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Islamic Personalities ( 2 Dec 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Iqbal's Khudi (Selfhood) - Most Misunderstood Topic

By Aadil Farook, New Age Islam

2 December 2021

Iqbal’s Entire Thought Can Only Be Understood If Seen With Spiritual Lenses

Main Points:

1.    Islam is not against self-actualization.

2.    Iqbal did not say anything different from what Sufis had been saying.

3.    Aim of a Momin (genuine believer) is not glory itself but glorify Islam with his God-given gifts.


Allama Iqbal said (in Urdu),

 "Khudi Ko Kar Buland Itna Ke Har Taqdeer Se Pehle

Khuda Bande Se Khud Pooche Bata Teri Raza Kya Hai"

The most common translation in English with which I do not agree at all is:

Raise yourself so that before every decree

God will ascertain from you: “What is your wish?”

The entire misunderstanding arose due to this false translation. Many people did not get what Iqbal meant. Secular people saw a link between this & the self-actualization of Western thinkers. Some religious people saw conflict between Khudi (selfhood) and Sufism's self-annihilation / self-negation (Khud Ko Mitana / Khud Ki Nafi). Both parties are wrong.

1. Self-actualization as understood in the West means to unleash one's maximum potential as far as abilities/skills/talents are concerned. The sole focus is on brilliance (qabliat). It has nothing to do with spirituality (rohaniat). Steve Jobs, Wasim Akram & Michael Jackson were self-actualized individuals because they attained genius in their fields irrespective of whether they were spiritual or not. Spirituality is not the criterion here at all.

2. Iqbal was a spiritual thinker. His entire thought can only be understood if seen with spiritual lenses. Iqbal actually did not say anything different from what Sufis had been saying. Sufis say that due to sins, the corrupted self of people has to undergo many stages of inner purification before it reaches its true real original self. That is why there is so much importance given to denial or opposition of one's Nafs-e-Ammarah (lower-self NOT self). Iqbal obviously knew all that. What he really meant can be translated as:- 

Raise your PURIFIED self so that before every decree

God will ascertain from you: “What is your wish?”

Thus Iqbal did not say anything new at all. However, his greatness lies in the exact choice of words selected. Why did he use words that seem totally different from what Sufis say?

3. Iqbal's entire goal was waking, motivating & inspiring Muslims especially of the subcontinent whose spirits, courage, confidence, and energy level were completely zero. Since his audience was already demotivated, shattered, crushed, and demoralized, he could not afford to use words like Khud Ko Mitana (diminish yourself) or Khud Ki Nafi (negate yourself). His deep wisdom was using words that do 2 things at the same time - endorse spirituality and raise the morale of Muslims.

4. Islam is obviously not against self-actualization at all but it demands humans to first cross the spiritual path before pursuing self-actualization so that their genius has Ikhlaas (purity of intention) in it. The aim of a Momin (genuine believer) is not glory itself at all but to benefit humanity or glorify Islam with his God-given gifts or knowledge or calibre in anything. If Allah grants him glory in the process, he thanks Him. If Allah does not grant him any glory at all, he is still equally happy. That is the sign of Nafs-e-Mutmainah (contended soul).

Holy Prophet (SAW) is the ideal human because his spirituality & brilliance both reached their highest possible level. That is why he is still the most influential person in history!


Aadil Farook, Winner/Nominee of 2 International Awards (US & UK), is a Lahore-based blogger.


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