Mahatma Gandhi and Islam:
A relationship defined by Affinity, Fascination, Crisis and Rupture
As a prominent spokesman of Islam, Mahatma Gandhi proclaimed in 1938 that "the sayings of the Prophet", ranked "among the treasures of mankind, not merely of Muslims" (Foreword to a reprint of The Wisdom of Muhammad  by Abdullah Suhrawardy). The talk will trace the development of Gandhi's empathetic appreciation of Islam's civilizational and political significance – beginning with his childhood and youth in Porbandar and Rajkot (from 1869 until 1888), followed by his student years in London (1888-1891) and, subsequently, with a focus on his extended ‘apprenticeship’ in South Africa (Johannesburg and Durban, and surroundings, from 1893 until 1914), to culminate with his committed involvement with the Indian Independence movement (1915-1948).
Through a close reading of Gandhi’s speeches and writings throughout this period, an endeavor will be made to underscore the extent to which this 'prophet of nonviolence' drew inspiration from Islamic theology for his own doctrine and implementation of satyagraha ('truth force') in the struggle for Indian’s freedom, intent as he was towards bringing about unity between Hindus and Muslims. Concurrently, the ensuing - quasi inexorable - crisis and rupture of his envisioned communitarian harmony will be examined against the backdrop of intensifying political upheaval, especially from the late 1930s into the late 1940s.
The talk will be accompanied by a power-point presentation highlighting, among other aspects, direct quotes from the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG, 100 vols.).
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