Archive for Contemplative Stuff

Is All Social Commentary Visionary Fiction?

The world we shape

We know that all visionary fiction is a form of social commentary, but is it also true the other way round? My latest article for the VFA explores this question, with a special focus on a writer who is also promoting a form of visionary fiction. For the full article, click the link. - SK


 

Science fiction has long been the genre of choice for social commentary. By breaking away from the everyday real world and presenting alternative realities, it offers a safe haven for making statements on controversial or otherwise sensitive topics. Unsurprisingly, as a speculative fiction type, sci-fi is also a favourite genre choice for the visionary fiction writer, myself included. But just as not all visionary fiction is sci-fi, not all sci-fi is VF. Even so, with both being used for social commentary, the line that distinguishes the two can occasionally seem blurred. This is exactly what happened recently when the VFA came across a writer who was promoting a kind of fiction for which she had chosen the term “visionary fiction”. <– Click here for full article

The Original Conspiracy and the Two Nation Theory

1) The Original Conspiracy

The legend goes that human history is the record of an eternal battle between the Order of the Selfish Ones, and the Order of the Truth Seekers. Through the ages many Truth Seekers have embarked on the quest to unlock humanity’s true potential. But the Selfish Ones have slandered them, murdered them, and rewritten history, all to make humanity forget and stop believing.

- Systems, p.337

2) The Two Nation Theory

The Quran does not recognise the concept of majorities and minorities. It teaches that all humans are born equal on the basis of their having a common origin (4:1). It teaches that a true democracy rests not on the principle of simple majority rule (6:116) but rather on the principle of consensus (aiming for unanimity) by ‘mutual consultation’ (42:38). It also teaches that humans only differ by the type of deen [total civilisation: religion, politics, culture] that they follow; and that strictly speaking there are only two types of human society: one that lives by the universal spiritual principles of liberty, justice and solidarity, and the other that does not (5:56-7). This is the Quranic basis of the Two-Nation Theory. It has nothing to do with communalism, and everything to do with the active behaviour of a society that claims to be ‘good’. (2:148)

- Secular Jinnah & Pakistan, p.203 (Yes, I did consciously sneak the Cohesive Ethics Theorem into that passage at the time of writing the book.)

A one-time event?

A one-time event?

What we forgot

The above passages from my two books are basically talking about the came thing. I was recently having a conversation with a friend by email and something that came up there compelled me to write this post. These remarks from my email get straight to the point of what I want to share here:

“As an aside, you know the term “Original Conspiracy” of Systems is a corruption of the Christian [term] “Original Sin”, and that in any case the former [term] clears up the truth about the implications of the Adam story, aka the Two Nation Theory? And it also helps explain what Satan is – namely, the so-called dark side of free will, the selfish gene, human pride and arrogance, or intellect minus “love”? He is the original “other”, the bringer of the second choice, separation, and disagreement. … [The consensus/nationality principles] are timeless and have been taken up before … The Quran tells us that we have adopted them and forgotten them many times. “Satan has overcome them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah” (58:19). My “Conspiracy” is inspired from this idea of rewritten and forgotten history.”

Hanif Omar

Hanif Omar. Practical idealist.

The broad “implications of Adam’s story” (the Fall) mentioned in that email is what Systems is all about; and an individual historical case study of the Two Nation Theory is what SJ2 is all about. We are taught to believe that human potential has never been unlocked, that there has never been an ideal society – and that in fact it’s impossible anyway. Is this all really true, or have there just been enough slanders, murders and rewrites of history to make us forget?

“Some would say that what I have suggested is utopian, and moreover impossible. This is not so. As I see it, humanity cannot realise its true potential until we accept that an ideal society is not only possible, but absolutely mandatory.”

So says Prof. Hanif Omar in Systems. But does anyone share his belief in real life?

.

MA Jinnah. Another practical idealist.

MA Jinnah. Another practical idealist.

Words from a Truth Seeker

These are the words of MA Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, in Chittagong in 1948.

