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Mustafa Kemal Pasha Ataturk



See also Chapter 48, 'Phoenix' in The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality

Mustafa Kemal Pasha (1888-1938), popularly called “Ataturk” (Father of the Turks), reclaimed his country after its annexation by the Allied Forces in the aftermath of the First World War (1914-1918) through military efforts as well as sophisticated diplomacy, declared it a “republic” and accepted the independence of the components of the former Ottoman Empire, such as the Middle Eastern states. Out of all the imperialist nations of Europe, Turkey under Ataturk was probably the only power to give up imperialism in principle (Britain and France continue “token imperialism” by retaining possession of some small colonies, such as Falkland).

Pasha’s landmark victory at Smyrna in September 1922, which turned the tables against the Allied invaders in Turkey, inspired Iqbal to write ‘The Dawn of Islam’ (see Chapter 48 in A Novel of Reality). Subsequent efforts by Pasha to Westernize Turkey were criticized by Iqbal, especially in Javid Nama (1932) and Gabriel’s Wing (1935).

This has led some scholars to presume that Iqbal’s initial admiration for Ataturk was short-lived and was completely washed away by the Turk’s later reforms. The matter needs to be seen in the light of an explicit and elaborate argument on this issue in a public statement of Iqbal was published first in the newspaper Islam in January 1936, and subsequently reprinted as a pamphlet, ‘Islam and Ahmedism’.

In that article, Iqbal refuted Nehru’s assertion that Turkey under Ataturk had ceased to be a Muslim country. He then went on to systematically analyze “the supposed or real innovations”. Among those he defended, either in principle or due to the specific situation in Turkey, were:

  1. the development of "a general materialist outlook";
  2. the abolition of the old dress and the introduction of the Latin script;
  3. the abolition of polygamy and the licentiate ulema;
  4. the abolition of the Caliphate;
  5. the separation of Church and State;
  6. the adoption of racial and nationalist ideals.

The two innovations that were cited by Iqbal as “serious errors” were:

  1. the recitation of the Quran in Turkish; and
  2. the adoption of the Swiss code with its rule of inheritance.

The final analysis was that Ataturk was among “men, who, relying on their healthy instincts, had the courage to rush into sun-lit space and do, even by force, what the new conditions of life demanded. Such men are liable to make mistakes; but the history of nations shows that even their mistakes have sometimes borne good fruit. In them it is not logic but life that struggles restless to solve its own problems.”

Critical Appreciation