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Friday, May 16, 2008

Hindu Muslim Dialogue

An innovative approach to Hindu-Muslim dialogue

This reminds me of my College Professor Ramachandran and my weaver friend Fakhru Bhai; a Hindu and a Muslim respectively and I used to discuss and understand the wisdom of each aspect of religion.

As a Muslim I see great efforts on the part of Muslims to relate with Hindus, it is an effort; however, due to the complex plurality of Hindu belief system, it is much easier for a Hindu to relate with a Muslim than otherwise on a theological basis.

Muslims subtly condition themselves to relate with Hindus based on their reference to God, as one God. Although God is formless in both scriptures, subconsciously most humans give a form and insist on identifying with that One God, as though it is a physical being. Given that, the efforts of Syed Abdullah Tariq must be appreciated.

However, the common Hindus and Muslims, the ones who do not wear religious neon signs are comfortable with each other, just as they are with their own. The One God, No God or Many representations of God is not an issue to them and this is the grounding of an overwhelming majority of Muslims, Hindus or any one. Syed Abdullah Tariq will be more successful in getting the message to the majority and we need to encourage such efforts.

The idea of one God has become more of a political issue, where a few use that as the standard to judge one’s righteousness and mentally declare other practices as wrong or even sinful. We really need to review the intent or wisdom of the idea of one God. – It is a uniting element accepting the uniqueness of each creation, where we acknowledge the source of creation and cause of creation by one energy…. A conflict less system of co-existence for justice and peace.

In the long time interests of peace for every individual, each one of us has to put an effort. Any society that is built and sustained on justice takes out the fear and uncertainty from the minds of people and bring peace, facilitating them to be productive and contributing members of the society.

Due to the terminal health of my wife, I have not been able to write much… but this one caught my attention. (http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2008/05/gods-grace-for-najma-ghouse.html )

We just had our Monthly interfaith (http://carrolltondiary.blogspot.com/2008/04/may-14-carrollton-interfaith-luncheon.html ) meeting at the Mosque in Carrollton, and It was such a joy to see every one respond positively to the inspiration from Jainism. The whole gathering repeated “Michami Dukadam” after me. During Tsunami, we were able to have a Bhajan in the Mosque in Richardson, which is a rare thing. These are positive improvements. God should be invoked with every name and every which way and it is happening.

I commend the efforts of Syed Abdullah Tariq. May more people participate in such efforts.

Mike Ghouse

Hindu-Muslim dialogue

An innovative approach to Hindu-Muslim dialogue
Posted May 16th, 2008 by Mudassir Rizwan

* Articles
* Indian Muslim

55 year-old Syed Abdullah Tariq runs an Islamic group
based in Rampur, a town in western Uttar Pradesh, that
focuses on dialogue with Hindus. An engineer by
training, he was one of the chief disciples of the
late Maulana Shams Naved Usmani, a noted Islamic
scholar who had also a deep knowledge of the Hindu

Tariq collected and published the thoughts and sayings
of Maulana Usmani in the form of several books in Urdu
and Hindi, the most well-known of these being 'Agar
Abhi Na Jagey To', later translated into English under
the title 'Now Or Never'. Maulana Usmani and Tariq
have been one of the pioneers of a particular Islamic
approach to dialogue with Hindus, one that is based on
the commonalities that they perceived in Islam and

In a recent meeting in Rampur, Tariq related his own
story and his association with Maulana Usmani to
Yoginder Sikand, as follows:

Having finished my engineering degree from the Aligarh
Muslim University, I was not sure what I wanted to
take up as a career. In 1974, when I was in my early
twenties, I first met Maulana Shams Naved Usmani in
Rampur. I was really impressed by his teachings, his
enthusiasm for dialogue between Hindus and Muslims. I
decided to stay in his company and to take down
whatever he used to say to his disciples. Later, I had
these published in the form of several books.

