By Hussein Shobokshi
Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most influential figures in modern history. He never won the Nobel Peace Prize, although he was nominated four times, but he has become a worldwide symbol of peace. Gandhi has inspired great leaders who have led their countries to safety in the midst of deadly political and social storms because they followed his belief in nonviolent resistance.
Unfortunately, in the Arab and Muslim world some biased pens have depicted Gandhi as “hostile” to Arabs and Islam. However, there is an important book I read recently that may contribute to changing this misleading and false image. The book is “Gandhi and Arab and Muslim Issues” by Abdul Nabi Al-Shula, a former Bahraini minister, social worker and businessman. The book illustrates important positions taken by Gandhi that are consistent with the values of Islam and the policies of Muslims.
Gandhi’s nonviolent movement inspired the American civil rights champion Martin Luther King as well as the great African leader Nelson Mandela, who restored civil and social peace to his country. It also inspired the Czech hero Vaclav Havel, leader of the Velvet Revolution.
The book also shows that Mahatma Gandhi had a role in establishing and developing relations between India and the Arab states. Gandhi said: “I became convinced that the sword was not the means by which Islam gained its status, but through the simplicity of the Prophet (peace be upon him) with his accuracy and honesty in his promises, dedication and devotion to his companions and followers, and his courage with his absolute trust in his Lord. These are the qualities that paved the way and overcame the difficulties and not the sword.”
I first met Abdul Nabi Al-Shula in the1980s when I took part in a development course in one of his companies, and then participated as a speaker in specialized conferences. He was a minister who was always a noble knight, patriotic and educated. So when Abdul Nabi Al-Shula writes a valuable book about a global figure like Gandhi, focusing on Gandhi’s relationship with Arabs and Muslims, the book has weight and merit.
Gandhi is a great figure whom I have always found interesting. I wrote a number of research papers about him during my undergraduate years in the United States and have read many books about his life and its impact on Indian politics and the world. I have always been surprised that in Arabic there has been a somewhat misleading campaign doubting the values of the man and his great positive impact.
So I can only express my happiness that now there is an important addition to the thirsty Arab library. It is important to demand the investigation of wisdom and its application everywhere. In Gandhi’s great words: “Be the change you seek.”