SIMILARITIES BETWEEN ISLAM AND HINDUISM – Part 9
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 worship 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 concept of jihad in Islam and in Hinduism as mentioned in their respective scriptures. We shall also examine certain similarities in the teachings of the scriptures of Hinduism and Islam.
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 nor 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 a 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.
2. “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 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 encourages 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.
SOME SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE SCRIPTURES OF HINDUISM AND ISLAM
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN QUR’ANIC VERSES AND VEDIC VERSES
There are several verses in the Veda which have a meaning similar to that of Qur’anic verses:
1. Surah Fatiha
a. It is mentioned in
Surah Al Fatiha
Praise be to Allah
The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds. :
(Al Qur’an 1:2)
A similar verse is mentioned in Rigved:
“Verily, Great is the Glory of the Divine Creator.”
b. Most Gracious, Most Merciful
(Al Qur’an 1:3)
A similar verse is mentioned in Rigved Book:
“The Bounteous Giver.”
c. Show us the straight way,
The way of those on whom
Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
Those whose (Portion)
Is not Wrath,
And who go not astray.
(Al Qur’an 1:6-7)
A similar verse is mentioned in Yajurved chapter 40 verse 16 (Y.V. 40:16)
“Lead us to the good path and remove the sin that makes us stray and wander.”
A similar message is given in Rigveda book 1 hymn 189 verse 1, 2 (R.V. 1:189:1, 2)
3. SURAH MAUN
It is mentioned in
Surah Al Maun
1. Seest thou one
Who denies the Judgement
2. Then such is the (man)
Who repulses the orphan
3. And encourages not
The feeding of the indigent.
(Al Qur’an 107:1-3)
A similar verse is given in Rigved
“The man with food in store who, when the needy comes in miserable ease begging for bread to eat, hardens his heart against him even when of old did him service – finds not one to comfort him.” (Rigved 10:117:2)
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE TEACHINGS OF ISLAM AND HINDUISM
1. Prohibition of Alcohol
a. It is mentioned in the Qur’an in Surah Al Maidah:
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 ye may prosper.
(Al Qur’an 5:90)
b. It is mentioned in
i. Manu Smriti Chapter 9, verse 235:
“A priest-killer, a liquor drinker, a thief and a violator of his guru’s marriage bed – all of these, and each separately, should be known as men who committed major crime.” (Manu Smriti 9:235)
Further after two verses it is mentioned in:
ii. Manu Smriti
“These miserable men – whom no one should eat with, no one should sacrifice for, no one should read to, and no one should marry – must wander the earth excommunicated from all religions”.
(Manu Smriti 9:238)
A similar message is repeated in:
iii. Manu Smriti Chapter 11 verse 55:
“Killing a priest, drinking liquor, stealing, violating a/the guru’s marriage bed, and associating with those (who commit these acts) are called the major crimes”.
(Manu Smriti 11:55)
It is mentioned in
iv. Manu Smriti Chapter 11 verse 94
“For liquor is the defiling dirt excreted from rice, and dirt is said to be evil; therefore a priest, ruler, or commoner should not drink liquor.”
(Manu Smriti 11:94)
c. Intoxicants / Intoxicating drinks are prohibited in several other verses of Manu Smriti including
i. Manu Smriti Chapter 11 verse 151
ii. Manu Smriti Chapter 7 verses 47-50
iii. Manu Smriti Chapter 9 verse 225
iv. Manu Smriti Chapter 12 verse 45
v. Manu Smriti Chapter 3 verse 159
vi. Rigved Book 8 hymn 2 verse 12
vii. Rigved Book 8 hymn 21 verse 14
2. Prohibition of Gambling
As mentioned earlier, the Glorious Qur’an prohibits gambling in Surah Al Maidah Chapter 5 verse 90:
a. Gambling is also prohibited in the Hindu Scriptures in
Rigveda Book Book 10 Hymn 34 Verse 3:
“A Gamester / gambler says, ‘My wife holds me aloof, my mother hates me’. The wretched man finds none to comfort him.” (Rigveda 10:34:3)
It is further advised in
“Play not with dice : No, cultivate thy corn land. Enjoy the gain and deem that wealth sufficient”. (Rigved 10:34:13)
It is mentioned in
ii. Manu Smriti Chapter 7 verse 50
“Drinking, gambling, women (not lawfully wedded wives) and hunting, in that order, he should know to be the very worst four in the group of (vices) born of desire”
(Manu Smriti 7:50)
b. Gambling is also prohibited in several verses of
i. Manu Smriti including
ii. Manu Smriti Chapter 7 Verse 47
iii. Manu Smriti Chapter 9 Verses 221-228
iv. Manu Smriti Chapter 9 Verse 258