1. Iqbal and Non-Muslims
"I have no prejudice against any community or nation in the
world. All I want is to see Islam return to its pristine
simplicity. I wish to see Indians living in peace and I am
convinced that such a thing is possible even while every community
retains its culture and individuality."
Q. What is your conception of Pan-Islamism?
A. The term Pan-Islamism has been used in two senses. As far as
I know, it was coined by a French journalist and in the sense in
which he used the term, Pan-Islamism existed nowhere except in his
own imagination. I think the French journalist meant to give shape to
a danger which he fancied was existing in the world of Islam. The
phrase was invented after the fashion of the expression "Yellow
Peril," in order to justify European aggression in Islamic
Later on, I think the expression Pan-Islamism was taken to mean
a kind of intrigue, the center of which was in Constantinople. The
Muslims of the world were understood to be planning a kind of
Union of all the Muslim States against the European States. The
late Professor Brown of the Cambridge University has, I think,
conclusively proved that Pan-Islamism in that sense never existed
in Constantinople or any where else.
There is, however, a sense in which Jamaluddin Afghani used it.
I do not know if he used the same expression, but he actually
advised Afghanistan, Persia and Turkey to unite against the
aggression of Europe. This was purely a defensive measure, and I
personally think that Jamaluddin was perfectly right in his view.
But there is another sense in which the word should be used and
it does contain the teaching of the Quran. In that sense it is not
a political project but a social experiment. Islam does not
recognize caste or race or color. In fact Islam is the only
outlook on life which has really solved the color question, at
least in the Muslim world, a question which modern European
civilization with all its achievements in science and philosophy,
has not been able to solve. Pan-Islamism, thus interpreted, was
taught by the Prophet and will live for ever. In this sense
Pan-Islamism is only Pan-Humanism. In this sense every Muslim is a
Pan-Islamist and ought to be so. Indeed the word Pan ought to be
dropped from the phrase Pan-Islamism, for Islamism is an
expression which completely covers the meaning I have mentioned
Q. Do you consider British Imperialism to be Godly?
A. All states engaged in exploitation are un-Godly.
Q. Do you subscribe to the view once expressed by you in a
letter to Sir Francis Younghusband that "Islam is Bolshevism plus
A. Islam is a socialistic religion. The Quran teaches a kind of
via media between absolute Socialism and private property.
Russia has recognized the promotion of skilled labour.
Personally, I think that modern conscience will bring about
fundamental changes in what you call Imperialism and Bolshevism.
The days of territorial empires are over and Bolshevism, in the
sense of absolute socialism, is already being modified. Russia and
Britain may come to blows, because of the fundamental difference
in their economic outlook; in which case it is obvious that the
sympathies of all right-thinking men would be on the side of
A few more questions on the point elicited the information that
the poet held radical views on the subject which vitally differed
from the present conception of private property as preached and
practiced by the Muslims. He was very clear and emphatic on one
point and it was that Quranic teaching was opposed to holding of
land as private property.
"As far as I have been able to see from the papers the Russians
are reported to have rejected the idea of God as a basis of human
society. Even if this state does exist in Russia today, I doubt
whether it will continue to exist. Materialism pure and simple
cannot serve as basis for human society; and the Russians as far
as I know are really a religious people."
5. Criticism of Iqbal as a Politician
The representative asked the poet what reply he had to give to
those of his honest and well-meaning critics who felt embarrassed
at his present attitude, as it was not in keeping with the
teachings of his poetry. The poet was further told that some
people believed that Iqbal the poet had been superseded by Iqbal
He replied: "It is for my critics to judge me. But they ought
to do so from my writings, which I am afraid few of them care to
read or understand. But there is no doubt that my ideas about
Nationalism have undergone a definite change. In my college days I
was a zealous Nationalist which I am not now. The change is due to
maturer thinking. It is unfortunate that my later writings are all
in Persian which is little understood in this country."
Q. Are you for the continuance of the Princely order?
A. I am not for the continuance of the Princely order. But I am
neither at heart a believer in Democracy. I tolerate Democracy
because there is no other substitute.
Q. Don’t you think that you would have been more useful to the
country as a poet than a politician?
A. The poet replied that he had not ceased taking interest in
literary pursuits. In fact that was his main occupation even now.
He referred to his latest publication Reconstruction of
Religious Thought in Islam and said that on his return from
England he intended to write more on allied subjects.
Q. You have done more than any one else to expose the sham of
Conferences and the League of Nations and yet you seem to be
pinning your faith on the Round Table Conferences. Will kindly
explain the paradox? When this question was put, the poet blinked
and abruptly turned to his constant companion – the Hookah.
Q. Why are you opposed to Nationalism?
A. I consider it against the higher ideal of Islam. Islam is
not a creed. It is a social code. It has solved the color problem.
It wants to turn the minds of people into a single channel. It
originally conceived the unity and the spiritual resemblance among
the members of human race. Nationalism as at present understood
and practiced comes in the way of the realization of that ideal
and that is my argument against Nationalism.
Q. What is the possibility of a Federation of the Arabian
A. I believe in the Federation of Arabian States, though there
are some very great difficulties in the way. I have great faith in
the Arabic language which in my opinion is the only Eastern
language which has a future before it as a living language. I look
upon it as a great bond of union among the Arabian nations next to
their faith. The present condition of Hejaz is not, however, very
satisfactory. It is difficult for me to forecast the future of
If the Muslim countries keep true to the ideals of Islam they
are likely to do the greatest service to humanity. Islam, in my
opinion, is the only positive system that the world possesses
today provided the Muslims apply themselves to it and rethink the
whole thing in the light of modern ideas. The Indian Muslim in my
opinion is likely to play a very important role in the future of
Islam. New Islam relies more on the younger generation which has
received more education with necessary grounding in Islam.
The Ulama, if they properly apply themselves to
understand the real meaning of problems, political and economic,
which confront Islam today, with their knowledge of the past would
be of immense use in the future reconstruction of Islam. I have
myself made my humble contribution and I hope to write more. I
have tried to see the religious philosophy of Islam in the light
of modern knowledge and I hope I shall find time to do the same
thing with the system of fiqh which in my opinion is much
more important today than the purely theological aspect of it. I
have however begun with the philosophical aspect of it. It was, as
a matter of fact, necessary as a prelude to the work of
I am concentrating on fiqh which the Ulama have
neglected for several centuries. The Quran must now be read as a
book which throws light on the birth, growth and death of nations
or rather peoples. In the history of revealed literature, the
Quran is probably the first book which spoke of people as living
organisms. The Quran conceives people as obeying certain definite
laws, of which the moral aspect the Quran has emphasized more than
the other aspects.
Q. Are you going to visit any Islamic country on your way back
to India after finishing the work of the Round Table Conference?
A. The poet said that his desire was to visit all or at least
as many of the Islamic countries as possible. But paucity of funds
would not allow him to visit many of them. He would however visit
Egypt while returning from England. He wanted to visit all Islamic
countries with view to study conditions prevailing in those
countries at present and he wanted to write a book on The
Modern World of Islam. But it again depended on the funds that
would be available and he could say nothing with any amount of
certainty at this stage.