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Paper on

Islam and Indian Religions: Spiritual Interrelatedness

To be presented at the 3rd International Seminar
on
Peaceful Coexistence with focus on Mysticism and Spirituality in
Islam and Indian Religions
11-12 March 2012
(Orgd. by: Al-Mustafa University, Iran)


- Dr M M Verma
It is need of the hour that we should correctly interpret our Spiritual Scriptures and set aside motivated and distorted interpretations, which unnecessarily create wedge between the children of God. In that case we should refer to the Scriptures for authenticity.

Islam

The meaning of the term Islam is peace. Islam means religion of peace. Sura 1 of the Holy Qur’an opens with the following words: In the name of Allah, most compassionate and most merciful. He is the Lord of the worlds. Allah has the most excellent names, call Him by His names (7: 180). Do not follow other masters but God.

We worship Him alone; look for His help and guidance to lead us to the correct path. With His grace and favors, men follow the right path. Others who have invited His wrath have gone astray. God knows even what happens inside man’s mind. Those who don’t believe in Him are living in darkness and are bound to be severely punished by Him. They are deaf, dumb and blind and cannot see the right path (2:18). We should do only good deeds (2:11). There is great emphasis and belief in the life to come (28: 60) (also in Gita). God is mighty and forgiving. It is written at the end of every verse. We should thank the Lord for all that He has given us. The life hereafter is better and more lasting. This indeed is what is taught in earlier scriptures of Ibrahim and Musa (87:18, 87:19).

Tolerance / Coexistence  -  Our God and your God is One. God is our Lord and yours too. I believe in the book, which God has sent down. We are responsible for what we do and you are responsible for what you do. There is no contention between us and you. God will gather us together, for to Him we shall return (42:15). God has sent to every people some prophet to give them His revelations and purify them of their sins and reveal to them the knowledge that they don’t have (2: 151). The names of prophets like Musa, Isa, Ibrahim, Ismail, Ishaq, Yaqub, Yahya, Ayyub, Yunus, Harun, Nuh, Dawud, Sulayman and Lut, besides others, are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Don’t discriminate among the Prophets and the Scriptures (2:136, 2:285). God punishes those who laugh at their prophets (36:30). All Scriptures are the gift of the Lord. Believe in all Scriptures that the Lord has revealed. We believe in what has been revealed to us in our Book and you believe in what has been revealed to you in your Book. Don’t follow what you don’t know. There is no compulsion in religion (2: 256, 109:6). People can resolve their disputes with the help of the Book (2: 213) You can give the Holy book to others and ask them to surrender to God but there is no compulsion because Allah is watching it (3: 19). Believe in what has been revealed to Ibrahim, Ismail, Isa, Musa, Yaqub and all prophets. Discriminate against none. No prophet would act dishonestly (3:161).

Deeds - There are two highways in life – good and evil (90:10). The Qur’an’s gives highest emphasis on good deeds. Attend to your prayers and pay the alms and taxes (2:83). If you buy life at the price of the life to come, you are a big loser. Don’t barter away your soul for the wealth of the whole world. It is indeed a bad bargain (2:86). Amassing riches and turning one’s faith from truth is undoubtedly an evil deed.

The unbelievers are entrenched in worldly temptations but the believers rise above such temptations. If you grow in wickedness, there is speedy end to it. Life of this world is nothing but a fleeting vanity. You can guard yourself against evil by bearing in mind His precepts (2:63). Emulate one another in good works (2: 148).

Heaven or hell in the next life is according to one’s own deeds. Wealth and children are only the ornaments of this life. However, deeds of lasting merit are better with your Lord in reward and hope (18:46). Virtue lies in piety, purity and righteous deeds. Deeds of the lasting merit shall earn you a better reward in His sight and more auspicious end (19: 76).

