Philosophers: Sir Allameh Muhammed Iqbal
(1877-1938 CE)

[Life & Work] | [Links]

Iqbal was born in 1877 in Sialkot inthe Punjab, then in India, now a province of Pakistan, and was educated in the local school and college in Sialkot, before going on the university in Lahore. There he studied Arabic and philosophy as an undergraduate, then in 1899 did an M.A. in philosophy (being ranked first in the Punjab, and awarded a Gold Medal). He was appointed to a Readership in Arabic at the Oriental College in Lahore, and over the next few years became well known as a poet, as well as writing his first book (in Urdu), The Knowledge of Economics (1903).

In 1905 he travelled to Europe to continue his philosophical studies, first at Cambridge, then at Munich, where he obtained his doctorate with a thesis entitled The Development of Metaphysics in Persia. From 1907 to 1908 he was Professor of Arabic at the University of London; during this period he studied for the bar, becoming a barrister in 1908, when he returned to Lahore to practise law. While practising as an advocate at the Lahore High Court he continued to a part-time academic career as professor of philosophy and English Literature, being appointed Professor of Philosophy at the Government College, Lahore in 1911. He was knighted in 1923.

Despite his law practice, his philosophical work, and his gradual entry into politics, first as a member of the Punjab Legislative Council and later as president of the All India Muslim League, Iqbal was probably best known and respected as a poet. Nevertheless, his other activities brought him some measure of fame, especially six lectures that he gave at Madras, Osmania University at Hyderabad, and Aligarh, which were later published as The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930). During the early thirties he travelled extensively in the Middle East and Europe, participating in international political conferences, meeting philosophers and politicians, and writing.

His political view was that in theory a Muslim state wasn't desirable, as he held to the ideal of a world-wide Muslim community; nevertheless, he held that, at least in the short and medium terms, the only way for Indian Muslims to be able to live according to the tenets of Islam was in such a state, and he campaigned accordingly (though a recent study based upon his correspondence suggests that what he had in mind was in fact an Islamic Pakistan as part of an Indian federal state). He died in Lahore in 1938, some nine years before the creation of Pakistan, where his birthday is celebrated as national holiday.

Iqbal's philosophical work involved bringing various philosophical influences, including Leibniz, Hegel, and Nietzsche, to his Islamic scholarship, thus holding out the promise of a revival of genuine Islamic philosophical thought — a return of Islam to its place in the philosophical world. That promise has yet to be truly fulfilled, though it remains in place.

"To exist in pure duration is to be a self, and to be a self is to be able to say 'I am'." (The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam p.56)
+ One Hundred Philosophers (2004)
U.S.A.:     Barron's Educational Books
U.K.:        Apple Press
Australia: A.B.C. Books
The book covers the history of philosophy chronologically from Thales of Miletus (6th century BCE) to Peter Singer (b.1946 CE), with philosophers from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australasia, and the U.S.A., about 60% getting a page, 40% two pages. Scattered through the book are brief introductions to such topics as African, Chinese, and Indian philosophy, scepticism, women in philosophy, mind and body, the philosophy of science, and moral philosophy. The book's divided into periods, each with its own introduction and timeline of other important events. There's also a glossary, suggested further reading, and an index.
+ Allama Muhammad Iqbal
Wikipedia article.
+ Muhammad Allama Iqbal
Biographical article provided by the Official Pakistan Page.
+ Iqbal - Poet Philosopher of Pakistan
This site contains his entire works with English translations, as well as works on Iqbal. Unfortunately it's partly frames-crippled, partly crippled by dependence on Usemap menus.
+ Muhammad Iqbal-The Thinker Poet of Islam
Very graphics-heavy page from Islamica; slow in a graphics-based browser, difficult to navigate with a text-based browser.

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