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Sep 12, 2015
United States
TIRUPATI, South India

Part 1: Spiritual symbiosis

It is impossible to spend several days visiting ancient temples in and around Tirupati, one of the four "Meccas" for Hindus, as the only Muslim in the company of about 50 Hindu journalists, having a darshan (close encounter) of Balaji, as Lord Venkateshwar is popularly called, detect not the slightest hint of unease on the part of any of my Hindu colleagues on account of my being a Muslim, get a rare opportunity to spend a couple of hours meditating in a temple room next to where Balaji is installed, and not reflect on the growing hostility between Islam and Hinduism that is threatening to keep India from realizing its destiny in the 21st century.

Does the fault lie with the two faiths or with their practitioners? Are the two faiths irreconcilable in their belief-systems? Do they have any points of convergence? Is it right to say that Islam is monotheistic and Hindu polytheistic and so the twain can never meet? Can Hinduism be simply dismissed as a polytheistic faith, with idol worship as its chief form of worship, as the Muslim fundamentalists tend to do?

If the two faiths are so irreconcilable, how can thousands of Hindus visit and pay obeisance at Muslim shrines in all parts of the country every day and a Muslim visit and have darshan of Hindu deities without provoking the slightest discomfort? How can Hindu mahants (priests) invite Muslims for Iftar (ritual breaking of fast during the month of Ramadan) in the temple town of Ayodhya, which has now become a by-word for Hindu-Muslim hostility since the medieval Babri mosque was demolished there in 1992? And how can the Muslims then reciprocate by inviting Hindus in the same hotbed of hostility to share the ritual festivities of Eid?

Hinduism and Islam have lived in India together for almost 14 centuries. The first 13 as excellent neighbors. "Love thy neighbor, for he is yourself." said the Vedas. The Koran agreed: "Do good - to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer." (An-Nisa 4.36).

But the 20th century changed all that. As a result of the British colonial divide-and-rule policy, coupled with the short-sightedness of Hindu and Muslim politicians, the country witnessed growing disaffection, culminating in partition at the time of independence from colonial rule in 1947, and periodic outbursts of unimaginable savagery on the part of both communities.

This disastrous trend is continuing, infecting hitherto unaffected sections in rural areas and the south of India, apart from the previously affected east, west and north of India. We may lose the 21st century, too, to the forces of disintegration and chaos unless we rediscover the spiritual symbiosis that kept the two communities in near-perfect harmony for such a long time.

Hinduism is known for the catholicity of spirit, broadmindedness and a holistic approach, but many Muslims merely dismiss it now as a byword for superstition. Part of the blame lies with the rise of obscurantist fundamentalists and their exclusivist approach in recent years, though Islam was spread in India largely by Sufi saints who considered all religions to be merely different paths to God.

But also responsible for the present image of Hinduism is Christian missionary propaganda under British colonial supervision and support that has affected not only Muslims and Christians, but also Westernized Hindus educated through missionary schools. Hinduism has been accused, for instance, of permitting "the most grotesque forms of idolatry, and the most degrading varieties of superstition".

It seems to me, however, that a symbiotic spiritual relationship exists between the two great religions. It is a realization of this spiritual symbiosis, though largely unconscious, that I believe helped sustain this harmonious relationship despite the invading Central Asian hordes led by Ghaznis and Ghoris, who called themselves Muslim, and the British colonialists with their massive effort at divide and rule using all possible propaganda tools.

Islam's encounter with other religions was quite violent. The history of Crusades launched by Christian powers is well known. It was Hinduism alone that provided Islam with a fertile ground for growth, something it had denied for long centuries even to indigenous Buddhism. Muslims' treatment of Hindus, too, was quite considerate and in keeping with the Islamic spirit of Lakum Deenakum Waleya Deen (For you your religion, for me mine, the Koran -109:5). As Hindus had the reputation of being polytheists and idolaters, Muslims could have treated them as Kauffar and Mushrekeen (religious deviants). Instead, the very first Muslim to conquer parts of India - Sind and Multan in 711 AD - Mohammad bin Qasim, accorded them the special status of Ahl-e-Kitab (people who follow divine books brought by messengers of God before the Prophet Mohammed) that was at first thought to be meant for Christians and Jews alone. (Muslims are permitted to have the best of social, including marital relations, with the Ahl-e-Kitab). Even the Central Asian bandits who invaded and looted India could not disturb the growing and deepening spiritual ties. A number of Sufi saints spent their lifetime in India, spreading the message of Islam, that literally means peace, that comes with total surrender to God. The Prophet Mohammed, too, is believed to have felt an attraction for India.

The Indian sub-continent's pre-eminent poet-philosopher Allama Iqbal wrote:
Meer-e-Arab ko aaee thandi hawa jahan se,
Mera watan wohi hai, mera watan wohi hai.
(From where the Prophet Mohammed received a cool breeze,
That is my motherland, that is my motherland.)

Hindus as Ahl-e-Kitab
Some primordial spiritual connection must have been at work. For only recently have Muslim scholars learnt that Hindus indeed constitute the fourth major group of Ahl-e-Kitab mentioned in the Holy Koran repeatedly. For some mysterious reason, the Holy Koran had left this question vague. It mentioned a major religious group as "Sabe-een" as the ummah (community) of a prophet who had brought a divine book bearing God's revelation to the world. It also mentioned Hazrat Nooh (Prophet Noah of the Bible) as a major prophet ranking with prophets like Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. But who the followers of Hazrat Nooh are was left a mystery.

Painstaking research has been going on seeking the fourth major Ahl-e-Kitab. From Hazrat Shah Waliullah, Maulana Sulaiman Nadvi and Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi to a contemporary scholar from Uttar Pradesh, Maulana Shams Navaid Usmani, a number of scholars from the sub-continent, too, contributed to this effort. It is now clear that Hindus are indeed the lost ummah of the Prophet Nooh, whom they know as Maha Nuwo. Evidence from Markandaya Puran and several Vedas, and their description of "Jal Pralaya" (devastation caused by the Flood, as in the biblical and Koranic stories of Noah's flood) has been most helpful in this search.

