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Hindus need to understand Islam
Today, there are basically two religious thoughts in the world. Two basic religious ideologies, traditions or whatever one might like to call them -- Indic and Semitic.
Indic is evident from its very name. Semitic means originating in what is today known as Middle East.
There have been other traditions in the past but since most of them are today extinct for all practical purposes, for whatever reason, they no longer are of any interest in the modern politico-religious discussion or scenario. And specially to India and Hindus.
Starting from the Vedic philosophy, Sanatan dharma, Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Sikhism and myriad of others are expressions of the Indic traditions.
Starting from Judaism, Christianity and Islam and their various sects and divisions, belong to the Semitic branch of religious thoughts.
There lies a basic distinction between the two religious traditions. The first belongs to the evolutionary thought process of mankind based on nature and/or reason while the latter to the revelationary school of traditions. It is then no surprise that the two religious thoughts are contradictory in basic beliefs and practices.
While Indic religions have at times seen conflict within but these have never been as violent and long lasting as the conflicts within the Semitic traditions or between the Semitic traditions vis-a-vis the Indic traditions and specially when Islam is one of the contending parties. And for good reason.
Of the Semitic religions Christianity and Islam are aggressive in their own ways, and Indic religions and India has been in conflict with both. The attacks from Islam started soon after it was born and have been more violent. The conflict with Christianity started much later. Except for a short period when it was violent, it has been more subtle, but a conflict nevertheless. It has intensified to a higher pitch again recently.
Since the conflict with Islam is more violent and direct, I will focus on Islam in this article.
As mentioned above, the conflict with Islam started soon after its birth when in 636 CE it attacked India. The history of Islamic conflict is well known and I need not go into that. What is important is to look into the nature of the conflict.
One of the main reasons why India failed to come to grips with Islam is because it never understood the true nature of Islam, and to some extent it has not done so even today.
Commenting on betrayal that led to Muhammad bin Kasim's victory of Debal -- seventeenth invasion of India and the first successful one -- V S Naipaul wrote: "It is the first of the betrayals that will assist the Arab conquest. But they are not betrayals, really. They are no more than actions of people who understand only that power is power, and believe they are only changing rulers; they cannot perceive that a new way is about to come."
And a new way indeed came to India as Naipaul wrote. Have the Hindus understand even now that a new way came to India? It does not seem so.
Jinnah understood that the ways of Hindus and Muslims are different. He spelt these out clearly in his Presidential address to Muslim League's annual convention at Lahore in March, 1940 which he repeated again in interview with Beverly Nichols in 1943.
He said: "You must remember that Islam is not merely a religious doctrine but a realistic and practical code of conduct. I am thinking in terms of life, of everything important in life. I am thinking in terms of our history, our heroes, our art, our architecture, our music, our laws, our jurisprudence....... In all things our outlook is not only fundamentally different but often radically antagonistic to the Hindus. We are different beings. There is nothing in life which links us together. Our names, our clothes, our foods -- they are all different; our economic life, our educational ideas, our treatment of women, our attitude to animals... .... we challenge each other at every point of the compass."
He went on to say: "To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state."
innah was not the first one to voice such opinions. Al Beruni, a Muslim scholar, astronomer, and mathematician who came to study India, its literature, sciences, religion, astronomy etc. and wrote twenty books about India, thousand years ago had made similar observations.
He wrote: "(T)he Hindus entirely differ from us in every respect." After elaborating differences in language and other superficial things he went on to write, "Secondly, they totally differ from us in religion, as we believe in nothing in which they believe, and vice versa."
What a Muslim thinks of Hindus can be guessed from the comments made by Maulana Muhammad Ali.
Maulana Muhammad Ali was another important Muslim leader of the last
century. He was the cochairman along with Mahatma Gandhi of the Khilafat
Committee. Mahatma Gandhi used to call him his "dear brother" and used
to stay at his house when he visited Delhi. As a Muslim, what did
Muhammad Ali think of Mahatma Gandhi? Instead of my paraphrasing, let us
hear his own words:
Hindus need to understand why even a highly educated man like Maulana Muhammad Ali had such a low opinion of a person of the stature of Mahatma Gandhi?
But still it did not stop Mahatma Gandhi to suggest Jinnah as Prime Minister of India only if the latter would give up the idea of partition. Evidently, Mahatma Gandhi, apart from the Muslim rule and history, did not learn much about the nature of Islam even from what he had seen himself in his life time.
There lies grave ignorance about Islam in the Hindu mind.
The conflict with Islam has intensified again. It is imperative for Hindus to understand Islam. Islam is not what a Hindu believes or thinks a religion should be. Islam is what it is and there is nothing we can do about its nature. All we can do is to understand it as it is and take appropriate measures to protect our religion and ways. It is futile for Hindus to try to change Islam. It is dangerous, suicidal would be more appropriate, to harbor false notions about it.
What is Islam?
To Muslim theologians, "Islam is a "complete" and "completed" religion, dealing not merely with theological matters but with every aspect of the believers' life, and superceding all previously revealed religions such as Judaism and Christianity". In that it is not only in conflict with Indic religions but other Semitic religions as well.
"Prophetic Islam is based on an intolerant idea, and has its own version of the "white-man's burden" of rooting out polytheism and unbelief." Great Hindu thinker Ram Swarup writes "the infidel world will do well to understand this mind."
Islam has two primary sources: the Koran, comprising the revelations vouchsafed to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah and the Hadis, an extensive body of authentic traditions focussing on Muhammad's personal life and practice and transmitted by people who actually knew him.
One has to study not only the Koran but the Hadis as well to understand what kind of man Muhammad really was. Hadis literature gives living picture of Islam at its source.
The cause of Hindus failure vis-a-vis Islam has been their inability of learn Islam from its basic sources and accept it for what it is instead believing it to be as what they think a religion should be.
When the Muslims in India demand to live by the sharia, what do they mean by it? What are all the implications of sharia? Hindus should not take commentaries on Islam by others at their face value.
The Hindus should go to the basic scriptures of Islam and learn what it has for them and how it plans to deal with those who do not agree with its revelations? Islam has definite opinions of those who do not subscribe to its view of the world. Reason, by its very nature of being contrary to revelation, has no place in Islamic theology which is based solely on the latter.
This knowledge combined with the history of Muslim rule in India will give full understanding of the nature of Islam and what threat it poses to the Hindus, their way of life and why? One must understand the basic nature of the problem before any attempt can be made to rectify it.
Knowledge alone will not set the Hindus free. It has to be followed with appropriate action. An action without proper ideological understanding and foundations, let alone yielding long term results, is most likely bound to fail.