The Vedic Legacy (Concluding
by Anwar Shaikh
Is Islamic Mysticism (Tasawwuf) really an
extension of Hinduism? If the reader follows the ensuing argument sincerely, he
will inevitably come to this conclusion.
The Rgveda, the oldest Scripture of mankind, is the
first to declare that the entire universe has the same origin. It is called
monism. This statement fundamentally distinguishes the Indian philosophy from
the Semitic doctrine because both the Bible and the Koran advocate that this
world is the work of a creator God, who is independent of creation:
1. The Vedic point of view is stated thus:
Stanza one clearly states that in the beginning prevailed
the state which can be described neither as existence nor as non-existence.
Second stanza makes it clear that All i.e. everything to be, was concealed in a
dark "Indiscriminated chaos," and nothing ranked as immortal (for
being subject to the Law of Change, responsible for evolving things by giving
them forms and properties).
Then was not non-existent nor existent:
there was no realm of air, no sky beyond
What covered in, and where? and what
gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed
depth of water ?
2. Death was not then, nor was there aught
immortal: no sign was there, the days'
and nights' divider.
That One Thing, breathless, breathed by
its own nature: apart from it was
3. Darkness there was: at first concealed in
darkness this All was indiscriminated
All that existed then was void and formless:
by the great power of Warmth was
born that Unit.
4. Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning,
Desire, the primal seed and germ of
The Gods are later than this world's
production Who knows then whence it
first came into being?
6. He, the first Origin of this creation, whether
he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest
heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps
he knows not. (R.V.X - CXXIX)
The world (to be) was one formless void which the power
of Warmth started changing into being (Unit). The Hymn CXC of the Rgveda
explains the nature of Warmth by adding: "From Fervour kindled in its
height ETERNAL LAW and Truth were born .." Thus Warmth means extreme heat.
This statement about the beginning of the universe conforms to the modern
scientific theory known as Big Bang, which is held as the source of matter as
well as the law that controls its shaping and qualities. Having said that, I may
restate the salient points:
a. In the beginning prevailed chaos, which was gradually
organised into being by the Eternal Law, and originally formed a part of it.
In a nutshell, the world is not the work of a Creator God;
it has always existed, though in a chaotic state, and everything is essentially
b. Since the universe originates from a common source
i.e. the Chaos, the basic principle is Monism and not Monotheism.
"He, the first origin of this universe" as
described in the last stanza makes it clear that "He" does not refer
to God but to the origin of things. Therefore, "He" does not mean
God, and this is especially so because the stanza 2 states quite unambiguously
that in the beginning nothing was immortal.
c. The Gods came into being after the primary chaos
started shaping itself according to the Eternal Law. It means that spiritual
development is a part of the physical evolution; if this were not true, gods
would not have evolved later.
The theory of monism occupies a high position in the
Vedic metaphysics. This is what led to the concept of Brahma. The Upanishad
philosophy has dealt with this point in detail. According to the earlier
theories, Brahma was a primal entity, which procreated the world, but having
done so, "he entered it." (TAIT 2. 6)
MUND. 2.2.11 states:
The ATHARVA-Veda (10. 7. 32-34) states that the earth is
the base of the highest Brahma, the air is his belly, the sky his head, the sun
and moon his eyes, fire his mouth, the wind is his breath.
''Brahma, indeed, is this immortal. Brahma before,
Brahma behind, to right and to left.
Stretched forth below and above,
Brahma, indeed, is the whole world, this widest
In fact, Brahma is the whole universe. This also
happens to be the faith of a Sufi except that he calls it God. (Khuda).
2. MAYA - The World as an Illusion
The theory of Maya, or the world as an illusion, is a
Greek misunderstanding of the Vedic doctrine. According to Plato, everything
being a reflection of an individual prototype, which is real, ranks as unreal.
Through sheer ignorance, this theory came to be associated with the Hindus. The
Muslims of India seem to be the major cause of it.
The Rgveda, VIII: XV - 13, states:
"Already have all forms of him (Indra) entered
It is a declaration of monism, which means that though
things look different, the reality behind them all is the same. When a Sufi
says: "HAMA OST, " this is what he means.
over spacious dwelling-place."
Having said that, it will be wrong of me to gloss over
this issue: the Upanishads. the philosophical Hindu treatises do mention Maya,
and it is based on the interpretation ot the Rgveda, 6.47.18:
"In every figure he hath been the model:
When I ponder over: "In every figure he hath been the
model," it makes me believe that Plato was aware ot the contents of the
Rgveda because not only his theory of Forms has been designed on this verse, but
his other views including reincarnation and Eros are also very vedic.
this is his only form for us to look on.
