By Dr Javed Jamil,
Shirdi’s Sai Baba has undoubtedly outdone all other Hindu saints in terms of growing popularity among Hindus in the last century. While there is little doubt that he was a Muslim Sufi saint with unadulterated devotion to one “MaaliK”, his Hindu devotees outnumber Muslims by a huge margin. This is of course due to the fact that Baba loved local Hindu population and helped them in getting rid of their distresses. From Muslim point of view, it is indeed unfortunate that people started worshipping a saint whose slogan was “Sab ka Maalik Aik” (The Lord of All is One), which is almost exactly what La Ilaha Illallah(There is no god except One GOD) implies. The man who wanted everybody to worship one Maalik, even if through the help of a Murshid (Teacher) could not have liked temples being built in his name, his statues erected and worshipped by millions. He might have wished instead that all these disciples of him would have recognized God, the Lord of the World who is also the Lord of those who do not believe in Him and would have recognized His Last Scripture as the Final source of guidance. But they chose to worship him instead. This would surely be paining the Soul of The Baba.
But if the Shankaracharya of Dwarka has chosen to publicly denounce the devotion of Baba’s devotees, it smacks of a feeling of aversion towards Islam and Muslims and a sense of growing insecurity in theological terms. In all probability, the Shankaracharya does not know that Islam does not claim its origin in Qur’an and Muhammad (PBUH) that were only the Last Scripture and Last Prophet in a series of a large number of scriptures (Suhuf and Kutub) and God-sent Ambassadors. Qur’an talks of God’s Messengers in every region of the world, and many Islamic scholars talk fondly of Hindu figures like Ram and Krishna because they think they might well have been part of the early history of Islam. (Nothing can be said with certainty though.)
When after studying Bible, I read Valmiki Ramayana about 20 years back, I was struck with amazement finding that the story of Ram, as described by Valmiki has close similarities with the history of Hadhrat Ibrahim described in Old Testament Abram was his original name in Bible meaning Father of the Nation which later became Abraham, the Father of Nations. When he left Ur, his native place, and moved to the desert of Egypt, His wife Sara (like Sita) was kidnapped by the Firaun of that time (Ravan) who later released her, as he got convinced about her extraordinary character. Abram later married Hegira and banished her like Sita was banished. While Valmiki Ramayana describes only one wife of Rama and ascribes apharan and nishkaasan to her unlike in Bible where these two events related to his two wives, several other Ram Kathas describe more than one wife of Ram. Abraham too had two sons Ishmael and Isaac, like Luv and Kush, and they also were master archers. Bharat Jhunjhunwala, well-known columnist, is now busy compiling a full book on the similarities between Ibrahim (RA) and Ram. Valmiki Ramyana talks of one single God and speaks about Pralay (Qayamat). In one of the Hindu scriptures, I also found a story almost similar to Hadhrat Lut (AS) whose people had become sexually corrupt and were destroyed through raining of stones from the sky. It isalso amzing that no group of Indians traces their ancestry to Rama, and nothing is known in Hindu scriptures about the later life of Luv and Kush and their progeny.
The Shankaracharya is perhaps also not aware of the fact that Islam literally means Shanti (Peace), and is defined as Submission to God (Samarpan to Parmeshwar). Under the circumstances it would have been better if the Shankaracharya had asked the Hindus and Muslims to study each other’s scriptures and ultimately decide to worship One God. No other figure, Devtaa, Avataar or Paighambar deserves worship because God alone created the universe and controls it. The paighambars, avatars and gurus are only to be revered as they taught about God.
It will be better if the devotees of Shirdi’s Sai Baba take the controversy in a positive way, and instead of worshipping the Baba, learn to worship the Eik Maalik, the Baba worshipped. This would please the soul of Baba and the devotees will surely move towards the right destination. Hopefully the controversy will give boost to the aikeshwarvaad in India.
The Shankaracharya interestingly made a highly relevant point in a debate on a TV channel last evening, which gave strength to my efforts of bringing all religions together including Hinduism and Islam against the social vices and the forces that are promoting them. He spoke with considerable hatred about alcohol and its role in being responsible for the crimes including crimes against women. Let Shankaracharyas and Ulama unite to make India a cleaner, purer and healthier world and present their unity as a model to the whole world, which needs resuscitation of religion and the moral and family values that religions prescribe. This will also be a big step towards communal amity in India. If Hinduism and Islam can work together for the common benefit of mankind, Buddhism, Christianity and other religions will also not remain behind in joining them.
* Dr Javed Jamil is a thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”. Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 91-8130340339.