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Hindu – Islamic relations began when Islamic influence first came to be found in the Indian subcontinent during the early 7th century. Hinduism and Islam are two of the world’s three largest religions. Hinduism is the socio-religious way of life of the Hindu people of the Indian subcontinent, their diaspora, and some other regions which had Hindu influence in the ancient and medieval times. Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion in which the supreme deity is Allah (Arabic: الله "the God": see God in Islam), the last Islamic prophet being Muhammad ibn Abdullah, whom Muslims believe delivered the Islamic scripture, the Qur'an. Hinduism mostly shares common terms with the dhārmic religions, including Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Islam shares common terms with the Abrahamic religions–those religions claiming descent from the prophet Abraham–being, from oldest to youngest, Judaism, Christianity, Islam.
The Qur'an is the primary Islamic scripture. Muslims believe it to be the verbatim, uncreated word of Allah. Second to this in religious authority, and whence many practices of Islam derive, especially for Sunnis, are the Sunni six major collections of hadīth, which are traditional records of the sayings and acts of Muhammad. The scriptures of Hinduism are the Shrutis (the four Vedas, which comprise the original Vedic Hymns, or Samhitas, and three tiers of commentaries upon the Samhitas, namely the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads ); these are considered authentic, authoritative divine revelation. Furthermore, Hinduism is also based on the Smritis (including the Rāmāyana, the Bhagavad Gītā [part of the Mahabharata cycle], and the Purānas), which are considered to be of secondary authority and of human creation. The below article briefly describes some of the many differences and some similarities between Hinduism and Islam.
Comparisons and contrasts
Theology and Concept of God
Hinduism is world's third largest religion. Islam conceives of God in a strictly monotheistic sense: this is called tawhid or the doctrine of absolute oneness. God is the singular, transcendent, and indivisible one and only true god. God is considered ineffable, omniscient, omnipotent and has infinite power. In the Islamic view, God neither begets nor is he begotten: there are no incarnations of Allah, nor does he possess avatars. This doctrine of tawhid is exemplified in chapter 112 of the Qur'an, al-Ikhlas ("The Purity"): "Say: He is Allah. The One and Only. Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten. And there is none like unto Him." Quran 112:1-4 (Yusuf Ali)
In order to explain the complexity of unity of God and of the divine nature, the Quran uses 99 terms referred to as "Excellent Names of God". Quran 77:180 (Yusuf Ali) Aside from the supreme name "Allah" and the neologism al-Rahmān ("the most merciful"), other names may be shared by both God and human beings, but never prefixed by the definite article (al-)—attributes prefixed by the definite article are reserved to Allah alone. According to Islamic teaching, the latter is meant to serve as a reminder of God's immanence rather than being a sign of one's divinity or alternatively imposing a limitation on God's transcendent nature. Attribution of divinity to a created entity, shirk, is considered as a denial of the truth of God and the worst of all sins.
In contrast, Hinduism's belief in God can be variously categorized as monotheism, monism, pantheism, panentheism, atheism, henotheism or polytheism. To understand the concept of God in Hinduism, it is necessary to know that Hinduism has six systems of Orthodox philosophy, all of which hold the four Vedas as authentic sources of knowledge, viz.: Sānkhya, Yoga, Nyāya, Vaisheshika, Pūrva Mīmānsā & Vedānta.
The last one, Vedānta is further split into sub-branches, of which the most popular is Advaita Vedānta propounded by Sage Adi Shankara in the Early-Medieval India. Each philosophical system and sub-system has its own distinct concept of God. This leads to a variety of concepts of God in Hinduism.
According to Advaita Vedānta, the school of monism, God is One, and only One. However, due to the effect of Māyā (lit., illusion), God is manifested upon the minds of human beings as anthropomorphic devī-devatās (often translated into English as "gods & goddesses" or as "deities"). These devī-devatās are not fully real, but are permissible within the Hindu tradition as convenient paths for worship of God, who is referred to in Hindu philosophy by the Sanskrit term Īshwara (lit., the Lord, similar to Arabic term al-Rabb). Īshwara is regarded as One, spiritual, formless, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and perfect. Advaita Vedānta believes that God is present inside every human, animal, plant and matter, because God is considered both immanent ("like the whiteness in milk") and transcendent ("like the watchmaker who exists independent of his watch"),. Hence the Hindus worship the same one God under different forms and even through icons. Apart from the idea of God, it is also important to note that Advaita Vedānta considers this material world to be illusionary (i.e. caused by Māyā). They believe that there is one level of Reality higher than this pragmatic level, which is the Transcendental level of Reality. In this Transcendental level, there is no Māyā, with one and only one entity existing: the Supreme Cosmic Spirit (Sanskrit: Brahman). This Brahman is devoid of all attributes except Truth, Consciousness and Bliss, and this is the true nature of God (Īshwara). This Brahman is exactly equal to the individual soul, after the soul has attained final salvation (Moksha, which is all about finding this level of Reality).
