Justice Dr Javed Iqbal [1924-2015]

Dr Ejaz Hussain pays tribute to the man who marked his own identity

Justice Dr Javed Iqbal [1924-2015]
tft-36-p-22-oAllama Dr Muhammad Iqbal, who was essentially a sufi, visited the tomb of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (Mujaddid Alf Saani), a few months before the birth of Javed. He invoked the blessings of the said saint in terms of being gifted with the kind of a son who could devote his life in the service of Islam and the Muslims of South Asia. Indubitably, Allama was deeply perturbed over the increasing sectarian divide among the Muslims. In this respect, he delivered various lectures which later on were compiled as The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Allama had provided conceptual basis to reinterpret religion in order to generate unity among the various sects and ranks of the Muslims in a nation-state that he envisioned in 1930. However, there was more to be done on the operational level.  Thus, through his poetry – and even his politics – he urged Indian Muslims, especially the youth, to not only learn and internalize Islam the way the Prophet (pbuh) preached and practiced but also strive to build a strong and united political community in lines with Islamic teachings of justice, fair play, equality and tolerance. Unsurprisingly, when Javed was born in 1924, he was not merely a son. Rather, he embodied and symbolized Iqbal’s vision of an enlightened Muslim youth.

Little wonder, Javed received tough training in his father’s intellectual and socio-moral laboratory. He writes in his autobiography Apna Gerayban Chaak, “My father was very unique. He did not love me the way other fathers do…I was not allowed as a child to waste time and money…whenever news of my being late for home or any mischief reached him, he used to scold me…he caressed me and Munira only when our mother passed away.” In a traditional, urban and lower middle-class Muslim household, such a child rearing culture was not uncommon. However, the way Allama viewed religious learning of his children was quite unorthodox and non-sectarian though civilizational values such as dress code and respect for relations was consciously emphasized. Such an outlook provided the children with enough space to find meaning in their surroundings. Consequently, one the one hand, in his early teenage, Javed Iqbal, which was a rare name in those times, adopted a comparatively flexible, non-sectarian – or better – progressive, attitude towards religion and , on the other, developed a reactive psychology so far as mundane desires and material interests were concerned. Such an ontological contrast only intensified when Allama breathed his last in Javed Manzil in Lahore in April 1938. Indubitably, it was no less than a ‘tragedy’ for Javed who was barely fourteen and parentless.
In contrast to Allama, who was abhorrent of the corrupting Western civilization, Dr Javed adopted certain traits of it

In such a deprived socio-relational context, on is more susceptible to agnostic ideas, solitude, literature etc. Not surprisingly, Javed showed interest in both philosophy and (English) literature- and even acted in stage plays. Those were turbulent days when Muhammad Ali Jinnah led Muslim League was using Islam for political purposes. Javed Iqbal, in August 1947, was pleased to have witnessed the birth of Pakistan but gradually got displeased to see the county sliding in the hands of those sectarian and divisible forces which his father had confronted. With a Masters in English literature and philosophy (1948), young Javed preferred England to Pakistan for higher studies. Like his father, the son set forth on the Arabian and Mediterranean waters and, unlike his father, got mesmerized by the beauty, and not necessarily the divide might, that the tidal waves reflected. Having made to Cambridge in 1949, Javed, while marking his agency, chose to do PhD in the Muslim political thought and its impact on the South Asian politics especially that of the Muslim League.

Allama with Dr Javed (1925)
Allama with Dr Javed (1925)

To this end, he convinced Prof Arberry, an orientalist, who was mainly interested in Muslim mysticism. “The orientalists had no interest in Islam.” Nor were they inclined to research the inherent dynamism in it. They were only researching in the ‘mystic’ in it to externalize it for good. Nevertheless, the Cambridge years enabled him earn a doctorate (1954) and, from London’s Lincoln’s Inn, he obtained a law degree (1956). Moreover, his socialization with the native English helped him understand their perspective on gender relations, literature, music, food and dress code. In contrast to Allama, who was abhorrent of the corrupting Western civilization, Dr Javed adopted certain traits of it owing to his peculiar understanding of Islam and Christianity as well as human psychology and organization.

Upon return to Pakistan in 1956, like his father, Barrister Javed started practicing law. Being a promising son of Allama, the state elite liked to interact with him. President Iskander Mirza, for example, granted some tract of land to Ali Bux who served the Allama and later Javed and Munira along with Chaudhry Muhammad Hussain, the guardian. Similarly, General Ayub Khan invited him to represent Pakistan at international forums such as the United Nations. Such state-level patronage helped him travel far and wide and interact with foreign and national dignitaries. However, Dr Javed was a highly principled person. When he saw through Ayub’s authoritarian designs, he sided with Miss Fatima Jinnah – whom he had met as a child. Interestingly, like his father, he registered interest in politics. Hence, during the 1970 general election, he contested against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. “I was labeled by the conservative Mullah as an atheist…the socialists termed me an Islamist” wrote Dr Javed in his autobiography. The masses, for whom he wanted to work for, disappointed him by electing Bhutto. The latter and Mujeeb along with Indira Gandhi dismembered Pakistan. He was also critical of Yahya.

In the ‘new’ Pakistan, he was offered the post of high court judge which he accepted. During the Bhutto years, he lived a good family, professional and intellectual life. His annual address on the Iqbal Day was routinized and later compiled as a book, Mai Lala Faam (1968). His PhD thesis had already been published in 1959. Like his great father, Justice Dr Javed Iqbal strove to present the ‘liberal’ side of Islam which was hidden in the mist of ignorance, blind following and sectarianism. During the Zia led military rule, the need for a reformist Islam was acutely felt. As per his capacity, Dr Javed continued to share his views on Allama’s understanding of Islam and Pakistan. Time and again, he reiterated the fact that post-Jinnah Pakistan was not the one his father had envisioned. Alas, few paid heed to him. Nevertheless, he continued to provide justice to the poor in the capacity of the chief justice of Lahore high court (1982-86) and later as judge of the Supreme Court (1986-89). Post-retirement Dr Javed served as senator (1994-99). He constructively consumed his time in identifying areas where religion was misused and called for religious reinterpretation. He continued disseminating Allama’s message (Zinda Rood, 1984) the way he understood it till his last. He died on October 3, 2015.

Last but not the least, there are, comparative, similarities between the father and the son: both liked literature; both lived and earned degrees in philosophy and law from Europe; both practiced law and lectured for a while; both took part in politics and importantly both strove to present a liberal/reformist Islam. However, in terms of dissimilarities, Javed was no poet. Nor was he a sufi. He was, in my view, a rationalist scholar and jurist who lived spatio-temporally. Above all, he was the man who marked his identity in literature, drama, philosophy, law, politics and, indeed, political thought.

The writer is a political scientist by training and professor by profession. He is a DAAD fellow and the author of Military Agency, Politics and the State in Pakistan. He tweets @ejazbhatty

The writer has a PhD in civil-military relations from Heidelberg University. He is DAAD, FDDI and Fulbright fellow and teaches at the Lahore School of Economics. He can be reached on Twitter @ejazbhatty