Indra moves multiform by his illusions;
for his Bay steeds are yoked ten times
The above quoted stanza does not confirm the theory of
Maya; it states that Indra is in every form, phenomenal or noumenal. These forms
appear as illusions tut they are not so. The illusions are in the eyes of the
beholder and not the thing in itself because Indra, the reality is in it.
However, this metaphoric description of reality was
turned into the doctrine of Maya:
"This whole world the illusion-maker projects
I am inclined to think that Plato himself was influenced
hy this mistaken Upanishadic view. As Plato's works were translated into Arabic,
they were considered as part of the Greek philosophy.
out of this (Brahma).
And in it by illusion the other is confined.
Now, one should know that Nature is illusion,
And that the Mighty Lord is the illusion-maker."
(SVET. 4. 9-10)
As the Indians had lost their sense of national honour
and achievement, they found it easier to surrender to the foreign literary and
religious supremacy as they had done in the political and cultural fields. This
fact is evident from the attitudes of the great spiritual leaders of India such
as Sankra and Ramanuja:
Sankra is credited with the acosmic view of the
universe. This, in fact, is the doctrine of Maya, which indirectly represents
the Semitic view of the world. It means that the Creator is real, but the world,
being His creation, is unreal, and shall be destroyed one day. Possibly to
conform to this dominant Semitic idea, Sankra postulated a higher Brahman (God)
as being the eternal and absolute, and a lower Brahman, which appears as the
physical phenomena around us. He emphasised that all save the higher Brahman
i.e. the physical world is the product of ignorance, and exists in people's mind
only like an image in a dream. This illusory world (maya) disappears when one
receives enlightenment through knowledge but the Higher Brahman i.e. the
absolute exists eternally.
I find this notion both against common sense and the
Vedic principle. Firstly, ignorance or knowledge has nothing to do with the
absence or existence of a thing: the Himalayas exist not just because I have
heard of them or seen them. Even if I had not heard of them or seen them, they
would have existed just the same. Secondly, I rnay quote from the Rgveda (10.
Here, Purusa, the embodied spirit or Man personified is
compatible with the already quoted Hymn CXXIX of the Rgveda, which mentions
"He, the first origin of this creation." The Rgveda does not
acknowledge a Creator God, but points to a common Origin of procreation. The
Bhagavadgita in Chapter IX, 6-10, shows how things come forth from the Origin,
and eventually return to it, and then re-emanate, and this cycle of
evolution-devolution and re- evolution goes on indefinitely. This is the modern
scientific theory, which was enunciated by the Vedic seers thousands of years
The Vedic view of existence is monistic. Everything,
emerges from the same Origin, and therefore, it is essentially the same as the
origin itself. Therefore, the Vedic philosophy is undualistic. But Shankra's
division of Brahman into higher and lower categories renders it dualistic.
Ramanuja seems even more influenced by Islam. While his
notion of the world cycle is Vedic, he seems to believe in a Brahman, who first
procreates himself on the Islamic principle of Kun Fa Ya Koon i.e. Allah
commands a thing: "be and it becomes." Accarding to Ramanuja's point
of view, the universe i.e. Brahman devolves into his unmanifest state to such an
extent that his body is no more than a very subtle matter of darkness, and he
decrees "May I again possess a world body." Thus, in his manifest
state, everything becomes a part of his body.
Again, in Ramanuja's view, Brahman controls the world:
he supports or prohibits choices according to his pleasure and displeasure.
Thus, he introduces the element of fate in the Hindu Dharma, which is actually
based on the doctrine of Karma, treating man as a free agent.
In fact, Ramanuja represents a relativistic monistic
pantheism; it is not quite compatible with the Vedic monism, which treats
everything as of the same essence and whose evolution, devolution and
re-evolution is governed by the Eternal Law, and not by the will of God.
This basic Vedic concept wtas misunderstood long before
the advent of Shankra and Ramanuja. The Vendantic philosophers also participated
in this exercise, giving rise to the doctrine of Maya, which entered the Greek
philosophy, and thence penetrated the world of Islam to create the principle of:
"HAMA OST" the whole universe is God.
3. Union with God
It should be the pride of every Indian to realise that
as a rational concept, the idea of life-after-death first arose in India:
"(AGNI) Master of present and of future life, the
It automatically raises the question that what is the goal
of future life? According to the Indian Scriptures, it is union of the human
soul with God. This purpose is quite compatible with the monistic nature oi the
universe. It is because man is the highest being in the universe, only next to
God; he is in fact a god for beinf the kinsman of gods:
maiden's lover and the matrons." (R.V.I. LXVI: IV)
"Ye, O ye Gods, are verily our kinsmen;
Of course, man is a poor relation of gods for living a
problematic life. Therefore, when he implores God for help, he does so as a
relative and not as a menial. Even the celebrated gods such as Agni and Indra
are held by man as his friends:
as such be kind to me who now implore you."