The righteous persons are those who accept true faith and do good deeds (29:7) (also in Gita, Guru Nanak). Do not corrupt the Earth with wickedness and evil (29:36). All natural calamities are sent down to punish the wrong-doers (Gandhi believes in it). God is with the righteous ones; with those who are on His path and who fight for His cause (29:69) (also in Gita). God gives victory to whom He wills (30:3, 30:4). The wrong-doers are unwittingly led by their own desires (30:29). Those who have faith and do good works shall enter the Gardens of Delight (Heaven) where they shall dwell for ever.
(In Gita, there is a theme of Liberation, Self-realization, Reuniting with God and no Rebirth).

You are not accountable for our sins, nor are we accountable for your sins (34:25) (Kabir, Guru Nanak). No soul shall bear another’s burden (39:7) (Kabir).The family members are to a large extent responsible for your mistakes (Gita & Guru Nanak). Only your deeds will stand by you and not your relatives and friends (44: 41).  You will repent when you will taste the fruit of your misdeeds (34:33). Neither your children nor your wealth shall bring you close to God (34:37). All punishments of God are due to bad deeds and all rewards are due to good deeds (32:14). If you do good deeds, you do it for yourself (39:41). God does not charge a soul with more than it can bear (2: 286) (something like inborn guna in Gita).

Endure with fortitude whatever befalls you (31:17). Both heaven and earth are at the service of those who are on His path. If you do the right things, which means you obey your Master then don’t fear the Master who only wants you to be loyal, faithful and obedient. Truthfully carry out His command. Love Allah; don’t fear Him. Believers – Jews, Christians and Sabaeans – whoever believes in Allah and does what is right shall be rewarded by Him and he has nothing to fear or regret (2:62).

God will reward each soul according to his deeds. He who does a good deed shall be repaid ten-fold and he who commits sin shall be punished for it. Ranks and positions in the world are bestowed upon by Him. God helps those who fight for the right cause. Victory is always on the side of God. He rewards those who are doing the right thing. A man gets glory because of Him. God never denies the reward for the labour of a person. Do not break your oath when you have sworn them (as in the Ramayana). The success, failure, growth or decay of a nation depends on God.

Give charity in the name of God without show-off (2:261). Sacrifice your lives in the name of Allah and for His orders. A kind word and forgiveness are better than charity (2:263). To give charity in public is good but to give alms to the poor in private is better. If God has given you some riches do not forget your share in this world. Here, the emphasis is on charity. The ungrateful will never prosper. The great money collectors are also destroyed by Him. He that does good shall be rewarded with what is better. Show kindness to your parents, to your kinsfolk, to the orphans and to the destitute. Have patience and offer your prayers.

Charity is good for your soul (64:16). The true worshippers are those who are steadfast in prayers and set aside a due portion of their goods for the needy and the disadvantaged (Guru Nanak). Do not oppress the orphans or drive away the beggars (93:9, 93:10).

Do not speak aloud (20:7). Slandering is bad (24: 17). When you enter houses greet each other (also Hindu tradition). God will change your sins to good action: God is ever forgiving and merciful. He who repents and does good works truly returns to Him. The Qur’an rejects slavery to desires (28:50).

God tests you in adversity (2:155). Good deeds consist not in whether your face is towards the East or the West but it lies in helping the needy and the weak (2:177). Fight in the name of God, but aggression is ruled out. Allah does not like evil. Those who commit evil, destroy crops and cattle, are the enemies of the people (2:205). The Rulers are asked to rule with justice among men and do not yield to lust (38: 26). You should fight for the right cause even if you dislike fighting (2: 216). The true believers fight for the cause of God but the non-believers fight for the devil. All good and bad befall on you from God.

Whoever kills a human being, except as a punishment for murder, is sedition on Earth. It is equal to killing all mankind. If you save a human life, it is equal to saving all mankind (5: 32, 2:84). Those who mislead people in the name of Allah are wicked people (6:142). The wrong doers shall not triumph. Keep away from them and the evil.

Fruits of good deeds are never denied. God promises to reward good deeds. One who seeks forgiveness and reconcilement shall be rewarded (42:40). A man is misled by the worldly temptations and ignores His revelations. Follow the right path and you have nothing to fear (46:13). Every religion must emphasize on good deeds and moral values. The Qur’an is a great guide for the right path.

