Tag Archive for philosophy

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.

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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.

2017: The Battle for Marghdeen – paperback out now

2017: The Battle for Marghdeen coverAnd now … it’s out! Libredux Publishing is proud to announce that the paperback edition of Khurram Ali Shafique’s book, 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen, has gone into print today, and is already available for purchase here. It will become available at Amazon soon as well, probably by next week. Ebook is available here.

If you read this short but powerful book, please send me your reviews, or post them at Amazon.

Intro from the back cover follows.

***


Marghdeen is an ideal society conceived by Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), a foremost thinker of modern times. It is a world where life is inside-out, people know their destinies and there is no poverty, neediness, crime or injustice.

In 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen, the author shows how such a society can be achieved in a short space of time, as long as we are prepared to change our perception about the world we live in. The book presents the basic principles for achieving Marghdeen, illustrated with examples from modern history. There is a special emphasis on societies that already acknowledge Iqbal as their thinker, but these principles can be applied anywhere in the world.

***

One of the finest achievements of the human mind is to see, to understand, and to put the things seen and understood into a greater perspective. With Khurram Ali Shafique, some kind of thinking of the heart has returned into the arena: a greater perspective, so to speak. – Dr. Thomas Stemmer

The Battle for Marghdeen – out now

At midnight Karachi time, Khurram Ali Shafique’s 2017: The Battle for Marghdeen went live at Smashwords. You can pick it up by following the link below. And, for a short time only, we’re celebrating the launch by leaving it open for free download to anyone who uses the coupon code available here.

2017: The Battle for Marghdeen cover1) Go to the page for the book

2) Scroll down the page and choose a format – epub, Kindle, PDF etc.

3) Apply this code: UH45Q

Enjoy!

Note: This offer expires at midnight, 18 August (California time).

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.

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.

AN OVERLOOKED ISSUE

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.

THREE WORDS

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.

LEFT UNSAID

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 2: Libredux

A couple of years before SJ1, I was in the middle of a personal journey that was transforming my way of thinking. Details are not important, but the result of it was that I’d learned some incredible things about the untapped potential that is present within each and every one of us. And inevitably this found expression in the novel. To an extent I was using the novel as a space to record my developing ideas, albeit in embryonic form.

Snapshot from Systems trailer

Snapshot from Systems trailer

At this time I was thinking about the possibility of an ideal society, an environment that enables us all to unlock that potential. What’s really stopping us from creating a civilization that resembles something out of Star Trek or Iqbal’s fictional world ‘Marghdeen’ in Javid Nama?

Like many Pakistanis, I’d heard about those who genuinely believed that part of the idea behind Pakistan was to create a society that would aim for the highest of ideals. At this point I didn’t know enough about it to say I had any sort of opinion about this. But it was an intriguing concept. In Pakistan of course, it hasn’t been realised to date, even if it continues to capture the imagination of Pakistan’s youth.

THE SYSTEMS EXPERIMENT

The metaphor of an ideal societyMeanwhile my novel was developing slowly. I had an idea for an experiment that would simulate history and test social systems, including an ‘ideal’ one. Computer simulations are commonly used for predicting weather patterns and observing changes in ecosystems. To my mind a social system simulation seemed perfectly feasible – more feasible, than say, trying to set up an experimental ideal society within an existing country where all sorts of practical obstacles would get in the way. A simulation would provide a controlled environment and in fact would be a more reliable test. In the novel, the Systems Experiment would prove that an ideal society was possible, and then the bad guys would go and ruin it all … as they always do. :)

The only problem was I didn’t know how to test an ideal system when I couldn’t even describe it. ‘Never mind,’ I thought. ‘It’s fiction anyway.’ Still, I did come up with a name for it: Libredux. The word means ‘return to liberty and justice’, since lib means both ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’ (the latter by virtue of the Latin libra – literally, ‘balance’). That was as far as I got with the idea at this stage.

