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Spiritual Meditations ( 27 March 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Humanistic Approaches in Gita and Quran


The fundamental principles of religion and ethics are quite the same in both Holy Books



By Dr. Debabrata Das


Humanism is any philosophy which recognizes the value or dignity of man and makes him the measures of all things or somehow takes human nature, its limits, or its interests as its theme.


Humanism is the most characteristic philosophy of modern times. After centuries of philosophic thinking and meditation, we have learnt that the end of all human activity is the improvement and development of man and that man is not to be sacrificed to any eternal power, be it God or a political and social institution. There is another reason for our concern with the man. The life today has become so complex and involved that no philosopher considers it a wisdom to shut his eyes to the besetting socio-politico-economico-cultural life of the man. For this reason, philosophers and thinkers should have concentrated their attention on social, political, educational, economical and cultural problems.


Even in the realm of religion and its philosophic implications contemporary philosophers adopt a humanist attitude, that is, religion is for man; not man for religion. Philosophers perceived basic humanism in every religion and they wanted to integrate and harmonize Hinduism, Islam, Christianity etc., into one religion, the religion of man.

The foundation of every constitution of each country, I wish, should be based on this ideal of the Gita, "Duty be thy right." Hence our watchword – "Karmanyevadhikaraste…." (Gita II.47). "Your right is to work only…."


Now, we are to discuss the individual in the universal society of Homo Sapiens. The Greek idea of Aristotle that man is by nature social, or the assertion of John Stuart Mill that "over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign" (Aristotle’s Politics 1/2 Mill’s Liberty, Ch.1, Para 9) is raised in the Bhagavadgita (XV.7) to the finest possible limit of comprehension when Krishna emphatically asserts – "A fraction of my own self having become a living soul, eternal, in the world of life, draws to itself the senses, of which the mind is the sixth, that rest in nature." The limited categories of families or castes or classes, suggested by Arjuna for his refusal to fight the war already declared in the interest of human rights, cannot be accepted as the final ideas for the determination of duties in a life of Yoga preached by Krishna and all his predecessors and successors of similar status in respect of wisdom.



This organismic theory of Krishna is like that of the group-mind theories of idealism represented in the writings of Plato, Hegel, Green, Bradley and Bosanquet suggesting that the society or state for freedom or law in the perfect form is only the idea divine or the march of God on earth, manifested in the state divine (or Brahmi sthiti) of individuals, couples or groups at the highest level of human life (Gita II. 72).


No, there is neither support nor sympathy for any kind of nepotism, corruption, inefficiency or negligence of public duties. With a generous mind like that of Christ or Gandhiji, Arjuna in a moment of weakness or kindness for his kin, was about to fall a victim to great evils through the renunciation of his rational duties in the station of his life in the society (including the families and the classes) to which as an individual he belonged. But the Song Celestial (the Bhagavadgita) rescued Arjuna from this weakness of passion and dullness which would have made room for all sorts of evils. Krishna’s message was against all such evils that every member of the society of Homo Sapiens was required by the Almighty to fight as impartially as possible with almost a hunter’s instinct for chase.


So there is not a trace of fascism, or any other ‘ism’ opposed to Humanism as a whole, in the doctrines of the Song Celestial. It is not a book for the ‘scoundrels’ who in the guise of patriotism or nationalism or any other kind of sectionalism, commit all kinds of crimes and sins (or submit to other temptations or weaknesses) against the human society as a whole. The ideal of communism, even in the Yoga proper, is for a very sound and chastening relationship among all groups or classes in a true scheme of cooperation and struggle for the good of all under the Almighty. It is cooperation among all kinds of supplementary or complementary classes from the point of view of economics or other considerations in the whole society of Homo Sapiens. This rests on a Sanskritic or chastening struggle between the divine and devilish as two eternally opposed classes or groups of persons.


Islam, as enunciated in the holy Quran, is all for international understanding and unity of mankind for the great purpose of realization of human destiny. It does not recognize any barriers of racialism and all such aggressive ‘isms’ which are affronts to human dignity and worth, as the holy Quran regards men as the best creation.


The message of Islam is that they should all go back to the true faith which may be designated Deen (religion), or Islam (surrender and submission to the will of God). The root Slm in Arabic means "to be in peace, to be an integral whole." From this root comes Islam, meaning to surrender to God’s law and thus to be an integral whole. It asserts that religion does not teach that man should hate man. The object of religion is to increase love and unity among human beings by the recognition that "we are all the children of the one and only God." This is Humanism.