“It is natural for some to think only in terms of Government, but the sooner we realise and adjust ourselves to new forces, the sooner our mind’s eye is capable of piercing through the horizons to see the limitless possibilities of our State and our Nation, the better for Pakistan. Then and then alone it would be possible for each one of us to realise the great ideals of human progress, of social justice, of equality and of fraternity, which, on the one hand, constitute the basic causes of the birth of Pakistan and also the limitless possibilities of evolving an ideal social structure of our State. I reiterate most emphatically that Pakistan was made possible because of the danger of complete annihilation of the human soul in a society based on caste. Now that the soul is free to exist and to aspire, it must assert itself, galvanizing not only the State but also the Nation.”

Although this Truth Seeker was not murdered (despite what conspiracy theorists of another kind might think), after his death he has been certainly been slandered, and the history of Pakistan has been rewritten. It sounds far-fetched to some, which is understandable. Admittedly, I too might not have believed it, if I hadn’t discovered it for myself.

Three Giants and Systems

My brother recently pointed out to me that with the publication of Khurram Ali Shafique’s Iqbal: His Life and Our Times, I can now claim to have covered three great Muslim personalities of the last century: Jinnah, Iqbal and Parwez. This was something that had never crossed my mind before.

Jinnah and Iqbal rank among the most important figures for Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, while Parwez has had an enormous impact that has yet to be appreciated whether among academia or in the public eye. For myself personally however, the fact that I have had the good fortune to cover these particular three is especially significant. Have a look at the three men in turn, and I hope you’ll see what I mean.

First, each respectively represents one of the three Cohesive Ethics principles. Visiting them in chronological order of my publications:

Parwez: Justice

G.A. Parwez

G.A. Parwez (1903-85)

My earliest writing work was the translation of my father’s Quran aur Pakistan, which was a book containing his poetry and a compilation of various writings from G.A. Parwez’s work. One of the chapters from this book was a reproduction of a pamphlet of Parwez on Jinnah that I eventually published many years later. And of course, my work on this pamphlet also led directly to my work on Jinnah.

Parwez was a prolific writer, but arguably his most important contribution as a scholar was his 1955 book Nizam-i-Rabbubiyyat (System of Divine Sustenance), an economic treatise that took a holistic and groundbreaking view of Quranic terms normally identified with capital interest and religious charity. My father and I have translated this book under the title The Qur’anic System of Sustenance. Parwez’s strong emphasis on social justice and criticism of capitalism in that book has led even some of his supporters to wrongly think he was a closet communist – despite the fact that he described communism as “a grave danger to humanity” and went to great lengths to reveal the stark differences between materialist communism and his Quran-inspired work. In any case, Parwez’s work in this field makes him an unequivocal representative of the justice principle.

Jinnah: Unity

M.A. Jinnah

M.A. Jinnah (1876-1948)

My first full book was on M.A. Jinnah, and so was its better known sequel, Secular Jinnah & Pakistan.

Jinnah represents the unity principle. No, he practically personifies it. He was dubbed the “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity” in his early political career; and later, both as the leader of the Pakistan independence movement and as the founding father of the country, “unity” remained his watchword both for “Muslim unity” and for a Pakistani nationality that encompassed its multicultural population. The Pakistani national motto “Faith, Unity, Discipline” was coined by Jinnah during the Pakistan movement. The word “unity” turns up countless times in his speeches and statements and is probably the word that he used more than any other.

Iqbal: Liberty

M. Iqbal (1877-1938)

M. Iqbal (1877-1938)

I wrote a full chapter on M. Iqbal in Secular Jinnah & Pakistan on the crux of his philosophy. My imprint Libredux Publishing has also published two books on his philosophy: 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen and Iqbal: His Life and Our Times. Iqbal’s references to the three principles of “equality, solidarity and freedom” are of course the “muse” of the Cohesive Ethics Theorem in Systems.

Iqbal undoubtedly represents the liberty principle owing to his emphasis on human will and action, and his calls for a “reconstruction of religious thought in Islam” in the famous lectures of the same name. He wanted Muslims to revive the long-abandoned practice of ijtihad (lit. “strive”), which amounts to freeing the Muslim community from the shackles of tradition so it can learn to actively adapt with the needs of its time. He dedicated his fifth lecture solely to this topic, describing ijtihad as the “principle of movement”.

Second, these men have some striking similarities with the characters from Systems who also represent the same respective principles.

