Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Principles of Life | Al-Risala, May 1988
The founder and first ruler of modern Russia, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), received a delegation of Indian freedom fighters in 1919. One whom he met individually was Raja Mahinder Pratap (1886-1979). Rising when the latter entered the room, Lenin himself went to fetch an armchair from a corner of the room, seated his guest on it and then sat next to him on a sofa. Lenin opened the conversation by asking which language he should speak, English, German, French or Russian. When it had been settled that they should converse in English, Raja Mahinder Pratap offered Lenin a copy of his book The Religion of Love. Lenin astounded him by telling him that he had already read it. It so happened that the previous day, when Raja Mahinder Pratap had gone to Lenin’s private secretary to make the appointment, he had left a copy of his book with the latter. Lenin explained: “I took it from him and read it during the night in order to familiarize myself with the thinking of the person I was going to meet the next day.”
This short interlude made manifest the remarkable qualities of this Russian leader. Natural talent and hard work had obviously gone into making him a fluent conversationalist in four languages, and his alertness, sense of urgency and capacity for assiduous study paved the way for excellent human relationships. All of this required great and unflagging effort. How many of us, after all, would take the trouble to read a whole book overnight just to be able to have better understanding of an unknown foreign visitor? Lenin spared no effort in cultivating his natural gifts, and when opportunities came his way, he was eager to grasp them. This was the streak in him which placed him in the forefront of the world leaders of his time.
These qualities of alertness and tenacity coupled with innate capability are essential to success in any field. And if they are essential in secular matters, they are certainly indispensable in the domain of religion. Those who seek to serve Islam must show the same preparedness and knowledgeability as the Russian leader did in a purely secular context. They must evince the same vigour, determination and desire to understand others’ thinking if they are to be successful in furthering the Islamic cause.