Reformist Muslim

Exploring possibilities for the future of Islam and other thoughts

Location: London, United Kingdom

Monday, March 20, 2006

Critical Thinking - Iqbal's Shikwa

I've just finished reading the first part of Muhammad 'Allama' Iqbal's classic 'dialogue' with Allah. Shikwa, or 'Complaint', first published in 1909 is a breathtaking piece of poetry. Seeing the plight of Muslims across the World, Iqbal passionately questions Allah on why he allowed such a situation to develop.

Not suprisingly the idea that God could wrong his people and was not carrying out his plans justly caused quite a stir. Despite the inevitable response of many traditionalists, Iqbal's ideas have lived on and he is revered in Pakistan as her national poet.

I am not advocating that people read Shikwa and hold its text as sacred, or something which can not be questioned. There are some elements to do with conversion and Muslim superiority to which my reaction is somewhere, deeply uncomfortable and profound disagreement.

However to use this a stick with which to attack Iqbal completely misses the point. He was at once both a man of his times and ahead of his times. Above all it was his ability to think freely and outside of the traditional mold while contributing to the discourse of his times which made him great. The fact that his ideas were expressed in aesthetic and powerful poetry simply add to his greatness.

I'll post on God's response to Iqbal soon.

Cross-posted on Pickled Politics


Blogger Pasha said...

i see that you haven't commented on Jawab-i Shikwa yet. perhaps, like me, you found it to be less inspiring than the first episode in the series?

inspite of its incredible rhetorical power, i'm also discomfited by some of Shikwa's exultant kāfir-bashing imagery. remember two things, though: 1) we have to distance Iqbal from the poem to some extent. you always have to do this, but particularly in this case, given that he was articulating a position that he set up specifically to have "God" refute. 2) in spite of everything everyone says about Iqbal being anti-Sufi or whatever, it's clear from his Persian poetry in particular how indebted he was to Sufism, in which peculiar notions of kufr-i haqīqī were floating around. and Iqbal used them.

3:55 am, April 11, 2006  
Blogger reformist_muslim said...

Thanks for your insights pasha, firstly you are right about Jawab , its definitely not as inspiring although hopefully I will write something on it soon.

Apart from that, I agree with you about the need to distance Iqbal from the poem, and the reference to Sufi ideas at the time is very interesting and something I hadn't come across before so thanks for that.

8:33 am, April 12, 2006  

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