle and bustle of life around him he remains mostly alone throughout this journey. As described by Mark C. Taylor, Kierkegaard considers that ´the journey to selfhood winds along ‘a solitary path, narrow and steep,’ where the individual wanders ‘without meeting a single traveller.’ To follow the way is to embark upon an extraordinary (U-almindelig) pilgrimage, a venture that suspends one ‘above seventy thousand fathoms of water, many, many miles from all human help.’ However to Kierkegaard this is the only way that ‘holds the promise of a radical cure for spiritlessness.’

Iqbal’s conception of selfparticularly with regards to collective selfhood is very much similar to that of Hegel. Both of them belonged to their age as much as they belong to us today. They were indeed great reformers who not only offered reforming ideas but saw their lives as a mission to guide the people of their respective countries towards the right path. On the contrary Kierkegaard, as stated earlier, did not belong to his age and as such could not possibly move his fellow countrymen. It was almost a century later that his nation started understanding the essence of his moral and religious teachings.

One thing common to the aforesaid three philosophers was their respective countries’ fragmented individuals. Since they were basically reformers of their time, they wanted to gather together fragmented splinters of the individuals of their society. This they believed was the result of stagnation of spirit, as according to them men in society with stagnant spirits were the cause of misfortune for the whole nation. Hegel and Iqbal maintained their unique mystical and religious approach, while at the same time remained involved in the affairs of their respective society. Iqbal made himself a real force of change in the society and ignited the power of the collective self within his countrymen. His final goal was to create a realisation of the importance of the collective self at a higher level in the society of mankind as a whole. This is the concept of belonging to a single family on this planet. ‘To be is to be related’, opined Mark C. Taylor. After quoting Hegel’s view point on the development of the self, he observes that selfhood is essentially social and that the individual selfremains totally abstract, utterly indefinite, and completely incomprehensible in the absence of creative interrelation. Hegel spent much of his time contemplating ‘how can we restore the unity of man?’ If every one of us keeps this question in mind, we may be able one day to find the answer to the existing misfortune of the scattered family of mankind.

According to Iqbal when the individual assumes responsibility it is the courage in him and the force of his passion that carry him towards the final goal, and the final goal of Ego is the individual’s direct relationship with the Divine Ego. Then his self-knowledge becomes ‘God knowledge’ and the entire world, as Socrates said, centres in him. It is the courage through which one attains his place in this world as well as in the world hereafter. The credibility of a person among his fellow beings as well as before God. is always relative to the amount of courage in him. In the following verses Iqbal highlights man’s creditability in this world:

Himmat-i Aali to darya bhi naheen karti qubul,
Ghuncha-san ghafil teray daman men shabnam kab talak.
(Those with elegant courage do not accept even ocean,
Oh neglected one, how long would you hold dew in your skirt
like the flower bud).

About man’s credibility before God when he attains the status of becoming immortal after developing his self, Iqbal says,

Ho agar khud nigar-o khudgar-o khud-gir khudi,
Ye bhi mumkin hai key tu maut sey bhi mar na sakey. :
(When your ego becomes self observing, self building and self examining,
It is just possible that you do not die.

Infinity is not beyond the reach of finite man; of course it is only possible when he attains qualification by developing his inner power and transparency of heart. Then Einstein’s four-dimensional Space-time becomes meaningless to such a person. Bergson is also of the same view as he says: ‘We can go beyond ourselves and extend our time in both directions; the way down leads towards pure homogeneity or pure repetitiveness, that is, materially; on the way up we come closer and closer to living eternity.’ Iqbal says the same in a beautiful way as under:

“Ishq ki taqveem men asr-i rawaan key siva,
Aur Zamaney bhi hain jin ka naheen koi nam.”
(In the world of love the Time is not limited to past, present and future,
There exist other times as well, which have no names).

When the person achieves that end, i.e. as soon as he is ‘closer to living eternity,’ as Bergson said, his time extends in both directions. He is then able to see beyond the temporal past and future; he can see all at once, as the ‘eye with which he sees becomes God’s eye.’ Such a person holds an intuitive eye, which can see things that one’s temporal eye is unable to see; his instinct works like the instinct of a bee. The intelligence in a person, as Bergson maintains, is just ‘the human way of thinking.’ This intelligence is transformed into a sort of revelation, a bee like instinct, an intuition. Bergson views that just denying the characteristics of matter does not serve the ultimate purpose for the human mind; for it the best way lies in cultivating and developing its faculties by giving attention to the power of the mind itself that leads to the creation of an intuitive power in one’s mind. His relation with the matter remains but at the same time he remains relating to transcendental world, without breaking his ties with physical world.

