IN 2009, a publication by the Georgetown University, USA titled “The 500 Most Influential Muslims of 2009” described Maulana Wahiduddin Khan “Islam’s Spiritual Ambassador to the world.” His approach, the book points out, is “popular among Indians, both Muslim and non-Muslim.”
Internationally recognised for his contributions to world peace, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was conferred with, among others, the Demiurgus Peace International Award, the Padma Bhushan, the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavna Award and the National Citizen’s Award in his life time.
Born in Azamgarh (UP) in 1925, Maulana left this mortal world on May. 2021 in New Delhi where he lived most part of his illustrious life. Maulana was educated in a traditional seminary but from his early years, he showed a voracious appetite for modern knowledge, spending entire days in the library. As a result he became well versed in both classical Islamic learning and modern disciplines. His extensive research led him to conclude that the need of the hour was to present Islamic teachings in the style and language of the post-scientific era.
EDUCATION AND INTELLECTUAL CHALLENGES
During some of his interactions with people after he had graduated, he was deeply shocked to realize that, although his education had been completed, he was not able to respond to statements and questions put to him by those who had received scientific education. Realising that, without studying English and modern science, his education would be incomplete, the young Khan immersed himself in learning English and then went on to study innumerable books on science and contemporary thought.
WHY SCIENCE DOES NOT DISPROVE GOD
THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF RELIGION
Upon completion of his research, in 1955, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan published his first book, Naye Ahd Ke Darwaze Par, or ‘On the Threshold of a New Era’. This book, the result of his exhaustive studies, was further elaborated upon in his next work, IlmeJadid Ka Challenge, or ‘Islam and Modern Challenges’, which was later published as ‘God Arises: Evidence of God in Nature and in Science’. The book is a unique contribution to Islamic literature in that it logically examines the basis of atheism and provides a scientific basis to religious beliefs such as the existence of God and the life Hereafter. Another important book of Maulana’s from this period is Al-Islam, or ‘The Vision of Islam’, which explains the purpose of religion and its transformative role in the life of a human being. Continuing to write since Maulana has authored over 200 books.
ISLAMIC CENTRE AND AL-RISALA MISSION
To give full expression to these positive ideas, he established the Islamic Centre at New Delhi in 1970. Subsequently, the organ of the Centre, Al-Risala – the monthly magazine – was launched in Urdu in 1976. This journal, consisting entirely of his own articles, quickly acquired a wide circulation throughout the Urdu-speaking world, and has done much to enlighten people about the peaceful ideas of Islam, to awaken in Muslims a new awareness of their responsibilities in the present age, to rekindle in Muslims the inner spirit of Islam and to promote positive thinking and action. The first issues of the English and Hindi versions of Al-Risala were launched respectively in 1984 and 1990. The English version continues to be published under the title Spirit of Islam.
FOSTERING TRUST AND GOODWILL
It is because of his advocacy of peace on the subcontinent and throughout the world and his espousal of the cause of communal harmony that he was respected by all communities. Invited to meetings by all religious groups and communities within India and abroad, Maulana was, in effect, India’s spiritual ambassador, spreading the universal message of peace, love and harmony.
QURAN IN CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH
Realising the need for a clear translation of the Quran, he translated the Quran into Urdu. This was subsequently translated into English. According to Maulana, there are more than a dozen translations of the Quran in English. However, the clarity that is there in the Arabic Quran is lacking in all of the translations. His English translations now widely popular as simple and easy-to-read. Maulana has also written a commentary on the Quran which is titled in Urdu Tazkirul Quran. The English version of the commentary is available as Quran Commentary. The focus is on extracting the spiritual meaning of the verses of the Quran, seeking nearness to God and applying Quranic guidance to daily life experiences.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has authored over 200 books on Islam, prophetic wisdom, spirituality and peaceful co-existence in a multi-ethnic society, the most recent being The Prophet of Peace: The Teachings of Prophet Muhammad, Jihad, Peace and Inter-Community Relations in Islam, The Age of Peace. These books analyse the basis of violence perpetrated in the name of Islam, deconstruct the political interpretation of Islam and provide a pragmatic ideology of peace based on the Islamic scripture and the life of the Prophet. Many of his proposals have been utilised to de-escalate controversial disputes between communities in India and reinforce trust and goodwill among people from different religious backgrounds. Another genre that Khan is famous for is applied spirituality. His books such as Leading a Spiritual Life provide wisdom to those who seek to lead their life beyond materialism and choose to manage their life’s affairs instead of succumbing to tension and depression. Many of his articles on applying spirituality to resolve problems of our life are regularly published in the Speaking Tree column of The Times of India. These insights have great acceptability among people across diverse religious affiliations.
RELIGION AND FREEDOM OF THOUGHT
Some of the essential features of the modern age are democratic governance, secularism, pluralistic societies, freedom of conscience and scientific learning. Maulana realised that the traditional literature on Islam which was compiled in the medieval times needs to take into account modern changes. Some of the questions he answered in his writings are: Is Islam compatible with democracy and secularism? Can Muslims live peacefully alongside people of other faiths? Is it necessary to re-establish an Islamic state as the ultimate goal of Islam? Does the Quran sanction violence against non-Muslims because they are non-believers? Should those who speak against the Prophet be punished due to blasphemy? If a person leaves Islam for another faith, will he be liable to death?
A central theme found in Maulana’s writings is that Islam gives complete freedom to individuals. In Islam there is no concept of coercion, either at the individual level or state level. Faith is a matter of one’s conscious intellectual discovery and not compulsive following imposed by any external authority.
The text with edits by KO Web Desk was originally sourced from https://maulanawahiduddinkhan.com/books/
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