The authenticity and finality of the above-mentioned research has not to be accepted by any one, however, to be able to know that the Hindus do indeed constitute a major Ahl-e-Kitab ummah (religious community). According to the Holy Koran, there is not one nation in the world in which a prophet has not been raised up: "There are not a people but a prophet has gone among them" (35:24). And again: "Every nation has had a prophet" (10:47). And again: "And we did not send before thee any but men to whom we sent revelation [Divine Book]" (21:7).

We are further told that there have been prophets besides those mentioned in the Holy Koran: "And we sent prophets we have mentioned to thee before [in the Koran], and prophets we have not mentioned to thee [in the Koran]" (4:164).

It is, in fact stated in a famous Hadees (also written as Hadith, meaning sayings of the Prophet, as distinct from the Holy Koran, which is believed by Muslims to be the word of God revealed to the Prophet) that there have been 124,000 prophets, while the Holy Koran contains only about 25 names, among them being several non-Biblical prophets. Prophets Hud and Salih came in Arabia, Luqman in Ethiopia, a contemporary of Moses (generally known as Khidzr) in Sudan, and Dhu-i-Qarnain (Darius I, who was also a king) in Persia; all of which is quite in accordance with the theory of universality of prophethood, as enunciated above. And as the Holy Koran has plainly said the prophets have appeared in all nations and that it has not named all of them, which in fact was unnecessary and not even feasible. Thus a Muslim must accept the great luminaries who are recognized by other religions as having brought light to them, regardless of the terminology used to describe them, as the prophets that were sent to those nations.

The Koran, however, not only establishes a theory that prophets have appeared in all nations; it goes further and renders it necessary that a Muslim should believe in all those prophets. In the very beginning we are told that a Muslim must "believe in that which has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Issac and Jacob and the tribes, and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make distinction between any of them" (2:136). The word "prophets" in this verse from the Koran clearly refers to the prophets of other nations.

Again and again, and in different contexts, the Holy Koran speaks of Muslims as believing in all the prophets of God and not in the Holy Prophet Mohammad alone: "Righteousness is this that one should believe in Allah and the last day and the angels and the books and the prophets" (2:177). And again in the same surah (chapter): "The Prophet believes in what has been revealed to him from His Lord and so do the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His prophets: And they say 'We make no distinction between any of His prophets' " (2:28).

Part 2: Non-Muslims and co-existence

Like any other living faith, controversies abound in Islam. One of the most controversial issues is the relationship of a Muslim with people belonging to other religions. Since in India Muslims have always lived next to a very large non-Muslim community, this issue has created even deeper controversies. While there are Muslims who would insist on treating Hindus as kafir (infidel), there are others who would insist that they should actually be treated as Ahl-e-Kitab, people bearing revealed books, a people who have a special place in Islamic theology and practice. It is one of the most serious and often-expressed grievances of Hindus that Muslims consider them kafir and that it therefore becomes their religious duty to either convert them or kill them.

Disregarding the advice of some ulema (scholars) of his time, the first Arab to conquer parts of India, Sind and Multan made a good beginning, giving Hindus the same status as Ahl-e-Kitab, people with whom Muslims are supposed to have good social relations, including marital ones. But the question of the place of Hindus in Islamic theology has persisted since then. There are Muslims who have no reservations whatsoever in considering Hindus as Ahl-e-Kitab. In fact, anyone with any sense and understanding of spiritualism would see at a mere glance that Hindu scriptures are divine in origin. The question whether Sri Krishna, for instance, is an avatar (incarnation of a Hindu deity) of God or a messenger of God is merely an issue of semantics, though, of course, there are complex ideological debates over the issue. The important thing is that the message is certainly divine.

Hindu scriptures are indeed our Adigranth (original scriptures). It is only reasonable to think that they must have undergone any number of changes, accretions, deductions, fabrications, etc during the millennia that they have guided the spiritual growth of Indians, particularly as in pre-historic times the literature was transmitted to succeeding generations orally, and even when later written in a variety of ways they couldn't be preserved very well.

A Muslim, therefore, cannot view every word of these holy books with the same amount of authenticity he attaches to the Koran. The Koran is unique among all the scriptures in the sense that it is the only holy book that has survived exactly as it came. Muslims do not attach the same amount of authenticity even to the Hadees (also written as Hadith, meaning sayings of the Prophet), however, as most of these were compiled a couple of generations after the demise of the Prophet. Indeed, there is no doubt that the nefarious elements who captured Islam after killing the Prophet's grandsons and other family members, and turned it into an empire under the guise of Khilafat, interpolated into the Hadees ideas that suited their un-Islamic feudal, monarchical, exploitative and expansionist designs.

The Hindus, therefore, must be treated by the Muslims as Ahl-e-Kitab. This thought has been best expressed by Maulana Mohammed Ali in his monumental work, The Religion of Islam. While discussing the issue of marital relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, he says: "As the Holy Koran states that revelation was granted to all nations of the world [35: 24], and that it was only with the Arab idolaters that marriage relations were prohibited, it is lawful for a Muslim to marry a woman belonging to any other nation of the world that follows a revealed religion.

"The Christians, the Jews, the Parsis, the Buddhists and the Hindus all fall within this category; and it would be seen that, though the Christian doctrine of calling Jesus Christ a god or son of God is denounced as shirk [partnership with God], still the Christians are treated as followers of a revealed religion and not as Mushrekeen (religious deviants), and matrimonial relations with them are allowed. The case of all those people who were originally given a revealed religion, though at present they may be guilty of shirk, would be treated in like manner, and Parsi and Hindu women may be taken in marriage, as also may those who follow the religion of Confucius or of Buddha or of Tao."

Important guidance on this issue comes from verses in the Holy Koran): "Mankind was one single nation, and God sent Messengers with glad tidings and warnings; and with them He sent the Book in truth, to judge between people in matters wherein they differed; but the People of the Book, after the clear Signs came to them, did not differ among themselves, except through selfish conduct and hatred of one another." (Sura al-Baqara - 2.21)

The doctrine of kafir and rejection of co-existence with the so-called kafir being spread by some obscurantist elements is thus patently un-Islamic. Ignorant Muslims are being indoctrinated into the theory that it is a Muslim's religious duty to fight and kill a kafir wherever he finds one. This leads to a general misunderstanding that in Islam a kafir is "unworthy of Allah's mercy and compassion". In point of fact, even if someone can be described as kafir in Islamic terminology, he or she would be as worthy of God's compassion as any one else. Islam has not authorized anyone to judge who is a kafir or a munafiq (hypocrite), deserving God's wrath or punishment. In fact, a wrong accusation of kafir reverts to the accuser himself, thus making him kafir.

