An interfaith dialogue on Hinduism and Islam

On 2nd may, we had an invitation at the Salaam center which is a center for Islamic studies in Jayanagar, Bangalore. ABTN members Mr Vijay Venugopal and Mr Narasimha Rao along with four other members received a warm welcome exactly at 10:30 a.m. Mr Wahid invited the guests Mr Vijay Venugopal , Mr Omer Sheriff and speakers Mr Narasimha Rao and Mr Khrushid on the dias. The event began with a recitation from the Holy Quran. Then the host introduced the speakers and guests. And called upon Mr Vijay Venugopal to speak.

ABTN chief guest speaks

Mr Vijay Venugopal recalled his stay in Oman where he had many such discussions with his Islamic colleagues. He put forward a strong case for mutual friendly co-existence based on tolerance and mutual respect. He said that there could be differences and we need to learn to tolerate the differences to live harmoniously. Each person is an individual spirit soul. We are accustomed to identifying every person with the label that is attached to him, like Hindu, Muslim, Indian and Pakistani etc. We need to come out of these labels and identify ourselves with the individual spirit soul a servant of God.

There are various similarities that exist in the both religions. There is one God and that we need to serve him. There are regulative principles like no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling. Meat eating is regulated in both the religions. In Hinduism, one can offer a goat and not any other animal if he desperately wants to eat meat. In Islam, there is the concept of halal.

Various differences exist among the two religious sects. The major differences that exist are in related to reincarnation and cow killing. He also explained how cow killing as an evil In Hinduism. Cow feeds all humans with her milk and so it is given the position of a mother. So once she stops giving milk she should not be slaughtered. And there are various quotations from the holy vedas that prohibit cow slaughter.

We should learn to accept these differences and learn to develop harmony on this basis and we should not let the extremists elements use us. In fact we should focus on other people outside who are not even following the any of these basic regulative principles. The differences between us and atheistic people are more severe than the differences among ourselves and so we need to arrive at a harmony. With this he created a perfect setting for an honest interfaith dialogue.

Muslim scholar speaks

After Mr Vijay Venugopal ended his talk, the host introduced Mr Umer Sheriff (in picture) and invited him to talk. Mr Omer Sheriff spoke on the following points:

We should agree to disagree on certain points. In essence we should accept that there are differences and we disagree on certain points. He also mentioned that there is only one God and that is Allah. Also He spoke on Prophet Muhammad as the last Prophet who has come to deliver the Holy Quran. So he stressed the acceptance of Quran as a book for mankind.

Talking on cow killing. He referred to Mohandas Gandhi’s book and the works of Swami Vivekananda, He tried to establish that cow killing was common in Hinduism and since the spread of Buddhism and Jainism, the killing of cows has been reduced and now Hinduism doesn’t accept killing of cows. (This was later answered by Mr Narasimha Rao that all such misconceptions are due to lack of proper understanding of Vedas. The vedas clearly prohibit cow slaughter). He also pointed out that there are thousands and thousands of sects in Hinduism and all of them have their cultural differences. So its difficult to take any one particular sect as reference for Hinduism. He also said this country has never been ruled by same people he said the Aryans once invaded and colonized and it is they who brought the Vedic scriptures. (This Aryan Invasion theory was later refuted by Mr Rao).So quite in contrast to the earlier speaker the tone and tenor was not in favor of finding a common ground .

