By Jamuna Rangachari
Islamic scholar and enlightened thinker, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, sheds light on Islamic philosophy.
The Mumbai blasts have once again created mistrust and suspicion of the Muslim community. My heart goes out to all the millions of innocent Muslims who will once again be discriminated against and alienated. I shudder at the increasing momentum of the tragic cycle of hate and recrimination that the event has unleashed. The only solution to this growing divide, I am convinced, is to create awareness of the enlightened tenets of Islamic philosophy, instead of the half-truths and misinterpretations received by both practicing Muslims and other communities.
The perfect person for the job is Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, an Islamic scholar of impeccable repute, whose self-appointed task has been to free Islam from the hold of self-interested clerics and broadcast its message of peace and tolerance. At 80, the Maulana puts one in mind of an ancient Biblical prophet, dressed as he is in a loose pathani suit, with a long silver beard streaming down from his wise, benevolent face. He has many books and publications to his credit and is founder of Center for Peace and Spirituality in Delhi where he conducts regular classes. He publishes Al Risala, a bilingual magazine in Urdu and English and his talks are also aired on Zee Jagran.
Excerpts from the interview:
What, in your view, is the central tenet of Islam?
There is no single tenet which summarizes the teachings of Islam but many of them have to be taken together. Oneness of God and compassion are the main principles, which, when extended, also develop into brotherhood, faith, prayer and peace.
Here, I would like to emphasize that the brotherhood Islam talks about is universal brotherhood, which links the entire humanity and not a narrow brotherhood comprising of just one community.
With this in mind, Prophet Mohammed used to rise early every morning and pray thus: ‘Oh, God, I bear witness that all human beings are brothers and sisters’.
There is, unfortunately, a lot of misinterpretation of the teachings of Islam.
Yes, there is. It is important to remember that Muslims and Islam are different.
The way religion develops is thus. First, there is a principle that is espoused by an individual. When accepted by a group, it is seen as an ideology. This ideology when it gains much greater acceptance by spreading among a larger group, forms a community.
Islam’s principles are different from Muslims, the community. There is certainly degeneration in the world at large and in Muslims too. This is not to be confused with Islam.
Is music forbidden in Islam?
No, certainly not. What is forbidden is nudity. Only when music is coupled with nudity or semi-exposure as it sometimes is, is it forbidden.
Could you elaborate on the true meaning of jihad and kafir?
Jihad is essentially a peaceful struggle for justice. This kind of struggle generally requires tremendous patience and hence ‘haq’ and ‘sabr’, truth and patience, are essential for jihad. To give an example from recent times, the satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi was a jihad.
Kafir is a person who refuses to accept the principles of divinity despite being exposed to them. Even here, no individual can ever declare another to be a kafir. This is the prerogative of Allah alone. Why, even the Prophet had said he could not really declare anyone to be a kafir. It is certainly recommended that all believers teach and spread the message of God, but no coercion or judgmental assertions are called for.
Does Islam accept that wars are sometimes necessary?
Islam stands for peace. The word Islam itself means ‘peace’. This is the highest goal society can strive for. Yes, there have been battles in Prophet Mohammed’s time but these have been only for self-defense.
It is only for defending oneself or the helpless that war can be fought. Invasion and attack is strictly forbidden.
Islam lays downs rules of conduct both for the individual and for society. Are both of these immutable?
To put it more clearly, the two components of Islam are the belief system and social system or shariat. The belief system which speaks of God is immutable but the shariat, the social laws, are not. What is not recommended is frivolous change in shariat without careful thought of the long-term implications. However, change of social laws after careful consideration of the objectives of the change can be done.
Today, at one level, we can see a lot of interaction and dialog and at another, violence and intolerance. How do you view this and what do you think the future holds for us?
I would like to answer this in two parts.
See, there are differences between the peoples of the world and this will always be there. Hence, what we need to learn is ‘difference management’. In fact, these very differences can be a blessing as they lead to better understanding through dialog and interaction.
Coming to the violence, the world operates through a cyclical process. That is why all the major world religions talk of a progression from ‘darkness to light’. I am certain that what we are witnessing is a temporary period of darkness, which is also a movement towards greater understanding and realisation or ‘light’.
With what objective did you set up the Center for Peace and Spirituality?
To establish peace and spirituality (smiles).
It is through the spirituality of individuals that a society can move towards peace. Hence, while spirituality is the goal of individual seekers, peace is the goal of society. Both are essential and mutually dependent.
At an individual level, what objective could one strive for?
Purging negativity. In one incident in the Prophet’s life, he pointed to one man, stating that he would certainly find a place in paradise.
Curious, one of his companions spent three days with this person but found nothing extraordinary in his life or practice and so he asked the man what his secret formula was. The man replied that all that he could think of was that he never allowed any negative thought in his mind, even against an enemy.
In another incident, the Prophet stated that a person who is never angry, even when provoked, is certain to find peace.
So, leading a ‘positive life full of positive thoughts’ leads one to peace, happiness and spirituality.
Could you share your own spiritual practice with us?
‘I think, therefore I am’ is a statement that applies to me completely.
Therefore, my practice is essentially that of ‘tabaussum’ or contemplation.
As thoughts are so important to me, I ensure that these thoughts are full of positivity.
Another principle which I have practiced for many years is ‘acceptance’. Whatever life brings my way, I accept it with an attitude of ‘Ye bhi theek hai’. Apply this simple principle and see how much peace of mind it brings you.
Anything you would like to share with Life Positive readers?
Yes. I would like to quote a hadiz of Prophet Mohammed that the poet Iqbal translated into a beautifully poignant sher. I am sure all the readers will cherish it. In it, Iqbal says
‘Mire arab ko ayee thandi hawa jahan se
Mera Vatan Vahi hai
Mera Vatan Vahi hai’
(The place from where I get cool winds, is my land, is my land.)
India, I am convinced, is the land the Prophet referred to, as the Arab world gets its cool breeze from here.
Contact: Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Center for Peace and
Spirituality, 1, Nizamuddin West Market,
New Delhi – 110 013, firstname.lastname@example.org
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