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Abstract

The Indian Muslim poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal is widely known for his influential contribution to Islamic modernist thought. Iqbal's metaphysical account of the nature of reality has attracted a massive body of commentary and provoked substantial scholarly controversy. One of the primary areas of scholarly debate is Iqbal's conception of divine immanence and how it is related to the Quran and to the Islamic theological tradition, particularly doctrines associated with Sufism. This debate concerns question of how faithful Iqbal is to the God of the Quran, whether or not Iqbal rejects traditional Islamic conceptions of God, and to what extent Iqbal adopts Western philosophical notions of God. The present paper surveys this debate in arguing that the tensions between Iqbal's thought on God and traditional Islamic notions shed significant light on the aims of Islamic modernism. The aspects of Iqbal's conception of God that have given rise to controversy are precisely those that make possible an evolutionary, progressive, and human-centered depiction of the universe and of history. For this reason, the scholarly debate over Iqbal's conception of God provides a point of departure for understanding the altered metaphysical assumptions behind the Islamic modernist project.