Fundamentals of Hinduism

by Mr Narasimha Rao

Then the host invited Mr Narasimha Rao who was speaking on behalf of Hinduism. Mr Rao put forward the following points:
* Hinduism is the most misinterpreted religion. He explained the origin of the word Hindu which was coined by the Persians when they first came to India. They referred the people on the other side of the river Indus as Indu and from that came the word Hindu. Actually there is one Sanatana Dharma that is the eternal religion for all.
*Veda means knowledge and so the Vedas are essentially knowledge coming from the Supreme Lord Vishnu Himself. He said that the most important scriptures in Sanatana Dharma apart from the Vedas are the Upanishads, the Vedanta Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita they are called as Prashtana trya and explained that anyone proposing a new philosophy based on vedas must comment on these three to establish their view and reconcile it with these scriptures. And by far only four personalities namely Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhvacharya and Baladeva have achieved this feat. All views purportedly from Vedic scriptures should be reconciled with entire Vedas otherwise the interpretation is void. Not that someone takes some verse that says that you can eat meat and establish that meat eating is permitted. He quoted from Sastras on how meat eating is regulated in sastras and cow killing is strictly prohibited.
* He clearly established the hierarchy of scriptures in Vedas. The itihasas and puranas are integral part of the vedas as mentioned in upanishads. He also established Bhagavad Gita to be the essence of all upanishads hence the srutis and Bhagavatha Purana as the proper commentry on Vedanta Sutras, Mahabharata and Puranas. Hence that is the supreme authority especially in ths age of Kali yuga where we have only very few vedic scriptures extent.
*He explained atma-jnana or identity of the self is the first lesson in Hinduism. And all living entities have souls and are transmigrating different bodies. We have to learn about our self as atma and Krishna is paramatma who is ultimate all knowing all pervading supreme atma or paramatma who is a person as well.
*Then he explained about the concept of reincarnation, free will and the laws of Karma. He explained about the differences that exist in living entities, how one is rich, one is poor, one is born with diseases etc. The reason for this is the Karmas they do and the merits and demerits they acquire. Based on that, they are rewarded and punished in subsequent lifetimes. He explained the Koran and Bible has no answers for such questions.
* Then explained about the different types of yoga, i.e. Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. said, Karma Yoga meant doing activities and offering the results to God. Jnana yoga means developing knowledge of God by reading the scriptures. But above all these is Bhakti Yoga which is performing devotional service to the Supreme Lord.
* The Vedas present a scientific approach towards life and reality as opposed to Quran which is just a belief system. And he also stated that Islam couldn’t explain many philosophical intricacies that are explained in the Vedas. We believe that the Prophet Muhammad although aware didn’t mention about these because the circumstances and the audience were not ready for it. The Prophets come at different times according to desa, kala, patra and spread message according to the situation. For example Prophet Muhammad had to explain that no one should not have sexual relationship with one’s mother and sister. Such was the consciousness of the people in Arabia at that time. But Vedas are the eternal message of God coming from the breath of the Supreme Lord Mahavishnu’s breath as mentioned in the upanishads.
* Also he talked about the Vedic culture was present all over the globe at least till the satya yuga but they moved out of Bharata varsha because of Lord Parasurama’s threat to Ksatriyas and after being cut off from the main stream they later evolved into some corrupted cultures in west asia, africa, america and other parts of the world. And in-order to reestablish sanity in society the Lord sent forth Jesus and Mohammad.To bring them to at least to the platform of humans from platform of animals. That was their primary role they gave an opportunity for those who were sub human to come to the level of humans. They may be able to promote themselves to heaven if they have good karma but salvation can be given only by Lord Mukunda the giver of liberation.
* He also exposed the myth of Aryan Invasion theory. The British had invented this theory to create a division between North and South Indians. It has no truth in it. he questioned Mr Umer who hails from Tamil Nadu if he knew the history of Sri Vaishnavas who have a history of more than 5000 years of existence in South India and they were worshippers of Vishnu who is an Aryan God.
* The best part of his presentation was the he presented four books of Dr Akif Manaf Jabir which established that God has form in Islam and the prophet’s emphasis on following vegetarianism. Later in the Q&A Muslim scholars acknowledged that there is a possibility that Allah has a form.
Explaining these, Mr Narasimha Rao ended his talk. Mr Narasimha Rao explained the basics of Sanatana Dharma as explained in vedic scriptures at the same time giving due respects to the Prophet who was a genius misunderstood.

Fundamentals of Islam

by Mr Khurshid

Then Mr Khurshid spoke about Islam. He explained quoting various references from Quran to establish the following points. He quoted isolated references from Vedas apparently derived from talks of Dr Zakir Naik to establish concurrence with Islam. We also present our views and reasoning of where we differ from views expressed by Mr Khurshid most of which were presented during the Q&A of the program.

