By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
25 April 2021
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan Was An Islamic Scholar With A Scientific Insight
1. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan wrote more than 200 hundred books and a 2-volume commentary of the Quran.
2. He was an advocate of the spirit of Sulah Hudaybiyyah.
3. He had advised Muslims to relinquish claim over the historical Babri mosque as a friendly gesture.
4. His knowledge of science and scientific theories was enviable for general Islamic scholars.
5. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan and was honoured with numerous national and international awards for his outstanding contribution to world peace and learning.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was one of the greatest Islamic scholars of the 20th and 21st century. He was among the 500 most influential Muslims of the contemporary world. He shot to prominence with his monthly Urdu magazine Al Risala in 1976 with his 'Islamic literature in contemporary style'.
Before the emergence of Al Risala, Islam and Quran were discussed in the old traditional way which did not offer new insight into Islamic religious discourse. Topics and issues used to be discussed in the same old style year after year despite the fact that the world had changed a lot socially, scientifically and industrially. Therefore, the Quran had to be interpreted in the light of modern discoveries, modern social needs and new challenges facing the world, especially the Muslims.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan's Al Risala filled the vacuum and at once the Muslims realised with astonishment that Islam could be discussed in a modern diction and a contemporary style. The Al Risala discussed issues related to the Muslims in the modern context. In his magazine Mr Khan wrote short and crisp pieces in easy and simple language which were comprehensible even to the layman.
To drive home his point, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan would sometimes narrate incidents from the Islamic history, sometimes from the world history and sometimes from some scientific phenomenon. Most interestingly, in one issue of Al Risala, he even narrates an incident relating to the occasion of conferment of Dada Saheb Phalke Award to the legendary filmmaker Raj Kapoor by the then President Venkat Raman. Actually, Raj Kapoor was so weak at that time that when he tried to stand up and go to the stage to receive the award from the President of India, he could not stand up. When the President saw that Raj Kapoor could not stand up, he came down from the stage and presented the award to him. By narrating this incident, Maulana wanted to underline the humility of the President of India. This was a new approach unexpected from an Islamic magazine before. This made his magazine popular among the Muslim masses.
Al Risala discussed burning new issues and presented Islam's point of view on them. For example, hijacking aeroplanes by terrorist organisations was a matter of grave concern for the governments in the 80s. It was a modern phenomenon which did not have precedence in Islamic history. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan wrote an article titled "Hijacking a crime" and presented his views from Islamic perspective.
Terrorism was another phenomenon that reared its ugly head in the 80s. Kashmir and Punjab witnessed the worst situation arising out of terrorism while Sri Lanka was severely hit by terrorism of LTTE. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was deeply agonised by the terrorism perpetrated by Muslims as well non-Muslims. He tried to understand the issue from social as well as Islamic point of view. He wrote in an article titled 'What is terrorism' in Al Risala issue June 2002:
"I have tried to understand this issue in the light of Islamic teachings and have come to the conclusion that armed struggle by non-governmental organisations is terrorism"
He further elaborates:
"Islam recognises the right to freedom according to Islamic teachings. Any individual or organisation has the right to run a movement for communal or political purposes and they will be entitled to this right until they commit aggression directly or indirectly. In Islam, the right to use weapons or to conduct armed action lies only with a recognised government. Non-governmental organisations have no right to take up arms under any pretext."
Unfortunately, this broad definition of terrorism presented by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was ignored by many Islamic scholars who defended the ISIS with the help of arguments not supported by the Quran or Sunnah.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was also critical of the role of madrasas in the backwardness of Muslims, especially in India. He was of the opinion that madrasas had lost their purpose and were teaching subjects that were not relevant to the modern society. For this he holds Islamic religious scholars of Abbasid caliphate and those belonging to the later period responsible who included irrelevant subjects in madrasa curriculum. In his article titled "Our Madrasas" in Al Risala May 1985, he writes:
"The holy companions paid attention to the basics of Deen but under the influence of other religions during the Abbasid caliphate Muslims got involved in superficial issues and ignored the basics of Deen. They got involved in the discussion of new issues as a result of their interaction with non-Arab communities. These discussions were not based on matters clearly mentioned in the Quran but mostly were based on the issues they had created with their unnecessary curiosity. Debates were started on jurisprudential minutes, and linguistic hair-splitting in matters of faith became the centre of attention."
He further writes, "The result of this phenomenon was that the educational system that came into existence in that period gave the most of the space to these jurisprudential and faith-based debates so much so that even the Quran and hadith were now taught in the light of these controversial debates. This system of education which was initially in vogue in the Abbasid caliphate assumed sanctity and became an essential part of Islamic education."