God - There is but one God. Don’t compare anyone with Him. Don’t associate anyone with Him. He is the only one incomparable. God is truth. He is the most high, the Supreme One (31: 30). God is the knower of visible and invisible (32: 6). God says: Serve Me alone (29.56).

God has created everything. He has power over all things (2:20). We should serve God alone who has created us (2:21). He has given us life (2:28). At last we have to return to Him. The knowledge that we have is given to us by Him. He alone is wise. He alone knows everything (2:32). Don’t knowingly hide the truth. If God wills, we shall be rightly guided. It means the grace of God (2:64). God is aware of what you do (2:74). God has knowledge of everything that people try to hide and all that they reveal (2:77). It is impossible to know God’s ways. God alone knows how He functions.

God is watching over all our actions (2:95). God condemns unbelievers and evil-doers. Don’t show kindness to those who deny the truth revealed to them in the Scriptures (60:1).  God’s grace falls on a person on His own will. He controls both the heaven and earth. He has power over everything (2:107, 48:7). God belongs to the East and the West whichever way you turn your face there is God. He is omnipresent and all-knowing (2:115).

God is a witness to all things. If I am wrong, fault is mine. If I am right, it is the grace of God (34:50). Don’t be misled by the Satan (35:6). To God belongs all glory and power (35:10) (Gita & Guru Nanak). Had God not defeated some by the might of others, the earth should have been utterly corrupted (Hegel also advocated this theory). God leads from darkness to light. He knows the present and the future. He gives wisdom to whomsoever He likes. One who gets the gift of wisdom is very rich (2: 268). To the Lord shall all things return (29:8, 31:15).

Allah has several names- the creator, originator and modeler (59: 24). Allah is the Lord of all creations. He is the Mighty One, the Merciful (26: 140). God does not destroy towns except when their populations commit sin (28: 59).

Creation / Purpose of Life - God has created everyone from a single soul (4:1). No one dies unless God permits as the term of every life is fixed (3: 145). The Lord encompasses all men. Everything is within Him. It is God who has created all mankind. When natural calamities and misfortunes afflict its people, it is meant to humble them (7:86).

The purpose of life is to honour and praise the Lord, morning and evening (48:9). Do not think that God has created you in vain (23: 115). Life in this world is only a sport and a pastime. The abode of God is hereafter and there is true life there (29:64) (also in Gita and Guru Nanak). God will protect you from your enemies (48:20) (also in Gita).

The story of Nuh shows God bestowed on him His grace. He delivered him and all his people from the mighty scourge so that his descendents were the sole survivors. God bestowed on him the praise of the later generations. The righteous ones are always rewarded. The story of Ibrahim is also an example of righteous deeds. God showed favour to Nuh, Ibrahim, Ishaq, Musa and Harun. Men of might and vision are- Ibrahim, Ishaq and Ayyub.

The Satan said to the Lord: You created me from fire and man out of clay. Therefore, I am superior to man (38:76). The Satan says: “I swear by your glory that I shall seduce all men except your faithful servants.” (38: 82, 38:83).

Prayers - The first house ever to build as sanctuary was that at Bakkah (Mecca), a blessed place. It is a place where Ibrahim stood and whoever enters it is safe. Pilgrimage to the house is duty to Allah.

Praise be to God and peace be to His servants is mentioned at the end of every chapter (37:181, 37:182). God forgives all sins (39:53). Let’s fearlessly, lovingly, devotedly, faithfully sing His glory and be in peace and ananda (same as in Gayatri Mantra). Love God and obey Him. You have nothing to fear. Recite the Holy Qur’an to others (73:20).

The unbelievers are the devil’s supporters. Only a wicked invents falsehood about God. Religion is not meant for those who are entrenched in earthly lives. Pray to God with fear and hope. His mercy is within the reach of the righteous (7:56).