Maulana Usmani, or Chacha Jan as I used to fondly call
him, was a very modest man, a Sufi. Originally from
Deoband, he was from the famous Usmani family which
had produced numerous well-known ulema, including
Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani and Maulana Atiq
ur-Rahman Usmani. He did his Master's degree from
Lucknow University, taught History and Geography in a
small semi-government school in Rampur. His lifestyle
was austere. He lived in a small, two-room rented
house. I remember that he constantly had tears in his
eyes. People would come to him to ask him to do dua
for them, which he always did. Even at the height of
summer, he would use a fan only if a guest visited his
house. If he bought a fruit, he would keep a small
part of it for the lady who would come to clean his
house every day. Once, there was a dispute between two
of his relatives over some family-owned property in
Deoband. He told them to stop quarrelling and said
that they could take his share of the property if that
would satisfy him. His wife got a little upset about
this, but he sought to comfort her by composing a
poem, one line of which said, 'Oh, my life companion!
Our house is not in this world!'.

Chacha Jan did not receive a traditional education in
a madrasa, but since he came from a family of noted
ulema he learnt about Islam at home itself as a child.
Later, he learnt Sanskrit on his own. He then began
studying the various Hindu scriptures, and was
surprised to learn, or so he believed, that some of
the original Hindu texts, when shorn of later
accretions, also talk, as the Quran does, of
monotheism, oppose idolatry and polytheism and caste
inequality. This he felt might be a reconfirmation of
the Quran's announcement that God has sent messengers
to every community, and that they have all taught the
same primal and eternal religion or deen of al-Islam,
the surrender to the one God. This means, obviously,
that God must have also sent prophets to India, and it
is quite possible that some figures whom the Hindus
revere might actually have been such prophets,
although later a large number of corruptions and
accretions crept in and people began worshipping these
prophets as deities.

This was Maulana Usmani's basic contention. He argued
that the Sanskrit term sanatan dharm or 'Eternal
Religion', if understood in this manner as submission
to the one God, was the same as the deen al-qaim,
which again means 'Eternal Religion', which is what
Islam is. It was on the basis of this core similarity
that Maulana Sahib wanted Hindus and Muslims to come
together. He also claimed that the Prophet Muhammad
had been prophesied about in some of the Hindu
scriptures. This meant, he argued, that the Hindus, in
accordance with the teachings of these scriptures,
should recognize the Prophet, in addition to other
prophets of God, including those who had been sent to
India. At the same, he wanted Muslims to recognize the
validity of these scriptures insofar as they were of
divine origin and not corrupted by human hands. In
other words, what he was trying to advocate was that
Hindus and Muslims must come closer together based on
precisely what he believed their religious scriptures
said about each other's prophets and on their common
stress on the worship of the one God. This was the
crux of almost all the writings that have been
attributed to him, most of which I have compiled.

After Chacha Jan's sad demise some years ago we have
been trying to carry on with the Maulana's unique work
of inter-faith dialogue. I am often invited to address
inter-faith and dawah meetings in different parts of
India, often even by Hindu organizations. When I am in
Rampur, I and some young colleagues of mine, many of
them students and self-employed youth, meet on Fridays
in the house of Chachi Jan, the wife of the late
Maulana, where we together study a selected portion of
the Quran. After that, I generally deliver a lecture
to the Juma congregation in a mosque nearby, where I
try to discuss issues of contemporary concern, say
violence, women's right, education, the importance of
dawah and inter-faith dialogue and so on. Then, we
divide ourselves into groups and go to nearby
villages, where we meet with Hindus and Muslims and
discuss with them about religion, focusing on the
concept of tauhid, or, as it is called in Hindi and
Sanskrit, ekishwarvad, which, we point out, is common
to both Islam and what we think were the original
Hindu texts. We also talk about the predictions about
the Prophet Muhammad in some Hindu texts that Maulana
Saheb said he had discovered, and also about the
possibility that some key Hindu personages were
actually prophets of God. In this way, we are trying,
in our own very modest way, to bring Hindus and
Muslims to understand their commonalities and thereby
to come closer to each other.

To our Hindu brethren we try and convey that Islam is
not a radically new or alien religion. Rather, it is
the same religion of monotheistic submission that was
taught by all the prophets, starting from the first of
these, Hazrat Adam, whom some have identified as Shiva
in the Hindu tradition. Hence, we tell them, to
recognize the teachings of the Prophet, the core of
which is monotheism, is to actually fulfill the
teachings of their own original scriptures rather than
constituting a departure from or betrayal of them.
Some Hindus will readily recognize other religions
that had their roots in India, such as Sikhism,
Buddhism and Jainism, although their teachings might
differ, on some counts, considerably with Hinduism,
but refuse to recognize religions that are thought to
have their origins outside India. So, we tell them
that true religion is universal. It is not meant for
any one country or race alone, and we say that some
Muslim traditions have it that the first prophet of
God according to the Islam, Hazrat Adam, was actually
sent down to Sri Lanka, which is part of the imagined
Greater India.

