Wahiduddin Khan

Islamic Scholar

Wahiduddin Khan (born 1 January 1925), known with the honorific Maulana, is an Indian Islamic scholar and peace activist known for having written a commentary on the Quran and having translated it into contemporary English.


  • After completing his school education, he went on to higher studies. Soon he was offered the post of teacher at the Mazahirul Islam religious school at Saharanpur. But before long, new opportunities opened out before him, and his training period commenced. His father had set up a small religious school in Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin to impart free education to poor students. After the death of his father, the elder brother had taken charge of it. When, on this sad occasion, he came home to offer his condolence the people who were running the school insisted on his staying there and taking up his father's cause. He acceded to their request. Now there began a new phase in his life. It was at this place that he first came into contact with the Mewatis. Distressed by their religious and spiritual poverty, he set himself to reform their condition through religious education. The initial stimulus for his work thus came from Mewati Muslims. Gaining momentum gradually, the work of bringing people closer to the path of God, spread far and wide. Mewat is a region situated to the south of Delhi, its inhabitants being known as Meo. These people could be described as semi-tribal, somewhat like the ancient Arab bedouins. These uncouth and illiterate people had converted to Islam on a mass scale as a result of the efforts of the well-known Sufi Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia and his descendants. But in practical life they were very far from Islam. There was nothing Islamic about them apart from the title of Muslims that they bore. They kept their Hindu names, like Nahar Singh and Bhup Singh; they left a lock of hair on the top of the shaven head as Hindus do; they worshipped idols, celebrated all the Hindu festivals and made sacrifices to the pre-Islamic gods and goddesses. Also on the occasion of Shab-e-Barat they hoisted the flag of Sayyed Salar Ghazi, a Muslim saint, who had been adopted by them as an object of idolatory. They could not even recite the creed of the Muslims. So unfamiliar even was the sight of prayer, let alone the saying of it, that if by chance they came across someone praying, they gathered to enjoy the spectacle, assuming that the person must either be mad or suffering from some ailment due to which he was kneeling and prostrating himself again and again. Like tribal peoples they were scantily-clad, and spent most of their time in robbing, looting and other such base occupations. Small trifling matters led to prolonged wars such as the pre-Islamic Arab Bedouins had engaged in. They were a brave and sturdy people, but their lack of education and training had come in the way of their advancing beyond the tribal way of life. Major Piolet, the Bandobast officer of Alwar, at the end of the 19th century, writes: "Meo are half-Hindus in their habits and customs." They had posed a serious threat to the Muslim rule in the initial Sultanate period, looting and plundering the city at night. For fear of their attacks, the gates of the capital were closed at dusk. Noone dared to go out after dark. Sultan Ghyasuddin Balban in the year 1266 dispatched an expedition against them in which a great number of them were put to the sword, but they were never fully subdued. Even as late as the period of the British Raj, the government was only partially successful in crushing them and establishing peace in the area. In 1921 new problems arose when Arya preachers resolved to reconvert the Indian Muslims to their ancestral religion. Thanks to the religious and cultural poverty of the Meos, the large-scale activities of the Aryan missionaries met with great success. The solution to this problem was to impart to them religious education so that they did not yield to any malign influence.
    • Tabligh Movement, Al Risala Books, Islamic Centre, Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Second Reprint, 1994 p. 5-12