*No mortal being can become God.
*He mentioned that Vedas never propagate Idol worship. He said that Vedas are the original supreme revelation and that other scriptures like the Upanishads, the Puranas are the works of various sages and so cannot be considered as an original reference.
** This was later refuted by Mr Narasimha Rao by qouting the vedic statements to prove that itihasas and puranas are also vedic pramanas. The puranas encourage deity worship but condemn idol worship and the upanishads like Gopal Tapani upanishads also mention about the word Krishna and that he is the supreme person and he has a form.
**Mr Rao also quoted Bhagavatha Purana to prove that the Supreme Lord Krishna can be realized in three stages namely Brahman or nirakara, nirvisesa formless which is inferior to Paramatma or as an all pervading person with limited attributes and the ultimate being Bhagavan or the Lord with all qualities and attributes. How can the Lord not have a form when mortal humans the he created have a form? He must have most beautiful of all forms hence the name Krishna the all attractive.
**Also it is interesting to note that Mr Khurshid who had earlier considered Puranas to be inferior qouted from the same to advocate similarities with Islam for example to prove existence of 21 hellish planets.
*The concept of life after death was not mentioned in Vedas either. It was later brought forward by various sages in the Puranas and Upanishads.
** Mr Rao later refuted this by saying all the Vedic quotations have multiple meanings that are comprehensible only to acaryas in parampara not for anyone to interpret. Also we can’t speak for entire Vedas because no one has access to entire Vedas as it is said only 6% is extant . He said this argument is invalid because reincarnation is described all over the scriptures and this approach is mischievous and far from truth. Puranas are valid sources they are said to be panchama veda in the upanishads.
He also spoke of the basic beliefs of Islam that are :
*Belief in monotheism
*Belief in the prophet hood of Prophet Muhammed(peace be upon Him) and
*Belief in the Life after death and the Day of Judgment.He explained about the concept of life after death. He explained that Islam believes that after death, a living entity needs to wait till the Day of Judgment. Then, the living entity is rewarded or punished based on the pious and impious activities.
** This came to serious question in Q&A as ABTN member asked that reincarnation is required to answer differences at time of birth, which Mr Khurshid answered this by saying it was just by chance and a test for individuals if they can believe in God in spite of all odds.
**ABTN members countered that it was illogical and untenable because it goes to say that all our suffering and happiness in this world has no cause but random tests by God.
He also quoted from the Quran and also from other pseudo vedic scholars to conveniently suit his arguments.
** This was refuted by Mr Rao because he argued neither they are from a parampara or a disciplic succession which alone could ensure proper vedic understanding nor have they commented on prashtana traya as explained above to prove their point.
*Mr Khurshid said Islam teaches only one God, Allah and anyone who accepts Islam alone can be liberated. He clarified at this point that Islam means submission to the will of the Lord and anyone who submits to the will of the Lord is a muslim and so is entitled for liberation.
**ABTN members mentioned Vedas also describe about the one God. The Vedas are ultimate truth for all time to come past, present and future. In Bhagavad Gita also Lord Krishna concludes that the prime duty of the soul is to surrender to Him (Krishna) abandoning all varieties of religion. So in principle, the followers of Sanatana Dharma also would like to surrender unto God hence they are doing what Islam has reiterated.
*Belief that Quran is the final revelation and that Prophet Mohammad was the last prophet.
**ABTN members said perhaps it could be the final revelation in terms of time but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a complete revelation for all times to come.
** ABTN members said the Lord descends once in every yuga and other times he sends his selected representatives to deliver people. Many times such teachings are temporal subject to the time and situation. Prophet Mohammad had to mentioned few things like this this because people of his times were prone to concoct the teachings. It could have been said to prevent any change in the teachings or the followers taking to deviations. And there have been great saints after him like Ramanuja, Madhvacharya and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu all who had seen God face to face and established from Vedas clearly that the Supreme person is Krishna.Perhaps he also be called as Allah or Jehovah.
So in summary although some of the quotations from Vedas were acceptable but rest of Mr Khurshid’s quotations from Vedas were misrepresented due its nature of being taken out of context and there are proper explanations for those from the above mentioned saints. And his quotations were actually taken out of context and hence not reconcilable with other part of Vedas. So it is just ardha kukutti nyaya or half hen fallacy[1] just take some portions and reject other portions.

