Allama Iqbal’s Vision Of Khudi (The Self) -The Pristine Glory Of Man: A Conceptual Outline – Speech


Tilismi bood wa adm,naam hai jiska Adam
Khuda ka raaz hai,qadir nhi hai jis pe sukhan” .

(The talisman wrought from mud and clay, whom we give the name of man, is mystery known to God Alone, its essence true we cannot scan).

Esteemed Chair Prof. Margoob Banhali, Eminent Iqbalian Scholars-Prof. Ubaid ur Rehman Hashmi, Prof. B.A. Nehvi, Director IICP, Prof. T. Fazil, my teacher in the audience, Dr Pirzada Amin, Scholars and friends…

Sir Allama Mohammad Iqbal
Sir Allama Mohammad Iqbal

The topic of this joint paper with Amir Suhail Wani is “Allama Iqbal’s Vision of Khudi -The Pristine Glory of Man: A Conceptual Outline.


The central argument of the paper is that Iqbal’s man is not an amoral biped, i.e. a two legged creature devoid of values, norms or ethics. The man (Adam) for Iqbal is not merely the centre of universe but the universe itself. Iqbal is obsessed to achieve the man’s lost glory back as Iqbal wants man to regain the original noble heights and for that he gives him a tool. I.e. Khudi (the self).

This work is though not an exclusive look at Iqbal’s concept of Khudi, rather the crux of the matter is to understand how Iqbal envisioned Khudi as an illumination to decorate man for spiritual, conscious and moral heights. The fact is that Iqbal’s being the Quranic poet, glorifies Adam, and treats him a special being and reminding him of his being the plume of the creation as mentioned in the Quranic lexicon.

If we have to understand man in the Iqbalian purview, we have to take the Route of the philosophy of Khudi to understand how Iqbal emancipates and empowers the Juzz(part) to realize the Kull (total). Khudi is what? Simply a combination of three elements, I.e. Irfan-e-zaat(to know one self), Kayinaat ki hakikat ka idraak,(Knowing the reality of universe) Aur Khuda ko pehchanana(Knowing God). It is khudi or the Self that is the root of all existence. The philosophy of self, selfhood or Falsafa-i-Khudi (Philosphy of Self) to be concise is an emblem of Allama’s message and a one word substitute of his entire philosophical discourse. In Iqbalian pristine “Khudi” in simple words symbolizes realization of self, i.e. recognizing one’s ego, one’s self-sufficiency, and the divine strands that connect creation with the creator. Khudi as Allama held “means to realize that man has a particle of divine light within him whose discovery can escort man to the apogees of creation and whose negligence can confine him to the class of amoral bipeds.

What prompted Hazrat Allama to emphasise upon khudi was mainly to overcome the stagnation (Jamood) that had crept into the ummah (the Muslim world) after the collapse of Caliphate. Iqbal in true sense arrived at an important conjecture of self and thus forced conscious beings to ponder over the very goal, reason and cause of the universe and man’s very being. Though his philosophical or sociological dimensions are diverse and debatable however, they all seem to converge at his concept of selfhood, which is the launch pad as well as the hallmark of his message. Allama Iqbal’s conception about the reality of human personality and the pedestal that man occupies in the hierarchy of creation lead him to the realization of macrocosm-microcosm apposition (that is, man is micro-universe and the shadow of external universe) and gave birth to the philosophy of selfhood. This synthesis was largely catalysed by Allama’s approach to the tri-axial nature of man. This is to say in what relation man stands with respect to his outer world (outward axis) his inner-self (inward axis) and his God (upward axis). This analysis trio of mind, body and spirit (as it is termed in philosophy) landed Iqbal into the realization that in this schema of tri-laterality man occupies prior co-ordinate. (That man is bestowed high priority in comparison to universe) where from other two elements, i.e. the universe and God can be assessed and analyzed.

The notion of man’s grandeur is as old as the universe itself as the fact is that angels were asked to pay homage to Adam and the one who refused faced the ultimate wrath. The theme gained so much impetus and attention historically that plethora of opinions took their shape in an attempt to locate the man’s coordinates in the hierarchy of creations.

Some of these views like that of pantheism maintained unity of creation and put the creation and creator on same footings. Still others reduced the status of man to that of a mere biological being. In the entire line of discussion there has been philosophically speaking a rift between different schools of thought and in their methodology when it comes to answering the questions about man. Today consciously or unconsciously, with a relative difference in the East and the West a radical shift of reference from the Divine or ultimate authority to man is being made. Today, largely for all practical purposes, man is the measure of all things. In the modern age, the sense of human autonomy is very deep, without delinking the relevance of God. In the East, the destination of man largely remains spiritual.

