There is a raging debate i started by saying “Why do people prefer to use “Allah” instead of using “God” while communicating in English. Isn’t it the same Thing?“. I stated this because i read my colleague recently sent the following response to my “Eid greetings” : “Eid Mubarak to all .. May Allah guide us and bless us with Peace.”.
The response was all with blessings, which i welcomed. It is just the out-of-context use of the word Allah versus using God, while writing an English sentence which reminded me of the orthodoxy in Islam, and thus i tweeted, rather casually, expressing as i usually do whatever is going on in my head that point in time.
The tweet led to a massive debate and criticism on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/rahuldewan/status/108829654919561216) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10150362764405269&id=606055268).
Here’s my last response to the ranging debate on Facebook which i tried to post, but Facebook rejected due to the size of the post. Thanks to my critics, Navin and Mir, the primary participants in the debate i’ve been able to articulate my thoughts here well.
When Mir says “every religion cannot be the same” (and when you defend him) it is true. Trouble is what he really means is that “all roads DO NOT lead to the same Divine Being”, and that it is ONLY ISLAM which does, and all other people are on the “wrong path”, for whom he prays that they find the “only true path”.
This same sentiment translates into his recent tweet, “God is not equal to Allah”, which resonates with what Aliya says above. Even the reference to the Creator of this mighty Universe, in a different language calls for it to be false.
The names of Allah are 99 – all Arabic; the rest of the people of the world whoever refer to this migthy creator in a language and culture that they were born in, are on the wrong and untrue path, and are destined for “hell”.
This is exactly what orthodox roman catholics say about their religion and their version of the Creator; and further even call Muhammad a “Devil”. (By the way, you all should know that “Mahatma Gandhi” is stated to have gone to Hell, by the claims of most orthodox Roman Catholics, and their friends the Wahabis).
Now, manage the emotions of such fanatic believers on both sides – would you expect anything but the Holy Wars of the middle ages?
Muhammad himself was at the forefront of “breaking the images” of ‘gods and goddesses’ (ah, notice the small “g” please) temple, including that of Jesus and Mary. The primary deity of the Kabba was a goddess called “Al-Mannat”, alongwith two more (incidentally, he only “kissed” a black stone (black stones of reverence in hinduism are typically called “pindis”, and are known to be energy centers).
You should also know, according to “some historians”, purportedly the statue of Al-Mannat was saved somehow, and transferred via Iraq/Iran to India – to Hind as they called it then. Some even say that “Somnath” in Gujarat got it’s name because of Al-Mannat.
This same culture of destroying temples and places of worship was followed by invaders and muslim kings such as Aurangzeb, in India.
Worse, it is the same belief systems, which have not only killed Al-Hallaj. Please go to his Wikipedia page and you shall learn that he used to enter “trance-like” states where he used to call himself Allah. This is the same thing that has occurred to tens and tens of people who come out of meditative states. Sufism actually documents this as a state of merging with the divine. Sai Baba, the hugely popular “muslim saint” across the sub-continent, used to enter similar states, and alternate between “calling himself Allah”, and then calling himself a “servant of Allah”.
These same trance-like states occur to Shamans and Red Indians regularly. Predictions, Oracles, all exist at such levels. Must i remind you, that such practices are banned in the Arab world (even though they are quietly accepted to be non-existent – even while they thrive in sanctity of some homes – by the Islamic state in countries like Egypt and Iran. I’ve met muslims from Iran at Khajuraho who share their experiences, and thus can speak about this first hand).
In any other country, other than India, whose DNA has been formed by its Hindu roots, he would have been killed – and that too by making him bleed, cutting off his hands, cutting his arms, and finally burning him alive – just like Al-Hallaj was; once again please go to Wikipedia for a historical gory record. He was a mystic saint, just like Rumi. Rumi some say was smart, as he avoided the talking about the special mental states he reached, where he made profound statements. People called him the “Prophet of the East” – but he gently and smartly reminded them to focus on Allah, and not bother with him (perhaps, he knew the fanatics would go after him, if he claimed any closeness to the state Muhammad reached).
Baha’ullah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, and many of their ilk, who reached similar states of what is called Prophet-hood after reaching meditative depths, just as Muhammad did during his time in a cave. Most english versions define – of what he did in the cave was “meditate”. However, sadly, this meditative state of what Muhammad did, has been forgotten and a divine-chosen right to Prophethood – and that too the last one ordained upon him.
If Islam was a socio-economic-politico response to a certain people and times – and i would agree with that, then it should be try and change and adapt to the new socio-politico-economic change in the new society we live in today. All religions should.
I could accept Muhammad breaking all the images and transforming Kabba (even while retaining the sanctity of the original temple, and even the black stone) – as probably he had compulsions to do so, to reform that society.
