Philosophy in Pakistan

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Philosophy in Pakistan Author:
Publisher: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy
Category: Islamic Philosophy
ISBN: 1-56518-108-5

Philosophy in Pakistan

Author: Naeem Ahmad
Publisher: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy

ISBN: 1-56518-108-5
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Philosophy in Pakistan

Philosophy in Pakistan

Publisher: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy
ISBN: 1-56518-108-5

Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change

Series IIA. Islam. Volume 3

Philosophy in Pakistan

edited by Naeem Ahmad

The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy

Copyright © 1998 by

The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy

Gibbons Hall B-20

620 Michigan Avenue, NE

Washington, D.C. 20064

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication

Philosophy in Pakistan /edited by Naeem Ahmad. – (Cultural heritage and contemporary change. Series IIA Islam; vol. 3) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Philosophy, Pakistan. 2. Islam and Philosophy. 3. Religion. I Naeem Ahmad, 1940-. II. Series. B5126 P84 1997 97-26581 181’.15—dc21 CIP ISBN 1-56518-108-5 (pbk.)


This version published on behalf of

The composing errors are not corrected except once [Justiee to Justice in “RAHMAN, Justiee Hamoodur (Dacca)”].

Table of Contents

Preface 8

Notes 14

Introduction 15

Part I: Philosophy as a Search for Unity in the Transcendent 19

Chapter I: The Philosophical Interpretation of History 20

Chapter II: One God, One World, One Humanity 29

The Metaphysical Basis of Islamic Culture 29

The Role of Humankind 33

The Religious Meaning of Freedom 34

Ethics 36

Islam and Social Reform 37

Conclusion 41

Chapter III: Iqbal’s ‘Preface’ To His Lectures on the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam 44

