Quality and Duration of PhD Degree: Will HEC recognize Iqbal’s PhD ?

Do you know that Allama Iqbal’s PhD thesis would never have passed HEC’s quality criteria of minimum duration of three years for a PhD!
Iqbal arrived in Germany between 17 to 20 July 1907. Munich University issued call for defense on 21st July. Defense was held on 10th November 1907.

A group photo, of young Allama Iqbal with his landlady and roommates during his stay in Heidelberg Germany. Year: 1907

Quality and Duration of PhD Degree

HEC’s notion of quality is bureaucratic which ignores the quality standards of top universities. In USA, duration of a program is measured by the completion of credit hours and other academic requirements, not by passage of years. However, HEC in Pakistan is still confused between annual system and USA’s credit hours.

Top Universities in USA have no such rules of calendar years. There is no restriction on minimum number of years for any program, only a restriction on minimum number of credit hours, which are measured academically, and not bureaucratically. At universities like Cornell, you can complete your MS in 9 months if you complete the desired credits. You can also complete your PHD in two or even less years if you meet the academic requirements. You can also complete your bachelor’s in 3 years. You just need to complete the credit hours and other requirements.

Quality according to HEC is a bunch of paperwork and not Academics.

When I asked this question to Dr Mukhtar in a meeting of vice chancellors in Islamabad when he was Chairman HEC, he said that because a university (in timbuktu or Chee Chun ki Maliyan) was abusing this therefore HEC had to impose this minimum duration rule for ALL universities. This was a typical bureaucratic reply based on the presumption that “you are guilty unless proven innocent”. Their argument goes like this: Because there are so many thieves in Pakistan therefore every one must be considered a thief unless proven innocent! Instead of catching the criminal which is cumbersome, bureaucracy takes the easy way out: Make the life of every one difficult!

Bureaucrats also know that making another rule doesn’t stop criminals from circumventing the new rule. But, more such rules increase the power of bureaucracy and make them more important,and can provide justification for getting them more funding, and more privileges.
Allama Iqbal’s PhD thesis would never have passed HEC’s quality criteria of minimum duration of three years for a PhD as seen from the process followed below! 
In 1905, Iqbal travelled to England for educational purpose. Iqbal qualified for a scholarship from Trinity College, University of Cambridge and obtained Bachelor of Arts in 1906, and in the same year he was called to the bar as a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn. In 1907, Iqbal moved to Germany to pursue his doctoral studies, and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in 1908. Working under the guidance of Friedrich Hommel, Iqbal’s doctoral thesis was entitled The Development of Metaphysics in Persia.
[PS is from Wikipedia]
Iqbal arrived in Germany between 17 to 20 July 1907. Munich University issued call for defense on 21st July. Defense was held on 10th November 1907.
The appendices here detail the way he got enrollment and the completion of his PhD award process.


Copied from http://www.allamaiqbal.com/publications/journals/review/apr89/3.htm



Prof. Dr. M. Siddiq Shibli


Allama Iqbal got himself registered as an advance student in the Cambridge University. He wrote a dissertation for this degree. He submitted the same dissertation with a few modifications in the Munich University of Germany. He was awarded Ph.D. on this research. The purpose of this article is to bring to light some new aspects of Iqbal’s doctoral thesis.

Iqbal’s Cambridge dissertation, his Munich thesis and its published editions all bear the title: “The Development of Metaphysics in Persia”. But it is interesting to note that Iqbal in his application for registration in the Cambridge University, worded the topic in a slightly different way. This application was addressed to the Senior Tutor of Trinity College and was written in September, 1905. About his research topic Iqbal writes.[1]

…My knowledge of Arabic and Persian and my acquaintance with European philosophy (the study of which I began 12 years ago) suggest to me that I might make a contribution to the knowledge in the West, of some branch of Muhammadan Philosophy I would propose as subject of Research — “The genesis and development of Metaphysical concepts in Persia” or some contribution to the knowledge of Arabic Philosophy which the University might approve.”