We tell them all this, and many people's minds have
been changed as a result, but still, I believe, that
in general people are impressed and influenced not so
much by speeches and sermons as by one's personal
example, and that is something that Chacha Jan used to
exemplify. So many Hindus who met him changed their
views about Islam and Muslims as a result of this
interaction. His approach was one of seeking to find
similarities, to point out our commonalities, rather
than play on and magnify our differences. I think this
is the right approach. I also believe that people who
go around condemning other religions or mocking them
in a bid to stress the claim of the superiority of
their religion actually do their own religion a
disservice because in this way others become alienated
from and hostile to them and their religion rather
than attracted to it. And I believe that Chacha Jan's
approach to dialogue with Hindus was quite in line
with what the Quran says when it advises us to address
others with good words, gently, with love.

In this regard, while talking about the need for
inter-faith dialogue between Muslims and Hindus, I
also want to stress that some ulema as well as radical
Islamists who insist that all non-Muslims are 'enemies
of Islam' and that we must not have any relations with
them or even that we should be stern towards them and
demean them are not just incorrect from the Quranic
point of view but are also insulting Islam. They take
one small verse in the Quran completely out of its
context to insist that Muslims must not befriend
people of other faiths. But this is wholly incorrect.
You must look at the particular context in which this
verse was revealed, who exactly the people referred to
here whom Muslims are told not to befriend were. You
must also examine all the verses in the Quran that
talk about people of other faiths. That would lead one
to the conclusion, which the Quran itself states
somewhere, that God does not forbid Muslims from
befriending those non-Muslims who have not persecuted
them on account of their faith. In other words, the
Quran insists we should relate to such people with
love and good intentions. That sort of relationship is
crucial for any meaningful inter-faith dialogue.

Islam is the religion taught by all the prophets, who
have been sent to all peoples in the world, as the
Quran itself says. It is, therefore, a truly universal
faith, not tied down to one particular ethnic or
cultural group. It is meant for all peoples, and so
when some Muslims erroneously conceive of it as
indelibly linked to a particular culture, dress,
cuisine or language I feel they are really negating
its universality. This naturally makes Islam appear
culturally alien to people who have a different sort
of culture. In turn, that makes our task of
inter-faith dialogue as well as telling others about
Islam particularly difficult.

In this regard I would like to cite a particular
Hadith report that has been attributed to the Prophet,
according to which he is reported as having said that
differences (ikhtilaf) were a blessing for his
community. Some ulema have wrongly interpreted this to
mean that the Prophet was here indicating intra-Muslim
sectarian differences. Not at all! Their petty
bickering on the basis of sectarian differences has
not proved to be a blessing at all, but, rather, a
curse. Perhaps one sort of difference that the Prophet
was referring to here was actually the diversity of
cultures, food styles, dress, languages and so on.
Unfortunately, some of our ulema think in quite the
opposite way. They want to stamp out this rich
cultural diversity, which is a real blessing actually,
and impose a single culture on everyone, at the same
time as they actively seek to promote sectarian
differences by incorrectly interpreting this Hadith

Cultural diversity is a blessing ordained by God, and
without it the world would have been a very drab and
boring place indeed! So, in our inter-faith dialogue
work we must recognize the validity of those things in
others' cultures that do not transgress basic human
and Islamic norms. These things are actually quite
acceptable to Muslims, who can also adopt them without
fear of having diluted their faith thereby. Likewise
in the case of others adopting some aspects of the
culture associated with different Muslim groups.

If religion and culture are considered in this
expansive way, I am quite confident that we can
overcome numerous hurdles in the path to inter-faith
understanding. Further, this would also help is in our
task of telling others about our faith, which is
something that Chacha Jan devoted his life to.

For a detailed account of Maulana Usmani's views and approach to inter-faith dialogue, see my essay titled "An Islamic 'Hinduism'?: The Inter-Faith Dialogue Project of Acharya Maulana Shams Naved 'Usmani", available on

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