According to Kierkegaard the selfis immediate man ‘whose essential structure is an internal dynamic activity with intensity of feeling and thought.’ Kierkegaard’s ‘immediate man’ is Iqbal’s Mard-i Momin (perfect man). In his famous long poem “Qortaba Mosque” Iqbal says that the marvellous beauty and architecture of this historic mosque came into existence through the hands of perfect man. It is a living example of the ‘internal dynamic activity with intensity of feeling and thought’ of the men who built it. These were the people ‘who lived in the hope for eternal via the moment, yet retained touch with temporal.’ It is simple to understand Iqbal’s contention that ‘truth exists only as the self produces it in action’. In the absence of self-knowledge man is incomplete – rather he is non-existent; as such he is bound to play in the hands of his aesthetic first self, seeking pleasure moments in immediacy, with the result that as soon as that pleasure moment is over he is desperate, as well as feeling guilty at times; but soon after he again desires repetition of the same enjoyment and again he is faced with the same fate. This goes on until the moment of death arrives and the man is doomed forever.

The man himself is the architect of his fate. He can make either paradise or hell for himself, since the power of choice rests with him. As described by Iqbal, in one of his imaginary he was taken to the paradise where he saw that everything promised by God was there. He then wished to see the hell also, so his guide angel took him into hell. To his utter surprise Iqbal found the place was so cold that its inhabitants were almost freezing. He therefore said to his guide angel that he had heard a lot about the intensity of burning fire in the hell but he could not see any fire at all there. The angel replied to him:

“Ahl-i dunya yahan jo aatey hain,
Apney angar sath latey hain.”
(The people, who come here from the earth, bring their own burning ember with them).

Iqbal’s every verse from his lyrical poetry carries a universal message. Similarly the poem mentioned above also gives us a message that tomorrow we will reap the fruit of seed that we are sowing today. It is the activity or the movement of one’s first self towards the right direction that can achieve perfection and becomes an authentic self. The individual then becomes a ‘perfect man.’ However Iqbal stresses that the movement of the self must strictly remain under the domain of the ethico-religious. The individual is an integral part of society, he is a limb of the body of mankind, which if detached from the body loses its identity and becomes a thing of no value. As for religion, to Iqbal, ‘the religion is not merely a body of dogmas or rituals; it is rather a form of experiences which ensures a grasp of nothing short of a direct and immediate illumination of the very core of Reality.’ The illumination is not a mysterious thing but it is as much ‘cognitive as other forms of experience’. Religion keeps one’s self within the norms of morality; this leads to cleaning up of the heart and making it transparent to grasp the Reality. Faith and belief play a major role in this; expectancy of faith, Kierkegaard says, is victory. He says that doubt is guileful, on secret path it sneaks around a person, and when faith is expecting victory, doubt whispers that this expectancy is a deception. But he believes that doubt cannot disturb the expectancy of the faithful as it comes from the outside and the belief of the believer is from inside. However one should guard himself against the deception of doubt.as it is a ‘crafty passion.’

To guard oneself against the influence of doubt. Iqbal says:

“Khuda-i Lam Yazal Ka dast-i qudrat too zaban too hai,
Yaqeen paida kar aye ghafil ki maghloob-i guman too hai.”
(O Man! Thou art the hand of God and is also His tongue,
Create expectancy of faith in you and don’t be the victim of doubt).

In another beautiful verse he is saying:

“Guman abad dunya men yaqeen mard-i Musalman ka,
Biaban ki shab-i tareek men qandeel-i ruhbani.”
(A believer’s expectancy of faith in this world of doubts is like the hope that a lonely traveller
of desert in a dark night gets by seeing candlelight from a remote hermitage).

