I regard Allama Mohammed Iqbal as one of the greatest Muslim scholars ever lived and I’ve based my opinion on some of his work I’ve read. To be a scholar you have to go beyond the literal into the world of reasoning and innder understanding not only from the primary source (Quran) but also other sources including observations and experiences. You may have a great command of Arabic but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will understand Quran or even fraction of it as clearly evident in certain parts of the globe. Take for example the word TAQDIR, the meaning of which is greatly misunderstood by vast majority of Muslims, according to Iqbal and Quran, the meaning is completely different. This is what he has to say in his “Reconstruction …”:
The Quran “speaks of four Divine ways governing all creation and so also man, viz. God’s creating a thing (khalaqa), making it complete (fa sawwa), assigning a destiny to it or determining its nature (qaddara) and guiding it to its fulfilment (fa hada).
Pure time, then, as revealed by a deeper analysis of our conscious experience, is not a string of separate, reversible instants; it is an organic whole in which the past is not left behind, but is moving along with, and operating in, the present. And the future is given to it not as lying before, yet to be traversed; it is given only in the sense that it is present in its nature as an open possibility.
It is time regarded as an organic whole that the Qur’«n describes as Taqdir or the destiny – a word which has been so much misunderstood both in and outside the world of Islam. Destiny is time regarded as prior to the disclosure of its possibilities. It is time freed from the net of causal sequence – the diagrammatic character which the logical understanding imposes on it. In one word, it is time as felt and not as thought and calculated. If you ask me Time regarded as destiny forms the very essence of things. As the Qur’«n says: ‘God created all things and assigned to each its destiny.’
The destiny of a thing then is not an unrelenting fate working from without like a task master; it is the inward reach of a thing, its realizable possibilities which lie within the depths of its nature, and serially actualize themselves without any feeling of external compulsion. Thus the organic wholeness of duration does not mean that full-fledged events are lying, as it were, in the womb of Reality, and drop one by one like the grains of sand from the hour-glass. If time is real, and not a mere repetition of homogeneous moments which make conscious experience a delusion, then every moment in the life of Reality is original, giving birth to what is absolutely novel and unforeseeable. ‘Everyday doth some new work employ Him’, says the Quran. To exist in real time is not to be bound by the fetters of serial time, but to create it from moment to moment and to be absolutely free and original in creation. In fact, all creative activity is free activity. Creation is opposed to repetition which is a characteristic of mechanical action. That is why it is impossible to explain the creative activity of life in terms of mechanism. Science seeks to establish uniformities of experience, i.e. the laws of mechanical repetition. Life with its intense feeling of spontaneity constitutes a centre of indetermination, and thus falls outside the domain of necessity. Hence science cannot comprehend life. The biologist who seeks a mechanical explanation of life is led to do so because he confines his study to the lower forms of life whose behaviour discloses resemblances to mechanical action. If he studies life as manifested in himself, i.e. his own mind freely choosing, rejecting, reflecting, surveying the past and the present, and dynamically imagining the future, he is sure to be convinced of the inadequacy of his mechanical concepts.
The above text is thought provoking and a bit difficult to grasp. My conclusion from Iqbal’s above explanation is two fold (regarding time and destiny):
1. With Allah past, present and future are all intertwined – they are one indivisible whole, no separation!
2. Destiny (Taqdir) has infinite possibilities, everyone of which is written (as the Quran says ‘written in a book’ – not a book as in paper book but think of it as a QUANTUM COMPUTER). The destiny you achieve is strived for or has to be ACTUALIZED. So within man’s inner (potential) Allah has given him the WILL (or FREEWILL, NO COMPULSION) to ACTUALIZE his destiny because every possibility is WRITTEN, as past, present and future are one and He KNOWS the outcome of every choice, every possibility BEFORE it happens. Not sure if it makes sense but fatalism which is being practiced today in the Muslim world is a non-Quranic concept and I am inclined to agree with Iqbal’s interpretation. There are of course other interpretations which you are free to follow but a scholarly knowledge of certain people should not be re-missed. I wish we could know the Quran like Allama Iqbal knew instead of what is being witnessed today.
Written by my good friend – Farakh Rafique