The only people whom the Koran does describe as kafir, ie, the pre-Islamic Meccans, were beneficiaries of the highest act of God's compassion and mercy. He sent to them His last messenger who perfected the message that He had been sending to people living in all parts of the world at various times through a galaxy of 124,000 prophets since the advent of the first Prophet, Hazrat Adam.

The reason pre-Islamic Meccans were described as kafir seems to be that they were the only people on earth who had not been sent a Prophet before. But now that all peoples of the world have received prophets, and all the prophets brought revelations (according to the Koran), all the people following those prophets - no matter how imperfectly - are to be treated by Muslims as Ahl-e-Kitab. Some polytheistic practices of Hindus cannot be used as an excuse for calling them kafir as similar practices of Christians do not make them kafir. This, in a nutshell, is the correct Islamic position.

The only people who can be called kafir today with a clear Islamic conscience are the ones who have the temerity to call others kafir. For, according to the Prophet, a wrong accusation of kafir makes the accuser himself a kafir. In fact, this places nearly all ulema belonging to different Islamic sects who routinely keep calling each other kafir on the list of kafirs themselves. Also, these are the people who are concealing the truth about Islam, that is, committing Kufr (denial of truth). If Islam is at all in danger today, the danger comes from these very people. This, too, makes them kafir in one of the original senses of the word.

The meaning of Kufr
Kufr is defined by most commentators of the Holy Koran as "denial of the truth". Basically, the word means to cover, to conceal. In Arabic language the word Kufr is used in a variety of ways. One meaning, for instance, is concealment or withholding of the means of subsistence, which God has created for the good of all mankind and which He wants to be freely available to all. According to this definition, hoarders of goods for the sake of business or hoarders of wealth would be considered kafir.

In Egypt, the word kafir is used to describe the farmers as they conceal seeds in the ground and cover it up. In Urdu poetry the word kafir is used to describe the beloved, usually a beloved who spurns the poet's advances. The beloved can be haqiqi or mjazi, meaning spiritual or earthly, the object of love being either God or an earthling. Urdu's greatest mystic poet Mirza Ghalib says:
"Mohabbat mein nahin hai farq jeene aur marne ka;
Usi ko dekh kar Jeete hain jis kafir pe dam nikle.
Khuda ke waste parda na Kaabe se utha Zaalim;
Kahin aisa na ho yan bhi wohi kafir sanam nikle.

(In love, there is no difference between life and death,
We live gazing at the same kafir [beloved] on whom we die.
For God's sake, do not lift the veil from the face of Kaaba,
Who knows, maybe the idol of the same kafir is installed there.)

The Prophet, too, used the word kafir in a variety of ways. Ingratitude, for instance, was equated with Kufr. Similarly, excessive eating was considered by the Prophet one of the attributes of a kafir. This would place nearly all fundamentalist ulema, maulvis (clergy) and maulanas (scholars) on the list of the kafiroon. According to the Prophet, a Muslim killing another Muslim is a kafir. All the mujahideen in Afghanistan or Kashmir are thus also placed on the list of kafiroon.

Most Muslims would dare not accuse others of Kufr. But some theologians take a different view and do not mind calling even something as routine as neglect of prayer as Kufr. Someone who confirms the obligations of prayer yet neglects it out of laziness or pretence of being too busy (without a valid legal excuse) would in their view attract the provisions of Kufr.

Many ulema arrogate to themselves the right to judge others in a purely subjective fashion. And this is despite the clearly and repeatedly expressed view of the Prophet that Muslims should not call any one either a kafir or a munafiq. In fact, the Prophet's motto was: "Whoever calls believers in One God kafir is himself nearer to Kufr." Indeed, he continued to treat well-known munafeqeen in Madina as Muslims. Calling Ahmadiyas in Pakistan kafir thus makes many Pakistanis susceptible to the charge of being kafir themselves.

Similarly, those Muslims who call Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists or Parsis, etc kafir may themselves be committing Kufr. In Islam, to believe in some prophets and reject others is condemned as Kufr: "Those who say, we believe in some [prophets] and disbelieve in others ... these are truly non-believers [kafiroon] ... Those who believe in Allah and his messengers and make no distinction between any of the messengers will be duly rewarded ... " (4;150-152)

Maulana Mohammed Ali thus rightly concludes: "A belief in all the prophets of the world is thus an essential principle of the religion of Islam, and though the faith of Islam is summed in two brief sentences, 'there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His apostle', yet the man who confesses belief in the prophethood of Mohammed, in so doing accepts all the prophets of the world, whether their names are mentioned in the Holy Koran or not. Islam claims universality and lays the foundation of a brotherhood as vast as humanity itself."

Co-existence with other religions
In common parlance, the word kafir is supposed to mean a non-believer in God. For many ignorant Muslims in the sub-continent, it is virtually synonymous with the word Hindu, even though several eminent theologians insist that Hindus be given the status of Ahl-e-Kitab (people who follow Divine Books brought by messengers of God before the Prophet Mohammed), with whom Muslims are asked to have the best of social - including marital - relationships.

