Iqbal tried to invoke in the Muslims a collective ego, beyond the ego of the self, that could enable a collection of men as large as 70 million to act as one, single body, with a flux too big to be resisted and with a personality too strong to be altered.
Most of us remember the 1930 Allahabad Address with the following famous statement by the Allama:
‘Personally, I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government, within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.’
But there is indeed much more to understand from that address made by a man of profound wisdom, with in-depth vision in the history and philosophy of Islam, extensive study of contemporary issues, and active involvement in the political process of his time. The address covers the philosophical, the historical, and the futuristic prospects of the Muslims of the Subcontinent; in fact, it makes history by submitting the true, eye-witness sentiments that ran between the Muslims, the Hindus and the British at those sensitive times. Moreover, it gives us an insight into how things gradually grew up to the demand of ‘Pakistan’, something impossible even as an idea at the beginning.
The Muslims of the Subcontinent, 70 million at that time – a Muslim community bigger as compared with the number of Muslims living in any other Muslim state of that time – did not have a necessary idea of dividing their homeland, India, for the solution of the miseries that had surrounded them. To this time and even later, the Muslims were pushing only for separate electorates for Muslims according to their population in any province, so that they would eventually form governments in the Muslim majority provinces. In this background, Iqbal was a thinker who could look beyond the canvas of time, and remind the Muslim how they become a nation, and how being a distinct Muslim nation, it is their prerogative to have a political identity in addition to the social and cultural one.
Iqbal calls the time of his address to be one of the most critical moments in the history of Muslim political thought and activity in India. With the opening of his address, he made it clear upon his audience that the secular ideal of a state machine that works regardless of the belief of its people is not possible for Muslims, he said:
It cannot be denied that Islam, regarded as an ethical ideal plus a certain kind of polity – by which expression I mean a social structure regulated by a legal system and animated by a specific ethical ideal – has been the chief formative factor in the life-history of the Muslims of India.
He emphasized that unlike all other Islamic states that had wholesomely converted into Islam, India presented a unique case where Muslims have proved to be a separate and strongly integrated community within a swarm of different and opposing communities, he said: ‘Indeed it is not an exaggeration to say that India is perhaps the only country in the world where Islam, as a people-building force, has worked at its best.’
Iqbal made it clear that the Secular ideal was an inevitable conclusion of Christianity in Europe, as the Church functioned purely on an other-worldly basis; the Church had remained separate from the affairs of governance, and the other-worldly, divine intrusion of the Church into the affairs of the people could not go on forever. Therefore he said: ‘In Europe, Christianity was understood to be a purely monastic order, which gradually developed into a vast church organization… that there was no such polity (as is in Islam) associated with Christianity… If you begin with the conception of religion as complete other-worldliness, then what has happened to Christianity in Europe is perfectly natural.’
But in Islam, Iqbal reminds, the Mosque was the center of law and politics, from the day one. ‘Islam does not bifurcate the unity of man into an irreconcilable duality of spirit and matter… Man is not the citizen of a profane world to be renounced in the interest of a world of spirit situated elsewhere. To Islam, matter is spirit realising itself in space and time.’ And that ‘the nature of the Prophet’s religious experience, as disclosed in the Quran… is wholly different. It is not mere experience in the sense of a purely biological event, happening inside the experient and necessitating no reactions on its social environment. It is individual experience creative of a social order.’
Because Islam, as a belief system, regulates the social, economic and political life of its people, the Muslim community has to necessarily act as a polity, and therefore, it is not possible to take the Indian Muslim community as a mere community among communities. For this precise reason, the Muslims of India were struggling for the right of separate electorates from the beginning, and were not compromising to be just another one of the numerous Indian communities that had superficially merged in the homogeneity of Hindu India.