Question and Answer session

After Mr Khurshid’s talk, there was a gap for half an hour and then at 1:30 PM there was a question and answer session.

The question and answer session began with ABTN members asking questions to Mr Khurshid. Mr Khurshid tried to defend from the Islamic point of view. The questions were mostly on the personal nature of Allah in Koran, the concept of rebirth and differences at the time of birth etc, Mr Khurshid tried to answer the questions quoting references from both the Quran and the Vedas. He attempted to sideline the Upanishads and the Puranas and tried to establish that Vedas alone are authoritative and that deity worship, personalism and rebirth are not mentioned in Vedas but were written in Upanishads and Puranas later by various sages and hence they are not valid. But Mr Rao was able to establish that Upanishads and Puranas are as authoritative as the Vedas as they comprise of the fifth veda as mentioned in Svetesvatara Upanishad and also mentioned that such gross misinterpretation is just half hen logic. He also cautioned against using the translation of vedic scriptures of western indologists which are not always authentic. In the end Mr Khurshid acknowledged that there was a possibility of Allah having a form and he doesn’t know.

Mr Narasimha Rao also faced various questions related to caste system; if Krishna means black, how can black be beautiful; how can God become a chariot driver etc. answered the questions convincingly. On the question on caste system he explained that one’s varna and ashrama system doesn’t come by birth there is a natural division in a factory like someone is a manager, someone manages accounts, and someone works on machines. All can’t be given the same job. We cannot nullify these differences irrespective of our attempts. also explained about the meaning of Krishna which also means “All Attractive”. All these had an excellent impact on the audience. He also made a point that Quran doesn’t explain in much detail as does the Vedas.

At the end both the speakers exchanged good wishes and decided to continue the discussion in future. Mr Rao requested the Islamic followers to understand Hinduism from the four authentic parampara which has unbroken connection with Supreme Lord Krishna.

Many other questions on Hinduism in Islamic perspective perspective answered here.

However the most important part of it was that many people got access to The Hidden Treasure of Al Qur’an by Dr Akif Manf Jabir who is a muslim by birth and a disciple of Srila Prabhupada founder acharya of ISKCON.

Also many people received a copy of Bhagavad Gita as it is by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who is a authentic teacher coming in the disciplic succession of Brahma. The guests of the function received a gift copy of the Qur’an along with a few CDs of lectures by Dr Zakir Naik.

SOME OF THE LINKS REFERRED HERE NEEDS CITATION

Conclusion

*Vedas are complete teachings of God.
*Vedic knowledge from scriptures can be understood only from a proper parampara system.
*The itihasas and puranas constitutes the fifth veda and they are valid sources of knowledge.

Observation

*The timeless vedic scriptures should be learnt in a proper way to understand truth, it is being utilised by people with ulterior motives to mislead or convert people as it was attempted by British Indologists. The people sympathetic to Sanatan Dharma should strongly object to prevent its misuse.

References

[1] There was a hen which used to lay golden egg. But the farmer just wanted to have the egg everyday but not feed it so he cut the hen into half. Alas! the hen died and no more eggs. So one cannot selectively take from Vedic scriptures and ignore the rest.
[2] Mansoor Ali (Manoram Gaura das) on “Allah has a form”

9 Comments

  • marc says:

    Pls share with us the audio or video recording or the whole transcript please so we can enjoy the nectar also.
    Thanks!

  • Vijaya Madhava says:

    Excellent job by Mr Rao to deliver the message that selective quotes from anywhere does not convey the actual truth where as it might look impressive to those who are bereft of real knowledge.

    If Zakir feels that Koran is so perfect then why does he need to quote from Vedas. It must and should have the answers to all the questions of past present and future with out any support from anywhere.

    We must educate the masses by Sankirtna movement not only to prevent misuse but elevate them to higher consciousness.

    Good job and all the best.

  • Abdul Kadir says:

    Wished to have a video. This article is quite balanced and represents truth. There is a need for muslims to be more open minded rather than being stuck in Islam of medieval era .