This debate could have remained innocuous, and like most theological disputes interminable. Islam is well known to believe in coexistence with non-believers. Its quintessence being the Koranic verse that specifically addresses the kafiroon (plural of kafir) and asks Muslims to say: Lakum Deenakum Waleya Deen (For you your religion and for me mine, the Holy Koran 109:5). "Say, 'O ye disbelievers! I worship not that which you worship; nor worship you what I worship. And I am not going to worship that which you worship; nor will you worship what I worship. For you be your religion and for me mine." (Sura Alkafiroon, 109:2-7)

The Holy Koran is absolutely clear that differences in color and creed constitute a deliberate design of Allah with a divine purpose but confer no superiority to any one group over another: "Among His signs is the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colors. In that surely are signs for those who possess knowledge." (30:23)

This message is repeated in the Koran in a variety of ways: "O mankind, we have created you from a male and a female; and we have made you into tribes and sub-tribes so that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honorable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is all-knowing, all-aware." (49:14). And righteousness is defined in the following words: "It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the last day and the angels and the scripture and the prophets; and giveth his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship, and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and in times of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the God-fearing." (2:177)

Obviously, Islam does not attach as much importance to the worship of God as to the righteous conduct. Huqooq-ul-Ibad (rights of other creations of God over us or conversely our duties towards other creations of God) is thus given primacy in Islam over Huqooq-ul-lah (rights of Allah over us or our duties towards God).

In the matter of religion, Islam allows man to follow his own dictate, so that many religions can exist at the same time. Indeed the Holy Koran could not be more explicit: "And if thy Lord had enforced His will, surely, all who are on earth would have believed together [in the same religion]. Wilt thou, then, force them to become believers [in Islam]?" (10:100). Then there is the overriding instruction in the famous verse La Ikraha fid Deen (Let there be no compulsion in religion: 2:25).

Islam confirms validity of other religions
Some mullahs have taken to issuing fatwas (religious edicts) against the people of other religions, giving expression to their Medieval mindset of intolerance. They are clearly turning Islam that came as a blessing for the world into a tool for oppression. As Shivaji had pointed out to Aurangzeb in his famous letter: "The Holy Koran describes Allah as Rahmatul-lil-Aalemeen [Blessing for the Worlds] and not just Rahmatul-lil-Muslemeen [Blessing for the Muslims]."

The main feature of the exclusivist view of Islam that is being extensively propagated today by some obscurantist mullahs can thus be summarized in one word: intolerance. They are preaching and practicing Islam as an intolerant religion. This is a total negation of all that Islam stands for. Indeed, the exclusivist view of Islam is the same as that of the Christian Crusaders. This view was best refuted in the early 20th century by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, an Englishman, and an Orientalist, who had converted to Islam and is best known by his translation of the Holy Koran. (The meaning of Koran by Pickthall, first published in 1930)

Pickthall makes an interesting point that the obscurantist mullahs would do well to ponder, if they really have any regard for Islam. He says: "It was not until the Western nations broke away from their religious law that they became more tolerant; and it was only when the Muslims fell away from their religious law that they declined in tolerance and other evidences of the highest culture ... Of old, tolerance had existed here and there in the world, among enlightened individuals; but those individuals had always been against the prevalent religion. Tolerance was regarded as un-religious, if not irreligious. Before the coming of Islam it had never been preached as an essential part of religion." ("Tolerance in Islam", a lecture delivered by Pickthall in 1927.)

Speaking from a Christian perspective and comparing Islam with Judaism and Christianity, Pickthall declares: "In Islam only is manifest the real nature of the Kingdom of God. The two verses of the Koran (2:255-256) are supplementary. Where there is that realization of the majesty and dominion of Allah, there is no compulsion in religion. Men choose their path - allegiance or opposition - and it is sufficient punishment for those who oppose that they draw further and further away from the light of truth."

Further on in his famous lecture, Pickthall explains the relationship between Islam and other religions in these words: "The Koran repeatedly claims to be the confirmation of the truth of all religions. The former scriptures had become obscure, the former prophets appeared mythical, so extravagant were the legends which were told concerning them, so that people doubted whether there was any truth in the old scriptures, whether such people as the prophets had ever really existed. Here - says the Koran - is a scripture whereof there is no doubt: here is a prophet actually living among you and preaching to you. If it were not for this book and this prophet, men might be excused for saying that Allah's guidance to mankind was all a fable. This book and this prophet, therefore, confirm the truth of all that was revealed before them, and those who disbelieve in them to the point of opposing the existence of a prophet and a revelation are really opposed to the idea of Allah's guidance - which is the truth of all revealed religions. The kafirs, in the terms of the Koran, are the conscious evildoers of any race or creed or community.

"Instead of harping upon differences, Islam looks for a common ground for cooperation. The first meeting point is in humanity. The Prophet said: 'Creation is the family of Allah, and the most beloved of all creation to Allah is he who does good to His family'. In his Farewell Pilgrimage sermon, he said, 'All men, whatever nation or tribe they may belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal'. Once a funeral procession passed by and the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) stood up as a mark of respect to the dead. Someone pointed out that it was the funeral of a Jew. His reply was, 'Was he not a human being?' In order to discourage prejudice that can arise from a variety of reasons, the tribal pride being very predominant at that time, the Prophet said, 'Certainly Allah has removed from you haughtiness and family pride of the days of ignorance. Now there are two types of people; believers and pious as opposed to rebellious and sinners. You are the progeny of Adam and Adam was made of clay. People should give up national pride, because that is one of the coals of Hell. If not, Allah will treat them no better than a black beetle found on a dunghill which pushes dirt and filth with its nose'."

The Prophet himself presented the most outstanding, perhaps unique example of religious tolerance when he allowed the delegation of Christians of Najran to pray in their own way in his mosque, which was the venue of the meeting, and in his very presence. Thus the jihadi view of Islam does not correspond with the teachings of Islam as understood by the overwhelming majority of Muslims. It appears to be closer to the view of Islam propagated by its enemies down the ages. Islamic exclusivism that has now resulted in jihadism, therefore, may be considered a completely different religion, not recognizable to the followers of Islam. Mankind has been divided into myriad communities with different races, cultures, habits, faiths, etc, so that in spite of these barriers, we can ourselves reach the following conclusion: "Mankind is but one single community" (The Holy Koran, 2:213 and 10:19).

Part 3: The concept of jihad

A concept that has caused enormous misgivings in the minds of Hindus and other non-Muslims is the concept of jihad in Islam. Yet understanding jihad is a sine qua non for a fruitful dialogue between Islam and Hinduism.

