In the modern world I believe that it is essential that people of different faiths should be able to live together. Ideally this whould be with mutual respect, though mutual tollerance would be sufficient. I wrode in a previous article “Sufis from a Hindu perspective” about how some Muslims do show tolerance, but this is far from universal. I also said that I believe that when dealing with people of other religons we should assume good faith, but be prepared to find limits in the tolerance of others.
Since I live in a city where there are nearly 20 times as many Muslims as Hindus, understanding is obviously important to me. To try to find common ground I decided to look at people who are or were venerated by both Hindus and Muslims. There are quite a few, here are some of them.
- Kabir (15th Century mystic & Poet)
- Mirza Mazhar Jan-e-Janaan (18th century Sufi who believed that Krishna and Rama were prophets sent to India as Muhammad was to the Middle East)
- Sai Baba of Shirdi (the 19th-early 20th century saint venerated by Muslims and Hindus, NOT the controversial present day Hindu swami)
- Lalleshwari (Kashmiri mystic and poet)
I also considered Mohandas Gandhi and Akbar the Great, but discounted these because eacho of these were criticised by both sides as much as venerated, accused of appeasment by followers of their own religion and not going far encough by followers of the other.
I asked a on yahoo questions to see if there were any others who were respected by both. Sugestions I received were Guru Nanak, Shaikh Salim Chisti, and Mother Teresa. After looking at Mother I cannot find evidence that she was venerated by Muslims, so I will discount her.
What have the remaining people got in common? Well, most of them are Muslim though we do have a Sikh and a Hindu in the list. I am not confident that there are not many more Hindus and Sikhs that I have not found. Apart from that, they are all mystics and many are also poets. This should not come as a surprise, Hinduism enbraces mysticism fully and the Sufi branch of Islam. Spirituality is the key to mutual understanding. The Legalistic interpretation of religion is what leads to intollerance and hatred.
One of the answers to my yahoo question was particularly encouraging. A Muslim said that more important than finding people with beliefs that are acceptable to people of both religions is that people should live together in harmony despite differences. If only everyone from every religion thought like this!