Parwez and the Peace Man

Peter Manner

Peter Manner

Though they are worlds apart, Parwez and Peter Manner (the Peace Man) have some uncanny parallels. Both are lone warriors. Both possess keen insight into the failings of humanity, and its potential. In his writings Parwez calls for a revolution against the three forms of tyranny mentioned in the Quran, while Peter is on a crusade against an unnamed “them” – that is, E3, who represent the same three evils.

Both are totally committed to the idea of total justice, though Peter takes it to the extreme: He kills one “worthless” criminal for every friend he has lost in his previous life, and returns every single penny he has taken from the innocent people he robs. Parwez’s work on economics, despite not being nearly as dramatic in practice, is nevertheless driven by a similar level of conviction in the possibility of absolute justice. (And incidentally, Peter’s past life incarnation was also an economist). Both Parwez and Peter are absolutely determined to see their causes through, irrespective of how others may respond to them. Parwez’s sheer tenacity and courage easily match Peter’s, as he was more forthright in his calls for religious reformation than even Iqbal, literally risking his life in upholding his views in a hostile religious environment.

Iqbal and the Shaman

Hitoshi Katayama

Hitoshi Katayama

The strange similarities between Iqbal and Hitoshi Katayama are too numerous to list in full. Iqbal’s poetical inspirations from Revelation include David (The Persian Psalms) and Adam (in various works including Javid Nama), the namesakes of the twins who are tied to Hitoshi (also known as the Shaman in Systems). Both Iqbal and Hitoshi are poets, and both possess musical talent. Both have complex, larger-than-life personalities. Some of the things they say are incorrectly interpreted as being esoteric. Both are frequently accused of ambivalence and contradiction – though this accusation is more justified in Hitoshi’s case – and both are aware of, and comfortable with, being a mystery to others.

Each of the two also fulfils his “destiny” in an apparently ironic way – Iqbal through his choice of the seemingly “secular” Jinnah to lead the Muslims of India, and Hitoshi through his decision to destroy the only proof that the Systems Experiment was a success. This reveals how they each symbolise the conflicting nature of the liberty principle. Both also acknowledge their dark sides, though in different ways: “I have a certain amount of admiration for the Devil,” says Iqbal, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, in his first English-language lecture in 1908. Hitoshi would definitely return that remark with his characteristically devilish smile. Indeed, an early edit of Hitoshi’s song This is my Fate in the novel contained the lyrics “blessed in the Devil’s light”.

Jinnah and Agent Numbskull

Aaron Lloyd

Aaron Lloyd

Jinnah and Aaron Lloyd (named after the Prophet who also represents unity) both uphold the unity principle in precisely the same way, through a shared sense of inclusiveness. Aaron asks Hitoshi to join forces with him to try and defeat their common enemy, even after learning the truth about Hitoshi’s background. Similarly Jinnah asked Muslim religious and political leaders alike to set aside their differences in order to rally around a common goal, though he was well aware of their shortcomings.

Jinnah also shares what Hitoshi rudely calls the “numbskull” trait with Aaron – that is, both Aaron and Jinnah come across as cold and unreadable, one by virtue of a cranial chip, the other by his behaviour. Yet in fact both are deeply compassionate underneath the surface, and are really using the system to fight the system. Jinnah uses his British training in constitutional law to fight against the British Raj, while Aaron is an agent working for, and secretly fighting against, the very organisation responsible for killing his father and destroying his legacy. And on that note, both Jinnah and Aaron stand against benevolent dictatorships.

Hanif Omar

Hanif Omar

Finally, a disclaimer.

The connections between these three makers of history and the three leading men from Systems are remarkable, but by no means were any of the fictional characters consciously (or unconsciously) inspired by the historical figures. However, one of the three men did directly inspire another character in Systems, namely the eccentric professor Dr. Hanif Omar, the man behind the Cohesive Ethics Theorem and the Systems Experiment.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which one it was.

If you can think of any other links between the three men and the characters that I have failed to mention, please let me know here in the comments.

When we choose liberty

Scales of justice

Today I came across a fascinating post at renowned author Lynn McTaggart’s blog, in which she explains why modern society might be on the verge of collapse:

… our biggest group delusion … has to do with the collective assumption and acceptance of the idea that individual ambition serves the common good.  That idea, which built modern capitalism, will be at the heart of its downfall. 

