The Maulana Azad Academy,
New Delhi - February 21, 2013

 

Guests of Honor,

Secretary General Qasmi,

Distinguished Scholars,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I am truly honored and humbled to share the stage with some of India’s leading statesmen and scholars to remember and remind ourselves of the legacy of the great Maulana Azad. I would like to thank the Maulana Azad Academy for organizing this major International Seminar on the legacy of an eminent personality, and for inviting me to be a part of it.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Last November here in Delhi, HE President Karzai gave a lecture on “A Maulana for Our Times.” The President eloquently highlighted some of Maulana Azad’s notable lifetime achievements, which reflected the challenges and tribulations of the era in which he lived, led by example, and spearheaded a principled, just struggle to achieve greater peace, harmony, and prosperity in the whole Subcontinent.

 

Through multiple roles as a writer, poet, educator, theologian, politician, and a shrewd diplomat, Maulana Azad promoted and strove to instill in the societal mindset such timeless values as humanism, unity, tolerance, and co-existence.

 

He understood and interpreted religion—as it is divinely intended—to be a guide for humanity to internalize the above values and to lead a life infused with moral virtues, compassion towards one another, and self-restraint against harming others. Maulana Azad embodied these values in his lifetime struggle for the freedom and independence of India, a legacy that will live on and is frequently celebrated, as we do today.

 

Indeed, Maulana Azad did not just preach. But he employed the medium of education as a non-violent means to mobilize, organize, and prepare people towards achievement of institutionalized peace, freedom, pluralism, and democracy in the Subcontinent. He firmly believed that if this were achieved, every citizen’s rights—regardless of race, creed, or color of skin—would be automatically ensured and protected.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

The thirst for acquiring literacy and education has never been as widespread in our plural, diverse society for the same reasons and causes, which Maulana Azad championed. I am delighted to tell you that Afghanistan is one of the key beneficiaries of Maulana Azad’s legacy. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which Maulana Azad founded, enables hundreds of Afghans each year to acquire education in different fields across India.

 

The education, which young Afghan men and women have obtained in India over the past 11 years, is directly strengthening the institutions of democracy, while fueling Afghanistan’s economic growth. At the same time, educating young Afghans in India has brought our peoples even closer to one another, in the spirit of the vision of Maulana Azad, who vehemently opposed social distance, disunity, or division.

 

I have no doubt that the many interactions Afghan students have with young Indians immensely contribute to mutual cultural understanding, as well as to an awareness of our two nations’ many commonalities and shared interests. This should naturally offset the effects of artificial barriers promoted and propagated by the self-defeating forces of radicalism and extremism—which the absolute majority of the Subcontinent peoples reject.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I think one of the key legacies of Maulana Azad is his utter rejection of using religion as an “instrument of political power and not what it is—a value system meant for transformation of human soul.” Failure to heed this timeless and universal legacy has already affected the stability and prosperity of our region. In turn, this has prevented the unlocking of the vast human and natural resources potential of the Subcontinent to ensure prosperity for all.

 

Indeed, the consequences of neglecting his legacy are clear in the twin problems of extremism and terrorism that unfortunately find institutional support in our region. Terrorist attacks in the name of religion continue to kill and maim dozens of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and the region. Indeed, this is a manifestation of what Maulana Azad had warned about to come, if Islam were used to promote political and strategic goals in the region. This directly runs counter to the teachings of the Holy Quran and deeds of Prophet Muhammad (PBU), which the great “Maulana Azad for Our Times,” frequently made clear.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Let me conclude by saying that at no time is the legacy of Maulana Azad worth revisiting as much as now to address the many challenges confronting our region. I look forward to the insights of other distinguished speakers into the legacy of Maulana Azad, and wish you a very successful Seminar in the next couple of days.

 

Thank you.