The key point in Iqbal’s educational philosophy

The key point in Iqbal’s educational philosophy

For any meaningful discussion on Iqbal’s educational philosophy it is essential that we should first try to understand his views on man’s nature, and his ultimate destiny. According to Iqbal, the “essential nature of man, then, consists in will, and not intellect or understanding”. He regards human will as “a germ of infinite power, the gradual enfoldment of which must be the object of all human activity”. In his view, “a strong will in a strong body is the ethical ideal of is Islam”. Criticising the educational system of his times he says very emphatically:

“I venture to say, that the present system of education in this country is not at all suited to us as a people. It is not true to our genius as a nation, it tends to produce an un-Muslim type of character, it is not determined by our national requirements, it breaks entirely with our past, and appears to proceed on the false assumption that the ideal of education is the training of ‘human intellect rather than human will.”

The key point in Iqbal’s educational philosophy, therefore, is the training of human will.

PERSONALITY: Man’s personality can be defined as a combination of various wills held together by a unity of directive purposes

Human personality can, therefore, be conceived as a combination of these forces which admit of various arrangements. These various arrangements/formations of the wills are referred to as Shakila by the Holy Qur’an which determine the value of man’s actions:

“Every man acteth after his own manner but your Lord knoweth who is best guided in his path'” (xvii. 84).

One definite arrangement in which the transcendental (more specifically, religious) wills assume the governing or directive role is the real personality of man. Such personality is bestowed on man as his potential nature, the actualization of which must be the highest aim of life and hence the ultimate aim of education. To achieve his real personality man has to make effort and various wills have to be arranged in such a manner that the will to love God becomes the supreme overriding will and all other wills are governed and disciplined by it. When a personality with such will-attitudes is constituted, man takes a new birth. In fact, only such a personality is worth the name of personality as the Holy Qur’an warns:

“And be not ye as those who forgot Allah, therefore He caused them to forget their souls (personalities)”

NEOMYSTICISM OF SCIENCE: Thus, according to Iqbal, science is important for two reasons: (i) It bestows power on man which enables him to capture the material world, and (ii) it sharpens his insight for a closer and better appreciation of God.

Science and technology, therefore, assume an extremely important place in Iqbal’s philosophy of education. He regards the scientific observer of Nature as a kind of mystic seeker in the act of prayer; because scientific observation of Nature keeps us in close contact with the behaviour of Reality.”

“The quest after a nameless nothing, as disclosed in Neo-Platonic mysticism be it Christian or Muslim—cannot satisfy the modem mind which with its habits of concrete thinking demands a concrete living experience of God.”

The education of science thus become a God-seeking, God-appreciating and God-finding activity in the educational system of Iqbal which “disenthralls man from fear giving him a source of power to master his environment”. He, therefore, proposes an educational sys-tem in which “religion and science may discover hitherto unsuspected mutual harmonies” and are no longer antagonistic.

SPIRITUAL DEMOCRACY: Iqbal views democracy as the most important aspect of Islam. “Islam,” says he, “has a horror of personal authority. We regard it as inimical to the enfoldment of human individuality.” According to him, the “best form of Government for such a [Muslim] community is democracy, the ideal of which is to let man develop all the possibilities of his nature by allowing him as much freedom as practicable”. He however, confesses that the Muslims with democracy as their political ideal could do nothing for the political improvement of Asia and that their “democracy lasted only for 30 years and disappeared with their political expansion”. He pays rich tribute to the British empire which spread this civilising factor with missionary spirit in the political evolution of mankind. But at the same time he also maintains that democracy in Europe could not fully bloom and soon degenerated into an instrument of exploitation.

“The idealism of Europe never became a living factor in her life, and the result is a perverted ego seeking itself through mutually intolerant democracies whose sole function is to exploit the poor in the interest of the rich.”

Our educational system must, therefore, provide instruction, training and practice in the Islamic concepts of freedom and equality in order to bring about that kind of “spiritual democracy which is the ultimate aim of Islam.”

Briefly speaking, the central theme of Iqbal’s educational philosophy is to produce an Islamic type of personality and character through the training of human will so that they can play their destined role in the world in meeting the challenge of this age. According to him, “humanity needs three things today:

[i] A spiritual interpretation of the universe

[ii] Spiritual emancipation of the individual

[iii] Spiritual democracy


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