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ماہنامہ دختران اسلام > اپریل 2021 ء > Iqbal as an Economist: Thoughts and Views
ماہنامہ دختران اسلام : اپریل 2021 ء
> ماہنامہ دختران اسلام > اپریل 2021 ء > Iqbal as an Economist: Thoughts and Views

Iqbal as an Economist: Thoughts and Views

Hadia Saqib Hashmi

Iqbal, the great thinker of Islam, was the first economist of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent to raise his voice against the exploitation of Muslims by domestic and foreign classes controlling the means of production. It was not an easy task to open one's mouth on such matters in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century against foreign imperialists who held Muslims responsible for the War of Independence (1857), and clamped censorship and other restrictions on speeches and writings. Yet Iqbal picked up the courage to expose the designs of the alien rulers working under the cloak of "Imperial Liberalism" even when he was only a student at the Government College, Lahore, and used to recite his poetry in the annual gatherings of the Anjuman Him? yat-i Islam. In the beginning, he composed his verses in the traditional low key but gradually he changed his tune until his thunders rocked the British Empire and finally ripped open the Imperial Crown glittering with the Koh-i Noor snatched from the Muslim Emperors of India.

Iqbal started his career in 1899 as a teacher of history and philosophy, at the Lahore Oriental College. It was in 1903 that he wrote a book on Economics in Urdu: 'Jim al-Iqtis?d. That was the time when the classics of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Ricardo, Alfred Marshall, and Taussig were taught all over Europe. But in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent even teachers and scholars had only a hazy idea of this subject

This publication established Iqbal as the first Muslim economist of the subcontinent. In the absence of a technical dictionary from English into Urdu, it was no; easy to write or translate a book on Economics. Yet credit goes to Iqbal that he, not only introduced the subject in as simple a language as possible but also, for the first time in the history of Urdu literature, rendered economic terms and terminologies into Urdu which served as a beacon light for the next generation of writers on Economics.

Iqbal was of the view that "Poverty Affects Human Soul". This revealed as his new compilation. He has included thought-provoking suggestions and marginal notes at various places which bespeak of his ingenuity and inquisitive mind. He has written an introduction which, in later years, proved a landmark in the political history of the subcontinent. He underscored the relations between economic activity and human psychology and raised the question of the effect that a man would have on his body and mind if he is unable to meet both ends meet. And then he himself provided the answer saying that poverty affects the human soul very deeply. "The mirror of soul is tarnished," he wrote, "and man is reduced to nonentity both morally and socially". Iqbal felt deeply at the poverty of people in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent in the post-1857 war period. "Is poverty indispensable in the present-day world economic order'? Is it not possible that the heart-rending bewailing of the poor in the streets of India are silenced for ever? Is it not possible that the heart-moving and pathetic scenes of poverty are effaced from the world map forever?

Iqbal continued his contemplation on questions he had raised in his treatise on Economics as far back as 1903, and found the answer in I930 when he delivered his famous address at the Allahabad session of the All-India Muslim League. At that time the poverty of India and especially of Muslims had touched the rock bottom as a result of the British policy of Imperial Preferences to shift the burden of the world economic crisis (i.e. Great Depression) of 1929-30 to the colonies. India had to resort to large scale cut in public expenditure. The most to suffer were Muslim employees, labourers and business men who were already living on margin.

It was Iqbal who issued a clarion call for the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent, and it was this call which initiated the long, arduous, and historic struggle for the achievement of Pakistan. His verses, speeches and letters stand testimony to the fact that it was he who first hit upon the two-nation theory which led logically to the idea of two separate homelands.

It may be observed here that Iqbal had not yet clearly pro-posed a separate and independent State for Muslims. In the beginning' he formulated the two-nation theory and later proposed sovereign Muslim States in the Muslim majority areas as the only definite goal of the long, persistent and glorious struggle for independence. It was emphatically stated by him between May 1936 and November 1937 in his correspondence with the Quaid-i-Azam.

In his Allahabad Address Iqbal stated:

"The character of a Muslim State can be judged from what the Times of India pointed out sometime ago in a leader on the Indian Banking Enquiry Committee. `In ancient India,' the paper points out : `the State framed laws regulating the rates of interest; but in Muslim times, although Islam clearly forbids the realisation of interest on money loaned, Indian Muslim States imposed no restrictions on such rates', I therefore demand the formation of a consolidated Muslim State in the best interests of India and Islam. For India it means security and peace resulting from an internal balance of power; for Islam an opportunity to rid itself of the stamp that Arabian Imperialism was forced to give it, to mobilise its laws, its education, is culture, and to bring them into closer contact with its own original spirit and with the spirit of modern times." (Sherwani, Ed., op. cit., p 11.).

He delivered three speeches on Budget in the Punjab Legislative Council of those days, namely, 1927-28 to 1930-31. He also delivered a speech on the resolution regarding application of the principle of assessment of income tax to the assessment of land revenue on February 28, 1928 in the Punjab Legislative Assembly. His two historical presidential addresses of Allahabad (December 29, 1930) and Lahore (March 21, 1932) are of significant importance and present outlines of the strategy for his economic thinking.

Disagreeing with the atheistic socialism of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as a solution to the economic ills of Muslims, he firmly believed in the Islamic Economic Order as a panacea for their problems.

New International Economic Order Iqbal was conscious of the exploitation which the rich Western nations forced upon the poor and underdeveloped Eastern countries of the world. He seems to have foreseen a new international economic order which is being hotly debated and discussed today in international forums. Iqbal thought that the policy of capturing new colonies and markets was at the root of the sharpening antagonism among Western countries. His sense of justice was outraged by the colonial system which permitted developed nations to subjugate the less developed ones. Condemnation of the exploitative nature of Western civilization frequently appears in his poetry during this period.

His philosophy of economics can be covered in the following points:

  1. Ilmul-Iqtisad--the first book on Economics authored by Allama Iqbal in Urdu in 1903.
  2. Economic Thinking.
  3. Pakistan Movement--Economic Genesis.
  4. Call for New International Economic Order.
  5. Socio-economic Changes.
  6. Socio-cultural and Economic Strategy.
  7. Rural Development.
  8. Industrial Development.
  9. Poverty.
  10. Land Reforms.
  11. Austerity.
  12. Manual Work glorified.

All in all, he was the man with very clear economic philosophy and his teachings were prominently embodied in the personality of the founder i.e. Quaid-Azam. There are great lessons for us in his thoughts that can help us in devising the solutions to the problems in currents times.


  • Latif Ahmed Sherwani, Ed., Speeches, Writings and Statements of Iqbal (Lahore : Iqbal Academy Pakistan, 1977).
  • Sherwani, Ed., op. cit., p 11
  • 192728 Budget, 5 March 1927: 1929-30 Budget, 4 March 1929 : 193031 Budget, 7 March 1930. For relevant Budget speeches, see ibid., pp. 44.45, 59-61 and 62-65, respectively.
  • Chapter 3: "Iqbal My Father," by Javaid Iqbal, in Hafeez Malik, Ed., Iqbal-Poet-Philosopher of Pakistan (Studies in Oriental Culture, Number Seven-Iqbal, New York: Colombia University Press, 1971)
  • Chapter 5: "ideology of Muslim Nationalism" by L.R. Gordon Polonskaya (a prominent Soviet Ideologist), in Hafeez Malik, Ed

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