(Emphasis in original. See full post here)

What she is practically describing is the ‘invisible hand‘ concept in economics, used to defend capitalism. But it is also another way of saying, in theorem-speak, that when we actively choose ‘liberty’ (individual ambition) over ‘justice’ (common good), we are doomed to fail. In the Systems Experiment too, capitalism fails because, to quote Omar, it ‘focuses on freedom, at the cost of stability’.

McTaggart adds that if society wants to succeed in the long term, its people must adopt a ‘good for me, good for all’ mindset.

In other words, we must choose justice.

Hopefully this sheds light on why the theorem in Systems is summed up in the line: Choose justice and return to Liberty.

 

Postscript: Liberty (with a capital L) is different to liberty (with a lowercase l). The latter, as individualist ambition, is illusory and not really freedom at all, however it may appear in a society focused on short-term gains. Only by choosing justice can society earn authentic freedom for every individual.

An Ode to Aaron

!ہارون، اسم شوما عجیب است
شوما اجتماعیت را بر افتراق
شوما بر کوہ (طور) عدول حکمی برتر خود کردید
!بلا شبعہ شوما خضر ایست توندارد روح ندارد

 

Translation from Persian:

O Aaron, irony is thy name!
You upheld unity, not dissent,
And defied your brother at the Mount.
Indeed you are Khizr* in the flesh!

 

This ‘Ode to Aaron’, in English blank verse, came to me when I was reaching the end of writing Systems in late 2011. Just as the Peace Man is representative of justice, and Hitoshi of liberty, my other lead character Aaron Lloyd represents the unity principle – only he shares it with his Biblical namesake.

Dr. Shabbir Ahmed of Florida (of QXP fame) kindly turned the English into Persian for me not long ago. I planned to put this up at the main section of my site, but couldn’t find a place for it.

So I decided to post it here today, since I needed an excuse to test post again anyway.

Yes, that’s right. This is just another test post. :D But who wants to read a post that just says, ‘test’?

* Khizr is the name that Muslims have given to the mysterious stranger in the Quran (verses 18:65-82). The stranger shows Moses a series of strange events, where all is not as it seems. Moses’s impatient response to these events is actually a prelude to what he later experiences at Mount Sinai, when he is astonished to find that Aaron has allowed the Israelites to resume their idol-worship of the calf during Moses’ absence. Moses confronts his brother; and Aaron explains is that he let the Israelites do as they wished only in order to avoid a division or a rebellion amongst them.

Postscript 18 May 2014: Since writing this post, I have re-ordered the lines to read better … and also, I have learned that the above Persian is a bad translation. Apologies to readers of Persian!

Can sci-fi redefine our political system?

Ballots for the world - DemocracyCompletely by accident this morning I have seen a post at the Science Fiction & Political Thought blog that briefly reviews my novel. The blog’s name is pretty self-explanatory. Its author, Dadrocant, is interested in exploring the links between sci-fi and political thought. In his latest post, ‘Can Science Fiction help us redefine our political system?‘, he mentions Systems as an example of sci-fi that questions whether or not democracy really is the best possible political system. This passage from that post caught my attention:

The center dilemma of this story lies in a social experiment simulation conducted 20 years before the events of the book, where several political systems are put to the test in a comparison, and even though there is no explanation as to what exactly the ideal system that is the center of the test [Libredux] is exactly like, it does hint at some interesting points, which can be seen today in some of the discourses from those who are discontented about the current state of affairs in western democracies …

That, of course, is the point Systems attempts to make. There is no such thing as a fixed ideal system. The distinguishing characteristic of an ideal system is that it is never fixed. That’s why you won’t find a blueprint for the Libredux model in Systems. And for any Pakistanis reading this post, this should be big clue as to why Iqbal also never offered any sort of blueprint for an ideal political system, and why even that epitome of pragmatism, Mr Jinnah, was supposedly ‘vague’ about what Pakistan’s system would be like. ;)

So, does Systems question democracy? Yes, it questions the modern democratic state – just as it questions all fixed ideologies – but not democracy in principle, which is based on both the ideals of liberty and justice. In fact, I always assumed that the Libredux model would likely be set up as some sort of democracy and evolve from there, in line with what I have said in SJ2 about ideal systems being able to develop by using any contemporary polity as a starting point. To reiterate: A ‘Libredux’ system would be one that theoretically takes the shape of almost any system, as long as it was fit to survive in the conditions of its time, and it retained its ideals (as per the theorem). Like a living organism, its body or structure can take any shape but its ethical DNA remains ultimately the same. I wrote this in an earlier draft of the manuscript for Systems – in its long-winded synopsis, actually – but it never made it into the final version of the novel. I didn’t want too much technical stuff to get in the way of the story.