In his philosophy Allama resurfaced the pedestal of man and introduced him to his infinite potential. For Allama the man is bestowed with high priority in comparison to universe. It turns out that if understood properly, this philosophy aims at introducing man to his real self and to project him as a vicergent from heavens to earth. Allama’s philosophy is in its right an unbeaten attempt to synthesize a societal set up whose foundations are strictly moral and spiritual as opposed to the mere binding of social interdependence. Man is central to his philosophy as Allama deems man as the crown of creation.

Now who is this Iqbalian man? Definitely The Mard-i-Moomin(The Ideal Man)

If we have to understand Iqbal’s real grandeur of man, we have to go through the path of Mard-i-Moomin(Ideal Man) and its characteristics and then only Iqbal’s conception of man can be understood in true sense.

Mard-i-Moomin, the real picture of, manhood as perceived by Iqbal is essentially spiritual in nature and stands above the physical, biological and psychological confines. “Mard -i-Moomin” despite earning world is least influenced by its glory. He doesn’t turn away from universe as Platonic concept demands but rather conquers it as demanded by Quranic dictions. On qualifying all these strenuous trials “Mard -i-Moomin” is blessed with a throne where his will becomes the will of God and his thoughts and acts reflect the divine plans. He is bestowed upon an authority, the authority of which Hazart Allama Iqbal says:

“Koi andaza kar i sakhta uskay zour-i-bazu ka
Nigah-e-mard-i- moomin se badal jaati hain taqdeerain”

(Can anyone even guess at the strength of his arm? By the glance of the man who is a true believer, even destiny is changed).

Iqbal very precisely gauged that in man there is implanted a divine corpuscle (Soul or consciousness that Iqbal pertinently terms Khudi) ,the blue-print of universe and in the depths of man’s inner-self lies encoded all the treasure of wisdom and information about every atom of universe(As maintained in Quran that “Allah bestowed Adam with total knowledge),Whose decoding Allama called as discovery of self or tameer-i-khudi. Allama Iqbal also acknowledged the relation of man with the divine world (Aalmi’ Arwah is the closest word to describe that hyper sensual universe) and also estimated the infinitude of potential, man is endowed with. In view of all these superfluous traits of man Iqbal thus wrote in closing poem “Hazrat Insaan” of his collection “Armugani Hijaz”,

“Agar maqsoodi qul mai hu tou muj se mawara kya hai
Meri hungama haaye nobanu ki Intihaa kya hai”.

(If i am the plume and purpose of all creation, then what lies beyond me? Is there any bound to my ever perpetual and evolving tendencies).

This couplet glibly encompasses and depicts the Allama’s picture of man and his insight regarding the potential of human nature besides it provides a tangible answer to all affiliated questions related to the purpose, destiny and reality of man.

Hamsaaya-e- jibreel-i-ameen, banda-e- khaki
Hai iska nashayman na Bukhara na badakhshan”

(This clay born man has kinship close to Jibreal-the trusted.His dwelling place is never a land or a clime).

The distinction of Iqbal lies in not only presenting a sketch of Mard-i-Moomin but also specifying the weltanschauung (“touch stone”) for such a canonical embodiment. Iqbal identifies Mard-i-Moomin as one who realizes, acknowledges and develops his “Khudi”. This khudi is the corner stone of Iqbalian philosophy and the minimum qualification demanded by Iqbal’s Mard-i-Moomin.

Iqbal’s Mard-i- Moomin is the ultimate manifestation of manhood and is pertinently seen as the ambassador of Allah. Secondly, this Mard-i-Moomin is a pragmatic equivalent of Quranic lexicon. Iqbalian concept of man is much comprehensive and multidimensional. Iqbal, when speaking on human existence and the “philosophy of self” maintains equipoise or equilibrium between endogenous and exogenous dimensions of human personality. In Iqbalian pristine man is seen as the cause of creation. Chronologically man was created at the conclusion of creation but teleologically it is man who directed the course of evolution. A microcosm in form, man is a macrocosm encompassing the entire cosmos in his bosom. Man is biological by nature but metaphysical by origin, chemical in composition but spiritual in essence. The man whom Allama talks of is one who successfully undertakes the construction of self and makes himself accordant with the divine scheme of creation. By the realization of self what is meant is that the man may realize his origin, his essence, his pedestal and the infinite capabilities he is endowed with. This realization of self Allama terms as ‘taemeer-i-khudi’ (construction of self). Allama’s Khudi, if translated in psychological language is an advanced form of ego. This ego, as Allama deemed, is not identical to soul in the trivial sense. Nor is it a rigid substance occupying space like a physical object, rather it lies beyond the realm of space-time fabric. Iqbal maintains that the reality of ego (self or consciousness) is too profound to be intellectualized and the present day psychology in beset with a number of hurdles to put the concept of khudi (The self) on experimental footing. Despite that, practical side of this philosophy is of such productive and pragmatic value that it compels us to accept it in its totality and pragmatic spirit.