  • Sudam Das says:

    Thank you very much. It was excellent job. I think, it is time to counter attack to Zakir Naik who is just spreading falsehood about Hinduism.

  • Truth Seeker says:

    We thank everyone who have commented on this article. We have received three types of responses to the article. The first type a leftist type mostly from western readers seeing from a purely academic and scholarly view they call this is a debate more than a dialogue and why engage with people who are fanatical. And second type of response mostly from Indians who have hailed the article as they can relate to it. And there are some right wing comments who have called the article as that of Islamic apologist trying to defend it. ABTN is primarily based in India subscribes to the middle group who can resonate with the need to preserve and perpetuate sanatana dharma not just for its propagation but for our own well being as situation is becoming hostile day by day. And there is a need to preserve it for welfare of humanity.

    So whether call it a debate or dialogue it serves its purpose of educating Hindus to understand the real Hinduism and help them defend their faith and to open minded muslims for not getting carried away by pseudo scholars like ZN. We wish it helps the reader in his/her spiritual practice.

    Unfortunately our muslim brothers handed us a tampered video cut out at different places. We are trying to reconstruct it hopefully it should be made available soon. Please subscribe at http://absolutetruth.in/subscribe/ to stay informed.

  • Michael says:

    Wished the dialogue went in a cordial manner with a spirit of inquiry of truth. But what can be expected when there is a hidden agenda on the part of someone to invite for interfaith and defame institutions.

  • TUSHAR VORA says:

    I think that ABTN has done a good job in counteracting people who quote vedas in an irresponsible fashion just to further and meet their own selfish ends.
    Vedas are like an encyclopedia or like medical science, which needs to be learnt under proper guidance and training. You cannot just read a few lines from medical textbooks and quote like a doctor.

    I fully support the great job that ABTN is in.

  • Mansoor Ali (Manoram Gaura Das) says:

    Islamic ethics is based upon dualism. There is one set of rules for the Muslim and another set of rules for the kafir (non believer). Islamic ethical dualism extends to truth and deceit. So there is no wonder why Islamic preachers like Zakir Naik use deception and lies to mislead people. Islam needs to clarify its stand on TAQIYYA or right to deceive a kafir or non believer to their benefit. It would benefit muslims to really understand that true followers of Sanatana Dharma who worship the same God are not kafirs. They believe in the same one God and hence lying, cheating, killing, kidnapping … are not rewarded on the Judgement day rather they are punished for their sinful acts and are paid with the same card in their next life. Let sins, falsehood and violence in the name of religion stop and honest enquiry into the spiritual truth began. Amen!

  • Irshad Rizvi says:

    Zakir Naik has already insulted Islam by insulting the prayers we offer on the Holy Mazars across the world. He didn’t leave the Holy mazar of our Rasool also. He is the man who declares “Every Muslim should be a terrorist” and none of his interfaiths show any respects towards other faiths. He supports Osama Bin Laden who is the shame for Muslims. Already Lucknow’s shahar qazi Mufti Abul Irfan Mian Firangi Mahali has declared him as a kafir in his fatwa, which states he should be ex-communicated from Islam.

    Anyways, we shouldn’t bother about him so much. He is not an Islamic scholar. His teachings are against the Koran. He has just mugged up some verses from the Koran and pretends to be an Islamic scholar. In his speeches, he insults Allah and glorifies Yazeed, the killer of Imam Hussain. People like him should be condemned and socially boycotted. He is being financed by the Wahabi sect that allegedly perpetrates violence in the name of religion.

    There should be an inquiry into how he is running a TV channel on his own and also his source of funds. I’ve heard that Peace TV is owned by Mr. Najmuddin Sathak who is a Diamond & Gold Merchant in Dubai. Also Peace TV is not registered with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Already, many cable operators in Mumbai, who earlier showed Peace TV, have stopped beaming it. So, Indian Government should also bann that channel.

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There is nothing more sinful than untruthfulness. Because of this, Mother Earth once said, “I can bear any heavy thing except a person who is a liar.

by Bhagavatam 8.20.4

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