Ahmed Afzaal

Reconstruction: Preface (2)

Having written the first three sentences, Iqbal now anticipates another question from his reader. He can guess that the mention of religious experience has led the reader’s mind toward the mystical tradition in Islam, sometimes called Sufism. Since religious experience has always been the special domain of mystics, it would be natural for the reader to raise the following question: If the cultivation of religious experience is really as important as you say it are, shouldn’t we ask the Sufis to guide us in dealing with the predicament you’ve just described? Without stating the question in so many words, Iqbal responds as follows:

The more genuine schools of Sufism have, no doubt, done good work in shaping and directing the evolution of religious experience in Islam; but their latter-day representatives, owing to their ignorance of the modem mind, have become absolutely incapable of receiving any fresh inspiration from modem thought and experience. They are perpetuating methods which were created for generations possessing a cultural outlook differing, in important respects, from our own.

Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religion Thought in Islam, p. xliii
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Reconstruction: Preface (1)

I would now like to share my understanding of the brief note that Iqbal added to the published version of his lectures, under the title “Preface.” It begins with a short statement that is both simple and profound at the same time:

The Qur’an is a book which emphasizes “deed” rather than “idea.”

Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p. xliii

I have previously written a commentary on this sentence, which can be found here and here. Iqbal is unequivocally acknowledging, at the very beginning, that thoughts and ideas (and therefore beliefs) do not constitute the topmost priority from the perspective of the Qur’an. Instead, the Qur’an emphasizes “deed.” In my earlier commentary, I argued that the word “deed” is Iqbal’s shorthand for what he calls “the essence of religion,” and is essentially synonymous with “faith.” (Notice that the very next sentence uses the phrase “religious faith.”)

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What Determines Learning Capacity?

The insight and understanding that a reader can acquire from a particular book, especially a challenging one—such as the Reconstruction—will depend upon the reader’s “learning capacity,” which, in turn, is determined by three main factors.

The first factor that determines your learning capacity is your prior knowledge, i.e., everything (including facts, opinions, memories, attitudes, beliefs, etc.) that already exist in your mind. Your mind, after all, is not a blank slates; it is filled with all kinds of data that inevitably affect the quality of your engagement with what you’re reading.

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