So Iqbal originally conceived his topic as “The genesis and development of Metaphysical concepts in Persia,” which on the advice of his teachers he might have simplified as “The Development of Metaphysics in Persia.”

A few documents which are available in the Munich University archives contain valuable information about Iqbal’s thesis. Credit goes to Dr. Saeed Akhtar Durrani who in 1988 wrote an article about these papers for the first time. So far this archival material has not fully utilized because it consist of hand written pages in old German style which is not also very legible. The writer of these lines got these documents transcribed and translated with the help of some German Colleagues during his stay at Heidelberg University in 1983.

Iqbal’s thesis was first published by Luzac Co. London in 1908. The copies of these edition which are found in some university libraries of Germany bear the following description on the title pages:[2]


Philosophischen Der Facultat Sekt I (Resp II) Ludwig Maximilians-Universitat, Munchen

But the other copies do not have this description. This variation in the title pages of the thesis has led some scholars to conclude that two editions came out in 1908.[3] But the correct position is that only one edition with two different titles was published in 1908. The copies with above description were sub­mitted in the University because it was so required under the rules. The relevant rules were as under:[4]

After passing the examination, the candidate will get his thesis printed and make possible changes desired by the Faculty and also add the previously submitted curriculum vitae. On the title of the thesis the following will be explicitly written:

“Inaugural Dissertation der Philosophischen

Fakultat Sket I der Ludwig – Maximilians

Universitat Munchen.”

(Inaugural Dissertation of the Philosophical Faculty Section of the Ludwing Maximilians University Munich)

After delivering 150 copies of the printed dissertation, the author receives the doctor Diploma in the Latin Language signed personally by the rector and the dean and with seal of the Faculty and the University. It will also carry the date of examination.”


So this extract clearly shows why some printed copies of the thesis carry a special description with the full names of the Faculty and the University.


Iqbal’s examination record preserved in the Munich University reveals some interesting but useful details. The Faculty of Philosophy Section I, issued a letter on 21st July, 1907 to the distinguished professors of the faculty for the doctoral examination of Iqbal.[5] They included Prof. F. Hommel, Von Hertling and Lipp. This letter also indicates that Iqbal took philosophy as his major subject and oriental and English Philosophy as his minor subjects. This letter also helps in determining the approximate date of Iqbal’s arrival in Germany. Atiya Begum’s account certifies Iqbal’s presence in England till 16th July, 1907.[6] He might have reached Germany between 17th-20th July. Iqbal deposited a sum of 260 Marks as examination fee on 22nd of July and the receipt is available in the record.

It is said that Iqbal was introduced to Munich University by his teachers in England. Prof. Arnold’s name in the panel of examiners suggests that he might have also helped Iqbal in registering himself for Ph.D. Arnold was the first to give his report. Prof. Hommel, the German guide of Iqbal. has given an extract from Arnold’s report which is as under:[7]

I have read Prof. Muhammad Iqbal’s dissertation “The Development of Metaphysics in Persia” with great interest. So far as I am aware, it is the first attempt that has been made to trace the continuous development of ancient Iranian speculation as they have survived in Muhammadan Philosophy and to bring out the distinctly Persian Character of many phases of Muslim thought. The writer has made use of much material hitherto unpublished and little known in Europe, and his dissertation is a valuable contribution to the history of Muhammadan Philosophy.[8]

Prof. Hommel has also admired the standard of the thesis. He expressed that an orientalist of Goldziher or Maxe Mullers stature could have done justice with the thesis.[9] Hommel out of modesty did not consider himself equal to the task. In the end of his report he also gave a proposal for oral examination.

Prof. Hertling has also spoken very high of the research standard. In his opinion it appears to be a paper written by a man of extensive education. But he thinks that oral examination cannot be arranged before the prior permission of the Faculty. Prof. Lipp and Prof. Kuhn both have fully endorsed the views of their colleagues about the thesis. Prof. Kuhn has also stated that Iqbal wants to return to England by 10th of November, 1907. In this way he was stressing that oral examination should be held before 10th November. The Faculty gave the permission for this examination.

