I wrote the article “Muslims, friends of Hindus” before the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. These attacks were really shocking. Though they happened in Mumbai they could have happened in almost any city; in the UK, America or almost anywhere. Now that this method of attack has been tried there is a very real possibility that it will be used elsewhere in the world. The level of inhumanity was chilling. One sentence that left me near to tears was from the BBC news:
“My husband was behind me and all of a sudden gunfire broke out in the corridor and they had executed a six-year-old in front of his parents.”
So, after this can I still be hopeful about Muslim and Hindu relations? Some bloggers that I respect point out how many Muslims won’t unconditionally condemn the attacks, instead giving a half apology and then trying to justify them. Continue reading
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!
Some people say that there would be peace if only everyone followed their religion. To those who say that there are many paths to God they say “if you believe that all religions can be a path to God, then why not be a Christian (or Muslim or whatever), because then there would be peace”. Of course believing that all religions can be paths to God is not the same as believing that all religions are equal. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami said:
I explain that there are many paths to the top of the mountain, some lead to the top and others half way up.
In my view Hinduism gives the best means, example and motivation for spiritual advancement, as I describe more fully in my blog entry “What Hinduism has to offer“. Even so, could it be true that if by some chance everyone converted to one of the exclusive religion there would be peace? At first glance it sounds like a strong argument, but look a little deeper and you will see that it is not so.