By Muhammad Yunus, NewAgeIslam.com
Co-Author, Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009
The present day Islamophobia driven greenhorn scholarship draws on the Qur’anic verses with exhortations to kill the Mushriks (technically ‘mushrikin’, translated as unbelievers, disbelievers, idol worshippers) to project Islam as a violent religion that permits killing the ‘Mushriks’. Some radical groups in India fan communal hatred and violence by quoting these verses, applying the word ‘al-mushrikin’ to the Hindus. Even otherwise, many present day Muslims regard their Hindu brethren as ‘Mushriks’ (one who associates others with God) and wanting in divine spiritualism, while many Hindus may be entertaining unsavory notions about Islam, informed by the revisionist Islamophobic narratives. The following quotations form primary Hindu and Islamic scriptures demonstrate that i) Hinduism has monotheistic roots and ii) The mushrikin referred to in the Qur’an were the pagans of Mecca who had conspired with the hypocrites among the Prophet’s followers to finish him off.
The Upanishad and Bhagavad Gita
“He is the One God, hidden in all beings, all-pervading, the Self within all beings, watching over all works, the witness, the perceiver, the only One, free from all qualities (that humans attribute to Him).” Svetesvatra Upanishad 6.11.
[World Scripture, International Religious Foundation, New York, 1991]
"I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts." - Bhagavad Gita 10.8.
"O Arjuna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities; but Me no one knows...." Bhagavad-gita 7.26.
Comment: It is clear that some ancient Hindu saints must have been inspired with the notion of one God – in other words, they received God’s revelation. The Qur’an does mention categorically that God sent messengers to all communities from time to time (10:47, 13:38, 15:10, 23:44, 30:47, 35:24, 43:6, 57:25), some of which are mentioned in the Qur’an while others are not (40:78, 4:164). It is therefore indubitable that the Hindus, whose civilizations pre-dates the Mosaic era, must have had their share of messengers or saints who sang the hymn of One God – contemplating Him in their own imageries or non-imageries. As the Qur’an affirms, God's name is regularly proclaimed in monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques (22:40).
Muslims argue that the Hindus associate others with God, but it is not their business to worry over how a Hindu person comprehends God in his mind or through images. The Moghuls, who ruled India for some 300 years, did not treat the Hindus as ‘mushriks’ or ‘Kafirs.’ Had they done so, such moral degradation (from a Muslim’s perspective) would have inevitably reflected in the popular narratives of the era or led to frequent communal riots. It is doubtful if any Muslim poet or social narrative of the era has referred to the Hindus in those terms, and had there been communal riots, the demography of pre-partition India would have been on purely religious lines and the Western scholarship of the colonial days would have highlighted it, if anything with a great deal of embellishment. It is therefore almost axiomatic that the Hindu and Muslim communities across the Moghul Empire lived side by side as good neighbors – each side devoted to its own religion.
The ‘mushrikin’ referred to in the Qur’an were obviously those who were present during the course of revelation – the pagan Arabs. If one argues that the Qur’an being an eternal Book, each of its pronouncements is valid for all times, then the following verses will suggest that today’s hypocritical Muslims will equate with today’s mushrikin (allegedly Hindus) in incurring God’s curse and punishment.
“The hypocrite men and women are of the same kind. They enjoin the evil, and forbid the good, and hold back their hands (from giving to the needy). They are oblivious of God and God is oblivious of them, and without doubt, they are the deviants (fasiqun) (9:67). God has promised for them as well as the unbelievers (kuffar), the fire of hell and that is enough for them; for them is the curse of God and an enduring punishment” (9:68).
“Whether you (O Muhammad) seek forgiveness for them (hypocrites) or you do not seek not forgiveness for them (it makes no difference.) Even if you ask seventy times for their forgiveness, God will not forgive them, because they have rejected God and His Messenger, and God does not guide the deviants (fasiqun)” (9:80).
And never (O Muhammad) pray for any of them (hypocrites) who dies, nor stand at his grave, for they were unfaithful to God and His Messenger, and died as deviants (fasiqun)” (9:84).
“The nomadic Arabs are the worst in disbelief (Kufr) and hypocrisy (nifaq), and more likely to be ignorant of the limits of what God has revealed to His Messenger, for God is All-Knowing, the Wise” (9:97).
“God will punish the hypocrites - men and women, and the mushrikin - men and women; and God will pardon the believers in One God - men (muminin) and women (muminat), for God is Forgiving, Merciful” (33:73).
“(God will) punish the hypocrites - men and women and the mushrikin - men and women, who conceived an evil opinion of God; an evil turn of fortune awaits them. God is angry with them and has cursed them and prepared for them hell – a wretched abode (48:6).
“They (the hypocrites) have made their oaths a cover; they hinder (others) from God’s path, so they shall have a humiliating punishment” (58:16).
Reflections: In light of the above Quranic pronouncements, if the present day Hindus are identified with the ‘mushrikin’ in the listed and many other verses, the hypocrites among today’s Muslims - and surely there will be plenty among them, will be no different from the ‘mushrikin’ in spiritual perversion, and in earning God’s wrath and punishment. Are the Muslim ulema willing to accept such a proposition? If the answer is no, then a difference has to be made between those referred as ‘mushrikin’ in the Qur’an and the today’s Hindus.
The Qur’an’s further illustration. As part of its arguments against the prevalent Jahiliya (social, moral, ethical and intellectual decay), the Qur’an brings across some of the social malaise of the mushrikin – its pagan audience. They abhorred the birth of a female child and would rather bury it alive than bear the shame and ignominy of raising it (16:58/59, 43:17, 81:8). They slaughtered their own children (6:137, 6:140, 60:12) as sacrifice to idols, or on account of poverty (6:151, 17:31). Married women committed ‘zina’ [lived with strangers in the absence of their husbands] and theft as part of social norm (60:12). Men abandoned their wives but nominally kept them in wedlock to harass them by simply taking an oath (58:2). The widows were inherited by the next of kin (4:19) - to cite some of the major vices. The social, moral and ethical paradigms of modern Hinduism stand in sharp contradiction to those of the mushrikin mentioned in the Qur’an. So identifying the latter with the former – present day Hindus as mushrikin of the Qur’an will be as anachronistic and misleading as identifying today’s hypocritical Muslims with the munafiqin (hypocrites) of the Prophet’s era – though God knows best.
To sum up, it is far more important for the Muslims to meet the social, moral, ethical and universal paradigms of the Qur’an than to tell others that they are not believers (4:94), or to insult those whom they invoke besides God (6:108).
“You who believe, whenever you campaign in God's way, be discerning and do not say to anyone who offers you peace: ‘You are not a believer’ - seeking worldly gains (by exploiting him), for there are plenty of gains with God. (Remember,) you were like them before - till God favored you. Therefore be discerning. Indeed God is informed of what you do” (4:94).
“Don’t insult those whom they invoke besides God, lest they ignorantly insult God in enmity. Thus We have made their action seem pleasing to every community; then their return is to their Lord, and He will tell them what they had been doing” (6:108).
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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