Chapter IV: A Case for World Philosophy: My Intellectual Story 48

Critique of Metaphysics 48

Logical Positivism 51

Existentialism 57

A World Philosophy 59

In conclusion: 66

Chapter V: How I See Philosophy 67

Logical and Necessary Truths 67

The Philosophy of Science 69

Scientific Metaphysics 70

Epistemology 71

Ethics 71

Socio-Political and Legal Philosophy 73

Philosophy of Religion 74

Chapter VI: God, Universe and Man 77

Chapter VII: Iqbal on the Material and Spiritual Future of Humanity 82

The Development of Materialism and the Emergence of the Modern Person 83

The Future of Religion 87

Part II: Classical Islamic Philosophy and Metaphysics 92

Chapter VIII: Philosophy of Religion: Its Meaning and Scope 93

History 93

Empirical Philosophy of Religion 94

Philosophy of Religion and Religious Experience 96

The Psychology of Religion 98

The History of Religion 100

Religion as Meta-Empirical or Meta-Physical Reality 102

Chapter IX: The Function of Muslim Philosophy 104

Notes 112

Chapter X: Knowledge: An Islamic Perspective 114

Cultural Value of Knowledge 114

Intellectual Temper of Islam 116

Knowledge: A Gift of God 117

Value 118

Knowledge: An Organic Whole 119

Sources of Knowledge: Divine and Human 120

Possibility of a Synthetic Approach to Knowledge 121

Consequences of Desacralization of Knowledge 122

Notes 123

Part III: Pakistan Philosophy in the British Tradition 125

Chapter XI: On Sense and Nonsense 126

Notes 133

Chapter XII: Quantification and Opacity 135

1.1 135

1.2 143

1.3 146

Notes 150

Chapter XIII: The Nature of Mind 152

Notes 160

Chapter XIV: The Knowledge of Other Minds 161

Limitations of the Problem 161

Neo-Platonic Form of the Problem 162

To Know vs to Create 163

Constituents of Knowledge 164

Bifurcation vs Process 166

The Role of the Total Configuration 168

Knowledge by Assimilation 170

Knowledge and Content 171

Knowledge and Context 173

Signs, Cultures and Knowledge of Other Minds 175

Part IV: Phenomenological and Existential Philosophy in Pakistan 177

Chapter XV: The Notion of Existence 178

Chapter XVI: From Anguish to the Search for Truth 183

Biography 183

Phenomenology 185

Religion 187

Philosophy 190

Chapter XVII: Individual and Culture 192

Culture 192

Individual 195

Chapter XVIII: Descartes’ Concept of a Person 198

Notes 204

Chapter XIX: God and Values 205

Knowledge of God 205

Values 209

Biographical Notes 212

Appendix: Philosophical Activity in Pakistan: 1947-1961 217

Contents 217

Philosophy in Pakistan 218

Introduction 219

The Two Poles of Philosophical Reflection in Pakistan 219

The Nature of Philosophy 222

The Relationships between Reason and Faith; the Existence of God 225

Islam and Philosophy 235

Philosophy and Values 238

The Notion of Existence 242

Epistemology, Universals, and Causality 246

Epistemology of the Knowledge of Other Minds 251

Teleology and the Philosophy of History 258

The Morality of International Relations 262

The Social Sciences and Psychology 266

History of Philosophy 272

The Philosophy of Professor M. M. Sharif 274

Conclusion 277

Notes 279

Index of the Pakistani Philosophers Mentioned 281


Naeem Ahmad

The idea of developing a volume, indicative of the nature and tenor of philosophical activity in Pakistan, emerged a few years ago during my correspondence with Dr. G. S. Shanker, a fellow of Oxford University. Dr. Shanker showed a keen desire to know about Pakistan and its philosophy. This, perhaps, is due to our own negligence and inability to introduce Pakistan to the international community that most scholars abroad are still not able to differentiate between Pakistani philosophy and Indian (Hindu) philosophy. The publication of Contemporary Indian Philosophy by Radha Krishnan (ed.) has added to the confusion, giving the impression that it represents the philosophical activity of the entire Sub-continent. Thus it was felt highly imperative to identify the nature of philosophy in Pakistan.

As is indicated above, Pakistani philosophy is quite distinct from, and independent of, Indian philosophy (with its six systems and Buddhism etc.) No doubt, the philosophical tradition in India dates back several centuries B. C. whereas the Muslims came to India as late as the seventh century of the Christian era and Pakistan came into being only a few decades ago. What then does the title ‘Pakistani Philosophy’ signify? Does it imply that the present articles could not have been written outside of Pakistan or prior to its inception? If so then it must necessarily imply that the inquiries embodied in these pieces of writing are over-ridden with some considerations peculiar to Pakistan and, as such, they would lose their character as independent inquiries; withdraw the given preceding conditions and the whole structure will crumble to dust. Such an approach to the scope, motive and ultimate findings of these attempts is irrelevant if not absurd.

The history of the Sub-continent is replete with military incursions of different invaders; some of them eventually went back to their homeland while some settled down here permanently. The Muslims first set foot on the Indian soil during the period of the second caliph of Islam, Umar Ibn Khattab; but this expedition had to be postponed for several reasons. The second time a more organised expedition was sent was during the first Umayyad Cahiph Mu‘awiyya in 664 a. d. which again remained unsuccessful. Finally, in 711 the famous Muslim general, Muhammad bin Qasim was sent to India. He succeeded in conquering Sind and its adjacent areas including Baluchistan and Multan which were eventually incorporated into the Muslim Caliphate.1 This area came to be ruled for some time by the Qaramites under the Fatimids of Egypt. The Qaramitesbelonged to the Batini movement which had produced such great philosophers as Farabi and Ibn Sina. Thus, the tradition of Muslim philosophy was first introduced in the Indian environment by the Ismaili Du‘at (missionaries). Multan was the centre of Qaramite government where philosophy flourished to a great extent. But in 1010 Mahmud Ghaznavi invaded Multan to uproot the Batini movement which was considered to be an imminent threat to orthodox Islam. The educational centres and libraries of the Ismailis were burnt; the leading Ismailis were slain, some of them fled to Iran, Egypt and other countries; many of them went underground. The budding tradition of Muslim philosophy in the Sub-continent was thoroughly hampered, in fact arrested, by dogmatic religion. Thus we hear no mention of philosophy during the early centuries of the Muslim rule in India. But this does not mean that philosophy had been eradicated once and for all. Philosophical broodings continued privately and secretly and appeared in the mystical writings of the subsequent Muslim sages. Evidently mysticism was considered to be less harmful to religious orthodoxy.