The self is fundamental to Iqbal. It is the most important and dominant area of his philosophy. Iqbal himself had passed through various stages of developing his own self.Whatever he wrote about the selfwas from the knowledge achieved through his own experience and his dialectic was not merely a literary work or philosophical theory. To Iqbal pantheism is not the way to Reality; he is against the very root of it, since ‘pantheism does not admit any finite centre of experience neither it attributes any objective reality to world.’ Iqbal is very clear on this issue. How realistic on his part to say that ‘firstly, the sense-data and the perceptual level of thought cannot be regarded as unreal.’ The world exists, he says; and that we cannot doubt this fact. ‘The second vital condition and an unimpeachable certainty against pantheism is the reality of the selfor Ego that even pantheism cannot wholly deny.’ Pantheists regard the world as being something that merely appears to us but does not actually exist. Iqbal asserts forcefully that ‘the world exists,’ but at the same time, he says, the self also exists beyond any doubt. The selfplays a constructive role in the world by virtue of being itself a part of society. The self being individual and remaining as individual has got to be universal as a part of the Whole. Iqbal is not in favour of self-negation for the sake of a closer relationship with God, which is in fact pantheistic belief. It was this which influenced the two great religions Christianity and Islam by creating among the believers groups of mystics and Sufis believing in pantheism of a Neo-Platonism trend of mind i.e. to ignore the world and with that destroy their inner power of selfor Ego to become the favourite of God. To Iqbal ‘the moral and religious ideal of man is not self-negation but self-affirmation and he attains this ideal by becoming more and more individual.’ The self,according to Iqbal, ‘being real and existent its end cannot be self-absorption in the Absolute, as the pantheists maintain,’ as that would imply the very negation of the ego; ego or selfdoes exist, it is real and gives man the status of being ‘existent.’ Descartes said ‘I think, therefore, I exist.’ Since according to Iqbal ‘all thinking presupposes a subject who thinks; therefore, the subject of our thinking process does exist.’

Earlier it has been said that ‘the self is the actuality of man; selfitself is man himself.’ In relation to God, Kierkegaard says that ‘man is for ever captive in the presence of God and there is no possibility for him to make himself unobserved before God or to run away from Him, for God is there with him behind and before.’ In his mystical approach to God he says that ‘the absolute self stands simply as a synonym of God; I chose the Absolute, which chooses me, I posit the Absolute, which posits me.’

Iqbal highlights this relation of man’s ego with God’s Ego. He says: ‘The Qur’an declares the Ultimate Ego to be nearer to man than his own neck-vein;’ and he goes on to say that ‘I have conceived the Ultimate Reality as an Ego; and I must add now that from the Ultimate Ego only egos proceed. The world, in all its details, from the mechanical movement of what we call the atom of matter to the free movement of thought in the human ego, is the self revelation of the Great I am,’ i.e. God. He says further that ‘every atom of Divine energy, however low in the scale of existence, is an ego. But there are degrees in the expression of egohood. Throughout the entire gamut of being runs the gradually rising note of egohood until it reaches its perfection in man.’

The concept of self can easily be understood, but it remains in the mind as a mere concept. Iqbal says that we can go further and ‘we can intuit the self. We can directly see that the self is real and existent. Indeed our selfhood is the most real thing we can know. Its reality is a fact.’Bergson also says that ‘intuition is only a higher kind of intellect.’ Besides the selfbeing understandable through intuition, Iqbal firmly asserts that we can see the self, which is revealed as the centre of our activity and action. He says that ‘it is ego, which acts in our likes and dislikes, judgements and resolutions. Thus the ego is directly revealed to be existent and real. The knowledge of the existence of the ego is in no way an inference, it is a direct perception of the selfitself.’ Professor Nicholson explains Iqbal’s conception of the self in these words: “Physically as well as spiritually man is a self-contained career, but he is not yet a complete individual, because he is away from God. The greater his distance from God, the less his individuality. He who comes nearest to God is the completest person. Nor that he is finally absorbed in God. On the contrary, he absorbs God into himself. The true person not only absorbs the world of matter by mastering it, he absorbs God into his Ego by assimilating Divine attributes.”

How to be a self in terms of Space-time?, Iqbal explain, ‘to exist in pure duration is to be a self, and to be a self is to be able to say “I am”. Only that truly exists which can say “I-am”. It is the degree of the intuition of “I-am-ness” that determines the place of a thing in the scale of being. We too can say, “I am”; but our “I-am-ness” is dependent and arises out of the distinction between the self and the not self. The Ultimate Self, in the words of Qur’an: “can afford to dispense with all the worlds”. To Him the not self does not present itself as a confronting “other”, or else it would have to be, like our finite self, in spatial relation with the confronting “other”. What we call Nature or the not-self is only a fleeting moment in the life of God. His “I-am-ness” is independent, elemental, and absolute.’ Iqbal says that Nature is to the Divine Self as character is to the human self, and the knowledge of Nature is the knowledge of God’s behaviour.

