MAHATMA Gandhi’s views about the Holy Prophet (PBUH) deserve to be noted by the Muslim people to realise that the hurtful sentiments expressed by some of Narendra Modi’s bigots do not represent the views of all Hindu people. There are saner minds which can rise above petty prejudices to speak the truth.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was by all standards a great man, and few people know that the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, despite the acute political differences between them, greatly admired him, as once remarked by Dina Wadia, the Quaid-i-Azam’s daughter. They also had a common mother tongue.
A well-read man who developed his own sartorial style and political jargon to fight for his people’s freedom, Gandhi said of our Holy Prophet (PBUH): “I become more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme for life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every trouble. The sayings of Muhammad are a treasure of wisdom not only for Muslims but for all mankind.”
Gandhi is not the only great Hindu leader to have expressed his admiration for our Prophet. A Hindu scholar, Prof K.S. Ramakrishna Rao, professor of philosophy, declaring his belief that the Holy Prophet in “all departments” of human activity “is like a hero”, admits it was “most difficult” to get into “the whole truth” of the personality of the Holy Prophet, and adds: “There is Muhammad, the Prophet; there is Muhammad the Warrior; Muhammad the Businessman; Muhammad the Statesman; Muhammad the Orator; Muhammad the Reformer; Muhammad, the Refuge of Orphans; Muhammad the Protector of Slaves, Muhammad the Emancipator of Women, Muhammad, the Judge; Muhammad the Saint. All in all these magnificent roles, in all these departments of human activities, he is like a hero.”
Countless Hindu and Sikh poets wrote in praise of the Prophet (PBUH).
Those uttering dirt include Modi’s brainwashed men and women. However, it is refreshing to know the sentiments expressed by a woman scholar, Anita Rai, a prolific Indian writer now based in Britain. For Rai, whose books include a biography of the Holy Prophet, it was enough that he was the biggest supporter of women “the world has so far had ... Personally, I am infinitely grateful to Muhammad, who has not only empathised with the crying voice of the despairing and exploited woman but has taken momentous measures, blustering all opposition, to alleviate her lot and strengthen her in realistic terms. For ages and ages, a woman had found herself begging and grovelling in front of her male master, with her heart-wrenching pleas for justice remaining unheard and unaddressed. Muhammad had changed this forever.”
Another scholar, Pandit Gyanandra Dev Sharma Shastri, who belonged to the extreme rightist Arya Samaj, says in his book, Dunya ka Hadi Ghairon Ki Nazar Main, that “the only ‘sword’ Muhammad wielded was the sword of mercy, compassion, friendship and forgiveness — the sword that conquers enemies and purifies their hearts”.
There are also countless Hindu and Sikh poets who wrote naats. Space constraints do not permit us to go into the details, but a poet and a great man who deserves to be mentioned was Maharaja Kishen Pershad Bahadur, the prime minister of Hyderabad State. He wrote naats in Persian, and such was his scholarship that Allama Mohammad Iqbal made changes in the Javednama, his Persian epic, on Kishen Pershad’s suggestions.
On a larger plane, it is worthwhile to know that Jewish scho-lars and leaders have seldom made unkind remarks about the Holy Prophet, basically because Islam and Judaism are the only two religions which have an uncompromising, unadulterated belief in One God. Arab Christians are a category apart. Their devotion to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is evident from the fact that some of the most ardent defenders of Islam were Arab Christians — Phillip K. Hitti, Albert Hourani and Edward Said.
As for European scholars’ hostility towards Islam, the profundity in the remark by Edward Gibbon is telling: the Christian West, he said, resented the fact that the Prophet “did not allow himself ... to be ‘crucified’ by his enemies. He only defended himself, his family and his followers; and finally vanquished his enemies. Muhammad’s success is the Christians’ gall of disappointment: he did not believe in any vicarious sacrifices for the sins of others”.
I believe this remark is contained in his classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which I read only once.
The writer is Dawn’s External Ombudsman and an author.
Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2022