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Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme


The imperative of 'Imitatio Dei' in the thought of Muhammad Iqbal and Rabindranath Tagore

(Date rescheduled, 7.11.22)


Across the religious traditions that are today encompassed by the terms ‘Islam’ and ‘Hinduism’, a recurring motif is that the originative cause of the world is also the spiritual breath animating its return to its singular root. In this paper, I venture into the relatively unexplored terrain of a Hindu-Muslim comparative inquiry into the intimate presence of the divine reality to the finite world.

More specifically, I offer a comparative analysis of the conception of the infinite in the worldviews of two major philosopher-poets of the Indian subcontinent – Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). I argue that both Iqbal and Tagore, drawing on their distinctive religio-cultural inheritances, set forth the relation between the finite and the infinite as non-contrastive, wherein the infinite stands not as a reifiable item in a cosmic inventory but as the ever-creative and sustaining ground of all that there is. In short, I will highlight their distinctive ways of articulating two poles of a fundamental paradox – the infinite encircles the finite and the finite recapitulates the infinite. Building on this motif of God-human ‘encirclement’, I will develop some of the implications of their cosmologies for their visions of human becoming – an existential undertaking that is, for both figures, firmly rooted in, and dynamically oriented to, the boundless divine reality.

By analysing this logic of the infinite in their writings, I will suggest that conceptual inquiries in a Hindu-Muslim comparative key can yield a much richer theological harvest than what may be initially expected while ploughing through their scriptural fields.

Hina Khalid (University of Cambridge)

Part of the Inter-Religious Relations research seminar.

Tuesday, 31 January, 2023 - 14:15 to 15:45
Event location: 
Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge

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