Sunday, November 9, 2008

Recap: Blame the People, Not the Religion.

After a span of more than a year, I have decided to blog again. I would kick-start this blog with my last post, dated May 13, 2007. During these trying times, I find this post relevant in helping us, Malaysians, understand that race and religion should not be the stumbling blocks from helping us achieve the much sought after Anak Bangsa Malaysia status.

Sunday, May 13, 2007
Blame the People, Not the Religion.

I was in a Golf Club House in Selangor downing whiskey with my pals Rocky and Sarj earlier in the evening when a professional looking middle-aged Indian chap walked in with a guy whom I assume is his son. From what it looked like, they were coming in for drinks after their golfing session. However, that didn't matter. Moments after they took their seats hardly a metre or two away from us at the bar, the Maghrib prayers were heard. Within seconds, their conversation topic diverted to Islam. They began to condemn the religion, and blamed it for the massacre around the world. Now, this did matter. As much as I would've loved to be part of them and engage in their conversation, I decided not to after seeing all the bottles stacked up in the bar. I knew that the presence of alcohol could trigger a potential brawl or a hardcore argument, especially with that middle-aged guy whom I had just lost respect for. I chose to keep mum, leaned back and whispered to Sarj that I've just decided to post my second blog. He shrugged it off.

So here I am, half drunk, doing it in his house.

Be wise and stop the attack on Islam, for it is a beautiful religion, just like all other religions. I often say this and I would like to say it again. The problem lies with the people, not the religion, be it Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism etc etc. The problem lies with the oblivious ones who translate and comprehend religious scriptures into something that gets them into an advantageous position. This has been the pinnacle of all problems. All religion teach their disciples that there's only one God. Hindus know Him as Brahman(*different from Brahma), Muslims call Him Allah, Sikhs use the term Waheguru and other religions have their own ways to call Him. However, they are all referring to the same God, the one and only. Only the names differ, but the Truth remains One. If you were to check the definition of all the terms above in the various scriptures, you would see just how well they tally. That's if you choose to be tolerant and read them all.

I am a non-Muslim, and I've come across many non-Muslims harping on a verse in the Quran that says "Tiada tuhan lain melainkan Allah" or "There are no other gods other than Allah" if translated into English. These non-Muslims have been misled. In fact, Islam never said those of other religions do not have a God. What they mean by the term "Allah" is in fact God Himself, the same God everyone prays to. One should not ignore the environmental and situational factors when reading or understanding a particular religion. Islam arrived at a time when Arab was in a state of social illness known as Jahiliyyah, where the community was ignorant of the divine guidance. The verse "There are no other gods other than Allah", if put into proper context, actually means "believe in God, and nothing else..not spirits, not supernatural powers, not paganism". It has to be noted that the society at that point of time were inclined towards paganism. Islam brought them all to the right path with the teachings of the Quran. Sadly, many non-Muslims fail to grasp this concept AND many Muslims actually believe that only they pray to the 'right' God. Lesson to be learnt: The Muslims and the non-Muslims are getting it wrong, not Islam. The religion is perfect, but the people chose to fit ambiguous verses in the Quran into something that conforms to their own assembled beliefs. Therefore, blame the people, NOT the religion.

