| Welcome to Global Village Space

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Iqbal’s Concept of Self

November 9 is being observed as "Iqbal Day" in honour of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who continues to be revered worldwide for his poetry and works.

November 9 is being observed as “Iqbal Day” in honour of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who continues to be revered worldwide for his poetry and works. The idea of Khudi (self), which denotes both individuation and totality, is one of Iqbal’s most recurrent themes in his writings. It demands deliberate action and self-aggrandizement while also increasing the value of human existence by bringing it closer to the divine. Muhammad Iqbal’s ideas are founded on the intrinsic worth and significance of human life. The idea of the khudi, or self, lies at the heart of his philosophy and is somewhat comparable to the Quran’s idea of the rooh (soul or divine spark).

Self-awareness is the first step of man’s struggle toward finding meaning and purpose in life. This requires an onerous effort of delving deeply into one’s inner self and discovering his truly natural inclination toward bridling the direction of his life. Human beings are basically emotive beings. Their lives are hugely controlled and directed by emotions attached to the achievement or unfulfillment of their self-created desires and ambitions. While going on the journey of goals, a man is so captivated by the imagined beauty of the destination that he keeps his eyes on the external world most of the time and forgets to look inside where the inspiration, direction and game plan reside.


The careful calibration of self is the most significant prerequisite for one’s proficient pursuit of goals. Iqbal, being the protagonist of the substantial role of the inner voice in administering man’s conduct on the journey of societal revolution, asserted the idea of recognition and awareness of one’s genuine self to know and bring into play his real potential. His concept of self revolves around the creation and revitalization of self-identity, its empowerment and reinvigoration, protection and defence, and its usage and utilization.

For Iqbal, the quality of one’s life is determined by the magnitude of self he constructs. He defined ‘self’ in the following words:

“Life is like a shell and the self is like a drop of spring cloud’s rain,

It is unbecoming of a shell if it cannot turn the drop into a pearl.”

(Zarb-e-Kaleem-025) Hayat-e-Abadi

The Growth of Self

The vitality of life is linked to the growth of the self. The more meticulously the self is nurtured the better it handles the direction of life. The growth of the self is actually the procedure of instructing the instinct to provide it with the capability to control and command the decisions of life so that it better serves the divine purpose which is to revolutionize human society by implementing heavenly injunctions.

Holy Prophet (PBUH) led one of the antique and ignorant societies on earth with his belief in self and divine forces. He then brought up a class of close companions who had to steer society after his departure. He taught them how to train the self to observe, proselytize and promulgate the godly teachings and free human societies from heinous sins. They trained the self in such an efficient way that no worldly problem could stop them from pursuing their goals.

The Protection of Self

The protection of the self involves safeguarding the intentionally internalized personal principles that one stands for. Humans are born with first nature which is the purest form of the way nature creates them. This nature has to be reconstructed and restructured in accordance with the requirement of one’s motives as one grows through the phases of life. If not done skilfully, this can make him an existentialist whose uncontrollable freedom can make him disastrous for society.

Read More: Pakistan marks birth anniversary of poet Iqbal

In order to lead human groups efficiently, humans over the period deconstruct their first nature and replace it with second nature which undergoes repeated processes of reconstruction that crave human personality, thereby bringing him little by little close to perfection. However, perfection is never his intent but continuous improvement. The internalization of second nature involves the restructuring of self and redefining of principles. It passes through three prisms; imagination, action and repetition. This lengthy and exhaustive process builds man’s character and bristles him with traits like strong self-control and excessive nerve ability which make him capable to withstand the tempests of times turning him into an unbreakable man.

“If the self can preserve, protect and sustain itself on its own,

Then it is possible that even death cannot wipe you out.”

(Zarb-e-Kaleem-025) Hayat-e-Abadi

The effective taming of the self ignites the fire of passion inside hearts and the thirst for doing great works. It bestows man with the capability to stand strong and fearless through the toughest of ordeals. Even huge tasks seem to be an easy game to him. He confronts the vicissitudes of life with his remarkably built traits emanating from a strong and able inner self. This is the time when he feels himself in very close relation with natural forces. Nature then rewards him for his indomitable spirit, ceaseless effort and selfless service by holding the pen of destiny in his hands turning all the circumstances in his favour to confer upon him the perpetual success of here and hereafter.

“Develop the self to such a level that before every decree,

God will ascertain from you, “What is your wish?”

(Bal-e-Jibril-053) Khirad Mandon Se Kya Poochun

The blossoming and blooming of the self are essential for continuing one’s progress toward the pinnacle of prosperity. Awareness of capabilities and conscience of universal laws are important pillars that bridge up the gap between self and the creator of self. This helps one comprehend the true purpose of one’s being. Without discovery and development of self, a man’s notions are vague and actions are worthless for they don’t lead him to desirable outcomes. Tomorrow belongs to those who originate, reinvigorate and nurture the self today.

Waleed Khalid is a student of Defence and Strategic Studies at Quad-i-Azam University Islamabad. He previously worked as a research Intern at ISSI.