The first ever recorded book of Islamic mysticism in India was written by Syed Ali Hujwairi. The tradition of philosophical thinking that had remained dormant and underground for a long time, escaping the notice of the historians, now became visible and its contours of development can definitely be traced in the subsequent periods.

One point regarding the determination of the lineage of philosophical thought should be made clear. Although the intellectual environment of the Sub-continent was impregnated with various schools of Indian philosophy, the development of Muslim religio-philosophical thought, despite certain conciliatory efforts, ran parallel to it without ever being influenced by it. Aziz Ahmad remarks:

The history of medieval and modern India is to a very considerable extent a history of Hindu-Muslim religio-cultural tensions interspersed with movements or individual efforts at understanding, harmony and even composite development. The divisive forces have proved much more dynamic than the cohesive ones.... As a religio-cultural force, Islam is in most respects, the very anti-thesis of Hinduism. Hinduism is a large aggregate of belief, developed in the course of many centuries, evolving from the sacrificial hymns of the Vedas to the philosophical speculation of the Upanishads, the discipline of Yoga, the metaphysical subtleties of Vedanta and passionate devotion of Bhakti. Islam, on the other hand, is bound by an austere central discipline, revolving round Qur‘an, the Vox Dei, and Hadith, the Vox Prophetae; and whatever speculation it has evolved or borrowed from external sources has been more or less adjusted to these two primary sources of religious authority. Psy-chologically Hinduism tends to be melancholy, sentimental and philosophical; Islam tends to be ardent and austere. Hindu genius flowers in the concrete and the iconographic; the Muslim mind is on the whole atomistic, abstract, geometrical and iconoclastic.2

A number of factors, the warp and woof of which spread over a period of about ten centuries, have contributed to the shaping of Pakistani mind. Rather, the very creation of Pakistan is a logical consequence of a long religio-philosophical movement.

Hence reference to Pakistan is relevant only in a spatio-temporal sense, a purely accidental and superfluous allusion -- it may only provide a rationale for the prevailing circumstances in Pakistan.

In Pakistan there prevails a socio-religious consciousness. It is quite deep-rooted at the sentimental level of our psyche perhaps as a hereditary trait, perhaps as an acquired prejudice which serves to delineate and consolidate our national entity which is otherwise vulnerable to distracting pulls for a number of causes, centrifugal cataclysm or magnetic attraction exercised by global powers at work in different fields of international activity. It sounds quite plausible in a geo-political context but, I am afraid, it denies or falsifies the principle of historical continuity so manifest in the process of the advent of nations.

Leaving apart these questions, the very movement for the creation of Pakistan on the world map is replete with references to this historical background. The concept of a separate homeland for the Muslims of South-Asia, enunciated by Allama Iqbal, in his Presidential Address at the Annual Meeting of the Muslim League in 1930, was based mainly on the idea that Islam was an all-permeating principle determining the behaviour of a Muslim as an individual and that of the Muslim community at socio-political level. Then there is a saying attributed to the Quaid-i-Azam that Pakistan was established with the first Muslim stepping on the coastal lands of Sind. Viewing in this context the philosophic studies undertaken in Pakistan may, perforce, have an inherent and predominantly relevant reference to philosophic systems which were developed by Muslim scholars in the past -- and this despite the fact that sufficient source material is not readily available. The original works of the Muslim thinkers have perished during the adversities of time; and those which have survived have remained alien to the present day scholars. Non-availability coupled with our inability to avail ourselves of these works because of a linguistic impediment (Arabic and Persian are not so familiar to us these days as they used to be even at the beginning of this century) makes it difficult to establish a well-connected relationship between the thought structures of Muslim philosophers of old and the present day intellectual achievements in a correct evolutionary perspective. Still it is possible to trace such influences and to identify areas of affinity.

