Harvest of Leadership: Perfect Man v/s Superman

Many great philosophers have been amused by the notion of a Superman.
"When Allama Iqbal wrote this in Bal e Jibril he directly described the key qualities of a perfect man and which are clear vision, recognition of truth and courage to act."
"When Allama Iqbal wrote this in Bal e Jibril he directly described the key qualities of a perfect man and which are clear vision, recognition of truth and courage to act." GK Layout Desk

Bharosa Kar Nahin Sakte Ghulamon Ki Baseerat Par

Ke Dunya Mein Faqat Mardan-e-Hurr Ki Ankh Hai Beena


Trust no slave’s eyes, clear sight and liberty go hand in hand.

One cannot rely on the intuition of slaves in the world, only the eyes of liberated Men like Al-Hurr who have the vision of recognizing the truth.

Al-Hurr ibn Yazid was the general of the Umayyad army dispatched from Kufa, Iraq to seize al-Husain ibn Ali (RA), and his followers, and initially responsible for holding al-Husain (RA) and his followers captive.

Al-Hurr died fighting on al-Husain's side recognising the fact that al Husain (RA) is the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who is the last messenger of Allah; the One true God).

When Allama Iqbal wrote this in Bal e Jibril he directly described the key qualities of a perfect man and which are clear vision, recognition of truth and courage to act. 

Various great philosophers of the East and West have contemplated the authenticity of “Man”, his enigmatic and infinite mental and spiritual powers, his Godly abilities and his irresistible capacity to master and lead and rule the forces of Nature. A comprehensive study of human beings has led scholars to segregate men from supreme men. Many great philosophers have been amused by the notion of a Superman. 

From Greek poet Homer in his famous national epic, “Odyssey” to Plato’s ‘Wise men’, both expresses the necessity for Supermen to lead humanity in the right way, to lead and support it with extreme care, efficiency, sincerity, and devotion; whose characters are high and ideals patronizing.

Another old Greek thinker, Diogenes also sought his Superman on this earth but could not find him. The Italian poet, Dante, has also stated his idea of a Superman in his famous poem “Divine Comedy JJ in the character of Ulysses. Tennyson declares that a Superman should follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought. 

The great German philosopher Nietzsche’s idea of "the Superman" (Ubermensch) is one of the heftiest impressions in his thinking. Even though it is mentioned very briefly only in the prologue of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, it had been contemplated and established throughout his works.

Nietzsche’s Superman has a wisdom of resolution; something that drives him to spread his message. He is not so concerned about minor things that may occupy other people. He is a bold and independent thinker which often causes opposition and controversy. 

Nietzsche gave his list of those people who had the abilities of Superman. This list comprised Goethe, Montaigne, Napoleon, Julius Caesar and Voltaire. It’s alleged that Nietzsche may have been intentionally or instinctively influenced by the Islamic belief in the Perfect Man through, Goethe’s poem, “Mahomet’s Song,” dedicated to the Prophet of Islam, whom he calls “chief” and “head of created beings.” One exemplary role model for Superman. There are also parallels in the manner in which the idea of Superman is revealed in Thus Spake Zarathustra and the history of early Islam.

The great mystic of Islam Shaik Mohiud Din Ibnul ‘Arabi believes that the Perfect man is the most perfect embodiment of God’s attributes and is the established consciousness of God and can be regarded as a kind of spiritual authority.

The great Islamic thinker Abdul Kareem Al Jili in his famous book, “Al Insan-al-Kamil” says that the perfect man has an enigmatic universe in himself. He is the apparent phase of God, and the Supreme being in the universe.

Perchance the most eminent affiliation of the concept of the Insan-i Kamil or the Perfect Man and the Prophet to Nietzsche was highlighted by Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who believes in man’s vicegerency of God, and says that man has come to the earth to conquer the universe, to govern the forces of Nature and to constitute the kingdom of God on earth.

Iqbal transcripts that Allah himself in the Quran made man in the image of the divine as a vicegerent on earth. A man could aspire to the statures and standards set by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the model of the Perfect Man, and Iqbal urged men to do so.

Iqbal’s work reflected Nietzsche, although with a more religious dimension linked to Islam. Iqbal believed that through the understanding of religion, Man could develop his potential to become the Perfect Man whose mind ranged across the cosmos: 

Sitaron sey aagey jehan aur bhihein!

Abhi ishq key imtihan aur bhi hein

(There are many worlds beyond the stars! And many more tests of love)

Iqbal’s Perfect man has awe-inspiring dimensions and furtive, spiritual, mental and physical powers to conquer, control and govern the force of Nature. His wisdom is an astonishing gift of God. With the help of this wisdom of mysterious power, man can surmount the universe. 

