The life and work of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Islam should not be judged in the light of what Muslims do in the name of Islam

The life and work of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan


Dr Rafique Anjum (b. 1962) is a wellknown linguist, poet, a Doctor of Medicine and a Doctor of Philosophy. He is a multifaceted litterateur who has earned recognition from beyond borders for his creative, analytical, and critical literary works. Having previously worked as Registrar & Lecturer (Paediatrics) at GMC Srinagar for 5 years (2004-2009) and as Consultant Paediatrician with the J&K Health & Medical Education Department for 8 years (2009-2017), Dr Anjum is now working as Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and Coordinator of Centre for Research in Gojri, Pahari & Kashmiri Languages in the school of Islamic Studies & Languages at BGSB University Rajouri. Dr. Anjum has extensively written on the various subjects of his expertise. Some of his significant works include: Sunehri Tareekh (2000); Gojri-English Dictionary (2004); Anjum Shanasi (Biography, 2007); Gojri- Urdu Dictionary (2008); Gojri-Kashmiri Dictionary (2018); Zanbeel on Poetry (2018). The book under review, titled “Revisiting Islam: The Reformist Thought of Wahiduddin Khan”, is divided into seven main chapters. It begins with a foreword by Prof. Akhtar ul Wasey, followed by the introduction which provides the gist of the reformative thought and admirable scholarship of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. The book “attempts to classify and summarize the Religious Thought of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, expressed in his over 200 works on the different aspects and themes of Islam”. Below is presented a summary of each chapter. Chapter-1: “Revival and reform in Islam: An overview”. The author has presented an overview of the ‘History of Revival and Reform in Islam’ and an account of the response of various revivalists to modern challenges and changes. The author while highlighting the challenges facing by the Muslim world quotes Shireen T. Hunter, who said that “Historically, reform movements in the Islamic World have emerged in response to two challenges or in combination of them: 1) external threats especially foreign conquest; and 2) departure from moral and religious observance, often followed by a period of overall decline of Muslim societies”. According to Dr Anjum, “The revelation of the Quran, as embodied in the figure of the Prophet, intervened to mend, resolve, and reform that disorder which was prevalent in the society” and “the concept of reform in Islam therefore means that reform in the sense of application of Islam in Society, revitalizing the Muslim community and making an endeavour to return into the path of Islam afresh”. Chapter 2: “Islamic Thought in India in Early 20th Century”. In this chapter the author has detailed the background of Islamic political and intellectual thought of the early 20th century and the approaches and efforts of Indian Muslim scholars like Sir Syed, Mohammad Iqbal, Shibli Nomani, Maulana Maududi, Ali Miyan Nadwi, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan and others. A number of reformist movements emerged in these times to cope with the challenges, especially those coming from outsiders. The majority of the reformists advocated a policy of isolation and noncooperation, especially with western educational institutions, western language, ideas and values, to preserve Islamic culture and heritage under non- Muslim rule. The ‘Call for return to Quran’ by Maulana Azad made Muslims more comfortable in a pluralistic society. On the other hand, Muslim modernists like Sir Syed advocated for Ijtihad to seek ways to respond to the situation. They advocated for internal reform and selective adaptation of western education, ideas and technology. However, the general condition at the time was that “Muslims had lost their ground in polity, services and education which made them powerless and demoralized”, the author writes. Chapter 3: “Biographical Survey of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan”. This chapter deals with the life, literary career, and the contributions of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. The author has highlighted the Maulana’s affiliations with different movements and his presentation of Islam in a modern scientific idiom as a response to contemporary issues faced by Indian Muslims. The Maulana highly regarded the contribution of Muslims to the development of education and educational institutions. According to the author, the Maulana believed that “The credit of democratising education goes to Islam” and “It was Islam that delivered the knowledge from restricted spheres and gave a concept of mass education to the world history”. The author has further presented a detailed sketch of the Maulana’s works, which are almost 200 in number, including his commentary on the Quran. Among his notable works are “Ilm-e Jadid Ka Challenge”, “Al-Islam”, “Socialism Aur Islam”, “Tazkeer ul-Quran”, “God Arises”, “Muhammad: The Prophet for All Mankind”. Chapter-4: “Contemporaries of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan”. In this chapter the author has given a brief account of some prominent contemporaries of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, like Badiuzzaman Nursi, Maulana Maududi, Ali Miyan Nadwi, Fazlur Rahman and others, to understand the Maulana’s thought in light of convergence and divergence with his contemporaries. According to the author, “Maulana Wahiduddin Khan like his contemporaries is in favour of reform in Madrasa education including need for changes in curricula, bringing Hadith to fore front and relegating outdated Kalam”. Chapter 5: “Contribution of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan to Modern Islamic Thought”. This chapter deals with the major themes in the Maulana’s writings and gives a detailed introduction to some of his selected works related to Islamic Thought. The major themes of the Maulana’s works, according to the author, are “Scientific Theology, Peace and Dawah, Islam in the Contemporary world, Revival and Reform in Islam, Islamic Studies: Need for Ijtihad, Indian Muslims, Woman in Islam and Spirituality & Philosophy of life”. For his Peace Theory, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was awarded with a number of prestigious awards, both in India and abroad, including the “Demiurgus Peace International Award”, “National Amity Award” and “Padma Bhushan”. His writings aim “to present Islam as a comprehensive world view and the only ideology that can fill the vacuum of future world and his concern about the importance of Ijtihad is much considerable as he stresses for the reinterpretation primary texts and reapplication of Quranic principles go find answers to modern challenges”. Chapter 6: “Critique of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan”. There remain always possibilities of contradiction in a scholar’s views on some aspects. In this chapter, the author has dealt with criticism of the Maulana’s views by different scholars around the globe. The author presents the views of the Maulana’s opponents and then provides the counter arguments of the Maulana. At the end, a fair assessment of both the viewpoints has been attempted. The author has highlighted the Maulana’s view about those who narrowly make criticisms on the basic notions of Islam in particular and on Muslims in general. The author mentions the Maulana as saying in this regard: “It is essential that Muslims be judged in the light of Islamic ideals; Islam should not be judged in the light of what Muslims do in the name of Islam”. Chapter 7: In this concluding part of the book, Dr. Anjum has made a summary of the entire discussion so far. According to the author, “Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has divided the Muslim response movements to western dominance in four categories: independence movements, conservative movements, revivalist movements and reconstruction or positivism.” The author further says, “Maulana Wahiduddin Khan analyzed the causes of Muslim decline and could very well visualize the future situation” and “He has made monumental efforts to resolve a universal and profound dilemma: ‘the conflict between science and religion’.” Dr. Anjum in his book has adapted a balanced approach and has truthfully presented Maulana’s thought as reflected in his works, which makes his research worthy and deserving of appreciation. I have gone through this work a couple of times and I hope the work will be definitely beneficial and an updated source of information for scholars of social sciences as well.

—The Author is a Doctoral Fellow of Islamic Studies at the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University Rajouri, Jammu & Kashmir. He can be reached at [email protected].

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