By McClatchy Newspapers
Many possible paths
A.M. Bhattacharyya, an active member of the Hindu community: Hinduism is not a monolithic religion. Within Hinduism there are many philosophical thoughts, many interpretations of scriptures, many ritualistic traditions and many approaches to spiritual progress, all revered by Hindus.
Formless, impersonal God, and personal God of names and forms, both have places in Hindu spiritual lives. Contemplation and meditation of impersonal God and worshipping personal God with devotion all are acceptable forms of connection to God.
Instead of stressing on a set of doctrines, Hinduism puts emphasis on experiencing the divine. The scripture, Bhagvad Gita, recognizes different mental capabilities of people and recommends different spiritual paths to follow for attaining the highest good.
According to Vedanta scholar Swami Prabhavananda, Hinduism preserves at its core four fundamental ideas.
These are: “God is; he can be realized in the depth of one’s own soul; to realize him is the supreme goal of human existence; he can be realized in many ways.”
Swami Vivekananda, who brought the message of Vedanta to the West, also expressed similar sentiments.
He said: “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, internal and external. Do this either by work or worship or psychic control or philosophy — by one or more or all of these — and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines or dogmas or rituals or books or temples or forms are but secondary details.”
One cardinal sin
Syed E. Hasan, Ph.D., Midland Islamic Council: The religion of Islam has two main requirements: belief in the unseen and practicing its teachings.
A Muslim is required to believe in God — the unseen — the Day of Judgment, the prophets and messengers who were sent to humanity from time to time and the divine revelations in the Torah, Bible and Qur’an.
Muslims believe in the sole supremacy and oneness of Allah, the creator of the universe, and the one who alone has complete power over everything.
In addition, Muslims must fulfil the requirements of the five pillars that constitute the practice of the faith of Islam.
These include: declaration of the faith, performing five daily prayers, fasting in the month of Ramadan, paying the Zakah (charity) and for those who can physically and financially afford it, pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) is a perfect example of a faithful Muslim; many people strive to come close to his level of piety.
On the other hand, there are Muslims who do not practice the faith completely but would still be considered belonging to the faith as long as they do not commit the cardinal sin, namely ascribing partner to Allah — shirk.
There are Muslims all over who do not offer regular prayers, skip fasts, seldom pay Zakah and may not have any intention of performing pilgrimage to Mecca, but they are decent people, stand behind Islam and its teachings, uphold its principles and would, therefore, be considered followers of the faith provided they do not commit shirk.