In Islam, no one is allowed to snatch a life, world-renowned Islamic scholar and peace activist Maulana Wahiduddin Khan tells Khabar South Asia in an exclusive interview.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan of India is known worldwide for his teachings on modern Islam, non-violence, and interfaith harmony. He has authored more than 200 books, including, most recently, "The Prophet of Peace" and "Jihad, Peace and Inter-Community Relations in Islam". An expert in religious affairs, Khan lectures on several popular television channels.
Born in Uttar Pradesh in 1925, he has received numerous national and international awards, including the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian honour, the National Integration Award, the Communal Harmony Award, and the National Citizen's Award, and many others.
Khabar: How do you see Islam and Muslims in the world today?
Khan: Islam advocates equality, peace and brotherhood, but in contemporary times, xenophobia has influenced the Muslim community. Islam urges Muslims to be the ambassadors of peace and brotherhood, but a section of Muslims on the other hand are involved in extremism and prejudice. Intolerance is highly denounced in Islam, and Muslims should exhibit tolerance and promote peace and brotherhood in all circumstances.
Khabar: Have Muslim clergy failed to play their role in spreading Islam in its real spirit? Prophet Muhammad said, "When leaders and clergy are on the right path, people will be on the same path".
Khan: Muslim clergy tend to be ignorant to their duty and unfortunately have stayed away from the noble mission of Dawah (proper presentation, understanding and appreciation of Islam in its real spirit). In my opinion, they have failed to remove misconceptions about the religion, and contributed in bringing about a good deal of moral degradation among Muslims.
Islam stands for justice, peace and harmony. Extremism is not admissible in Islam. As far as the role of clergy is concerned, Prophet Muhammad says, "The Ulema (scholar) is one who knows the era and people he represents". When clergy is unaware or unmindful of the affairs of the world, they are bound to lack vision and wisdom.
Khabar: There is a lot of confusion regarding jihad in Islam. What exactly does Holy Qur'an says about jihad?
Khan: Jihad means Dawah. People have misunderstood the concept of jihad. Islam does not permit extremism in all its manifestations, misconstrued for jihad by some unscrupulous elements.
Those who kill people for any reason are terrorists and criminals. They do not represent Islam at all but their own agenda and covetousness. Nobody has the right to snatch anyone's life. Mankind belongs to Almighty Allah, who is supreme and the only authority [allowed] to snatch life. Qur'an describes Muslims as a "moderate community" and urges them to be merciful, kind and tolerant towards people of other communities as well.
Khabar: How do you view disorder and violence in different parts of the world? Who in your opinion is responsible for such inhuman acts?
Khan: Criminals and terrorists commit such inhuman acts. Such extremists have no religion. We need to denounce inhuman acts committed by these people for their own vested interests.
Khabar: In what situation and for which offences does Islam permit capital punishment?
Khan: Almighty God has created man with utmost respect and dignity. No one is allowed to snatch a life or commit murder of a human being. In Islam, capital punishment is permitted when somebody is murdered in cold blood.
Khabar: What is the legality of blasphemy in Islam? Is capital punishment the only way to deal with blasphemy?
Khan: There is no prescribed law for blasphemy in Islam. Muslims should exhibit tolerance and demonstrate wisdom. Violent protests against Danish cartoonist (Kurt Westergaard) and Salman Rushdie for their anti-Islamic views were a waste of energy. If someone writes against the Prophet Muhammad, we should have sound knowledge to dislodge his propaganda and prove him wrong. We should be well-equipped with logic and reasons to counter unscrupulous elements who want to create confusion with regard to Islam.
Those who embraced Islam in early ages were the opponents of Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad never expressed anger against them or awarded any kind of punishment. Exhibiting high moral and character, Prophet Muhammad converted his enemies into loyalists and trusted friends.
Khabar: What is the significance of the Hijab (veil) in Islam? Is head cover mandatory for girls in schools and colleges? Most Western colleges don't permit veils.
Khan: Hijab is not what women and girls wear in present times. Schools, colleges and universities have their own set of rules. Girl students should follow and abide by them. Islam does not permit to create disorder in any institution in any circumstances. If you do not like some rules and regulations of an institution, that does not mean you will create problems for others by enforcing your own set of rules.
Islam urges you to be an honest and honourable citizen. One should be loyal to his or her country and likewise to the rules governing an educational institution. You can never be a good Muslim unless you are a good citizen of your country.
Khabar: What role do you see for madrassas in promotion of peace and quality education?
Khan: The madrassas have a limited role and they can't go beyond that. You cannot expect madrassas to produce Nobel laureates, eminent scientists and reformists. Madrassas teach you about performing Namaz and Hajj (Prayers and Pilgrimage). Worldly knowledge is a must for producing eminent persons in the field of science, information technology and engineering, and Islam is not against it.