Christianity describes God as love; Islam as power. How shall we decide between the two conceptions? Extracts from Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s book “Stray Reflections”

The great philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal used to write notes on different topics in his notebook. The poet himself gave the title “Stray Reflections” to this notebook. These notes are reflections of the books which Iqbal read during 1910 to 1932 as a student and thinker. “Although we may disagree with some of his ideas, this notebook enables us to glimpse the liveliness, richness, and fertility of Iqbal’s mind,” says, Dr Iqbal, the compilor of the book. [Stray Reflections: the private notebook of Muhammad Iqbal, p. 161].

I have selected some quotes from the rare book for the benefits of the students. [Q.N.]

A Dialogue
Heart – “It is absolutely certain that God does exist.”

Heart – “So much the better my Aristotle.

The Power of Belief
Belief is a great power. When I see that a proposition of mine is believed by another mind, my own conviction of its truth is thereby immensely increased.

Right and Might
Philosophy is the logic of right, history is the logic of might. The cannons of this later logic appear to be more sound than those of her sister logic.

Individuals and nations die; but their children, i.e. ideas never die.

Waiting for the Mehdi
Give up waiting for the Mehdi – the personification of power. Go and create him.

Self Control
Self control in individuals builds families, in communities it builds empires.

To Reconstruct this World
Given character and healthy imagination, it is possible to reconstruct this world of sin and misery into a virtiable paradise.

Success in Life
It is determination, not brains, that succeeds in life.

Poets and Politicians
Nations are born in the hearts of poets; they prosper and die in the hands of politicians.

To Political Life
True political life begins not with the claiming of rights, but with the doing of duties.

Think of the Devil
Think of the Devil and he is sure to appear. This is equally true of God.

Islam is not a religion in the ancient sense of the word. It is an attitude – an attitude, that is to say, of Freedom and even of defiance to the Universe. It is really a protest against the entire outlook of the ancient world. Briefly, it is the discovery of Man.

The Man with a Single Idea
If you wish to be heard in the noise of this world, let your soul be dominated by a single idea. It is the man with a single idea who creates political and social revolutions, establishes empires and gives law to the world.

Experience and Knowledge
Every experience evokes something from the soul of man. Even the experience of sin will reveal some aspect of your soul of which you were not cognizant before. Experience, then, is a double source of knowledge; it gives you an insight into what is without you, as well as an insight into what is within you.

The Value of the Moment
I judge the worth of my days, months and years from the experiences which they bring to me; and sometimes I am surprised to find that a single moment is more valuable than a whole year.

The Most Charming Thing on Earth
A woman of superb beauty with a complete absence of self-consciousness is to me the most charming thing on God’s earth.
*This reflection was published in New Era, Lucknow, in 1917.
“…is to me the most charming thing” was changed to “is probably the most charming thing” – KAS.

A Successful Man
Recognise your limitations, estimate your capacities and your success in life is assured.

To Become A Public Leader
If you wish to become a public leader you ought to know how to flirt with the Dame Public. Entertain her with platitudes and, if necessary, with lies.

The working power of an idea depends on the force of the personality in which it embodies itself. Muhammad, Buddha and Jesus Christ are the great embodiments of the ideas of Equality, yet Islam is the only force in the world which is still working in the direction of Equality.

Hegel, Goethe, Ghalib, Bedil and Wordsworth
I confess I owe a great deal to Hegel, Goethe, Mirza Ghalib, Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil and Wordsworth. The first two led me into the “inside” of things; the third and fourth taught me how to remain oriental in spirit and expression after having assimilated foreign ideals of poetry, and the last saved me from atheism in my student days.

The Future of Afghanistan

The verdict of history is that buffer states have never been able to form themselves into great political units. So was the case with Syria – a buffer state between the Empire of Rome and that of the Persians. It seems difficult to forecast the future of Afghanistan.

All nations accuse us of fanaticism. I admit the charge – I go further and say that we are justified in our fanaticism. Translated in the language of biology fanaticism is nothing but the principle of individuation working in the case of group. In this sense all forms of life are more or less fanatical and ought to be so if they care for their collective life. And as a matter of fact all nations are fanatical. Criticize an Englishman’s religion, he is immovable; but criticize his civilization, his country or the behaviour of his nation in any sphere of activity and you will bring out his innate fanaticism. The reason is that his nationality does not depend on religion; it has a geographical basis – his country. His fanaticism then is justly roused when you criticize his country. Our position, however, is fundamentally different. With us nationality is a pure idea; it has no material basis. Our only rallying point is a sort of mental agreement in a certain view of the world. If then our fanaticism is roused when our religion is criticised, I think we are as much justified in our fanaticism as an Englishman is when his civilisation is denounced. The feeling in both cases is the same though associated with different objects. Fanaticism is patriotism for religion; patriotism, fanaticism for country.

I confess I am a bit tired of metaphysics. But whenever I happen to argue with people I find that their arguments are always based on certain propositions which they assume without criticism. I am, therefore, driven to examine the value of these propositions. The practical in all its shapes drives me back to the speculative. It seems to me to be impossible to get rid of metaphysics altogether.

Forms of Government
“Let fools fight for the forms of government,” says Alexander Pope. I cannot agree with this political philosophy. To my mind, government, whatever its form, is one of the determining forces of a people’s character. Loss of political power is equally ruinous to nations’ character. Ever since their political fall the Musalmans of India have undergone a rapid ethical deterioration.
Of all the Muslim communities of the world they are probably the meanest in point of character. I do not mean to deplore our former greatness in this country, for, I confess, I am almost a fatalist in regard to the various forces that ultimately decide the destinies of nations. As a political force we are perhaps no longer required; but we are, I believe, still indispensable to the world as the only testimony to the absolute Unity of God – Our value among nations, then, is purely evidential.

The God of Islam
Christianity describes God as love; Islam as power. How shall we decide between the two conceptions? I think the history of mankind and of the universe as a whole must tell us as to which of the two conceptions is truer. I find that God reveals Himself in history more as power than love. I do not deny the love of God! I mean that, on the basis of our historical experience, God is better described as power.