Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
Islamic scholar based in New Delhi, 91 year-old Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
has been working for decades to promote peace and dialogue between Muslims and
others and is still actively engaged in the cause. In this interview, he
Q: Even after so many years, you
continue to write on issues related to Islam, peace, non-violence and
interfaith and inter-community dialogue with great passion, seeking also to
counter extremism in the name of Islam. What drives you?
A: In 1967, I started my mission of
peace in New Delhi. At that time, a Delhi-based Muslim magazine wrote an
article critical of me, bearing the title ‘A Lonely Voice’. However, in the
past 40 years, my way of thinking has been adopted by thousands of people in
India as well as abroad; these people have become part of my peace mission.
This positive experience is my driving force. I am certain that a person can
deny everything else but he cannot deny his own nature. Thus, those who, after
reading my writings, discover the truth cannot afford to deny it any more. This
fact has been proved true in the past, and, with God’s help, it will be proved
correct in the future on a greater scale.
Q: You are more than 90 years old
now. Given your age and also given how serious the situation today is, someone
else might have given up all hope for a better, more peaceful world. He might
have turned cynical and bitter. He might have lost all interest in these issues
that you have been working for—peace and inter-community harmony and so on. He
might have felt that trying to transform others and the world is pointless. But
not you! What continues to inspire you to be so engaged in seeking to promote
peace and to counter extremism, including and especially among Muslims?
A: My confidence is based on a verse
of the Quran which says that a believer always has an option of one of two
goods: the good of the Hereafter or the good of both the present world and the
Hereafter (9:52). I am hopeful of both the good of this world and that of the
Hereafter. In such a situation, I do not need to fall prey to frustration. I am
hopeful of the good of the Hereafter because my mission is based on the Quran
and Sunnah, the practice of the Prophet. As far as the good of this world is concerned,
I am hopeful of it because many people have abandoned their violent ways and
have come to the path of peace after becoming familiar with the ideas laid down
in the literature of our Centre for Peace and Spirituality.
Q: Terrorism engaged in by self-styled
Islamic groups seems to be becoming even more devastating. Almost every day now
there is a terrorist attack by such groups somewhere. Given this, what makes
you continue to be hopeful about peace, including and especially among Muslims
and between Muslims and others?
A: My hopes are based on nature. I
believe that radicalized Muslims are misguided. They wrongly consider their
violent acts as Islam. This thinking of theirs is based on a wrong, ‘Jihadi’
interpretation of Islam. In comparison to this, I present an interpretation of
Islam based on Dawah (inviting people to God). Thousands of Muslims all over
the world have corrected and reformed their thinking after reading my writings,
because they found them in accordance with their inner nature. This phenomenon
has created hope in me in that I believe that others, too, can similarly be
changed along peaceful lines. I continually make an effort to change the minds
of people. From past experience, I can say that when people’s minds are
addressed, they abandon violence in favour of peace.
Q: It is said that several Muslims
have been radicalized through the Internet. What practical measures do you
suggest for countering this and for bringing Muslims to actively work for peace
A: Spread of peaceful literature and
dissemination of peaceful ideas on the Internet alone can counter the
radicalization that is seen among Muslims today. De-radicalization will take
place in the same manner as radicalization has taken place, that is, through
the spread of ideas. There can be no other way. Misleading interpretations of
Islam have been uploaded on websites on a large scale. A similar pattern will
have to be followed with regard to the peaceful interpretation of Islam. There
is enough matter in the literature of our Centre for Peace and Spirituality for
doing this work.
I’m not sure if this is the case, but I think it might be: why is it
that many people are more easily swayed by negative propaganda, propaganda
directed against and critical of others, than by positivity? Why do protest
movements—directed against this or that government, country, community
etc.—often seem to find more sympathizers that movements working for a positive
cause, like world peace, harmony etc? Do you think this attraction for
negativity/hate rather than positivity/love is inherent in human nature or do
you think it is a result of wrong social conditioning (and, therefore,
something that can be changed)?
A: The basic reason for this is that
many people cannot do a wise analysis of events. Negativity is the price to be
paid for not being able to engage in a wise analysis of events. Because people
do not wisely analyze the situations that present themselves, they easily
become negative about trivial issues and then take to complaining and
protesting. This is a worldwide phenomenon, not specific to Muslims alone.
Q: What message do you have for
people who, seeing the violence that’s happening across the world today,
including in the name of Islam, might feel despondent and helpless and might
lose hope about prospects of peace?
A: There is no room for hopelessness
in this world. All problems are due to wrong planning, and they can be overcome
through right planning. The right way is to determine the root cause and make
people aware of it. The violence among Muslims seen in the present age is a
result of their unawareness of the importance and effectiveness of peaceful
methods. Once this unawareness is removed, they would become peaceful. For
example, during the Second World War, Germany and Japan had been violent
nations. When they incurred losses, they developed a rethinking and have today
become entirely peaceful. The same holds true for Muslims.
I am also
seeing all the violence happening today. But I do not develop helplessness. Rather
this situation led me to analyze the problem. I understood the root cause for
the violence, and began to inform people about how to reform themselves.
Through this approach, I have been able to help transform many people along
peaceful lines. I think this method of changing people’s way of thinking needs
to be made more popular.