The other sub-branches of Vedanta philosophy, like Achintya Bhedābheda followed by ISKCON, a school of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, have a different view of Īshwara/Brahman. ISKCON believes that this material world is also real and that God has positive attributes even in the true form. They do not believe in the Advaita concept of illusion, and note that the individual soul is not equal to Brahman. This Achintya Bhedābheda school believes in an intermediate view regarding the distinction between the soul and God, when contrasting this school between Advaita and the other major school of Vedanta, Dvaita. Furthermore, ISKCON believes that Krishna is the One and Only God and in order to attain salvation, one must worship Krishna. They consider the other devī-devatās to be servants of Krishna, similar to angels. The existence of devas are due to the karma the devas have acquired. The devas rejected serving Krishna so they entered the material world. They are fallen Jivas but through austerities have gained posts as angels.
Pūrva-Mimānsā is purely monotheistic, however can seem polytheistic to the untrained reader. The descriptions of the various "deities" are nothing but representations of the various aspects of the One entity. This notion is succinctly described in the Rig Veda pada 1.164.46:
- Indraṃ mitraṃ varuṇamaghnimāhuratho divyaḥ sa suparṇo gharutmān,
- ekaṃ sad viprā bahudhā vadantyaghniṃ yamaṃ mātariśvānamāhuḥ
- "They call Him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and He is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān.
- To what is One, sages give many a title they call Him Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan."
Similiarly the Verse 2.13.3 of Rig Vedas states " Om anveko vedati yaddati tadpah minah tadpah ekah iyate,vishwa ekasya vinud titikshyate yasto kruno pratham sasyu kathya" which means " Oh Humans! Worship only One (i.e Ekah) Supreme Parmeshwar who is the creator of this universe & who sent you Holy Vedas to guide you about the true path". Similiarly verse no. 1.21.8 of Rig Veda states "Om upah twa agne - dive dive doshavasta dhiyavyam - namo bharanta upaimasi" which means "Oh Supreme Creator (Agne which means Fire is referred here as God)! we only worship you as our saviour & every moment remember you & pray & surrender in your refuge(i.e., upaimasi)".So conclusively the Shrutis i.e, Holy Vedas of Hinduism promote 'Monotheism' but without any scope for Prophets,Messengers from God,as Hinduism believes that God is Supreme & doesnt need a Messenger or Prophet & thus it is Holy Vedas which God sent for Humans to convey his Message to Mankind rather than appointing a Prophet.
Nyāya, Vaisheshika and Yoga philosophies have more similarity with Islam. Like Islam, they believe in the existence of One Supreme God (Ishwara), who is formless, spiritual, omniscient and omnipotent. They also believe in the several devī-devātas as celestial beings who are subordinate to God; this concept is similar to that of the angels in Islam (al-Malā'ikah) and other Abrahamic religions. Like the angels, the devī-devātas are considered as intermediaries between God and the human world, and are assigned specific powers by God, who is the Creator of all; Agni Deva presides over fire, Indra Deva presides over all the devī-devatās and is assigned with rain and thunder, etc. However, these three philosophies concern themselves more with actual logic (and in case of Yoga, with physical exercises and meditation) than with religious beliefs.
The philosophy of Sānkhya is atheistic. It does not believe in God and in its logical system, there is no place for God. It believes that evolution is continuously occurring due to the liaison between the individual spirits (Purusha) and the Nature (Prakriti). All things are made up of varying levels of three essences: Truth, Passion and Darkness (Sattva, Rajas & Tamas) which keep changing in proportion, thus creating new things.
Hindu scriptures are very ancient and most predate the founding of Islam by millennia. Historians consider the Vedas (also known as Shruti) to have been compiled between 1500 BC and 1000 BC. There are four Vedas: Rigveda, Sāmaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. They are in Vedic Sanskrit, an early and archaic form of Sanskrit language. The language and the deities of the Rigveda bear strong similarities with the Holy Avesta of Zoroastrianism. These Vedas are primarily manuals for fire-sacrifices (yajñas) performed by the ancient Indo-Aryan people. However, Hindus believe that the Vedic hymns also contain eternal truths about the soul (ātman), God and their inter-relationship. They believe that these concepts are not obvious in the literal meaning of the Vedic hymns, but are in the hidden form, and become clear when one interprets the Vedas by meditation or through the help of the three tiers of Vedic commentaries: the Brāhmanas, the Ārankayas and the Upanishads. These texts were composed slightly later than the hymn part (the Samhitā), and are easier to understand. The Upanishads are especially lauded by Hindus and even non-Hindu scholars like Max Müller as the pinnacle of spiritual and metaphysical thought, and they form the primary basis of Advaita Vedānta. The entire Vedic literature was learned by heart by the ancient scholars and it was centuries later when they were written down.
As time passed by, there emerged another class of Sanskrit texts called the Smritis. They are considered to be of human creation and of secondary authority to the Shrutis, but nevertheless, quite popular among the masses because of their content, which is interesting legends, stories and moral precepts. They are also in Sanskrit but translations are available. Chief among them are the Rāmāyana: the legend of Prince Rāmachandra of Ayodhyā who battles the demon Rāvana to rescue his wife Sitā, and the Mahābhārata: the legend of the royal families of Kauravas and Pāndavas and the battle that they fought for upholding dharma. Within the Mahābhārata is the Bhagavad Gītā, which contains the precepts of Krishna to Pāndava prince Arjuna about the concepts of human duty, soul, God, divine incarnation and different pathways for salvation. The Gītā is often considered the essence of the Vedas and is highly revered by the Hindu people irrespective of denomination. The other Smriti texts include the several Purānas which contains legends and mythologies of Creation, divine incarnation and tales of the devī-devatās. There are also highly controversial Smriti texts like the Manusmriti which focuses on the caste system within the Hindu society.