THREE MAGIC WORDS

Around this time I also happened to acquire a copy of Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. I was awed by this book, which was the first truly philosophical piece on Islam that I had ever seen. The passages that interested me most were those on the ‘unity of God’ – called Tauheed in the Quran.  Tauheed is the philosophical basis of the so-called ‘Islamic worldview’ – which treats matter and spirit as one (and not two separate things as we do in the West). One of my favourite passages from the book was:

Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Dr. Iqbal. Courtesy allamaiqbal.com

The essence of ‘Tauhid’ as a working idea is equality, solidarity, and freedom. The State, from the Islamic viewpoint, is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realise them in a definite human organisation.

I quoted this and similar passages in SJ1 to try and explain the idealism that motivated many supporters (not all of them Muslim) of the Pakistan idea. But for a very long time, I didn’t see the connection between this passage and my word, libredux. Nor did anything click when I wrote that appendix and only listed freedom and justice as the simplest ideals. I didn’t even connect that appendix to the word libredux. (I’m a bit slow sometimes.) The obvious reason was that since I hadn’t come to the theorem yet – and since I also hadn’t realised the final value of ‘unity’ (solidarity) yet – I couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Next: Pt 3: The missing principle … Pt 4 (final): Reversal

Earlier posts in this mini-series:

IntroductionPt 1: The first book … Pt 2: Libredux 

(Some images in this post are copyrighted)

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 1: The first book

(If you haven’t seen it already, read the introduction to this mini-series here)

Freedom, represented by feathers, or wingsThe first book I ever started – long before even SJ1 – was fiction. For a long time I had notions about the emotional content, and that it should be an epic. I even developed the characters, and knew that the story would contain a quest for a valuable item, but otherwise there was no solid plot. It refused to come together because it lacked focus. The thing had a beating heart, but no brain. Or maybe it was the other way round.

Justice, represented by scales

Scales, representing justice, were originally going to appear on the cover of 'Systems'

Whilst I said to friends that I was writing a novel, my only published writing was in the form of a few literary columns, and some Urdu-to-English translations of articles. Then suddenly in 2004 through my translation work, I happened to uncover what would later be called the ‘Munir quote’. This was the start of Secular Jinnah (2005), and my journey learning about the Pakistan idea. Funnily enough I didn’t even like politics (and still don’t!), but as I soon discovered, the Pakistan story was more than just political history. It wasn’t just another redrawing of the world map. It had a higher, noble idea at its core that truly resonated with me. I will explain why in the next post.

GERM OF AN IDEA

In mid-2005, I was finishing the final draft of SJ1 and putting in a few appendices. The book was short and didn’t explain anything about Pakistan’s founding history in much detail, but it had discussed the universal principles of the Quran that inspired so many Muslims during the Pakistan movement and which they expected to see become a reality in their new state. For the second appendix item I wanted to create a short list of these principles, about a page long, of the universal human rights that are also mentioned in the Quran. But I wanted to stick to basic principles, i.e. the ideals, in part because this is what the Quran itself does, and also because Jinnah had placed emphasis on the same basic ideals.

So I got thinking about human rights.

  • Freedom of conscience or religion
  • Freedom of speech
  • Equality before the law
  • Right to a fair trial
  • Equality of the sexes

Seed of an idea… And so on. But I soon realised that most of these items could be grouped together by their corresponding ideal. The first two of the above list could be grouped together under the ideal value ‘freedom’, and the latter three under ‘justice’. I also recall thinking that many (if not most) of these and similar principles could be classified both under freedom and justice. In fact these two seemingly separate ideals are ultimately united, but I hadn’t recognised this yet. Nor did I know that this was the germ of the idea for what would later become the Cohesive Ethics Theorem.

And how many ideals were there? Try as I might, I could only think of two: justice and freedom.

Next: Pt 2: Libredux … Pt 3: The missing principle  Pt 4 (final): Reversal

Earlier posts in this mini-series: Introduction

 

The Republic of Rumi – Book review

Khurram Ali Shafique is a historian who is also a research consultant for the Iqbal Academy in Karachi. His book Iqbal: An Illustrated Biography won the Presidential Iqbal Award last year.

I’ve read most of that book, but I’ve just reviewed one of his other titles – The Republic of Rumi -over at Goodreads. Come and take a look.