The message of Islam, as depicted in the holy Quran is the "unity of mankind under the fatherhood of God." It is opposed to all forms of grouping –– racial, national, sectarian, or other. This then is the True Path, and for this we ask God’s grace. The right path is essentially one of sympathy and love for those human beings who are most in need of them – the orphan, the slaves, the deprived, those who are poor or those who are lonely.

Now, we are to discuss the concept of man as expressed in the holy Quran.



(XCVI - Sura––Alaq Q1)

"In the Name of Allah, the Rahman, the Rahima."

2. created humankind from `alaquin’ mutual attachment.



We can now go on to the second line where we meet the word Insan, while the first line referred to all creations. This second line refers specially to the creation of man; the force of the first line, however, lingers and makes this creation also a process of loving care.

The word used for man is Insan and the word for the means of his creation is Alaq. Both these words are describing of much more attention than is generally given to them.


"Insan is one who possesses ‘Uns’ and ‘Uns’ means love, attachment, fellow-feeling, sympathy. So, Insan is that creature which possesses these attributes. In other words, it is these qualities that are the distinguishing features of man, qualities not possessed by other creatives. All social psychology is based on this concept of development through interaction and association. Human beings acquire the human characteristics only through association with human society."


Mirza Abul Fazl, in his Gharibul Quran gave to this verse even a wider meaning – Humans, according to this verse, he explained, were made ‘from love’ and ‘for love’. This is Humanism.


In its social doctrine and legislation the holy Quran makes a general effort to ameliorate the condition of the weak and often abused segments of society, such as the poor, orphans, women, and slaves. People are asked to free slaves on freedom-purchasing contracts, and if they are poor, you give them from the wealth God has bestowed upon you" (XXIV.33).

In the holy Quran; we find––


(XC Q.24)

"In the name of Allah, the Rahman, the Rahim."

13. It is to free one from a Yoke raqabatin



Most translations take this phrase ‘Fakkurraqabatin’ to have the limited meaning of freeing a slave. But Mirza Abul Fazl in his Gharibul Quran insisted that it has a wider meaning of freeing a person from a yoke whether that yoke be that of slavery or of some other kind. Slavery, in some instances, might not be a yoke; freedom need not necessarily mean absence of bondage.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali tends to enlarge the meaning still further with his inclination to emphasize that the industrialized and modern west is itself in bondage. He translates the phrase as "freeing the bondsman," but explains in his footnote that slavery may be political, industrial or social; slavery of conventions, ignorance and superstition; slavery of wealth or passion or power.


Muhammad Iqbal regards the human self as active, dynamic, creative and free. It is in terms of these qualities that he glorifies man. Citing the Quran in his support, Iqbal says – "The Quran teaches creative freedom of the human ego…… The parable of Adam’s fall from a state of primitive instinctive appetite to the conscious possession of a free self….signifies the emergence of a finite ego, free to choose….. That God has taken thus risk shows his immense faith in man. It is for man to justify this faith (Iqbal – The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, P.80)




Having minutely gone through the Gita and the Quran, one may easily realize that both these sacred volumes are so similar in their intrinsic nature that they stand as a neck-vein to each other. Truly speaking, a true believer of 7th and 8th verses of the 4th chapter (Jnanayoga) of the Gita as well as the 48th verse of the Quranic Surah "Al-Maidah" will find no point of dissimilarity between these holy volumes. Both of these scriptures intend to establish religion on a firm footing for the protection of the virtuous, for the destruction of the evil-doers and for restoring order and peace in the society. The fundamental principles of religion and ethics are quite the same, in all respects in both.


The similarity between the Gita and Quran extends on a larger scale, as most of the verses of the Quran were preached under similar circumstances in which the Gita was preached.


The attitude of the Kauravas towards the Pandavas was as tyrannical as that of the Qurayshites of Mecca towards Muslims; therefore the Gita and the Quran both justify war against them.


The Gita names Kauravas as Atatayinah or desperadoes who should at once be killed without the slightest thinking whether they be Gurus or elders or kinsmen or respectables. In the same way the Qurayshites of Mecca were repeatedly called Kafirun or non-believers by the Quran justifying their killing by waging war against them.


