Do You Know?
The much awaited dialogue by Dr. Zakir Naik and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on the topic.
The Concept of God in Hinduism and Islam
In The Light Of Sacred Scriptures
Took place in Bangalore in front of a jam packed crowd of about 50000, at the Palace Grounds on 21st Jan 2006.
Date : January 21, 2006.
Dr Zakir Naik : I started my talk by quoting a Verse from the glorious Qur’an from Surah Al-Imraan Chapter #3 Verse #64 which says : Qul ya ahla alkitabi (say oh people of the Book) taAAalawila kalimatin sawa-in baynana wabaynakum (come to common terms as in us and you) which is the first term? allanaAAbuda illa Allaha (that you worship none but Allah, Almighty God) wala nushrika bihishay-an (that we associate no partners with him) wala yattakhitha baAAdunabaAAdan arbaban min dooni Allahi (that we erect not among ourselves Lords and Patrons other than Allah) faintawallaw (if they turn back)faqooloo ishhadoo (say you bear witness) bi-anna muslimoona (that we are Muslims bowing our will to Allah Almighty God).
This Verse of the glorious Qur’an though it particularly speaks to the ahle kithaab, the Jews and Christians, it is meant for all different types of people, it says “taAAalawila kalimatin sawa-in baynana wabaynakum.” (come to common terms as with us and you) which is the first term? allanaAAbuda illa Allaha (that you worship none but God Almighty) wala nushrika bihishay-an (that we associate no partners with him).
It is not appropriate to try and understand a religion or to try and understand the concept of God in a religion, by observing the followers of that religion; because many a times the followers of that religion, they themselves may not be aware about the religion or the concept of God in the religion; neither it is appropriate to observe or look at the traditions or the cultures of the followers of the religion because many of the cultures and traditions may not be part of the religion.
The best and the most authentic way to understand any religion or the concept of God in a religion is to try and understand what the sacred scriptures have to speak about that religion or the concept of God in that religion.
Let us understand what is the meaning of the words Hinduism and Islam.
The word Hindu has geographical significance and was used to describe the people living beyond the river Sindhu or people living in the land watered by river Indus. Most of the historians, they say, that this word Hindu was first used by the Arabs. Some historians say it was used by the Persians when they came to India through the north western passes of Himalaya. According to encyclopedia of religion and ethics, Volume #6, Reference #699, it says that the word Hindu was not found in any of the Indian literature before the advent of the Muslims to India. According to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, he writes in his Book “the discovery of India” on page #74 and #75 that the word Hindu can be earliest traced to a source a tantrik in 8th century and it was used initially to describe the people, it was never used to describe religion. Its connection with religion is of late occurrence according to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The word Hinduism is derived from the word Hindu. The word Hinduism was first used by the English writers in the 19th century to describe the multiplicity of faiths of the people of India. According to new Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume #20, Reference #581, it says the word Hinduism was first used by the British writers in the year 1830 to describe the multiplicity of the faiths of the people of India excluding the converted Christians. That is the reason today, majority of the Hindu scholars they say that the word Hinduism is a misnomer. The correct word should be Sanatan Dharm, the eternal religion or the Vedic Dharm, the religion of the Vedas. According to Swami Vivekananda, he says the word Hindu is a misnomer; the correct word should
be a Vendantist, a person who follows the Vedas.
The word Islam comes from the root Arabic word salam, which means peace. It is also derived from the Arabic word silm, which means to submit your will to Almighty God. In short, Islam means peace acquired by submitting your will to Almighty God and this word Islam occurs in several places in the Qur’an and the Sahih Hadith including in the Qur’an in Surah Al-Imraan, Chapter #3 Verse #19 and Surah Al- Imraan Chapter #3 Verse #85. Any person who acquires peace by submitting his will to Almighty God, to Allah, he is called as a Muslim and this word Muslim also occurs in several places in the Qur’an and the Sahih Hadith including in the Qur’an in Surah Al-Imraan Chapter #3 Verse #64 and Surah Fussilat Chapter #41 and Verse #33.
Many people have misconception that Islam is a new religion, which came into existence 1400 years ago and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the founder of this religion. In fact, Islam is there since time immemorial. Since man set foot on the earth, and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is not the founder of this religion but he is the last and final messenger sent by Almighty God, the last and final Prophet.
If we ask the common Hindu that how many Gods does he believe in? Some may say 3, some may say 100, some may say 1000, while others may say 33 crores, 330 millions. But if you ask a learned Hindu who is well Versed with his Hindu scriptures, he will tell you that in Hinduism you should believe and worship only one God. But the common Hindu, he believes in a philosophy known as pantheism, everything is God. The common Hindu believes that the tree is God, the sun is God, the moon is God, the human being is God, the snake is God. What we Muslims believe is everything is God’s, everything belongs to God’s, ‘G’ ‘O’ ‘D’ with an apostrophe ‘s’; the tree belongs to God, the sun belongs to God, the moon belongs to God, the human being belongs to God, the snake belongs to God. So the major difference between the common Hindu and the common Muslim is that the common Hindu says everything are Gods, we Muslim say everything is God’s.
Let us try and understand what would the sacred scriptures of Hinduism have to speak about Almighty God.
It is mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad Chapter #6, Section #2, Verse #1; ekam evaditiyam God is only one without a second. It is a Sanskrit quotation. “I know that I am speaking in front of a great scholar of Vedas Sri Sri Ravi Shankar I am just a student. So if my Sanskrit pronunciation is a bit poor, I would like to apologize. He is a great scholar of the Veda, I am just a student of Islamic comparative religion as well a student of the Hindu scriptures and the Vedas.
It is mentioned in Swethaswethara Upanishad, Chapter #6, Verse #9, Na casya kasuj janita na cadhipah, which means of him of Almighty God, there are no parents they have got no lord. Almighty God has no true father, he has no true mother, he has no true superior.
It is mentioned in the Swethaswethara Upanishad; Chapter #4, Verse #19 Na Tasya Pratima Asti of that God there is no Prathima, there is no likeness, there is no image, there is no picture, there is no photograph, there is no sculpture, there is no statue.
It is mentioned in Swethaswethara Upanishad; Chapter #4, Verse #20; no one can see the Almighty God and it is further mentioned in Bhagwat Gita Chapter #7, Verse #20; all those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires, they worship many Gods. Some of the translation says that all those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires, they worship idols and this quotation is also mentioned by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in his Book “Hinduism and Islam the common thread” in the section of not worshiping other Gods on page #3. He gives the quotation but does not give the reference. The reference is Bhagwat Gita Chapter #7 Verse #20.
It is further mentioned in Bhagwat Gita Chapter #10 Verse #3, that they know me as the unborn not begotten, the supreme lord of the world. Amongst all the Hindu scriptures, the most sacred are the Vedas.
It is mentioned in Yajur-Ved Chapter #32, Verse #3 Na Tasya Pratima Asti of that God there is no Prathima. Prathima as I said, means likeness, image, picture, photo, sculpture, statue.
It is further mentioned in Yajur-Ved Chapter #40 Verse #8 Almighty God is imageless and pure.
It is further mentioned in Yajur-Ved Chapter #40 Verse #9 Andhatma pravishanti ye asambhuti mupaste. Andhatma means darkness,pravishanti means entering, and Asambhuti means the natural things like fire, water, air. They are entering darkness those who worship the natural things like fire, water, air, etc and the Verse continues, they are entering more in darkness those who worship the Sambhuti. The Sambhuti are the created things like tables, chairs, etc; who says that? Yajur-Ved Chapter #40 Verse #9.
It is further mentioned in Atharva-Ved Book #20 Hymn #58 Manthra #3 Dev maha osi verily great is Almighty God; and amongst the Vedas, the most sacred is the Rig-Ved.
It is mentioned in the Rig-Ved Book #1, Hymn #164, Manthra #46, ekkam sat vipra bhuda vidyante Truth is one, God is one, sages call him by various names. God is one but the saintly people call him by many names and there are no less than 33 names given to Almighty God in Rig-Ved Book #2 Hymn #1 alone. One of them is Brahma. The Brahma is called as the creator. If you translate creator into Arabic, it means khaaliq. We Muslims have got no objection if someone says that Almighty God is khaaliq or Creator, but if someone says this Almighty God has got 4 heads and on each head is a crown, you are giving an image to Almighty God. We Muslims take strong exception to it. More over, you are going against Swethaswethara Upanishad Chapter #4 Verse #19 which says Na Tasya Pratima Asti, of that God there are no images.
The other name given to Almighty God in Rig-Ved, Book #2, Hymn #1, Verse #3 is Vishnu. Vishnu is called as the God who is the sustainer. If you translate Sustainer into Arabic, it is somewhat similar to Rabb. We Muslims have got no objection if someone calls Almighty God as Rabb or Sustainer, but if someone says he is Almighty God who has got 4 hands and giving an image to Almighty God, in one hand is the lotus, the second hand is the conch, traveling on the sea on the bed of snakes, we Muslims take strong objection to it. Moreover you are going against the Yajur-Ved, Chapter #32, Verse #3 which says Na Tasya Pratima Asti of that God there is no prathima. There is no likeness, there is no image, there is no picture, there is no statue, no sculpture. It is further mentioned in Rig-Ved Book #8, Hymn #1, Manthra #1 Ma chitanidi sansad worship him alone, one God, praise him alone. It is mentioned in Rig-Ved, Book #6, Hymn #45 Manthra #16, praise him alone, worship that one God and the Brahma Sutra of Hinduism is dvitiya naste neh na naste kinchan Bhagwan ek hi hai doosra nahi hai, nahi hai, nahi hai, zara bhi nahi hai. There is only one God not a second one, not at all, not at all, not in the least bit. So, if you read the Hindu scriptures, you shall understand the concept of God in Hinduism in the light of the sacred scriptures.
Let us understand the concept of God in Islam.
The best reply anyone can give you from the scriptures is quote to you Surah Ikhlaas, Chapter #112 Verse # 1 to 4 which says Qul Hu-wallaahu Ahad (say he is Allah one and only) Allaahus-Samad (Allah the absolute and eternal) Lam yalid, wa lam yuulad (he begets not nor is he begotten) walum yakul-la-Huu kufu-wan ahad (there is nothing like him). This is a 4-line definition of Allah subhaanawa thaala, of Almighty God given in the Qur’an. If any person says so and so candidate is God, if that candidate fits in this 4- line definition, we Muslims have got no objection in accepting that candidate as God. The first is Qul Huwallaahu Ahad (say he is Allah one and only) God is only one without a second. ekam evaditiyam Chandogya Upanishad Chapter #6, section #2, Verse #1. The second is Allaahus- Samad (Allah the absolute and eternal) same as Bhagwat Gita Chapter #10 Verse #3, they know me as unborn not begotten without a beginning, supreme Lord of the world. The third test is Lam yalid, wa lam yuulad (he begets not nor is he begotten) same as Swethaswethara Upanishad Chapter #6 Verse #9 Na casya kasuj janita na cadhipah of him there are no parents, no lords. Almighty God has got no mother, has got no father, he has got no superior. The fourth test is walum yakul-la-Huu kufu-wan ahad (there is nothing like him). Swethaswethara Upanishad Chapter #4, Verse #19, Yajur-Ved Chapter #32 Verse #3 Na Tasya Pratima Asti of that God there is no prathima, there is no likeness, there is no image, there is no picture, there is no statue. If any person says so and so candidate is God, if that candidate fits in these 4-line definition which we discussed of the Qur’an and the Hindu sacred scriptures, I have got no objection accepting that candidate as God.
We Muslims, we prefer calling Allah with the Arabic word Allah instead of the English word God because a person can play mischief with the English word God. But when any Muslim is speaking to the non Muslim, who may not understand the meaning of Allah and uses the English word God like what I am doing today, I have got no objection but I would like to mention that God is not the appropriate translation of the Arabic word Allah and this word Allah is mentioned in the scriptures of all the major world religions including Hinduism.
It is mentioned in Rig-Ved Book #2, Hymn #1, Verse #11, one of the names of God is given as Allah. Allah is also mentioned in Rig-Ved, Book #3, Hymn #30 Manthra #10 and also in Rig-Ved Book #9, Hymn #67, Manthra #30, there is a separate Upanishad by the name of AllOpanishad which is also mentioned in one of the books of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a separate Upanishad, that is AllOpanishad.
This was in brief regarding the concept of God in Islam according to the sacred scriptures of Islam.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ACCEPTS MISTAKES in his BOOK “Hinduism and Islam – The Common Thread”
I know there are mistakes in that book. I have told before also; this book was printed in an emergency, in urgency, when there was riots in Gujarat. I wanted this book to immediately go. I did not go to big scholars because I do not know much about Quran. I MYSELF NOT A BIG SCHOLAR.