SIMILARITIES BETWEEN ISLAM AND HINDUISM – Part 8
Dr. Zakir Naik
In this series of articles, we are analyzing similarities and common grounds between two major religions of the world: Hinduism and Islam. In the previous article, we studied the various similarities between the concepts of life after death, and of fate and destiny in Islam and in Hinduism as mentioned in their respective scriptures. In this month’s article, we shall study, examine and highlight similarities between the concepts of worship and jihad in Hinduism as mentioned in their respective scriptures. We shall also examine certain similarities in the teachings of the scriptures of Hinduism and Islam.
THE CONCEPT OF WORSHIP IN HINDUISM AND IN ISLAM
PILLARS OF ISLAM
1. ISLAMIC CREED:
a. It is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari
“Narrated Ibn Umar (r.a.) That Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said: Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):
1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad (pbuh) is the slave and messenger of Allah.
2. Iqamat-as-salaah (to perform prayers)
3. To pay Zakaat
4. To perform Hajj (i.e. Pilgrimage to Makkah)
5. To Observe Saum (i.e. fast) during the month of Ramadhaan
(Sahih Bukhari Vol. 1, Book of Imaan, Chapter 1, Hadith 8)
b. TESTIMONY OF FAITH:
The First Pillar of Islam i.e. to declare, proclaim, testify and to bear witness that no entity or deity is worthy of worship, devotion, obedience and submission except Allah (swt) and to bear witness that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last and final Messenger of Allah. This pillar of faith has already been discussed in the Pillar of Imaan.
a. The second Pillar of Islam is Salaah.
Salaah is usually translated in English as prayer. To pray means to beseech or to ask for help. In Salaah we Muslims do not merely ask for help from Almighty Allah but we also praise Him and receive guidance from Him. I personally prefer describing it as programming towards righteousness. To elaborate, consider that during salaah, after Surah Fatiha, an Imaam may recite:
O ye who believe!
Intoxicants and gambling,
(Dedication of) Stones,
And (divination by) arrows,
Are an abomination
Of Satan’s handiwork;
Eschew such (abomination),
That you may prosper.
(Al Qur’an 5:90)
Allah (swt) guides us, through this verse of the Qur’an, which is recited by the Imaam during salaah, that we should not imbibe intoxicants, we should not indulge in gambling, idol worship or fortune telling. All these are Satan’s handiwork and we should abstain from these if we wish to prosper.
The English word ‘prayer’ does not denote the complete meaning of Salaah in its full and true sense.
b. Prayer restrains you from shameful and unjust deeds.
It is mentioned in the Qur’an:
Recite what is sent
Of the book by inspiration
To thee, and establish
Regular Prayer: for prayer
Restrains from shameful
And unjust deeds;
And remembrance of Allah
Is the greatest (thing of life)
Without doubt. And Allah knows
The (deeds) that ye do.
(Al Qur’an 29:45)
c. Five times Salaah for healthy souls.
For a healthy body, human require about three meals. In a similar manner for a healthy soul, it is required that we offer Salaah a minimum of five times every day.
Our Creator Allah (swt) has prescribed salaah for human beings for a minimum of five times a day in Surah Isra Chapter 17 Verse 78 and in Surah Taha Chapter 20 Verse 130.
d. The Prostration is the most important part of Salaah:
The most important part of Salaah is the ‘Sujud’ i.e. Prostration.
i. It is mentioned in the Qur’an:
“O Mary! Worship thy lord devoutly,
Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayers)
With those who bow down.”
(Al Qur’an 3:43)
ii. O ye who believe:
Bow down, prostrate yourselves,
And adore your Lord; and do good;
That ye may prosper.
(Al Qur’an 22:77)
One of the types of Prayers in Hinduism is ‘Shashtang’
There are various different types of prayers and modes of worship in Hinduism. One of the types is ‘shashtang’. The word ‘shashtang’ is made up of ‘Sa’ and ‘Asht’ which means eight and ‘Ang’ which means ‘parts of the body’. Thus, shastang is a mode of worship touching eight parts of the body. The best way a person can do this is like Muslims who prostrate in their Salaah touching their forehead, nose, two hands, two knees, and two feet.
