‘Imamat’—the lost legacy: Why Muslims need to revisit Iqbal’s thought of ‘Sadaqat, Adalat, Shuja’at’

The times we live in, Muslims find themselves sunk in the abyss of despair and mental excruciation. They find themselves led, not the leaders. Allama Iqbal was anguished over such miserable state of his Shaheen. His lamentations longed for a spiritually guided leadership, which he called imamat in his poetry.

When he said, ‘Sabaq phir padh Sadaqat ka, Adalat ka, Shuja’at ka / Liya jayega tujh se kaam duniya ki imamat ka’, he categorically meant the leadership of the material world, this material Duniya.

For imamat, he stressed upon the virtues of truth, justice, and valour. He knew contemporary Muslims had the inertia of sluggishness and acute whining, which he aptly described in his masterpiece Shikwa. Perhaps, Muslims need to revisit the Iqbal’s thought and re-read the chapters of Sadaqat, Adalat, and Shuja’at.

A human being is a bipolar amalgam of intangible essences and material interactions with the society. To reclaim imamat, Muslims must water both the constituents of the amalgam to its life.

The intangible essences of Sadaqat, Adalat, and Shuja’at have withered along with the decline of the political dominance of Muslims over the world. Muslims have given up the Muhammadi character. It doesn’t seem ironic when Hassan Nissar asks, ‘Why Mir Jaffar and Mir Qasim are born only among Muslims.’

We’ve courtrooms where witnesses give fake testimonies for a few hundred bucks. But we had the courtrooms of Umar Ibn-e-Khataab (R.A) too.

Back then, we had freedom of expression when a lady could ask the Caliph about the extra blankets he had put on. And we’ve had a time too when rulers would punish people for having a certain school of thought.

Contemporary Muslims need to undergo internal metamorphosis to change the static stinking state they are stuck in. In the words of late General Hamid Gul, apart from a political revolution, Muslim society needs a soft revolution.

Muslims must change the way of their thinking, living and interpersonal relations. But the question remains how?

Collectivism is an important dogma of Islamic tradition. Its manifestation can be seen every day five times in collective Muslim prayers or for that matter the Hajj or even the funerals. It played a main role in Islamic expansionist victories and intellectual explosions. It can be aptly seen, how the battle of Yarmouk turned in favour of Muslims.

Caliph had removed Khalid bin Walid (R.A) as the commander of the army even though the Mujahedeen of the battle adored him for his bravery. New commander Ikramah bin Abu Jahal (R.A) made Khalid (R.A) his second-in-command and led him to take important decisions of the battle. Muslims emerged victorious and Byzantine Empire started to collapse. Collectivism played the part.

Similarly, the scholars of Islamic Golden Age were supported by the Caliphs like Al Mamun. When it came to knowledge, the rulers and ruled formed a homogenous mixture.

Presently, Tableeghi Jamat is doing a very good job in bringing the soft revolution at a collective level. People may have disagreements with the group over various issues, and they may have some beliefs contrary to other schools of thought, but the fact is, we need more groups like them in bringing out the internal reformation of the Muslims at present. Collectivism is the soul of any revolution.

Another constituent of the amalgam of Imamat is the material excellence. Material excellence is directly proportional to the excellence in physical and social sciences. Islam gave us scholars like Al Ghazali, Al Farabi, Imam Zamakshiri, Ibn e Sina, Ibn e Haytham, etc in the Golden Age. But then came a downfall in which we are still lingering.

Political interference played a pivotal role in the marginalization of Muslims in science and philosophy. Al-Mamun for his own legitimacy forced Mu’tazilism as a state doctrine that was deeply influenced by Greek rationalism, particularly Aristotelianism. But his successors upheld the doctrine in low terms and within time, adherence to it became punishable.

By 885, it became a crime to copy books of philosophy. In the 13th century, Mu’tazilism was marginalized and Ash’ari school took over. Mu’tazilites believed that the Qur’an was created and so God’s purpose for man must be interpreted through reason, the Ash’arites believed the Qur’an to be coeval with God — and therefore unchallengeable.

At the heart of Ash’ari metaphysics is the idea of occasionalism, a doctrine that denies natural causality. It suggests natural necessity cannot exist because God’s will is completely free. Ash’arites believed that God is the only cause so that the world is a series of discrete physical events each willed by God.

The political subjugation of Mu’tazilites was one of the worst turning points in the Islamic Golden Age. Islam always upheld the idea of free speech and accommodation, which was put at bay.

