Tag Archive for metaphysics

Straight off the Wall

Mount Sinai.

Mount Sinai.

At the latest Marghdeen Learning Centre course (Thinking with the Soul) last week, the present (seventh) lesson is titled “Completion”. It’s focusing on this Iqbalian concept, summarized in the introduction of the lesson as follows:

The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something. In this effort, it develops the ambition to come into direct contact with the Ultimate Reality. One who stands unshaken in the Divine Presence is the one about whom it could be said that the person has achieved completion – by acquiring a more precise definition of one’s self, ‘which deepens the whole being of the ego, and sharpens its will with the creative assurance that the world is not something to be merely seen or known through concepts, but something to be made and re-made by continuous action’. Still, the journey doesn’t end, as life is one and continuous.

Put in Iqbal’s own words: “the world is not something to be merely seen or known through concepts, but something to be made and re-made by continuous action”.

The task for the lesson was to answer this “simple question”: Is that how you are feeling at the end of this lesson? Why, or why not? 

Every participant was expected to post his/her answer at the MLC forum (a blog set up as the online venue for the course).

AThe Peace Man: A true anarchist (though he doesn't like labels).

The Peace Man: A true anarchist (though he doesn’t like labels).

One of the participants, Abdul Aziz Khan, posted this brilliant reply (emphasis mine):

This last lesson is deep enough to be a course of its own. The idea discussed here can be expanded into so many realms, with so many repercussions that a total (and ongoing) reconstruction would be needed, not just of religious thought but legal, social and ethical principles. It calls for a constant breakdown and re-invention of everything until we reach “somewhere.” That “somewhere” is so big and so powerful that no ideology, philosophy or religious interpretation has been able to even give a name to it. Thus (for the sake of this discussion) let it remain un-named. 

What are my own feelings?

a) A distrust in inherited morals and cultural perceptions of right and wrong.
b) A distrust in reason for I am convinced that reason can only piece together data from five senses. Yet this course convinced me of something that I already knew all along. I am bigger than what I see, hear, taste, touch and smell.
c) Desire for an anarchy that I could call my own. No one else needs to own it for it will have no use for national labels and cultural insignia. It will be the start of a first step towards “somewhere” and the guiding principles for those steps are not to be understood. They lie above understanding as understanding itself is a rational sort of a thing.

This post almost perfectly describes the meaning of a line straight off the wall in the Peace Man’s room in Systems:

The Truth has no name.


The Marghdeen Learning Centre is an Iqbal Academy subsidiary body teaching the philosophy of Iqbal in straightforward terms. Anyone who enrolls at certain Marghdeen Learning Centre courses (including The Wisdom of Moses and Thinking with the Soul) courses gets an ebook copy of Systems for free in any format.

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 4: Reversal

Chief Justice AR Cornelius

Chief Justice Cornelius. Public domain image.

[I] am slowly beginning to understand what is built into the Constitution of Pakistan, in the way of political obligation … I have learnt that a non-Muslim can only be a full citizen of Pakistan if, on the secular side, he conforms to the requirements of the Objectives Resolution, read with the first 8 Articles, that is Parts I (the Republic of Pakistan) and II (Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy). So far as I can see, at present, this is entirely possible, and would be easy, if there were some formulation of the basic principles contained in the Scriptures of Islam, in regard to equality, tolerance, social justice etc.

These are the words of Alvin Robert Cornelius (1903-1991), one-time Chief Justice of Pakistan, in a personal letter dated July 1965. A practising Christian, he was one of the many people who supported the Pakistan idea. He was also amongst the few who understood the content of the Objectives Resolution as a statement of universal human ideals and one that made great promises to all its citizens regardless of caste and creed. But, he said, these ideals hadn’t been spelled out.


And Cornelius wasn’t the only person to say this. Two other Pakistanis (Mian Iftikharuddin and PD Bhandara, father of MP Bhandara) also made similar remarks in criticism of Pakistan’s constitution-making body during Pakistan’s fledgling years. All three of these individuals stated in no uncertain terms that some fundamental principles had not been accounted for. Iftikharuddin complained in 1949 that the Objectives Resolution didn’t …

incorporate those principles which will make real democracy possible …

– and PD Bhandara said in 1954:

The very essence of an Islamic Constitution which is brevity and simplicity is conspicuous by its absence. … In the process of evolution gained by experience, I trust our Constitution will be remodelled to conform more to the tenets of Islam

But their words went unheeded, and with time the Objectives Resolution became an issue of enormous contention.

