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.


THE British rule lasted in India for about 200 years. India’s freedom struggle was launched in 1857, but in 1919 after the Jallianwala Bagh incident, it received a further boost under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. This movement proved successful and on the night of 15 August 1947 at 12:01 a.m., the Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten announced on All India Radio: “Today India is free”. On that day the Union Jack was taken down from Parliament House and the Indian flag was raised in its place.

I was born on 1 January 1925. My family was involved in the freedom struggle since its inception and so I too became a freedom fighter from my youth. Listening to elders, I began to cherish the golden dream of seeing a free India and harboured great hopes of becoming the citizen of a free country.

When India was declared free on 15 August 1947, I was in the city of Azamgarh with my family. I remember, on that night, people in their jubilation celebrated the newfound freedom by lighting up the entire city. I stepped out of my home and reached the downtown area of the city. Walking on the streets of Azamgarh, my condition at that moment can be rightly described by these Hindi lines: Khushi se paon zameen par nahin padh rahe the. (My happiness lifted my feet off the ground!) When I woke up the next morning, all the lights of the city had faded. They have not been lighted up again because the joy that people had expected to arrive in their lives after Independence was missing.

Now I am over 90 years of age, and I am still waiting for the India that I have been dreaming of since my younger days. I have since given much thought to this matter. My opinion is that before Independence we had successfully set in motion a movement for gaining freedom in the Gandhian style, but we were unable to initiate the movement that was desired after Independence.

On 8 August 1942, Indian leaders advanced the political slogan of ‘Quit India’, which was successfully realized on 15 August 1947. The slogan we were required to work towards after Independence was ‘Build India’. However, as a senior citizen of our country, my feelings are that perhaps the second phase of our struggle was not set forth in the right direction. Instead of ‘Build India’, our leaders adopted the formula of ‘Rule India’, which was like putting the cart before the horse. In other words, most of our rulers aimed to simply become rulers of India instead of expending their energies in working towards building our country.

In this matter, I consider the American model very suitable. At one time America too was a British colony. It gained its freedom in 1776. The plan made by the Founding Fathers of America to realize the American dream was centred on three points: education, infrastructure and a competitionbased economy. As everyone knows, this planning of the American leaders bore fruit and their nation became the superpower of the world. Had India emulated the American model of development, it too would have reached the position of a global power. Indian leaders, however, did not pattern their country’s development on the model set by America, and instead chose to adopt the socialist model.

In the present circumstances, we may not be in a state to pursue the American model. The option before us at this juncture is to draw lessons from the French statesman Charles De Gaulle, who served as President of France from 1959 to 1969. The example he set involved making radical changes towards making France a strong state, while taking the risk that he may not get elected for a second term.

In life it often happens that individuals or nations are unable to avail of the first chance. This is why they have to plan again for a second time. This is what happened with France: it was not able to avail of the first chance, as its leaders realized that they had been left far behind in the age of nuclear science. Then they engaged in re-planning, which was successful and France again became a powerful country of Europe. But the price of this re-planning was that when Charles De Gaulle died on 9 November 1970, he had lost his former popularity and very few people came to mark his funeral.

De Gaulle suffered a personal setback, but France emerged with a stronger economy and an independent nuclear capability as the most powerful nation of Europe. This is a good example for India to emulate and with sound re-planning, we too can become a strong nation amongst the nations of the world.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
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Peace is the Only Religion
Peace is the only religion for both
man and the universe. In a peaceful
environment all good things are
possible, whereas in the absence of
peace, we cannot achieve anything of a
positive nature, either as individuals, or
as a community. The same holds true at
national and international levels.