There is a religious dimension in Iqbal’s understanding of self-improvement in the last lines of “The Answer to the Complaint” (Jawab-e-Shikwa):

Ki Muhammad say wafatu nay to hum terayhain

Ye jahan cheese hay kia luh o kalam terayhain

God himself says, “If you are faithful to Muhammad ( SAW), then I am yours. Why do you ask for this universe? I will give you the secret to knowledge.” Iqbal thus accredited the validity of the perfect man while also his connection to God. 

The subjugation of the universe is the first responsibility of man but Iqbal’s perfect man does not restrain himself to this. Iqbal’s outset of a perfect man is more uplifting and inspiring. He soaks up the ultimate reality in his own “Self” and feels oneness with God. To reach this goal, he struggles intensely and outbreaks intimidatingly the devil inside him. He is God-intoxicated. He is a quintessence of inspiring morality and high ethical values. He is the most perfect personification of God’s qualities. He cannot kneel before any force or power except God.

One who carries truth in his breast cannot kneel before falsehood.

Iqbal’s perfect man conquers wealth but is not conquered by it. He believes in struggle as the secret of life. In the struggle of life, he remains in the service of God. He uproots the fear of worldly powers from his heart, as it is an obstacle in his way to his goal. Iqbal’s perfect man fears no power except God’s.

Iqbal’s perfect man is valiant and courageous, but kind, compassionate, generous and permissive with a sympathetic, tender heart. He has a pure heart in war as well as in peace. Greatness and beauty syndicate in his nature. He has soft speech and struggles hard. His life is a blessing and not a curse. He is a protector of humanity.

He breaks the strong shackles of destiny by truthful and persistent determination and gosh. Iqbal’s perfect man shapes his destiny. The enigmas of the cosmos are revealed to him and he grasps that distinguished point where God would consult his will.

Iqbal recognised Nietzsche in his short poem “Hakeem Nietzsche” or “Learned Sage Nietzsche” and cited him in his distinguished poetic work Payam e Mashriq (1923), a response to Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan. About Nietzsche, Iqbal sighed, “His heart is that of a believer’s but his brain that of an infidel’s.” 

For Nietzsche, religion signified the “herd mentality” and needed to be excluded. For Iqbal, to find salvation, religion is the entry to reconnoitre the mystical vistas of the creation, cosmos and man’s place in it. While the shove of Nietzsche’s thinking is to attack the doctrine of Christianity and thereby implicitly the idea of God, Iqbal is heart-rending on the contrary course.

The main difference between Nietzsche and Iqbal is just like the difference between existentialism (being before purpose) and essentialism (purpose before being). Iqbal’s ‘khudhi’(Self-actualize) is based on essentialism whereas Nietzsche’s ‘Will’ is based on existentialism. Iqbal gives a divine sense of purpose and went to great lengths to distinguish his concept of the Perfect Man from that of Nietzsche’s Superman.

Iqbal stated emphatically, “I wrote on the Sufi doctrine of the Perfect Man more than twenty years ago, long before I had read or heard anything of Nietzsche.” His Perfect Man could not be perfect without a strong spiritual component. Nietzsche’ Will is based on openness whatever you like you can do. He says that when a human being rises above his/her nature, S/he will reach himself. Whereas Iqbal believes when a human being goes back to his/her nature, S/he will reach khudi.

There is one similarity that both want to make man free from the shackles of mental slavery, but in practicality both are different. Iqbal’s philosophy is neat, clear, straight and reliable, one can match the idea of the perfect man anywhere in his poetry and philosophy. While Nietzsche is all over the place, scattered everywhere creating confusion. There is no divine regulation there. This is a huge problem and the reason Nietzsche is a dangerous Philosopher.

The ultimate litmus test of both philosophies is the outcome of their ideology, Harvest of the perfect man and Superman. Nietzsche’s will to power resulted in Nazi camps (though Nietzsche must not be blamed for Hettler’s understanding of Nietzsche’s superman). It’s not his direct fault. He is open to interpretations.

Nietzsche's greatness is he always contradicts himself and he is usually, right. Will to power had a great misinterpretation by Nazis, Richard Bertrand Spencer, Scarlet who Openly acknowledged Nietzsche. Iqbal’s Self-actualize results in the form of autonomy to nations and freedom to his readers. People can create their world order. Iqbals Perfect Man is best described in his famous poem ‘Masjid-e-Qurtuba’ as

Aqal Ki Manzil Hai Woh, Ishq Ka Hasil Hai Woh

Halqa’ayAfaq Mein Garmi-E-Mehfil Hai Woh

(He is the journey’s end for reason, He is the raison d’etre of Love. An inspiration in the cosmic communion)

The author is head Department of ECT&CS, SCERT J&K

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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