Muslim Identity and theory of Self: Where living Islam failed?

There are myriad philosophical manifestations over the concept of Identity. Feminists expounded with a mere approach, explaining the identity of an Individual as a human being or a servant of god, disregarding sexual classifications. Mystic readings bounded the concept in a complete negation of material world.  Then who am I? What is the basis of our life? How needs to be our relation with the material world? What is the responsibility of ‘self’ towards the nation and society? These are some paragons needed to be answered for realizing the fundamental basis of our Identity. The philosophy of Muhammed iqbal had succeeded, in a sense, in overcoming the philosophical challenges of mysticism.

Who Am I?

‘The Secret of Life’ written by Allama Muhammed Iqbal has got wide acceptance over the knowledge seekers of Identity. By the concept of Khudi (Selfhood, individuality, personality) he tries to expos human as an animal that has its own basis and identity. Despite the reality, the pantheistic philosophy, finding the god in all beings may destruct the creativity of an individual. The thought of ‘Upanishad’ (A Hindu religious doctrine), elucidating life as an illusion and the material world as their playground is not so far from the ideology of pantheistic philosophy. The theory of self can be explained from two aspects.

  1. Life affirmation: it is a psychological state, giving certain existence to human being. It gives positive attitude, to involve in community development programmes.
  2. Life negation: According to those who pursue such aspects in their life may define the life as meaningless. They keep much distance from socio cultural affairs. It may demolish the tradition, civilization and intellectual mood of a community.

In real, those who respect the value of his own identity will only succeed to crack burning goals. Iqbal well symbolized this fact in his poems.

“Will there remain any lustre in the sun

If it grows indifferent to its rays”

The most fundamental thing in our life is to understand our own identity. Only when we began to change, the society intends to change. Allah says “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”(13-11)

Thus, when an individual supposed to bring change in his life, by understanding the reality of selfhood, he may succeed in his life.




Men and material world

In recent days, I came to know about some academic readings over the concept of Khayal (Imagination) of Ibn Arabi. Some writers find this theory in the film named ‘Arrival’. The film explores the life as a mere illusion. But, so jockey, some finds the theory of Khayal in the theme of this film. I never felt anything except sadness upon this mystical reading. Does the life is a mere dream, as realised by the friend mentioned, from the transactions of Ibn Arabi books? Qurans stand is different. “And we did not create the heavens and earth and that between them in play. “ (44-38)

“Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are you [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire. “(3-191)

Actually, ethical thoughts defining the material world, living aside us, as a mere illusion is, indeed, meaningless. The material world is so important for the identity to realise its positive and negative aspects. We can take a simple dialogue in usage from our academic life to explicate the above mentioned reality. “Secondary result is nothing significant in our career. Under graduation decides our future”. If one who then neglects the proceedings in secondary life will, how be able to crack the entrance to better universities. Like what, interpreting the eternal world as the real meaning of life is not a falsehood. But the material world is the real workshop to get better posts in the eternal world. Thus this world acts a mediator between men and eternal world.

Then why the men neglect the reality of the material world? Here it feels great to quote some thoughts of Plato, saying “world is a shadow of real external world”. The Greek philosopher explains the sensuous world as a mere shadow of ideological world. Plotinus also followed the same ideology. Such thoughts were then migrated to Sufi doctrines. As such thoughts destruct the creativity of an individual; Muhammed Iqbal opposed him with a rough language. He argues that Plato forget the identity of human while travelling through the ideological world. According to Iqbal, world was not a mere illusion. The secret of life was not completely in the hereafter world. Besides, the success of life embodies from desires and ones action to accomplish it.

Here, the notion of Aristotle is too interesting, as he defined human as a social animal. Muhammed Iqbal had also given emphasis on this vision.

“Devils may keep distance from society,

Besides, people touch the apex amidst society,

Society is built upon individual.”

The importance that Islam had given to social awareness is peerless. Allah says to take decisions through mutual consultations.

“And those who have responded to their lord and established prayer and whose affair is [determined by] consultation among themselves, and from what we have provided them, they spend. “(42-38)

“So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him]. “(3-159)

We can able to see such discourses in the Prophetic life. Once, one of the companion asked permission to be included in the warfare. Prophet replied whether he has parents being alive. He reacted, saying yes. Then prophet advised him to do good with parents and said that it was his Jihad (moral struggle). [Bhukari 140/6]

Here Prophet had given more importance to social affairs than the important veneration of Jihad. Let us take another example. One of the prophetic words elucidates the man who does worship in solitude for years as the best servant of god. Hades scholar Imam Navavi(r) explains so called hades in a different manner. He says “even though the textual meaning bequeathed importance to the notion of solitude, it needs to be imparted to a time where brutal persecutions conquer the epoch. The Islamic doctrines that give focus to the theory of loneliness needed to be read from a mystical background.

The Perception of Desire

Desire is the requisite to cover the destinations. Due to its variations, regarding the change in time, it is so difficult to define the connotation of desire. It can be just explained as something that lies amidst instinct and volition. The religious doctrines of Buddha define desire as an enemy of individual. Besides, Islam motivates the perception of desire. Allah says,

“And at the sky – how it is raised? And at the mountains – how they are erected? And at the earth – how it is spread out? So remind, [O Muhammad]; you are only a reminder“


What we need to desire is an important question. While writing this, the words of William Shakespeare penetrate into the heart. “All may have desire, it is a casual phenomenon”. Hamlet defines the meaning of so called sentence as desire needed to be beneficial apart from mere aspirations.

From where did the so seen traditions, innovations and civilizations were born? What was the multi brain worked behind it? The answers may assemble in a single expression named ‘desire’. Conferring to Iqbal explicated, like what the unavailability of hotness deplete the fire; the absence of desire may eat up the progress of life.

“Life is in finding mysteries,

Its origin is in desires,

Let it be alive in hearts,

Else it may turn as tombs”.

One cannot win only with desires. When it became cast-off in our doings, success will be gained. Modern world depicts lots of dogmas upon the concept of love. Muhammad Iqbal never intends to bound love in metaphysical attributes. Rumi’s thoughts also support those beliefs. He expounded love as the bedrock of world peace (Masnavi).

Apart from desires, it is also important to have actions equal to it. The son of rich man who inherits his father’s heirs is an asker. The Hindu theory of Karma and Muslim prohibition of Riba(interest) elucidates the same conception of action. Muhammed Iqbal says us to be like a falcon. It is courageous. Acting self as a labour it earns food. It is a flesh looming bird that had broad visions to tackle his prey.

“Ask Khizr, what is the secret of life,

He would say, every object lives by incomplete endeavours”.


Muhammed Shafeeque CM is a freelance writer pursuing M.A in Economics from the University of Calicut:


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