Selected Writings of Gandhi

Journalist Gandhi

(Selected Writings of Gandhi)

Table of Contents

About This Book

Compiled by : T. K. Somaiya
Gandhi Book Center,
Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal,
299, Tardeo Road,
Nana Chowk, Mumbai 400 007
First Edition : August 1994
Published by : Jitendra T. Desai,
Navajivan Publishing House,
Ahemadabad - 380 014,
Printed by : Yash Printers
140/L, Kalbadevi Road,
Mumbai 400 002



Chapter 15: Am I A Messenger of God?

A Muslim friend writes a long letter which pruned down read as follows:
"The chief difficulty that stands in your way of right thinking is that your heart has so hardened by looking at and interpreting things in the light of your self-assumed principles, that you cannot bring to beat an open mind on anything, how so ever valuable it may be.
If God has not appointed you as His messenger, what you say or teach cannot be claimed to be a word of God. No one would contest the truthfulness of truth and nonviolence as teachings of the prophets and principles of very high spiritual value, but their true understanding and application require a soul that is in direct communion with God. Any person who has only polished his soul by suppressing or acting against the desires and cravings of the flesh and the self is not a prophet.
The fact that you stand as a teacher of the world and claim to have diagnosed the disease from which the world is suffering, and proclaim that the truth of your choice and practice and the nonviolence of your conviction and application are the only cures for the afflicted world, betrays your utter disregard and misconception of the truth. You admit you make mistakes. Your nonviolence is actually a concealed violence as it is not based on actual spiritual life and is not the earnest of true inspiration from God.
As a true believer, and in pursuance of that teaching of Islam which enjoins on every Muslim to convey the truth to every human being, I would request you to clear your mind of all complexes, to place yourself in the position of an ordinary human being who wants to learn and not to teach and to become a real seeker after truth.
If you wish to find out the truth, I would request you to study the Quran and the life of the Prophet Mohamed (Peace of God be upon him) written by Shebli Nowani and M. Sulaiman Nadwi with an open mind.
As for unity among the different communities inhabiting India, it can never come in terms of a single nation. Broad-minded toleration of each other's religion and practices and an agreement based on the recognition of the Muslims as a nation with their own complete code of life and culture to guide them and an equality of status in political life, shall bring harmony and peace to India."
I have omitted no argument used by the writer.
I have not hardened my heart. I have never claimed to be messenger of God except in the sense in which all human beings are.
I am a mortal as liable to err as any other. Nor have I claimed to be a teacher. But I cannot prevent admirers from calling me a teacher or a Mahatma, as I cannot prevent traducers from calling me all sorts of names and ascribing to me vices to which I am a stranger. I lay both praise and blame at the feet of the Almighty and go my way. For the information of my correspondent, who is a schoolmaster in a high school, I may say that I have reverently studied the works he mentions and also many other works on Islam, I have more than once read the Quran. My religion enables me, obliges me, to imbibe all that is good in all the great religions of the earth. This does not mean that I must accept the interpretation that my correspondent may put upon the message of the Prophet of Islam or any other Prophet. I must use the limited intelligence that God has given me to interpret the teachings bequeathed to mankind by the Prophets of the world. I am glad to find that my correspondent agrees that truth and nonviolence are taught by the holy Quran. Surely it is for him, as for every one of us, to apply these principles to daily life according to the light given to us by God.
The last paragraph in the letter lays down a dangerous doctrine. Why is India not one nation? Was it not one during, say, the Mughal period? Is India composed of two nations? If it is, why only two? Are not Christians a third, Parsis a fourth, and so on? Are the Muslims of China a nation separate from the other Chinese? Are the Muslims of England a different nation from the other English? How are the Muslims of the Punjab different from the Hindus and the Sikhs? Are they not all Punjabis, drinking the same water, breathing the same air and deriving sustenance from the same soil? What is there to prevent them from following their respective religious practices? Are Muslims all the world over a separate nation? Or are the Muslims of India only to be a separate nation distinct from the others? Is India to be vivisected into two parts, one Muslim and the other non-Muslim? And what is to happen to the handful of Muslims living in the numerous villages where the population is predominantly Hindu, and conversely to the Hindus where, as in the Frontier Province or Sind, they are a handful? The way suggested by the correspondent is the way of strife. Live and let live or mutual forbearance and toleration is the law of life. That is the lesson I have learnt from the Quran, the Bible, the Zend Avesta and the Gita.

Harijan 21-10-1939