Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
The foundational religious texts of Hinduism are basically divided into two main categories: “Shruti” and “Smriti”, the two authoritative sources that formed the bedrock of classical Hinduism. Literally, Shruti means “that what is heard” and Smriti means “what is remembered”.
Shruti denotes the divine texts that were heard by the sages (Rishis) directly from the God, while Smiriti refers to the texts that were orally narrated, remembered and written down. Since the former are believed to have been obtained directly from God by the spiritual experiences of Vedic sages and Rishis, they are considered more authoritative than Smriti. It is believed that Shruti had no author, rather it came as a divine recording of the “cosmic sounds of truths” heard and preserved by the sages and seers (called Rishis). Shruti includes all the four Vedas namely Rig-Veda (Knowledge of Hymns of Praise), Sama-Veda (Knowledge of Melodies) and Yajur-Veda (Knowledge of Sacrificial Formulas) and Atharva-Veda (Knowledge of Magic Formulas). Each Veda consists of sections namely Samhita (containing the hymns), Brahmana (significance of the hymns), Aranyakas (interpretations), and Vedanta (end of Vedas, also known as Upanishhads, which are metaphysical dialogs). Vedanta forms the basis of Hindu philosophy asserting that Brahman, the universal soul and the source of all existence, is the Absolute Truth.
Smriti contains all the knowledge that has been derived and inculcated after Shruti had already been revealed to Rishis (the great seers).They constitute the epics (Mahabharata and the Ramayana), moral stories (Puraanas) and some rules and rites for the ritual worship of Gods (Agamas).
Distinction between Shruti and Smriti:
Although both Shruti and Smriti contain texts that encapsulate Hindu philosophy, they remarkably vary in origin, authenticity and authority. Shruti, being considered solely of divine origin, is the most authentic, eternal and primary source of Hinduism, while Smriti is believed to be secondary in authority to Shruti. Shruti texts are considered nitya (without beginning or end) and apauruseya sabda (revealed and originated knowledge from a superhuman source; and that is to say, God). In other words, Shruti is revelation, while Smriti is tradition.
Shruti is a direct spiritual experience received by great Rishis who heard the divine truths and preserved them for the benefit of humankind. Smriti is a recollection of the very eternal experience. Hence, Shruti is eternal and God-made, while Smriti is man-made.
With Shruti, the focus is more on recitation and preservation of its divine attributes, while Smriti is used mostly as an oral tradition that absorbs different kinds of interpretations and conclusions. Shruti is the canonical, permanent and final authority of Hinduism. No verse or hymn of Shruti should be changed, and in case of any conflict or contradiction between the two, the Shruti will always overrule Smriti. Even in some verses of the Smriti text itself, the divine nature of the Shruti is emphasized, and it is ordained that if there is anything in Smriti which contradicts the Shruti, the Smriti is to be rejected.
Wahi and Shruti
The Arabic word Wahi has originated from the root word waha (to convey a message) and is used to describe divine message revealed to the prophets and apostles of God. The renowned Islamic scholar Imaam Al-Qastalani (1448-1517) defines Wahi as information given to the Prophets by Allah the Almighty, in the form of a book, through Angels or dreams. It can be conveyed openly or in a hidden and concealed manner, imparting wisdom and knowledge that is beyond the material and physical capacities of man. The Holy Qur’an describes Wahi in different manners and contexts:
“So we sent this inspiration to the mother of Musa” (28:7)
“Remember thy Lord inspired the Angels (with the message): I am with you” (8:12)
“Nor does He say (out) of his own desire. It is no less than inspiration sent to him”. (53:3-4)
“This is part of the tidings of the unseen which we reveal unto thee (oh Prophet) by inspiration”. (3:44)
According to the holy Quran, God has sent Wahi in every age and to every people for the guidance of human beings: “For each period is a Book (revealed)" (13:38) but only four revealed scriptures have been mentioned by name in the Qur’an: Torah, Zabur, Injeel and the final revelation, the Qur’an. The word ‘Qur'an’ is a derivative of the Arabic verb qara'a, meaning read or recite. Qur'an is a verbal noun which means the "reading" or "recitation". As used in the Qur'an itself, the word refers to the revelation from Allah in the broad sense and is not always restricted to the written form in the shape of a book, as we have it before us today.
The concept of Shruti in Hinduism bears a close resemblance to the concept of Wahi (divine revelation) in Islam. Wahi or the Qur'anic verses are Shruti in the sense of revealed scripture, while the scriptural authority of Hadith is as secondary as that of Smriti in Hinduism. Just as Shruti texts, according to Hindu belief, are divine words of God because they were "heard" by the ancient sages from God, similarly the Holy Quran is the verbatim speech of Allah heard by His last Prophet Muhammad pbuh through the angel Gabriel. There are high chances that the first sages who heard and taught the Shruti texts or Vedas may have been prophets to whom God had revealed them originally. The Qur'an was sent down to the seal of the Prophets, Muhammad pbuh, and it was revealed as a confirmation and fulfilment of the scriptures revealed to earlier prophets. One of the prime objectives of revealing the Qur'an is to confirm the truths in the earlier scriptures and to correct any errors, accretions and deletions that might have crept into them during their transmission from generation to generation. The Qur’an has also been mentioned in the earlier scriptures, for the Quran says about itself: “Without doubt it is (announced) in the revealed Books Of former peoples.” (26:196)
Since the Qur’an was the last and final revelation of God, it was revealed not only for the Muslims or the Arabs but it was meant for the all mankind: “Alif, Lam, Ra. [This is] a Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that you might bring mankind out of darknesses into the light by permission of their Lord - to the path of the Exalted in Might, the Praiseworthy”. (14:1)
“Here is a Message for mankind; Let them take warning there from, And let them know that He Is (no other than) One God: Let men of understanding Take heed” (14:52)
“Ramadan is the (month) In which was sent down The Qur’an, as a guide To mankind, also clear (Signs) For Guidance and Judgement (Between right and wrong) (2:185)
“Indeed, We have revealed The Book to you In truth, for (instructing) mankind”. (39:41)
Islam, being a universal religion, does not confine itself to any particular prophet or to any particular age. Prophet Muhammad pbuh never claimed that he was founder of Islam or that his religion was a new one, rather he preached the same religion and faith of the former prophets with a new code of conduct (Sharia) in full conformity with the modern changes and necessities.