Let me begin by Mujeeb’s objection to calling the Islamic people ‘Mohamaddens’. Mujib’s objection was that the Muslims do not worship Mohammed, and Naseem spoke of it as an insulting appellation. They are right, of course, but they did not appear to get the authentic problem posed by a Raghavan and a Seshadri: surely ‘Mohammedens’ are those who follow the doctrines (or teachings) of Mohammed. Marxists, Buddhists, and even Christians were called in to bolster the applicability of such a language-use. Despite the acrimonious sphere among the participants, there is a very, very deep reason why neither understands the other’s question.
1. The following sets of ideas–common to the Abrahamic Religions, viz., the Judaic religion, Christianity and Islam–are crucial. (a) There is only one God; but (b) there is also the False God, viz., the Devil. (c) Human beings, on their own, aided only by human reason, will never discover the ‘true God’. (d) That is because the False God seduces mankind into worshipping him. The devil is not just the prince of darkness but also the ruler of earth and following him and his minions (whose numbers are legion) will lead you to eternal damnation. (e) you can only know ‘true God’ and how to worship Him, only when He reveals Himself and tells you this.
2. As a consequence, the ‘teachings’ of, say Mohammed, or the Gospels of Christianity are not their (i.e. individual) teachings, discoveries, or inventions. Religion, according to them, is not man-made but God-given. No, it is the revelation of God through Jesus, say the Christians; through Mohammed the Last in the line of prophets, say the Muslims. Therefore, neither a devout Christian nor a devout Muslim believes that he is following the doctrines of Jesus or Mohammed. These doctrines are ‘revelations’ of God, albeit through people like Jesus and Mohammed.
3. The Christians follow Christ, to be sure, but Christ is not the faimly name of Jesus of Nazareth. ‘Christ’ comes from ‘Christos’, which means ‘the messiah’, ‘the anointed one’, ‘the promised one’ and such like. According to the Old Testament Bible, God had a covenant with the people of Israel that He will send someone to save them, and this promised one is the Christ. The discussion between the people of the Judaic faith and the Christians revolves precisely around this issue: Is Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, or was he a false messiah? The Christians believe that the Christ came down 2000 years ago, where the Judaic people are still waiting for him.
4. Even though Jesus and Mohammed have a very special place in Christianity and Islam respectively, neither Christ nor Mohammed are worshipped there. In their faith, one can worship only God (because this is what God has said), or one can worship the false God (the Devil). In such a case, one is indulging in false worship.
5. They see our ‘puja’ as worship. The only thing that we could possibly worship is the Devil and His minions. ‘Idolatry’ is the surface manifestation of Devil’s worship — that is so according to all these three religions.
There is Only one God, it is true, but there are false gods as well (according to their theology). Consequently, the question ‘if there is but one God, what matters how you call HIM/HER/IT, or even how you worship?’ is inadmissible because it is blasphemous. Remember, according to them, God also tells how He should be worshipped, what worshipping Him is, etc.
6. To call Muslims the ‘followers’ of Mohammed is to call their ‘beliefs’ and ‘practices’ man-made. To do this is to effectively deny that they are a religion (as they understand it). The Christians (and the Orientalists that Mujeeb refers to) called them (derogatorily) Mohammadens precisely because they believed that God had reveled himself in Christ and that Mohammed founded a new ‘religion’ (or a vague, confused sect). There is no way a devout Christian could accept that Mohammed is the last prophet of God and still remain Christian, any more than some one from the Judaic faith could accept that Jesus was the Christ and not become a Christian.
7. This means many things. All those deva’s (often translated as Hindu ‘gods’) belong to the subset of the Devil and his minions. This devil is not the Asuras, or the Nagas, or any other entities or beings we know (or heard of.) For all them belong to that set of: devil and his minions.
8. It follows too that the Ancient Greeks, Romans, the entire Asian, African continent worshipped the Devil. Apart from those converted into these three religions (Judaism did it in the first century C.E), the rest of the mankind is doing just one thing: worshipping the devil or his representations.
9. You cannot compare a Buddha, or a Digambara or even a Shankara to either Mohammed or Jesus. People in Christianity or Islam are not ‘saved’ because they have been good men, great teachers, ethically extremely great, or whatever. Salvation in these religions is totally contingent upon accepting Allah and His prophet, or seeing in Jesus God’s plan for the rest of mankind. Buddha is not a great saint: to the Protestants and Muslims he is also a minion of the Devil.
Why this long note? Not to provide a short course in theology, but to draw your attention to something else that is far more alluring, important, and worthwhile than having altercations with a Mujeeb or a Naseem. And that is to start reflecting on our experiences, our traditions, our ways of living. Much the same way the Orientalists built an image of the Muslims, they have built even stronger images of ourselves, our so-called ‘hindu religion’, etc. These images were not built to flatter us (they were not even reasonably accurate descriptions of our part of the world), but to denigrate us. Question is: why should we reproduce their trash (about both ourselves and others) today? Are we not mature or intelligent enough to reflect about our experiences in the world, our traditions, etc. and see what we have and we do not? And who we are and who we are not?
- Multiple meanings: puja, thondam—S.N. Balagangadhara
- God, Devil (Satan), and Polytheism