Many Muslims attribute the following statement to Mahatma Gandhi,
"If India has to improve, it should be ruled by a Dictator as honest and upright as Omar (the second Caliph of Muslims)"
Can you please throw some light on how far it is authentic. Did he really say so or is it just a fabrication?
Answered by Mushafiq Sultan
Thanks for your question.
You are right that this statement is widely attributed to Mr. M. K. Gandhi, the renowned leader of Indian Freedom Movement. I have personally tried to locate this statement in the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, but could not locate this exact statement. Also, the word 'dictator' is not a positive word. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) does not fit the definition of a dictator. He was elected as a ruler. The appropriate term for him is a Khalifa (Caliph). Nevertheless, there is another statement of Gandhiji, which is somewhat similar to this statement and it is authentic too. Following is an extract from Mahatma Gandhi's collected works (Volume LXV; Writings from March to July 1937) published by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
"Lest Congressmen should think that they have a monopoly of simplicity and that they erred in 1920 in doing away with the trousers and the chair, let me cite the examples of Aboobaker and Omar. Rama and Krishna are prehistoric names. I may not use these names as examples. History tells us of Pratap and Shivaji living in uttermost simplicity. But opinion may be divided as to what they did when they had power. There is no division of opinion about the Prophet, Aboobaker and Omar. They had the riches of the world at their feet. It will be difficult to find a historical parallel to match their rigorous life. Omar would not brook the idea of his lieutenants in distant provinces using anything but coarse cloth and coarse flour. The Congress Ministers, if they will retain the simplicity and economy they have inherited since 1920, will save thousands of rupees, will give hope to the poor and probably change the tone of the Services. It is hardly necessary for me to point out that, simplicity does not mean shoddiness. There is a beauty and an art In simplicity which he who runs may see. It does not require money to be neat, clean and dignified. Pomp and pageantry are often synonymous with vulgarity."
[The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi; Volume LXV, Page 407 under the essay titled CONGRESS MINISTRIES; Numbered 473 Quoted from HARIJAN dated 17-07-1937]
This is the exact quotation. It is possible that someone might have given a paraphrase of this statement in the words which you quoted, as the implication is very clear i.e he is advising the Ministers to imitate the lives of the Prophet and the Caliphs. This is all that there is and it also reveals that Gandhiji was very impressed with the life of Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and God's abundant mercy) and his successors.
Below is the scanned image (with source link) of this page/quote from 'Digital Library of India', which is a repository of thousands of invaluable old documents.