It is hard to find a single convincing answer to why that golden Muslim era actually vanished. Was that success because of the rulers of that era? Was it about the political and religious space available that encouraged critical thought and research? Had it something to do with an inclusive cosmopolitan culture wherein thinkers and researchers from diverse ethnicities and religious beliefs were able to come together and innovate? Or was it the inspiration from the Holy Quran exhorting the humanity to thinking and knowledge? Or it was the critical learning culture of the religious Madrasas of that era?
Iqbal spoke on Ijtihad as the principle of Movement in Islam and since then much time has elapsed though the lectures had tremendous impact on the subsequent events unfolding in the Islamic world. We know that Iqbal's views on Ijtihad were much appreciated by almost all sections of ummah including Ulama, though these were never put to the practical test by Muslims as has happened with many other such efforts made by other reformists from Shah Wali Allah of Delhi onwards. How strange that Muslims have done Ijtihad on Mutashabiat Aayat rather than Muhkamat Aayat which are the actual subjects on which Ijtihad needs to be done. We have examples of attempting at Ijtihad on the essence and attributes of God by Mu'tazilah in their own way and they were followed by Sufis even Ibn Arabi and Mansur has also made the transcendental aspects of divine the subject of human comprehension and have tried to solve the problems of transcendence by making Godhead to descend from heavens into the realm of this mundane phenomenonal world in the manner of some denominations and communities of the world who have rendered Tawhid redundant by their ratiocination long back in form of incarnationism and awtarhood. Shankar and Plotinus are such examples followed by the Christians who have resorted to the catastrophic Ijtihad on the god head and have made God like humans or humans like God by their erroneous and pugnacious interpretations .
But the Quran had sternly warned against all such attempts and had asked Muslims to believe in Allah and His attributes and all such verses of the Quran which are allegorical without subjecting these to manmade similitude or similarities. Perhaps it was Greek thought which not only impacted Muslims thinking at the doctrinal levels but also Hindus and Christians before Islam and convinced some of their best minds to believe in emanation or emanation like theories which resulted in futile theological discussions engaging the best minds in debates which had open ended nature and thus led to sectarian developments at the cost of the glorious achievements otherwise marking the hall mark of early Islamic era.
However what Iqbal intended to achieve by his lecture on Ijtihad was hardly achieved, and thus this issue needs reconsideration for all the Muslim thinkers, scholars and groups who want to revitalize Islamic ethos once more on the lines it had ones flourished in the context of Arabia, Central Asia and Iran in medieval times.
Ijtihad if shorn of all the above mentioned acrimonies has a great role to play in any future activity Muslims may take in hand and especially the reconstruction of Islamic thought and restructuring of our society depends on it for all the further developments.
All other subjects Iqbal had dealt with in his lectures are now losing their importance owing to the new challenges put forward before Muslims by the emerging circumstances and after Iqbal Muslim world has seen the emergence of stalwarts like Maulana Mawdudi, Ismail Raji Faruqui, Khomeini, Ali Shariati and Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi; all of whom have shown subtle and positive influences of Iqbal's revivalist thought. But notwithstanding that, they have come out with new and more practical concerns of the ummah rather than remaining satisfied with the highly sophisticated philosophical and intellectually loaded lectures of Iqbal. But Iqbal's views on Ijtihad are still very relevant and we need to start all our reconstruction of Islamic thought by employing it in its broader ramifications.
The second problem closely related to Ijtihad will be and must be none else than the Muslim responses to the educational challenges where Muslim have failed miserably in the present era owing to their complacency and lethargy. How strange that religions like Christianity, which in essence are akin to reclusion and monasticism, have taken lead in championing the cause of education, making the world better, and even Muslims world over have more or less dependent on the missionary schooling of their wards.
Till date we have not been able to decide what constitutes actual Islamic education and what is the status of modern sciences, and technology in the scheme of Islamic epistemology and how far can these disciplines be accommodated alongside with Muslim classical /traditional or modem education. Madrasah has remained as static that any attempt to reform it, or bring changes into its syllabi, are resisted by the custodians of madrashs tooth and nail. Efforts of Shibli, Maulana Mawdudi, Sir Syed and Ismail Raji Faruqui, and others have met but with very less success in convincing the traditional Muslim clergy about the tenacity of modern sciences visa vise religious sciences .
The classification of Uloom attributed to Ghazzali as Fard al Kifayah and Fard al ´Ain is still prevalent despite the desperate attempts of Ismail Raji Faruqui who somehow could at least convince some well meaning Muslim luminaries to start universities and institutions aiming at Islamisation of Knowledge. Though this very notion is fraught with many intellectual intricacies and loopholes but given the abject performance of Muslims in the arena of education it is still a great achievement. But the traditional leadership of ulama in most of the Muslim countries could neither be convinced about Raji Faruqui's approach to modern uloom not to sir Syed Ahmad Khan's stance on traditional sciences.
One of the stumbling block in the way of realization of many goals of educational excellence is the moribund approach of Muslims to science and religion.
There are two divergent groups among the Muslims who talk about science and religion.
Some people are adamant to prove everything scientific as Islamically tenable while as others are hell bent to oppose everything scientific.
Worse still is the situation when philosophy of science based on atheistic premises and materialist origination is being employed and advocated by some Muslim zealots to prove divine origin of time and space and the heavens and earth.
So far as the inventions of the science are concerned those could be utilized for the service of Islamic propagation but at the doctrinal level we needed a cautious response as the methodology and the conclusions made by the atheistic scientists were going to be counterproductive to our religious objectives, if employed unwisely for the support of religion. And by invoking the authority of science in all matters relating to religion or metaphysical aspects of religion were bound to be self contradictory and would bounce back once the scientific theory based on assumption or hypotheses was found to be erroneous.
Our ulama and intellectuals need to shun the inferiority complex and try to evaluate the darker sides of philosophy of science and only appreciate the practical aspects of science which have not been presented as the alternative to theological or spiritual origination of the universe.