But this needs to stop now. No one is Muhammad now, and we live in a completely different socio-economic-political society. We must change, and reform.
Hinduism actually claims, including the much maligned laws written by Manu on caste-order, that all laws of religion MUST be according to the “social and geographic conditions of the period” that the society is living in. Manu, wrote this himself, towards the end of his Manu-Smriti.
It is often forgotten, that the system only defined 4 classes of people, and never restructured them by birth. This is well-documented across, and from Parshu Ram, to Valmiki, there have been many examples of cross-over based on “work” rather than “birth” of a human being, in hindu mythology. However, this debate is for another time.
However, true to this culture – reformers have come – by the hordes, to change the social order of the Hindu society, and reject the sick and archaic Hindu system of casteism, sati, early marriage, and so on.
But other religions, specifically Islam – thanks to the orthodox and basal interpretations of the Quran – do not adopt any reform, or conform to change in society. Even the “Supreme Court of India” as recent as February 2011, made a categorical statement that “the government‘s attempts to reform personal laws don’t go beyond Hindus”.
Now, imagine going to a Sikh (or to me, a Hindu, who loves Guru Nanak, just as i love Rumi) and telling him that your Guru was a “Pir” and NOT a Prophet. This by the way a follower of the path of Sufism would say – which is a mild and spiritual form of Islam.
To make matters worse, Wahabis like Mir, would say that “Pirs are nothing but Dhongi Babas” – something he has stated to me in another debate earlier. Mir and his ilk, considers Sufis, as heretics. Left to them, Sufism and Sufi thought would perhaps be eradicated, and give way to the order of the Quran alone – with an interpretation that they made, and no one else (the Ahemediyas as an example have a different interpretation of some key principles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmadiyya).
This is the same sentiment that unfortunately, most muslims that you come across or read about in newspapers, share.
This is the reason that Ba’hais, and Ahemdiyas are a “repressed” and “persecuted” minority where they still practice, and completely been shunted out from other places of their birth.
The Bahais came to India, and the local kings offered them land and protection, after they were persecuted in the Islamic Iran. They flourished from this land, and went everywhere else in the world, spreading the message of ONE God – who they call Allah, God, Jehova, or whatever whoever wants to call Her by (oh did i remind you of the mind-boggling debate among roman catholics and agree that God cannot be referred to as HER; only HIM).
The Ahmediyas have been persecuted, almost eliminated in Sind, Pakistan, and have migrated to Germany and US – who, like the lage-hearted India, have welcomed them and given them citizenship of their countries. I have personally met and heard this story from an Ahemdiya family on a German metro in 2001.
It is the same Wahabis belonging to the Sunni order, who are bombing the hell out of Shias at Mosque gatherings in Karachi.
A few years back i was in Shimla and walked early morning to a temple, and started asking the only Sadhu sitting there questions on religion. The conversation led to a point where this illiterate man basically concluded that people refer to the Almighty in many ways and many languages; some personalize them by giving specific aspects of them a human shape to relate to them; while others do not give any form; but you know all such seeking leads to the same ONE Divine – the ONE Creator.
This is a message of creating harmony.
This is the same message that another sikh, considered a revered Guru to many, Baba Virsa Singh was inspired by when he built the Gobind Sadan – where there is a Mosque as well – where women are allowed to offer Namaz inside, and even i offered Namaz. To make matters even more interesting, the Imam of the mosque comes every evening at prays at the “statue” of Jesus Christ and offers prayers alongwith Ms. Mary Pat, now the patron saint of this Gurudwara. Know more about Gobind Sadan here.
When you criticize Hinduism, and you SHOULD (by the way – your books will not be banned; neither will you be persecuted most often; please do not state the exceptions of people like Hussain!), please do so with a balance and in comparison to the scale of the mess.
It is because of this “hindu culture” that you are having this debate freely. I dare not say any of this being in the Middle East – my hands would be chopped off, and sent to Jail for better part of my life atleast).
It is because of this culture, that there are “Dargahs” of “Muslim Pirs/Saints” are existing in the subcontinent. These shrines where hindus and muslims of the subcontinent go to offer prayers and seek gifts of the Divine, have been nearly eliminated from Afganistan onwards till North-Africa. They remain and thrive in India, and because of the Indian-Hindu culture in Pakistan and Bangladesh. They are doing decently well in some Central Asian countries where fanaticism is a bit less – perhaps, thanks to Russian atheism.
To end on a note of an urgent need of reform in the Mulsim society, here is an article by a muslim author that appeared in the recent issue of Tehelka: The Imam’s Wrong Call – http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Op030911coverstory2.asp.