  • Maulana Ilyas, like his father and brother visited Mewat from time to time. Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin being not far from there. Some Mewati students were already studying there and many other Mewatis had came to hold the family of Maulana Ilyas in great reverence because of their devotion and struggle to guide them along the right path. But there was still much to do, and the Maulana, greatly moved by their plight, felt a strong urge to improve their condition. His first idea was to set up and run schools in this area of Mewat on the pattern set by his family, so that the local children could have easy access to education. When it came to convincing the Mewatis that they should send their children to school, they were tough nuts to crack. How could they spare their children for school? This, for them amounted to a sheer waste of time. The children regularly helped their parents in ploughing, grazing the cattle and other such activities. So the idea of supporting their children without any return from them had no appeal But the Maulana was the last man to accept defeat he did not weaken in his resolve, but rather intensified his campaign, sometimes approaching them personally, and sometimes entering their congregations to plead his case. He would tell them, "If only you would spare your children, I would take the responsibility for all their expenses at the school" They ultimately surrendered before his indomitable will, and he succeeded in establishing a number of schools where, besides the teaching of the Quran, elementary religious education was also imparted. Work on this pattern continued until another incident occurred which changed the course of his activities. On a visit to Mewat, the Maulana was introduced to a young man who had just completed his education in one of his schools. Much to his astonishment, he saw no traces of Islam in his clean-shaven appearance. He was quick to relaize his failure. His aim had not been fulfilled. He had been aware of this problem to some extent before, but now it had become plain for all to see. The schools did serve a purpose, but to the Maulana's eyes, only a secondary one; that is, it had considerably enhanced his own image and, as he himself was now held in reverence, he was in a better position to bring pressure to bear upon them when it came to solving their disputes; there was no doubt that he was extremely successful in this regard. The Mewatis said, "Though a mere skeleton, when he takes up any issue, he can work wonders. He can solve complicated problems in a matter of minutes. Even the most stubborn of us surrender ourselves before him." But this was not the main issue. What the Maulana was primarily concerned with was the awakening in them of the religious spirit. Their religious inertia was so deep-rooted that even school courses could not help them to slough it off. This failure of the schools greatly distressed him, and he gave the question much thought. At last he arrived at the conclusion that the real inadequacy lay in the present method of working: the attempt to educate them in their own atmosphere and in the scene of their own activities. In such surroundings the best efforts on the part of the teachers were in vain. As soon as the young people left the school they mingled with company of their own sort, which nullified the school influence altogether. The only solution to this problem, as the Maulana saw it, lay in separating them from their milieu, and it was decided that they should be withdrawn from it in groups for a period of time, and gathered together in mosques or religious institutions away from bad spheres of influence. Thus detached from their worldly and material atmosphere, they would be imparted education by counsel and guidance in the company of religious people. This formula proved the right one. Engaging them in religious activities round the clock for some length of time made them into new human beings. Once the trial proved effective, this pattern was to be followed in future… The Maulana had found the solution to his problem. The whole of Mewat was transformed. Great spiritual excitement and enthusiasm could be seen among the people at large. Where previously, mosques had been few and far between, now mosques and religious schools came up in every settlement. Not only had they increased in number and size, but the local people had also come to appreciate their activities. They changed their way of dressing and, grew beards, shaking off one by one almost all the pre-Islamic customs that they had retained after their conversion.
    • Tabligh Movement, Al Risala Books, Islamic Centre, Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Second Reprint, 1994 p. 5-17
  • This great movement generally known as the Tablighi Jama’at has inspired a new fervour, a new zeal to serve the divine cause…Its founder surprisingly was a slight, short-statured individual rather unimpressive in personality…It was this extraordinary figure known as Maulana Ilyas who founded the Tablighi Jama‘at which was to inspire in thousands of people a religious zeal which had been unknown for centuries…
    • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Tabligh Movement, Al Risala Books, The Islamic Centre, Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Second Reprint, 1994, p.5.