All creatures celebrate His praise yet you cannot understand His praise (17:44). Do prayer at the time of sunset. Keep recital of the Qur’an at dawn. Five prayers- before sunrise and before sunset, in parts of night and at two ends of the day. The Qur’an is against idolatry. The Qur’an focuses on steadfastness in prayers (also in Gita). Your offering shall not be accepted, if you are wicked (9:53, 9:54).

Spiritual Interrelatedness

Hinduism

Ekam Sad Vipraha Bahuda Vedanti (Rig Veda).  Truth is one, the wise call it by different names. Sangach dhvam Samvad dhvam Savomansi jantam. Let us work together with a common goal. Let us converse with a common purpose. Let our minds meet together in the quest for true knowledge. Gather information from all sides (Vedas). A sage is one who is comfortable in all quarters. Let all sides be my friend (Yajur Veda). All paths lead unto Me (Bhagwad-Gita). Worship Me alone. Don’t worship other Gods (B-G). Worship Me in the wellbeing of all (B-G chp XII). You can worship the formless Truth or the Truth manifested in several things. What really matters is not the form of worship but the purity of the heart with which worship is undertaken (B-G). Although bhakti of the Lord is important but karma yoga is absolutely essential (B-G). After death, the Soul enters another body with his balance sheet of the deeds of his previous karmas (B-G, Theory of transmigration of Soul).

Buddhism

Truth can’t live where passions and attachments live. Buddha rejects wrong notions – false presumptions, vanity, ignorance, lust, worldly profits and loses. Establish authority of the soul over the body. Leave the bodily desires. Expunge “I” from your life. You can give sermons only after you have delivered your soul from physical bondage. Do only good deeds, both in mind and outside. Do action as a sacrifice The wheel follows the foot of the ox. A good deed implies Nishkam karma. A word spoken in wrath is the sharpest sword. Man’s own deeds like fire of lust will consume him. Our physical eyes drag us into the world of illusions. Enlightenment is for all, said Buddha. Follow the Eight Fold Noble Path of Buddha.

Christianity

Jesus said: “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” True religious growth consists in expansion and not in contraction. When your heart is pure, you can see God. Jesus said: Hear, O’ Israel, your Lord, our Lord, is one Lord.” He said: Pray with a clean heart. Evil mind can’t speak well. Evil eye pushes you into darkness. If you follow your soul, you are not in darkness. Jesus said: “Why do you call me good. God alone is good.” There is reward after death for the one who has surrendered and abandoned. Work for God, cast out devils. God will decide your reward. The Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandants are known to the mankind. “If you keep my Commandments, you love me, otherwise not,” said Jesus. In matters of charity, let your left hand not know what your right hand does. Don’t worry; it is the problem of the Father to feed his children. Have trust in God and worry not for tomorrow. Ask God for forgiveness of your sins. You also forgive others if you want God to forgive you. Jesus advised his Apostles: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out devils.

Sikhism

God is one, mankind is one; castes are man-made. “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.” It means all are children of God and all are the same. Further, “there is no high, and there is no low. If there is any low caste, I am lowest of the low,” said Guru Nanak. Truth is highest but truthful living is higher still, said Guru Nanak. Mandir, Masjid, Gurudwara and Church are the same. Prayer, Namaz, Ardaas and Mass are the same, said Guru Gobind Singh. The praise of the Lord and his name is the subject which all scriptures have addressed (Sukhmani Sahib, canto 24.). His worship and worshippers are of the same hue (canto 17). You should have the power to see mankind’s equality and realization of oneness in diversity (canto 22). Purity is not merely the outer symbols. (canto 3). Garbs are not enough (canto 4). His true servants can reduce other’s pain and help the whole world become one (canto 16). Earn by legitimate means and hard work. Give 1/10th of your income towards charity for the weak and the needy. Humanity, charity, hard work, sharing and caring for others, along with utmost respect for woman and the highest sacrifice are some of the fundamental tenets of Sikhism.

