Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Jihad, Peace and Inter-Community Relations in Islam,
Ed. And Transl. Yoginder Sikand (New Delhi: Rupa & Co, 2010), xxii + 120 pages.
Yoginder Sikand writes in his preface, “New Delhi-based Maulanda Wahiddudin Khan is one of the few ulama or traditionally-trained Islamic scholars throughout the world to have made a deep and incisive study of the politics and ideology of extreme self-styled ‘Islamic’ groups and to have critiqued them from within an Islamic framework” (viii). Khan is indeed a remarkable thinker and this is a remarkable book for its frank, self-critical approach.
The maulana (an honorific meaning, literally, “our master”) had a thoroughly traditional pious village upbringing and then formal religious training in what is today the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. When he returned to his village after his studies he experienced a personal crisis in the tension between tradition and modernity, a tension which he eventually resolved through a journey in which he engaged independently and directly with the Qur’an and Tradition. In the process he taught himself English, through which he encountered Western writers and philosophers. By engaging in both traditional and modern discourses he was able to resolve many of the conflicts that plagued him, resulting in an authentic vision of Islam that is also consonant with the moral-ethical language and concerns of a universal perspective.
Four interrelated themes pervade the volume: 1) a critique of the politics and ideology of radical, self-styled Islamists who claim to be engaged in Islamic jihad, 2) discussions about how jihad is conceived in the Qur’an and the Hadith (traditions attributed to Muhammad that treat his words and deeds) and how many modern jihadists have deviated from them, 3) authentic Islamic teachings supporting inter-religious and cross-community dialogue and friendship and how self-styled jihadists have failed to understand them, and 4) the need for Muslims to abandon slavish devotion to medieval precedent and to engage in ijtihad or critical, contextual analysis of the teachings of Qur’an and Hadith on issues of contemporary concern, including those related to war, peace, and inter-religious and inter-community relations.
Having written more than 150 books, Khan is perhaps the most prolific contemporary Muslim religious scholar in the second largest Muslim population in the world. Most of his works, however, are available only in Urdhu. Yoginder Sikand’s careful editing and translation of Khan’s work is an important contribution to the growing literature on “holy war” ideology in world religions, and an incisive response to the complex problems behind the current growth of Islamist radicalism among some Muslims. The book is a must-read for all who are engaged in inter-religious dialogue.
Reuven Firestone, Professor
Medieval Judaism and Islam
Hebrew Union College
Co-Director, Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement
University of Southern California www.usc.edu/cmje
3077 University Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90007