This is a follow up note on our recent discussion happened over the religious harmony video [Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8liXJfq_xWo&t=91s%5D. In the response i explained: “how important it is to know the right understanding of a concept we believe in”. Only if we know what we believe in, 1) we will be able to reconcile our belief with our self, and 2) to an extension reconcile and live with peace with others. Knowing the differences is almost as important than knowing the communalities and gray areas. Further understanding the right concept gives us an opportunity to assess our own position as well, to whether we should carry on the belief system we are taught to or not. This is a stance taken when A) we are mature enough to question the status quo and B) ready to accept alternative options with peaceful reconciliations with whom we love and value to our life.
The next big question is: How does it work in different age groups, different social classes and different belief systems? Especially how the differences and commonalities are taught to younger generations?
I think the pertinent theme in the video portrayed is a very innocent lesson being taught by an innocent kid to an old man (a Muslim figure), that there is no difference in Gods people believe in, whether be a “Hindu idol present in a Mandir (referred Bhagwaan)” or Muslim’s God being remembered in a mosque (referred “Allah”). Is there a scope of disagreement in this proposition? Let’s see.
First of all the portrayal of the old man here is questionable as he is unable to explain the answers of young kid with right wisdom and correct understanding. The old man might be hesitant in receiving the offering for so many reasons. One conspicuous reason could be the “aastha” associated with an act of religious ritual. He must have been cautious that if he takes what is not supposed to be his, that may offend the family of that kid. We see these kinds of issues in society not only in religious circles but in our social transactions. Regarding the brief discussion of presence of Allah in Masjid and Mandir, the premise of kid’s argument is, what i will call is very innocent and natural. On the other hand, the response of old man is not so wise and in line with the Islamic teachings of such a discourse in hand.
Leaving religion aside, the old man should have explained the kid that this food is meant to be received by the person whom it is intended for (Obeying parents is more important here). For the sake of argument if we take in consideration that the child has got a notion that the food is being offered to a “God”, the old man should have explained that the food is made for mortal being like humans and animals and not for God. Instead, food can be given to poor and needy directly without any ritualistic means of religious nature.
For the question on, if Allah is everywhere, why is not he present in the Mandir, or conversely if we call referred deity “Bhagwan” to be present everywhere, why is he not in the Masjid, let’s analyse this premise in some specifics here. First of all, the deity referred in Hinduism (taught to general hindu masses) are considered as the intermediaries or tools (as swami Jaggi Vasudev aka Sadhguru refers in his talks) to practice spiritual exercise in an effort to realise divine presence, referred “God” in some sense. In Islam the term Allah is used for one God, who is the reason for all existence we see and is the creator of this space and time continuum we see and experience. There is a distinction in the concept in Islam as we believe Allah to be ultimate creator and separate from its creation (in an empirical sense), however Allah’s knowledge encompasses all the creation. This contrast is referred as Pantheism (in Hinduism) and Monotheism (in Islam). So for Muslims, a mosque is not a place where God or its any intermediaries exist in any form we can rationalise, however it is just a place where Muslims gather to remember Allah. Allah is beyond what we can comprehend or imagine and is not limited to a specific piece of land. The importance of Masjid exists as its sole purpose of existence is to facilitate group prayers and imparting religious knowledge. Nothing less nothing more. Whereas in Mandirs, we have specific deities, the priests, offerings and specific rituals of religious importance. This is the reason kid’s mother sent the food for a Pandit, as it is with a belief that with some rituals associated with specific jaap/mantras if the food is served to poor, ultimately its equivalent form will reach to the soul of deceased in heavenly realm. However, if the same food is served in Masjid, A) A masjid do not entertain food and religious rituals to satisfy any dead person in heavenly realm, B) It will be dishonest for a masjid Imam to take the food and upset the daughter (or son) of the dead person. The portrayal of old man’s hesitation reflects point (B), as in Indian subcontinent, getting offended on religious grounds cost dearly, even life and especially if you happen to be a minority [“Muslims minority in Hindu majority” or “Hindu minority in Muslim majority”].
How can we explain this difficult situation to a 7 years old kid?
Well, it starts at home. It starts with rising above superstitions and a sincere reconciliation with what we believe in. The Imam could have explained what is “God”, “Soul” and “Nature” and should have advised the kid to feed the poor instead of offering on an idol (if the kid was a Hindu) or a dead person in a grave (if the kid was a Muslim). Parents should look for an opportunity to work on religious ethos, rather than dry practises. It is important to give a poor and needy a blanket, rather than offering chaadar on Dargah and feed the poor directly rather taking a redtape route via a stone idol in Mandir. If we practice religion with the right spirit, in line with scriptures and question superstitions, we will live a life of love and our actions will cement the differences, else we will be fighting on differences created by politicians and religious gurus. Religion is to acknowledge the spiritual component of our self which calls for being Good and tells us to avoid immoralities, and if we escape this calling we are just another animal in a race of survival of fittest, where nothing is Good or Bad, except to survive and excel in the race. We choose what we are destined for.