The same thing happened in the field of law. During the first four centuries of Islam, vigorous discussion with critical thinking and flexibility in ideas ushered, Ijtihad flourished. However, the subsequent autocratic rulers perceived it as a threat, and gates of Ijtihad were closed.

Present scenario of the Muslim world is too not something to be happy about. Only clouds of despair can be seen. With respect to material excellence, most of the Muslims have a passive approach. We don’t talk of how to get out this abyss rather we deflect our responsibilities by talking about ‘Our’ Glorious Spain, ‘The Great Ottoman Empire’, ‘The supremacy of 313 over 1000s’ etc.

History gives us reasons to be boastful of our glorious past. It gives us hope and lessons but, unfortunately, it can’t change our present. The excellence of past cannot lift us from the sunken valleys of today; we need to be in present and rise in the present.

We can’t blame the Mongol Invasion for the present educational decline. Japan is the only developed country in Asia, despite being bombarded with two nuclear bombs some 73 years ago. If Japan can rise up from ashes, Mongol Invasion for our present failures seems to be a sad blame shifting gimmick.

Back in 2007, Parvez Hoodbouy produced some astonishing figures related to the contribution of Muslims in science in his article:

Muslim countries had 9 scientists, engineers, and technicians per 1000 people, in comparison to the world average of 41.

There were about 1,800 universities in these countries. However, only 312 of the scholars of those universities had published journal articles.

Of the 50 most-published of those universities, 26 were in Turkey, 9in Iran, 3 each in Malaysia and Egypt, 2 in Pakistan, and Uganda, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, and Azerbaijan had one each.

Muslims are roughly 1.6 billion, but only 2 scientists from Muslim countries have won Nobel Prizes in science (one for physics in 1979, the other for chemistry in 1999).

46 Muslim countries combined contributed just 1 percent of the world’s scientific literature; Spain and India each contributed more of the world’s scientific literature than those countries taken together.

Spain is hardly an intellectual superpower, it translated more books in a single year than the entire Arab world has in the past thousand years.

For forty years, said Nobel laureate physicist Steven Weinberg, “I have not seen a single paper by a physicist or astronomer working in a Muslim country that was worth reading”.

Nature magazine published a sketch of science in the Arab world in 2002; its reporter identified just 3 scientific areas in which Islamic countries excel: desalination, falconry, and camel reproduction.

All these figures might be old but the situation, sadly, remains the same today. There is additions of quarters, half or units. In 2015, Aziz Sancar won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, raising the tally to 3, as compared to 2 in 2007. These statistics are enough to narrate our tale.

The situation is gloomy but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Civilizations rise and fall. The first and foremost thing to do is to erase the dichotomy of ‘Secular Sciences’ and ‘Islamic Sciences’. We must categorize knowledge as Ilm-e-Nafiya and Ilm-e-GairNafiya, the profitable and non-profitable knowledge.

There’re millions of students studying in madrassas, who are taught Quran and allied subjects, like Fiqh and Hadith, but are kept away from physical and social sciences. The result is constriction of their vision and an army of Arabic speakers, who can’t even describe the fall of an apple mathematically. The madrassas design syllabus according to the school of thought it professes, which to some extent causes a production of bias against another school of thought. The result is we see mullahs blabbering against each other on the pulpits of Friday sermons.

There’s a dire need of restructuring the syllabus of madrassas for some productive outcome to the Muslim world.

The second thing is setting up of quality world class institutions at school and university levels. This endeavour also demands collectivism. Only when we have our own strong institutes, we can build quality narratives and counter-narratives, produce researchers from grass root levels.

If Jews can set up world-class universities in Israel, which is just some 70 odd years old, and can offer native research-based water production technologies to Muslim countries, though with their own motives, why can’t Muslims with the history of 1400 years do that?

Probably, Jews could do it because they had Prime Minister like Golda Meyer, who shovelled land herself for agricultural purposes when Israel was in infancy. And we’ve people like Fazlur Rehman, who says, ‘Kisi ka baap bhi madrassun ka nisaab tabdeel nahi kar sakhta’ (No one can dare to change the state of affairs of seminaries.)

Jews did a collective struggle and laid the foundation of Israel. Perhaps, as Muslims, we require the same collectivism at the moment.


The writer works as a Junior Engineer in a Central Government Department and is pursuing masters in sociology.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir.


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