Why did Iqbal have to propose a "reconstruction" of religious thought when he wrote his The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam?
Could it be that he perceived well the locus in need of this reconstruction and precisely how the reconstruction needed to occur? I would argue yes to both points.
In Iqbal's, The Book of Slavery (part of his Persian Psalms, 1927), he wrote:
"The fetters are not on feet, but on the heart and soul; this is indeed a very intriguing situation."
In The Book of Slavery, Iqbal appears to have been anticipating a situation with which many Muslims in the world today resonate. In his own day, Iqbal saw firsthand the political slavery associated with the colonizers. He also believed that this political slavery was influencing, and enervating toward, religious beliefs and faith. It is this that could be termed Iqbal's concept of the religion of slaves.
Iqbal, applying his deep psychological insight, found this inner, voluntary capitulation to reside in the hearts of the people. It is this that he was striving to reconstruct. In The Book of Slavery, Iqbal describes how political slavery affected the religious thought in Islam:
In slavery, religion and love are separated Honey of life becomes bitter. What is love? It is imprinting of Tawhid (Unity) on the heart, Then to strike oneself against difficulties. In slavery, love is nothing but an idle talk,Our actions do not correspond with our professions. The caravan of his ambition has no inclination for a journey, It lacks faith, has no knowledge of the road, and is without a guide. A slave underestimates both religion and wisdom; In order to keep his body alive, he gives away his soul. Although the name of God is on his lips, His centre of attention is the power of the ruler— Power that is nothing but ever-increasing falsehood, Nothing but falsehood can come from it. As long as you prostrate before it, this idol is your god, But as soon as you stand up before it, it disappears.
I comprehend Iqbal's concept of the religion of slaves from a perspective outside of a Muslim society. That is simply because I happen to have been born in a society not considered Muslim. I look at Iqbal from where I find myself, and indeed consider him as not only a prominent blessing for the Muslim world, but for all people everywhere.
I understand Iqbal, with regard to The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, as not offering commentary on Islam. Rather, he was pointing at something that, if not revivified, would stand in the way of the religious understanding and consciousness of Islam. If brought back to life, it would be a gate-opener.
I perceive Iqbal not as a theologian or interpreter of doctrine (although his work may manifest as such). Rather, I perceive him more as a physician who goes about healing, tuning, and adjusting the human being.
I perceive that Iqbal was not seeking to resurrect religion for the sake of humans. Rather, I sense that he was seeking to resurrect humans for the sake of religion.
His mission, I sense, was in guiding people to find, take back, and keep their righteous mind. Without this locating, reclaiming, and keeping of the righteous mind, mental slavery is inevitable.
The movie clip above (The Great Debators) is based upon the true story of African American debate coach, Melvin B. Tolson, at a historically black college wherein he sought to place his team on equal footing with whites in the American south in the 1930s. The actor, Denzel Washington (as Mr. Tolson), speaks well to the dynamic that it is the mind that must be released from its fetters in order for genuine freedom to be birthed.
Many thanks are due to the generous and expert tutelage of Mr. Khurram Ali Shafique in the many high quality study opportunities he offers through the Marghdeen Learning Centre, his The Republic of Rumi blog, in association with Iqbal Academy Pakistan, the International Iqbal Society, and others. With his guidance, the very important vision and philosophy of Iqbal are reaching many people.