Let me start with the beginning of the Islamic history of defensive wars. One of the early Muslims, Umayr ibn al-Humam, was quietly eating a handful of dates as war was raging around him at the battlefield of Badr, the very first battle that the Muslims fought. He then heard the Prophet promise immediate access to Paradise for anyone martyred in the battle raging at the time. "Fine! fine!", shouted out al-Humam, "Have I only to get myself killed by these men to enter into paradise?" He threw away his dates and, grasping his sword, plunged into the thick of the battle and was very soon killed.

Many Muslims have since then thought that any war characterized as jihad by some of the ulema (clerics) is a potential passport to Heaven. If you fight with enough fury and get yourself killed, you will be instantaneously in Heaven. And what could be more alluring than Paradise, with its rivers of milk and honey and wine and unlimited supply of beautiful houris (virgins)? This misunderstanding is so widespread that fundamentalists have been able to convince some people from various parts of the world that even the massacre of innocent civilians, including women and children, is an Islamic jihad comparable to the battle of Badr. It is imperative that Muslims the world over look at the issue from a purely religious point of view, study their scriptures, and take a clear stand against the mindless massacres that do not have even the remotest connection with jihad.

For all we know, the anecdote related above may very well be apocryphal. In any case, the Prophet used the words "one who fights this day". God, too, had permitted Muslims for the first time to fight in self-defense, 14 years after the advent of Islam (AD 571). Why?

Having faced relentless persecution for 13 years at Mecca, the handful of people the Prophet had been able to convert had migrated to neighboring Medina, both of which are in modern-day Saudi Arabia. The Meccans had attacked them there with a formidable army. The first Koranic verse that permits war is very significant. It specifically mentions the word "permission", and then uses the passive voice permitting to fight only those people against whom war is made. It talks about the special circumstances of Meccan Muslims. It reads: "To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to fight], because they are wronged ... They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, for no cause except that they say 'Our Lord is Allah'."(22:39-40)

Thus fighting is permitted in this particular situation, that, too, only in self-defense and at a time when not only the life of those handful of Muslims in Medina but the existence of Islam itself was truly in danger of extinction. For those few hundred Muslims represented the fruit of all of the Prophet's exertion in the cause of Islam since he had become the Prophet 14 years ago. That such a religion that is so reluctant to allow its followers to fight, even in self-defense, would permit senseless killings of innocent civilians in the name of jihad is nothing short of blasphemy. It is imperative, therefore, that we try to understand the true meaning of the word jihad that is being so misused today.

According to Maulana Mohammad Ali in his book The Religion of Islam, jihad, in Islamic terminology, means to strive to one's utmost for what is the noblest object on earth. There can be nothing nobler for a Muslim than the earning of God's pleasure through making a complete submission to His will. The maulana explains: "A very great misconception prevails with regard to the duty of jihad in Islam, and that is that the word jihad is supposed to be synonymous with war; and even the greatest research scholars of Europe have not taken the pains to consult any dictionary of the Arabic language or to refer to the Holy Koran, to find out the true meaning of the word. The word jihad is derived from jahd or juhd meaning ability, exertion or power, and jihad and mujahida mean the exerting of one's power in repelling the enemy." The same authority then goes on to say: "Jihad is of three kinds; viz, the carrying on of a struggle: 1 Against a visible enemy, 2 Against the devil, and 3 Against one's lower self [nafs]."

According to another authority, jihad means fighting with unbelievers, and that is an intensive form (mubalagha) and exerting one's self to the extent of one's ability and power, whether it is by word (qaul) or deed (fi'l). A third authority gives the following significance: "Jihad, from jahada, properly signifies the using or exerting of one's utmost power, efforts, endeavors or ability, in contending with an object of disapprobation; and this is of three kinds, namely, a visible enemy, the devil, and one's self; all of which are included in the term as used in the Holy Koran.

"Jihad is therefore far from being synonymous with war, while the popular meaning of 'war undertaken for the propagation of Islam', which is supposed by European writers to be the real significance of jihad, is unknown equally to the Arabic language and the teachings of the Holy Koran. Equally, or even more important, is the consideration of the sense in which the word is used in the Holy Koran. Permission to fight was given to the Muslims when they had moved to Medina. But the injunction relating to mujahideen is contained in the earlier as well as in the later Mecca revelations. Thus, the Ankabut, the 29th chapter of the Holy Koran, is one of a group which was undoubtedly revealed in the fifth and sixth years of the Call of the Prophet, yet there the word jihad is freely used in the sense of exerting one's power and ability, without implying any war. In one place, it is said, 'And those who strive hard [jahadu] for us, we will certainly guide them in our ways, and Allah is surely with the doers of good'. (29:69)

"The Arabic word jahadu is derived from jihad or mujahida, and the addition of fina [for us] shows, if anything further is needed to show it, that the jihad, in this case, is the spiritual striving to attain nearness to God, and the result of this jihad is stated to be God's guiding those striving in His ways. The word is used precisely in the same sense twice in a previous verse in the same chapter: 'And whoever strives hard [jahadu], he strives [yujahidu] only for his own soul', that is, for his own benefit, 'for Allah is self-sufficient, above need of the worlds' (29:6). In the same chapter the word is used in the sense of a contention carried on in words: 'And we have enjoined on man goodness to his parents, and if they contend [jahada] with thee that thou shouldst associate others with Me, of which thou hast no knowledge, do not obey them'." (29:8)

According to Maulana Sadruddin Islahi, a revered ideologue of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, jihad fi Sabilillah (striving in the way of Allah) literally means to strive every nerve for the achievement of an object, to exhaust all of one's energies for the attainment of an ideal. Therefore, to strive in the way of Allah; for obedience of the divine injunctions and for bearing witness of the truth is jihad. Islam, according to Maulana Islahi, has laid down the following three principal forms of jihad, which can be adopted according to the exigencies of the circumstances: Internal jihad; jihad through knowledge and invitation; jihad through war.

Internal jihad, according to him, enjoins war against such evils as may crop up within Muslim society. Such evils should be nipped in the bud because they pose a big threat to Islam. In fact they are a serious danger for Islam and the Holy Prophet has warned against them. To strive for the truth, therefore, is nothing but jihad fi Sabilillah, in the view of the Jamaat leader.