It is generally recognised that the revival of the Greek tradition of philosophy is due entirely to the interest taken by the earlier Muslim scholars in the field of learning. They did not study Greek philosophers passively or with a prejudicial point of view to find faults with them. They developed simultaneously what they termed as Hikmat-e-Yunaniyan (wisdom of the Greeks) and Hikmat-e-Imaniyan (wisdom of the faithful) which contributed to the development of philosophy at a level which marked the originality, depth and clarity of the original authors. It is a pity that for several reasons their efforts could not be recognised or appreciated in a proper perspective. Under the influence of Greek sages the Muslim scholars in India also contributed fairly to this heritage, particularly during the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. Ma‘qulat, as they called them, were studied and taught at the Madaris. The Middle Eastern countries where the Ma‘qulat originally developed, unfortunately remained in the grip of political turmoil during this period and thus it fell to the lot of Indian Muslim scholars to develop these systems to a venerable point of perfection. We may particularly name among them Mulla Abdul Hakeem Sialkoti, Mulla Mahmood Jonepuri, and Mulla Mohibullah Behari. Strangely enough, some other local scholars of their stature were better known outside India. A systematic and coherent account of their achievements has not been handed down to our age. Allama Iqbal lamented this state of affairs which led the European scholars to believe that no Muslim philosophic tradition existed in India. The Orientalists have been tracing the Muslim legacy in various fields in the Middle East steadily, but not so in the case of India. This may be due to their preoccupation with, and interest in, Indian (Hindu) philosophy or a misconception that Muslim scholars of India were only the passive followers of philosophic systems which developed in the Middle East and to a greater degree in Muslim Spain.

It may not be quite relevant for the present study to delve into or expand upon the achievements of Muslim scholars outside India except that they were the predecessors of the men of learning who lived in India. It may suffice to say that the philosophic studies developed in the Muslim countries under the Abbasids for the first time. Al-Kindi was the first one to receive the title of Failsoof-al-Arab. But, with the decline of central control over the Muslim states, there spread a wave of inconsistencies, upheavals and political instability leading to bloodshed. In these circumstances, the strictly Muslim systems of thought and ideology suffered confusion and paved the way for certain schools of thought which apparently leaned on philosophy to project and sustain the atheistic element in their movements. They had their periods of ups and downs coinciding with the rise and fall of their political patrons. Most of these movements developed an emblem of mystery about them which suited their treacherous political designs and also served as a garb to protect them against the wrath of steadfast rulers. The leading pioneers of these movements such as Zakriyya Razi, Ibn Sina and the anonymous authors of Rasail-e-Ikhwan-as-Safa were well-versed in philosophic traditions; their own contributions were no less formidable. This is another thing for which they have been condemned, namely, for leading Muslims astray so far as religious belief and practice are concerned.

Side by side with these thinkers there flourished a mystic tradition. The earlier mystics in Islam did not show much reverence for philosophy. But there does exist a close relation between the mystical experience and philosophic broodings, so to say. Both try to reach the Ultimate Reality or, inversely, try to bring down the ‘Transcendental Real’ to within the reach of sensuous experience or to permit sensuous descriptions. The mystics depend more on their direct experience of the ‘Real’ which they term, ‘encounter’ (wisal). Here they part ways with the philosophers. The mystic, after the ultimate experience of encounter, is hardly ever able to describe or sustain it. It was perhaps for this psychological factor that Allama Iqbal in his book, The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, observed that the best metaphysical thinking of the Iranians found expression in isolated verses of ghazal (a form of poetry where each verse expresses a self-contained idea or experience).3 But there have been mystics of a very high order who were able to explain their experience, although in highly mysterious tones. Of them all, Ibn Arabi combines in himself the best qualities of a philosopher, a poet and a mystic. His religio-mystical philosophy has had powerful and far-reaching influence on the development of philosophical thought in the Sub-continent.

