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Hakeem and his Hikmah – – – Remembering Khalifa Abdul Hakeem

By Amir Suhail Wani

Decadence, like other contingencies of the human kingdom, operates both at the individual as well as collective plain. It is in fact, the recession from metaphysical principle and obsession with physical forms of it, that make decadence an inevitable phenomenon in the evolution of human civilization. It so happens in the state of fall that men and their cultures and civilizations remain no more loyal to the principles on which their fundamentals rest. This self-revolt that spurs among civilizations at various stages of their development, affects each facet of their existence. The primary victim and consequently the main protagonist of this decadence, is the “intellectual elite” of a specific civilization. It needs no emphasis that: intellectuals, scholars, seers and thinkers are custodians of human culture, as far as providing intellectual basis and rational justification of a particular cultural mode, is concerned. Any perversion on part of scholars and their attitude towards matters of scholarship, which in fact includes the entire social corpus, amounts to fatal tragedy in the life of civilization. Needless to say, that in Islam, mankind has seen one of the most beautiful manifestations and materialisations of the principles of civilization. Thus Islamic civilization connotes not only Islamic architecture and literature, but also Islamic worldview and Islamic response to the question/s of life- the former with all its dimensions, being a direct outpour of the later. But it is a matter of consensus as well as a matter of great concern, that Muslims, and for that matter, the Islamic world, has been witnessing decadence in almost all facets of life. As signalled indirectly above, Muslim scholarship has been no exception to this sweep of decadence and thus, continues the stigma that Muslims have not been able to produce men of merit for the last many decades. This absence of scholarship in the genuine right of the term, or loosely, the gradual steep in standards of scholarship, is something not to be lost sight of. It needs to be made clear that scholarship as used here, means an insight to visualise and consequently theorise Islam as a metanarrative and its consequent application to the issues of individual and collective human dynamics. Seen in this wider dimension, rather than in its proper perspective, one comes across not more than a handful of scholars among recent contemporaries, who stand up to it and amongst those who qualify for this extended standard, Khalifa Abdul Hakeem, is undoubtedly, a prominent name.

Khalifa Abdul Hakeem successfully envisioned Islam not only as a sum total of rituals and beliefs, but he, by virtue of his scholarly grandeur, rose above to see Islam as a cosmic order and a metanarrative bearing universal implications and applications. Islam, as Hakeem makes us understand, transcends not only the contours of space and time, but when it is embraced by people in its entirety, it enables them too, to transcend the impositions of spatial and temporal finitude. In his magnum opus “Islam Ideology”, he goes on to explicate, and correctly so, that Islam didn’t appear on the cosmic scene with the arrival of consciousness on Earth. It was followed by pre-human creatures too, be it the stars or the subatomic particles, in forms specific and suitable to them. He wrote thus:


“Islam is the oldest, as well as the youngest, of all great religions professed and partially practised by large portions of humanity. Islam is as old as God and his creation. Before humanity appeared on scene, it was the religion of the universe and the creatures that inhabited it, and it continues to be the religion of nature”.

Thus, he identifies Islam with cosmic harmony and universal alignment, and this gives the definition of Muslim as somebody who is aware of the modes of harmony and alignment, and has harmonised and aligned the exoteric and esoteric dimensions of his existence with the grand order. This conformity of the individual will with the cosmic order brings peace within and without in human existence, thus justifying the etymological meaning of Islam as peace.

Khalifa Abdul Hakeem was well aware of the social transience and historical constructs, the nuisance of which is a characteristic to postmodern idiom. He thus laid emphasis on segregating the metaphysical elements of permanence from the physical diversities tantamount to transience. He thus, as an example, thought of beliefs as primary manifestations of Islamic metanarrative and the subsequent jurisprudential and legalistic consequences as sub-narratives, subjected to the variance of place and epoch.

Tolerance has been rendered abusive in the wake of modern godless secularism. Modern day secularism is like a multi-orbit coreless system of revolving objects. While traditional secularism, if any, implied inclusion of all, modern secularism like a hoax played upon by humanity, entails exclusion of all. Khalifa Abdul Hakeem, despite his loyalty to Islam and his distance from perennial philosophy, held other religions in high esteem and never condemned by word or speech, the dogma of any religion unless condemnation implied the larger intellectual and moral benefit of humanity. Both in his Islamic ideology as well as his relatively famous book “Fikr I Iqbal”, he went on to base his ideology of religious inclusiveness on the following verse from the second chapter of Quran which asserts:

“It is not Birr that you turn your faces towards east and (or) west; but Birr is the one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, the Prophets and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to Al-Masakin (the poor), and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to set servants free, performs As-Salah (Iqamat-As-Salah), and gives the Zakah, and who fulfill their covenant when they make it, and who are patient in extreme poverty and ailment (disease) and at the time of fighting (during the battles). Such are the people of the truth and they are Al-Muttaqun”.

Hakeem expressed himself on this issue in the following words: “Islam, being the religion of harmony, it promulgated the doctrine of unity of religions. Islam considers however theistic religions only as true religions. So its doctrine of unity of religions covers only those creeds in which the unity of God was realised; all else is barbarity and ignorance which degrades man to such an extent that he becomes sub-human”.

His understanding of Seerah, biography of the Prophet, was indeed ahead of his time. He anticipated the historical, sociological and psychoanalytical aspects of the holy life of the Prophet, and thus became a forerunner for modern day biographers like Maxime Rodinson, Leslie Hazelton and others. Like his vision of Islam, his vision of life and teachings of the Prophet was universal in essence, and proceeding from universals, he very successfully established the local implications thereof, as embodied in the life and acts of the Holy Prophet. The modern day challenges to Seerah floating from oriental and secular lobbying were appropriated by Hakeem much before time. This makes his treatment to Seerah a contribution of perennial value, despite the fact that this was not his primary area of research.

His books, articles and statements, both in Urdu as well as in English, on Rumi and Iqbal- his primary areas of interest are still regarded as canons of the field/s. Urdu scholarship is yet to produce a book excelling in content as that of his “Fikr I Iqbal”. His another book: “Hikmat I Rumi” is one of the most profound works in the field. His doctoral thesis again revolved around Rumi and was submitted to the University of Heidelberg in 1925, which remains until the point of writing this article, an invariable referential source on metaphysics of Rumi among academic circles. His other less known works number in dozens which can be accessed from the web address: http://khalifaabdulhakim.com/books.html.

In my humble opinion Muslims can no longer afford even the slightest ignorance towards this beacon of knowledge. It becomes incumbent upon our scholars and intelligentsia to pull Khalifa Abdul Hakeem from the periphery of our academic activity and place him at the very centre of it. In doing so we will be doing no favours to the great man, but will rather be enlightening our paths with the light of his wisdom, scholarship and foresight.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: [email protected])