  • In Saudi Arabia, there is peace but no freedom. In Pakistan, there is freedom but there is no peace. In India, Muslims enjoy both peace and freedom.
    • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, quoted by P.V. Rao, The thinking theologist, Indian Express, 7.1.1996, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p.99

Indian Muslims, 1994Edit

Indian Muslims. Goodword. 1994. ISBN 978-81-85063-81-2. 
  • Had they made a timely assessment of what created the hiatus between Muslims and other nations, they would have set the feet of Muslims on the path of education, and would, in the process, have enabled them to acquire the strengths of the modern world. Their energies would then have contributed to a positive struggle, instead of being frittered away in negative reaction. Up till now Muslims have tended to attribute their problems to prejudice and discrimination and to waste the better part of their time and energy in railing against offenders who often exist only in their own imaginations. What I have to say is simply that it is high time they changed their way of thinking and devoted themselves wholeheartedly to the processes of self-reconstruction.
  • Judged by Qur'anic standards, Muslim journalism falls far below par. While the Qur'anic 'periodical' was run on positive lines, the entire Muslim press of the present day is plunged in negativism. Where the Qur'an stressed the importance of action and the avoidance of reaction, present-day Muslim journalism as a whole is oriented towards and motivated by reaction. During the last days of the Muslims in Mecca (shortly before the emigration when they had been cruelly persecuted by the Meccan non-Muslims, this verse of the Qur'an was revealed: 'Truely with hardship comes ease, truely with hardship comes ease' (94:5-6). That is to say that for this world God has decreed that facility, or ease, should exist side by side with difficulty and hardship. You should, therefore, ignore difficulty, seek opportunities and avail of them. But today Muslim journalism has devoted itself entirely to the ferretting out of difficulties, mainly plots and conspiracies of others against them. If were to place the revelations of the Qur'an on a parallel with the investigative, informative, and advisory functions of the modern press, the most appropriate, although anachronistic term for them would be 'constructive journalism'. Where the parallel ends is in the failure of modern Muslim journalism - unlike the Qur'an - to be constructive. I would say that, on the contrary, it is run on the very opposite principle.
  • During the Afghanistan war, the national press gave equal credit ot the valour of the Afghan Mujahidin and the assistance given by the Americans. The Muslim press, on the contrary, want to keep the Americans out of the picture - although the help they gave was quite extraordinary - and give full credit to the Afghan Mujahidin. They act in this way because they want to prove that Muslims are entirely virtuous and innocent of all wrongdoing, and that if they appear to have shortcomings, it is because of the harsh treatment meted out to them by others. It is on the basis of kind of one-sided ad partial news reporting that Muslims want to create their own press. What they do not realise is that the world for which they want to create such a press has neither any need of it nor any interest in it. Such papers, issued by Muslims are destined to be read by Muslims. In this world of cause and effect, such efforts cannot have any other result.
  • To me, the Muslim press has been suffering from what I can only call quite unjustifiable self-righteousness on the part of Muslim intellectuals. It is this innate weakness which has prevented them from seeing their own shortcomings. All they can see are the plots of others behind every problem their community faces. Consequently, instead of engaging themselves in constructive activities, they spend their time inciting members of their community to protest against others. Journalism of this kind will only lull the community to sleep by providing it with doses of opium: it cannot become the means of its regeneration. This is the modern reality of the Muslim press. It must also be conceded that neither at the present nor in the near future can Muslims bring their journalism up to the standard o the day. One basic reason is that modern journalism is fed by industry, and that is a field in which Muslims have yet to find a noteworthy place. For this reason, it is my firm opinion that, at the moment, Muslims are in no position to achieve an international status for their press. That being so, what ought we to do? I think in this matter out first step should be to heed the wisdom of the old saying: 'Begin at the beginning.'
  • In 1987 a marriage in our family was celebrated in Bombay, which was attended by more than fifty members of our family who had travelled by air to Bombay from Varanasi for the occasion. We were all put up at a hotel, and it was during this stay that one of my relatives came to my hotel room with a with a copy of Passive Voices, written by Khalid Latif Gauba (1899-1981) a resident of Bombay. This book, first published in 1975, deals in 390 pages with the condition of Indian Muslims of the post-independence era. The very title of the book suggest that Indian Muslims are in a state of suppression. In his foreword, the author writes that 'it would be difficult to sum up the status and condition of Muslims in India better that in the two words: Passive Voices.' Fully in agreement with the book's assertion, my relative began to hold forth on the persecution of Indian Muslims. I heard him out patiently, then told him that my views were the very opposite. To my way of thinking, Indian Muslims have improved their lot considerably since independence. I would go so far as to say that the condition of present-day Muslims is not that of persecution but of progress.