(The oral examination of Iqbal was held in the Senate Chamber at 5’O clock in the afternoon of Monday on 4th November, 1907.[10] The panel of examiners consisted of the following:

Professors of the faculty:

1.      Prof. F. Hommel

2.      Prof. Lipp.

3.      Prof. Schick

4.      Prof. Kuhn

Professor Dr. H. Breymann, Dean of the Faculty was also present. Iqbal was declared successful in the examination. The Dean of Faculty forwarded Iqbal’s case for the award of Ph.D. to the Royal Rectorate of the University on the same day after the completion of the oral examination.[11]

Iqbal’s date of birth has remained a controversial issue for a long time and the controversy also arose from the date of birth given by Iqbal himself in his thesis. Iqbal recorded 3rd Zilqa’d’ 1294 A.H. (1876 A.D.) as his date of birth. But he could not correctly convert the Hijra year into Christian year. Actually 3rd ‘Zilqa’d of 1294 fell on 9th November, 1877. In 1958 Jan Marek pointed out this mistake.[12] He has also mentioned some scholars who recorded 1877 as the year of Iqbal’s birth. The Government of Pakistan had to appoint a Committee to decide Iqbal’s correct date of birth. The Committee agreed on November 9, 1877. But in Germany the mistake was corrected very soon. In the year book of 1907-08 about the research thesis written in Germany, Iqbal’s date of birth i.e. 9th November, 1877 has been correctly recorded.[13] However, it escaped the attention of the scholars like Dr.A.M. Schimmel, Jan Marek and others.

Iqbal first submitted typed copies of his thesis and then printed copies as required under the rules which provide:[14]

“submitting a thesis which is ready for print and written legibly so that it can be checked by the respective section…. (Translation)…. The printed paper has to be submitted within one year in 150 copies.”[15]

The original typed copy of Iqbal thesis was handed over to Indian government as a gift for Iqbal’s Centenary Celebrations. Now that copy is traceable neither in India nor in Germany. It has been replaced by a printed copy in Munich University Library. The card of this thesis reads as under:[16]

“The original of this work was handed in December 1969 to the Bavarian Staatskanzklei through the intermediary of Director General of Bavarian Staatl Bibliotheken Dr. Hans Striedle. They handed the book to the Indian Government as a present on the occasion of birth anniversary of the author, since the book was allegedly not available in India.


This was a very disturbing news for Pakistanis but some scholars tried to console the Iqbal lovers by saying that only printed copies were submitted in the University and the removal of original thesis of Iqbal from the Library seems out of question of them. But their assumption stands refuted by the forgoing extract.

Atiya, in her monograph on Iqbal published in 1947, has written that Iqbal’s thesis was translated in German and published.[17] But it was not published even long after the publication of this monograph. Dr. Durrani says the German translation of the thesis was completed in 1977 as a commemorative work on the occasion of Iqbal’s Centenary celebrations. Dr. Durrani’s information is also incorrect. However, the first German translation of Iqbal’s thesis was done by an Iranian scholar Ali Raza Rahbar with the collaboration of Dr. A.M. Schimmel. It was published in 1982 by Hafiz Verlag, Bonn, West Germany.


Notes and References


[1] Iqbal’s application addressed to the Senior Tutor, Trinity College, Cambridge, 1905.

[2] Iqbal, S.M. The Development of Metaphysics in Persia preserved in Munich University.

[3] Hashmi, Rafiuddin, Dr. Tasanif Iqbal…, Iqbal Academy, Lahore, 1982.

[4] Standing orders for Ph.D., Munich University, No. 6 & 7.

[5] Iqbal – Examination record, page 1.

[6] Atiya Begum, Iqbal, Lahore 1969, p.21.

[7] Arnold, Thomas, E.R.P-2.

[8] Hommel, F. Ibid.

[9] Hertling, E.R.P-3.