MA Jinnah on 14 August 1947

MA Jinnah on 14 August 1947, and not 11 August as shown on Wikipedia. Image from my personal collection.

Critics of the Objectives Resolution see it as some sort of backdoor to theocracy, even though a religious state was the last thing on the minds of those who penned it. MP Bhandara’s 11 August 1947 bill (introduced in 2006) was an attempt to insert one of Jinnah’s most famous speeches on civil equality alongside the Objectives Resolution in the constitution. Bhandara said the speech would act as an ‘ideological balance’. Ironically, unlike his father, MP Bhandara had actually misinterpreted the Objectives Resolution and his bill (his version of it, anyway) was only going to make things worse by causing a conflict. I tried to tell him this, but I don’t think he heard me.


All this made me think of the theorem. By now I saw the connection to the three words in Iqbal’s Reconstruction – the three basic ideals of equality (justice), solidarity (unity), and freedom (liberty). That passage of Iqbal became my muse. Even Jinnah had been subconsciously drawn to these three ideals, which was why he quoted the French equivalent liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) several times during those last few months of his life as Pakistan’s first Governor General.

By 2009, a publisher in the UK and another in Pakistan had both already offered me a contract for SJ1’s revised edition. They expected me to get it to them in a few weeks. It took me 14 months, and thankfully both publishers were very patient with me. By the time it was finished, SJ2 was a brand new book containing new and original research, and only parts of it coincided with SJ1.


Snapshot from trailerIn SJ2, I briefly mentioned this ‘missing’ element of Pakistan’s constitution, and even said that my old appendix (imported from SJ1 and improved in SJ2) contained the very same ‘core principles’ of the Quran that could help complete the constitutional work begun back in 1949. What I didn’t mention – though I discussed it with one or two people including a prominent Pakistani retired senior judge – was that I also had an idea for a bill that could introduce the same ideals as those listed in my old appendix, the source of the theorem. To my mind the introduction of binding, interconnected values would not only strengthen and clarify the promises made in the Objectives Resolution, but would also put an end to the misinterpretation of what it contains.

And what happened after that? Well, the idea remains an idea. In the end, I made it – the theorem, that is – ‘real’ only in my fictional universe. But there it makes for useful commentary on the human condition … and it’s my way of paying homage to the Pakistan idea.

This is the final part. Earlier posts in this mini-series:

Introduction … Pt 1: The first book 

Pt 2: Libredux … Pt 3: The missing principle

(Some images in this post are copyrighted)

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 3: The missing principle

As SJ1’s readership grew, so did the requests for a sequel. At first I only intended to release a revised edition and call it SJ2. And yet, all sorts of new information kept cropping up on the Pakistan story. My minor list of revisions soon became a monster file of notes which couldn’t be organised except in the form of a new book.


Then between late 2006 and mid-2007, two things happened to affect both the as-yet unwritten SJ2 and Systems. First, I came up with the ‘theorem’ for the novel in a kind of eureka moment, though this had been building up for some time. As I mentioned in Part 2, before this point my ‘ideal’ system model for the fictional Systems Experiment had been nothing more than a name. This was because I’d been semi-consciously aware that a fixed system was problematic. If I described the features of this system in the fiction in detail, it might be set in stone and treated as some fixed ideology. Fictional or not, I’d instinctively known I wanted to avoid that.

Single Source PrincipleThe fact that an ideal system is never fixed (because evolution itself is a Natural Law) now registered in my conscious knowledge for the first time. This was thanks largely to my in-depth study of the Pakistan story and in particular the thoughts of Jinnah and Iqbal (in that order. Jinnah’s  intelligence and acute ethical awareness remains greatly under-appreciated even among the experts). And so all the pieces came together. The idea (it had no name at first) was very simple and based on common sense. If you assume that everything in the universe has a common starting point of some sort, and you assume that the laws of nature also have the same starting point, then all ideals have the same starting point too … in principle. And just as the universe – with its zillions of atoms and subatomic particles and other seemingly separated bits and pieces called gravity and black holes and dark matter and space and time – actually remains one in principle, then all universal ideals must really be aspects or derivatives of a single common ideal.

