Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, born in 1925, in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, is an Islamic spiritual scholar who is well-versed in both classical Islamic learning and modern disciplines. The mission of his life has been the establishment of worldwide peace. He has received the Padma Bhushan, the Demiurgus Peace International Award and Sayyidina Imam Al Hassan Peace award for promoting peace in Muslim societies. He has been called ’Islam’s spiritual ambassador to the world’ and is recognized as one of its most influential Muslims . His books have been translated into sixteen languages and are part of university curricula in six countries. He is the founder of the Centre for Peace and Spirituality based in New Delhi.


INDIA’s freedom struggle started in 1857. But it failed to achieve its goal. Many years later Mahatma Gandhi emerged on India’s political scene. He took charge of India’s freedom struggle in 1920. And within less than thirty years, India had won its freedom. Before 1947, the goal was ‘Quit India’. Then, after 1947, our leaders adopted a new slogan: ‘Build India’. Although the wording of these slogans was different, the sense was one and the same. Now more than sixty years have elapsed, and that goal is still a distant dream. India is still waiting for that future envisioned by the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for a better India, who wanted—to quote Mahatma Gandhi—'to wipe away tears from every eye'.

Almost all the leaders of post-independence India claim that they are following the Gandhian path. Now the question is, why Gandhism, which was successful in pre-independence India, seems to be a failure in post-independence India?

The answer is that we need Neo-Gandhism rather than the old pattern of Gandhism. Ousting the British from our country was the goal during pre-Independence era. Now there is no such situation prevailing: the target is our own nation rather than any foreign power.

Gandhism was based on peaceful struggle. At that time Gandhi opted for mass mobilization, a technique he used against British power. For this purpose he adopted such methods as hunger strikes, street demonstrations, non-co-operation, civil disobedience, etc. This method was a kind of mob activism. Our present leaders have also adopted the same tactics. But the fact is that this kind of method has lost its relevance in modern India. A commentator has rightly said that protest activism generates more heat than light.

I am a Gandhian, I believe that Gandhism is relevant in modern India also, but not on the old pattern. Now we have to apply Gandhism to the new situation. This new application of Gandhism may be called Neo-Gandhism.

Neo is a prefix, meaning an old idea in modern form. There are several examples where scholars have used this prefix, that is, accepting the old with some modifications, for example, Neo-Marxism, NeoPlatonism, Neo-Darwinism, etc. Neo-Gandhism is the best word for reviving Gandhism in the present Indian situation.

While the old pattern of the Gandhian method was based on mass mobilization, Neo-Gandhism will be based on the re-engineering of people’s minds. In the present situation, simply protesting will not work. We need to evolve a new way of thinking. We have to try to establish a duty-conscious society rather than a rights conscious society. Since 1950 I have been successfully carrying out this very task. Here I would like to give two examples; first, of the Muslim community of India and second, of the people of Kashmir.

It is a well-known fact that after Independence there was great conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Every day there were riots between these two communities. Then through my mission, the Muslim mindset changed. I gave them the message that mere reaction would not work, you have to see things in a positive manner. Now, it is common knowledge that communal riots in India have been minimized to a considerable degree. This change is a direct result of our peace mission. I have published many books aimed at this. Two examples are 'Hindustani Musalman' (Urdu), and 'Indian Muslims: The Need for a Positive Outlook' (English).

The other target of our mission was the Kashmiri people. We wanted to change the mindset of the Kashmiri people, who were trying to change the political status quo in Kashmir through militancy. However, we constantly made them believe that this was an impossible game. We have to accept the reality. One example of this method is set forth in our book, which has been published in 'Subh-e-Kashmir' (Urdu), and in 'Dawn Over Kashmir' (English). Now, it is a well-established fact that the Kashmiris have almost abandoned their previous way of thinking and, by and large, there is peace in Kashmir. This change is a direct result of our mission. If any violent incident occurs in Kashmir, it is due to foreign elements.

This mission that I call Neo-Gandhism is applicable to all the people of India. Its method is based on education and not on militancy. In pre-independence India, the course resorted to was mob activism. This should now be replaced by educational activism. This method seems to be a long-term method. Such a goal can be achieved only through long-term planning. Short-term planning will be of no avail.

Neo-Gandhism is not a departure from the Gandhian ideology. In fact, it is reapplying the Gandhian ideology in a changing world. This kind of reapplication is common to the history of all systems and ideologies. In the pre-independence era, there were two parties: the Indian nation and the British occupiers. This was a 'we-they' equation; so the basic target of Gandhism was to oust the British from the Indian soil, which happened successfully on August 15, 1947.

Now the situation is completely different. Now, there is no 'they'; all are members of the Indian nation. The present situation is based on a 'we-we' equation, and not a 'we-they' equation as it was in the past.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
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