The Khudai Khidmatgaars (servants of God), members of a movement originally launched to fight the British Raj, have taken it upon themselves to educate people of all faiths about Islam, including the Muslim youth who are often radicalized by misinterpretations of the Quran.
In October 2015, the Khudai Khidmatgaars launched a telephone helpline to provide crucial insight on how “communication gap among people of various faiths” is a breeding ground for deep prejudices.
“Most calls (to the helpline) were made by Muslims who had questions ranging from the Sharia to why we let non-Muslims and women participate in our initiative. They wanted to know if Khudai Khidmatgaar wasn’t an exclusively Muslim initiative led by Muslim people for the empowerment of only their community,” said Faisal Khan, who, in 2011, revived Khudai Khidmatgaar, which was founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Frontier Gandhi) to fight against the British Raj.
Hindus ranked second in the number of calls, after Muslims, and their queries were revealing. Dr Kush Kumar Singh, a pathologist and a Khudai Khidmatgaar said, “Non-Muslims asked questions about why Muslim families have so many children, why is it that they don’t participate in any kind of national or social activism.”
“Answering such questions become tricky. So we also encourage people to meet us in person if they want to see the answers materialize not just in words but in practice. We tell them about Ahmad Dilshad who is working in Champaran to improve the circumstances of sugarcane farmers, about Qamar Jahan who is helping women in Benaras through self-help groups, about Shahid Ansaari who worked for the restoration of water bodies in Kannauj, about Azmat Khan who worked for tribal women in Madhaya Pradesh. We share with them the relief work done by Khudai Khidmatgaars in the Chennai floods. And on questions about the number of children etc. We explain these by way of data emphasising social and economic conditions of such Muslims,” said Singh.
“We are often asked about our political affiliations. At times people just call us to tell us that how we are wasting our time and energy and that it is all futile,” said Khan.
‘Essentially, most of the questions asked indicate that the callers have misunderstandings that can be resolved by simple interactions and participation between communities,’ said Faisal.
“We are trying to bridge the gap that is wrought by prejudices on either side. It doesn’t matter if a person is a non-Muslim, what matters is their intention to help society understand to exist in harmony with each other. That is what the Frontier Gandhi wanted,” Khan said.
“We emphasise the need for the Muslim youth to address prevailing social issues as their own. When they indulge in welfare activities then they’ll know that they are not the only ones suffering. There are other people too who are of different faiths but have similar challenges,” he added.
Since its inception, the helpline — 9718072586 — has only been active from Friday-Sunday every week. The helpline is supervised by four members— advocate and social activist Mahipal Saraswat from Bikaner, Rajasthan, and a Jamia Millia Islamia MBA student Rizwan Khan, apart from Faisal and Singh. Faisal said that they attend to a minimum of 15-20 calls every weekend. Questions related to Sharia are addressed only by Faisal, since he is well versed in the Quran while the other questions are divided among the rest. While calls have come from across the country and some even from England and the Gulf, the majority are received from South India where Khudai Khidmatgaar has a considerable following. “We want our callers to set an example where they are. Essentially, most of the questions asked indicate the callers have misunderstandings that can be resolved by simple interactions and participation between communities,” said Faisal.