The whole post on sci-fi as a medium for exploring future political systems can be found here.

René Raison – rebirth of reason

Note: I accidentally titled this ‘Rebirth of Thought’ when it should have said ‘Reason (for) Rebirth’. Corrected now. I’m half asleep today!

Note (again): It was really bugging me why I had thought ‘raison’ meant thought, so I double-checked. Turns out that when I originally chose the word ‘raison’ (some years go), I picked it for its second meaning: reason, mind. So my memory wasn’t mixed up after all. Note to self: Never second-guess yourself during a migraine!


Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Dr Muhammad Iqbal – Courtesy allamaiqbal.com

I intended to put up an entirely different post today, but will leave that for later (though that one is important too). Just wanted to mention something that has come up at the Marghdeen Learning Centre’s present course, The Wisdom of Moses, where Systems also happens to be part of its required reading list.

This week’s question was asking about what is common between two seemingly unrelated passages written by Iqbal. They are quite long so I won’t reproduce them in full here, but in short both of them mention the passage in the Quran in which there is a reference to ‘resurrection’ or ‘rebirth’.

As Iqbal quotes it:

Your creation and resurrection are like the creation and resurrection of a single soul. (31:28)

Aside from a few who believe that this is literally a reference to reincarnation on earth (and yes, I used reincarnation as a metaphor in Systems), most understand that this is a comment on the recycling of the universe (including life), and it is also a statement on the birth and rebirth of humanity as a whole, treated as a ‘single soul’. In addition, it’s saying that the fate of human society rests equally on each and every one of us. So each of us is also society (or humanity), and what every one of us does will affect its evolution.

But there is a bit more to it than even that – from Iqbal’s viewpoint. He was interested in the method for reviving society. His comments from the two aforementioned passages are as follows:

First passage: Allahabad Address: Is it possible for you to achieve the organic wholeness of a unified will? Yes, it is. … Pass from matter to spirit. Matter is diversity; spirit is light, life and unity. … One of the profoundest verses in the Holy Quran teaches us that the birth and rebirth of the whole of humanity is like the birth and rebirth of a single individual. Why cannot you … as a people, … live and move and have your being as a single individual?

Second passage: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam: A living experience of the kind of biological unity, embodied in this verse [as cited above], requires today a method physiologically less violent and psychologically more suitable to a concrete type of mind.

Now this has caused a stir over at the course. What is biological unity? What is ‘rebirth’? How do we achieve it? What does Iqbal mean when he says about society: live and move and have your being as a single individual?

Brain, mind - Two-in-one

Brain, mind – Two-in-one

The question becomes easier to answer if it is reworded: How do we reboot the mind (of society)? Obviously, through re-education, or, in biological terms, by rewiring the brain. We know how difficult it is in science to differentiate between brain and mind anyway. (Now you also know why reincarnation and psychic ability – what Hitoshi called a ‘worldwide neuron network’ – appear together in Systems.) If a society can achieve this, it will also achieve unity of collective thought – and unity of purpose. This is what the theorem (and the Systems Experiment) in the novel highlights as well (Chapter 11). Oh, and it was something I mentioned a few times in SJ2 as well, though there it was phrased ‘intellectual unity’. ;)

In other words, this is all theorem stuff again. My favourite Iqbal line, the one I call the ‘muse’ for the theorem, speaks of rendering the three intangible ideals (equality, freedom, solidarity) as ‘space-time forces':

Muse line (Reconstruction): The essence of ‘Tauhid’ [Unity of God] as a working idea is equality, solidarity, and freedom. The State … is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realise them in a definite human organisation.

As far as I understand it, there is scant difference between this passage about the ‘state’ and the ones about ‘biological’ unity. Both are describing the meaning of true Unity. It’s just the subject that differs. One is the human being; the other the political state. In fact, the muse line technically mentions both ‘state’ and the human being (‘human organisation’).