The sole authoritative scripture of Islam is the Qurān, which is in Arabic. Muslims believe that the Qurān was revealed by Allāh (God) through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad ibn Abdullāh, the last and the final prophet. Islam additionally recognizes certain pre-Islamic books too: the Injīl (the Christian Gospels), the Zabūr (Psalms), the Taurāt (the Torah), and the Suhuf Ibrahim (scrolls of Abraham) which were revealed by Allah to the Jews and the Christians, but later on got "corrupted." In this light, the Qurān is seen as the uncorrupt and final scripture to restore the true and original monotheistic faith. The Qurān was written down under the supervision of Muhammad by his followers during his lifetime, and was also preserved by oral tradition. It was the third Khalifah (Caliph: the Sunni successor to Muhammad) Uthmān ibn Affān who had the Qurān compiled and written down as text. Like the Shrutis, the Qurān is considered as divine revelation.
Just like the Smritis, the Muslims too have a corpus of texts which are considered to be of secondary authority and human creation: the Hadīths. The Hadīths are collections of Muhammad's sayings and actions during his lifetime, narrated by him to his wives and his followers, and through a chain of oral tradition, these were written down as texts centuries after Muhammad's death. The Sunni Hadīth collection, called al-Sihāh al-Sittah (the Six Correct Books), contains sayings passed down through the Sunni Khalīfahs like Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthmān, their supporters like Muhammad's wife Aisha and Ahl al-Bayt. The Shia Hadith collections, al-Kutub al-Arbah (the Four Books), contain precepts mainly coming through Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law Alī ibn Abī Tālib, through Muhammad's daughter and Ali's wife Fātimah and through Alī's supporters. Muslims consider the Hadīths to be important in the proper understanding and interpretation of the Qurān. Apart from the Quran, there are also the Tafsīr books, separate for the Shias and the Sunnis, which deal with the Quranic exegesis (interpretation and explanation), like al-Tabarī, ibn Kathīr and al-Jalālayn. But unlike the Upanishads (which form an integral part of the Shruti and perform the same function for the Vedas), the Tafsīr books are not considered as divinely revealed.
It is to be noted that the Hindu and Islamic scriptures do not mention or recognize each other. This is in contrast to the recognition given by the Quran to the predecessor revelations to the Jews and Christians. Also, linguistically, Sanskrit and Arabic belong to completely different language families (Indo-European and Semitic, respectively), so the two religions do not share religious terminologies either, unlike Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic which share a large number of common words which are direct cognates because they are all Semitic languages springing from a common source.
Sages versus Prophets
Like the other Abrahamic religions, Islam believes that God speaks to the mankind through prophets (Arabic: Nabī). A prophet is by definition a human being who is Divinely inspired, who is guided by God and who speaks for God (or a god, as the case may be). Islam believes that in order to guide mankind, Allāh sent a total of 124,000 prophets to all the nations. Some of the pre-Islamic prophets listed in the Quran by name are: Nūh (Noah), Ibrahīm (Abraham), Ismāīl (Ishmael), Mūsa (Moses), and Dāwūd (David); these prophets are also recognized by the Jews and the Christians. Additionally, Islam believes that four of the prophets were given Holy Books, and hence they are called Messengers (Arabic: Rasūl, Persian: Paighambar/Payambar). They are: David (who was given the Psalms), Moses (who was given the Torah), Jesus of Nazareth (who was given the Gospels) and Muhammad ibn Abdullah (who was given the Quran). In this light, Muhammad is considered the last and final prophet and messenger (Khatam an-Nabiyyīn), whose message (contained in the Quran) is seen as valid for the entire world. All prophets in Islam are male. However, Muslims do give special reverence to many female Islamic scholars. The Sunnis revere the wives of Prophet Muhammad (Ummahāt-ul-Muminīn: the 9 wives of Muhammad), especially Aisha. The Shias attach special reverence to Muhammad's daughter Fātima Zahra. There are Muslim scholars who believe that all the Prophets before Muhammad predicted his coming. Some Muslim as well as Hindu scholars have claimed that Hindu Scriptures predict the coming of Muhammad.In Hindu scripture have "Muhammad is a recreation of demon Bali and he is also Demon" Some of these claims are based on the Pratisargaparvan section of the Bhavishya Purana, which is generally accepted to be recent in origin and not a prophecy. However, majority of the prophecies of Narashansa are quoted from the Vedas and Kalki Purana, which are authentic scriptures.