Idol Worship is prohibited in Hinduism:
i. Idol worship, which is very common amongst the Hindus, is prohibited in Hinduism. It is mentioned in Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 verse 20:
“Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires they worship demigods i.e. idols.(Bhagavad Gita 7:20)
It is mentioned in:
ii. Svetashvatara Upanishad chapter 4 verse 19
As well as in:
iii. Yajurved Chapter 32 Verse 3
“There is no image of Him”
(Svetashvatara Upanishad 4:19, Yajurved 32:3)
iv. It is also mentioned in
Yajurveda Chapter 40 verse 9
“They enter darkness those who worship natural things (for e.g. air, water, fire, etc.). They sink deeper in darkness those who worship sambhuti i.e. created things (for e.g. table, chair, car, idol etc.)
a. ZAKAAT MEANS PURIFICATION AND GROWTH
Zakaat is the third pillar of Islam, which means purification and growth.
b. 2.5% IN CHARITY
Every rich Muslim who has a saving which is more than the minimum level called ‘Nisaab’ which is 85 gms of gold, should give 2.5% of his excess wealth in charity every lunar year.
c. IF ALL RICH GIVE ZAKAT NO ONE WILL DIE OF HUNGER
If every rich human being gives Zakaat, then poverty will be eradicated from this world. There will not be a single human being who will die of hunger.
d. ZAKAT ENSURES THAT WEALTH DOES NOT CIRCULATE ONLY AMONGST THE RICH
One of the reasons for Zakaat is mentioned in Surah Al-Hashr
“In order that the wealth may not (merely)
circulate amongst the wealthy ….”
(Al Qur’an 59:7)
e. CHARITY IN HINDUISM:
Charity is also prescribed in Hinduism.
i. In Rigved Bk. 10 hymn 117 verse 5
“Let the rich satisfy the poor implorer, and bend his eyes upon a longer pathway. Richest come now to one, now to another, and like the wheels of cars are ever rolling.”
(Translation by Ralph Griffith)
“If it is expected of every rich man to satisfy the poor implorer; let the rich person have a distant vision (for a rich of today may not remain rich tomorrow). Remember that riches revolve from one man to another, as revolve the wheels of a chariot.”
(Translation by Satyaprakash Sarasvati & Satyakam Vidhya Lankar) (Rigved 10:117:5)
ii. Charity has been prescribed in Bhagvad Gita in several places including:
Chapter 17 verse 20 and
Chapter 16 verse 3
4. SAUM – FASTING:
‘Saum’ or fasting, is the fourth pillar of Islam. Every healthy adult Muslim is supposed to abstain from eating and drinking, from dawn to sunset, in the complete lunar month of Ramadhaan.
b. FASTING PRESCRIBED FOR SELF-RESTRAINT:
The reason for fasting has been mentioned in the Qur’an:
O ye who believe!
Fasting is prescribed to you
As it was prescribed
To those before you,
That ye may (learn) self-restraint.
(Al Qur’an 2:183)
Today the psychologists inform us that if a person can control his hunger, it is very likely that he will be able to control most of his desires.
c. FASTING DISCOURAGES ALCOHOLISM, SMOKING AND OTHER ADDICTIONS
Fasting for one complete month is a good opportunity for giving up one’s wrong habits. If a person can abstain from drinking alcohol, from dawn to sunset, he can very well abstain from alcohol from the cradle to the grave. If a person can abstain from smoking, from dawn to sunset, he can very well abstain from smoking from the cradle to the grave.
d. MEDICAL BENEFITS
There are various medical benefits of fasting. Fasting increases the absorption of the intestine; it also decreases the cholesterol level.
e. FASTING IN HINDUISM
There are different types and methods of fasting in Hinduism. According to
Manusmriti Chapter 6 verse 24
Fasting has been prescribed for a month for purification.
(Manusmriti edited by Dr. R. N. Sharma)
Fasting has also been prescribed in
Manusmriti chapter 4 verse 222
Manusmriti chapter 11 verse 204
5. HAJJ – PILGRIMAGE:
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. Every adult Muslim who has the means to perform Hajj i.e. pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah should at least perform Hajj once in his life time.
b. Universal Brotherhood:
Hajj is a practical example and demonstration of universal brotherhood. The Hajj is the largest annual gathering in the world where about 2.5 million people from different parts of the world gather, from U.S.A., from U.K. from Malaysia, from Indonesia, from India and other parts of the world. All pilgrims wear two pieces of unsown cloth, preferably white, such that you cannot differentiate whether a person is rich or poor, king or pauper. People of all races and of all colours gather together in unity to worship the One Creator.
c. Pilgrimage in Hinduism
There are various places of pilgrimage in Hinduism. One of the sacred places mentioned in
i. Rigved, Bk. 3 hymn 29 verse 4 is “Ilayspad, which is situated at Nabha prathvi.”