It is worth to mind that the use of the word khudi or equivalently translated as ego as used by Iqbal is not, in any way related to the issue of pride, superiority complex or any other negative tendency and does not convey any other prevalent meaning of the word. Rather “Khudi” is a process of self-construction strictly according to Quranic prescriptions and the one who succeeds in this process of construction is deemed as ‘Mard-i-Moomin’. This ‘Mard-i-Moomin’ is Iqbal’s ideal man which is well symbolized by ‘Shaheen’ (Eagle) and is characterized by distinct spiritual and moral values. He is the trustee of universe and a treasure of secrets. Every corpuscle of human creation holds a secret in it and as such man is himself the biggest secret of universe.

Besides his spiritual, metaphysical, ontological and intellectual aspects the Iqbal’s message of self-discovery also attains prominence in an attempt to scrabble man’s own purpose and position in the arena of creatures. Iqbal does not regard self-discovery or the selfhood as a mere theoretical discourse but rather sees self (ego-hood) as actuality, which when developed, brings revolutionary changes and endows tremendous power to man. This selfhood not only enables man to develop his own ego by adopting different measures but also assists him in shaping the destiny of the universe and establishing the kingdom of God on earth in accordance with the special status of vicergency that man occupies in the plethora of creatures and for which he has been placed on the pedestal of “khalifatul Arz”(To govern the Land).It thus becomes obligatory and mandatory for man to discover his “self” so as to execute the expected commandments in desired format. Another prominent aspect of “self-discovery” as can be gauged by the following passage that Dr. Ali Shariati (Ali Shariati (1933-1977) was an Iranian revolutionary and sociologist) puts it in preface of his masterpiece work ‘Ma wa Iqbal’ (Dr. Shariati’s Masterpiece on Allama Iqbal), where he narrates the dialogue between Maulana Rumi and his master Shams Tabrezi, he writes, “we must first find our self. Jallaludin Rumi once said, “I put forth fourteen reasons to prove the existence of God to a group of people. Shams Tabriz responded me on behalf of God and adding that i should prove my own existence as God needs no proof. Shariati in this preview thus infers that “Shams’ advice is a general and lasting rule for understanding our “self” and who we are? And what we seek? Before speaking about God, religion, civilization, culture, etc”

Since man forms the prelude, interlude and conclusion of Iqbalian thought. Thus Allama by edification of his chosen theme of the self… proved his take on man’s glorification by not by him but by Allaha Himself. The ultimate aim of Khudi is love for humanity and khudi is the crux of allama, i.e. Azmat-e-Adam is Iqbal’s choicest and main theme.

Allama gives a spiritual call to the man to develop ‘‘The Self’’ at least through his beautiful Couplet in Bangi Dara:

Apne Mann Main doob kar paja surag-e-zindagi
Tu agar mera nhi banta ,na ban apna tou bann
(Delve into your soul and there seek our life’s buried tracks. Will you not be mine? Then be not mine, be your own right).

Lastly,I would like to say one thing,that it is not necessary to be urdu knowing or speaking always in urdu to pay true or loved tribute to Allama for Allama himself has transcended such linguistic boundaries,he belongs to us all irrespective of urdu or farsi or English speaking.We need to find and conceptualise Iqbal within us.The anchoring question remains do we really love the Hakim-ul-ummat?

Do we Really Love Iqbal?

It is heart touching when I notice even young Turkish Students in Delhi so obsessed and working so genuinely to glorify Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (a legendry Muslim theologian-1878-1960) and his mission and message, what they generally call Nursi Movement. I witness even Muslim Turkish youth organizing literary events like young Academicians conferences/debates or student meets in Turkey and fund Indian and other students to study, read and write on Nursi, even they raise funds from rich Turkish people to afford big conferences on Nursi and fund academics and students to read and speak on Nursi in literary functions simply to adore, pay tribute, run the mission, disseminate the Nursi’s literature free and propagate the Nursi movement even when out of their homeland. This obsession of such young Turks with Nursi makes me to compare our obsession, passion and love for Iqbal, who always felt proud to call himself the son of this soil.

