Oh you people! Surely we have created you from a man and a woman and made you peoples and tribes, so that you might come to know one another
Qur’an Surah al-Hujurat 49:13 (trans. by Shaykh Noorudeen Durkee)
We belong to the same parents,
Then why this difference?
Let the Hindus and Muslims worship God alone.
We came to this world like partners.
We should have shared our joys and sorrows together.
Nooruddin Wali (Nund Rishi) of Kashmir
This blog emerged quite spontaneously from my longtime friendship with Ravi, someone I have always considered a dear spiritual brother. Is it so peculiar for a devout Muslim and a devout Hindu to connect through their religions? We have never felt strange about sharing and encouraging each other in our spiritual paths, nor have we felt that this has compromised our adherence to Hinduism or Islam. We are both unapologetically devoted to our religions, yet open to truth and wisdom in whatever forms it may come. Given the exclusivist, supremacist language heard from certain Hindu and Muslim quarters, to many what our friendship represents, and what we intend now to embark upon, may appear as a deluded endeavor. As both a gesture of religious unity, and as a force to counter divisive rhetoric and violence, there is a pressing need for people of all faiths to step outside of their comfort zones and challenge preconceptions about the religious “other”.
Without claiming to speak for Islam (an impossibility given the rich diversity within the faith), I can say without hesitation that Islam propels me to connect deeply with all humanity without discrimination. As in the Qur’anic verse quoted above, we are charged with “knowing” those around us. There is a mysterious wisdom in the fact that the Divine created diversity on this earth, and that instead of closing our minds and hearts to other communities, we are told to get to know them-not simply superficially tolerate them while holding onto prejudices and misunderstandings. In the second quote listed above, the famous Kashmiri Muslim Nund Rishi expands on this same theme, bringing the Qur’anic passage into a South Asian context. Hindus and Muslims are siblings both materially and spiritually, as both our humanity and souls are inexpiably connected. Both also deal with the same challenges, struggling and finding joy in the complexity of our lives. Unfortunately, many have instead taken the destructive route of only speaking of differences, and dehumanizing those from the other community.
We are genuinely troubled by the fact that the most visible voices in both modern Hinduism and Islam are often the most ignorant, divisive and arrogant. There is an urgency for other voices to emerge to create an alternative to the rising level of fundamentalism across the world. Though we do not claim to represent our faiths in total, or speak as religious leaders, we do hope that adding our voices to the fray together might serve as an antidote to those that think Islam and Hinduism are so inextricably separate, almost opposite in orientation. The history of religious interaction has been far more complex than the skewed scholarship offered by fundamentalists and orientalists alike. There have been examples historically of Hindu-Muslim interaction at a very profound level, most notably in the meeting of various strands of the Bhakti and Sufi traditions exemplified in a figure such as Kabir. We do not mean to romanticize South Asian history, but it is a simplistic notion that all its problems can be reduced down to religious conflict without understanding other social factors. History aside, our approach will be largely highlighting our own interpretations of common religious notions and practices found in both Hinduism and Islam, highlighting that which bonds us together.
This blog is not intended to be an exercise in superficial inter-faith dialogue. The goal of creating this space to bring together these great faiths is not to neatly state our own view and move on, but to be challenged and to learn with an open mind. There is no contest to find out who is “right”, and there is absolutely no covert intention at converting anyone to another faith. We both begin at the point of respect and sincerity and only from there do we venture onto this path into the unknown. In the end any serious differences between our faiths must be understood as differences created by the Divine. And of course there will be a healthy amount of disagreement to some degree.
Peeling away points of divergence, more often than not, especially when it comes to acts of devotion and calls to enact social justice in the world, Islam and Hinduism are in agreement. Both faiths are centered on uplifting the poor, standing with the marginalized and loving all lives as our own. At times such as the one we live in there is a pressing need to put aside prejudices, no matter how deep seated they are, and find a way to live in harmony. A wise Muslim elder in my community outside of Chicago once rightly told me that tolerance is not enough. Tolerating someone means that inwardly you do not really care for him or her, but are grudgingly showing some sort of acceptance. Instead, he told me that it is a time for love that does not know any boundaries. This blog was created not to promote tolerance but to spread genuine love.
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Surah al-Baqara: 285 “Aamana ar-rasoolu bima unzila ilayhi mir-rabbihi waal muminoon. kullun amana biAllahi, wa malaaikatihi, wa kutubihi, wa rusulihi, la nufarriqu bayna ahadim mir-rusulihi”
“The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Sustainer, and so also those who have faith. All of them believe in Allah, and His Angels, and His Books, and His Messengers, and cleave no distinctions in the Unity of His Messengers.”
Qur’an makes a clear distinction between “Muslim” and “Mu’min”, that is, between: those who have made “aslamtu”, public acceptance of the reality of God and His Messengers, and who are no longer actively fighting against faith, but for whom “faith has not yet entered their hearts”; and the people who are actually characterized by faith – real “Believers”.
The ayyat “aamina rasuul” makes clear that Mu’min – the only ones who may truly be called “Believers” – accept all of the Scriptures and all of the divine Messengers without exception, without “ranking” or “rating” them.
Because of this, Believers see that all the Scriptures must be considered as one Scripture, and all the worlds’ 124,000 Messengers (only very few of whose names are clearly mentioned in Qur’an, ‘Injil, Zabur, or Torah) must all be respected, and their messages and teachings must all be considered valid and true.
Believers may question how accurately the texts and teachings have been transmitted; and Believers may take exception when a people’s love and honor has led them to claim divine status for their Messenger; but when any people assert that they had a teacher who brought them guidance from God, or a Book, Believers will naturally accept the claim.
None of this means that the Believer has embraced the particular faith of another people. Qur’an states that every people has been given a particular set of religious practices, that they should adhere to. But there is no reason that the differences in our religions should ever be a cause for hostility among us. God made human beings into different peoples, so that we should continually encounter one another intimately (“ta’arafa”), and learn from one another.
God has assured us that there are many things in which we will differ; and that it is best for us to seek and discuss the points on which we agree. So, whenever we, as Muslims or Hindus (or Zoroastrians, Jains, Buddhists, Confucians – all religions with scriptures, members of the “Family of the Book”) consider the teachings of another Messenger or Scripture than our own, we need to look for the interpretation that we can hold true from within the view of our own faith.
When the wise have practiced this “cosmopolitanism” and inclusiveness, they and their societies have flourished; when this attitude and it’s practice is abandoned, societies fall in division and hostility. The inclusive view will always have hostile opposition; but those who truly believe know that if God is with them, they need never fear opposition
It is vitally important that the wise clearly show their attitude of respect and honor for other traditions of faith than their own. At the same time, they must clearly show that they have not abandoned their own tradition. Their example of the practice of the inclusive view is the precise (and only effective) means of teaching and transmitting that view through the larger society.
This is serious and difficult work. It is also the most rewarding endeavor that God has offered human beings; and the rewards are vast.
I look forward to learning from this forum! May the Opener of Every Way, open the way to success for Dharma Deen Alliance.
wa As-Salaamo Aleykum, wa Rahmatullah, wa Barakata Hu!
I’ve become a great enthusiastic about this blog. It’s the most beautiful alliance I’ve ever known. The comment from Rashid Patch is amazing as well. And it proves how spiritualized muslims can be. Please add me on facebook if both of you like to. My best wishes to you guys!