Benefit from Understanding
Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, and Giani Harpreet Singh, Jathedar of Takhat Shri Damdama Sahib, discuss Islam and Sikhism. The Jathedar recently released a Gurmukhi version of Maulana’s translation of the Quran. The samvad was moderated by Mona Mehta and Reena Singh from The Times of India.
GIANI HARPREET SINGH, Jathedar of the Takhat Shri Damdama Sahib says that it took him more than two years, working with scholars at Punjabi University, Patiala, to translate Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s translation of the Quran into Gurmukhi. “Mohammad Habib, my PhD guide, Mohammad Yusuf, Satinder Singh and I, worked on the project. Mohd Habib motivated me and introduced us to Maulanaji’s translation of the Quran. He said a Gurmukhi translation will send out a good message.”
The Quran’s message is ‘take your nectar of wisdom, and ignore the rest’. Wisdom is present in everything in nature. The rose has both beauty and thorns—the wisdom is to live in peaceful coexistence. “That is the spirituality in Islam.
The Jathedar continues, “It was a great learning experience. There are many similarities between the Quran and the Guru Granth Sahib. They both talk about Aek Khuda, or Aek Rab—One God. Ishwar or Parmatman is One; He is the creator, Brahman; He runs the show. Gurbani talks of Aek Rab ka hukum—that the world operates according to the Supreme Being’s will. The Quran talks of one Rab, Supreme Being. The Guru Granth tells Sikhs that their aim should be to live according to His hukum (commandment); whether you experience sukha or dukha (happiness or sorrow), that’s His will.”
Maulana adds: “After my education, I became a seeker. I went to the jungles and mountains, and kept repeating to myself, Khudawand tu kabb aayega, mein kabb tak tera intezaar karoon (When will you reveal yourself to me, O God; how long do I have to wait?) During this phase I read extensively. The basic teaching of Islam is oneness of God. I studied Islam from the prism of science, not philosophy.
“In The Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking described creation as part of one big whole; everything tied in one string. We talk of the oneness of God, and science calls it the (single) string theory. That’s when I returned to Islam. Science proved to me that there is one source managing creation.” Then why is religion often used to incite violence and terrorism? Jathedar Harpreet Singh laments that “while people are adopting religion, they have not understood the thought behind it. Till they do, violence will continue. Swarth, (selfishness), is also responsible for violence. Science has made life easier; it has provided us with luxuries; but, our desires have increased. Some want to acquire things even at the cost of killing others.”
Politicisation of Islam
Maulana says that the “Violence that you see in the name of Islam is not due to faith; it is politicisation of Islam for votes.” He cites the example of a person he knew in his youth, who made his money building mosques and pocketing half the donations. He would play on people’s emotions, saying, the donations they made for Mosques would ensure them Paradise.
Guru Granth Sahib talks about Aek Khuda, or Aek Rab— One God. Ishwar or Parmatman is One; He is the creator, Brahman; He runs the show. Gurbani talks of Aek Rab ka hukum—that the world operates according to the Supreme Being’s will.
The problem is not that some people do not follow religion. The biggest problem is the rabble rouser; he is present in every faith, group, and community.” But for every rabble rouser, isn’t there a spiritual leader who can bring people back on the right path? Jathedar Harpreet Singh says, “People have always been drawn to materialism. The desire for ‘matter’ actually becomes a weakness. These people then follow a path that leads to fulfilment of desires, and they don’t think of right and wrong. Padarthwaad or materialism, overpowers religious thoughts.
Materialism becomes number one, and religion, a poor second.” But Maulana says that he finds people who follow the Sikh dharma (religion), exceptional. “I went to Amritsar to know why the Sikhs never have gurus (priests) who provoke or instigate them, unlike the Muslims.
I discovered that in Sikhism, the gurus made the Granth Sahib as eternal guru. The Guru Granth cannot be a rabble rouser. So, among Sikhs, there is lot of positive unity, and relatively, they are more peaceful. But Muslims instead of following the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet are following those who have interpreted Quran in any way. The differences among the two religions were created by Mughal kings, especially Aurangzeb. Otherwise, I think both religions have many similarities. It was Aurangzeb who politicised Islam.” The Jathedar adds, “As Maulanaji points out, the Guru Granth Sahib is both our Granth and Guru. What we call the shabad, the word, in which there is wisdom— that is the guru, the voice of Parmeshwar. Guru Nanak acknowledges the vaani he wrote as coming from Akal Purakh. Whatever is written here has come from Him….”
Maulana recalls an article he wrote at the peak of the Sikh separatist movement. “I addressed both Kashmiris and Sikhs and denounced the separatist movements. But reason prevailed upon the Sikhs and the Khalsa movement died out, but the Kashmir trouble is alive.
Kashmir has been destroyed, while the Sikhs are flourishing. The same is happening to the Rohingyas and in Palestine, too.” He points out that Sikhs should be considered as role models. The Jathedar clarifies that the Punjab violence was not based on religion but on economics.
After Partition, Sikhs were upset that some Punjabi-speaking areas had gone to other states, while other states were carved out on the basis of language. They were also upset about sharing of river waters with other states. “The riparian rule for water was not followed as was done in other states. Punjab is an agricultural state, but gives water to other states, even when there is no water left for its own lands. It was then that the cry for a separatist movement started.”
What are their views on leaving worldly comforts in the pursuit of spirituality? “When Guru Arjan Dev was asked what is the best religion in the world, he said, sab dharam meh saraysat dharam, har ko naam jap nirmal karam—of all religions, the best religion is to chant the name of the Lord and maintain pure conduct. There is no need for sanyas, isolation, or havans and dips in freezing waters. Bhagat Dhanna in the Guru Granth Sahib, demands food, shelter, wife, and a horse. He says, ‘If I have all these means of sustenance, then I will serve you without worries’,” points out the Jathedar.
Maulana adds: “This talk about leaving one’s home (which is called rahbaniyath), like the monk who sold his Ferrari, does not exist in Islam. Islam does not say materialism and spirituality are different. Both are intertwined. Just don’t rob anyone to become a billionaire. In the Quran, there is a chapter on the honeybee, which is seen as a role model.”
The honeybee takes only nectar from flowers, ignoring the rest. The Quran’s message is ‘take your nectar of wisdom, and ignore the rest’. Wisdom is present in everything in nature. The rose has both beauty and thorns—the wisdom is to live in peaceful coexistence. “That is spirituality in Islam,” says Maulana. He ends on a cautionary note: “But Muslim society today has degenerated. Like Guru Granth Sahib guides the Sikhs the Quran and the life of the Prophet should be the guidance for the Muslims.”