MAULANA WAHIDUDDIN KHAN: An advocate of religious harmony  

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Maulana Wahiduddin Khan – the advocate of religious harmony, a true Islamic scholar whose accommodativeness and free thinking earned him a great repute across the globe, even though it also brought him some criticism from some quarters. But he was a man of the intellect and research- a scholar par excellence- who had acquired great knowledge and a mind free of biases and prejudices. This is how people remember Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. In him India lost a hopeful, tolerant and a great voice of reason. He died at the age of 96.

The Maulana was one of the world’s leading and distinguished Islamic scholars, spiritual leader and peace activist who, besides other things, was also known for having written a commentary on the Quran and having translated it into contemporary English. He was based in New Delhi and authored over 200 books and through his monthly journal Al-Risala trained generations of readers to live a peaceful life despite encountering challenges and facing hardships.

Khan received the Demiurgus Peace International Award, under the patronage of the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev; India’s third-highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan, in January 2000, the National Citizens’ Award, presented by Mother Teresa and the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award (2009). He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour, in January 202.

Maulana was a known peacenik, who in 2001 established Centre for peace and Spirituality to reinforce a culture of peace, co-existence and had always counseled moderation in conduct. He was among the leading scholars and orator of Islam in the word.

He came into media limelight when he gave his ‘peace formula’ for the Babri Masjid-RamjanamBhoomi dispute, thus becoming the first Muslim scholar who offered a solution to the dispute. In a ‘Speaking tree’ column in The Times of India,  Maulana counselled ‘Muslims to forego their claims on the disputed land in Ayodhya. However his request had almost no takers then in community. According to Centre for Peace and Spirituality CPS, In 1993 Moulana wrote an article titled ‘Unravelling the Ayodhya Knot’ and advanced a ‘three point peace formula’- in his view, the issue of Ayodhya-Babri Masjid had turned into a question of life and death for the Muslim community. The Dec 06 1992 event shook the very conscience of India was disturbing and to see the hollow promises and mockery done by the leaders of that time was more disrespectful and humiliating. This all lead to the destruction of the mosque, which was not simply the demolition of a structure; it was akin to the negation of an entire history, he mentions.

Maulana was a notable scholar and reader of both Islamic teachings and modern disciplines and his extensive research led him to believe that the need of the hour was to present Islamic teachings in the style and language of post-scientific formula.

In his writings, which are widely read across the world, Moulana elaborated on pluralism, inter-faith dialogue and peace. His most popular book is arguably ‘God Arises’, which attempts to present the existence of God and basic religious teachings by using modern scientific methods. This book has been introduced as part of module in universities of six Arab countries.

Born in Badharia, a village near Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, India in 1925, Wahiduddin Khan has been internationally recognized for his contributions to world peace. He also featured, in 2009, in the Georgetown University’s list of 500 Most Influential Muslims of world. Khan was named as Islam’s spiritual ambassador to the world. The passing of Khan is being widely mourned across the world.

In him, the Islamic world has lost a visionary, eminent intellectual guide and mentor. But, his teachings shall be there with us for times to come. His singular mission was to transform the minds of people and the best tribute to Maulana would be to take his mission forward at an individual and collective level.

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