Now that I've spoken about the misconception of Islam, let me speak about a significant misconception of Hinduism. Many believe that Hindus pray to many Gods. Hindus pray to one God, the Brahman. The Vedas refer to Him as the formless and the infinite, just like how other religions describe God. The idols that are associated with Hinduism are the attributes of God, and not God Himself. It can be said that Hinduism speaks in a language of symbols. Every idol symbolizes Hinduism and aspects of life. Many of you would have heard of the elephant god known as Ganesha. Do bear in mind that this is just symbolic. The trunk of an elephant can bring down a huge tree and yet, pick up something as tiny as a needle. Thus far, I'm not aware of any machines that are capable of performing both these functions. The trunk of an elephant can also extract water from a muddy pond and yet, leave the mud behind. The message is solely about discriminating the bad from the good; man may live in a corrupt-society, but he should be able to distinguish the good from the bad and leave the bad aside. If one were to have a glance at statues or drawings of Ganesha, one would notice a mouse at its feet surrounded by sweet delicacies. Now, Hindus do NOT pray to rats. If you were to look properly and pay attention to it, you would notice that the mouse always has its head up facing Ganesha and not at all tempted by the sweet delicacies. The point? That is how mankind should be; devoted towards God and not towards materialistic desires. All these convey messages on good deeds and the teachings of the religion. Many would notice the presence of spears in Hindu idols. A spear is of a shape where it gets broader when in penetrates into an object. It sends a message stating the more you learn or enquire the broader your mind gets. The shape of the spear which is broad, sharp and deep also indicates broadness of mind, sharpness of intellect and depth of knowledge. Lotus is also a fairly significant flower associated with Hinduism in drawings. Although it exists in a dirty pool of mud, it emerges white, pure and untouched. Again, an example of how man should be. Others that can often be noticed are snakes and demons. Snakes move in a crooked path, just like the path man takes when he is consumed by desire. If one were to look at the idol of Lord Vishnu, it can be seen that the snakes bow to Him. In other words, it portrays a message where one should have complete mastery over desires. There is also Goddess Kali, who appears to be blood-thirsty and ferocious. Again, these are just symbolic meanings. Goddess Kali is seen killing demons. The demons represent ego, jealousy and wickedness. The image of the idol in fact carries the concept that one should get rid of negativity within them. These are basics of Hinduism. Hinduism is not a religion of idol worshipping but sadly today, many Hindus have become idol worshippers simply because they fail to grasp these concepts of symbolism in their religion. Again, blame the people, NOT the religion.

Another misconception of Hinduism is the caste system. Hinduism never once stated that castes are linked with an individual by family lineage or birth in a certain family. In fact, it even states clearly that one can only be a Brahmin by conduct, and not birth. The Upanishads and Vedas have classified the caste system as a well organised and efficient human society. This was significantly practiced during civilisation in ancient India. The castes were the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Vedic scriptures would tell you that the pillar and strength of any organisation would depend on a knowledgeable system. That's where the Brahmins come in. It would then depend on security, which include military and defence; this are the Kshastriyas. Next would be the business and economic system; the Vaishyas and finally the productive working force which are the Shudras. It refers to an efficient society structure. Probably it would be clearer if I were to apply it into a more understandable context. Take a country as an example. It has the Government, Military Defence, Investors and Labor Force. If any of these functions fail, it would no longer be an efficient structure. This was the tenet of the caste system in Hinduism. However, many Hindus themselves have exploited this system for their own well being and used it as a stepping stone to leap ahead of others when they should in fact be working hand-in-hand in all departments. They operate no differently from those in a cabal. Need I say it again? Blame the people, not the religion.

I find it odd that religion has become the cause of aggression. Has a Hindu not read the Al-Fatihah before? Has a Muslim not read the Gayatri Mantra before?


Aum Bhoor Bhuwah Swaha,
Tat Savitur Varenyam,
Bhargo Devasaya Dheemahi,
Dhiyo Yo Naha Prachodayat.

translated into English:-

Oh God! Thou art the Giver of Life,
Remover of pain and sorrow,
The Bestower of happiness,
Oh! Creator of the Universe,
May we receive thy supreme sin-destroying light,
May Thou guide our intellect in the right direction.


bismillâh ir-rahmân ir-rahîm
al-hamdulillâhi rabb il-âlamîn
ar-rahmân ir-rahîm
mâliki yawm id-dîn
iyyâka na`budu wa iyyâka nasta`în
ihdinâ s-sirât al-mustaqîm
sirât al-ladhîna an`amta `alayhim
ghayr il-maghdûbi `alayhim wa la d-dâlîn

translated into English:-

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds,
Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
Master of the Day of Judgment,
Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek,
Guide us on the right path,
The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
Those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.

If people chose to read, they would've noticed similarities and known that ALL religions guide their disciples through the right path. Compare the Gayatri Mantra and Al-Fatihah above with Lord's Prayer of Christianity[The New Testament, King James Version] and one could see greater similarities.

When comparing Islam to Sikhism, we can look at the case where the Muslim King Akbar went to Guru Ji to check if there were anything against Islam in Guru Granth Sahib Ji. As he flipped the pages, he wanted Guru Ji to read them to him, and below was the Shabad that Guruji read:-

"Raamkalee, Fifth Mehl:
Some call Him, 'Raam, Raam', and some call Him, 'Khudaa-i'. Some serve Him as 'Gusain', others as 'Allaah'. ||1|| He is the Cause of causes, the Generous Lord. He showers His Grace and Mercy upon us. ||1||Pause|| Some bathe at sacred shrines of pilgrimage, and some make the pilgrimage to Mecca.| Some perform devotional worship services, and some bow their heads in prayer. ||2|| Some read the Vedas, and some the Koran. Some wear blue robes, and some wear white. ||3|| Some call themselves Muslim, and some call themselves Hindu. Some yearn for paradise, and others long for heaven. ||4|| Says Nanak, one who realizes the Hukam of God's Will, knows the secrets of his Lord and Master. ||5||9|| (Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, page 885)"

Being shocked and extremely pleased that there were nothing against Islam and their acceptance of other religions, the King bowed at the feet of Guru Ji before leaving.

