The terrible second wave of Covid-19 sweeping India currently resulted in a colossal loss for subcontinental peace and syncretic culture. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, one of the best-known Islamic scholars of South Asia, died due to Covid-related complications. He was 96 years old and had been recently conferred the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour. The Maulana was an activist for peace and communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims and wrote over 200 books on several aspects of Islam – including a two-volume commentary on the Holy Quran – and established the Centre for Peace and Spirituality to promote interfaith dialogue. The Prophet of Peace, The Quran: A New Translation, A Treasury of the Quran, Tazkirul Quran, Indian Muslims: The Need for a Positive Outlook, Introducing Islam: A Simple Introduction to Islam, and Islam and Peace are some of his well-known books.
Born in 1925 in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was internationally recognized for his contributions to world peace. In 2009, Georgetown University in Washington, DC’s list of “500 most influential Muslims” named him “Islam’s spiritual ambassador to the world”. In the wake of the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992 in Ayodhya and the communal frenzy that followed, the Maulana went on a shanti yatra or peace march along the Western coast of India. As a theologian and a commentator on Islam, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan often faced the rancour from a number of extremist Muslim organizations and ulema in South Asia who termed him a “Hindu agent”. Despite the setbacks, the Maulana was known for his undying spirit, great faith in the inherent goodness of the human race, and the ability of religion to bind rather than divide.
The people of India and indeed of the world will miss this great beacon of peace, solidarity, and harmony.