[10] Ibid,-4

[11] Ibid, P-5

[12] Jan Marek, The Date Muhammad Iqbal’s Birth, Archive Orientalmi Nakladatelstvi Ceskoslovenske Akademic.

[13] Jahres verzeichnis der an den Deutschen Universitaten erschienenen Schriften, Berlin 1909, p.544.

[14] Standing Orders 2-b.

[15] Ibid, No.7

[16] Munich University Library Card No. 3150.

[17] Atiya, p-22.

Appendix 2: 

Copied from http://riffathassan.info/writing/Iqbal_Studies/About_Iqbal%27s_Doctoral_Thesis.pdf

About Iqbal’s Doctoral Thesis – The Development of
Metaphysics in Persia 

By Riffat Hassan 

The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, Is Iqbal’s doctoral thesis submitted to
Professor F. Hommel of Munich University, Germany, on November 4, 1907. The
material for this dissertation had to be collected from numerous manuscripts preserved
in the great libraries of Europe particularly Berlin Staatsbibliothek. 
In his Introduction to the thesis Iqbal says, “Original thought cannot be expected
in a review, the object of which is purely historical; yet I venture to claim some
consideration for the following two points: (a)I have endeavoured to trace the logical
continuity of Persian thought, which I have tried to interpret in the language of modern
philosophy. This, as far as I know has not yet been done; (b) I have discussed the subject
of Sufism in a more scientific manner, and have attempted to bring out the intellectual
conditions which necessitated such a phenomenon.” (The Development of Metaphysics
in Persia, Lahore, 1964, p. XI) 
While speaking of the previous investigators of the origin of Sufism, Iqbal states:
“Much has been written about the origin of Persian Sufism; and, in almost all cases,
explorers of this most interesting field of research have exercised their ingenuity in in
discovering the various channels through which the basic ideas of Sufism might have
travelled from one place to another. They seem completely to have ignored the
principle, that the full significance of a phenomenon in the intellectual evolution of a
people, can only be comprehended in the light of those pre-existing intellectual, political
and social conditions which make its existence inevitable. Von Kremer and Dozy derive
Persian Sufism from the Indian Vedanta; Marx and Mr. Nicholson derive it from NeoPlatonism; while Professor Brown once regarded it as Aryan reaction against an
unemotional Semitic religion. It appears to me, however, that such theories have been
worked out under the influence of a notion of causation which is essentially false. That a
fixed quantity A is the cause of, or produces, another fixed quantity B, is a proposition
which though convenient for scientific purposes is apt to damage all inquiry in so far as
it leads us completely to ignore the innumerable conditions lying at the back of a
phenomenon.” (The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, pp. 76-77) 
While granting that Sufism like all great and intellectual movements was ultimately
the result of a certain environment, an early reviewer of Iqbal’s thesis points out, “We
cannot hope, by examining these general conditions, to learn how it came to pass that
the mystical tendency assumed a particular form or how the special doctrines which we
find in early Sufism arose. No wonder, then, that European Orientalists should have
preferred a more fruitful line of inquiry, which has demonstrated the influence of other
religions in moulding the development of Sufism. Those who derive it from NeoPlatonism do no more than assert that the early Sufis actually drew their ideas from that
source; but had these Sufis been ignorant of Greek philosophy, they might still have
produced a mysticism of the same type. To suppose that Sufism was created by foreign
influence is an absurdity so palpable that its refutation, even in the most scientific
manner, hardly constitutes a claim to originality.” (“The Development of Metaphysics in
Persia,” (Book Review), in The Athenaeum, London, 14 November, 1908, p. 602). The
reviewer tells us that he has dwelt upon the author’s treatment of the question because
it illustrates “the one weak spot in his admirable survey. He is rather deficient on the
historical side and is apt to forget that a theory will carry greater conviction if it comes to