Similar to the concept of prophethood, Hinduism has the concept of Rishis. The Sanskrit word Rishi is loosely translated into English as "sage" (a respected wise man) or "seer" (a prophet, a man who can see the future). Hinduism recognizes and reveres thousands of Rishis, who can be thought of as the collective founders of the Hindu religion over many millennia (but unlike Islam, Hinduism has no single founder). Of these, special importance is given to the Saptarshi (the Seven Sages), widely regarded as Patriarchs of the Hindu religion, whose listing is different according to different texts. One of the texts, the Brihadāranyaka Upanishad (2.2.4) lists their identities as: Atri, Bharadvāja, Gotama, Jamadagni, Kashyapa, Vasishtha & Vishwāmitra. The Saptarshi and their clans are believed to have composed the hymns of the four Vedas by entering into communion with the Supreme Cosmic Spirit through meditation. For instance, Rigveda 1.1 is attributed to Rishi Madhucchandā Vaishwāmitra (i.e. Madhucchandā of the clan of Vishwāmitra). Most Rishis were male, but there were some female Rishikās too. Lopāmudrā is the authoress of one hymn in the Rigveda, and Gārgī Vāchaknavī is described in the Brihadāranyaka Upanishad as a highly respected woman in the field of Brahmajñāna. Apart from the Vedas, various Rishis are also credited with composing the several Smriti texts, like Vedavyāsa who composed the Mahābhārata.
Angels versus Devi-Devatas
Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, believes in celestial spirits called the angels (Arabic: Malāk, Persian: Fereshteh), which are messengers of God and act as intermediary between man and God. It was the Angel Gabriel (Arabic: Jibrāil) who delivered the verses of the Quran to Muhammad (S.A). It was a Jinn, Iblīs (the Satan) which refused God's command and was condemned to reside in Hell and to test mankind. However, Islam forbids the worship of the angels, for it may lead to shirk. Hinduism similarly recognizes the existence of celestial spirits called the Devas (literally, the shining ones). The feminine form is Devī. While they are usually translated into English as "gods", these beings are actually subservient to Ishwara and were created by Him and then assigned specific powers of nature. In Advaita philosophy, these devas are further interpreted as mundane manifestations of Ishwara/Brahman (caused by Māyā), hence the Hindus believe that they are permitted to venerate or worship them, because ultimately all worship would go to Ishwara. Hindus consider this as a simple spiritual path which fulfills the emotional needs of the common masses, and so icons of these devī-devatās are also permitted. Hinduism does not have the concept of a single Devil who is the source of all evil, although Hinduism does recognize the existence of several kinds of evil spirits, demons and ogres (asuras, dānavas & rākshasas) who are actually souls who have committed heinous sins in their past lives and hence reincarnated as such. Instead, evil is thought to be thoughts and practices of sin and adharma.
In Hinduism, forms of Ishvara (i.e., the supreme God) such as Vishnu are viewed as taking incarnations (Avatars, usually as a human) and coming down to the earth to bless humanity and rid the world of sins. Rāma and Krishna are two of the most famous Avatars of Vishnu and are highly popular among the Hindu masses. This concept of incarnation is condemned in Islam which sees it as violating Tawhīd. The Quran specifically condemns the Christians, who believe that God came down to humanity as Jesus Christ.
Structure and denominations
Hinduism does not have an organized structure. All Hindus in principle believe in the Vedas as Divine Revelation, but other than this, they have little in common. Different interpretations of the Vedas gave rise to the six orthodox systems of philosophy (Shadadarshana), but the philosophies have been confined to small elite circles of scholars, not well-understood or even known by the common masses. Most Hindus have never read the Vedas, because they are so complex and their language is Sanskrit, not Hindi, Bengali or modern vernaculars. According to the pathways of worship of the common people, Hinduism can be divided into four main denominations: the Smārtins (who directly or indirectly follow Advaita Vedanta philosophy and hence consider the worship of any form of Ishvara as equally valid for the easy worship of formless and attributeless Brahman), the Vaishnavas (who identify God with Vishnu or sometimes with Krishna), the Shaivas (who identify God with Shiva) and the Shāktas (who identify God with the Mother goddess Devī). In the recent centuries, there have been many Hindu religious movements like Ārya Samāj, ISKCON, Vedanta Society, etc., which have a definite structure and organization, and even accept converts from non-Indians. There is a caste system within Hinduism, although it is highly controversial and is slowly finishing off in modern secular India. The top caste, the Brāhmins, perform priestly activities like organizing temple worship, performance of ritual ceremonies (pūjās and yajñas) and marriages, for the whole community. But Hindu society is more affected by the gurus (the spiritual teachers) who deliver sermons about the principles of Hindu faith and way of life.
