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10 February 2010updated 24 Sep 2015 10:46am

Muhammad Iqbal

Pakistan's national poet and the most eloquent proponent of Islamic modernism.

By Ian K Smith

Poet, philosopher, politician, Muhammad Iqbal was a crucial voice in the raising of Pakistan. His Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, published in 1930, called for an entire rethinking of the foundations of Islamic philosophy to energise it after centuries of stagnation.

At the heart of this reconstruction was the legal principle of ijtihad, or independent juristic interpretation, a favourite tool for those seeking to reinvent the faith. Using this principle, interests outside Islam’s legal and religious establishment have called for far-reaching reform.

Iqbal thought that Islamic philosophy could be built up parallel to modernity, using ijtihad to cast off centuries of tired tradition. He was also central to the creation of Pakistan, campaigning for a federation of Muslim provinces separate from India. Before his death in 1938, he was a significant influence on Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who went on in effect to found the nation state of Pakistan in 1947.

Iqbal’s influential modernist definition of ijtihad:

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The principle of movement in the structure of Islam.

Next: Hassan al-Banna (d.1949)

Previous: Muhammad Rashid Rida (d.1935)

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