‘Ila’ means God or Allah, and ‘spad’ means place, therefore Ilaspad means place of God. Nabha means center and prathvi mean earth. Thus this verse of the Veda prescribes pilgrimage to a place of God situated at the center of the earth.
Sanskrit-English dictionary by M. Monier Williams (Edition 2002) states that Ilaspad is “Name of a Tirtha” i.e. place of Pilgrimage – however its location is not known.
According to the Qur’an:
ii. The first House (of worship)
Appointed for men
Was that at Bakka
Full of blessing and of guidance
For all kinds of beings.
(Al Quran 3:96)
‘Bacca’ is another name for Makkah and we know today that Makkah is situated at the center of the earth.
Later after seven verses i.e.
iii. Rigved Bk. 3 hymn 29 verse 11
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is mentioned as ‘Narashansa’.
Thus we can conclude that this Ilayspad, place of pilgrimage mentioned in Rigved is Makkah.
iv. Makkah is also mentioned as Ilaspad i.e. Allah’s holy place in
Rigved Book 1 hymn 128 verse 1
CONCEPT OF JIHAD IN HINDUISM AND IN ISLAM
JIHAD IN ISLAM AND IN HINDUISM
a. One of the greatest misconceptions about Islam, not only amongst the non-Muslims but even amongst the Muslims, is that concerning the concept of Jihad. Non-Muslims as well as Muslims think that any war fought by any Muslim for whatever purpose, be it good or bad, is Jihad.
‘Jihad’ is an Arabic word derived from ‘Jahada’, which means to strive or to struggle. For example. if a student strives to pass in the examination he is doing jihad.
In the Islamic context, ‘Jihad’ means to strive against one’s own evil inclination. It also means to strive to make the society better. It also includes the right to fight in self-defence or to fight in the battlefield against oppression and against aggression.
1. Jihad is not holy war
Not only non-Muslim scholars, but even some Muslim scholars mistranslate the word ‘Jihad’ as holy war. The Arabic word for ‘holy war’ is ‘harabum muqaddasah’ and this word is not to be found anywhere in the Qur’an or in any hadith. The word ‘holy war’ was first used to describe the crusades of the Christians who killed thousands of people in the name of Christianity. Today, this term ‘holy war’ is used to falsely describe Jihad, which merely means ‘to strive’. In an Islamic context, Jihad means ‘to strive in the way of Allah for a righteous cause’ i.e. Jihad fi Sabilillah.
2. Only one of the several forms of Jihad is fighting
There are different types of Jihad i.e., striving. One of the types is striving is fighting in the battlefield against oppression and tyranny.
Many critics of Islam including Arun Shourie quote Surah Al-Tawbah chapter 9 verse 5
“… Fight and slay the Mushrik/Kafir (Hindu) wherever you find them …”
(Al Qur’an 9:5)
If you read the Qur’an, this verse exists but it is quoted out of context by Arun Shourie.
The first few verses of Surah Tawbah before verse 5 speak about the peace treaty between the Muslims and Muskhriks (polytheists) of Makkah. This peace treaty was unilaterally broken by the Mushriks of Makkah. In verse no. 5 Allah (swt) gives them an ultimatum to put things straight in four months’ time, or else face a declaration of war. It is for the battlefield that Allah says “fight and slay the Mushriks (i.e. the enemies from Makkah) wherever you find them and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war”.
This verse is revealed and instructs the Muslims to fight in the battlefield and kill the enemy wherever you find them. But natural, any army general to boost up the morale of the soldiers and to encourage them will say “Don’t get scared, fight and kill the enemies, wherever you find them in the battlefield. Arun Shourie in his book ‘The World of Fatwas’ after quoting Surah Tawbah chapter 9 verse 5 jumps to verse 7. Any logical person will realize that verse 6 has the reply to his allegation.
Surah Tawbah chapter 9 verse 6 says:
“If any amongst the Mushriks (i.e. the enemies)
ask thee for asylum, grant it to him so that
he may hear the word of Allah and then
escort him to where he can be secure”.
(Al Qur’an 9:6)
Today the most merciful army general may tell his soldiers to let the enemy go, but Almighty Allah in the Qur’an says if the enemy wants peace do not just let them go but escort them to place of security. Which army general in today’s day and age, or rather in the whole of recorded human history is ever known to have given such merciful instructions? Now will someone ask Mr. Arun Shourie why did he deliberately not quote verse 6?
