Iqbal’s Mard –e- Momin and Nietzsche’s Superman: Similarities and Differences

Iqbal’s Mard –e- Momin and Nietzsche’s Superman: Similarities and Differences

By Tabish Khursheed

The metaphorical expressions, Superman and Mard-e-Moomin,  are famous constructions of German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche and renowned poet  Allama Iqbal. Nietzshe, living at a time when philosophical and theological structures of tradition were lambasted at and doubted upon for their corruption and irrelevant appeal to modern sensibility,  felt a strong need to reinvent new values, consolidate new philosophical positions and create a revolutionary ideal of life. His pursuits resulted in a creation of  book  “Thus Spake Zarathustra”  in which his famous and highly debated but often misunderstood  assertion “God is dead” appears. Nietzshe saw God dead not because his objective presence(if any) was eliminated or the supernatural conception of his being proved false but he realized the theological value system associated with God was not conducive and appealing to modern man whose ideological character was drastically shifting from what he had inherited from tradition.
The nihilistic tendency of mind purported by philosophy of Existentialism, moral and spiritual corruption deeply embedded into spaces occupied  by religious institutions and overall distrust towards traditional structures of life is what landed people into environment of uncertainty and confusion during his time. When people lost ideals of life and  centre of values  which could have informed and controlled their moral, intellectual, individual and social behavior, there arose a need of newly invented values , new torchbearers and new point of attractive ideal one could individually aspire for. It is at this juncture Nietzsche dreamt of  Superman which according to him would be creator of new values, harbinger of hope  and would fill the void brought about by onslaught of nihilism against supernatural conception of God.
The Superman  is over-man, super-self and a dignified ideal qualified enough  to maintain order and give meaning to life when the world is collapsing into moral, ideological and intellectual despair. Nietzshe writes “Man is a rope, tied between beast and over-man” who has progressive possibility in him to attain moral, intellectual and ideological perfection and thorough whom concept of God or Supreme Self can be personified and practiced. The Superman replaces God, sets new aspirational values, guides humanity to new directions and all -things associated hitherto with God become permanently meaningless for him.
The journey from beast to over-man, for Nietzsche,  is only possible when Superman is looked forward to, and his qualities duly adopted. It is this concept of Superman which has inspired Allama Iqbal’s conception of Mard-e-Moomin albeit with some variations. The Mard-e-Moomin Iqbal talks about too is a metaphor of perfection where your moral, spiritual and human capabilities reach to their zenith and you evolve into a transformed figure. Being Mard-e-Moomin or Shaheen is  to rise above your corrupted ‘nafs’  and attain purification of soul  and cleanse those aspects of character which have been wrought devilish  and blackened by the debased colours of  world outside. Mard-e-Moomin  is a successful incarnation of person who  journeys through spiritual trails, recognizes the spirit in himself and achieves “Khudi”. The “Mann mai dhoobna” Iqbal talks about is actually a necessary condition for  attaining character of Mard-e-Moomin  and making you realise the potential moral and spiritual element in you which embodies power of defeating all satanic challenges you are fraught with.
The ‘ishq’ for God and Prophet(SAW) he emphasizes upon,  beyond its literal connotation or theological implications,   is ishq for standard of life which is represented by Mard-e-Moomin and comprehensively purest in form-spirit and an ideal picture of things which is  found lost when moral and spiritual degradation sets in .The metaphors “Shaheen”, “uqaab ” and” mard e moomin “signifies a flight rising you to the level where you become capable to dictate  the political, social, cultural and moral lessons to the world. The Mard-e-Moomin doesn’t, in strict sense of the term, replace God but acquires Godly vision and becomes typical incarnation of God, speaking his language, practising his actions and dramatizing his thoughts . The “Uqab e Ruh” and  “Parwaaz” of Shaheen are symbols reflecting the  highest spiritual attainment and  character of activity rather than dull regress into remote caves of solitude. However, what differentiates Superman from Mard-e-Moomin is the fact that the former dissociates itself from transcendental application and concentrates on the world before us while the latter unifies the two and places the life of man in the context of transcendental world as well as the world of planet earth. The Superman is too occupied with world that he doesn’t look forward to life after death while as vision of  Mard e Moomin apart from its world centric approach transcends its barriers and believes in life after death. This fundamental difference between the two can be understood straight from the lines of two philosophers. Iqbal writes ” Qanaaat na kar Aalam-e-rang-o-buu par/Chaman aur bhi Aashiyaan aur bhi hain”, while as Nietzsche writes in Thus Spake Zarathustra” I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes! Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying and poisoned themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so let them go”. However, it can be rightly said that both of them were created out of need in a corrupted environment which seemed to Nietzsche and Iqbal degrading and nihilistic  for the life of man. Both try to give meaning to life when all meaningless drama of life speaks through world.  Without going into the aspect of apparent clash found in their respective approach to life before death and life after death we need to delve deep and get to the spirit lying down both of them .The Superman and Mard-e-Moomin would perhaps not have come into existence had things remained constant, uncorrupted and ordered and need for transcendence into something new.

—The author is a Contractual Lecturer teaching English Literature. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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