Contrarily, I feel ashamed what as Kashmiris we have returned to Allama Iqbal-the legend whose heart not only palpitated for the valley, but who always aired and acted his concerns for the oppressed people of Kashmir and always took pride in saying:

‘Tanam Gilay Zi Khayabaan-e-Jannate Kashmir’

Today, what we have in turn produced is a plethora of “Iqbal readers” and plenty of “Hufaaz-e-Iqbal” who despite remembering and reciting his poetry, understand very little of it in real sense. We also have a majority of “Iqbal orators” who can eloquently speak on Iqbal. As a mark of tribute these people not only misinterpret Iqbal by adjusting his magnificent urging as per the demands of time and space, but also make use of derogatory rhetoric to beat their drum. We also have gradually developed an ideology better to be termed as Iqbalism, wherein Allama has been compared to every damn theme, even animals and sometimes even to police and CRPF (I read a long time ago). In an attempt to substantiate our arguments with Iqbalian thoughts, a very negative direction has been rendered to Iqbal Studies. A plethora of papers have been jotted down without any practical Iqbalian Vision, true interest, objective utility, original credibility and research orientation. The heartrending question is, are we especially as Kashmiris doing justice with Iqbal and shall Iqbal be happy with the pace of work done and progress made in his mission in Kashmir?

Further, are we really concerned about Iqbal and his thought and if yes, what have we done to spread what he called ‘His Noor-e-Baseerat’ even in our families not to talk of society. The message of Quran and Islam to which Allama devoted his whole life are rare in our lives. Our dichotomy reaches its heights when we simultaneously claim to love Iqbal but instead, do averse to his teachings. The practical void therefore leaves enough space for a prickly criticism and calls for a serious introspection especially for the Kashmiri youth.

We keep on reciting the poetry of Iqbal-e-Lahori but have we ever tried to explore Iqbal of Kashmir-the son of soil and is such a legendry Hakim-ul-Ummat known to every Kashmiri? If not who is accountable? In this context, it must be borne in mind that our aim in revisiting Iqbal should never be an attempt to canonize him. No matter how elegant his intellectual legacy stands, his word can never overtake the word of God. Nor is it aimed to present Iqbal in the preview of “hero worshipping”. Some people generally now a days put forth their bold blames that Iqbal is misconceived as a parallel to prophet hood, but as my mentor Prof. (Dr) Nehvi, an eminent Iqbalian scholar always laments and refutes such baseless claims as an emanation of ignorant minds thereby, reflecting the dearth of a realistic, full sprit and true Iqbal Shinasi.

We have deviated from his mission and forgotten the legend, who worked so tirelessly for the change and dreamt of the social and intellectual empowerment of the oppressed. Iqbal’s passion for weaving out the Unitarian ethos among all Muslims has been tarnished by us all in the politics of sectism, sectarian hatred, violence, intellectual backwardness and bankruptcy, identity and personality crisis, moral and spiritual corruption and what not. No doubt we have transformed and drawn our societies on material patterns, but having done so, we have also invited an argument as to what Iqbal aspired from us? Today, on Youm-e-Iqbal (135th birth anniversary), we have to really introspect about our Love for Iqbal. Today we may have attained individual economic autonomy, but we have registered a worst failure in surrendering our rich collective and cultural ethos grounded in high values and morality simply to secure in economic privileges.

The irony rather the remorse is, should we still treat Iqbal a proud Kashmiri or does our material drives and spiritual and intellectual decline with futile achievements tantamount to dishonor his unforgettable and towering persona because the truth is that we have failed Iqbal, turned so apathetic to him and ignored his path. By turning apathetic to such a charismatic figure we have been apathetic to Kashmir and to whole humanity.

Thank you….

(This speech in the form of presentation was delivered in the last session of Iqbal aur Azmat-e-Adam Conference, organized by Iqbal Institute of Culture & Philosophy, University of Kashmir ,Jammu and Kashmir State (India) on 9-10 November, 2012).

Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based Sociologist and Social and Political analyst.He writes his columns for various reputed international and national media groups. He has been writing on South Asia's Socio-political realities especially on Kashmir sociology and Conflict Situation at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is a Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and Associate Editor since January 2014. His recent publications include his three books (1)"Kashmir-Yearning for Peace: A Socio-Political history of Uncertainty and Chaos,2016" (ISSN: 978-3-659-55971-6), (2)'Social Science Research in Conflict Zones,2017' (ISBN: 978-620-2-47937- 0) and (3)'Tibetan Refugees in India: Struggle to Survive,2018' ( ISBN 81-8324-919-1)]..

2 thoughts on “Allama Iqbal’s Vision Of Khudi (The Self) -The Pristine Glory Of Man: A Conceptual Outline – Speech

  • May 23, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    Its an amazing explanation for Iqbal’s conception on self or “khudi”.

  • February 26, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Excellent article. Very thought provoking. As someone who grew up in Pakistan listening to Iqbal and yet never appreciating the relevance, beauty and power of his message in transforming individuals and societies, I regret the decades of my life wasted in pointless pursuits. Now having lived in the West for a better part of life, I have been awakened to Iqbal’s message and am trying desperately to understand and construct my “Khudi”. I wish the author would suggest further resources (reading and online) for people like myself to help them understand the true Iqbal and his message.


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