4. Jihad (i.e. striving) in the Bhagavad Gita
All the major religions encourage their followers to strive in good works. It is mentioned in Bhagavad Gita
“Therefore strive for Yoga, O Arjuna, which is the art of all work.”
(Bhagavad Gita 2:50)
5. Fighting prescribed in the Bhagavad Gita too
a. All the major religions of the world have prescribed fighting, at sometime or the other, especially in self-defence or for fighting against oppression.
Mahabharata is an epic and sacred Scripture of the Hindus, which mainly deals with a fight between the cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. In the battlefield Arjun prefers not to fight and be killed rather than having his conscience burdened with the killing of his relatives. At this moment, Krishna advises Arjun in the battlefield and this advice is contained in the Bhagvad Gita. There are several verses in the Bhagvad Gita where Krishna advises Arjun to fight and kill the enemies even though they are his relatives.
b. It is mentioned in
The Bhagvad Gita Chapter 1 verse 43-46
(43) O Krishna, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell”
(44) “Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing ourselves to commit great sinful acts, driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness.”
(45) I would consider better for the sons of Dhritarashtra to kill me unarmed and unresisting rather than fight with them.
(46) “Arjuna, having thus spoken, cast aside his bow and arrow, and sat down on the chariot, his mind, overwhelmed with grief”.
c. Krishna further replies in
Bhagvad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 2, 3
2. “My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.
3. “O son of Partha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy!”
When Arjuna prefers to be killed unarmed and unresisting rather than fight and kill his cousins Kauravas, Krishna replies to Arjun by saying how this impure thought has has come to you which prevents you from entering heaven. Give up this degrading impotence and weakness of heart and arise, O defeater of enemy.
d. Krishna further says in
Bhagvad Gita Chapter 2 verse 31-33
31. “Considering your specific duty as a Kshatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles, so there is no need for hesitation.”
32. “O Partha, happy are the Kshatriya to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the door of the heavenly planets”.
33. “If however, you do not fight this religious war, then you will certainly incur sin, for neglecting your duties, and thus loose your reputation as a fighter”.
e. There are hundreds of verses in the Bhagvad Gita alone, which encourage fighting and killing, many times more as compared to such verses in the Qur’an.
Imagine if someone were to say that the Bhagvad Gita encourages the killing of the family members to attain paradise, without quoting the context – such a deliberate attempt will be devilish. But within the context if I say that for truth and justice fighting against the evil is compulsory, even if it be against your relatives, it makes sense.
I wonder how come the critics of Islam, especially critics amongst the Hindus, point a finger at the Qur’an when it speaks about fighting and killing unjust enemies. The only possibility I can think of is that they themselves have not read their sacred scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata and the Vedas.
f. Critics of Islam including Hindu critics speak against the Qur’an and the Prophet when they say that if you are killed while doing Jihad i.e. fighting for the truth, you are promised paradise.
Besides quoting Qur’anic verses they quote Sahih Bukhari Vol. 4, Book of Jihad Chapter no. 2 Hadith No. 46
“Allah guarantees that He will admit the Mujaahid in His cause to Paradise if he is killed, otherwise he will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty”.
(Sahih Bukhari Vol. 4, Book of Jihad Chapter no. 2 Hadith No. 46)
There are various similar verses in Bhagavad Gita guaranteeing a person paradise if he is killed while fighting. Take the example of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 verse 37:
“O son of Kunti, either you will be killed in the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets (paradise), or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom, therefore get up and fight with determination”.
(Bhagavad Gita 2:37)
g. Similarly Rigved Book No. 1 Hymn 132 Verse 2-6 as well as many other verses of Hindu Scriptures speak about fighting and killing.
6. Explain Jihad by quoting Scriptures of other Religions
Allah says in the Qur’an:
Say: “O people
Of the Book! Come
To common terms
As between us and you:
(Al Qur’an 3:64)
The best way to explain a misconception of Islam is to quote a similar message given in the Scripture of other religions. Whenever I have spoken to Hindus who criticize the concept of Jihad in Islam, the moment I quote similar passages from Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita, and since they know the outline and the context of the fight in Mahabharata, they immediately agree that if the Qur’an too speaks about a fight between truth and falsehood then they have no objection but rather appreciate the guidance of the Qur’an.