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Part 4: Similarity of the two divine messages
By Sultan Shahin

Part 1: Spiritual symbiosis
Part 2: Non-Muslims and co-existence
Part 3: The concept of jihad

TIRUPATI, South India - Research shows the distinct probability of Hindus being the lost ummah (people) of Prophet Noah, and thus one of the four major Ahl-e-Kitab (people bearing revealed books), communities that the Koran mentions repeatedly. These findings have still not percolated down to the Muslim masses. But this information has been welcomed as an intellectual confirmation of what Muslims have known intuitively for centuries. It also satisfies the students of comparative religion who have been amazed to find passages in the Vedas, Puranas, the Holy Koran, the Hadees and the Old and New Testaments that correspond to each other almost word for word.

Beginning with the term employed to describe themselves, dharma and deen (both meaning ways of life), and an emphatic assertion of the oneness of God (Ekam sat: la llaha lllallah), Islam and Hinduism share the vision of a moral order prevailing in the universe.

In a manner reminiscent of the Hindu guidance on social relations, the Koran, too, outlines essential components of relationships between people. These include respect, kindness, honesty, tolerance, self-restraint, patience, forgiveness and compassion. Such virtues apply between parents and children, spouses, business partners, neighbors and friends, regardless of gender. The following Koranic verses illustrate these ideals:

And as for the believers, both men and women, they are close unto one another: they [all] enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and are constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay heed unto God and His apostle. (9:71)

And vie with one another to attain your Sustainer's forgiveness and to a paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth which has been readied for the God-conscious who spend [in His way] in time of plenty and in time of hardship, and hold in check their anger, and pardon their fellow men because God loves the doers of good.(3:133-134)

And among his wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold there are messages indeed for people who think.(30:21)

And do good unto thy parents. Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in thy care, never say [a word of disdain] to them or scold them, but [always] speak unto them with reverent speech, and spread over them humbly the wings of thy tenderness, and say: "O my Sustainer! Bestow Thy grace upon them, even as they cherished and reared me when I was a child!" (17:23-24)

Similarly, both dharmas inform us of cosmic agencies keeping an account of all our deeds for which we will be made accountable. Take, for instance, the following verses from the Koran:

We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least, and if there be [no more than] the weight of a mustard seed, we will bring it [to account] ... and enough are we to take account. Al-Anbiya 21.47)

To these will be allotted what they have earned; and God is quick in account ... God will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is oft-forgiving, most forbearing. (Al-Baqara 2.20-22)

If God so willed, He could make you all one nation: But He leaves straying whom He pleases, and He guides whom He pleases: but ye shall certainly be called to account for all your actions. (An-Nahl 16.93)

Similarly both Hinduism and Islam talk about life after death, though in Islam there are differences of opinion about whether reincarnation constitutes a part of Islamic teachings as well.

Reincarnation in Islam
The Hindu belief in reincarnation is well known. But it is not known that the Koran refers as kafir (deviant) anyone who doesn't believe in the possibility of rebirth. Not many in India have perhaps come across the verses of the great mystic, Hazrat Jalal-ud-Deen Rumi, describing the process of evolution through reincarnation - from mineral and plant to animal and man and then to angelhood and beyond. Take the verses from the world famous Masnawi by Hazrat:

I died as mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was man.
Why should I fear?
When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as man,
To soar with angels blest;
But even from angelhood I must pass on ...

Another great mystic, Mansur al-Hallaj, famous for his formulation, Anal Haq (I am the truth: Aham Brahmo Asmi) wrote:

Like the herbage
I have sprung up many a time
On the banks of flowing rivers.
For a hundred thousand years
I have lived and worked
In every sort of body.

The Koran itself seems quite clear: "And you were dead, and He brought you back to life. And He shall cause you to die, and shall bring you back to life, and in the end shall gather you unto Himself." (2:28). The words "you were dead" can only mean that they had lived before becoming dead. And the words "in the end shall gather you unto Himself" could very well mean the attainment of moksha (release) rather than an eternal life in heaven or hell. Those who disagree, however, contend that "dead" is very commonly used for non-living things. "It does not necessarily mean that you were alive before being a non-living thing or dead." (S Abdullah Tariq in Islamic Voice, February 2002)

Responding to my published view that the concept of reincarnation may be a part of Islamic teaching as well, Tariq also quotes the following verses in support of his contention that reincarnation is not an aspect of Islamic teaching: "Every living being shall taste death, then unto us you will be returned." (29:57)"Until when death comes to a wrongdoer, he will say: 'Lord let me go back, that I may do good works in the world I have left behind'. Never! It is only a word which he will speak. Behind them, there shall stand a barrier till the day of resurrection." (23:99-100)"And spend of that with which we have provided you before death befalls any of you and he says: 'Reprieve me my Lord a while that I may give in charity and be among righteous'. But Allah reprieves no soul when its term expires and Allah has knowledge of all your actions." (63:10-11)"They [the unbelievers] will say: "Our Lord! Twice you have caused us death and twice you have given us life. We now confess our sins. Is there any way out [now]'?" (40:11)

But Tariq and other critics seem to be confusing reincarnation with transmigration of souls, which are not necessarily the same concepts. He goes on: "The theory of transmigration of souls popularly known as avagaman or punarjanam is non-existent even in the Hindu scriptures proclaimed as the word of God by them. Following are the declarations of two well-renowned scholars of Hindu philosophy. The rishis [seers] of the Vedic era were not aware of punarjanam (Rahul Sankrityayan, Darshan Digdarshan, Kitab Mahal Allahabad, 1992, page 388.

"In the ancient Indian literature, Chandogya [author of an Upanishad] was the first to talk of punarjanam ie besides parloka [the world hereafter] a being takes birth in this loka [this world] also according to deeds. (ibid P.403) There are dozens of Koran-like descriptions of heaven in Vedas, but at no place do the Vedas talk of humans taking rebirth in inferior moulds according to deeds. Much later, the philosophers of the Upanishads presented the idea of transmigration of souls."

Thus the debate goes on. One thing, however, is certain: most of the greatest saints Islam has produced believed in reincarnation and it does constitute a part of many Muslims' belief system. This is primarily caused by a reluctance on the part of many Muslims to believe that God will merely reward or punish human beings on the basis of a lifetime in which they may not have received the guidance necessary to improve their conduct. That God will just be reconciled to their being sent to an eternal life in heaven or hell withouttheir being given another chance to improve themselves becomes a proposition difficult to believe. The greatest mystic poet of Urdu, Mirza Ghalib said:
Ham ko maaloom hai jannat ki haqiqat lekin;
Dil ke bahlane ko Ghalib yeh Khyal achcha hai.

(I am aware of the reality of heaven;
But, O, Ghalib; it is a good thought, to beguile the heart.)

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Dec 25, 2003


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