Are Muslims "intoxicated" with the West?

Published January 9th, 2011 - 05:26 GMT
The sun may rise in the east, but according to this writer Muslims are still fascinated by the West.
The sun may rise in the east, but according to this writer Muslims are still fascinated by the West.

During Pakistani poet and philosopher Mohamed  Iqbal’s times, the Arab World was in the process of erosion. A number of Arab countries were under European domination. The countries of the Ottoman Empire were also looking for their separate identity. Iqbal criticised this tendency bitterly.

According to Iqbal, Arab consolidation was in unity. He declared nationalism as a danger for Islam. Do not create a society based on family or race etc. Islam believes in centrality. In this society the hearts of the people are not connected to a particular country or short-term political interests. Instead, they are linked directly to the beloved Prophet (PBUH).   

He disliked the concept of nationalism not just for the people of the sub-continent but also for the Arabs. He mentioned this concept as a curse. The countries which accepted the European politics for individual identity came under the European dominance not only politically but also in the lifestyle. Iqbal as a creative artist  believed that nations grow with creativity.

For creativity, one must abstain from following blindly others. The consolidation of life is in creativity and not in following others or the social trends. If a person does not follow others and in the process commits mistakes, he is still in benefit. In his poetic style, Iqbal even accepts those sins which touch the height of creativeness.

When he looks at the Arab World, he becomes worried that the Muslims have abandoned their creativeness and are following others. Expressing his views with respect to the Arab nationalism, he said that the Turks deserved to be supported against the British in the hour of trial. But when the Turks followed the West, he criticised them.


When the wedding ceremony of an Egyptian ruler King Farouk was arranged in Western style, Iqbal criticised it. He declared it as an indication of Muslim downfall and said:  “Only the creative power is the soul of life’s constitution, culture and society of a nation – creative power is needed”.

In Iqbal’s view treading in the steps of the Europeans could give nothing to the Arabs. The European culture do not have the capacity to give life to Iran or Arabia, it is close to its own death so if the Arabs leave this trend and adopt their original simple living with creativity –– they can become leaders of the world. In order to cure this pain he looks at the Islamic world. The closest was his won country, undivided India, which was in chains of slavery.


When Turkey opted for advancement, it destroyed the Khilafat and started following the European footsteps. Iran was still in search of identity. In these circumstances, he cried: 

“Turk, Persian, Arab intoxicated with Europe 
and in the throat of each the fish hook of Europe”. 
Giving details of this situation, Iqbal describes in a melancholic way: 

“The East and the West are free, but the Muslims are slaves of aliens. Their powers and capabilities are being utilised by others. Living your life according to others’ wishes is not a dream, it is death –– permanent death. And this death has not been imposed upon us by any external force. Its seeds are developing in our own soul.
“East and West are free, but we are slaves of others; 
our bricks go to the building of others’ mansions.

To live according to the wish of others 
is not deep slumber; it is eternal death”.


This condition of the Islamic World, according to him, is just like the daughter of the chief of Bani Tae tribe who was arrested in a battle and brought before the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Her head was low in shame. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) put his shawl on her bare head. Iqbal is pleading to the Prophet (PBUH). We are in a worse position than the girl of Bani Tae – We have become bare-headed before the world.


“The daughter of the chieftain of Tai was taken prisoner in battle

And brought into that exalted presence;
Her feet in chains, unveiled,
And her neck bowed with shame.
When the Prophet saw that the poor girl had no veil,
He covered her face with his own mantle.
We are more naked than that lady of Tai,
We are unveiled before the nations of the world.”

Iqbal says that the Arabs have lost their selfhood. Thus their soul has no energy. Their blood has cooled down. The racial qualities of the Arabs were initially a benefit for Islam. Now they have turned harmful. The Satanic forces have surrounded them. Iqbal could also hear the order of Satin which he was giving to his political children.

He suggest two levels for the solution of this problem. At the first level, Iqbal elaborates Islamic concept of nationalism. Iqbal addresses the Arab leaders and asks: Which nation was the first to be taught the lesson that allegiance to Mohamed meant abandoning all old relationships? It is clear that this point was first of all made clear to the Arabs. Migration of the Prophet proved the point that the Arabia got honour and respect only due to the Prophethood  of Mohamed (PBUH). Therefore, existence and progress of Arabia was in the Prophethood of  Mohamed. And the message of the Prophet is not nationalism.
At the second level, Iqbal has addressed the youth of Arabia. He, very rightly, believes that nations grow due to their youth. Therefore, through the Palestinian Arab, he has addressed all the Arab youth :


You must concentrate on the development of your selfhood. Selfhood of nations can give them freedom from mental and physical slavery. 


Then he addresses the Arab soul. In Javed Nama (published 1932) there appears a Sudani darwish and says to the Arab soul. 

In simple words he says; “O Arab soul!  Wake up. Create new times like your forefathers. Rekindle the passion in your heart which has departed. Bring back the time which has passed”.  

By Zahid Munir Amir a visiting professor in Urdu & Pakistan Studies at Al-Azhar University, Cairo.




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