All Muslims believe in Allah, Muhammad and the Quran. But the question of succession to Muhammad, and the leadership of the Muslim community after Muhammad's death, lead to the division of Islam into two denominations. Of these, the Sunnīs comprise the larger denomination, and they consider Abu Bakr, Uthmān, Umar and Alī as the Rightly Guided Successors to Muhammad (al-Khulafah al-Rāshidiyyah, the Rashidun Caliphs). These Caliphs were elected by a small council of Ulamā; the Rashidun Caliphate was followed by dynastic Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman Caliphates, all considered valid by the Sunnis although not fully rightly guided. The denomination which rejected Abu Bakr, Uthmān and Umar, and instead chose to follow the leadership of Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law Alī ibn Abī Tālib, came to be known as the Shias. The Shias believe that Alī and his successors though his bloodline, and no one else, are the divinely appointed Imāms (overall leaders of Muslim community). They also reject all Sunni Caliphates. These two denominations separated completely when the Sunni Caliph Yazīd I ordered the killing of the Shia Imam Husayn ibn Ali at Karbala, Iraq. The Sunnis are further sub-divided into four schools of jurisprudence: Shafiī, Malakī, Hanafī & Hanbalī. In the Modern Era, Sunnism has also been affected by Islamic movements like Deobandī and Barelvī in the Indian subcontinent and Wahhabism/Salafism in Saudi Arabia. The Shias split up upon the issue of identity of their 10th Imām into Ithna Ashariyyah and Ismāīliyyah branches. The Nizārī sub-branch of Ismaili Shias is the only Shia denomination which has a living Imām. The closest position to priesthood in Islam is the Maulawī or Ālim (a religious scholar). A Qādī is a jurisprudent who presides over marriage ceremonies and in Shariah-ruled States, delivers judgments in legal cases. A Muftī is a religious scholar with the authority to deliver fatwa (religious diktat).
Sūfism is a mystical approach to Islam which encourages brotherhood between the Shias and the Sunnis, and promotes tolerance between Islam and other religions like Hinduism. The Sufis, found in both Shia and Sunni sects, were the main missionaries in Islam's early days, and emphasize the hidden (bātin) meanings of the Quranic verses, interpreting the Quran mystically, rather than only focusing on Shariah which is the role of the jurist.
Ethics and Morality
Both religions give special importance to ethics and morality, including the relationship between man and society. Both religions emphasize humanitarian values like truth, honesty, piety, kindness and charity. Hinduism considers the pathway of karma (actions) as a valid path to God. A man is supposed to fulfill his religious duties by getting educated, marrying, having children and raising them in accordance with dharma, giving charity to holy men, providing food and shelter to the guest (atithi) even if he comes unannounced, and protecting the weak. Adultery (Sanskrit: vyabhichāra, Arabic: zinā) is considered a heinous sin in both religions. Over time, Islam has developed a comprehensive and elaborate system of law called the Sharīah, which is based upon the Qurān, the Hadīths and the opinions of Islamic scholars, and is supposed to be implanted by every Islamic State. Women are generally encouraged, in some Shariah-rules States obliged, to wear the hijāb (a veil or scarf which covers the head) and dress in loose clothes, like the jilbāb. A tiny minority of Muslims, like the Wahhabis and the Taliban even consider the niqāb (the face-veil) to be compulsory for all women, thus having the women covered up from head to foot. Homosexuality is also forbidden in Islam, and extremist such as the Taliban would issue the death penalty. Some Hindu women, by tradition or voluntarily, wear the hijāb (by dupattā or ānchal of the sārī) when they enter temples, or perform ritual worship, or come in the presence of unknown men or elders. However, Hinduism does not have the concept of enforcing any kind of religious law, rather, people are simply encouraged to do good Karma and avoid bad Karma.
Rituals, Prayers and Fasting
Hinduism has highly complex rituals, although they are not enforced upon the Hindu people. The most complex ones are the yajñas (fire-sacrifices) in which Vedic hymns are chanted by the priests and oblations of ghee, grains, and milk are offered to the sacred fire (Agni). In Ancient Era, animals too were probably sacrificed during the yajñas. These fire-sacrifices are today quite rare, and another simpler form of ritual worship or veneration called pūjā is more common. During a pūjā at home or in a temple, the devotee says a silent prayer in front of an icon of the devī or deva, and symbolically offers the icon some sweets or other food, which is later on eaten as prasāda. Some pūjās can be highly complex, too, like Rajopacharapuja performed in the temples,Durga puja,Lalita puja or the tantrik pujas. In contrast, ritual worship in Islam is much simpler but obligatory upon all Muslims. Muslims are supposed to perform ritual prayers (Arabic: Salawāt, Persian: Namāz) five times a day. The Namāz comprises facing the Kaabah, kneeling down and prostrating, while murmuring certain Quranic verses. On Fridays and holy days, Muslims are supposed to assemble in mosques for the prayers. On Īd-ul-Adha, Muslims families are required to sacrifice an animal to mark the attempted sacrifice of Ismāīl by Prophet Abraham. Both religions have the concept of fasting (Sanskrit: Upavāsa, Arabic: Sawm, Persian: Rouzeh). While the Hindus might fast on specific holy days or according to the dates of their lunar calendar, Muslims are obliged to fast during the holy month of Ramadān. Both religions have the Prayer beads as a means of telling the prayers. Both religions consider weddings as sacred ceremonies.