close quarters with all the relevant facts.” (Ibid.) 
Iqbal Singh, author of Iqbal’s biography The Ardent Pilgrim, while admitting that
Iqbal’s research work is “conscientious” asserts that it is “somewhat unsatisfactory. It
leaves the reader with the impression of something that he can neither accept as serious
work nor reject as something unworthy of attention and trivial. For a research thesis its
scope is too wide, and for an original and interpretative study of the subject it seems too
sketchy, too descriptive.” (London, 1951, p. 47) To this the reviewer in The Athenaeum
could no doubt answer: “Any one at all versed in the subject will perceive the appalling
difficulty of the author’s task when he undertook to give a coherent account in less than
two hundred pages of the subtle and complex problems which have formed during
thousands of years, the favourite pabulum of a race that has always been distinguished
by its passion for metaphysical speculation. Moreover for a great part in his journey the
traveler finds himself on virgin soil, which he must explore and delineate as well as he
can without the help of guides. Shaikh Iqbal deserves high praise for that he has
accomplished. The immediate result of his labour is considerable and he has laid a solid
foundation for further research.” (“The Development of Metaphysics in Persia,” p. 602) 
Iqbal’s thesis is his first philosophical attempt and was written at a time when he
was greatly attracted by the pantheistic trend in Persian and Urdu poetry. This led him to
speak in terms of glowing enthusiasm of lbn ‘Arabi, “the leader of the pantheisticmonistic current in Islamic mysticism,” (S. H. Nasr, Three Muslim Sages, Cambridge,
1964, p. 154) to quote Hegel’s appraisal of the pantheism of Maulana Rumi, and to pay
more attention to pantheistic Sufism than to any other philosophical school. Besides his
repudiation of pantheism, many of Iqbal’s mature ideas were quite different from the
ideas expressed in the thesis. Once his pantheistic phase was over, Iqbal was to choose
Rumi as his spiritual guide in his Asrar-e-Khudi and subsequent writings even though he
allowed him practically no place in his thesis, seeing him as “a full-fledged pantheist”
until he went “to a deeper understanding of a personalistic trend in the Maulana’s
mysticism.” (A. M. Schimmel, “The Ascension of the Poet,” in Muhammad Iqbal, Karachi,
1961, p. 39) 
Pointing out the shortcomings of Iqbal’s work, in his Foreword to The
Development of Metaphysics in Persia, an eminent historian of Muslim Philosophy, M.
M. Sharif observes, “In his observations regarding Al-Farabi, lbn Miskawaih and lbn Sina
he has more or less echoed the views of early Western Orientalists and has denied these
great thinkers the credit for originality and deviation from Neo-Platonism.” The historical
accuracy of Iqbal’s statement attributing the rise of Babism to the School of Mulla Sadra,
has been questioned by S. H. Nasr who points out that the Bab, in fact, had been a
student of the School of Shaikh Ahmad Ahsa’i who wrote a commentary against one of
Mulla Sadra’s works (Three Muslim Sages, p. 154 n. 47) 
In 1927, Iqbal wrote about his thesis: “This book was written eighteen years ago.
Since that time new discoveries have been made and also my ideas suffered a great
revolution. Many books that have since been written in German on Ghazzali, Tusi, etc.,
that were not in existence at the time when I wrote. In my opinion only a little portion
of this book remains now that can escape criticism.” (Iqbal’s letter quoted by A. Bausani
in “Classical Muslim Philosophy in the Work of a Muslim Modernist: Muhammad Iqbal,”
in Archiv Fur Geschichte Der Philosophie, Berlin, 1960, Band 42/3, p. 284). Nevertheless
Iqbal’s work until it is superseded by a more comprehensive work will retain its
importance in Oriental Studies. It presents “the first and only historical account of
Persia’s philosophical thought and credit of its conception goes to Iqbal.” A. Bausani
comparing Iqbal’s dissertation with his more mature lectures on The Reconstruction of
Religious Thought in Islam, gives high praise to the earlier work although it “abounds in
hasty comparisons between philosophers historically unconnected” since these
