One of the most intriguing puzzles of the Indian freedom movement, against British colonial rule, has been the (almost) universal acclaim of Mahatma Gandhi as one of the finest men, who healed wounds, which were being inflicted on a bleeding humanity, with his deeply ethical strategy of Non-violence, and Satyagraha (truth-force). While, such strategies put the clever British on the back foot, his rival Mohammad Ali Jinnah succeeded in defeating the former’s mission to keep India united, and consequently, won Pakistan. Both the leaders deployed religions to realize their political objects. How do we explain why Gandhi’s Hinduism failed against Jinnah’s Islam? To advance with plausible explanations, M. J. Akbar, in his book “Gandhi’s Hinduism-the Struggle against Jinnah’s Islam”, undertakes deep investigation into the two titans i.e. personal and public lives, and in the light of that information and knowledge he analyses their political moves and counter-moves with the British in the central role by favouring one or the other. My own recent study of Jinnah is structured on similar lines. The very great advantage which the author enjoys, over many other scholarly and popular publications, is his undertaking of a systematic, comprehensive and holistic comparative study of the political careers of the two protagonists; both of them Gujaratis originating from trading and commercial roots. One was a Hindu baniya, steadfast and unwavering in his belief that Hinduism was the best religion, but also recognized Islam and other religions as legitimate alternative paths towards the God, while the other was a Khoja Ismaili Shiite, who decided to adapted to Ithna Ashari Shi’ism, but later for all practical purposes, associated with the proverbial religious ceremonies and festivals of Sunni Muslims, and led Muslims of all sects towards the partition of India, and creation of Pakistan. Unsurprisingly, the review of Gandhi’s family background, his pluralist beliefs, and his own intellectual, ethical and moral concerns is simply fascinating. Unsurprisingly, the review of Gandhi’s family background, his pluralist beliefs, and his own intellectual, ethical and moral concerns is simply fascinating. Gandhi’s ancestors had served as ‘Diwans’ or Prime Ministers of the princely Porbandar state, growing up in a family of orthodox Sanatana Dharama Hindus. His father had Muslim friends and associates with whom he socialized regularly, while his mother belonged to a sect that held Islam in profound reverence. Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity and other faiths constituted the cultural milieu of Gandhi’s formative phase with lasting influence till the end. In such a rich, variegated and nuanced background, Gandhi found great solace in Hinduism, but he never adhered to blind faith. He found the ever-present, Manusmriti, utterly degrading, because it stigmatized a section of “Hindu society”, the so-called a’choots (Untouchables), to the extent of denying them a place within the Varna hierarchy. It integrated them into the social order to perform the most degrading and unclean tasks, such as cleaning the human waste of Varna Hindus. Such a stark contradiction between his faith in Hinduism, and the prevalence of a foul practice into that induced suicidal feelings in Gandhi. In such circumstances, one reaction could have been the aversion towards Hinduism, but Gandhi remained a believing Hindu, with a mission to filter out all the ill and corrupt practices that were against the sanctity of Hinduism. Gandhi kept learning from the world and incorporated the best ideals of humanity. On the basis of such ideals, he wanted Hindus and Muslims to cherish close ties and brotherly bond, and also wanted Hindus to unlearn the marginalization of untouchables. Both these objectives remained paramount in Gandhi’s political priorities. In history, we come across many occasions on which Gandhi lauded Islam and its great leaders. Whenever Hindu-Muslim relations got strained, because of communal conflicts, Gandhi would always protest against such events. For the ‘Untouchables’, he devised a respectable status of Harijans or Children of God. While, Jinnah rejected his overtures, the Dalit leader Dr. Ambedkar, accused him for not letting the Dalits win separate electorates. Ambedkar reluctantly agreed to the Poona Pact, which kept the Harijans within the Hindu community, and accepted Gandhi’s promise to help alleviate their historical disadvantage through the social and economic uplifting reforms. In an event, Gandhi lost his life at the hands of fanatical Hindus who accused him of Muslim appeasement, but he was successful in preventing the forced expulsion of Muslims from India after the partition. For the Dalits, the Poona Pact of 1932 has proved a slow but steady road to social mobility, and now a Dalit intelligentsia has come into being, which can ventilate the grievances of their community with confidence and authority. On the other hand, the author’s concerted efforts to delve into the life of Jinnah on a similar scale as that of Gandhi does not yield in the discovery of a reflective mind deeply engrossed in the study of Islam or, for that matter, in religion, in general. Jinnah’s Islam remained a political tool that he used with deadly impact as a clever lawyer to convince the British that leaving India divided was the just solution for the right of self-determination of Muslims who were a separate nation by virtue of their Islamic faith. In doing so, British interests in the politics of the subcontinent would be better served, Jinnah suggested obliquely. In the wake of Jinnah-British nexus, and the review of the moves and countermoves of the Indian National Congress, the All-India Muslim League, especially after World War II, came to its end, giving philosophical insights and observations. This part of the book will continue to raise controversy, which is unavoidable and expected. Anyhow, M. J. Akbar’s book is a labour of love suffused with enviable erudition. The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University.