Essential Unity in Diversity

The praise of the Lord and His name is the subject, which all scriptures have addressed (Sukhmani Sahib, canto 24). Praise be to Allah (Qur’an sura I), is just the same as in Gayatri Mantra (Hinduism) or Mul Mantra in Sikhism. Of all Holy places, the most sacred is the heart, wherein lives the name of God (SS, canto 3). God dwells in it, keep your heart pure, clean and free of filth. The Lord dwells in the positive mind (SS, canto 4), Advaita, oneness, Unity and no duality (SS, canto 11). It is the same as in Qur’an and Gita. You should have the power to see mankind’s equality and the realization of Oneness in diversity (SS, canto 22).

A Hindu who mediates on Brahma, a Muslim who praises Allah, a Sikh, who sings songs of devotion of Akal Purakh (The Timeless Being), a Christian, who magnifies Jesus, a Jew who magnifies Adonai, and a Zoroastrian, who honors 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 Creator.

The Yajur Veda calls for good thoughts to come from all sides, annoo bhadra krtavao yantu vishvataha. It said; “One who is the permanent friend of all, who is engrossed in the interest of mankind by his action, mind and speech, is the one who knows the real religion.” Charity means to extend the hand of friendship to him whom one knows and to him whom one knows not,” said Prophet Mohammad.

Love is more emphasized in Christianity and also amongst the Sufis, who called it Ishq. Nonviolence is more emphasized in Hinduism and Jainism. Compassion is more emphasized in Buddhism. Equality and justice are more emphasized in Islam. Truth of course is common to all religions. Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Confucianism stressed on balanced living, which later became the kernel of Guru Nanak’s teachings. The founder of Sikhism gave message of the freedom of choice. Individuals should learn from their own experience and thereby modify their future choices and decisions, said Guru Nanak.

Just as coexistence is valued in Hinduism, similarly, it is valued in Christianity and Islam. If differences arise, they do so as a matter of rationale and not of actual practice. The goal of coexistence is achieved in Hinduism through co-recognition, while in Christianity and Islam, it is achieved through mutual coexistence. It is ultimately the people who have to deal with one another and must finally decide all crucial issues. Let the people of the world assert their sense of understanding and unity.

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.

The Golden Rule

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; ”Do unto others,” sometimes in the negative; “Do not do to others. Choose for thy neighbours that which thou choose for thyself. “Hurt not others in the ways that you yourself would find it hurtful (Udaan Varga 5, 18). Consider others as yourself (Dhammapada 10). Therefore, whatever you want them to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Mathew 7, 12) “There is one maxim that ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life. Surely, it is the maxim of loving kindness. Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you. Treat your friends as you would want them to treat you. Do not to others what you would not wish to suffer yourself.

A man should treat all creatures in the world, as he himself would like to be treated (Jainism, Sutra-kiet-anga). Don’t take vengeance on and bear a grudge against any of your people, rather, love your neighbour as yourself.” What is hateful to you; do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire law, all the rest is commentary (Babylonian Talmud, Subbath 3la). As you deemest thyself, so deem others. Then shall thou become a partner in heaven (Kabir’s Hymns Asa 17). Regard your neighbours gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss.

Summing Up

In view of the current events and unanswered questions, shaking our faith, we need to become more acquainted with all prophets through the cascade of familiar, forgotten, rejected and unheard teachings. Let us admit that similarities and commonalities do exist among all faiths. Let some True Light radiate from each one of them. Every civilization should be enriched by the treasure of other religions and civilizations. The followers of all religions should work for peaceful coexistence. Let’s make efforts to find a common theological platform in a dialogue with adherents of different faiths.

Here, India is most favourably placed in a multi-religious situation. 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 create problems for others or hurt the susceptibilities of the followers of other religions. In the Indian context, we must accept the reality of pluralism.

Of course, Indians are religious by nature. 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 identity. Sometimes we focus more on the body system and less on the Soul. While we create institutions, we neglect the most essential values, which relate to Soul. However, there is consensus that the most fundamental values common to all religions are love, nonviolence, equality, justice, human dignity, compassion and truth.

 
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