The second form of jihad in the view of Maulana Islahi is "jihad through intelligence and invitation". This form of jihad enjoins that the doubts expressed about Islam are so completely answered that no doubt, objection or argument leaves any ambiguity about any aspect of Islam. The Meccan period of the Holy Prophet's life was entirely one of jihad, though, of course, Muslims had not yet been allowed to fight even in self-defense. Allah ordained the Holy Prophet: "So obey not the disbelievers, but strive against them here with the Koran with a great endeavor." (25:22) In a jihad of this type, one is armed with the weapon of reason and intelligence provided to us by the Holy Koran. The Koran has laid down a basic principle for fighting this type of war. It enjoins: "And reason with them in a better way." (16:125)

The quality of a method can be determined by the success it attains. The right course and the Koranic way of discussion for disseminating Islam can only be such as would bring the listener close to the preacher, convince him of the veracity of his contention and open his heart for accepting the truth. This can only happen when the words spoken are fully of rational appeal and have full regard for the level of understanding of the audience. Equally important is the spirit of the language he uses. It must be infused with true passion and sincerity. According to the maulana, another requisite of this jihad is patience and perseverance. Though apparently, supplementary in character, it has great importance and is indispensable for the success of this endeavor.

Maulana Islahi explains physical jihad or qitalin the following words: "The third form of jihad, ie jihad with physical force, is enjoined against those who obstruct the way of Islam. This has to continue until the way is cleared. It is the final aspect of jihad and its other name is qital [fighting]. Practically this is the most difficult and crucial form of jihad, but it has great importance for the perpetuation of the religion ... The order for fighting has been given to bring the state of mischief to an end and to clear the way for a life that is governed by divine injunctions and steeped in the remembrance of Allah. Fitna is a technical term of the Koran and signifies a situation wherein people are denied the right to follow Islam and stopped for worshipping their real master. It is a crime that has no parallel. So much so that even the crime of murdering an innocent person pales into insignificance before it. The reason being that if a person is murdered, he is deprived of the short course of worldly life, whereas if a person is stopped from the worship of Allah and he is prevented from becoming a true slave of his Lord, his life is brought to ruin and he is deprived of the eternal blessings in the after-life."

The obstructions which the believers have been ordained to remove by means of force are not always similar in nature. Naturally, the measures to tackle them cannot be similar either. A survey of these obstructions has shown that in principle they are of two kinds:

1. Obstructions concerning those who have already embraced Islam. Those who have come to the fold of Islam are teased and tortured for their "offence" of accepting the religion. They are compelled to abandon their new faith and physical force is used against them for this purpose.

2. Obstructions concerning non-Muslims. Muslims are not permitted to present Islam to non-Muslims, or such a system is imposed on them wherein the non-Muslims do not get an opportunity to see Islam closely.

As these obstructions are of two kinds, the jihad to tackle them is also of two types. As far as the first kind of obstruction is concerned, it is not only very hard and unpleasant but extremely aggressive also. The step taken for fighting it would be, therefore, appropriate to call it a defensive war. At first Allah ordained the Muslims for the defensive war because the obstructions, for the removal of which they were ordered to wage a war, had already manifested themselves. The divine order stated: "Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged: and Allah is indeed able to give them victory; those who have been driven from their homes unjustly because they said: 'Our Lord is Allah'." (22:39-40)

This verse was revealed to the Holy Prophet during the Medinan period. It contains the justification of the divine order as well. Muslims were permitted to raise arms against the Quraish of Mecca because they were subjected to aggression by them. They were permitted to wage a war as they were attacked. This contention was persistently repeated as long as the state of war with Quraish continued. All the battles which were fought during that period were of a defensive nature.

In respect of the second type of jihad, two things should be borne clearly in mind. First: It is not the intention of this jihad to compel people to accept Islam. Acceptance of Islam is something which relates to the heart, and the heart of a man cannot be forced on anyone. It has been frequently repeated in the Koran that had Allah desired, He would have created all mankind as Muslims, or would have compulsorily made them Muslims after their creation. "Had Allah willed, He could have guided all mankind." (13:31) He would not have left it to His Prophet or his followers to make them Muslims perforce. Allah has openly declared that in the matter of religion, man has been created free. He is not to be forced for it: "There is no compulsion in religion." (2:56) In such a situation, how could He regard it fair that in the case of Islam the compulsion, not exercised by Him, was permitted to His Prophets and His worthy slaves? This divine injunction makes it abundantly clear that no person will ever be compelled to accept Islam. Everyone enjoys complete freedom in this respect. He may accept Islam if he likes or reject it if he so desires.

Secondly: jihad is by no means a campaign to elevate a community to the position of the ruling class and to reduce the other to slavery. It has not even the remotest concern with what is now called imperialism or capitalism.

Pre-conditions for jihad
Of utmost importance in this discussion are the pre-conditions for what Maulana Islahi calls physical jihad or qital. Jihad, he says, cannot be made at whim. It is permissible under certain specific conditions. It will not be valid unless the conditions laid down for it are present. Such a war which is waged regardless of the prescribed pre-conditions will have no value. It will not be a jihad at all. Nor would it be entitled to any reward. It will be instead a cause for the displeasure of Allah.

The pre-conditions for physical jihad are as follows:
1. Those who go for jihad should be free and independent Muslims and must have a collective social system of their own and must be led by a caliph or amir (chief). In the absence of such a system, any act of war (jihad) is forbidden. An act of war, even of a defensive nature, can only be taken in a free atmosphere under the leadership of an authorized leader.

This is the reason why the Holy Prophet was not permitted to raise arms in self-defense during the period of his stay in Mecca, when he was not free to carry out his missionary activities, although the aggression of the Quraish had reached a climax. Permission for jihad was granted after his migration to Medina when he was living in a free atmosphere and where, under his leadership, an organized Islamic state had emerged. Similar was the case of other prophets whose invitation to divine religion had entered the phase of physical jihad. As long as this condition is not fulfilled, to undergo trials and tribulations for the sake of religion, without raising arms, constitute real jihad.

