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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Islamic Literature in the Modern Idiom

Professor Muhammad Mujeeb (1985) was one of the three pillars of Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. The others were Dr. Zakir Hussain (1969) and Dr. Abid Hussain (1978). Professor Mujeeb was highly educated. He had an extraordinary command of the English language and had read the literature of the orientalists in detail.

It was in 1970 that I met Professor Mujeeb on the campus of Jamia Millia. Professor Anwar Ali Khan Soz (1987) was with me at that time. In the course of the conversation Professor Mujeeb said in his inimitable style: “Maulvi Sahab, do you know that in this day and age Islam is being represented by Jewish scholars?”

What he wanted to point out was that in modern times a new style or idiom had been created. But that Muslim scholars had failed to produce Islamic literature in this new style and this task had been performed by educated Jews. They wrote books on various aspects of Islam in the modern idiom, although in many of these books Islamic teachings have been presented in a distorted form. But because in style they are in the modern idiom, educated people who wanted to study Islam in the English language often studied these books written by Jewish scholars.

I listened intently to Professor Mujeeb. I did not answer him but on hearing what he had to say a tempest was stirred up in my mind. I came home silently and began to pray day and night saying, “O God grant me the ability to present to the world Your religion in the modern idiom. Help me to prepare literature on Islam in the modern idiom.”

I often pray with specific reference to some incident. In this matter, too, I did likewise. After India’s independence the Zamindari abolition act was implemented in Uttar Pradesh. Under the national government the new law was based on the principle, that whoever tilled the land, owned the land.

My family hailed from Azamgarh in UP. My family was one of the big landlords of the area. Most of our lands had been given to farmers to cultivate and then they paid some agricultural rent (lagaan). Now, according to the law of the Zamindari abolition act, the landlord (Zamindar) could get his land back only if the farmer who was tilling that land put it in writing that he was willing to relinquish the land.

Most of our land was with the farmers. All these farmers were Hindus. The manager of our land was also a Hindu named Bhau Ram. Bhau Ram was the most loyal employee of our family. He launched a campaign to get all the farmers who were tilling our land to give up their claim to the land in writing. Bhau Ram worked day and night to get these affidavits. It was exceptional that all our land was thus saved.

In those times Bhau Ram was in a frenzied state. He used to say to us: Babu jimdaari mein dagh na lage. (Zamindari should not become tainted, that is losing a piece of land was unacceptable). With reference to this incident, I began praying to God. I used to cry and say, “O God, Your religion too is getting tainted. Your religion is not being presented in the modern idiom which can address modern minds. Please grant me the ability to remove any stain from Your religion by presenting Islam in the modern style. With a perturbed mind and eyes full of tears, I used to pray day in and day out and I used to work hard to prepare myself.”

In those times I was so restless that once I went to the Delhi Public Library, where I started reading books in the reference section of the library. At that time my absorption was so great that I did not even take a seat. I would just stand by the side of the bookshelves and read books one after another. At that time the weather was very cold and I caught a chill and fell ill. Then I had to take rest for about two months.

Today, I pen these lines, I can say that by the grace of God, I have written books on almost every Islamic subject, which, in a contemporary style effectively introduce Islam to the educated. Scholars both in the East and in the West have acknowledged this.

Now people are feeling the importance of such literature to the extent that they have devoted their lives to spreading this literature throughout different parts of the world. There are some American educated Muslims who have voluntarily placed all my books and the Al-Risala monthly magazine on the internet. Now in any part of the world anyone can read my writings both in Urdu and English.

There are also some Egyptian Arabs who are putting my books on the internet. Now, by the grace of God, my Arabic books can also be accessed on the internet everywhere. Moreover, in India, a whole team has devoted itself to this mission. In this way, this work is spreading fast at a global level. Certain educated people have attached such great importance to this literature that on their own initiative they have included my programme in Urdu and English and my speeches on television.

The coming into existence of this Islamic literature in a contemporary style was indeed an extraordinary event for such a powerless person with no resources. The only way that this happening can be explained is that a prayer (dua) with ism-e-aazam came to my heart with great fervour and God accepted it. It was in this way that it became possible for me to introduce Islam in modern times—an event which, at the outset, had seemed unthinkable for an individual like myself.

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