René Descartes

René Descartes

Incidentally – more trivia for you – a key location (and a chapter) in Systems was quite deliberately named René Raison dam. It was a wink and a nod to René Descartes, the father of the dualist doctrine, as well as a phrase in French –  ignoring the bad grammar. :) Literal meaning is in the title of this article, and its implication is that we need to rethink what reality means. Is it split into spirit and matter, unseen and seen, thought and material, body and mind, space and time?

Or is it Unified?

Literature and art as collective dreams

Iqbal believed that art and literature are like collective dreams, which come true. Therefore they should present the world as it should be, and not as it appears to be.

This line is taken (with permission) from Khurram Shafique’s upcoming work examining ‘peaks’ in the timeline of Pakistan. He has divided its history into seven phases, each lasting approximately twenty years each, starting from way back in 1887. Pakistan of course formally came into existence in 1947 but Mr Shafique is looking at the development of this ‘nation’ from its conception, of sorts (or at least, that’s how I understood it, and hope I am correct). In fact this work is a completely new discovery looking at what he calls the ‘stages of collective self-development’.

Anyway, I just wanted to quote that line because it spoke to me as a writer. For anyone who wants to know more, Mr Shafique’s formal publication will be printed soon – and will possibly be also available in ebook form.** In the meantime, he has been talking about it in some detail for quite a while now over at the Republic of Rumi website. See this blog post for more.

** Postscript: The ebook has been published by Libredux publishing, and details can be found here.

 

To be or not to be didactic

The Marghdeen Learning Centre’s latest course on Iqbal is exploring the philosopher’s take on art (with a focus on literature). Though he was born in the period when l’art pour l’art was developing as a new movement, Iqbal didn’t believe in art for art’s sake. In fact, he took a dim view of it. In one of his articles published in July 1917, he wrote:

“[Art for art’s sake] appeals more to imagination than to will, and on the whole acts as a narcotic on the mind of the reader. … the good in art is not necessarily identical with the good in life; it is possible for a poet to write fine poetry, and yet lead his society to Hell. The poet is essentially a seducer; woe to his people, if instead of making the trials of life look beautiful and attractive he embellishes decadence with all the glories of health and power, and seduces his people to extinction.”

(I should add that in this article Iqbal was talking specifically about poets but his views applied to art in general.)

Edgar Allan Poe - public domain image

19th century author Edgar Allan Poe famously called didactic poetry ‘heresy’, but he was also an early pioneer of modern sci-fi

The late sci-fi author and academic Joanna Russ suggested in 1975 that all science fiction is didactic in the vein of medieval fiction. The word ‘didactic’ itself originally meant art with educational or informative content. It was only from the 19th century onwards that it was redefined to mean something ‘burdened’ with this content. It seems that this negative definition of didactic fiction coincides with the onset of modern materialism (as the outcome of the Enlightenment period).

I wonder what Iqbal would have made of visionary fiction. Part of its appeal – for me, at least – is that it isn’t art for the sake of art. And yet funnily enough, over at the Visionary Fiction Goodreads group we all recently agreed that visionary fiction isn’t overtly ‘preachy’. Is this a contradiction? Not really. We can liken it to how non-fiction deals with facts. Whilst non-fiction writers present their facts as they see them and obviously have an opinion of their own, they don’t necessarily claim to having the final word on a subject – at least, not if they’re honest.

Visionary fiction is didactic in the former sense, rather than the latter.  In fact, I’ve always felt that all fiction has something to teach us, whether or not that is the author’s conscious intent. It all has a value. The real question is whether that value is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, that is, constructive or destructive. Iqbal believed the most destructive form of art is pessimistic, nihilistic, and amoral, even if it uses beautiful imagery. It glorifies death. True constructive art, in Iqbal’s view, is optimistic, life-affirming, and encourages us to face life’s challenges – large and small – with courage and dignity.

“The highest art is that which awakens our dormant will-force, and nerves us to face the trials of life manfully.”

In other words, Iqbal believed that art doesn’t just reflect human psychology (collective and individual). It can actually have a hand in shaping our destinies. A huge claim, but it resonates with those who value the power of ‘story’.