With this background and the local Bhakti movement and Din-e-Elahi of Akbar, we come to the Mughal period of Muslim India. Towards the end of this period there appeared on the scene Shah Wali Allah, in whom we find a point of culmination point of our entire wholesome and purely rational tradition. At the end of this period, with the advent of British rule, we find the Muslims of India making hectic efforts to preserve their illustrious heritage of religion, culture, civilisation and learning in various fields. This brings us to the door-steps of Pakistan.

But before proceeding further, I ought to pause for I have left out a congenial lineage of thinkers who expressed themselves in a perhaps more sound and a more plausible strain combining the wholesome traditions of Shari‘at, Tariqat and Hikmat. They had al-Ghazali as the source-head, a philosopher who turned out to be a staunch antagonist of, and tried to defeat, philosophy with the same method it adopted for its strength. Rumi displayed the same characteristics and finally it came down to Shah Wali Allah who upheld their tradition in India. It is through his encyclopaedic writings the whole heritage of early Muslim theology, mysticism and philosophy was disseminated in Indian intellectual life.

The Pakistan movement did not take this name till 1932 or still later. But as an under-current of thought, it crystallised in a formula enunciated by Iqbal in 1930 which then was adopted as a political demand by the Muslim League in 1940. This was discernible from the moment when someone first thought of a plan of action to bring the downtrodden Muslims of India back into the body politic of the region. Strangely, this was not a straightforward plunge into active politics. It started with a humble rehabilitating effort to pull the Muslims out of despondency, by educating them so that they might be well-equipped to play the role for which they were destined in the future years. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was the man to give the lead. One main problem he faced was posed by the Christian missionaries which, on the one hand, hardened the Muslims in their faith (with, of course, some freakish break-throughs) but, on the other hand, tended to broaden and deepen the cleavage between Christian rulers and their Muslim subjects. Claiming secularism, the British regime never shook off its complex against the Muslims and this worked favourably and to the advantage of the Hindus who were full of hatred and revenge for Muslims and tried all possible means to win the favour of the British rulers at the cost of the Muslims.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was quick enough to grasp the implications of the situation and thought that education was the only panacea to cure the Muslim crowds of their suicidal rigidity and to enable them to join the main stream of the socio-political activities. To dispel the Christian prejudices against the Muslims, he strived hard to explain away the theological differences between Muslims and Christians by a handy rational approach for which he coined the term ‘Nature’. This was no doubt a crude attempt both at the religious as well as at the rational level, far less to claim for itself the title of theology or philosophy. Dr. Abdul Khaliq observes: "In spite of his (Sir Syed’s) declared objective to reveal the ‘original bright face of Islam’, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan imperceptibly advocates the relative primacy of scientific naturalism."4 (With due reverence to Dr. Abdul Khaliq, I may add that Sir Syed had no idea of what scientific naturalism is.) However, the crude rationalism he preached finally matured into the ideal of a Muslim university to introduce the Muslim youth to the modern Western advancements in fields of learning.

There was, however, an early set back. Shibli No‘mani, who began as a disciple of Sir Syed, decided to part company with him and established Nadvatul Ulama which discarded the scientific naturalism of Sir Syed. Although Shibli himself wrote a book (in two volumes) on Ilm-al-Kalam, on the whole his institution and other Islamic Madaris predominantly condemned rationalism, an ill omen for philosophy. For some steadfast and austere devotees of Islam too much emphasis on reasoning and on attempts to harmonise dogma with the principles of science and philosophy amounted to interfering with the fundamental belief system of Islam. This tradition of rationalism suffered immensely at the hands of Qasim Nanotavi, Abul Kalam Azad, Anwar Shah Kashmiri, Syed Sulaiman Nadvi and Muhammad Ali Jauhar. This also marked a definite cleavage between religio-philosophical writings, on the one hand, and orthodox preachings, on the other. A liberal interpretation of dogma and philosophising flourished at Aligarh, whereas strict adherence to dogma and austerity and purity of faith became the hall-mark of such institutions as Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband, Nadvat-ul-Ulama and Jamia Millia, Delhi. In fact these two attitudes contributed to the formation of two almost parallel stances of the religious mind in the Indo-Pakistan Sub-continent which have come to stay.