From what I am aware of, misconceptions of Christianity is slightly different from other religions as it normally revolves around the Gospels. For instance, many question the differences among Gospels themselves when mentioning about the sign thats incorporated on Jesus' cross[New Testament]. Mark 15:26 states "The King of the Jews", Matthew 27:37 states "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews", Luke 23:38 states "This is the King of the Jews" and John 19:19 states "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews". Now, different they may be, but it has to be understood that there were four languages that were being used in Palestine at that time; Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. Slight differences are bound to occur, but the Gospels are still accurate, without a doubt.

Religion is a topic too wide too mention about in a blog. Thousands of pages would still be deemed insufficient. However, a rough idea on different religions and a proper understanding of them all could change the peoples' perception of other religions.

By pointing out the similarities between religions, let me make it absolutely clear that I am not saying all religions are the same. They are NOT the same. However, many similarities exist. And the similarities that exist are in fact, the vital ones. For example, believing in one God and righteousness in deeds.

Differences do exist. Islam and Christianity believe in Heaven and Hell; Hinduism believes in karma and reincarnation. However, these differences do not create much of an impact on mankind as both teachings share the same point, which is be righteous and one shall be rewarded with a better life in Heaven(according to Islam and Christianity), or probably a blessed life in the next birth(according to Hinduism and Buddhism). Whichever it may be, we are still better of. I believe that no religions have teachings that contradict another religion in terms of righteousness.

Despite some differences in concepts and theories, each and every religion teaches their disciples to be tolerant towards religions of others.

The Quran has stated that " Those who believe (in the Quran ), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians ,- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve"[Quran 2:62]. It went on stating "We believe in God, and that which has been sent down to us, and sent down on Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, and the Tribes, and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and the Prophets, of their Lord; we make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we surrender ( Muslimun )"[Quran 3:83-84]. This is evident that Islam is a tolerant religion, and not a religion of aggresion.

Sikhism believes that there should be "Respect and tolerance for other religions"[Guru Grant Sahib Ji]

Swami Vivekananda came up with a classic parable when he addressed the crowd in Chicago at the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1893:-
"A frog lived in a well. It had lived there for a long time. It was born there and brought up there, and yet was a little, small frog. Of course, the evolutionists were not there then to tell us whether the frog lost its eyes or not, but, for our story’s sake, we must take it for granted that it had its eyes, and that it every day cleansed the water of all the worms and bacilli that lived in it with an energy that would do credit to our modern bacteriologists. In this way it went on and became a little sleek and fat. Well, one day another flog that lived in the sea came and fell into the well.
“Where are you from?”
“I am from the sea.”
“The sea?! How big is that? Is it as big as my well?” and he took a leap from one side of the well to the other.
“My friend,” said the frog of the sea, “how do you compare the sea with your little well?”
Then the frog took another leap and asked, “Is your sea so big?”
“What nonsense you speak, to compare the sea with your well!”
“Well, then,” said the frog of the well, “nothing can be bigger than my well; there can be nothing bigger than this; this fellow is a liar, so turn him out.”

That has been the difficulty all the while. I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christian sits in his little well and thinks the whole world is his well. The Mohammedan sits in his little well and thinks that is the whole world. l have to thank you of America for the great attempt you are making to break down the barriers of this little world of ours, and hope that, in the future, the Lord will help you to accomplish your purpose." [Swami Vivekananda, 1893]

Religion should never be exploited for personal gains. And I personally believe that while one should practice his own religion whole-heartedly, he should also understand and appreciate other heavenly religions that do exist. Respect and venerate other religions and never once condemn them, for God is One.

Blame the People, Not the Religion.

Ekam Sat, Vipra Bahudha Vadanti (Truth Is One; the wise know Him by Many Names)

by Argus Eye.

1 comment:

BennyG said...

Thanks. This gives a good summary of the religions. We could learn more from it.