  • Indeed, if you make a survey of the economic ans social condition of any Muslim family before and after 1947, you will see that it has made remarkable progress. If in pre-independence days, a Muslim owned a bicycle, today he owns a car. If, then, he had a small house, today he owns, if not a mansion, then at least a house of comfortable proportions. Where, before, he could only afford to telephone from a public booth, today he has his own telephone. Where his family had to depend on limited local opportunities, they now regularly travel and work abroad, and hold superior positions.
  • Today there are lakhs of madrasahs spread all over the country. The old madrasahs, like those of Nadwatul ‘Ulema in Lucknow and Darul Uloom in Deoband, were just like ordinary schools before 1947, whereas today they have expanded so much that they have more the appearance of being universities. In the neighborhood of Malegaon, a new and very big madrasah, the Jamia Muhammadia, has been established, which completely dwarfs the old one. Hundreds of new madrasahs have been established all over the country, including a school for Muslim girls, the Jamiatus Salihat at Rampur, which is said to be the biggest madrasah for Muslim girls in the entire Muslim world. In fact, thousands of Islamic institutions of different kinds have been set up throughout the length and breadth of the country, and have full freedom of functioning.
  • The Tablighi Jama’at is a Muslim religious movement headquartered in Delhi. Since 1947, its extension, too, has been exponential. In the same way, all other Muslim bodies have greatly added to their assets as well as increasing the numbers of their followers. In former times, Islamic conferences were few and far between, but nowadays, major conferences are being organized almost on a daily basis in India by Muslims. These take up different aspects of Muslims and Islam. Islamic books and journals are also being published in far greater numbers than ever before. What has gained momentum in India since 1947 is not, in fact, the persecution of Muslims, but yellow journalism and an exploitative leadership which sustains itself by repeated allegations of persecution. If there is any danger to Muslims in this country it is only from our so-called leadership, buoyed up as it is by paranoid journalism. There is no other real danger to Muslims.’ “Those who hold the reins of leadership and journalism in their hands are people of very shallow character. Their only formula for boosting circulation and retaining their leadership is to create a fear psychosis among Muslims and then to exploit it. To this end, they painstakingly select negative instances from Indian Society and then, by blowing them up out of all proportion, they manage to convey the erroneous impression that Indian Muslims are the victims of prejudice and injustice.
  • A new way of thinking is emerging among Muslims, who are now rapidly entering the field of modern education and producing scientists like Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Dr. S.Z. Qasim, medical experts like Dr. Khalilullah and economists like Professor A.M. Khusro etc. Muslim youths such as Javed Usmani and Amir Subhani have shown their mettle by topping in IAS examinations. I am certain that within one generation, Insha Allah, this gap will be bridged, and then no one will complain that the ratio of Muslims in government services is very low. A particularly dark aspect of the Muslims's existence in India seems.
  • A particularly dark aspect of the Muslims’ existence in India seems to be communal riots. It is a fact that communal riots have taken place on a large scale in modern India over the last forty-five years and, regrettably, in some parts are still continuing. I repeat, nevertheless, that the occurrence of communal riots is not linked to the system of governance developed after Independence. It is related rather to the Muslims’ own rabble-rousing leadership and yellow journalism. What is the logic behind the riots? Let us again take an example from Bombay where, about twenty years before independence, an issue was made of a Hindu procession passing by a mosque: As it approached the mosque, the Mutawalli (the Keeper of the mosque) objected to its passage, and tried to stop it. When his request was not complied with, he registered a case in a Bombay court, demanding that a court order be issued, banning any Hindu procession in future in front of the Mosque. At that time Muhammad Ali Jinnah was living in Bombay, and it was he who acted as advocate for the mosque keeper. The judge, an Englishman, ordered that the relevant prohibitory notice be put up near the mosque in question. This successful advocacy of their case by Jinnah so enthralled the Muslims that they dubbed him Qaid-e-Azam, the great leader. But this was not leadership. It was more like leading the people astray. Jinnah should have told the Muslims that the solution to the problem of processions is not to try to stop them, but simply to ignore them. And that even if you manage to carve out a separate area of your own, as was done in the formation of Pakistan, there is no guarantee that processions will not again be leed through the streets. The truth is that the choice for Muslims did not lie between having, or not having processions. It was between tolerating processions or having riots. But the Muslims self-serving leadership and irresponsible journalism did nothing to steer Muslims away from wrong choices. As a result, in a bid to stop Hindu processions, riots have broken out from time to time in various places, with little hope of their ever ceasing in certain parts. Most of the riots in both India and Pakistan have this as their root cause.