Iqbal considers matter as the greatest obstacle in the way of life. He says that his criticism of Plato is directed against those philosophical systems, which hold up death rather than life as their ideal – systems which ignore the greatest obstacle to life, namely, matter, and teach us to run away from it instead of absorbing it. He views a true person absorbs the world of matter and by mastering it he absorbs God Himself into his ego. The life of ego, he maintains, ‘is a forward assimilative movement and it removes all obstructions in its march by assimilating them; even the death which is also an obstacle is removed away in its onward march.’ Actually the death to an existent ego is a transit moment, says Iqbal; it is not the end of life of a true existent person. ‘The personality is a state of tension,’ and according to him, the essence of the life of self or ego lies in ‘continual creation of desires and ideals.’ If the state of tension is maintained the life continues and if not maintained, relaxation will ensue. To Iqbal relaxation is death. He says that the personality or the state of tension is the most valuable achievement of man and he should see that he does not revert to a state of relaxation. The idea of personality (self) gives us a standard of value; it settles the problem of good and evil. That which fortifies personality is good, that which weakens it is bad.

Iqbal says that maintaining the state of tension is to make a person’s life immortal. He says that after death there may be an interval of relaxation, an intermediate state, which lasts until the Day of Resurrection. The Day of Resurrection as well as resurrection of human bodies is fundamental to all religions. Bergson also says that resurrection of the body is possible. There must be no doubt that the Day is bound to come and everybody from us will be there in person. This is promise of God, Who says:

1) ‘To Him will be your return–of all of you. The promise of God is true and sure…’

2) ‘Man says: “What! When I am dead, shall I then be raised up alive?” But does not man call to mind that We created him before out of nothing?

The selfremained a focus and a centre of the entire philosophy of Iqbal in his works of poetry and prose. Iqbal’s famous Persian poetry Asrar-i khudi, (The Secret of the Self), has been translated in various languages of Europe and other countries, and innumerable treatises and books have so far been written on Iqbal’s philosophy of the self. Iqbal’s way towards development of personality, i.e. person’s ego or self, is similar to that of Kierkegaard, namely, it is ethico-religious. According to Iqbal there are three stages in the movement of ego towards its perfection. A person on arriving the final stage becomes a perfect man. These three stages are following:

1) Obedience of Law.
2) Self control, which is the highest form of self-consciousness or ego-hood.
3) Divine vicegerency.

The third stage, i.e. divine vicegerency, is the last stage in the process of development of the selfwhen man becomes the vicegerent of God on earth; he is then ‘the completest Ego, the goal of the humanity, the acume of life both in mind and body; in him the discord of our mental life becomes harmony. He is last fruit of the tree of humanity, he is the real ruler of mankind; his kingdom is the kingdom of God on earth.’ The rule of God can only be promulgated on earth by people developing in them an Ego or selfto the extent that they can sacrifice all their means of worldly comfort for the sake of common good. The kingdom of God on earth means, as Iqbal says, true democracy, the democracy of ‘more or less unique individuals, presided over by the most unique individual possible on this earth’– the individual possessing authenticself, is the ideal of Iqbal.

The Ego or the selfis not only subject but it is an object as well. Fichte says that ‘the ego is at once as subject and object. Our ideas of things are produced by the activity of thought, and there can be nothing in the ego which is not product of the ego’s own activity.’ Iqbal agrees with Fichte and regards ego as a unity of subject and object. According to him you can see the selfyourself. He says:

“Khudi az kaa-i-naat-i rangu bu neest,
Hawaas-i maa mian-i maa-o ou neest.
Nigah ra dar hareemash nest rah-i,
Kunee khud ra tamaasha bey nigahey.”
(Self does not belong to this phenomena,
Our senses do not come between us and it.
Our eyes have no access to its secret chamber,
You see the self without the help of the physical eye).

Iqbal says that the world of object is not alien to the self.He explains one-ness between the relation of the ego and non-ego beautifully in his “Asrar-i khudi”, which is translated by Prof. Nicholson in English and quoted as under:

“The form of existence is an effect of the Self,
Whatsoever thou seest is a secret of the Self.
When the Self awoke to consciousness,
It revealed the universe of Thought.
A hundred worlds are hidden in its essence;
Self-affirmation brings Not-self to light.
By the Self the seed of opposition is sown in the world:
It imagines itself to be other than itself.”

