By Tahir Mahmood
Sadaqat Hussain Qasmi's stress on the difference between "mushrikeen-e-Arab" and the followers of the great Hindu faith of India (HT, October 10, 'Opening the Book') just cannot be over-emphasised. And, it is indeed a world of difference that we often unjustifiably ignore.
The Arabic word mushrik in Islamic theology means 'one who associates a worldly object with Divine power'. If the Hindus are mushrik in this sense, so are we, the majority of Muslims in the subcontinent.
They associate with God Almighty numerous idols put on pedestals and we, numerous saints of antiquity buried in their graves. They worship God through the medium of images seen as sublime symbols, we petition dead saints to intercede with God to grant us earthly and heavenly favours.
If one way is shirk, so is the other. If despite all this Islam remains a "monotheistic" faith, so does Hinduism.
The irony of the matter is that the Prophet Muhammad had warned his followers against venerating his own grave. But we in the subcontinent virtually worship the graves of saints scattered all over this ancient land.
Taking pride in our own practices we talk only of the shirk of the Hindus, indeed of every community other than us. I do not at all mean either to denounce the Hindu way of formal worship or condemn the Muslim veneration of graves.
Let no one mistake my point or suspect any agenda. I just deprecate our selectivity in this regard and entirely agree that the Hindus cannot be called "mushrik" in the sense in which this word is understood in Islamic theology.
I believe that the Holy Vedas are based on divine revelation and indeed are a perfect answer to the Quranic reference to "suhif-il-oula" (early scriptures). Many verses of the Holy Quran glorifying God Almighty and His divine powers have remarkably exact parallels in one or another of the four Vedas.
Vedic monotheism is in fact no different from the Quran's.
Tahir Mahmood is Member, Law commission of India and former Chairman, National Minorities Commission
Source: Hindustan Times