Bookreviews by Manju Gupta
Dr Vazeer Hasan: The Study of the Quran, Adam Publishers & Distributors, 328 pp, Rs 300.00
The view on the Quran by non-Muslim scholars and presented by the author begins by presenting a brief historical survey of the close contact maintained by Muslims with other communities of India is a natural phenomenon of living together while exchanging and influencing religious and other views of each other.
India has been the centre of major religions like Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Islam, which too have flourished here. The author says that as generally agreed upon, the Hindu philosophy that emerged after the advent of Islam in India, had also Islamic flavour; on the other hand, Islamic philosophy has also been influenced with Hindu thoughts. He believes that a clear example of this has been Sufism which appears closer to the Hindu Bhakti movement.
He quotes K. Satchidanand, ?No one denies that throughout Indian history, there have been some Muslim and Hindu kings, saints, scientists, scholars, poets and artists, who have studied, understood and admired each other'sways of living, polity, religion?Such men would have not only promoted mutual tolerance and understanding, but enabled mutual assimilation of the two cultures among some sections at least, up to a point.?
After quoting other Indian scholars like Atulananda Chakrabarti, Dr Tarachand, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and others, Dr Hasan cites the cases of Muslim poets of the past who were very much impressed with Hindu religio-philosophical thoughts which they versified into poetry. They took their images, thoughts and ideas from Sanskrit as unhesitatingly as did Hindu poets and accepted Hindu mythology and wrote on Hindu deities with as much enthusiasm and reverence as any Hindu would have done. He also cites the example of Malik Muhammed Jaisi of Uttar Pradesh whose works were ?purely Hindu in content?. He says that similarly the works of Addus Sakur and Sayyid Sultan in Bengal were ?imbued with ideas of the Shiva cult and mystic tantrism?. He talks of Karam Ali of Bengal who sang praises of Radha and Krishna and Karim Ali, who composed a hymn in honour of Goddess Saraswati. He adds that Mirza Mazhar Jan-Jana, a famous Urdu poet and a Sufi, declared that Hindu gods, Rama and Krishna, should be regarded as prophets and the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Bhagwad Gita as gifts of divine revelation, basing his argument on the Quranic text which says, ?And every people hath its guide? and ?to every people we have sent an apostle?.
The author quotes the scholar K.A. Nizami who said, ?Unlike al-Biruni who had studied Hindu religion at the philosophic level, the Muslim mystics decided to comprehend it at its psychological and emotional levels. They were concerned more with emotional integration than with the ideological synthesis which was a very slow process and touched only a limited section of intellectuals.? He then gives names of Sufi saints like Muhammed Afdal Sarkhush, Mirza Bedil, Khwaja Hasan Nizami and others who by propagating Sufism served as a major medium of ?sympathetic interrelations between the two communities.?
He gives a number of arguments to justify certain statements made in the Quran. He says polytheism has been strictly refuted by the Quran. He adds that Malik Ram has explained polytheism as follows: ?To worship other than Allah is a far off matter; only the thinking that anybody having similar traits what Allah has is regarded as a great injustice.? He says that according to Malik Ram polytheism is wrongdoing because a polytheist bows his head at other places of worshipping Allah who is the right one for bowing the head before. According to his understanding, this means that one should bow only to Allah and to no one else.
The author is critical of R.B. Harishchandra'sobservation that God is an impersonal, infinite spirit and the soul and divine spirit is the essence according to Vedantic philosophy. He criticises Harishchandra for saying that Allah himself has created many smaller deities by separating them from himself and counters it by saying that the Quran refutes this thus: ?If there is any deity but God in the heavenly bodies and the earth, both would have gone out of order, but God, the vital principle of the whole universe is free from what they attribute to him.?
To justify his personal belief the author says that non-Muslim scholars have identified points on Allah as depicted in the Quran as well as in the Vedas and in the Gita and in this respect he singles out Satya Dev Verma, the translator of the Quran into Sanskrit and Pandit Sunder Lal, author of the book, The Gita and the Quran. He comes down heavily upon R.B. Harishchandra and Bhagwan Das who believe that God'sunity can be divided into parts. He says, ?They interpret the Quranic verses with their own logic and do not try to understand the things keeping in mind the main theme, the spirit or the contention of the Quran and that the Quran does never contain contradictory statements. So before the formation of any idea, the whole theme of the Quran should have been kept in view.? He regrets that ?they have not tried to understand the overall thinking on the Quran and the interrelation one verse has with the other. Thus a lack of discernment can be observed in their perceptions of the Quran.?
The author then talks of the Hindu belief in rebirth while that of Quran is that according to the life led on earth, one goes either to heaven or to hell, but there is no rebirth. He lashes out at those non-Muslim scholars who have found support in the theory of rebirth in their interpretation of the Quranic verses. He says that such support of the concept of rebirth is based on ?sheer speculation without knowing the occasion when and why these verses were revealed. The conversion of some people merely as a result of immediate wrath of God or the curse of the prophets cannot be preserved as evidence of rebirth, for if the Quran supports this notion, then there should have been some perfect directives and information about this system.? He vociferously asserts that ?the Quran does not say even at a single place that man will continue this process (birth and death) till salvation? and that ?man has to live in either of them (heaven or hell) forever?.
While discussing the subject of ethical rules and moral values, he says that basic part of ethics is the training of emotions and desires, which means how we manage and settle our desires, contrary and different to each other, by a single principle?by balancing the demands of the society and our individual desires. He then talks of non-Muslim scholars of European countries who ?have generally a very distorted conception of Islamic morality.? Here it may be said to the writer'scredit that he accepts that non-Muslims of India ?have shown the interest to acquaint themselves with the Quranic ethics.? He also talks of the spirit of tolerance and abhorrence of forcible conversion by means of the sword as seen in the Quran. He gives certain observations made by C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, Mahatma Gandhi, Prof. K.L. Seshagiri who have outrightly rejected ?the accusation that a forceful conversion is allowed in Islam?. This view is somewhat debatable as our past history is proof of views to the contrary.
Then he refers to the status of women as stipulated in the Quran, without even devoting a line to a Muslim pronouncing ?talaq? three times in a fit of inebriation and next morning feeling repentant. What happens to the woman then? Does the Quran announce any punishment for such a man?
Regarding jehad, Dr Hasan says that it merely means ?to try and set things right? as per the Quran. Then what is meant by ?holy jehad? which is so often used by Muslim extremists?
The book fails to deliver what it had probably set out to do. It may be read to enlighten oneself on what non-Muslim scholars and believers in the Quran have to say.
(Adam Publishers & Distributors, 1542 Pataudi House, Darya Ganj, New Delhi-110002.)