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Mankind’s Equality and Oneness in Diversity:
Islam and Other Oriental Religions

A Paper Presented by Dr M M Verma at
International Conference on
“Peaceful Coexistence in Religions:
Basics of Ethics in Islam and Indian Religions”
India International Islamic Centre, New Delhi, 5-6 March 2011
Orgd. by Mustafa University of Iran

The World history has decisively revealed that religious traditions have not grown in air. It would be wrong to treat religious traditions as exclusive entities, being totally independent of each other. In fact, they have influenced each other more than what is seen by a common eye. They have enriched each other more than what a common man has perceived. Every religion has significantly contributed to humanity’s understanding of the Ultimate Reality.

We are unavoidably interconnected and interrelated today. No religion can refuse to recognize the spirituality and legitimacy of truth embodied in other sacred Scriptures. Undoubtedly, our world is more hospitable to a variety of approaches today than ever before. As we move towards a world civilization, we find many cultures and spiritual traditions influencing one another. Here, every tradition takes account of the other traditions. Our World radiates flavor of unificationism and ecumenism.

The Holy Quran has laid the basis of religious dialogue. Holding of such a dialogue is in complete consonance with the Islamic Shariah (tradition). The Peace Treaty of Hudaybiyyah in the history of Islam was the result of a successful dialogue of this kind. This Treaty of 628 AD was entered into between Prophet Mohammad and non-Muslims at Hudaybiyyah, near Mecca. Don’t follow what you don’t know, said Mohammad, while addressing those tribes of Arabia, who used to worship fake gods viz., god of gold or animal god.

The Prophet showed utmost humility towards all. Once the Prophet saw a funeral of a Jew he stood up to say: “Was he not a human being.” He said: Jews and Muslims are men. He addressed only the commonalities in Islam and Judaism and gave the art of management of religions and prophets.

The Holy Quran say: violence is haram. However, the State can take to arms only in self - defence.

The Quran says: We have sent thee (Mohammad) as a warner (Quran 25. 24). We sent every people an apostle with the command to serve God and eschew evil (16.36). All messengers who received revealed books are mentioned (4.164). Names of Adam, David, Solomon, Lot, Jacob, Moses and Jesus among others are mentioned in the Quran. The Books named are the Old and New testament. The Quran emphasizes the importance of prophets, messengers and books. It says: don’t differentiate among messengers (2.285).

Every Muslim is under the instruction to respect great men of all religions. The Quran says: “All of you are together one” (4.25). Lakum deenukum wal liya deen (to you your religions, to me mine). La ikraha fidden (there is no compulsion in religion) (109.6)

The believers should call upon followers of other religions to unite for the sake of truth, seek mutual help, friendship and cooperate (3.64). “Charity”, said Mohammad, give to one you know, to one you know not, and to one who is against you.

In the name of Allah, Praise be to Allah (Quran sura I), is just the same as in Gayatri Mantra (Hinduism) or Mul Mantra in Sikhism. The praise of the Lord and His name is the subject, which all Scriptures have addressed (Sukhmani Sahib, Canto 24). Of all Holy places, the most sacred is the heart, wherein the name of God lives (Sukhmani Sahib Canto 3). God dwells in it, keep your heart pure, clean and free of filth. The Lord dwells in the positive mind (Canto 4). Advaita, oneness, Unity and no duality is mentioned in (Canto 11). It is the same as in Quran and Gita. You should have the power to see mankind’s equality and the realization of Oneness in diversity (Canto 22).
The Yajur Veda calls for good thoughts to come from all sides. The Yajur Veda says: “One, whose is the permanent friend of all and is involved in the interest of mankind by his action, mind and speech, is the one who knows the meaning of real religion.”

Love is more emphasized in Christianity and Sufism where it is called – Ishq.
Nonviolence is more emphasized in Hinduism and Jainism.
Compassion is more emphasized in Buddhism.
Equality and Justice is more emphasized in Islam and Sikhism.
But Truth is common to all religions.
Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Confucianism had advocated balanced living, which later became the kernel of Guru Nanak’s teachings.
Guru Nanak gave message of freedom of conscience and choice. Individuals should learn from their own experiences and thereby modify their future choices and decisions.

Coexistence is valued in Hinduism and also in Christianity and Islam. If differences arise, they do so as a matter of rationale and not of actual practice. The goal of the coexistence is achieved in Hinduism through corecognition, while in Christianity and Islam it is achieved through mutual coexistence.

The social concept termed as “the golden rule” is found in almost all sacred writings as well as popular philosophical sources. Sometimes, it is worded in the positive viz.,
-  “Do unto others…” sometimes the negative; “Do not do to others...”
-  Choose for thy neighbour that which thou chose for thyself (Baha u’llah).
-  Hurt not others in the ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
-  Consider others as yourself.
Therefore whatever you want them to do to you, do also to them. For, this is the Law and the  Prophets. There is one maxim that ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life. It is the maxim of loving kindness (Confucius). Treat your friends as you would want them to treat you.
Do not do to others what you would not wish to suffer yourself. Men gifted with intelligence and purified souls should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated. Not one of you is a believer, until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. A man should treat all creatures in the world as he himself would like to be treated. What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire law and all the rest is a commentary.