The journey to selfhood must in no case seek an end; Iqbal says that the selfis lost in the search of an end. It is a journey to the land of love and the traveller in this vast land of love must never try to relax, as the relaxation brings one to an end and the end of the journey becomes death. A spiritless person’s life comes to an end with the death, but the one with authentic selfand possessing transparent heart never dies. Iqbal says that ‘action alone is the highest form of contemplation.’ If man wants eternal life he should never relax. Man’s authentic self is never asleep; his inner eye is always open; his life does not end with the death and destruction of his finite body. Death is a transit moment for him; he enters the eternal soonest the moment of death is passed. Death, says Iqbal, ‘is renewal of the life,’ that takes the man to a New World which is more illuminated than our earth.

In one of his articles “Self in the Light of Relativity” Iqbal says that the study of empirical science is an indispensable stage in the moral evolution of man. However he attaches a condition to the study of empirical science saying that ‘This scientific study should be only for moulding the stimuli to ideal ends and purposes, and it is thus only that the total self of man realises itself as one of the greatest energies of nature. In great action alone the self of man becomes united with God without losing its own identity, and transcends the limits of space and time. Action is the highest form of contemplation.’ In the following verses of his book Bal-i Jibreel (Gabriel Wings), Iqbal says:

“Jahaan aur bhi hain abhee bey namud,
Ki khalee naheen hai zameer-i vajood.
Har ik muntazar teri yalghar ka,
Teri shokhiy-i fikro kirdar ka.
Ye hai maqsad-i gardish-i roozgar,
Ki teri khudi tujh pi ho aashkaar.”
(There are as yet many worlds to be manifested,
For the womb of Being is not empty.
Every world is waiting to be attacked by you,
To feel the sharpness of your thought and deed.
This is the object of the revolutions of day and night.
That your self may reveal itself to you.)

Transparency of the heart is first and foremost step towards journey into selfhood. As said earlier love is the tool to clean your heart. Kierkegaard says that ‘love edifies self’ and ‘self edifies love.’ Kierkegaard has also used the term ‘love and love.’ Out of the two kinds of love as specified by Kierkegaard, the love ‘Kjærlighed’ i.e. divine love or pure love has been the focus in our discussion, and the same kind of love relates to Iqbal’s philosophy of the self. This love is above our sensuous feelings. ‘It is not love which man feels for the fair sex however spiritualised. It is a cosmic force, which moves heavens and stars. It is operative in all the universe.’ Iqbal in his famous poem “Qortaba Mosque” from his book ´Baal-i Jibreel` explains this fact in following two verses:

“Ishq key mizraab sey naghma-i taar-i hayaat,
Ishq say noor-i hayaat, Ishq say nar-i hayaat.”
(The song from the strings of life is the result of the plectrum of love,
The light and flame of life are all due to love.)

To Iqbal love proves the fact that ‘I am’. He agrees with Kierkegaard that ‘love edifies the self.’ Iqbal, however, believes that the self,life andlove, are not three different things. He says that at the end they become one – the man, like Nietzsche’s ‘Super Man’, Kierkegaard’s ‘Authentic Person’ and Iqbal’s ‘Perfect Man’. Such a man is ‘God’s vicegerent’. To Iqbal the self is incomplete without love and that love is incomplete without the self. Man’s life in general is, therefore, not the life that ought to be and for what God made him superior to all of His creations. He has to build himself; he is his own architect. In a perfect man intellect comes under the governance of love and love edifies intellect. In the absence of love man is lost; without love intellect leads man astray. However, when love accompanies intellect the individual is at once a man and at the same time he is an angel. Preaching such an intellect Iqbal says:

“Aey khush aan aql ki pehna-i do aalam baa oost,
Noor-i afrishta-o soz-i dil-i- aadam baa oost.”
(What an intellect! that both the worlds are assimilated in it; with it goes the angelic light and it has the company of Adam’s burning heart).

