A Discussion between
Shri Guruji , 2nd Sarsanghchalak of RSS and Dr. Saifuddin Jeelany, a noted Muslim Scholar, February 1971)
Q : Don’t you think that solution to the Hindu-Muslim problem must be found especially at this critical moment when the country is faced with dangers from all sides ?
A : So far as the work for the country is concerned, I do not distinguish between Hindus and Muslims. But how do people look at this problem ? Probably these days everyone thinks that he would be able to push forward claims or privileges for his own community by exploiting political situations. If this could be remedied, and the people became political from a patriotic – only patriotic – point of view, then all troubles will end in no time.
Q : Has this problem anything to do with the Muslim grievance that they are not getting their due share in the country’s affairs ?
A : I can understand that the Muslims should be given their due share, as everyone else. But this does not mean demanding various rights and privileges. I have heard about the demand of a Pakistan in every state. The president of a Muslim organization was reported to have said that he planned to see his flag fluttering over the Red Fort. He never contradicted the report. Such are the things which irritate those who think in terms of the country as a whole.
Look at their stance on Urdu. Fifty years ago Muslims in various states spoke and studied the local languages. They never thought that they had a different ‘religious language’ of their own.Urdu is not a ‘religious language’ of the Muslims. Urdu is a hybrid product, evolved during the Mughal rule. It has nothing to do with Islam. It was in Arabia that Islam was born. The Holy Koran is in Arabic. If at all there is a ‘religious language’, for the Muslims, it is Arabic. So, why this emphasis on Urdu ? It is because, on the strength of one common language Muslims are sought to be united into a political force. That is all. Such a political force is bound to go counter to the interests of the country.
Some Muslims say that Rustom is their national hero. But Rustom was a Persian hero. He has nothing to do with them. He was born long before Islam. If he could be considered a hero by the Muslims, why not Sri Rama? I say, why don’t you accept this history ?
Pakistan celebrated the 5,000th birth anniversary of Panini who was born in that part which is now in what is called Pakistan. If Pakistanis can claim Panini as one of their great forefathers, why should not our local Hindu Muslim – I call them ‘Hindu Muslims’ – say that Panini, Vyasa, Valmiki, Rama, Krishna are all their great ancestors? There are so many people in the Hindu Dharma who do not believe in the Divine Incarnation of Rama and Krishna. But they believe that they are great personalities, worthy of emulation. So what does it matter if Muslims do not believe that God incarnated Himself? Why should they not consider such personalities as their national heroes?
According to our ways of religious belief and philosophy, a Muslim is as good as a Hindu. It is not the Hindu alone who will reach the ultimate Godhead. Everyone has the right to follow his path according to his own persuasion. Let me give you the instance of the previous Shankaracharya of the Shringeri Math, His Holiness Shri Chandrasekhara Bharati Swamiji. An American approached him to be converted to Hinduism. Swamiji asked him the reason. The American replied that he was not satisfied with Christianity, that it left his spiritual longing unquenched. The Acharya asked him : “Have you honestly practiced Christianity? Try it first. If it does not satisfy you, then come to me”.
That is our attitude. Ours is a non-proselytizing Dharma. In almost all cases, proselytization is motivated by political or some such gain. We reject it. We say : This is the plain Truth; if you choose, follow it.
This so-called ‘minority’ problem is not one of Muslims only. It is also within the Hindus themselves. For example we have the Jains, we have what is known as the Scheduled Caste people some of whom followed Dr. Ambedkar and became Buddhists and are trying to claim that they are separate. As a minority happens to have certain political privileges in our country, everyone wants to prove that he is a minority and claim those privileges. This cuts the whole country into so many fragments which may well spell our ruin. As a matter of fact we are heading for it.
When some people look at things from the point of view of political aggrandisement, dangerous difficulties crop up. But once this aggrandisement is given up, our country becomes one and we can meet the challenge of the whole world.
Q : Materialism in general and communism in particular threaten to engulf our country. Don’t you think that Hindus and Muslims, as believers in God, should act as a united bulwark against these dangers?
A : This is almost the very question which was put to me some time ago by a gentleman from Kashmir. I think his name is Nazir Ali. He is a good man. I met him at Aligarh, He said to me that this threat of godlessness in the guise of communism is overtaking us all and we, who believe in God, should get together and meet that threat. I said, “I perfectly agree with you but the difficulty is that we have, as it were, broken the image of God and each one has got his own piece. So what is to be done? You think of God in one particular way. The Christian thinks in another. The Buddhist says there is no God; there is only Nirvaana. The Jain will say it is Shoonya. Then so many of us will say that we worship God in the form of Rama, Krishna, Shiva etc. How do we ask all these people to believe in one common God? Have you any recipe for this?” Now this Kashmiri gentleman is a Sufi which I take to be a thinker and God-minded man. You will be surprised to know his answer. He said : “Why all of them can’t embrace Islam?”