  • Any conflict has to perpetrators, and there are invariably faults on each side which cause and exacerbate it. It take two to make a fight. If one party withdraws itself from the region of conflict then the other will remain alone there: it will have none to fight against and the conflict will disappear. If, on the other hand, each party waits for peace initiatives to come from the other side before undertaking conciliatory moves of its own, then the mistrust between the two sides will continue to grow. The inevitable result will be escalation of the conflict between then. Hindu-Muslim communal riots, which have become regular feature of Indian life, are an example of such conflict, which can only be ended by unilateral action from one side. There are examples in the life of the Prophet Muhammad which show that it is the Muslims who should take this initiative. Worldly rivalry and conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims means that the latter see Islam, not in it true light, but through the tainted vision of their own prejudice: Muslims are their enemies so they adopt an antagonistic posture toward Islam as well. This is a situation which should be intolerable to Muslims, whose overriding concern should be for the true message of Islam to reach other people in all its purity, and in an atmosphere conducive to objective and dispassionate consideration. Seeing that such an atmosphere cannot be generated where there is conflict and mistrust, they should ensure an end to conflicts with other people; they should take unilateral steps for peace, without waiting for the initiative to come from the other side.
  • This is exactly what the Prophet Muhammad did at Hudaybiyyah (6 AH/ 628 AD). By refusing to be provoked in the face of harassment from the Quraysh, and accepting all their demands, he put an end to a conflict which had been raging for twenty years. In doing so he defused the tension which had marked relations between Muslims and their non-Muslim compatriots. The result of his seemingly capitulation action, as the Qur'an tells us and history verifies, was a 'real victory' for the Muslims. If the Muslims are to detonate the sitting bomb of Communal riots, as it is their duty to do, they can only do so by following the example of the Prophet, and refusing to be provoked, even in the face of provocation from the other side. Failure to do this can only result in further escalation in a conflict which serves only to distort Islam in the eyes of others, especially their adversaries. Communal violence is one of the most talked of subjects these days, and discussion thereon are dominated by the fact that the brunt of police violence has to be borne by the Muslims. 'The policemen are killers,' say Muslims. Their theme song is that the brutalities of Adolf Hitler and Chengiz Khan pale into insignificance when compared with what the police inflict on innocent Indian citizens. At face value, this would appear to be correct. But we must pause and give greater thought to the reasons for police ‘misconduct’. Why should it take place at all? If we marshal facts, we see that in every case, the situation has been aggravated more by the Muslims being easily provoked than by a desire on the part of the police to be aggressive. And it is noteworthy that wherever there is a concentration of Muslims, this oversensitiveness is very much in evidence; sooner or later, it is the Muslims themselves who have to pay dearly for it at every level.
  • It is clearly the Muslims who are the losers, whether at the individual or at the community level, yet they do not stop to think of the ferocity with which reprisals will be carried out when they themselves have given in to provocation, lashing out at all and sundry. They think it is like aiming a blow at a domestic animal which if it reacts at all, will do so mildly and without rancour. They do not stop to consider that when they lash out in a frenzy of emotionalism, it is a savage wild beast with which they have to deal—an untamed monster, which will fight back with tooth and claw. The culminating point of their endeavour will be the inevitable backlash of police brutality.... Events having shown that Muslims clash not only with Hindus, but also with the police we should now ascertain where to lay the blame. Clearly, the greatest offenders are the journalists and leaders of the Muslim community itself. After each and every riot they cannot find words enough to describe the ‘brutality and savagery’ of the police; in consequence, Muslim sentiments are kept perpetually on the boil. Their anger against and hatred for the police are never allowed to simmer down. As a result whenever policemen appear on the scene, they become enraged and hit out at them, trying by all possible means to humiliate them. This belligerent attitude on the part of Muslim newspapers and leaders is the root cause of the intense mutual hatred between Muslims and the police.

Quotes about Wahiduddin KhanEdit

  • The Maulana’s observation and inquiry lead him to conclusions which are in complete contrast to what that typical fatwa of Deoband… says and what the Muslim press shrieks out week after week… Alas! Maulana Wahiduddin’s remains a voice in the wilderness… Maulana Wahiduddin states that as a community Muslims are much better off today than they were, say at the time of Partition. He gives telling instances in support of this fact. But, he says, to acknowledge the fact in public is regarded among Muslims as betrayal of the community.
    • Shourie, Arun (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers, p. 285.

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