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Islam allows meat, provided certain conditions are met, as listed in Surat-ul-Māidah. The animal should be a herbivore, and should be slaughtered in ritual way by invoking the name of Allah, and cutting the jugular veins by slicing its throat with a sharp knife. This is called dhabah and such meat is called halāl (permissible). The animal is required to be fully conscious and healthy at the time of slaughter. Carnivorous birds are forbidden but other birds like chicken are permissible if slaughtered as halāl. Fish is also halāl, although it is not needed to be ritually slaughtered. Locust is the only insect which is considered halāl. As for non-fish seafood, there are varied opinions. All vegetarian food (including milk) is considered halāl except alcohol, which is strictly forbidden. The meat of pig and all its by-products are strictly forbidden because the pig is considered the filthiest animal in Islam.
Vedic followers were predominantly a strong supporter of vegetarianism. There are varied opinions regarding the permissibility of eating meat in Hinduism, depending upon the interpretation of the Hindu Shrutis and Smritis. Most Hindus agree that vegetarianism is recommended and preferable, but while some Hindu communities believe that eating meat is permissible, other communities and sects hold vegetarianism as compulsory. ISKCON requires its members to be vegetarian. Vegetarianism is encouraged in Hinduism because meat is considered as rajasic or tāmasic (arousing passions or darkness), due to the fact that meat is the product of slaughter and violence committed upon the animal. Unlike Islam which makes a strict difference between the humans and the non-human animals, Hinduism doesn't make a stark distinction between the human, animal and plant worlds. There is certainly a hierarchy, though, and humans are at the top of it because human birth is considered as most precious. Those Hindus who do eat meat, traditionally used to have the animal (or bird) slaughtered by a single stroke of sharp sword or axe, which would cause decapitation and immediate death, seen as an avoidance of unnecessary pain upon the animal; however in modern secular India, many Hindus don't actually care about the slaughter methods and can eat Islamic halāl meat too. Non-vegetarian Hindus usually eat goat, chicken, buffalo (especially in Nepal), fish and eggs. Some Rajput communities eat the meat of hunted animals like deer too. Certain Hindu denominations like the Shāktas offer animal sacrifices to Devī Durgā/Kālī, and the ritual slaughter is done by beheading in one stroke. Other meats (including pork) are often considered taboo, but are subject to individual choice; the same applies for alcohol. All observant Hindus strictly avoid beef (flesh of cows, including bulls, oxen and calves). This is because the cow is considered as a devī and as a mother who feeds humanity with proteinaceous milk. Slaughter of a cow is considered as a heinous sin in Hinduism and has often been a cause of Hindu-Muslim riots in India (because Muslim consider beef as halāl). However, it is interesting to note that in the southern state of kerala, there is sizeable population of who Hindus who consume beef. Similar is the case with many areas of North-East India. Dairy products are considered permissible in Hinduism and in fact are highly recommended. All vegetarian food is considered as permissible, except that some Hindus avoid onion and garlic because these two are considered inherently rājasic or tāmasic. Further, some Hindus consider heavily spiced food and chilli peppers as rājasic too.
In Indonesia, in the city of Kudus, some Muslims have maintained the tradition of eating water buffalo instead of beef. This originates from the 16th Century, when the local Muslim preacher Sunan Kudus demonstrated tolerance to his Hindu townspeople who revered domestic cattle.
One life versus Reincarnation
Muslims believe that each person is composed of body, mind and spirit. In Islam, one's life in this temporary world is considered to be a test taken by Allah, in order to see which person is fit for the eternal life in Paradise, and who is fit for eternal Hellfire. At death, the body is separated from the spirit (Rūh). One's faith and actions in this life will determine one's fate in the Life After Death. There is a Day of Judgment when this life will come to an end for every one, and all humans will be brought to a second life which would be eternal, rejoining the body and its soul. On that Day, God will put people in Hell or Heaven based on their beliefs and deeds of this life.
Hinduism believes that the reason one's soul is in this world, is to find the Eternal Truth. Because of the soul's past karma, it takes an incarnation as a human being, the only birth in which the soul can possibly find the Eternal Truth. Upon death, the soul leaves the material body and gets another body and life (i.e. rebirth) depending on the total sum one's past karma, good or bad deeds. One's socio-economic status at birth and even species (as an animal or plant) is determined according to one's past karma, and the karmic effects continue if the birth is in human form. This is called the Cycle of Reincarnation in Hinduism. This cycle can include temporary residence in the Paradise or in Hell, but once the effects of karma are over, the soul reincarnates as human or animal or plant. God is the giver of the fruits of one's Karma. The soul can get Mukti or Moksha, the freedom from this cycle of births and deaths and ultimate peace (and also reunion with God according to some philosophies), if one nullifies all of one's Karma, by any one or many of these ways of life: Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jñāna Yoga, etc.
Perception of scholars
Perception of Muslim scholars towards Hinduism
An early example of Muslim perception of Hinduism is to be found in the Central Asian scholar Abu Rehan Alberuni’s account written in the early years of the 11th century. He candidly admitted the dissimilarities between the adherents of the two faiths, highlighted “the deeply rooted hatred” resulting from the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazna, and then went on to dwell on the essence of Hinduism:
“The Hindus believe with regard to God that he is one, eternal, without beginning and end, acting by free will, almighty, all-wise, living, giving life, ruling, preserving: one who in his sovereignty is unique, beyond all likeness and unlikeness, and that he does not resemble anything nor does anything resemble him.”
