Allamah Iqbal and Tasawwuf

Q: Can the scholarly work of Muhammad Iqbal and Moulana Fazlur Rahman Ansari in the field of Tasawuf be accepted?

A. Dr Iqbal, or commonly known as Allaamah Iqbal was a genius of a poet. In this there is no doubt. He earned the title of ‘the Poet of the East”. However, he was not a Sufi and he himself never claimed to follow any particular Sufi Order, though he had contact with Sufis and Ulema of his time. His field of speciality was poetry, and I believe Iqbal himself would not want to be remembered as anything but a poet of note.

As for his poetry, there are some sections that can be understood to address the spiritual needs of people, but when couched in poetic verse and prose, the spiritual effect is lost. On the other hand, Tasawwuf is a specialist subject that was promoted and advocated by people of high spiritual levels.

Moulana Fazlur-Rahman Ansaari was a scholar of repute in his time and rendered quite extensive service to Islam. However, like Dr Iqbal, his field was not Tasawwuf; instead he devoted himself to a presenting Islam to the modern mind, answering attacks on Islam, and inviting people to Islam. Moulana Ansaari originated from the Barelvi School of thought. If his expositions and discourses on Tasawwuf do not conflict with Qur’aan and Sunnah, or the practices of the true Sufis of old, then these may be used if the reader believes some benefit can be derived. But a word of caution, Tasawwuf is not merely an academic subject to be gleaned from books; this is more or a practical application that is learnt and imbibed from pious mentors.

Allah Ta’aala knows best.

Mufti Siraj Desai