During his three day royal visit to India beginning 27th of February, King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan had a number of engagements in Delhi which kept him busy all the time. Despite a tight schedule of engagements, the King stole time to visit Rajghat and pay homage to the Father of the Nation by laying a wreath at the samadhi. Only last month Prime Minister Modi had paid his maiden visit to Amman and that could be called paving the path for closer and more frequent interaction between the two countries in furthering bilateral trade, tourism and other activities.
Born on 30 January 1962 Abdullah has been the King of Jordan since 1999 following the demise of his father King Hussein. According to the King, he is a 41st generation direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad as he belongs to the Hashemite family that has been ruling over Jordan since 1921. He received his early education in Amman and later on in the US and UK. Back home, he assumed command of Jordanian Special Forces in 1994, and became a Major General in 1998.
Abdullah, a constitutional monarch of an Islamic State, liberalized the economy when he assumed the throne, and his reforms led to an economic boom which continued until 2008. However, with the Great Recession after 2008 and spill over from the Arab Spring, economic and political difficulties engulfed the Kingdom. In 2011, large-scale protests demanding reform erupted in the Arab World. Many of the protests led to civil wars in other countries, but King Abdullah responded quickly to domestic unrest by replacing the government and introducing reforms to the constitution and laws governing public freedoms and elections. Proportional representation in the parliament re-introduced in the general election in 2016 lead to establishing of a parliamentary government. The reforms took place amid unprecedented challenges stemming from regional instability: an influx of 1.4 million Syrian refugees into the natural resources-lacking country and above all the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which labelled him as the “enemy of Islam.”
Because of his liberal and inclusive views on Islam and Islamic society, and his firm conviction of human brotherhood, he has been castigated by the radicals as outside their fundamentalist fold. But he has braved their animus and held on to rational thinking. In this way he stands out in the entire contemporary Muslim leadership. Way back in 2004, he had declared the Doctrine of Amman which had rejected the takfir-ism of the radicals in which they were declaring their enemies as infidels (kafir). Today, more than a decade and half after that declaration, the rational segments among the Muslims all over the world have begun to understand the infallibility of the doctrine he had propounded.
The crowning event of King Abdullah’s visit to India is his address to a large gathering of top religious leaders, Islamic scholars, politicians and diplomats, including the High Commissioner of Pakistan in New Delhi at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, where along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he delivered a brilliant speech on the topic of “Islamic Heritage: promoting understanding and moderation.” By all means what he said about intentional distortion of the truth about Islamic faith, its quintessential preaching of peace, kindness, tolerane and fraternal support of the needy is what will be gall to the radicals and fanatics who relentlessly preach that Islam must hate, must be aggressive and must be exclusive. Seldom do the Islamic scholars and ulema find opportunity of listening to scientific, rational and pragmatic elucidation of the reality of coexistence in peace and tranquillity on the globe as members of one family. The King said that it is faith that brings us the commandments, to love God and the good, and love our neighbour. It is faith that inspires us every day. Too much in the world spoken about religion is about what separates us. But people of different faiths have lived together since ancient times. To understand each other, to recognise our shared humanity, to act righteously in the sight of God, this is my faith, the faith I teach my children, the faith shared by 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, the King said. In the vein of great saints, philosophers and mystics of the world,, the King stated that , “The world is one family, however different our families and countries are, we have a shared responsibility. Compassion, mercy, tolerance are values shared by Muslims and non-Muslims. Today’s global war against terror is not a fight between people or religions. It is between murderers of our faith and humilities and against extremists whose faith is hate and violence. The war against terror is not one religion against each other but of moderation versus extremism and terrorism. We need to take back our spaces and airwaves back from those who speak the language of hate.” These are historical utterances and prophetic assertions. They recreate a new and humane and peace loving Islam for us something for which the entire world is expectantly waiting. This is the Islam which everybody will love and venerate and this is the Islam that must change the hearts of those that have been blackened by vicious propaganda of hatred and violence.
Responding warmly to the assertions of King Abdullah, Prime Minister Modi equated these truths to the teachings of great Indian minds like the Buddha, Nanak, Chishti and Gandhi. He said that “from Vedic times India has been believing in and upholding the axiom of “vasudevam kutumbkam” – the world is a family, precisely what King Andullah has said. Modi fully endorsed the views of King Abdullah that terrorism was not to be associated with any religion or community but that it is a peculiar mindset and we need to change that mindset. King Abdullah said that when a Muslim meets a Muslim he greets him with aslamalaikum which means peace be upon you. How can such a religion be reckoned as religion of terror. There are some who misuse Islam for their nefarious designs. The two leaders confirmed that they would fight against terrorism tooth and nail.
King Abdullah has sent a message of peace in a country which has the second largest population of Muslims in the world. Interestingly, people of all type of ideologies and viewpoints formed his audience. Obviously, his message to the Muslims of India should be something like a lighthouse for them in an environment of darkness. A large number of Muslim organizations in the country have strongly denigrated terrorism and violence as the enemy of mankind. They are keen to see that all religious communities in India live in peaceful coexistence as they have been doing for hundreds of years. A secular and democratic India is the best guarantee of freedoms of all sorts for the people, individual as well as collective. Abdullah’s reflections mark a new chapter in contemporary Islamic history. He has floated the idea of understanding the true Islam and discarding the negativism about it. India not only appreciates his bold initiative of putting the record straight but also hopes that the Muslim ummah of contemporary times will consider his words as beacon light to guide them in the future course of Indian history.