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Hindu-Muslim understanding
By Abul Hameed Nomani

Misunderstanding and distance between Hindus and Muslims and the resultant feeling of mutual hatred and enmity is the biggest handicap in the progress of the country and formation of a peaceful and civilised society.

People of both communities have been living together for more than a thousand years. During this long period though their houses, localities, markets, shops, and means of communication etc have become close but distances are still being maintained. With the passage of time these distances are increasing and the gulf of hatred and enmity continues to grow wider, reasons of which are not difficult to find.

Both these important communities of the country are unfamiliar with each other’s true history. Distance and ignorance of each other’s religious books like Quran, Hadith, Islamic Jurisprudence, Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, epics like Ramayan, Mahabharat Gita etc have provided golden opportunities to communal elements on both sides to create circumstances favourable to them. The institutions of ‘Varn Asharam, untouchability among the majority community, and the tendency to treat others as ‘malech’ (dirty and unholy) did not allow this gulf to be bridged. 

It is a historical fact that Muslim rulers, intellectuals and common people have tried to understand Hindu philosophy, ideology and society. In this connection, the name of Al Beiruni tops the list of such persons. Before him also, books written on different topics in India were translated into Arabic and Persian and when Urdu was introduced, Indian thoughts and philosophy were translated into this language also.

Persian translations of Ramayan, Mahabharat, Upanishads and Vedas made during the Moghal period are available today also in fairly large numbers. During the recent Book Fair Persian translations of Vedas and Upanishads in excellent printing and beautiful style were available in Iran Cultural House Book Centre. The truth is that Muslims have never been prejudiced and narrow minded in matters of arts, sciences, learning and knowledge. By translating the Quran in almost all languages of the world, Muslims have made easy for everyone to have access to this Holy Book. They think that Qur’an is the universal message of the Creator of the Universe for all mankind and hence keeping it in the dark or making it inaccessible to others is a criminal act. It is meant for preaching and publicising so that people should know what its Creator wants and what kind of man He wants.

On the contrary we find the people in the majority community, particularly the supporters and torch bearers of Varn Ashram who exercise full powers and influence on their society have tried their best to make the Vedas and Upanishads inaccessible to the majority of the people. The great publishing house, Gita Press, which publishes Hindu religious literature, did not consider it necessary to publish the Vedas. When I asked some people associated with this institution as to why, when Gita Press publishes cheap editions of Ramayan, Mahabharat, Ram Charit Manas, Gita, Puranas, and other religious books and classics to make these accessible to maximum number of people, with which I myself have benefited a lot, why don’t they publish Vedas which are the real religious sources of the country, they could not giving a satisfactory reply. Their lame excuse was that there is a separate publishing house for Vedas ( Rig Ved, Saam Ved, Yajur Ved and Atharva Ved) and the publication of these are not in our programme. The question is : Why Vedas are not in their programme of publications?

The reason in fact is that in the ‘ Varn Ashram’ system which is based on strict classification of society into high and low castes and their superiority and lowliness, there is no scope for Vedic teaching and philosophy and their propagation and circulation on mass scale. When there are instructions to pour molten lead in the ears of low caste people (shudras etc) as punishment if they dare to hear Vedic ‘shlokas,’ how it is possible to publish and propagate Vedic ideas.

Hindi’s well known journalist, Kuldeep Kumar has complained in an article in the Hindi Daily Amar Ujala of September 20, 2002 and asked as to how many Muslims have ever tried to know about Ramayan, Mahabharat and other literature containing religious and philosophical ideas? He further asks: have they (Muslims) ever tried to search and find out the inner feelings of their Hindu friends? He, of course, has made the same complaint against our Hindu brethren also.

I have no hesitation at all in admitting that Muslims have not made as much attempt to read and understand Hindu religious books and philosophy as they should have done. But for this, the majority community itself is largely responsible. If Hindu religious books and scriptures are easily available, Muslims will never be prejudiced and read them because the Prophet had said, knowledge and philosophy are the lost assets of Muslims which can be found any where. Moreover, scholars and intellectuals of India have acknowledged the possibility of enunciation of the Prophet (SAW) in India also. There are a large number of people who say that the light of prophethood has illuminated India also though the people, during the course of their long social and religious intercourse, have lost its essence because of certain historical and religious factors.

India’s great saint-scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi has clearly written in his works that this country also has had its share of the blessings of prophethood. The religious books of this country, in spite of all their distortions and twists contain a large part of divine and prophetic teachings and messages. No religious saint or scholar has disputed or contradicted these views. Obviously with such beliefs and concepts, Muslims cannot have any dislike or bias against the study and understanding of Hindu religious books and philosophy. I am also one of those who have unhesitatingly studied Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayan, Mahabharat and Gita etc and still do.

Here I would like to mention that in the biggest Islamic seminary of India of international fame, Darul Uloom at Deoband, Indian philosophy and religious study is prescribed in its course and that the book written by the undersigned on ‘Hindu Religion: Study and Introduction’ in four volumes has been published by Darul Uloom, Deoband.

For creating such a free atmosphere the majority community and its leaders and intellectuals have grater responsibility because very often aggressiveness is expressed and started by some organisations of the majority community. The activities of these aggressive and communal forces further widen the gulf between different communities. Many books on mutual relations between Hindus and Muslims have been written.

If the inhabitants of the country are able to know and understand each other time, money and energy will be spent on national and developmental work instead of unnecessary and wasteful purposes. This will lead the country on the road to progress. How long will the country tread on the path of violence and destruction? If Gujarat is repeated frequently, how poverty and backwardness in the country will be removed? Sooner or later, people have to feel the necessity of knowing each other. The sooner people realise and do this, the better it would be for the county and nation.
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