2. Sufficient force to combat with the enemy is available because the divine Injunction repeatedly emphasises: "No one should be charged beyond his capacity." (2:235) On the basis of this principle it has been ordained in the Koran: "So keep your duty to Allah as best as you can." (4:16)

3. Jihad should be exclusively for the sake of Allah and the sole aim of those engaged in jihad should be no other than the service of the religion and the glorification of Allah. The singular aim of those who participate in jihad should be eradication of evil and advancement of goodness and justice. All this struggle should be done with the one and only objective of winning the pleasure of Allah. They would have absolutely no other motive in that noble war. When the Holy Prophet was asked that different people fight for different motives: one fights for the booty, another for fame and the third one for the honor of his country, nation or tribe or some similar cause, out of them whose fighting is for the sake of Allah? He replied: "He who fights for the glorification of Allah's name, his fighting alone is for the sake of Allah."

A struggle for national existence was forced on the Muslims when they reached Medina, and they had to take up the sword in self-defense. This struggle went also, and rightly, under the name of jihad; but even in Medina the word is used in the wider sense of a struggle carried on by words or deeds of any kind.

Muslims must remember that they have to consult the Holy Koran for guidance in their day-to-day affairs. The model they are supposed to follow is that of the Prophet Mohammed and not destroyers of mosques like Mast Gul. As we have noted earlier, Islam did not allow its followers to pick up a weapon, even in their defense, for the first 13 years, even though they were facing the worst possible persecution in Mecca. They were "permitted" to defend themselves for the first time in Medina when they were facing aggression. Had they not defended themselves, even then they would have been surely wiped out from the face of the earth, thus sounding the death-knell for the religion of Islam as well.

But only a few years later, when the Prophet had become powerful enough to wage a war with Meccans, he chose peace, even on terms that were considered humiliating by most of his followers. He signed a peace agreement known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya. And then when he entered Mecca victorious, a year later, facing no resistance, he chose to grant a general amnesty for all, even for those who had mutilated the dead bodies of his close relatives, like his maternal uncle Hazrat Hamza.

Compassion is the core of Islam
The revelation of divinity in Islam is specifically described as compassion: Allah is Rahman-ir-Rahim - the very acme of kindness and compassion. Although Allah has 99 names, depicting all his varied attributes, He is known in the Holy Koran mostly as Rahman and Rahim.

Some Koranic statistics would probably help at this point. The word merciful, most merciful, most gracious (Rahman-ir-Rahim) is used 124 times in the Koran. The word mercy is used 173 times. Contrast this with the usage of the words wrath and wrathful. The word wrath or anger appears thrice in the entire Koran - ( Sura al-Fatiha 1.07, al-Baqra 2.90, and al-Imran 3.11) The word wrathful or angry occurs four times in the entire Koran - Surah al-Mada, al-Fatah, al-Mujadila and al-Mumtahina.

It is clear that God is conceived in Islam as the personification of compassion, though, of course, in the course of His work, helping the spiritual growth of humanity, He may occasionally need to present Himself as wrathful. Any parent or teacher who has tried to help his children or students would testify to the occasional need for doing this. But that doesn't make Allah as an embodiment of wrath, an entity to be feared, as some Islamic theologians are prone to do.

Fundamentalists are killing people and oppressing humanity under the garb of preaching Islam and enforcing Islamic Sharia for which they really have no authority. If they were to look at the conduct of the Prophet Mohammed in this regard, they would have a completely different picture. According to Maulana Mohammad Ali, when the Prophet grew worried that people did not pay attention to his words and did not try to understand them, they were admonished in this way: "If Allah willed, all who are on the earth would have believed [in Him]. Would thou [Mohammed] compel men until they are believers?" (10:99)

The Prophet Mohammed often came across people who were completely unresponsive to his words, while others were stirred, believed and were prepared to listen. In dealing with the former, he occasionally grew impatient and felt frustrated. The Koran counsels him to be patient, forgiving and tolerant. It warns him against the temptation to impose his views on them: "Haply you will kill yourself with grief - if they believe not in this message." (18:6)

The Prophet is assured that if he has placed the true view, in simple terms, before the people, he has fulfilled his mission. More than this is not expected of him. It is not his duty to see that the view is accepted by the people. His duty is only to tell them which is the right path and which the wrong one and to acquaint them with the consequences of following the one or the other. They are free to choose for themselves. God does not want to force people to accept His guidance. He has endowed man with the powers of understanding, judgment and free choice. If man makes use of these powers he can understand the revelation and can profit by the guidance offered therein. He must bear the consequences of his choice, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.

So if the Prophet did not have the power to compel people to accept Islam, even after he had acquired temporal power over most of Arabia, who are the present-day fundamentalists to try to impose their view of Islam even on a Muslim population? Obviously, they have no business behaving the way they are doing and need to be condemned by all, particularly Muslims, because they are giving such a bad name to Islam, apart from oppressing humanity in the name of a religion that came to the world as a blessing of Allah. Let us try and keep Islam as a blessing and not allow it to be turned into a tool for oppression.

Later Koranic verses set down rules and regulations of war with a view to preserving human rights of the civilian populations, as well as prisoners of war. If Islam spread like wild fire in its initial years, it was largely because it had truly civilized the Bedouin population of Arabia, converting them into fine specimens of humanity. Muslims of today are, of course, not comparable to the Prophet's companions. But we, too, owe it to ourselves and to our faith that we do not allow fundamentalists to denigrate the concept of jihad in Islam. Characterizing the mindless massacres of innocent people as jihad is nothing short of blasphemy.

Part 4: Similarity of the two divine messages

Research shows the distinct probability of Hindus being the lost ummah (people) of Prophet Noah, and thus one of the four major Ahl-e-Kitab (people bearing revealed books), communities that the Koran mentions repeatedly. These findings have still not percolated down to the Muslim masses. But this information has been welcomed as an intellectual confirmation of what Muslims have known intuitively for centuries. It also satisfies the students of comparative religion who have been amazed to find passages in the Vedas, Puranas, the Holy Koran, the Hadees and the Old and New Testaments that correspond to each other almost word for word.

Beginning with the term employed to describe themselves, dharma and deen (both meaning ways of life), and an emphatic assertion of the oneness of God (Ekam sat: la llaha lllallah), Islam and Hinduism share the vision of a moral order prevailing in the universe.