Lord Sri Krishna repeatedly commands Arjuna to fight against the desperadoes. Lord Sri Krishna’s whole discourse of the Gita is based on convincing Arjuna to be ready for fight against wrong-doers. He, for this very purpose, adopts three methods, Sankhyayoga or the Yoga of Knowledge, Karmayoga or the Yoga of action, the Bhaktiyoga or the Yoga of devotion.


In the same way, the Quran enjoins war against disbelievers saying, "Why do you not fight for the children who are crying – Our Lord! Bring us from out of this town (Mecca) of which the people (Qurayshites) are oppressors! Oh, give us from Thy presence some defender!" (The holy Quran Al-Hajj; 40,49, An-Nisa;74, etc.) The Quran justifies war against disbelievers in plain commandments– "Those who believe fight for the cause of Allah; and those who disbelieve fight for the cause of idols. So, fight the favorite servants of the devil, certainly the devil’s strategy is ever weak" (An-Nisa; 75, 76).


The Gita and the Quran both regard war for the right cause to be holy or religious. The Gita holds the words Dharmaksetra, Svarga-Dvara, Dharma-Yuddha or Dharma-Sangrama and the Quran the phrases Jihadan Fi Sabilillah and Qital Fi Sabilillah (Al-Baqarah: 216 etc.) After a minute observation, one can easily realize that the "Holy War" is the noble theme of the Gita and the Quran both.


In, Tarjumanul Quran, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad wrote that Mohammed did permit Jehad or righteous war in the cause of religion but that was only as a defensive measure and to meet oppression and persecution. This means, in the Quran, to attack others’ religion unnecessarily is the vice. This is nothing but humanism, (Tarjumanul Quran Part II, Page 1 – 3 Maulana Azad). In similar manner, the Gita and the Quran both justify war for the defense of all the righteous causes.


The basic trend of both the scriptures is to attain salvation through performance of proper actions as prescribed in the scriptures. According to both these volumes, this world is but a place for preparing oneself for the attainment of Supreme Bliss by one's deeds.




The Gita and the Quran both enjoined almsgiving to mankind in order to cleanse their hearts for enabling them to believe in the common brotherhood of the world. The Gita communicates about almsgiving that there are three divisions of it, according to the three modes of nature – Sattvika, Rajasa and Tamasa (Gita XVII. 20 – 22). The gift which is made to one who does nothing in return with the idea that it is one’s duty to give alms and with due regard to the time, place and the recipient of the gift is the Sattvika or the best type of almsgiving (Gita XVII.20)


What the holy Quran opines concerning almsgiving is, "the charity should be given for the love of God to the kinsmen, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer and to those who beg and to set slaves free" (Meaning of the glorious Koran, Pickthall, P.28, footnote). The Quranic equivalent for almsgiving is Zakat (lit. purification) which is fixed at a rate from all kinds of property in proportion to the worth thereof, collected from the well-to-do and distributed among the poor (Al Baqarah: 177). In fact, Zakat is the last among the five pillars of Islam – Faith, Prayer, Fasting, Haj and Zakat.

The Gita and the Quran both teach mankind an exhaustive lesson on benevolence by their respective discourses.


Jayadayala Goyandka opines that the Gita preaches benevolence through the following injunctions. The perfect and dear to God is he who is free from malice towards all beings, who is friendly as well as compassionate, who has no feeling of meum and is aloof from egoism, to whom joy and sorrow are alike and who is forgiving by nature, who is ever content and mentally united to God, who has subdued his mind, body and speech and has a firm resolve, who has surrendered his mind and intellect to God (Bhagavadgita, Tattva Vivecani, p.265).


The holy Quran enjoins that whosoever had done evil his sin surrounds him, such people are the owners of the Hell-fire. And those who believe and do good works are the truthful claimants of the Gardens of paradise (Al-Baqarah; 81-82).


It is true that prayer, pilgrimage, fasting etc., are intended to invite mankind to benevolence, manhood and right conduct, which is the sole matter of righteousness as enjoined by the Gita and Quran both. Therefore, he who performs prayer etc., but does evil to his fellow beings is not righteous. We may conclude by quoting the words of Khulaullah Sah Qualandar, "The Gita is the Quran of India and the Quran, the Gita of Arabia," for both of them preach a valuable lesson on humanity.


© "Kalyana-Kalpataru" (October, 2002) published by Jagdish Prasad Jalan for Gobind Bhawan Karyalaya, Gita Press, Gorakhpur. Reprinted with permission.

Courtesy: Splendour, April 2003