Systems in an Iqbal education programme

Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Courtesy allamaiqbal.com

Yesterday I learned that the Systems trailer has been included in a course (Title: DNA of History: History According to Iqbal) being run by the Marghdeen Learning Centre, a body affiliated with the Iqbal Academy. I felt truly honoured at the mention, especially because of the particular focus of the lesson in which the trailer appeared. (I would have linked to the lesson page, since the course is run online, but you can’t view it unless you’re a participant on the course).

THE AGE OF POTENTIAL

Here are some of the most interesting points made in the lesson by the course teacher, Khurram Ali Shafique:

“Do we find any common strand” in the events of our times? Yes. Everything happening in our times is related to “Potential.”

In the field of natural sciences, we have already moved on from principles to potentials: the “principles” of natural sciences discovered in the previous phase gave birth to an age of invention in our times.

The problem is that while we discovered the tremendous potential of the physical world, we have not matched it with similar progress in discovering the potential of the human soul …

… Let’s begin with the most basic thing: Tawhid, or the Unity of God. According to Iqbal, the three principles implied in the Unity of God are “equality, solidarity, and freedom.” …

… Let me summarize. What I have tried to share is that we are now living in the age of potential. The three traits of this age are:

  1. Nations cannot be forced into slavery anymore, although they can still be deceived into it – and this is regardless of how weak the victim or how strong the oppressor. This is the potential of freedom.
  2. The world is rearranging itself into nation states, which are likely to develop a symbiotic relationship. This is the potential of solidarity.
  3. Nations can become aware of their destinies and make informed choices based on this awareness. This is the potential of equality.
Snapshot from Systems trailer

Snapshot from Systems trailer

LITERALLY TRUE

So once again, the focus is on the three ideals that appear in the Cohesive Ethics Theorem. Most interestingly of all, Mr Shafique has stressed that Iqbal’s own reference to these three principles in his famous Reconstruction lectures should be understood literally. In other words, the key to unlocking human potential in full can only come from mastering our understanding of these specific three principles, just as we have begun to unlock the creative potential of the physical universe by mastering our understanding of the laws of nature. As someone says in Systems:

‘Some would say that what I have suggested is utopian, and moreover impossible. This is not so. As I see it, humanity cannot realise its true potential until we accept that an ideal society is not only possible, but absolutely mandatory.’

The lesson opens with this question: Do you think that this video (Systems trailer) is relevant to what is being discussed in this post?

I reply: Why yes, and not in a small way!

But then, I would say that. :)

And a final note: I highly recommend joining the courses at the Marghdeen Learning Centre. They are cleverly designed to be as informal as possible, while introducing some thought-provoking ideas.

An ideal advert … or maybe not

Earlier this week an article of mine appeared in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn’s Special Report on the Lahore Resolution. For those of you who don’t know, the Lahore Resolution might be described as (sort of) the Pakistani equivalent of the American Declaration of Independence, and Pakistanis celebrate this document (and argue about its significance) every year on 23rd March.

While I was browsing the e-paper at Dawn‘s website, this advert caught my eye:

An ideal advert? (Image: dawn.com)

It was a reproduction of the major signatories of the Lahore Resolution, accompanied with the header: ‘Equality, Freedom, Unity’. Of course this was immediately interesting to me because of the three words that also happen to be central to the Cohesive Ethics Theorem in Systems. And, if you can read it from the above scan, there was an inspiring passage about how the Lahore Resolution was passed in the name of said principles, and how they must be protected today.

I saw the url: efulife.com, and went over. I expected to find a human rights organisation or activist group. Instead, I found … a life insurance company! But here’s the real punchline: The company was originally founded in the 1930s under the name ‘Eastern Federal Union’, by none other than Ghulam Mohammad, who would later become the Governor-General of Pakistan. Anyone who has read SJ2 will know exactly why this is all more than a little ironic. For anyone who hasn’t, I have three more words for you:

Pakistan’s first dictator.

The place of visionary fiction in today’s world – introduction

Last week I introduced the Visionary Fiction web-ring. This week, our three founding members – Jodine Turner, Shannan Sinclair and myself – are guest posting at each other’s blogs about the place of Visionary Fiction in Today’s World.

You can find my entry at Jodine’s blog here, and Jodine’s entry at Shannan’s blog here. Shannan’s entry will appear at this blog soon.