(Iqbal’s observations on Mystic Experience)

The first point to note is the immediacy of this experience. In this respect it does not differ from other levels of human experience which supply data for knowledge.

All experience is immediate. As regions of normal experience are subject to interpretation of sense-data for our knowledge of the external world, so the region of mystic experience is subject to interpretation for our knowledge of God.

The immediacy of mystic experience simply means that we know God just as we know other objects. God is not a mathematical entity or a system of concepts mutually related to one another and having no reference to experience

The second point is the unanalysable wholeness of mystic experience. When I experience the table before me, innumerable data of experience merge into the single experience of the table. Out of this wealth of data I select those that fall into a certain order of space and time and round them off in reference to the table.

In the mystic state, however, vivid and rich it may be, thought is reduced to a minimum and such an analysis is not possible.

But this difference of the mystic state from the ordinary rational consciousness does not mean discontinuance with the normal consciousness, as Professor William James erroneously thought.

In either case it is the same Reality which is operating on us. The ordinary rational consciousness, in view of our practical need of adaptation to our environment, takes that Reality piecemeal, selecting successively isolated sets of stimuli for response.

The mystic state brings us into contact with the total passage of Reality in which all the diverse stimuli merge into one another and form a single unanalysable unity in which the ordinary distinction of subject and object does not exist.

To the mystic, the mystic state is a moment of intimate association with a Unique Other Self, transcending, encompassing, and momentarily suppressing the private personality of the subject of experience.

Considering its content the mystic state is highly objective and cannot be regarded as a mere retirement into the mists of pure subjectivity. But you will ask me how immediate experience of God, as an Independent Other Self, is at all possible.

The mere fact that the mystic state is passive does not finally prove the veritable ‘otherness’ of the Self experienced. This question arises in the mind because we assume, without criticism, that our knowledge of the external world through sense-perception is the type of all knowledge.

If this were so, we could never be sure of the reality of our own self. However, in reply to it I suggest the analogy of our daily social experience. How do we know other minds in our social intercourse? It is obvious that we know our own self and Nature by inner reflection and sense-perception respectively.

We possess no sense for the experience of other minds. The only ground of my knowledge of a conscious being before me is the physical movements similar to my own from which I infer the presence of another conscious being. Or we may say, after Professor Royce, that our fellows are known to be real because they respond to our signals and thus constantly supply the necessary supplement to our own fragmentary meanings.

Response, no doubt, is the test of the presence of a conscious self, and the Quran also takes the same view:

‘And your Lord said, call Me and I respond to your call’ (40:60).

‘And when My servants ask thee concerning Me, then I am nigh unto them and answer the cry of him that crieth unto Me’ (2:186).


Iqbal observes that although mystic experience is normal, it cannot be broken into separate parts for convenience. Man’s feeling of closeness with his creator is as normal as his other emotions.- Jaihoon

Summarized from Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. pg 19