In the series of articles on this subject, we shall seek to find similarities or common ground between two major religions of the world: Hinduism and Islam. The approach adopted in this work is based on the following verse of the Glorious Qur’an:
Surah Ali Imran Chapter 3 Verse 64:
Say “O People Of the Book!
Come to common terms
As between us and you:
That we worship none but Allah;
That we associate no partners with Him;
That we erect not, From among ourselves,
Lords and patrons other than Allah.”
If then they turn back,
Say ye: “Bear witness That we (at least)
Are Muslims (bowing To Allah’s Will).’
(Al Qur’an 3:64)
In this month’s article, we shall focus on how one should try to have a correct understanding of a religion and also provide a brief introduction to Islam and to Hinduism.
CORRECT UNDERSTANDING OF A RELIGION
a. Don’t observe followers of a Religion. Refer to Authentic Sources of that Religion
Followers of major religions, whether it be Hinduism, Islam or Christianity, have divided themselves and their beliefs into various sects.
It is not appropriate for one to try to understand a religion by observing the followers of that religion. Most followers may themselves not be aware of the correct teachings of their religion. Thus, the best and the most appropriate method of understanding any religion is to understand the authentic sources of that religion, i.e. the sacred scriptures of that religion.
b. Authentic Sources of Islam.
Allah (swt), Almighty God, says in the Glorious Qur’an:
And hold fast, All together,
by the Rope Which Allah (stretches out for you),
and be not divided among yourselves.
(Al Qur’an 3:103)
The “rope of Allah refers” to the Glorious Qur’an. Allah (swt) says that Muslims should not be divided and that the only unifying factor is the authentic source of the religion of Islam i.e. the Glorious Qur’an.
Allah (swt) also says in the Glorious Qur’an in several places including Al Qur’an 4:59:
O ye who believe!
Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger.
(Al Qur’an 4:59)
To understand the Qur’an better we have to refer to the explanation of the Qur’an by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on whom the Qur’an was revealed. Thus the best and the most appropriate method of understanding Islam is to understand the authentic sources of Islam which are the Glorious Qur’an, (the words of Almighty Allah) and the authentic Ahadith, (i.e. the sayings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad.
c. Authentic Sources of Hinduism
Similarly, the best and the most appropriate method of understanding Hinduism is to understand the authentic sources i.e. the sacred scriptures of Hinduism. The most sacred and authentic Scriptures of Hinduism are the Vedas, followed by the Upanishads, the Itihaas, Bhagvad Gita, Puranas, etc.
Let us understand these two major religions of the world, i.e. Islam and Hinduism, by studying and analyzing the authentic Scriptures of these two major religions of the world.
d. Emphasis on those Similarities, which are not commonly known.
In this work on ‘Similarities between Islam and Hinduism’, we shall not lay emphasis on those similarities which are known by almost all the followers of both the religions e.g. a person should always speak the truth, he should not lie, he should not steal, he should be kind, he should not be cruel, etc. Instead, we shall consider those similarities, which are not commonly known by all the followers and hence are known only to those who are familiar with the contents of their sacred Scriptures.
INTRODUCTION OF ISLAM
1. Definition of Islam.
Islam is an Arabic word, which comes from the word ‘Salm’ which means peace and from 'Silm', which means submitting your will to Allah – the Almighty God. In short Islam means peace acquired by submitting your will to Allah (swt).
The word Islam is mentioned in several places in the Qur’an and the Hadith including Surah Ali Imran, chapter 3, verse 19 and verse 85.
2. Definition of a Muslim
A Muslim is a person who submits his will to Allah – the Almighty God.
The word Muslim is mentioned several times in the Qur’an and Hadith including Surah Ali Imran Chapter 3 Verse 64 and Surah Fussilat Chapter 41 Verse 33.
3. A misconception about Islam
Many people have a misconception that Islam is a new religion that was formulated 1400 years ago, and that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the founder of Islam. However, let me clarify that Islam is not the name of some unique religion presented for the first time by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who should, on that account be called the founder of Islam.
The Qur’an states that Islam – the complete submission of man before his one and only Unique Creator – is the one and only faith and way of life consistently revealed by God to humankind from the very beginning. Noah, Solomon, David, Abraham, Moses, Isaac and Jesus (peace be upon them all) – prophets who appeared at different times and places – all propagated the same faith and conveyed the same message of Tawheed (Oneness of God), Risaalat (Prophethood) and Aakhirah (the Hereafter). These prophets of God were not founders of different religions to be named after them. They were each reiterating the message and faith of their predecessors.
However, Muhammad (pbuh) was the last Prophet of God. God revived through him the same genuine faith which had been conveyed by all His Prophets. This original message was earlier corrupted and split into various religions by people of different ages, who indulged in interpolations and admixture. These alien elements were eliminated by God, and Islam – in its pure and original form – was transmitted to humankind through Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Since there was to be no messenger after Muhammad (pbuh), the Book revealed to him (i.e. the Glorious Qur’an) was preserved word for word so that it should be a source of guidance for all times.
Thus the religion of all the prophets was ‘total submission to God’s will’ and one word for that in the Arabic language is ‘Islam’. Abraham and Jesus (peace be upon them) too were Muslims, as Allah testifies in Al-Qur'an 3:67 and 3:52 respectively.
INTRODUCTION OF HINDUISM
1. Definition of a Hindu
a. The word ‘Hindu’ has geographical significance and was used originally to refer to those people who lived beyond the river Sindhu or the region watered by the river Indus.
b. Historians say that it was first used by the Persians who came to India through the North Western passes of the Himalayas. The word ‘Hindu’ was also used by the Arabs.
c. This word ‘Hindu’ is nowhere mentioned in Indian Literature or Hindu Scriptures before the advent of Muslims to India, according to the Encyclopedia of Religions and Ethics (6:690)
d. Jawaharlal Nehru, in his book ‘Discovery of India’, writes on pg. 74-75, that the earliest reference to the word ‘Hindu’ can be traced to a tantrik of the 8th Century C.E., where it means a people and not a follower of a particular religion. The use of the word ‘Hindu’ in connection with a particular religion is of late occurrence.
e. In short the word ‘Hindu’ is a geographical definition or term which is used to refer to people who live beyond the river Indus or in other words to those who live in India.
2. Definition of Hinduism
a. Hinduism has been derived from the word Hindu. According to the New Encyclopedia Britannica 20:581, Hinduism was a name given in English language in the Nineteenth Century by the English people to the multiplicity of the beliefs and faiths of the people of the Indus land. The British writers in 1830 gave the word Hinduism to be used as the common name for all the beliefs of the people of India excluding the Muslims and converted Christians.
b. According to the Hindu Scholars, Hinduism is a misnomer and the religion ‘Hinduism’ should be either referred to as ‘Sanatana Dharma’, which means eternal religion, or as Vedic Dharma, meaning religion of the Vedas. According to Swami Vivekananda, the followers of this religion are referred to as Vendantists.
In the next month’s article in this series, we shall examine the articles of faith in Islam and compare them with the tenets of Hinduism as mentioned in the Hindu Scriptures. We shall also study and compare the concept of God in Islam and in Hinduism.
And all praises are for the One and Only God and Creator Allah, who alone is worthy of devotion, complete submission and worship.