And now we come to Iqbal who stood for the rational interpretation of dogma. There has been some controversy over the years following his demise as to whether or not Iqbal was a philosopher. But long before he himself made the point clear. "Most of my life has been spent in the study of European philosophy and that viewpoint has become my second nature. Consciously or unconsciously I study the realities and truths of Islam from the same point of view. I have experienced this many a time that while talking in Urdu I cannot express all that I want to say in that language".5 Dwelling on this theme, Dr. Taseer went on to make the point that "Iqbal was great enough to be a bridge between the East and the West."6 "It is a mark of his greatness that he is in line with the great thinkers of the world and, having absorbed the best thought of the day, has kept his individuality, and contributed something to the world thought."7 "And it is as an activist -- ‘practical philosopher’, as Russell terms it -- that Iqbal should be judged. As such his main contribution to thought is his development of the conception of Ego. Before this, Ego was merely a philosophical concept. Iqbal pregnated it with practical content."8 That may suffice although much water has flown down the stream since Dr. Taseer made these observations. They help us to construct an image of Iqbal without falling prey to many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.

The greatest contribution of Iqbal to his posterity is that he created an atmosphere of confidence which has helped the present generation to outgrow the apologetic tone that had become almost a predicament. Now we can say, whatever we have to, without looking for authority from occidental sources.

It is here that we can pick up the thread to approach and assess the value of the collection of writings embodied in the present volume, viz., an attempt to bridge the chasm between the old and the new; between the East and the West; between dogmatic assertions and analytical ponderings; the present day scientific theories regarding the nature of the matter and the metaphysical thought that endeavours to connect them into a coherent whole -- thereby leading to a realisation of the all-embracing unitary or unifying (whatever one prefers to call it) principle underlying all existence.

At the time of the creation of Pakistan, philosophy at post-graduate level was taught only at Government College Lahore. But very soon post-graduate departments were established in different universities of the country. In 1954, the Pakistan Philosophical Congress was formed with Professor M. M. Sharif as its first president and Khalifa Abdul Hakim, Dr. C. A. Qadir, Qazi and M. Aslam among its founding members. Since 1954 the Pakistan Philosophical Congress has held its annual sessions regularly at various universities of the country. Its proceedings and a quarterly, The Pakistan Philosophical Journal, are published along with some important symposia as separate volumes. The publication of several books, including an excellent English translation of al-Ghazali’s Tahafut-al-Falasifa,9 also goes to its credit. The monumental workA History of Muslim Philosophy,10 compiled and edited by M. M. Sharif, is a major land-mark in the intellectual history of Pakistan.

A perusal of the present collection of articles will reveal that in Pakistan various types and brands of Western philosophy, though not alien, have failed to catch root in this soil. These are studied and accepted only in an indigenous framework, i.e., the Pakistani mind accepts only those elements of Western philosophy which accord with its temper. It is, however, premature to form a judgement on the nature of philosophy in Pakistan. Only when the readers have carefully perused and critically appraised these articles can thing definite be said.


1. Al-Baladhuri, Futuh-ul-Buldan (Cairo, 1932), pp. 57-58.

2. Aziz Ahmad, Islam in Indian Environment (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), pp. 73-74.

3. Muhammad Iqbal, The Development of Metaphysics in Persia (Lahore: Bazm-i-Iqbal, n.d.), p. ix.

4. Abdul Khaliq, Qur’an Studies (Lahore, 1990), p. 9.

5. Sh. Ataullah, ed., Iqbal Nama, Letter no. 19 (Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf).

6. Aspects of Iqbal (Iqbal day lectures) (Lahore: Qaumi Kutub Khana, Railway Road, 1938), p. xii.

7. Ibid., p. xiv.

8. Ibid., p. xvi.

9. Al-Ghazali, Tahafut-al-Falasifah (Incoherence of the Philosophers), translated into English by Sabih Ahmad Kamali (Lahore: Pakistan Philosophical Congress, 1958).

10. M.M. Sharif, ed., A History of Muslim Philosophy, 2 volumes (Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrassowitz, 1966).