FROM THE CHIEF EDITOR’S DESK
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.
NON-VIOLENCE—A WAY OF LIFE
NON-VIOLENCE is a way of life. It relates to one’s entire existence. Practising non-violence means, in short, to lead a life of positivity despite unfavourable conditions; to adopt a conciliatory and not a confrontational approach in social life. This applies both to individuals and to groups.
This world can be likened to a rose bush, which possesses thorns as well as flowers. Thorns are inseparable parts of the rose bush. This is an immutable law of nature. If we are to pluck the flowers, we have only one option in this matter and that is to avoid the thorns. The beautiful colour and the fragrance of the rose can come within reach, only of those who have the courage to grasp it in spite of its thorns. Otherwise, the possession of such a flower will remain an impossibility.
This phenomenon of nature shows us the way to lead a realistic life; that is, to accept the favourable, while avoiding the unfavourable. For, in this world there will always be a multiplicity of both pleasant and unpleasant situations. These may seem in many ways to be of man’s creation, but in reality, they have been planned by the Creator Himself. Their existence is as real as that of fire and water. No one is powerful enough to rid the world of all that is negative, leaving only what is positive. The good cannot be separated from the bad.
This being so, there is only one option for us, and that is what we call nonviolence. Non-violence is not just passivity. Non-violence, in actual fact, is a well-considered policy, enabling man to live in peace, even in a violent situation. Indeed, its practice is synonymous with peaceful behaviour. Generally, non-violence is seen as an absence of war. That is, eschewing the way of violent encounter in favour of a peaceful approach. But, this is a very limited definition of non-violence. For, the attitude of non-violence relates to man’s entire life, beginning from the moment he steps into this world. The non-violent way is valid in all ambits, right from hearth and home to the sphere of international affairs.
I am a non-violent person by birth. That is why, for me, non-violence is not just an ideology. It is rather a matter of personal experience. Throughout my entire life, consciously or unconsciously, I have been leading a life of non-violence.
I still remember the time when I was about 10-years-old and living in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India. I was standing outside my house, when a village boy passed by. He abused me, but I was neither angry nor did I feel any desire to seek revenge. I just went inside my house. This attitude continued in my later life.
For instance, communal riots were set off in India after 1947. The newspapers were full with the news of confrontation and bloody clashes. Everyone reacted negatively. People wanted to take revenge. But, I did not react negatively to this volatile situation. The simple solution I offered to this problem was for Muslims to opt for the way of avoidance in accordance with the teachings of their own religion. This would put an end to the communal riots. It was to opt for the way of non-violence in social matters.
Similarly, when in 2003 tension built up between the American President, George Bush and the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussain, and it was feared that America was going to destroy Iraq by bombarding it, I offered the solution that Saddam Hussain, who had taken control of Iraq by a military coup, had better quit his presidential post and then America would have no reason to wage a war against his country. This meant opting for the way of non-violence in an international crisis.
Likewise, during the mandate of the Pakistani President, Zia ul-Haq, when freedom movements were launched with great fervour in Kashmir and Punjab, I wrote an article, published in The Hindustan Times in 1990, entitled, “Acceptance of Reality”
In this article I suggested that the people of Kashmir and Punjab should accept the political status quo. That is, instead of opting for the path of clash and confrontation, they should exploit the opportunities, which presented themselves for progress and construction along peaceful lines in fields other than politics, as had happened in Japan. This suggestion also meant adopting the way of non-violence in a scenario of political confrontation.
When you stand in the Himalayan foothills, you will see torrents of water sent down by the ice melting on the mountain tops. On the way, the fastflowing water repeatedly meets obstacles in the form of boulders. These hamper the flow of the water, but the water does not attempt to break the stones in order to follow a straight course. On the contrary, what it does is avoid the stones and find its way around their sides, and eventually reaches the plains. This is the way of non-violence.
To put it another way, non-violence is non-confrontation. In this world, the non-confrontational approach is the only right approach. Nonconfrontation does not mean cowardice or accepting defeat. It is in actual fact, the same strategy which is known as ‘buying time’. That is to say, avoiding wasting one’s time in futile activities and directing all one’s energy towards result-oriented activities.
Following a policy of non-violence means that when man is faced with an unpleasant situation, he should not react negatively but should rather react positively. Such a policy is the result of wise planning. All the successes of this world stem from wise planning. Without wise planning, there can be no success.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan