ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT
Hinduism is the name given to a religion originally known as Sanatana Dharma, meaning, the Eternal Law. It had its origin in the pre-Aryan civilisation, and was a faith based on cultural, social, political and philosophical beliefs.
It is a way of life developed by the ancient sages (rishis), on the basis of inspiration they received, perhaps from divine sources. These inspirations were put together as books, the first set being the Vedas.
As a result of the way this religion came into existence no one person can claim to be its founder and there are no specific doctrines of beliefs that can be called its creed.
Hindu scholars accept the fact that a follower of this faith can have any type of concept of God. He or she can even believe in many gods, etc. and the person can still be considered to be a good Hindu. Thus, in it can be found elements of paganism, polytheism, theism, monotheism, pantheism, etc.
Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehro wrote about this faith, in his book, The Discovery of India, p.37, as follows:
Hinduism as a faith is vague, amorphous, many sided, all things to all men. It is hardly possible to define it, or indeed to say whether it is a religion or not, in the usual sense of the word. In its present form, and even in the past, it embraces many beliefs and practices, from the highest to the lowest, often opposed to or contradicting each other.
Monier Williams, in his book, Brahmanism and Hinduism, 1891, p.11, wrote as follows:
"it has something to offer which is suited to all minds. Its very strength lies in its infinite adaptability to the infinite diversity of human characters and human tendencies. It has its highly spiritual and abstract side suited to the metaphysical philosophers—its practical and concrete side suited to the man of affairs and man of the world—its aesthetic and ceremonial side suited to the man of poetic feeling and imagination—its quiescent and contemplative side suited to the man of peace and lover of seclusion. Nay, it holds out the right hand of brotherhood to nature-worshippers, demon-worshippers, animal-worshippers, tree-worshippers, fetish-worshippers. It does not scruple to permit the most grotesque forms of idolatry, and the most degrading varieties of superstition. And it is to this fact that yet another remarkable peculiarity of Hinduism is mainly due—namely, that in no other system in the world is the chasm more vast which separates the religion of the higher, cultured, and thoughtful classes from that of the lower, uncultured, and unthinking masses.
Swami Sivananda writes as follows:
Hinduism is a religion of freedom. It allows absolute freedom to the human reason and heart with regard to question such as nature of God, soul, creation, form of worship and the goal of life. Hinduism does not lie in the acceptance of any particular doctrine, nor in the observance of some particular rituals or form of worship. It does not force anybody to accept particular dogmas or forms of worship. It allows everybody to reflect, investigate, enquire and cogitate. Hence, all sorts of religious faiths, various forms of worship or Sadhana, and diverse kinds of rituals and customs, have found their honourable places side by side within Hinduism and are cultured and developed in harmonious relationship with one another. (All About Hinduism. P.5)
One of the reasons why there are so many different types of beliefs and religious practices in this faith is because of the incorporation of the cultures and religious practices of the Dravidians and Harappans by the Aryans who migrated into the Indian sub-continent, and found these people with various types of beliefs and forms of worship.
Origin of the Name:
The word Hindu is not a religious word. It is secular in origin, and is the name given by Foreigners hundreds of years later to a faith which had its origin in pre-Aryans civilization.
The ancient Greek and Armenians used to refer to the people living along the Indus River as Hindus. This name gradually became popular and all of them were called Hindus, no matter what their belief and religious practices were.
Another theory is that the Persians used to call the river Hindu, the land along the river was known to them as Hindustan, the people living along the river were called Hindus, and their religion was called Hinduism.
When the Muslim came to India, they used to call all the locals Hindustani in order to distinguish them from the foreign Muslims.
The name Hindu for the locals of the Indian sub-continent was formalised by the British. This was taken from an inscription which is as follows: The country lying between the Himalayan mountain and bindu sarova. From then onwards, all the people of India, who are not Christians or Muslims are called Hindus.
Because Hinduism is based on the practice of Dharma, it is not, in the strict sense of the word, a religion. This is one reason why it has no single founder, as the upholders of this lifestyle is only concerned with the practice of Dharma, they are free to question anything that may be found in the Sacred Scriptures or even the existence of the Divine.
The Vedas and the Upanishads do not preach any particular religion, nor do they spell out a list of dos and don'ts. This is one reason why a Hindu can believe anything or worship anything in any way he likes and there will be no objection for him doing so.
Origin of Islam:
The word "Islam" means: to resign ones will to Allah, to submit, to obey.
According to Islamic teachings, all the Prophets appointed by Allah preached recognition and submission to the One True God, (Allah), Who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and man.
The Holy Qur'an records about this in the following verse:
Say, We believe in Allah and what had been sent down to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Joseph and the Tribes; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and the Prophets from the Lord; we make no difference between them, and to Him (Allah) we submit ourselves. (5:78-79)
The dos and don'ts in Islam are from the divine commands and are preserved in the Holy Qur'an. No one is authorised to make any changes in what was revealed; as a result the Islamic Laws are constant throughout the ages.
Islam was not given to the people by Prophet Muhammad (pboh); it was divinely revealed. The name was given to this Faith, by Allah. He says:
And strive in His (Allah) cause as you ought to strive, (i.e. with sincerity and discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion. It is He Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation). (22:78)
From this verse it can be seen that Prophet Muhammad (pboh) did not name his followers Muslims; the name was given by Allah Himself.
As to the name of the Religion, Allah revealed in the Holy Qur'an the following verse:
This day I have perfected for you your Religion, and completed My favours upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3)
Islam is a complete and perfect way of life for man. It was practiced by Prophet Muhammad (pboh) who became the universal model for the followers of the Faith. There is no need to add or deduct anything from what was divinely revealed. There is no need to change or alter what was originally prescribed. Those who uphold what is commanded are guaranteed reward and those who reject are warned of terrible consequences. Allah tells us about the way of life as a Muslim in the following revelation contained in the Qur'an:
We have not sent you (O Muhammad) but as a universal model to mankind; giving them Glad Tidings and warning them (against sins), but most of mankind do not understand (34:28).
Islam is thus a perfect way of life given to mankind by the Lord of the worlds. It was the way revealed to all the messengers and was practiced by all of mankind beginning with Adam. It is the way of submission, and by so doing one gets peace of mind in this life and Paradise, i.e. the abode of peace, in the next. Every messenger taught something of Islam to their followers, according to the requirement of their time and place, as they were either sent to particular tribes or to a specified place. But when Prophet Muhammad came, his mission was for the whole of mankind, and only then was the complete way of life given, and it was only then that the name Islam was given and its followers called Muslims, meaning those who submit.
Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:
The Religion before Allah is Islam (i.e. the way of submission to His will). (3:19)
So if they dispute with you (O Muhammad), Say: I have submitted my whole self to Allah, and so have those who follow me. (3:20)
SOUL, SIN, SALVATION
Concept of Soul in Hinduism:
The origin of the soul is one that has engaged the attention of the Hindu scholars all through the ages, and they have put forward many theories.
One theory is that the universe and God is one reality, i.e. God exists in everything. The difference between (God) and the souls on earth is just a perception existing in the mind of the person. From this we learn that the souls are not separate from God even when they are in earthly bodies.
This is one of the reasons why, the upholders of this theory believe that the world is not real. It is an illusion (maya). God entering into physical forms as a soul remains unchanged. It is the form that deceives the beholder, not the soul within.
Another theory is that the souls separated themselves from God in the beginning which is called creation. From then they both existed independently. However, the souls remain similar to God except that they exist in space and time.
This soul undergoes births and deaths until it becomes liberated through its own efforts. It is believed that, at the time of death, the soul throws off one body or changes it just like a person changing one garment for another.
It is very difficult for some people, even Hindus, to understand how it is possible for the same soul to function in an entirely new body like a new creature, without experiencing any form of variations in its constitution.
From this, one can conclude that the soul is not the owner of the body, although some people are tempted to think that their bodies belong to them. That is why they say, for example, "my body".
All the schools of thought in this religion agree that the souls came from God. As each soul undertakes its cosmic journey, it manifests itself in different forms (bodies) and at the time of the death of the body in which it resides, it goes into another.
As a result of this transfer the previous body no longer exists, As a matter of fact, that person no longer exists in the cosmos anywhere. Such a person only exists in the minds and thoughts of those who came into contact with him or her in one way or another.
Birth and death are necessary stages for the atman (soul); as it is only through this process that the soul can reach the end of the cosmic journey and become liberated.
No one has control over birth and death; and no one can say how long it will take the soul to reach the end of the cosmic journey. The body is dead matter; it is the soul that gives it life like the current which causes the microphone to give out a sound. The soul is thus the active principle in the body.
It is believed that the soul is a spark of light residing in the heart of the human being. It manifested the body and not vice-versa. Upon death the soul leaves the body to decay.
The earthly phases through which the soul passes are based on desires and it is thus attracted to material things.
Concept of Soul in Islam:
In Islam the soul is called ruh. It is a special non-physical creation that Allah puts in the bodies of human beings, after these bodies are completely formed and fashioned in the mother. Some scholars are of the opinion that the soul enters the body in the fourth month after conception. At that time the body is alive and functioning in its limited way.
The soul of one human being does not enter into another, and at the time of death the souls of every one go into another state of existence in a place called barrzakh. There it is waiting to join the same body on the day of resurrection, after which it shall be judged and rewarded or punished.
Because the soul is of extremely refined light and is not conditioned by space and time, it can have spiritual contact with the Lord of the worlds and can experience things that the physical body may be incapable of experiencing.
The soul can be defiled or polished; all depends on the lifestyle of the individual. The mission of life is to keep the soul pure and clean; and this can be done by upholding what Allah says is permissible ma'ruf and avoiding what is munkar prohibited. The activities of the body impact on the soul through the nafs translated as desire, ego and ambition.
Every single soul enters the body with the knowledge that there is only one Creator of the universe and He is Allah, besides Whom there is no other god. He is the only Creator and as a result everything else are creatures with a beginning and an end. So the Creator and creatures are different from each other.
Each person can attain the state of peace and tranquillity depending on the way he or she conducts his or her life here on earth. Some people find peace of mind here while all those who adhered to Tawheed (belief that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad (pboh) is the Messenger of Allah) will ultimately dwell in the abode of peace.
An important observation:
According to the teachings of Hinduism, the soul is God or from the Divine. It manifests a body on earth, and upon death of that body it goes into another. The dead body decays and no longer exists. The soul goes on its journey in another body. It means that the person in whom the soul formerly resides does not now exist in any form. As a result Hindus should not pray for their dead, as that person or persons no longer exist in any plain of existence.
In Islam the soul of the deceased person exists, and remains identified to the person and his or her deeds. Also, the original piece of earth (perhaps a tiny cell) from which he was created also remains preserved in the earth. In this connection Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said:
As for every son of Adam, the earth will devour him except that out of which he was created and therein he will be formed on the Resurrection Day.
Because there will be a day of Judgment, up to that point in time, the person can benefit from deeds and prayers of others on its behalf. As a result it is permissible for Muslims to pray for the forgiveness of their deceased relatives and all believers that went before, from the time of Adam.
As a matter of fact, Allah taught believers to pray as follows:
Our Lord, forgive us and our brethren who came before us in Faith. (59:10)
Concept of Sin in Hinduism
A sin, according to Hindu teachings, is an act performed, which is against a person's Dharma. It is not a crime against God as a good Hindu may not even believe in the existence of a god.
Sin can be a wrongful act or an act that may have negative consequences. It is called by several names in Sanskrit. It can be resolved by penance and good deeds.
In the Bhagwat Gita, (v.33-34), a sin is described as, abandoning one's duty, like running away from the battle field. The understanding is that in the cycle of birth and death, one has certain obligations, if he/she wants to ascend in the next life. In order to do so a person has to undertake the obligations of this life and must exhaust all the avenues in so doing. This will impact on the mind and will thus help prevent the person from making errors of judgment which are considered to be sins.
According to Hinduism, sin is in a person's mind, so if a person has sinful thoughts, he can get rid of it by adhering to the spiritual discipline; one way of doing so is to suppress the ego.
The ego creates desires and desires are the cause of rebirth in a higher or lower body. When the ego is controlled or suppressed the person attains liberation and becomes free from sins.
Another important point in the definition of what is a sin; is that which prevents a person from developing inner peace. This can be prevented by not harming others, not being greedy, truthfulness and helping the poor.
When a Hindu speaks about sin he is taking into consideration one of three things. These are:
• ignorance of truth (avidya)
• attributing reality to empirical personhood (maya)
• selfish or the asserting of the self as an individual (mala)
Good and evil depends on one's soul attachment or detachment to the material world and to the physical self.
Concept of Sin in Islam
According to the teachings of Islam, many words are used in the Qur'an to indicate what a sin is. Some of these are:
• Suu-in: It (a thing) was or became evil, bad, abominable, foul, unseemly, unsightly or ugly.
• Zambun: offence, fault, sin.
• Ismun: crime, felony, sin.
It is necessary to keep in mind that the human personality comprises of a body and a soul. The soul which was created from very refined light is inflammable, while the material body can burn.
Religious prescription, if followed, enables the light of the soul to penetrate the cells of the material body, thereby preventing it from becoming liable to be burnt in the hell-fire in the hereafter. That is possible if the person believes that there is only One God name Allah, and stays away from prohibited things.
Allah tells us about this in the Holy Qur'an in the following verse:
You are the best of people who grew out of the human species; you enjoin what is right; you forbid what is wrong and you believe in Allah. (3:110)
A sin is like a dark spot or stain on the soul. It is the result of indulgence in one or more of the prohibited things (haraam). It springs from the desires which may not necessarily conform to what is permissible.
As sin is the product of the working of the physical body in activities that are prohibited, it can be controlled. This is due to the fact that every human is given a free will, i.e. the power to choose. Because of this free will a person can refrain from indulging if he so desire.
The consequences of sins can be serious or trifle, depending on the nature of the act committed. Some sins are forgivable by Allah, while others He may not forgive. He says:
Verily, Allah does not forgive (the sin of) setting up partners in worship with Him; but He forgives whom He pleases, sins other that that. (4:116)
Prophet Muhammad (pboh) gave much needed guidance regarding avoiding prohibited things. For example, he is reported to have said:
Abstain from seven ruinous destructive things, viz.
1. associating anything with Allah
3. killing anyone without reason
4. taking interest on money
5. taking the property of the orphan
6. running away on the day of battle
7. accusing an innocent woman with adultery.
Sins can be forgiven if a person sincerely repents for them. They can also be atoned for through fasting, feeding the poor, etc. But the sinner should try to refrain from making the same mistake again.
The pre-requisites for repentance are:
• to be sorry for the sin committed
• to seek pardon
• to desist from committing the same sin again.
The Islamic position regarding forgiveness of sins is that it is Allah Who forgives. As a result, one entertains hope for His forgiveness. Also no person can be held responsible for another person's sins. Allah says:
Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself; no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another. (6:164)
Islam teaches that a person must remain alert at all times and be on the look out for the evil one who comes in many disguised ways to divert the focus of the person from Allah. As a result no one is immune from committing sins. For this reason one has to be constantly asking Allah for forgiveness for sins committed knowingly and unknowingly.
In this faith salvation is the separation of the eternal soul from the phenomenal world. The soul when separated will be no longer subjected to the cycle of re-birth; as it has reached the state of moksha.
Some scholars (samkhaya school of thought), are of the view that, when the soul is said to have attained salvation, it is believed to have returned to a state of pure consciousness, and has become emancipated from all forms of non-self.
Another school (Vedanta), upholds that the soul enters into some form of mystical union with God (Brahma). It is as though it is in a dreamless sleep; and is no longer conscious of the empirical self. In this state the soul (atman) realises its true nature with Brahma. This is found in the Unpanishads; for example, there is the verse as follows: I am Brahma. (Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad:1)
For many Hindus, salvation is the state of bhakti. This means that devotee has devoted himself to God. The stages of attaining this are as follows:
Selfless actions: This includes observation of religious duties, even though there may be no specific reason for doing so.
Religious duties: In this state a person performs ritualistic worship, or indulges in meditation. It is also realised through the medium of love, for example, a person shows love to others. It can also be upheld by expressing absolute surrender to God.
Higher knowledge: The seeker acquaints himself with knowledge and also acquire spiritual insight. This stage leads to moksha i.e. the union with Brahma.
Some scholars are of the view that salvation can be attained in the following ways, viz.
1 Action: This includes observance of religious ceremonies, duties and rites.
2 Knowledge: To use the mind along with philosophy to comprehend the origin and working of the universe.
3 Devotion: Worshipping the gods.
4 Meditation: Using yoga techniques.
The concept of salvation in Hinduism seems to have taken different meanings in the different periods. To mention some:
1. Pre-Vedic In this period salvation was attained by worshipping creatures, e.g. trees, animals, etc.
2. Vedic period: In this period the emphasis was on nature worship, i.e. worship of sun, moon, stars, etc. Prayer for the forgiveness of sins was also introduced.
3. Brahma period: In this period the emphasis was on sacrifice, and a lot of animals were sacrificed to the gods.
4. Upanishadic period: The emphasis during this period was the acquisition of knowledge of Cosmic power, i.e. to understand that everything is Brahma.
One can conclude that there is no specific way of attaining salvation, nor is there any specific definition of what salvation is.
Salvation according to Islamic teachings is to be successful in the life Hereafter. In other words the person will be spared of the torment of the Hell fire, and will be sent to the Garden of Paradise.
In order for one to be successful or to have received salvation, two things are necessary. These are:
1. Belief: Every human being is supposed to believe that there is only one Creator of the universe and His name is Allah. He says:
And call not, besides Allah, on another god. There is no god but He. Everything that came into existence (as creatures) will perish, except His Face. To Him belongs the Command. (28:89)
No creature can ever be like the Creator; as a result, Allah says in the Holy Qur'an that to ascribe a partner with Him is an unforgivable sin. He says:
Verily, Allah does not forgive (the sin of) setting up partners in worship with Him. But He forgives who He pleases, sins other than that. And who so sets up partners in worship with Allah has indeed strayed far away. (4:116)
2. Righteous Deeds: Islam gives to the believers a complete code of life, and it is expected that the faithful will follow what is prescribed in the perfect and complete divinely revealed Book, called the Holy Qur'an.
This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you and chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3)
Life in this world is a preparatory ground for the next. So by adhering to the dos and abstaining from the don'ts a person shall be successful, and shall be considered as righteous. About this Allah says:
It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the east or the west; but righteousness is to believe in Allah and the Last Day; and the Angels, and the Books, and the Messengers; to spend out of ones substance, out of love for Him, for ones kin, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, for those who ask and for the ransom of slaves; to the steadfast in prayer; to give Zakaat; to fulfil the contract which one made; to be firm and patient in pain (or suffering), adversity and throughout the periods of panic. (2:177)
The Qur'an teaches that man is liable to make mistakes, and should turn towards the Lord, seeking His Forgiveness, upon realisation that an error was committed. About this Allah says;
Be foremost (in seeking) forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden the width whereof is as the width of the skies and the earth prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That is the Grace of Allah, which He bestows on whom He pleases; and Allah is the Lord of Grace abounding. (57:21)
Islam teaches that sin is impurity while good deeds purify the believers. The unrepentant sinner will not be able to enter the Garden of Paradise, as it is only for the pure. As a result, every person, which comprises a body and a soul can qualify him or herself to enter that place through belief and by working righteous deeds.
As each soul is attached to only one body and shall never be sent into another, it waits upon death in a place called Barrzakh until the Command will be given to re-enter the same body that would have been resurrected.
On the Day of Resurrection all the souls of every human being that came on the earth will join the bodies in which they resided while one earth; then it will be judgment. After this whole exercise is complete, the righteous shall enter the Garden of Bliss and the evil one will go in a place of torment and torture called Hell.
CONCEPT OF GOD
A person with any type of belief can be a Hindu, whether he is theist, deist, atheist, polytheist, pantheist or monotheist.
There are two main divisions in Hinduism, viz. Philosophical Hinduism and Popular Hinduism.
Philosophical Hinduism: Pantheism with high philosophical fervour, joined to monotheistic approach, on the one hand, and to philosophised idol-worship, on the other.
Nature-worship and Fetish-worship, representing the approach to the metaphysical Reality and grounded in rank Polytheism. (Ansari, Dr. F.R. Qur'anic Foundation and Structure of Muslim Society, vol.1. pp.107-108)
Who is a good Hindu?
The only requirements for consideration in this faith are:
• subscription to certain rites and rituals
• observance of certain social customs
• observance of certain festivals
• must be born of a Hindu family
• must call Bharat (India) the mother country.
Some scholars define a Hindu as follows:
• A Hindu is he who believes that the Vedas contain self-evident and axiomatic truths.
• A Hindu is one who believes in a religion which has originated in India
• Those who burn the dead are Hindus.
• He who protects the cows and the Brahmins is a Hindu
• A Hindu is one who regards India as his motherland and the most sacred spot on earth
• He who call and considers himself a Hindu is a Hindu
• He who accepts the Vedas, the Smritis, the Puranas and the Tantras as the basis of religion and of the rule of conduct, and believes in one Supreme God (Brahma), in the Law of Karma or retributive justice, and in reincarnation is a Hindu.
• He who is a follower of the Vedanta is a Hindu
• He who has a perfect faith in the Law of Karma, the law of reincarnation, Avatara, ancestor worship, Vedas and existence of God, he who practises the instruction given in the Vedas with faith and earnestness, he who does Sandhaya, Sraddha, Pitri-Tarpana and Pancha-Maha-Yajnas, he who follows the Varnashrama-Dharmas, he who worships the Avataras and studies the Vedas, is a Hindu. (All About Hinduism,Swami Sivananda, pp.9-10)
Doctrines in Hinduism:
This faith is made up of the following doctrines.
• Belief in one God as well as in many gods
• Belief in the Sacred Books. These are: the four Vedas, Upanishads, Brahamanas, Bhagwat Geeta, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Shastras, Puranas and Tantras.
• Belief in the caste system
• Idol worship
• Transmigration of the soul
• Magic, talisman, ghost, etc.
• Animal sacrifice,
• Certain festivals.
There is no specific founder of Hinduism, nor is there any specific form of theology associated with the faith. It seems as though the movement of the Aryans southward influenced the Dravidans and Harappan with whom they interacted. They were also influenced by these people and adopted some of their beliefs and cultures.
A Unique Faith:
A Hindu may believe in the existence or in the non-existence of a deity, yet he remains one; he may accept religion or may not do so but he is still considered to be one. The "Trinity of Gods" (Brahmin, Shiva and Vishnu) may not show any discrimination between a god and demon, while bestowing favours on them, as long as they fulfilled the required conditions.
There are many contradictions in the beliefs of this faith, however, the upholders of it do not consider them to be irreconcilable, as, at the deeper level, they all emerge into one harmonious whole, even though at the surface they seem to contradict one another.
According to the teachings of this faith, when one goes beyond the sensory field there are hardly any rules, as, whatever that is within the field of illusion is also strictly a part of illusion and as the world is illusion and all human beings are living in it they are also in a state of illusion.
This religion teaches that when one goes beyond the field of sensory perception there are hardly any rules to follow. Because of such a belief, the Hindu society is a very complex one. It consists of divergent beliefs and practices, worshipping different gods and belonging to different social and caste backgrounds, yet, there is something that binds them together; and no matter how different the beliefs and practices one person may have from another, they will all be considered to be true Hindus.
Hindu Scriptures are divided into two categories, viz. Sruti and Smriti. Sruti refers to what was heard and may be said to be the "eternal truths of religion". These compilations were heard by the rishis (men of God), not from earthly creatures, but from the Divine, and were transmitted orally. These holy men were pure and perfectly reflected the eternal truths. Their disciples recorded the truths they narrated, and these records became known as the Vedas.
In the beginning the mantras (couplets) of the Vedas were preserved intact, but with the passage of time they were changed and ultimately became adulterated. Writing about the changes that took place in the text of the Vedas, Dr.Ravi Prakash Arya wrote:
From the very beginning of their composition, the Vedas along with their intent were handed down by the original seers to their heirs. They continued to be preserved in the long uninterrupted tradition of Vedic Scholiasts. De grado in grado with the passage of time, not only did the mantras undergo several textual variations and alterations, the actual intent also faded away from the memories of their inheritors. Keeping in view these problems, the texts which were preserved orally before were documented along with their intent in order to save them from further corruption and deterioration. (Samveda Samhita; Introduction, p.37-38)
Islam supports the view that every nation had Divine Guidance. In the Holy Qur'an Allah says:
Every nation had a Guide (Messenger) (13:7)
It could have been that the rishis were Messengers of God appointed to bring the divine message to the people of that part of the world. This was given to them through inspiration. But, like all the other messages (except the Qur'an) given to the numerous Messengers, they underwent changes through the passage of time and became adulterated.
Concept of God in Islam:
Islam upholds the principle, in the strictest sense of the word that God is One and has no partner. (pure Monotheism). The Islamic deity is not merely god (Ilah) but "the God" (Allah). He is not merely an object of ritualistic worship, but the Possessor of all the dimensions of Highest Excellence—indeed, of Absolute Perfection. He is the Fountainhead of all Values and Ideals. He is the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Omnipresent, the Infinite, the Absolute, the One and the Indivisible God, Who neither incarnates nor has any Partner or Son or Compeer. He is Transcendent in His Being and Immanent in the cosmos through His Love, Knowledge and Power. He is the Creator, the Sustainer, the Nourisher and Evolver of everything that constitutes the cosmos, equally. He is the Righteous God Who bestows no special favour on any individual or community on the basis of such distinctions as those of race or colour—nay, even in respect of mere formal labels of "creed". (Ansari, ibid. p.110-111)
Sacred Scripture in Islam:
The Qur'an, the Sacred Scripture of the Muslims, is the Word of Allah; as a result it is unique. It is the only entity that came directly from Allah to man. Of course, it was sent through Angel Gabriel. Before it was even recited, Gabriel impressed it in the heart of the Prophet (pboh), thereafter; the recitation became easy, as the verses were not revealed in chronological order. Recitation, intonation, meaning and the wisdom contained in the messages of the divinely revealed verses were given to the Prophet (pboh) over a period of twenty three years.
The Qur'an existed long before Allah created the universe. Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said:
Allah recited Surahs Taaha and Yaseen (i.e. two chapters found in the Qur'an) one thousand years before creation. When the angels heard them they said: how fortunate are they on whom they (the chapters) will be revealed; how fortunate are those who commit them to memory; how fortunate are those tongues that shall recite them. (Ghazali, Ihya)
Being the Word of Allah, the Qur'an has a special combination of vibrations which cannot be reproduced, nor can it be ever matched by any creature. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Allah says:
Had We sent down this Qur'an on a mountain, surely, you would have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder, for fear of Allah. (59:21)
Say: If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur'an they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support. (17:88)
Muslims are therefore, very blessed to have been the recipient of this divine formula. Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said:
A reciter of the Qur'an belongs to the family of Allah, and is His sincere servant.
The Perfect Faith:
Islam is a complete Code of life and the Qur'an is perfect in every way. About Islam Allah says:
This day I have perfected for you your religion, and completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3)
Islam gives to man what is best for him in this life and in the one that is to come. It enjoins what is theologically called righteousness and prohibits what is evil. In this connection Allah says the following:
Verily, this Qur'an guides to that which is most right and gives glad tidings to the Believers who work deeds of righteousness. (17:9)
A Book which We have revealed unto thee, in order that you may lead mankind out of the depths of darkness into light by the leave of their Lord. (14:1)
Islam, as a way of life is an integrated whole. "It is idealistically intertwined with all the aspects of life, empirical, rational and supra-rational. It does not separate mind from matter or material from non-material. It views life as a continuous whole and makes it abundantly clear that death is not the end, as a new growth begins with the termination of the life in this world. (Islamic Sociology by Dr. Waffie Mohammed. P.7)
A Muslim is taught to be careful with thoughts, words and deeds as they are all recorded and preserved and will be presented to the doer on the day of Accountability.
Islam allows limited freedom, e.g. the timing for worship can stretch over some time (up to two hours). But observance of the fundamental principles is obligatory on all believers.
Beliefs and worship:
A Muslim has to believe in the Oneness of Allah, in Angels, in Messengers, in the Day of Judgment, in the power of doing good or evil as coming from Allah but the person is responsible for his or her action.
A Muslim has to worship Allah alone, and cannot ascribe any partner with Him. He alone is the Creator of the Universe and all things are creatures. The Creator and the creatures are not equal. Allah says:
Behold! (Abraham) said to his father: O my father! Why worship that which does not hear and does not see, and cannot be of any benefit to you. (19:42)
All Muslims are required to uphold the fundamental principles of Islam, which are:
Belief in the Oneness of Allah
Worship him five times every day as is prescribed.
Keep fast in the month of Ramadan
Pay the poor tax (Zakaat)
Perform the Hajj, if circumstances permit
Equality in the Sight of Allah:
Islam teaches that every human being is equal in the sight of Allah; it is the piety of a person which shall make him excel in honour. Allah says:
O mankind! Verily, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female; and made you into tribes and nations; that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other; verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. (49:13)
In Islam there are no class or caste barriers.
Karma can be defined as the reaction or suffering inherited from the past life and the type of body in which ones soul will have to enter in the next life as a result of ones present action.
It is believed that according to karma, God is not unjust, so, when a person comes into this world with physical defects or some type of social disadvantage, it is as a result of his past life, when he would have committed evil acts.
The Law of Karma was introduced into Hinduism during the compilation of the Upanishads; as it is not mentioned anywhere in the Vedas. It became very popular around 1100 A.D.
Karma emphasises cause and effect. Literally, it means deeds. From the religious point of view it means actions and reactions in ones life cycle.
Karma is a law affecting adult human beings. It may not be applicable to children, animals and plants, due to the fact that they may not be capable of differentiating right from wrong.
According to this law, human beings create their own destinies. So that if a person does evil (paap) the consequence of his action will be evil and likewise if he does good the result will be good. (punya)
It is believed that there are three stages in karma, viz.
• things done in the past life that are not yet resolved. (sanchita)
• things that one would later experience in this life, arising out of ones present action (prurabdha)
• things that one with experience in the next life as a result of what is being done in this present life.
Karma cannot be associated with fate, as a person can of his own free will, determine his own status in the next birth.
Some scholars believe that the gods may have some kind of impact on a person's karma, e.g. Vishnu or Shiva may, in one way or another impact on the karma of the individual. Some of these are mentioned in the Brahma Sutra, for example, some believe that God can mitigate some aspects of karma from the devotee.
According to the law of karma, the soul gravitates to specific bodies depending on the will of God. This law, in a way, supports the caste system, as those who do good may be born in a higher caste at the rebirth. However, in the Bhagwat Gita, Khrishna refutes this belief, by saying that the characteristics of a Brahmin are determined by good deeds and not by birth. It reads as follows:
The duties of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras O scorcher of foes, are distributed according to the behaviour born of their own nature. (Gita.; 18:4)
According to the doctrine of karma, a person's action will determine what he will be in the next life. So upon death of the present body the soul enters a new one of higher or lower status. The soul is said to have reincarnated.
It literally means, to be made flesh again. It refers to the rebirth of soul in a new body. This is a belief found in later Hinduism and was not found in the early Sacred texts. For example, it is not found in the Vedas. It is found in the Bhagwat Gita. For example, the Gita records the following:
As the indweller in the body experiences childhood, youth and old age in the body, he also passes on to a new body. The serene one is not affected thereby. (2:13)
As a man casting off worn out garments, puts on new ones, so the embodied casting off worn out bodies enters into others that are new. (2:22)
The reincarnation is linked with the law of karma, as the next rebirth is linked to the deeds and actions of the present life.
Rebirth or reincarnation is a continuous process, until one becomes free of this cycle upon the attainment of moksha.
Reincarnation was more clearly defined in the Puranas. For example one reads the following:
The murderer of a Brahmin becomes consumptive, the killer of a cow becomes humped back and imbecile, the murderer of a virgin becomes leprous—all three born as outcasts. The slayer of a woman and the destroyer of embryos becomes a savage full of diseases; who commits illicit intercourse, a eunuch; who goes with his teacher's wife disease-skinned. The eater of flesh becomes very red, the drinker of intoxicants, one with coloured teeth….(Garuda Purana:5)
Islam and reincarnation:
Islam totally rejects the concept of reincarnation in this material world. It upholds the belief of resurrection, i.e. the day when all the bodies will be thrown out of the earth, and the souls will re-enter them, after which will be judgment. The Qur'an records about this in many places; for example, it says:
When the earth throws up its burdens, and man cries: What is the matter with it? On that Day will it declare its tidings. For that your Lord will have given it inspiration. On that Day will men proceed in companies sorted; to be shown the deeds that they (had done). Then shall any one who has done an atom's weight of good see it. And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it. (Ch.99)
Some non-Muslim writers attribute a verse of the Qur'an to support their argument that Muslims also believe in reincarnation. The verse is as follows:
How can you reject the faith of Allah, seeing that you were without life and He gave you life. Then He will cause you to die, and then revive you, and then you be returned to Him. (2:28)
First of all, this is not similar to reincarnation, as the same person will be revived; then he will be returning to God, and will not be experiencing any cycle of rebirth.
Secondly, reincarnation upholds that a person had already lived a previous life. Here, the Lord is saying that before coming into this world a person had no life, so this life is not a rebirth but birth for the first time.
Nowhere in the Qur'an has it stated that before coming into this earthly life, the person had already lived a life or lives. Also, it does not say that the soul of one person will migrate into another person's body.
A Muslim has to believe in the Hereafter, i.e. a life of reward for the righteous and punishment for the wicked. When the dead will be resurrected, it will be the same body, without any change. The body of the righteous person will not burn in the hell fire, while the body of the evil ones will not be pure enough to be placed in the Garden of Bliss.
THE CASTE SYSTEM
Hinduism developed a caste system over a period of time. There are four main castes, and these are associated with the colour of the skin. These main castes are:
Brahmins: priests and teachers; they are fair skins.
Kastriyas: warriors and rulers; red in colour.
Vausyas: farmers, merchants, professionals, brown in
Sudras: the labourers; black in colour.
Among the Sudras is another caste called the "Outcastes". These people do the polluted jobs and are labourers.
Among these basic groups are numerous sub-castes; many are linked to geographical areas or specific types of professions or skills.
The Brahmins lived off the resources of the society, and it was the duty of the other lower castes to take care of their needs.
The untouchables, i.e. the Sudras and Outcastes, were not allowed to read the Holy Scriptures, etc. and the untouchables were considered to be polluted.
In 1962 a law was passed making it illegal to discriminate against the untouchables. Although it is not against the law to do so, the practice still continues culturally and socially.
Today, what seemed to have been embedded in religious beliefs and practices is now slowly changing, as Brahmins now own lands, working in the fields and in government services. Sudras are now teachers, doctors and also now occupy good positions in the government services and other places.
At this time all castes are equally treated by the law; education is free for all. However the social and religious recognition of castes still exist.
Islam and Caste:
Islam teaches that every single human being is from the progeny of Adam, even though there may be differences in the colour of the skin, and other biological traits. The Qur'an informs mankind of this in the following verse:
O man, reverence your Lord Who created you from a single creature, and from it created its mate; and from them scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. (4:1)
Islam recognises that there are numerous races of human beings and a variety of the colour of the skin. In this connection the Qur'an records, for general information, the following verses:
O mankind, verily, We created you from a single (pair) of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily, the most honoured in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things) (49:13)
And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your language and your colours. Verily, in that are Signs for those who know. (30:23)
According to the Qur'an, physical and mental characteristics are Divine Gifts. As a result, there cannot be any discrimination between races regarding the superiority and inferiority of anyone endowments.
Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have told his followers the following:
You are the sons of Adam and Adam came from dust. Let the people cease to boast about their ancestors. (Abu Dawood: 2425)
Islam prohibits the division of human beings on the basis of race, colour or any other geographical or physical factor. The Qur'an teaches the following:
Hold fast, all of you to the rope of Allah (as a single people) and be not divided among yourselves (in different races, tribes, nations, castes, etc.) (3:103)
Finally, Islam teaches that every righteous person, no matter what is the colour of his skin, will go to Paradise. Allah says in the Qur'an:
For Muslim men and Muslim women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and a great reward. (33:25)
It is because Islam preaches equality of all in the sight of Allah, that so many people are accepting it, in spite of the adverse publicity it is receiving all over the world. Upon becoming a Muslim a person joins the universal brotherhood that Islam teaches.
Islam does not only preach universal brotherhood, but created institutions for realising it. For example, in the obligatory acts of worship (Salaat), the entire Muslim males stand together in lines shoulder to shoulder and worship. The sisters also do the same in their own section of the Mosque.
Like wise in the Haj, all males wear two pieces of unstitched cloth and do the rituals of the Haj together. In that gathering which comprises believers from all over the world there are no distinctions of nationality, colour, etc. So that in practice a Muslim lives truly like a brother of another Muslim.
GODS AND GODDESSES
In Hinduism there are millions of gods (thirty three million). These are in the forms of murtis, avatars, devas and devis.
An avatar is a "god manifesting himself as a human being". The most famous of the divine incarnations is Rama (his life is depicted in the Ramayan), Krishna, (his life is depicted in the Mahabrarata and Srimad Bhagavan). The Bhagwat Gita which is a compilation of the spiritual teachings of Krishna is one of the most widely read book in Hinduism.
When god is referred to as an abstract concept; that is when he is referred to as an abstract creator, he is called Brahma meaning that he has no form, nor does he resemble any creature in the universe. Brahma is the highest god and nothing can be compared with him. He is the only creator and everything came from him.
According to the teachings of this faith, Brahma connects himself to the world as Bhagwan who is a personal god that transcends gender and Ishwar who is conceived as the controller of the universe.
In Hinduism god is given names according to which aspect of the personality of Brahma is being discussed. For example, when a worshipper is desirous of worshipping a personal aspect of god some form of manifestation of Bhagwan is used, and when the intention is to worship some form of god as the controller of the universe a form of Ishwar is used.
God is called Vishnu when he is seen as the preserver of the universe and Shiva is used to mean god the destroyer of the world.
Shiva and Vishnu take different forms and appear in different ages. For example, Krishna and Rama are considered to be forms of Vishnu.
Incarnations of God:
Many of the numerous sects of Hinduism teach that during the passage of time, god (Bhagwan) comes to earth in human forms to help people to attain salvation (moksha). Such an incarnation of god is called avatar. There were many avatars in history.
It is believed that Vishnu appeared in the following forms:
• Matsya, the fish, representing the beginning of life.
• Kuma, the tortoise, representing a human embryo just growing tiny legs, with a huge belly.
• Varaha, the boar, representing a human embryo which is almost ready.
• Narashimha, the male lion, representing a new born baby.
• Vamana, the dwarf, representing a young child.
• Parashurama, Rama with the axe, represnting an angry young man and a grumpy old man.
• Rama, the prince and king of Ayodha, representing a married man with children.
• Krishna, a dark person, representing a person in society where there is good and bad.
• Gautama Buddha, an avatar that returned pure Dharma in the world.
• Kalki, the destroyer of what is foul, the time in which we are living.
Devas and Devis:
Hindus conceived god as a having different aspects of his being personified as gods (devas) and goddesses (devis).
Devas represent certain forces, e.g. agni is the name of Ishwar as fire. These devas form part of Hindu culture and the various forms of the devas are depicted as paintings, statues and other forms of items, some beautifully designed.
Hindus believe that in order to benefit from a particular quality of god a particular form must be worshipped. For example, the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped for wealth.
Vishnu and Shiva are not considered to be ordinary devas, as a result they are called Mahadevas, meaning "great gods".
Some Hindus do not consider the numerous devas and devis as the different qualities of Vishnu and Shiva, but as separate entities existing independently. For example, the four cardinal points are presided over by four main deities, viz.
• Indra, east
• Agni, fire, south east
• Yama, death and justice, south
• Surya, sun, south west
• Varuna, atmosphere and ocean, west
• Vayu (Pavana), the wind, north west
• Kubera, wealth, north
• Soma, north east.
Some goddesses are worshipped as universal mothers. These are Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Parvati, Durga and Kali. Some of these goddesses are considered to be Mahadevas.
It is astonishing to know that the Hindu religion teaches that the total number of gods worshipped is 330,000,000. Even in India some people make a joke about this. However, the gurus and scholars believe that there is some secret with this number as it has the figure 33 in it. They believe that the figure 33 is the number that creates and rule the world.
Some scholars believe that the different forms of god represent the different moods, feelings, emotion and social back grounds of the devotees.
Islamic Concept of God (Allah):
According to Islamic teachings, nothing in the universe resembles Allah. He tells us so in His Holy Words. He says;
There is nothing like Him. (42:11)
Nothing can be compared with Him. (112:3)
Allah wants man to know that only He is God, and it is only He Who is able to create something from nothing.
Muslims used the term Allah for God, as this name gives a concept of a Being Who cannot be likened to any material thing.
Some of the reasons why the Creator (Allah) cannot be conceived to have a material form are:
• Creatures have beginnings and ends—Allah has no beginning or end.
• Creatures occupy space and time—Allah is limitless. He says: His Throne is more vast than the skies and the earth. (2:255)
• Creatures have specific capacities—Allah has never ending strength and capabilities. He says: He does not sleep and everything in the skies and earth belong to Him. (2:255)
• Creatures are subjected to the laws of Nature—Allah says about Himself that He is not subject to any law nor is He required to account to any one. Allah is As-Samad. (112:2)
• Creatures have to submit to Allah's laws willingly or unwillingly—Allah is not required to abide by any law of the universe.
• Creatures need sustenance—Allah is Al-Haiy, meaning the Alive.
• Creatures cannot create a thing from nothing—Allah creates things from nothing. He says: Verily, when He intends a thing (to come into existence) He says: Be and it is. (36:82)
• Creatures cannot exist by themselves—Allah is self-existing, eternal.
• Creatures have a life-span-Allah is Eternal.
Because no creature can behold the greatness and grandeur of Allah, He has revealed something about Himself to mankind.
Allah also revealed to man a little knowledge of some of His Qualities called Attributes or Beautiful Names. It is necessary to know that the Attributes are not gods or any specific part of His Person. They are the qualities through which He connects Himself to His creatures. So while we can call Him through His Beautiful names, we cannot worship the names, we worship Allah Himself and nothing else.
When a Muslim recognises Allah through one of His Beautiful Names, he is also aware of the fact that Allah has many beautiful names and therefore the names by themselves do not represent the total person of the Lord. A name does not denote a form of Allah.
It is very interesting to know that the Hindu's concept of Brahma is almost similar to the Muslim's concept of Allah. In the Bhagwat Gita the following is recorded about him. It says:
He who knows Me as unborn and beginningless, as the Great Lord of the worlds, he among mortals, is undeluded and freed from sins. (Gita: 10:3)
Something to think about:
If Hindus believe that Brahma is formless and is above all creations, then why not worship him alone; why turn to creatures instead of the only One who is Creator.
It is recorded in the Bhagwat Gita the following:
Men of small intelligence worship the demigods and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees reach My supreme abode. (7:23)
Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form of personality. Due to their small knowledge, they know not My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme. (7:24)
It will definitely be better for the Hindu communities to stop worshipping creatures (whom they call manifestations of the Creator) and worship the Creator himself.
It is interesting to note that recognition and worship of the Supreme Creator has been clearly stated in the Bhagwat Gita. For example, it says:
The Supreme Personality of godhead, than whom no one is greater, is attainable by unalloyed devotion, O Arjuna. Although there in His abode, still He is all-pervading. (8:22)
Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, engage your body in My service, and surrender unto Me. Completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me. (9:34)
Allah says to Muslims the following:
It is Allah who has created you; further, He has provided for your sustenance; then He will cause you to die; and again He will give you life (on the day of Resurrection.) Are there any of your (false) partners who can do any single one of these things? Glory to Him; and High is He above all the partners (manifestations) they attribute to Him. (30:40)
Dharma is a Sanskrit term which means religious duty, any virtuous path. It can be used to mean a person's religion.
Dharma is generally translated as law. This could mean religious law or law of the universe. It is a component part of the Indian flag as it is represented on the flag as a wheel.
Indian religion teaches that Dharma is necessary for ones spiritual progress, and if properly practised, the person will attain moksha more quickly. As a result Dharma pertains to the religious and moral rights and duties of each individual.
The term Dharma was first used in the Upanishad (Brihandarinyaka, 1-4:14). In this book it is used to mean the universal principle of law, order and harmony.
Because Dharma is important for a person's religious development it is necessary and applicable to all the stations of life. For example,
• at the sensate level (pleasure)
• at the mundane level (profit)
• at the liberation level (moksha)
As Dharma also means law a Hindu is supposed to live in accordance with the laws of his caste.
In the broadest sense in the meaning of this term Dharma can mean the following:
• essential quality or character, as of the cosmos or one's own nature.
• Conformity to religious law, custom duty, or one's own quality or character.
• Religious law
• Cosmic law.
When Dharma is properly observed a person gets internal peace, no matter what kind of distraction there might be around in the external world.
According to Hindu teachings, if a person observes the laws of Dharma properly, he or she will have a better life in the next rebirth.
Observance of the laws of Dharma can mean, doing what is right to the individual, the family, the class or caste and also nature. Good Dharma can be destroyed by the following three negative principles, viz. pride, contact and intoxication.
Manu prescribes ten rules for the proper observance of Dharma. These are:
• patience (dhriti)
• forgiveness (kshama)
• piety or self control (dama)
• honesty (asteya)
• sanctity (shauch)
• control of senses (indraiya-nigrah)
• reason (dhi)
• knowledge of learning (vidya)
• truthfulness (satya)
• absence of anger (krodha)
According to the teachings of Manu dharmic laws do not only govern the individual but society at large.
Dharma can be classified under two heads, viz. Samanya or the general universal Dharma and Visesha or the specific, personal Dharma. Sanatana Dharma means the Eternal Religion.
The Islamic Way of Life:
Islam is a complete and perfect way of life based on belief and submission to Allah. Its laws are prescribed in the Holy Qur'an, with the dos and don't very clearly stated. Its laws are applicable to every individual and are universal.
Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (pboh) as the universal model, and says that he (the Prophet, pboh) is the best example. He says:
Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet; whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures), in the Law and the Gospel: for, he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); he releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the Light which is sent down with him; it is they who will prosper. (7:157)
Every individual is expected to know his rights and duties to himself, God and man and is supposed to uphold them; that is the Upright Way.
The term yoga is Sanskrit. It is associated with specified types of mental and physical disciplines which are to be developed through esoteric practices. These are said to be thousands of years old.
Through the passage of time certain aspects were developed to accommodate different personalities. However, these practices can be grouped into four categories. These are:
• Bhakti, a devotional approach. This is best suited for those who are emotional and when practiced it opens up the heart.
• Jnana, People who are mentally oriented will find the exercise of this system best suited for them. It can lead to wisdom.
• Karma, this type of yoga will find favour with those who like to serve. It is best suited for the social type of people.
• Raja, this is purely meditation.
Information on this subject can be found in many of the Sacred Literature of Hinduism; for example, in the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and various Tantras.
The word yoga has many meanings. Some of these are:
Some people (mainly outside of India) associate the term with posture and specific exercises. In the early times yoga was only concerned with breath control and disciplining the mind.
According to the Darshana, yoga consists in the cessation of the mental functions. There are five levels of mental functions. The first is the dissipated condition in which the human mind flirts among objects. The second level is called stupefied conditions as in sleep. The third level of mental function is a relatively pacified condition. Yoga is not permissible in any of these conditions. The fourth level is of contemplation (concentration). The fifth is cessation of the act (function) of contemplation. The last two levels are conducive to yoga.
There are two kinds of yoga or Samadhi. In the first kind we have yoga in the form of the mind's perfect concentration on the object of contemplation. In the second there is the complete cessation of the mental modification.
The ego (ahankara) is different from the self and is dependant on the experience of the world. The life of the ego is restless and unsatisfied. The self is a being.
Being is a subject to five afflictions known in yoga darshana as "panch klesh". These are:
• ignorance; mistaking non-eternal for eternal
• the erroneous identification of one's self with one's mind.
• Attachment to pleasant things
• Hatred of unpleasant things
• Love for life.
The special feature of yoga is its practical discipline by which the panch kleshes can be removed.
The program prescribed for the success in yoga consists of the eight-fold stages. These are:
2. ethical culture—myama
4. breath control—prana yama
5. withdrawal of senses—pratya hara
8. intense concentration—samadhi
In the Bhagavad Gita three prominent types of yoga are mentioned. These are:
Bhakti yoga—devotion, and
Yoga is also an important form of physical and mental discipline in Bhuddism and Jainism.
Goal of yoga:
One of the goals of yoga is to free the person from the cycle of birth and death and unite with Brahma. Those who uphold this view believe that the word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root, "yuj" meaning:
To unite, to integrate or to cohere; and is thus taken to represent the highest state of union, integration or coherence between the individual or personal human consciousness and cosmic or universal or divine consciousness.
The one who practices those exercises hope to unite with God mentally and spiritually.
Islam and yoga practices:
Muslims should not take part in yoga practices. This is the view of Muslim scholars in many countries of the world. The National Fatwa Council of Malaysia ruled that "yoga is haraam (prohibited) in Islam". This is because it incorporates physical movements, religious elements together with chants and worshipping, with the aim of becoming one with God.
Malaysia is not the only country to issue such a fatwa, (religious verdict), similar rulings were given by the religious Councils of Singapore and Egypt.
While the exercises by themselves may be beneficial for a person, they cannot be isolated from the other aspects of yoga.
Further more, Muslims do not need to take help from any other systems or ways of life as Islam is a "complete way", and in it there are numerous ways that a Muslim can stay fit through Islamic religious practices. Take for example; the performance of Salaat (worship) at the prescribed timings is a very healthy exercise with a lot of benefits, both physically and spiritually.
The Hindu way of worship may be regarded as a complicated process in which other universal forces are invoked. This is mostly done so that these forces can assist the worshipper materially and spiritually.
The purpose of such worship is always to achieve something specific. Along with such an achievement the worshipper may also access the cosmic energy with which he/she is invoking. Worship can take the form of the performance of some rituals or through the recitation of some mantras. These are invocations containing some sacred syllables.
In order to engage the attention of the force that is being worshipped the mantra must be uttered with a specific rhythm, sincerity and devotion, purity of thought, adoration, with phonetic and grammatical accuracy and in a manner prescribed by the Sacred Scripture.
According to Hindu beliefs, if a mantra is presented in the correct way, the energy (deity) to whom it is addressed is duty bound to respond to the invoker and to automatically help him.
Sometimes, many mantras may be recited at one and the same time by groups of priests. When this is done all the deities invoked respond simultaneously, thereby creating the necessary vibrations in the atmosphere to cause those energies (deities) to become active and to descend to the place where they are invoked.
It is believed that a particular deity can be invoked by a specific mantra. These energies are normally latent and will only become active when the mantra is properly recited.
Worship generally takes the form of poojas. This involves offerings and recitation to images of gods/goddesses called murtis.
Worship of the murti is most important and can be done at home or in a temple. It involves making offerings to the specific murti. Offerings may include water, fruits, flowers, incense and sometimes animal sacrifices are made.
The particular murti chosen for worship will be for specific reasons, e.g. for wealth, love, etc. According to the Bhagwat Gita this is not the best form of worship. It says:
Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto the demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures. (7:20)
The rituals of worship can be any one of the following:
Nitya: daily rituals or family pooja.
Naimittika: rituals that occur during certain times of the year.
Kanya: pilgrimages, e.g. to the Ganges, or to certain temples, mountains, etc.
An important purpose of worship is to attain moksha, i.e. to be released from worldly attachments and the cycle of rebirths. The knowledge of attaining this state in life was confined only to the Brahmin caste and scholars. The ordinary folks were deprived of it. However the shortfall was made up when Krishna introduced the practice of Yoga in the Bhagwat Gita. He introduced three ways of attaining moksha through yoga. Many people do not know the purpose and goal of yoga although they practice it as is taught to them under the guidance of teachers.
Pooja is a religious ritual. It can be performed every day by individuals. It can take many forms and to any creature or being considered to be divine. It takes many forms, e.g. gazing upon an image or murti, making an offering to a murti of flowers, food, water or incense. Pooja can also be done in gathering or by priests on behalf of others.
Some individuals take their offerings to the temples where the priests of the temple make the pooja to the specific deity on their behalf.
At the time of performing a particular pooja, it is believed that the image or murti is filled with the energy of the deity represented by the particular murti. The energy that is supposed to be associated to of any murtis visits it at the time the offering is being made. In this way worship is done and it is believed that through such visits the worshipper receives the anticipated physical and spiritual benefit.
Brahma, the chief god in Hinduism is formless and cannot be compared with anything in the universe. It is believed that from him came the many gods in different forms and gender. Some are manifestations of others.
Hindus recognise and accept god as the object of worship, both as male and female. They use as authority for doing so some of the verses of the Sacred Scriptures. For example, in the Bhagwat Gita Lord Krishna said:
I am the Father of this universe; I am the Mother of this universe, and the Creator of all. I am the highest to be known, the purifier, the holy Om, and the three Vedas. (9:17).
The worship of god as females is unique to this faith, as he is manifested in the forms of many females, e.g. Durga, Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ambika and Uma.
Through the worship of the female manifestation of god, the worshipper hopes to benefit from the motherly feelings of gentleness, beauty, kindness and tenderness.
The worshipper looks towards the female god as a mother and, just as a child feels safe and secure in the arms of its mother, so too, the worshipper of a female goddess believes that the reward of the devotion is always something tainted with love.
Hindus view man and woman as two wings of one bird, and by worshipping god as a woman the status of women are enhanced and dignified.
In Islam there are two words used in the Holy Qur'an to denote worship. They are, Salaat and Ibaadat.
This is a fundamental principle of faith of a Muslim; and must be performed five times every day by every one except very small children and women who are not clean.
The term Salaat, according to the Lexicon means: to pray, supplicate, petitioned, and perform the divinely-appointed act as is prescribed.
Salaat is not a ritual but an action involving the body, mind and soul. The worshipper faces the Creator; blanks his/her mind from every material thought and fixes the focus on the Lord whom he understands is right in front of him/her. In that condition of body and mind the worshipper praises Allah through recitation of His Holy Words contained in the Holy Qur'an. He recognises the greatness of Allah in different postures and becomes aware of his own weakness and limitations. He knows there that he has limitations and weaknesses and it is only Allah Who is Almighty.
According to the Lexicon meaning this term means the following: religious service, worship, adoration, devotion, obedience with humility or submissiveness, doing what God approves, approving what God does.
Worship in Islam is not an option, but is obligatory five times every day. The performance of Salaat (i.e. obligatory worship) is uniform with every single believer, in any part of the world going through the same motions, at the prescribed times, with focus on Allah facing the direction of the Kaba.
A Muslim is supposed to understand that he/she is all the time living in the presence of Allah and will ultimately return to Him. In this world one can do things for material benefit or for Divine pleasure. The wise is taught to live for the sake of Allah and, in this way will have the best of life in the Hereafter.
Hindus believe in the existence of an Infinite Being called Brahman. He is the Originator of every thing. He is unchanging, infinite, transcendent and immanent. In the Mundaka Upanishad he is described as follows: Om—That Supreme Brahman is infinite.
In the Bhagwat Gita Krishna records that he says:
Those who know Me as the Supreme Lord, as the governing principle of the material manifestation, who know Me as the one underlying all the demigods and as the one sustaining all sacrifices, can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death. (7:30)
This seems to be a definition of a Monotheist God. It is strange that they do not worship the Brahman but demigods of which one is supposed to be a manifestation of another.
Brahman never manifested himself.
Had the Hindus stuck to the original belief in Brahman as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, they would not have become polytheists and would have remained Monotheist as Muslims do.
In Islam Allah says about Himself the following:
He is Allah, the (indivisible) One, Allah, the Eternal besought of all; He begets not; nor is He begotten; and there is none comparable unto Him. (Ch.112)
Hinduism as a religion appears to be based on ritualism. In every aspect of worship, rituals play the most integral part. There are no universal rituals in this faith but variations among regions and even in the villages.
In the observance and performance of rituals two things are considered. These are purity and pollution. In order to attain purity for the performance of any one of the rituals one has to avoid indulging in certain things that are considered impure. Some of these are: avoidance of taking animal life, eating flesh, associating with dead things or body fluids.
In order to benefit from the rituals, pollution must be repressed. Rituals may include offerings in a regulated manner, making specific sacrifices; these must include preparation of space, recitation of text and manipulation of objects.
Rituals can be performed at home by individuals especially at dawn and dusk. This may take the forms of drawing on the steps, making offerings to the rising sun, lighting a lamp (deya) in the family shrine and offering foodstuff to the family god or gods (usually images or paintings). Sometimes water is offered to the ancestors.
A very popular type of ritual prayer is the pooja. It consists of a range of ritual offerings to the images, murtis or paintings. This may include offering of flowers, food, clothing and sometimes the burning of incense.
Some people make their pooja for themselves at home, while others may take their offerings to the temple where the priests present what is brought to the designated god.
Many devoted Hindus build their own shrines in their homes. Each individual shrine will have the pictures and images of the gods that the particular individual or family members worship. There will also be a shelf in the shrine on which the offerings are placed. Some family shrines can be quite elaborate, depending on the wealth that the family may have. In the family shrines the majority of poojas are performed by women and they also make the offerings.
Rituals vary according to the caste; and whenever the occasion arises the family of a particular case is pressured into observing the required ritual. Some may be very costly and the family involved may even have to borrow the money from money lenders to have the ritual completed. Sometimes they have to pay back the borrowed sum for many years. This can be strenuous to the family. Some of the expensive rituals are house-warming parties, marriage and funerals.
A notable form of rituals is the life-cycle ones. This is mainly observed by the orthodox Hindu families. They may invite the priest to perform some parts of the rituals and the rest they may do for themselves.
Life-cycle rituals may begin at the time of pregnancy. These include the parting of the hair of the pregnant wife by the husband, attaching charms to the pregnant woman, touching of the newly born on the lips with a piece of gold dipped in honey or ghee and whispering of the sacred word in the ear of the child. Later on there are the rituals for the first feeding of solid food, first shaving of the hair and first visit to the temple.
An important ritual is the investing of the young boy with the sacred thread which is worn over the shoulder and recitation of the Gayatri Mantra. This thread is normally worn by the higher caste. It shows that distinction between them and their servants.
There are several rituals to be performed at the time of marriage. These include walking away from the sacred fire and making offerings to the flame.
There are also rituals to be performed when a person dies and before and after the body is cremated.
Some general rituals include:
The daily lighting of a deya in the house
Special paint to be put on the parted hair of the married woman
Special marks to be put on the forehead.
Every religious group can be identified by certain special customs and practices of the members. These may take the form of rites and rituals.
Islam recognises this and Allah says:
To every nation We appointed rituals. (22:35)
In Islam the rituals upheld by Muslims are designed to benefit them physically, socially, morally and spiritually. Some of these are:
Greeting: When a Muslim meets another Muslim he greets him or her with peace. And the other will return the greeting.
Eating: A Muslim is supposed to begin eating and drinking by taking the name of Allah; he should eat what is in front of him; with his right hand; preferably sitting.
Toilet: The requirement for using the toilet is to seek refuge in Allah from the evil spirits, try not to face the Kaba, use the left hand to clean up and then pray. After using the toilet it is a good practice to make ablution.
At birth: The "call to prayer" is sounded in the newly born ear; on the seventh day the hair is shaved an animal (one or two) is slaughtered and the child is given a name.
Ablution and bath: A Muslim is supposed to make ablution when going to perform the five daily obligatory worship, when reading the Holy Qur'an and upon entering the Mosque. Ceremonial bath is taken at the appropriate occasion and also on special occasions.
Personal hygiene: clipping the nails, shaving the pubic hair, and the hair under the arm pits at least once in forty days; making ablution for every obligatory and optional prayer and for recitation of the Holy Qur'an and upon entering the Mosque; taking a bath as is prescribed; removal of impurities from clothes and place of worship; washing the hand before eating and using a tooth stick after eating.
Social benefits: distributing to the poor the weight of the hair of the newly born after shaving, either in gold or silver; slaughtering an animal and distributing, at least two thirds of the meat; making a wedding feast according to ones means; visiting one another on the day of Eid ul Fitr; paying the charity tax on the day of Eid ul Fitr and the poor tax at the end of a year.
Spiritual benefits: ceremonial bath for the dead; enshrouding and prayer before burial; digging of the grave in a particular way; greeting the dead in the graves of the believers when passing by them; going around the Kaba and running between the hills of Safwa and Marwah during the Haj and Umrah; performing the rites of Haj as is prescribed; sounding the Azan in the ear of the newly born; greeting upon entering the house; entering and leaving the Mosque in a particular way; putting on and taking off the shoes in a particular way; saying a special prayer when locking the doors; taking the name of Allah when one intends to begin doing any thing; uttering praises for Allah upon sneezing; making a special prayer upon entering and leaving the toilet; etc. etc.
The rituals in Islam are universal and must be observed by all Muslims, male and female, young and old. These practices are designed to make the Muslim pure, fit to be among others and display special attitude and behaviour during worship. Observance of the rituals which form the etiquette of a Muslim makes him or her a healthy, God conscious person, benefiting from the blessings of this world and hopeful for success in the Hereafter.
Rituals are designed to make the person a better human being and are not objects for worship. Muslims only worship Allah the Lord and Creator of the universe and man. Rituals help them to keep this in mind and submit only to Him and to no one else.
SOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN
HINDUISM AND ISLAM
Hinduism is polytheistic
Muslims are monotheist.
In Hinduism rituals are not universal.
In Islam all practices (rituals) are universal.
Hindus choose their gods to worship.
All Muslims worship only Allah, the one true God.
Hindus believe that god comes down in the murtis to accept their offerings.
Muslims believe that Allah is everywhere; you can call on Him wherever you may be and He listens and responds.
There is no specific declaration of faith in Hinduism.
For a person to become a Muslim in Islam, except by birth, he/she must testify to the fact that; There is no god but Allah and Muhammad (pboh) is the Messenger.
Hindus believe in the caste system.
In Islam, everyone is equal in the sight of Allah.
Hindus believe in the trans-migration of the soul; i.e. the number of souls created in the beginning has not changed, the soul, upon the death of a body, migrates into another body.
In Islam, Muslims know that every soul is a special entity created by Allah for a specific body; that soul does not go into another body in this material universe, but goes into waiting (barrzakh) until resurrection when it will again re-enter the body in which it resided in this world.
Hinduism believe in reincarnation, i.e. the soul may enter into a body of higher or lower status, depending on how it lived in this present life.
Muslims do not believe in reincarnation; the record of the deeds of the person is preserved and will be shown to him/her on the day of Resurrection.
Hindus pray for a dead person who is no longer existing in any form, as the soul goes into a new body and the old one decays, so that person is no longer existing in any form.
Muslims believe that in barrzakh the dead can benefit from prayers of forgiveness; also the good done by the individual which may benefit others, even though the dead person is not longer in the material world, will be of benefit for him/her in the next life.
Hindus believe that the caste cannot mix socially.
Muslims believe in universal Islamic Brotherhood.
Hindus believe that a person is born a Hindu, and cannot be converted to one, or cannot change ones caste.
Muslims believe that every person is born a believer; it is the parents etc. who may convert them to another faith.
Hindus do not believe in conversion.
Muslims believe that a person can become a Muslim by reciting the declaration of faith.
Hindus believe that India is the motherland.
Muslims do not believe in a motherland; however Makkah and Madinah are considered to be two Holy Cities.
Hindus have many Sacred Scriptures.
Muslims have only one Sacred Scripture, i.e. the Holy Qur'an which is the only unadulterated Word of Allah.
Hindus believe that their Scriptures were compiled over centuries.
Muslims believe that the Holy Qur'an was divinely revealed over a period of twenty three years to Prophet Muhammad (pboh).
Hindus do not normally read their Scriptures.
All Muslims read parts of the Holy Qur'an everyday in their obligatory worship, and some of them read it many times for the month.
Only special persons (Brahmin) are religiously permitted to read the Sacred Scriptures in Hinduism.
All Muslims are enjoined upon in the Holy Qur'an to read it; as a matter of fact, the first word revealed by Allah in the Holy Text, was the command to read.
Hindus believe that God can manifest Himself in human or other forms.
Muslims believe that the creatures cannot ever be like the Creator.
Hindus believe that the Infinite can become finite in some form; human, animal, other creatures.
Muslims believe that Allah is above everything and there is no need for Him to assume any material form in order to manage the affairs of the universe.
Hindus believe that god manifested himself as male and female.
Muslims believe that Allah is above all earthly laws and is above any particular gender, etc.
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A Handbook of Islamic Beliefs
Qur'anic Lessons in Public Speaking
Ishq-e-Habeeb (Love for the Beloved)
Lessons in Hadith
Commentary of the last 10 Chapters of the Holy Qur'an
The Stations of the Traveller Part 1
A New Arabic Qaidah
Christianity According to Islamic Beliefs
The Promised Messenger
An Introduction to Islamic Spirituality
Honouring the Prophet (pboh)
The Story of Joseph in the Holy Qur'an
Learning to Speak Arabic
Islamic Jurisprudence Parts 1-4