I replied, “Don’t you think that some will say, why not join Christianity” I, devoted as I am to my Dharma, may say, why not all become Hindus? It comes to the same thing, and the problem will never end”. He then asked me what was my suggestion.
I said, “Follow your own religion. But there is one substantial philosophy which does not belong exclusively to the Hindu or to the Muslim. Call it whatever you like. It says that there is one Single Power, one Single Existence which is Truth, which is Bliss. It is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer. All our conceptions of God are only our own limited conceptions of that Ultimate Reality. So that bedrock of Ultimate Reality can join us all together. It does not belong to any one religion. On this account everyone can accept this as common basis. Religion is only a way of worship. This basic faith is not a mere way of worship. This is a philosophical understanding of the universe. The God of Islam, Christianity and Hinduism is thus the same and we are all His devotees. As a Sufi you should accept this as a reasonable basis”. He had no answer to this. Then we parted and there the whole matter ended. That is our misfortune.
Q : We know that both Hindus and Muslims have a vast amount of goodwill for each other. In spite of this, occasional frictions of varying magnitudes do occur. What steps, in your opinion, should be taken to minimize or altogether stop these?
A : One of the causes of these frictions is the Cow. I do not know why the Muslims should go on harping upon their so-called right to slaughter the cow. They need not. As a matter of fact, it is not their religious injunction. That was only a way of spiting the Hindu in the old days. Why should it continue now? Can we not share each other’s festivals? Our most popular festival which brings various strata of society together is the Holi. Suppose in this Holi festival a Muslim is sprinkled with a little colored water, do you think that the injunctions of the Koran are violated? Why not regard it as a social affair? The Hindus have been taking part in various Muslim festivals such as the Urs in Ajmer. But suppose we ask Muslims to come and take part in Satyanarayana Puja, what will happen? Once, the DMK people took a Muslim minister to Rameshwaram. He was accorded all the conceivable honors by the temple authorities. But when the tirtha and prasaadam were given to him he threw them away! Why should he do so? Suppose he had taken the prasaadam, would it have violated his religion ? We have to learn to adopt an attitude of respect for one another.
We must respect, not merely tolerate, all other faiths. Ours is not Sahishnutaavaad, but Sammaanatavaad.
Q : Who among us, you think, is best equipped to pioneer this effort of bringing about harmony between Hindus and Muslims : the politicians, the educationists or the religious leaders?
A : The politician is the last man! The same could be said of the religious leaders also. At present, in our country, there are religious leaders in both communities who are extremely narrow-minded. So we want a third type of individuals who will be religious in spirit, and non-political, and will have an integrated national concept in their minds. Religious they should be. Without the religious background, nothing can be achieved.
Politicians are playing their own game by dividing the people more and more. It is they who emphasize caste, and accentuate ‘Hindu-Muslim tension’. In all such communal matters the villain of the piece is the politician. Unfortunately he has become the leader of the people whereas persons of great merit, character and devotion to God who should have been the real leaders of the people, are nowhere.
Q : Don’t you think that the Hindus, as the majority community, have a special and greater responsibility to create an atmosphere of inter-communal harmony?
A : Yes, certainly, But consider the difficulties. Our leaders are prone to put the blame upon the Hindus and absolve the Muslims. This makes the Muslims more aggressive in their communal outlook. So, I say both must share the responsibility.
Q : What immediate gesture do you suggest on the part of both the communities to bring about harmony?
A : Education on a mass-scale, giving the right understanding of religion-not the non-religious education that is being imparted nowadays by our politicians, but good, religious education. Give people true knowledge of Islam. Give people true knowledge of Hinduism.
Then, teach history as it is. Set right the present distortions. If there was aggression from the Muslim invaders in the past, say so, and also that the aggressors were foreigners and have nothing in common with the Muslims here. Let our Muslims here say that they belong to this land and that the past aggressors and their aggressions are not part of their heritage.
Instead of being taught what is true, the Muslims now are taught the distorted version. Truth cannot be hidden for long. However long you hide it, ultimately it comes out and creates only far worse feelings. Therefore I say teach history as it is. If Afzal Khan was killed by Shivaji, say that a foreign aggressor was killed by a national hero.
Q : Much has been said about ‘Indianisation’ and a lot of confusion has arisen over it. Could you please tell me how to remove the confusion?
A : ‘Indianisation’ was of course the slogan given by Jana Sangh. Why should there be such confusion? ‘Indianisation’ does not mean making all people Hindus.
Let us realize and believe that we are all the children of this soil coming from the same stock, that our great forefathers were one, and, that our aspirations are also one. This is all, I believe, the meaning of ‘Indianisation’.
Q : Don’t you think it is high time that a meeting took place between you and such Muslim Indian leaders as would cooperate with you in finding ways and means to remove this communal discord once for all? Would you like meeting such leaders?
A : I would not only like, I welcome it.