By Nidhi Mathur
80 Questions to Understand India, Murad Ali Baig, Jaico House, Pp 224, Rs 250.00
Religions, as they are practiced today, are completely different from what their founders had hoped to make them. The founders had all preached love, understanding and respect for people of all faiths but their followers emphasise their own uniqueness and look down upon and even wage wars against those who do not worship their gods.
Many theories have been put forth to explain why the religions have degraded and the author of this book outlines the impact of wrong religious beliefs and how distortions, religiosity and superstitions have crept into all religions, especially in Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism as practiced in India. He says that it was the priests who imposed dogmas and created a body of inflexible tradition that separated them from the masses and from other religions. He analyses the participants in the practice of religions – the founder prophets, apostles, priests, rulers and the powerful who became self-appointed guardians and patrons of religion, forcing the common masses to adhere to certain rites and rituals and make offerings and sacrifices to insure themselves against the uncertainties of future life and after life. So the author questions the importance of faith and how vested interests of religious heads have brought in distortions.
Murad Ali Baig talks about different religions, leaving the readers to come to their own conclusions on the basis of the evidence he provides. The questions are provocative and the answers are very carefully worded as if the author is doing tightrope walking so as not to hurt the sentiments of any religion. He says that religious passions divide the people and fundamentalists cannot unite with those of other faiths. Efforts at ‘ethnic cleansing’ cannot succeed because all religious groups have to accept that they have to live and let live with other communities so as to bring lasting peace.
(Jaico Publishing House, A-2 Jash Chambers, 7-A Sir Phirozshah Mehta Road, Fort, Mumbai-400001; www.jaicobooks.com)