Padma Vibhushan for Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Published : January 26, 2021 16:52 IST

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, eminent Islamic scholar, during a function in New Delhi in 2009. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

The renowned Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has been conferred with the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award, for his contribution to spirituality. The 96-year-old Maulana is widely respected for his commentary of the Quran, besides his enlightened views on much-debated subjects such as women’s rights on Islam, instant triple talaq, jehad, terrorism and family planning. Generations have grown up reading his views expressed in simple language devoid of intellectual flourishes. Importantly, Wahiduddin Khan has not confined himself to Urdu, often being read in English and Hindi.

Having maintained a distance from all Muslim bodies such as the Jamiat Ulama I Hind and the Tablighi Jamaat, he always ploughed a lone furrow. However, he struck a series of unpopular notes for a wide section of Muslim community when he proposed, almost 30 years ago, that the Muslims cede their right to Babri Masjid out of deference to the Hindu community’s sentiments. He based his argument in Islamic history, quoting instances where mosques were shifted to facilitate development.

A little later, Wahiduddin Khan spoke against the ban on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, arguing that no Muslim could agree with Rushdie but that did not take away the author’s right to write. The Satanic Verses was a work of fiction, he noted, hence unworthy of opposition stemming from religion.

Wahiduddin Khan’s intermixing of faith and politics did not endear him to many. When he formed a Vajpayee Himayat Committee in 2004, his proximity with the Bharatiya Janata Party came out in public domain. Wahiduddin Khan, however, remained unflustered and concentrated his energies on the Centre for Peace and Spirituality, translating the Quran and filing booklets on different facets of Islam.