comparisons are sometimes “highly interesting and illuminating.” He goes on to say “In
a sense it cannot be denied that, from a purely objective and scientific point of view The
Development of Metaphysics in Persia partly rejected by author – seems superior to The
Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. In it Iqbal drew his materials from original
and in many instances manuscript sources and gave important notices of philosophers
almost unknown in European circles of that time or put some into a new light through
his somewhat bold, but always fascinating reinterpretations.”(Ibid.) 
Iqbal’s thesis which covers the enormous range of speculation from Zoroaster
and Mani to modern Babism contains a successful examination of both Persian Idealism
and Realism, and is important for the history of religious thought. As pointed out by the
reviewer in The Athenaeum, “The immediate result of his (Iqbal’s) labour is considerable,
and he has laid a solid foundation for further research. The most notable sections of the
volume are perhaps those which describe the ‘Hikmat al-Ishraq’ or ‘Philosophy of
Illumination’ expounded by Shihab-al-Din al-Suhrawardi, the famous Sufi thinker who
was put to death as a heretic by order of Malik al-Zahir, a son of Saladin; and the ‘Insan
al-Kamil’ or ‘Perfect Man,’ of al-Jili, whose system in some points curiously anticipates
the views of Hegel and Schleiermacher.” (p. 602). Al-Jili’s views also seem to have
influenced Iqbal’s own concept of an individual’s spiritual development. (A. M.
Schimmel, Gabriel’s Wing, Leiden, 1963, p. 38). Iqbal also drew attention to Persian
theologians like Mulla Sadra and Hadi Sabzawari who were nearly unknown in Europe. 
About Iqbal’s thesis which was described by Mulk Raj Anand as “an illuminating
little treatise soundly written,” Professor Nicholson wrote, “although it is only a sketch,
some parts of it are as illuminating and suggestive as anything that has been written on
the subject.” (The Secrets of the Self: A Moslem Poet’s Interpretation of Vitalism,” in The
Athenaeum, December 10, 1920, p. 803). Though inevitably sketchy and incomplete,
Iqbal’s work has been described as “a really valuable resume of the history of Persian
metaphysics, sound in principle, and trustworthy as far as it goes.” (“The Development of
Metaphysics in Persia,” p. 601).The work which is mainly concerned with elucidating the
various systems of Persian thought and their relation to each other, leaves “no doubt as
to the competence of the author’s scholarship and the importance of his work.” (Ibid. p.
602) Not only does it point to the fact of lqbal’s wide reading and his grasp of the
subject, but also demonstrates that he is “familiar with, and has learnt to employ,
European methods of criticism which generally leave no profound impression, even on
the most gifted Oriental minds.” (Ibid. p. 601) 
Iqbal’s study “shows a remarkable knowledge of European theology from
Thomas Aquinas to Adolf Von Harnack of German philosophical thought.” (Gabriel’s
Wing, p. 38). It is valuable not only as a research work for the student of Persian
metaphysics or Islamic thought but also as a starting point of his own philosophy for
“there can be no doubt that the mystics who are discussed in the metaphysics, and their
religious and philosophical conditions have helped him to form his philosophy either in
congruence with them, or out of a complete antithesis.” (Ibid., p. 39) 
The thesis was first published in the form of a book by Luzac and Co. London, in
1908; it was reprinted by Bazm-e-Iqbal, Lahore, in 1954, and has now seen a third print
(in 1964) which carries a foreword by M. M. Sharif. The book is dedicated to Professor T.
W. Arnold with these words, “This little book is the first fruit of that literary and
philosophical training which I have been receiving from you for the last ten years, and as
an expression of gratitude, I beg to dedicate it to your name.”


[1] IQBAL’S DOCTORAL THESIS by Prof. Dr. M. Siddiq Shibli
[2] About Iqbal’s Doctoral Thesis – The Development of Metaphysics in Persia 

By Riffat Hassan


See Also: 

What is PhD?

Why PhD is Difficult: 

Starting with your PhD

Reading Research and Writing Your Research 
Qualitative Learning from a PhD



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