Father Thomas V Kunnunkal SJ, President of Islamic Studies Association (Delhi), along with Fr TK John Professor Emeritus, Fr PR John SJ and Victor Edwin SJ of Vidyajyoti College of Theology visited Maulana Wahiduddin Khan on 22 June 2015 at his residence in West Nizamuddin, Delhi and delivered the message that Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Commission for Interreligious Dialogue sent to Muslims to wish them 'a peaceful and joyful celebration of the month of Ramzan and Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan'.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is a noted Islamic scholar and peace activist. He has received, among others, the Demiurgus Peace International Award, under the patronage of the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev; the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honour; the National Citizen's Award, presented by Mother Teresa, and the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award. He has translated the Qu'ran in simple and contemporary English and has written a commentary on the Qur'an. He gives lectures on ETV Urdu, Zee Salaam, Bridges TV, ITV, ARY Digital, QTV, Aaj TV, etc.
In his message, Cardinal Tauran noted that violence that causes suffering to others becomes even more heinous when it is sought to be justified in the name of religion. He stressed: "No one can kill another in the name of God ...This would be a double crime: against God and against the person himself." He added: "There is great need of our prayer: for justice, for peace and security in the world; for those who are far from the right path of life and who commit violence in the name of religion, that they might return to God and change [their] life; for the poor and the sick."
The message ended with greetings: "With Pope Francis, we wish you that the fruits of Ramadan and the joy of 'Id al-Fitr may bring about peace and prosperity, enhancing your human and spiritual growth."
On receiving the letter, Maulana Khan greatly appreciated the efforts of the Catholic Church to establish friendly relations with Muslims. He told his Christian friends that the true spirit of dialogue is 'mutual learning'. "In dialogue, we learn from one another ... In debate, one tries to establish the supremacy of one's faith. We live in an era of dialogue ... The era of debate must end", he said. One should have an objective mind and be willing to listen to others with patience in order to sustain peaceful and fruitful dialogue, he affirmed.
Maulana Khan further commented that the political interpretation of Islam is the root cause of present-day Muslim militancy. He said that political interpretation of Islam is totally wrong and that it violates the spirit of the Quran.
While a peace activist and traditional Islamic scholar like Maulana Khan insists that the spiritual interpretation of Islam is authentic, radical Islamists, too, claim the same. This causes difficulty for non-Muslims who are keen on dialogue with Muslims. Responding to this issue, Maulana Khan said the ideologues who invented the political interpretation of Islam were born in very politically turbulent times and thus their interpretation was affected by the times they lived and worked. He said that he would be happy to discuss the implications of this question in further detail on another occasion.
Maulana Khan offered a set of books and a copy of the Holy Qur'an to his Christian visitors. P.R. John, a member of the Christian delegation, said the meeting with Maulana was a deeply spiritual experience. Rajat Malhotra, secretary of Maulana Khan, kindly made all the necessary arrangements.
Victor Edwin SJ
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