When there don’t seem many voices of sanity and reason, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, the nonagenarian scholar has been speaking his mind, indifferent to the fact that he was condemned for being a rebel. He has repeatedly been called anti-Muslim and heretic.
The criticism didn’t deter him from speaking his mind, be it on Indian-British author, Salman Rushdie or Bangladeshi novelist, Taslima Nasrin. Often, his was a lone voice amidst the cacophony of the majority Muslim sentiments not just in India, but throughout the world.
Voice of sanity
Wahiduddin Khan seems to be one of the few voices of sanity among Muslims over the last several decades. While writing about Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie, the Maulana once wrote that he entertained hope from everyone, even from people like Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen, who have been condemned by the Muslim clergy throughout the world and fatwas ordering their deaths have been issued from many places.
The maulana who has been publishing a monthly magazine, Ar-risala, since 1976, wrote that he actually wanted to probe the minds of such people trying to find out as to how they thought and wanted to address that. He has his own view, very different from mainstream clergy, on sacrilegious cartoons that have hogged limelight occasionally. “Salman Rushdie wrote a book, and that created a terrible furor. Taslima Nasreen wrote a book and the same thing happened. Some cartoons were published in Denmark, and Muslims whipped up a terrible agitation…One should try to understand the mind of people like Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen. Try to understand why they think as they do. Then, make efforts to address these issues, to respond to them in the right manner. And if you respond in the right way, the Quran says, your enemy will become your friend. (41:34)”, Maulana Khan wrote.
Maulana, the lone furrow, has always antagonized a large section of the Muslims, especially clergy within the community that seemed perplexed over his out of the box solution for everything arising from time to time.
Opposition to political Islam
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has always been opposed to anything even remotely associated with political Islam. This despite the fact that he spent many long years with the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and was part of it while the Islamist organization was headquartered in Rampur, the bastion of Azam Khan now. This has perturbed many who have tried to counter his logic by calling him an RSS maulana. Khan who joined Jamaat-e-Islami Hind at an early stage of his career, left the organization within a few years’ time. Since then he has been a vocal and consistent opponent of political Islam.
He has taken on the proponents of political Islam head on. In one of his articles’ the Maulana says, “even more frightening form of 'ideological violence' was that which emerged in parts of the Muslim world in the first half of the twentieth century. Two Muslim parties were particularly responsible for developing and spreading this ideology: the Ikhwan ul-Muslimin in the Arab world and the Jamaat-e Islami elsewhere. A product of the peculiar ideology of the Ikhwan was the slogan, 'The Quran is our Constitution, and Jihad [in the sense of violent war] is our Path, and through this we will establish Islam throughout the world'. From Palestine to Afghanistan and from Chechenya to Bosnia, wherever violence was resorted to in the name of 'Islamic Jihad' it was all a product of this ideology”.
Not just the Brotherhood, he has taken on Jamaat-e-Islami and its version of political Islam. “The Jamaat-e Islami developed the theory that all the systems prevailing in the world today are 'evil' (taghuti). It claimed that it was the duty of all Muslims to struggle to destroy these systems and to establish the 'Islamic system' in their place. It claimed that this work was so necessary that if by warning or admonition this did not happen, the followers of Islam should resort to violence to snatch the keys of power from the upholders of 'evil' and establish 'Islamic government' across the whole world. The violence that is happening in Pakistan and Kashmir in the name of Islam today is entirely a result of this fabricated ideology” he wrote.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, over the years has toned down its ideological leanings and has embraced secularism with open arm despite furor and opposition from diehard supporters of Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami.
Stance on Babri Masjid
When Muslim rabble rousers like Syed Shahabuddin, Azam Khan and Zafaryab Jilani talked in tough language against the shenanigans of the extremists from Sangh Parivar and BJP’s Advani took out a Rath Yatra that finally culminated in the demolition of Babri Masjid, Maulana Khan asked Muslims to hand over the defunct mosques to Hindus. This was at least several decades before the Indian Supreme Court finally handed over the entire land belonging to the now demolished Babri Masjid to Hindus and asked the Modi government to form a trust for building the Ram Temple. Majority of the members in the trust are expected to belong to Sangh affiliated organizations. This has shocked Muslims across the country, given the fact that the verdict has failed to address the core issue of land ownership.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has consistently asked the Indian Muslim community to give up its claim on the fifteenth century mosque built by Mughal Emperor’s general Mir Baqi. While this has infuriated the community and almost the entire rung of the Muslim leadership in the country, this hasn’t forced the 95-year old cleric from changing his position. The maulana, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, had said that Muslims and Hindus should have issued a joint statement on the lines of Gandhi issuing a statement following Chauri Chaura incident.
He also came out with a three part solution to the problem suggesting that “The movement launched by the Hindus should be stopped at Ayodhya. Assurance to this effect could take the form of a written declaration signed by all the four Shankaracharyas and by responsible people belonging to those Hindu organizations involved in the mandir-masjid movement. This should expressly state that after Ayodhya’s Babri mosque no mosque’s right to continued existence will ever again be challenged by the Hindus; that all mosques in India, whatever their historical origins, will always be recognised and maintained as holy places of worship; so that Hindus will never seek justification for demanding any change in future”.
He further said, in the same peace that “Muslims should preserve a strict silence on the issue of Ayodhya. If the protection of the Babri Masjid was their responsibility, they have now discharged it by the sacrifices they have made. Now they have reached a point where there is very little else that they can do”. Twenty eight years after the demolition of the historic mosque and given the present state of affairs, his suggestions look the best
His stance has never changed on the issue. When the verdict of Allahabad Hingh Court came out in 2010, the nonagenarian maulana once again asked Muslims to voluntarily give up any claim of the community on the mosque. Now many in the community believe that his suggestion should have been accepted by the Muslim leadership in early nineties. They believe that this might have avoided the bloodshed and the loss of lives that the nation suffered in the aftermath of the Babri demolition. However, this seems too farfetched given the divided leadership of the community that usually seems to be at loggerhead with each other.
More Columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:
Despite muted denials, NRC will target Muslims
Bhagwat, Madani meet: End of the maddening divide
Ahmadullah Shah: Hero whose head and body are buried
Muslim women's entry in mosques: What is the truth?
Syed is a New Delhi based author and commentator. His forthcoming book 'Ulema's Role in India's Freedom Movements with Focus on Reshmi Rumal Tehrik will be out in October