In a manner reminiscent of the Hindu guidance on social relations, the Koran, too, outlines essential components of relationships between people. These include respect, kindness, honesty, tolerance, self-restraint, patience, forgiveness and compassion. Such virtues apply between parents and children, spouses, business partners, neighbors and friends, regardless of gender. The following Koranic verses illustrate these ideals:

And as for the believers, both men and women, they are close unto one another: they [all] enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and are constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay heed unto God and His apostle. (9:71)

And vie with one another to attain your Sustainer's forgiveness and to a paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth which has been readied for the God-conscious who spend [in His way] in time of plenty and in time of hardship, and hold in check their anger, and pardon their fellow men because God loves the doers of good.(3:133-134)

And among his wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold there are messages indeed for people who think.(30:21)

And do good unto thy parents. Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in thy care, never say [a word of disdain] to them or scold them, but [always] speak unto them with reverent speech, and spread over them humbly the wings of thy tenderness, and say: "O my Sustainer! Bestow Thy grace upon them, even as they cherished and reared me when I was a child!" (17:23-24)

Similarly, both dharmas inform us of cosmic agencies keeping an account of all our deeds for which we will be made accountable. Take, for instance, the following verses from the Koran:

We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least, and if there be [no more than] the weight of a mustard seed, we will bring it [to account] ... and enough are we to take account. Al-Anbiya 21.47)

To these will be allotted what they have earned; and God is quick in account ... God will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is oft-forgiving, most forbearing. (Al-Baqara 2.20-22)

If God so willed, He could make you all one nation: But He leaves straying whom He pleases, and He guides whom He pleases: but ye shall certainly be called to account for all your actions. (An-Nahl 16.93)

Similarly both Hinduism and Islam talk about life after death, though in Islam there are differences of opinion about whether reincarnation constitutes a part of Islamic teachings as well.

Reincarnation in Islam
The Hindu belief in reincarnation is well known. But it is not known that the Koran refers as kafir (deviant) anyone who doesn't believe in the possibility of rebirth. Not many in India have perhaps come across the verses of the great mystic, Hazrat Jalal-ud-Deen Rumi, describing the process of evolution through reincarnation - from mineral and plant to animal and man and then to angelhood and beyond. Take the verses from the world famous Masnawi by Hazrat: I died as mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was man.
Why should I fear?
When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as man,
To soar with angels blest;
But even from angelhood I must pass on ...

Another great mystic, Mansur al-Hallaj, famous for his formulation, Anal Haq (I am the truth: Aham Brahmo Asmi) wrote: Like the herbage
I have sprung up many a time
On the banks of flowing rivers.
For a hundred thousand years
I have lived and worked
In every sort of body.

The Koran itself seems quite clear: "And you were dead, and He brought you back to life. And He shall cause you to die, and shall bring you back to life, and in the end shall gather you unto Himself." (2:28). The words "you were dead" can only mean that they had lived before becoming dead. And the words "in the end shall gather you unto Himself" could very well mean the attainment of moksha (release) rather than an eternal life in heaven or hell. Those who disagree, however, contend that "dead" is very commonly used for non-living things. "It does not necessarily mean that you were alive before being a non-living thing or dead." (S Abdullah Tariq in Islamic Voice, February 2002)

Responding to my published view that the concept of reincarnation may be a part of Islamic teaching as well, Tariq also quotes the following verses in support of his contention that reincarnation is not an aspect of Islamic teaching: "Every living being shall taste death, then unto us you will be returned." (29:57)"Until when death comes to a wrongdoer, he will say: 'Lord let me go back, that I may do good works in the world I have left behind'. Never! It is only a word which he will speak. Behind them, there shall stand a barrier till the day of resurrection." (23:99-100)"And spend of that with which we have provided you before death befalls any of you and he says: 'Reprieve me my Lord a while that I may give in charity and be among righteous'. But Allah reprieves no soul when its term expires and Allah has knowledge of all your actions." (63:10-11)"They [the unbelievers] will say: "Our Lord! Twice you have caused us death and twice you have given us life. We now confess our sins. Is there any way out [now]'?" (40:11)

But Tariq and other critics seem to be confusing reincarnation with transmigration of souls, which are not necessarily the same concepts. He goes on: "The theory of transmigration of souls popularly known as avagaman or punarjanam is non-existent even in the Hindu scriptures proclaimed as the word of God by them. Following are the declarations of two well-renowned scholars of Hindu philosophy. The rishis [seers] of the Vedic era were not aware of punarjanam (Rahul Sankrityayan, Darshan Digdarshan, Kitab Mahal Allahabad, 1992, page 388.

"In the ancient Indian literature, Chandogya [author of an Upanishad] was the first to talk of punarjanam ie besides parloka [the world hereafter] a being takes birth in this loka [this world] also according to deeds. (ibid P.403) There are dozens of Koran-like descriptions of heaven in Vedas, but at no place do the Vedas talk of humans taking rebirth in inferior moulds according to deeds. Much later, the philosophers of the Upanishads presented the idea of transmigration of souls."

Thus the debate goes on. One thing, however, is certain: most of the greatest saints Islam has produced believed in reincarnation and it does constitute a part of many Muslims' belief system. This is primarily caused by a reluctance on the part of many Muslims to believe that God will merely reward or punish human beings on the basis of a lifetime in which they may not have received the guidance necessary to improve their conduct. That God will just be reconciled to their being sent to an eternal life in heaven or hell withouttheir being given another chance to improve themselves becomes a proposition difficult to believe. The greatest mystic poet of Urdu, Mirza Ghalib said:Ham ko maaloom hai jannat ki haqiqat lekin;
Dil ke bahlane ko Ghalib yeh Khyal achcha hai.

(I am aware of the reality of heaven;
But, O, Ghalib; it is a good thought, to beguile the heart.)

By Sultan Shahin

Mar 17, 2015
This thread will hurt many Because '' Islam is the only true religion, religion of Allah ,other religions are not acceptable ".
Now lets try to prevail peace between Islam and Non Islam. :hitwall::enjoy:

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