In the West before Bergson (1859-1942) materialism prevailed so much that spiritual love (Kjærlighed) had no meaning. It had no place in the mind of the so-called modern world. Bergson was among the few persons who were fortunate enough to receive divine inspiration of love, which is the most important part of human life, and without which Man is incomplete. He realised the importance of the force of love for the intellect in man. He believed that the life revolves between the two poles, which are the attachment and detachment of intellect and love. Intellect alone is not the right source to explore secrets of the universe. It is in fact the Love that develops our ego through which man attains power that can even move a mountain. However man must not ignore acquiring knowledge out of empirical sources; but true freedom demands accurate judgement to choose the right path. It is love that directs the intellect to the right path. Therefore, we must widen our intellectual outlook and at the same time delve into the deeper levels of consciousness.Iqbal says: ‘Apney man men doob kar paajaa suragh-i zindagi.’ (Plunge into the inner depth of yourself and get the secret of life). God has given proportion and order to the human soul, He is constantly revealing right and wrong to it. Surely he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it.According to Fichte ‘pure ego holds the key to the universe’. Pure ego is the self which is ‘authentic,’ an awakened self or inner of the individual. And when the inner or the selfawakens then it becomes a moving force in the practical world; the individual is then fully engaged in playing his role – a role assigned to him by God; he is then His co-worker, since God “assigned man to be lord of creation.” For such an individual the visible world is not the only place; but he can see far ahead to a new world, a wonderful world. The movement of his self does not end anywhere, his journey goes on and he becomes closer to Reality. Even death does not stop its movement. He is then an existent individual and death is no more than a transit moment for him. He is not afraid of death but welcomes it, as, when the death approaches him, he sees the glamour of the other world very clearly through the mirror of his transparent heart. At the time of death the sign of his victorious life is, in the words of Iqbal, “a smile on his lips”. In his letter dated 30th, July, 1913, Iqbal wrote to his beloved German teacher, Emma Wegenast: “You remember what Goethe said in the moment of his death – ‘MORE LIGHT.’ – Death opens up the way to more light, and carries us to those regions where we stand face to face with eternal Beauty and Truth.”

ABBREVIATIONS AND BIBLIOGAPHY

BD

Bang-i-Dara by Iqbal, published by Sheikh Ghulam Ali Sons, Lahore, Pakistan.

E/O I

Either/Or by Søren Kierkegaard, edited and translated in English by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, published by Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

EUD

Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses by Søren Kierkegaard, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, published by Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

IPR

Iqbal’s Philosophy of Religion, by Dr. M. Maruf, published by Islamic Book Service, Lahore, Pakistan.

IPV

Iqbal & Post-Kantian Voluntarism by B.A. Dar, published by Bazm-I Iqbal, Lahore, Pakistan.

IR

Iqbal Review April 1999, Journal of the Iqbal Academy Pakistan.

JS

Journeys to Selfhood, Hegel and Kierkegaard, by Mark C. Taylor, published by University of California Press, Berkley-Los Angeles – London.

KDG

Kierkegaard – The Descent into God, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, Kingston and Montreal.

KIU

Kulliyat-i-Iqbal Urdu, consisting of Iqbal’s books in Urdu poetry, published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore.

LZB

Leszek Kolakowski – Bergson, published by Oxford University Press New York, USA.

MPI

Metaphysics of Iqbal by Dr. Ishrat Hasan, published by Sheikh M. Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan.

NAK

Notes on Iqbal’s Asrar-i-Khudi (Secrets of the Self) by Prof. Arthur J. Arberry, reprinted and published by Sheikh M.Ashraf, Lahore.

OCU

On Creativity and the Unconscious by Sigmund Freud, selected, with Introduction and Annotations by Benjamin Nelson, Publishers Harper and Row, New York.

PF II

On Kierkegaard Philosophical Fragments by George J. Stack, Nyborg. F. Løkkes Forlag, Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Humanities Press. (1976).

PMU

The Place of God, Man and Universe in the philosophical system of Iqbal by Jamila Khatoon, published Academy Pakistan.

RRT

The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, by Iqbal, published by Iqbal Academy Pakistan, (second edition 1989).

SS I

The Secrets of the Self, English translation of Iqbal’s Asrar-i-Khudi – Persian, by Prof. Reynold A. Nicholson, published by Sheikh M. Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan.

SUD

The Sickness unto Death by Søren Kierkegaard, translated and edited by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, published by Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

TCK

The Theological Concept in Kierkegaard, edited by Niels Thulstrup and Marie Mikulova Thulstrup, published by C.A. Reitzels Bohandel A/S, Copenhagen, Denmark.

ZA

Zaboor-i-Ajam (Persian) by Iqbal, Publishers Sh. Ghulam Ali and Sons, Lahore, Hyderadabad, Karachi, Pakistan.

Comments
One Response to “Iqbal’s Concept of Khudi (Ego)”
  1. Blake Maclaren says:

    Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is fantastic, as well as the content!

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