In a similar vein Amir Khusro in the 14th century said the Hindus are among those good people who believe in God who is omnipotent and omniscient and is “pure Truth and inimitable Reality.”
Another example of this approach was Dara Shikoh’s Majma-ul Bahrain wherein he concluded, with regard to Indian monotheism, that “he did not find any difference, except verbal, in the way they sought and comprehended Truth.”
In the 20th century, Muhammad Iqbal went even further in a popular poem, Hindustani bachon ka qaumi geet (The national song of Indian children):
- Wahdat ki lai suni thi dunya ne jis makaan se
- (This is the house from where the world heard the rhthym of One Reality (God))
- Mir-e-Arab ko aai thandi hawa jahaan se
- (The Emir of Arab had felt a cool breeze from here)
- Mera watan wahi hai, mera watan wahi hai
- (That indeed is my nation, that indeed is my nation)
Perception of Hindu scholars towards Islam
Politics and Historical Conflicts
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Islamic influence first came to be felt in the Indian subcontinent during the early 7th century with the advent of Arab traders. Arab traders used to visit the Malabar region, which was a link between them and the ports of South East Asia to trade even before Islam had been established in Arabia. According to Historians Elliot and Dowson in their book The History of India as told by its own Historians, the first ship bearing Muslim travelers was seen on the Indian coast as early as 630 AD.
H.G. Rawlinson, in his book: Ancient and Medieval History of India claims the first Arab Muslims settled on the Indian coast in the last part of the 7th century. This fact is corroborated, by J. Sturrock in his South Kanara and Madras Districts Manuals, and also by Haridas Bhattacharya in Cultural Heritage of India Vol. IV. The Arab merchants and traders became the carriers of the new religion and they propagated it wherever they went. It was however the subsequent expansion of the Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent over the next millennia that established Islam in the region.
In order to fully understand the relationship between Hinduism and Islam, it is important to take a brief look at the politics and medieval history of the Indian subcontinent. Islam initially entered North India through military conquest, by Muslim invaders such as Muhammad ibn Qāsim, Mahmūd Ghaznavi and Muhammad Ghori. Some of these invaders regarded the Hindu people as similar to the Mushriks of pre-Islamic Arabia, the idol-worshiping polytheistic tribes against whom Muhammad had waged wars, and for whom religious tolerance is not prescribed by the Quran. This led to the sacking and sacrilege of many Hindu temples, like Somnath in Gujarat. Later on, with the establishment of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate, some religious tolerance was granted to the Hindus upon the payment of the poll-tax jizyah. Thus, the history of the Hindu-Muslim relationship has been marred by violence, the mark of which is seen even today, especially in India's right-wing Hindutva movement and in Pakistan's nature as an Islamic State, although the relations between common Hindus and Muslims have more or less been peaceful and even cordial. The jizyah continued during most of the Islamic rulers of India, until the Mughal Emperor Akbar discontinued it as a mark of his tolerance towards Hinduism and emphasis on spirituality rather than political aspects of Islam. The jizyah remained discontinued under his son Jahangir and his grandson Shah Jahan, but was reinstated by Aurangzeb, who also committed many atrocities against the Hindus. The partition of British India into modern secular India and Islamic Pakistan caused further political estrangement, because the Hindus see India as their motherland and as a Devī, which they felt had been forcibly partitioned to please the Muslims. The Indian Hindutva movement sees the Muslims as a "foreign" people bringing in a "foreign" faith into India, while many Pakistani Muslims see the "polytheistic" and "idol-worshiping" Hindus as filthy and abhorrent. Far-right groups in both countries have been encouraging a revisionist version of history, wherein each group emphasizes only certain positive aspects of their coreligionists throughout the history and ignores the positive aspects of the other.
In Java, Indonesia, early conflicts between Islam and Hinduism were almost entirely political, reflecting competition between small Muslim kingdoms and the Hindu empire of Majapahit. However, historically Indonesia has seen more Christian-Muslim conflict than Hindu-Muslim.
Hindu and Islamic socio-cultural systems
During the Muslim conquests starting from the 11th century, Islam gained many converts on the Indian sub-continent primarily from Hinduism or Buddhism, the two dominant local religions. Most of the Muslim rulers looked down upon the idea of Hinduism as having Iconodulistic religious practices, and were to various degrees iconoclastic. Prominent examples of these are Mahmud of Ghazni and the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb on either end of the timeline for Islamic rulers. This led to several forced conversions. However, the majority of the Muslims of the subcontinent were natives who willingly converted under guidance of the several awliyas visiting South Asia, such as Khwaja Moinudeen Chishti, Baba Ganj-e-Shakar, Shahbaaz Qalandar, Hazrat Shah Jalal, etc. In addition, similar to the Hindu caste structure, Muslims in India also developed a caste system that divided the Indian Muslim society into three: the foreign-descended Ashraf Muslims, the local Ajlaf converts, and the converted Arzal untouchables at the lowest rung The term "Arzal" stands for "degraded" and the Arzal castes are further subdivided into Bhanar, Halalkhor, Hijra, Kasbi, Lalbegi, Maugta, Mehtar etc.