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan also redefined Jihad and presented the true meaning of jihad in the light of Quran and Hadith. During the 80s, the term jihad was being used by terrorist organisations in India and in other parts of Muslim world to wage war against popular governments. Muslim youth were attracted by the terrorist organisations and their romanticised religious propaganda that made them believe that by carrying out suicide bombing or by killing innocent people whom they declared Kafir, they would directly go to heaven and meet 72 Houris there. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan defined jihad in the light of the Quran. He wrote:
"In fact jihad means struggling in the path of Allah and inviting towards Allah is the real work done for the sake of Allah. It is incumbent upon all the believers to use all their energies and abilities to call the people towards Allah. They should guide other communities towards Allah's path. This is the real jihad of the believers. Muslims do not understand the meaning of real jihad. If they understand this, they will abstain from indulging in petty issues because by getting involved in irrelevant and petty disputes, an atmosphere of proselytisation can not be built and the work of Dawah cannot be accomplished without a conducive atmosphere."(Al Risala October 1983)
If we study the entire literature produced by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, we shall realise that he puts the greatest emphasis on the work of Dawah and for this work he stresses on pluralist and tolerant spirit of Islam. To him, tolerance and Dawah go hand in hand. In Al Risala or in his book Dawat-e-Islam he again and again stresses on the work of Dawah. For example he writes:
"After the end of prophetic chain, Muslims have assumed the place of Prophethood. Muslims have to carry out the same task under the guidance of the prophet pbuh that the prophet pbuh carried out directly in his own life. All the promises of divine intervention depend on the accomplishment of the work of Dawah. In it lies the secret of the success of the worldly life and the life in the Hereafter of the Muslim community."(Preface: Dawat-e-Islam 1997)
He further says that Muslims should convey the message of Islam to other communities in an organised way. They should become an ambassador of Islam in the truest sense.
In his book Dawat-e-Islam, under the sub-title Quran ka Tarjuma (Translation of the Quran) he laments the lack of interest of Muslims in the work of Dawah. He writes:
"Today many people in the world want to study the holy Quran through its original sources but such books are scarcely available to them. It is especially necessary to translate the Quran in all the major and minor languages and distribute them in the entire world. But Muslims have scant interest in this work.".
In this regard he narrates an incident. One of his educated Muslim friend once told him that one of his Christian friends bought an English translation of the Quran. On a meeting the Christian friend told him that Muslims could not compete with Christians. He had to pay for a copy of the Quran and he had to search for it. But if he just made a phone call to a Christian organisation and tell them he wanted to distribute copies of the Bible, five thousand copies will arrive at his office in no time.
He repeatedly stresses on the need to reach out to more and more people with the message of Islam and laments the Muslims' lack of interest in this field. He further writes:
"Muslims are the custodians of the true religion. It is their first duty to take the Deen of Allah to all His slaves. But Muslims are running away from this responsibility."
He also says, "Though Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries have made great efforts to publish translations of the Quran in huge number and distribute them in the world but their efforts do not meet the real needs. Moreover, their translation is also not fully trustworthy."
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was a modern scholar of Islam in the sense that apart from spiritual and moral aspects of the Quran, its scientific aspect was equally in his study. Unlike other Islamic scholars, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan's knowledge of science, scientists, scientific theories and discoveries was enviable. His book Mazhab aur Science ( Religion and Science) bears testimony to this. An excerpt from the book speaks volumes about his scientific knowledge and insight.
"The truth is that after reaching the 20th century, science has lost its previous ground. Today when Einstein has taken place of Newton and Planck and Heisenberg have abrogated the theories of Laplace, the opponents of religion have no option left to make such claims based on knowledge. Theory of Relativity and Quantum Theory have compelled scientists themselves to acknowledge that it is impossible to separate observation from observer. It means that we can only see the outer countenance of things, we cannot observe its truth in totality. The revolution that came in science has proved the importance of religion from a scientific point of view."
From this angle, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan claims to be the real Islamic scholar of the modern times.
Apart from his knowledge of Quran, Fiqh and his views on modern challenges, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was a staunch advocate of peaceful coexistence and he wanted to see Muslims as a big brother and a more responsible member of the society. He preached tolerance to Muslims and promoted among the Muslims the spirit of Sulah-e-Hudaibiya. Therefore, on the issue of Babri mosque, he advised Muslims to relinquish their claims on the historical mosque and hand it over to the Hindus as their Astha (belief) was associated with it. He was criticised for this advice by Muslims then but three decades later Muslims had to do the same under a court judgment.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan's ideas and views influenced the collective thought of Muslims because of his rational and scientific approach. He wrote more than two hundred books and a two volume commentary of the Quran apart from thousands of articles on social and Islamic topics and issues which will guide generations of Muslims the world over and contribute to the world peace and harmony.
S. Arshad is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com
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