Eight Lives: A Study of the Hindu-Muslim Encounter

Eight Lives: A Study of the Hindu-Muslim Encounter

Eight Lives: A Study of the Hindu-Muslim Encounter

Eight Lives: A Study of the Hindu-Muslim Encounter


This book was written by a Hindu, the grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi. His intent, in writing on eight Muslims and their influence on India in the twentieth century, is to reduce the gulf between Hindu and Muslims. Focusing on figures viewed as heroes by sub-continent Muslims, he shows that they can be admired by Hindus as well that they need not be frozen in Hindu minds as foes.

Here is a fascinating account of twentieth-century India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh told through biographical sketches of eight men: Sayyid Ahmed Khan (1817-1898), Fazlul Huq (1873-1962), Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), Muhammad Iqbal (1876-1938), Muhammad Ali (1878-1931), Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958), Liaqat Ali Khan (1895-1951), and Zakir Husain (1897-1969)."


Behind these pages lies a wish to see a bridging of the gaps that distance Indians from Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, as well as the gaps, whether similar or not, that still divide India's Hindus from their Muslim counterparts. The resentments and suspicions that have produced the gaps are hard; if they are to crumble, statesmanship in the subcontinent's rulers and wisdom in the populace will be required. But these resentments and suspicions are linked to ignorance. On the whole Indians know little about Pakistan and Pakistanis, or about Bangladesh and Bangladeshis--and vice versa. On the whole Hindus know little about the subcontinent's Muslims--and vice versa.

Though the Muslim question has pursued me from my childhood, I allowed a lot of time to pass before attempting a serious understanding of the subcontinent's Muslims. Like many of my compatriots I mouthed the fact that India was the world's second largest Muslim country but I had not cared to study the history of the subcontinent's Muslims or the impulses that moved them.

I was ignorant but not, I recognized with some concern, more so than most of my non-Muslim compatriots, including highly educated ones. Thus, to give only two revealing examples, they did not know, as I had not known, that the Qur'an had a verse that unambiguously frowned upon compulsion in religion, or that it spoke more than once of God sending prophets to all nations and peoples. Muslims have been similarly uninformed about Hindu beliefs and points of view. Hence these pages, an attempt to reduce the understanding gap.

A stimulus for this attempt was the study I made for a biography of . . .

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