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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Story of an African Farm - Vision Of Islam

In Story of an African Farm, Olive Schrieiner (1855-1920) a noted South African novelist, recounts the story of a hunter who goes in search of the beautiful White Bird of Truth. All he had seen of it was its reflection in a lake, once while he was out shooting. He tried to catch the bird in the snares of credulity and the cage of imagination, but he realized that the bird of truth could be obtained only through truth. He left the valley of superstitions and started climbing up the Mountain of Truth. He continued climbing till he reached a high precipice. He started cutting rocks and making steps in the stone. He continued doing this for years, old and wizened, he managed to reach the summit. But, on arriving there, he found another range higher than the previous one. Here, overwhelmed by old age and weariness, he laid himself down to die, but as he lay dying, a white feather fell close to him from above. Now he felt sure that the bird he sought existed on the next range. Even though he could not reach the bird of truth, he died with the solace that those who followed him would not have to cut the first steps. His last words were:

“Where I lie down, worn out, other men will stand young and fresh. By the steps that I have cut they will climb. They will never know the name of the man who made them… But they will mount and on my work. They will climb and by my stair. They will find truth and through me.

Perhaps there can be no better allegory for the present work than the above.

I was born on January 1, 1925. My father, Fariduddin Khan, died on 30th December 1929, when I was just five. Then I was brought up in my family home, in Azamgarh (U.P., India) in a traditional, religious atmosphere. My circumstances demanded that I look at everything with a curious eye. When I came of age and learnt that the religion which, “in the old days”, had ruled human thought for one thousand years, was languishing in every respect in modern times, I felt that this was an issue on which I should do some research. I then began to make a regular study of the subject.

Many people regard me as a University educated person. But the truth is that my formal education was confined to studies in an Arabic school, after which I learnt English on my own. The result of a regular study of books in English was that the modern style came to influence my writing.

My educational and intellectual background had given me only a traditional knowledge of Islam, which was obviously insufficient for an understanding of Islam in relation to the modern world. In 1948, therefore, I decided to go directly to the sources of modern thought in order to increase my understanding of it. At the same time, I started to study the Quran and the hadith and related subjects, in order to have a fresh understanding of Islam. If the first 15 years of my life were engaged in traditional education, the next 25 years were taken up by the above-mentioned research. Today, now that I am over fifty, I have the good fortune to be able to offer to the world this book which is the result of my long research. Having cut steps out of the theoretical rock, I was confronted with another range: now it was necessary to give a practical shape to my Islamic endeavors in the light of the discovered truths.

I feel that I have exhausted my strength. The hard struggle of the past which this work entailed has aged me before my time.

I have spent all my life in cutting ‘theoretical steps’: but how to cut the ‘practical steps’ now? Yet it is satisfaction enough for me that I have found truth, at least theoretically. Perhaps now I may die, saying: “Those coming after me will not have to cut the first steps!!!”

September, 1975 Wahiduddin Khan

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