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The Indian thinker: “Harilal Gandhi”

 

Harilal Gandhi was born in 1888 A.H., in the Indian city of Rajkot. He is the eldest son of the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. He learned Hinduism under his father from his early childhood; he further became acquainted by the minute details of Brahman – which is considered one of the highest religions in India. He thoroughly studied Hinduism and all what is related to its multiple gods and numerous codes. He further read the ancient Hindus books such as “The Vedas” and “The Brahmanas” among others. Moreover, he acquainted himself with the details of the struggle between this religion and the other sects of Buddhism.

At first, Harilal did not pay much attention to the very flagrant contradictions of which Hinduism is pregnant such as polytheism and the grievous social oppression, and consequently he did not think for a moment that it is a religion that is not harmonious with proper human nature especially that he is the son of the world famous Hindu leader.

Harilal received his studies in law and became a barrister like his father. This profession of his was a turning point in his life as it enabled him to know of societal stratification in India along with the accompanying tough and bad social conditions of which people suffer in his country.

At the same time, he realized that Muslims do not discriminate between the rich and the poor. Thus was his desire to study the Islamic religion. From a humanistic perspective, he was very much influenced by noticing that Muslims in his country do not discriminate between the rich and the poor, and the scholars and the illiterate. For all the above reasons, Harilal’s desire grew to study the Islamic religion deeply and with deliberation. Another important remark also gave him a thrust in this direction; it is that some Hindu books mention a prophet with the same characteristics as Prophet Mohammad (PBUHH).

After a period of incessant study, Harilal came to know a lot about the Islamic religion. He came to realize that he is taking the first step in the path of truth for which he has been searching for years. Upon reading the Holy Ayah: {And if one seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted from him; and he is among, and in the Hereafter he shall be of the losers} (Al Imran: 85), he became convinced that Islam is the religion of truth and that all else is false.

What also acted as a catalyst is him meeting Sheikh Zakaria Maniar and Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad Khajandi who told him that the truth his confused soul is searching for is found in Islam. As such, Harilal was totally convinced in Islam after Allah Al Mighty expanded for him his breast.

On Friday that followed his conversion to Islam, Harilal put on the white attire Muslims dress and headed towards the Grand Mosque in the Indian City of Bombay, and before 20 thousand Muslims who attended Friday Prayers; he took all the attendance by surprise when he announced his conversion to Islam, changing his name to Abdullah Harilal Gandhi.

His embrace of Islam in 1930 was a thunderbolt in India. He took the stage and delivered a word on Islam in which he said: “You all know that I am Harilal – the son of Mahatma Gandhi, and I announce publicly and before this massive attendance that I adore Islam. I love Islam and I believe solely in Allah and in our Master – Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUHH), and I here bear witness that he is the Seal of Prophets and that no prophet will come after him, that the revelation he brought is the Holy Quran and it is true, that resurrection and Doom’s Day is true, that the angels, destiny and fate are true, that all the revealed Holy Books are true, and that the messengers and prophets of Allah are true. For Islam and the Holy Quran I will live and die, and I will defend and struggle. I will be one of Islam’s main pillars. I will call for Islam, and I will preach of it among my tribe and people. Here I tell you that Islam is the religion of knowledge and culture, justice and honesty, mercy and equality”.

Over twenty thousand Muslims who attended Friday Prayers in Bombay Grand Mosque welcomed Harilal’s announcement of embracing Islam with calls of “Allah Akbar”, and they hastened to him and shook hands with him. They held him over their shoulders and carried him to his car and calls of praising and glorifying Allah Al Mighty filled the horizons of Bombay.

No soon newspapers and agencies reported the news which was a thunderbolt on the Hindus. Hindus leaders grew wrathful, and most Hindu commercial shops in Muslim neighbourhoods closed in an act of anger and regret for the Islam of the son of their leader. As for the impact of his conversion to Islam on his father, it was tremendous to the extent that it made him refrain from eating and drinking for two days and the relation between the father and son become tensely troubled.

Harilal died at the age of 59 of tuberculosis on 18 June 1948, few months after the death of his father.

The Contributions of Harilal Gandhi:

After his conversion to Islam, Harilal Gandhi defended the Islamic religion. Upon announcing his Islam, many defamation campaigns were launched, and atheist societies and newspapers attacked him as well.

Harilal Gandhi defended Islam saying: “I am not regretful or sorrowful for embracing Islam as they say and propagate. Allah Al Mighty knows and bears witness that I did not do more than answering the call of the truth, the call of my conscience. I succumbed and surrendered to my long-cherished desire and the missing chain which was lost from me, and here at last I found it before me represented in the Book of Allah Al Mighty which falsehood cannot approach from before it or from behind it and in the biography of the Holy Prophet (PBUHH).”

In the framework of his support to Islam, Harilal Gandhi also called on all those who attacked him to try to understand Islam and know its truth before attacking him. He addressed the Hindus saying:

“It is better for those people who wish to rid themselves of this bitter life of theirs to take a simple unbiased look and to study the truth of Islamic fraternity – even if they do not embrace Islam – to be fair afterwards on their own free will and to announce the outcome they reach for us and for the nation of Mahatma Gandhi and afterwards to the eastern and western world”.  

 

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