A Hindu who mediates on Brahma, a Muslim who praises Allah, a Sikh, who sings songs of devotion of Akal Purakh (Timeless Being), a Christian, who magnifies Jesus, a Jew who magnifies Adonai, and a Zoroastrian, who honours Ahura Mazda (the Wise Lord) are all in essence generating devotion towards the One they consider to be the Supreme Power.
They may have differing interpretations of God’s nature, name and ways, but in a united way, they are all reaching out to the same Creator.

The Sikh Gurus were philosophers of ecumenism. They sought to make the world safe for diversity, which could be established, not giving up one’s religion and traditions but by penetrating deep into one’s own religion where peculiarity loses its significance. When we transcend to spiritual freedom, we begin to accept other expressions of the meaning of man’s existence. We realize that the ultimate truth is not capable of being fully expressed in words and propositions.
Guru Nanak said: you embrace only God’s religion.

The true servants of God can reduce other’s pain and help the whole world become one (Sukhmani Sahib Canto 16). Recite what has been revealed to you in the book of your Lord, all differences shall cease.

There is need for the religious leaders to undergo a modernizing programme. As religious people, we owe responsibility to the society. Let’s work to restore the lost image of religion. Let the enlightened persons work to re-unite humanity and reduce artificial boundaries. Religion is a great power, and it must be used in the positive direction.

In order to understand other religions, a person should be deeply committed to his own religion. Try to understand each religion in its own distinctiveness and see its contribution to the spiritual atmosphere and unity of mankind. In every religion, there are universal values and a basic message it has for human beings. The thrust of each religion is on making man humane, pious and righteous and on building social environment on these universal values. There are several paths and all paths recognize the goal of unity, underlying all religions.

The process of globalization has compelled us to rethink about our approach to other religions and their missionary work. Every civilization should be enriched by the treasure of other religions and civilizations. The followers of all religions should work for a peaceful coexistence. Let’s make efforts to find a common theological platform in a dialogue with adherents of different faiths. Each religion has something distinctive to offer. Therefore, we should work to protect diverse cultures and harmony among all religions.

Although there may be some apparent dissimilarities in different religions of the world, yet we should work for their peaceful coexistence. We should see unity in diversity. To achieve global unity among millions of people from around the world, who, otherwise, come from extremely diverse background, is an uphill task. These people are different financially, geographically, philosophically and educationally. However, they can be united on the basis of the soul, which is one common identity that they share. The path that leads to unity and peace is the universal path, which has little to do with apparent symbols.

The world desperately needs universally acceptable values for the sake of unity, peace and survival. A tendency towards exclusiveness and blind faith may create hurdles in forging ahead a unified mankind. To follow a lasting path to unity, we still need internal process in order to succeed at that.

The value system in any religion is its soul, whereas institutions and rituals represent its body. As every body has soul, every living religion has its value system, which gives it life, and ide4ntity. Generally, we focus more on the body system and less on the soul.

While we create institutions, we neglect the most essential values. Infact, there is consensus regarding the most fundamental values in all religions. These are: Love, Nonviolence, Compassion, Equality, Justice, Human dignity and Truth.

Every religion offers some insights, observations and instructions that are universally acceptable and helpful to human traditions. The human race is blanketed with a common longing for spirituality. Threads after thread of similar expressions are found woven throughout the entire global fabric. This is especially evident when the subject matter concerns moral guidelines and ethical behaviour. These commonalities become all the more apparent and interesting when various sacred texts are compared concerning the basic issues i.e., the golden rule, prayer, character development, faith, love and compassion. Let us celebrate the  commonalities in our religions. Let us mingle the essential messages delivered by all religions and faiths, whose combined teachings reveal the untold fundamental story, which has unfortunately been smothered by doctrines, severely dividing individual religions.

In a secular society, the most important thing is that the followers of every religion must learn to practice their religion so as NOT to make a nuisance of it for others. Too much of anything is bad. Sometimes, an overdose of religion also becomes a curse. This ought to be curbed. Therefore, in a secular society, the followers of each religion must take care not to hurt the susceptibilities of the followers of any other religion. Freedom to practice and preach one’s faith is absolutely essential. This has been guaranteed in the constitution of all democratic countries.

In essence, we have to convince each other that there is something greater than our differences and distinctiveness, which binds us together. And that is the principle of unity. From all religious writings, people can derive benefit. Blind rejection of one faith in favour of another is absurd. Let us overcome exclusiveness and end our blindness in order to imbibe a common culture of consciousness.

As we gradually approach a world culture, we should overcome tensions and learn to converse and agree gently with one another. We should show reverence to all spiritual paths. Such a spirit is needed, if we are to live at peace with one another. We should celebrate and honour the richness and universality of truth, found in all the Holy Scriptures of different faiths. People who have a genuine concern for religion and spirituality should understand and respect one another.

Religious power like any other can be used for a good cause or a bad one. What we need so desperately in our world today is a mobilization of religious power on behalf of world peace. This power, if mobilized among the right people all over the world, can usher in a golden period in human history. Let us highlight the shared wisdom and light of the great religious teachers of the world. May this light shine brightly. May there be peace on Earth. May diverse cultures and civilizations coexist. 

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