I also remembered my old issue with that SJ1 appendix – the two irreducible ideals of justice and freedom. As it turns out, the two really are irreducible for reasons I won’t explain here, but whilst we often treat them as separate and ultimately incompatible, they really are not. In combination they represent one ultimate principle. I would later call this the Single Source Principle (though this part of the theorem was never explained in detail in the novel). Of course to many people it’s better known as Oneness, or Unity.

DNA cross section

Computer-generated cross section of DNA, from a top-down view.


At any rate, I finally had the essence of a testable ‘theorem’ (for the fiction, at least). As I put it in Systems:

… justice and liberty are the only universal ideals; all other ethical principles are either derivatives or aspects of these ideals. But justice and liberty are themselves interconnected because they come, just like the physical universe and every law of nature, from a single source.

It seemed natural to call this relationship cohesive ethics; like a kind of ‘theory of everything’ for universal ideals. (I later tacked on the word ‘theorem’ in the novel for effect). To my mind, any social system built around the ideals of both justice and liberty together would be acting in harmony with the Natural Order and so was bound to succeed. Its exact structure – the minor details – wouldn’t matter. What would matter was its type … what it aimed for … its spirit … its ethical DNA. And by virtue of a beautiful accident, I already had the perfect name for this type of system: Libredux.

a social system with no fixed rules, except for one binding principle which could not be broken under any circumstances.

Now I had almost everything I needed for the novel. But it still wouldn’t be finished for another five years.


Second, in around May 2007 I had some interesting correspondence with the late Pakistani parliamentarian MP Bhandara, which led to my inadvertently becoming involved with his constitutional bill to make the 11 August 1947 speech of MA Jinnah a ‘substantive’ part of Pakistan’s constitution. Again, details aren’t important (though we’ll touch on it in the next part; the whole story is in SJ2’s appendix in any case). But that experience showed me just how important a strong constitution is. It also alerted me to the fact that something extremely important might be missing in Pakistan’s constitution – something that was leaving its fundamental sections open to misinterpretation.

Next: Pt 4 (final): Reversal

Earlier posts in this mini-series:

Introduction … Pt 1: The first book 

Pt 2: Libredux … Pt 3: The missing principle 


(Some images in this post are copyrighted)

Systems: What the title says

Despite having seen a lot of people get the wrong end of the stick about the title Secular Jinnah (and though I admit I let that happen on purpose), I had never thought that the title of the novel might be similarly open to misinterpretation.

Imran S Bhinder is a young Pakistani philosopher who gained notoriety after he exposed a major literary scholar for plagiarism through translation. When he heard that my novel was titled Systems, he emailed me with the comment that my choice of title was interesting, given that it has become fashionable to be anti system – or, more specifically, that philosophers tend to dismiss any concept of a system based on ‘metaphysical categories’. And that got me, because in the first place it hadn’t occurred to me that the title might appear to be advocating a particular type of system, when in fact it’s just a title on the themes of the story, and of course the Systems Experiment.

In fact he’d raised a good point and I felt it was worth mentioning here. In the Systems Experiment, five social systems are put to the test in a supercomputer simulation. Two of them, theocracy (or religious state) and monarchy (kingdoms) are the control, since they are accepted as historical failures. The next two are modern capitalist democracy and communism, which are down in the novel as the systems ‘still being tried in history’ (never mind that in real life there is a debate as to whether communism has already failed or not). The fifth is based on the Cohesive Ethics Theorem. In the novel the theorem is described as follows:

Omar believed that justice and liberty are the only universal ideals; all other ethical principles are either derivatives or aspects of these ideals. But justice and liberty are themselves interconnected because they come, just like the physical universe and every law of nature, from a single source. He called this universal relationship cohesive ethics.

The social system based on the theorem is described as:

The fifth represented Omar’s theorem in action, and it was the only one without a name. Omar wasn’t keen on giving the model a formal designation. To his mind it created the false impression that his model was offering a fixed system, when in fact dynamism was its driving force. Nevertheless for the sake of the experiment he gave his model a descriptive name: Libredux.”

So in short, the title ‘Systems’ is a reference to the experiment itself. The ‘libredux’ system is based on a metaphysical theory, but it’s not a fixed ideology. And whereas metaphysics is generally treated as something that cannot be tested in a lab, in this story the Systems Experiment is an empirical test for the theorem.

By the way, any resemblance to the idea that Pakistan was a ‘laboratory’ is completely coincidental. (What do you mean, you don’t believe me?)

Note: There is a page coming (not too difficult, I promise) to explain the idea behind the theorem. I’ll update this post when it’s ready.