Douglas Rushkoff thoroughly investigates the self-indulgent role of individualism and choice as it is used to justify consumption and corporate control. Karen Armstrong in A History of God, explores the emergence of this through the eyes of religion. The following is about Sir Mohammed Iqbl (1877-1938) “who became for the Muslims of India what Ghandhi was for the Hindus” (emphasis mine):
From such Western philosophers as Nietzsche, Iqbal had imbibed the importance of individualism. The whole universe represented an Absolute from which was the highest form of individuation and which men had called “God.” In order to realize their own unique nature, all human beings must become more like God. That meant that each must become more individual, more creative and must express this creativity in action. The passivity and craven self-effacement (which Iqbal put down to Persian influence) of the Muslims of India must be laid aside. The Muslim principle of ijtihad (independent judgement) should encourage them to be receptive to new ideas: the Koran itself demanded constant revision and self-examination. Like al-Afghani and Abduh, Iqbal tried to show that the empirical attitude, which was key to progress, had originated in Islam and passed to the West via Muslim science and mathematics during the Middle Ages. Before the arrival of the great confessional religions during the Axial Age, the progress of humanity had been haphazard, dependent as it was upon gifted and inspired individuals. Muhammad’s prophecy was the culmination of these intuitive efforts and rendered any further revelation unnecessary. Henceforth people could rely on reason and science.
Unfortunately individualism had become a new form of idolatry in the West, since it was now an end in itself. People had forgotten that all true individuality derived from God. The genius of the individual could be used to dangerous affect if allowed absolutely free rein. The breed of Supermen who regarded themselves as Gods, as envisaged by Nietzsche, was a frightening prospect: people needed the challenge of a norm that transcended the whims and notions of the moment. It was the mission of Islam to uphold the nature of true individualism against the Western corruption of the ideal. They had their Sufi ideal of the Perfect Man, the end of creation and the purpose of its existence. Unlike the Superman who saw himself as supreme and despised the rabble, the Perfect Man was characterized by his total receptivity to the Absolute and would carry the masses along with him.