Akbar's court was home to intellectuals and saints, both Hindu and Muslim, among them the great musician Tansen, and he (Akbar) even went so far as to try and create a new religion (the dīn-e-ilāhī) to create a rapprochement of both creeds for creating a stable empire and for emphasizing only the positive, spiritual aspects of Hinduism and Islam. The presence of Hindu Rājās, ministers and military commanders in the Mughal Court ameliorated the relations between the two communities, until Emperor Aurangzeb reversed the policy of official religious tolerance and tried to establish a strict Sunni Islamic State in India. Frustration in the sub-continent grew as a result of this, leading to the gradual decline of the Muslim Mughal Empire, to be replaced by the Sikhs, Marathas, the Vijayanagara kingdom, the Shiite Awadh kingdom, and later the British.
In the last 60 years after the Indian independence and partition, the Muslims in India have preferential treatment with their own Muslim Personal Law. Communal tensions between the Hindus and the Muslims have erupted many a times during this period. Notable incidents of this phenomenon include the demolition of the Babri Masjid (claimed by the Hindus to be the site of a demolished temple marking the birthplace of Lord Rāma) and the Gujarat Riots of 2002. The Gujarat violence of 2002 is significant for recording the highest annual death toll in any event of Hindu-Muslim violence in a single state in the history of independent India: 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed following the murder of 59 Hindu passengers on a train near Godhra on February 27. The incident that spurred the violence was when the Sabarmati Express train was attacked at Godhra by a Muslim mob as per a preplanned conspiracy. 58 Hindu pilgrims, including 25 women and 15 children, returning from Ayodhya, were killed in the attack. This incident is not an isolated incident in the Gujarat state, in other states in India, especially in rural area violence between Muslims and Hindus is a common occurrence, that can result in fatalities.
However, even apart from tolerant Muslim Kings, there have been other unifying forces too, especially Sufism. Kabir, a medieval poet revered as a Sufi saint by the Muslims and as a holy man by the Hindus, wrote poetry and preached to the people, advocating a blend of philosophy and spiritual practices. The synergy between certain Sufi and Bhakti saints in many regions of India led to Muslim and Hindu laity worshiping together at a mazār (Sufi shrine). People like Amir Khusro, Prince Dara Shikoh, Abdurrahīm Khān-e-Khāna, Shirdi Sai Baba, Sikh Guru Nanak encouraged peace by preaching and/or writing. Hinduism actively encourages all forms of liberal arts, including music, poetry, dance, dramatics, painting and sculpture. Indeed, some of these are actually given a sacred identity, e.g. Kathak dance of the Awadh region is consecrated to Shiva, and the entire Sāmaveda is dedicated to singing the Vedic hymns during the yajñas. The Hindu devī-devatās and avatars are an integral part of the colorful Hindu culture and are often depicted in art and sculpture. In Islam, there is difference of opinion on the permissibility of liberal arts, due to the fear that some of them could lead to idol-worship and polytheism. While it is unanimous view within Islam that any icon or statue of Allah or of Muhammad is strictly forbidden, some fundamentalist groups like the Taliban (and Aurangzeb in the past) extend this to banning all forms of instrumental music, dance, painting and sculpture. Others like the Sufis, Barelvis and most Mughal rulers in history encourage music (including instrumental music) for praising Allah and His Prophet, and do not ban secular fine arts. Qawwālī is a form of devotional Sufi music common in Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey. It is known for its multi-religious strains. Some of its modern-day masters have included Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Sabri Brothers. Amir Khusro, a disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya and Sufi of the Chishti Order, is credited with inventing Qawwali in the 14th century. Language too experienced this new synergy. Persian and Arabic languages mixed with the local Hindi dialects of the Indo-Gangetic plains to form a new language: Urdu (a variant of Hindi with many Persian and Arabic loanwords, written in a modified Arabic script), which would later on become an identifying cultural feature of the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent.
Mughal art forms, especially miniatures and even certain niches of Urdu poetry, were quick to absorb classic Hindu motifs, like the love story of Krishna and Radha.Hindustani classical music is a complex and sonorous blend of Vedic notions of sound, rāga and tāla and absorbed many instruments and concepts of either Middle-Eastern origin or Indian-Muslim invention such as the sitar, the santoor and the ghazal. Hindu motifs like the lotus can also be seen on the Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the 16th century.
- Islam and other religions
- Hinduism and other religions
- Divisions of the world in Islam
- Klostermaier, Klaus K. (2007). A Survey of Hinduism. (3. ed. ed.). Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press. pp. 46–49. ISBN 0-7914-7082-2.
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- The Hindu (Chennai, India). 16 September 2001 http://hindu.com/thehindu/2001/09/16/stories/13160467.htm
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|url=missing title (help).
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- These figures were reported to the Rajya Sabha by the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal in May 2005. "Gujarat riot death toll revealed". BBC News. 11 May 2005. Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. PTI (12 May 2005). "BJP cites govt statistics to defend Modi". ExpressIndia. Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. PTI (11 May 2005). "254 Hindus, 790 Muslims killed in post-Godhra riots". Indiainfo.com. Archived from the original on 26 February 2009.
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