(R.V.2, XXIX: IV)
"The friendship of the gods have we devoutly
Since man is of the same essence as God Himself, the
purpose of nis future life is to become a part of God by uniting with him as a
drop joins a sea to become a sea itself.
sought." (R.V.I - LXXXVIII: 2)
Union of soul with God is a major point of excellence
in the Indian philosophy. This, too, has been claimed as a Platonic idea though
it was propounded centuries earlier in the Upanishads.
The Rgvedic idea cf Purusa, the universal soul, I have
already mentioned. We find in CHAND 5.11-18, a dialogue which gives view of five
learned householders about Atman, the world soul, which is best referred to as
one's self. Simply slated, the world is conceived as a Universal soul and a
person's self is considered its miniature. Thus man receives the status of a
microcosm compared to the universe, which is held as macrocosm. This idea has
also been ascribed to Socrates! However, the truth is revealed by BRIH. 1.4.7:
"One's self (Atman), for therein all these become
Here man is treated as self (microcosm) whose destiny is
to seek absorption in the macrocosm, the universal soul. This principle is
further explained in SVET. 2.15:
one. That same thing, namely, this self, is the trace
of this All; for by it one knows this all. Just as,
truly, one may be traced by one's footprint."
When with the nature of the self, as with a lamp,
Union of soul with God or of self with the Universal Soul
is a part of the Indian philosophy borrowed by the Islamic Mysticism under the
Greek cloak. Why all this eulogy for Greece, and none for India, the originator
of philosophy? The reason is that the Arabs learnt their metaphysics without
realising that the Greek practised the Indian culture. I have not made up this
story. It is generally agreed by the historians of the early 20th century that
people of India, Greece and Italy are members of the same racial stock.
Obviously, as emigration started from India, these people took their Vedic
culture with them. This is the reason that there is a good deal of semblance
between the philosophy and mythology of India and Greece. As I have discussed
this issue in my unpublished book "The Wonders of the Rgveda," I need
not go into details here. However, I ought to mention that Plato was born c. 428
B.C. His family was related to the celebrated early law-maker Solon, and traced
its ancestry to Dropides, a well-known Indian name.
A practiser of yoga beholds here the nature of
Brahma (the world soul).
Brahma as the World Soul is classified by BRIH.
"Explain to me him who is the Soul in all
4. Look into Thyself
is a particularly Indian doctrine and is a part of the
basic Hindu philosophy of Karma, which simply means that one reaps what one
sows. Though it is also the major tenet of the Sufi saints, it is totally
opposed to the fundamental Islamic teaching, which seeks salvation through faith
and the Intercessory powers of the Prophet Muhammad.
The realm of self is situated in one's heart (mind),
and according to CHAND. 8.1.3:
"As far, verily, as this world-space extends, so
far extends the space within the heart. Within it, indeed, are contained both
heaven and earth, both fire and wind, both sun and moon, lightning and stars,
both what one possesses here and what one does not possess; everything here is
contained within it."
This unlimited expanse of self goads the seeker to dive
into one's self to seek the Truth, because nothing exists outside. Thus self is
the uniting link between man and God, equating the former with the latter when
he has accomplished unity. Just see the following quotations from the Upanishads
to realise the truth for yourself.
"This whole world is Brahma .. This soul of mine
As the philosophical cogitation gathers excellence, the
significance of self rises higher:
within the heart .." (CHAND. 3. 14.1,3)
''He is the world-protector. He is the world
sovereign. He is the Lord of all. He is my self."
"He who has found and has awakened to the Self
This states the significance of self. The ony way of
uniting with God is through one's self. This is the Vedic philosophy, propounded
hy various seer, according to their calibre and vision. It was stated some 500
years before the birth of Plato. The references to Nafas (self) in the Koran are
totally irrelevant in this context. They advocate humiliation of one's self
whereas the Vedic principle advocates raising the dignity of self so that it can
unite with God to become Divine.
..... the world is his; indeed, he is the world itself."
One should adore the thought "I am the
"I alone am this whole world." (CHAND.
"Whoever thus knows 'I am Brahma'
(the World-Soul) becomes this All (Brahma); even
the gods do not have power to prevent his becoming
thus, for he becomes the self." (BRIH. 1.4.10)
Dr. Iqbal, who is considered a great exponent of the
Islamic Myticisnn, actually preached the Vedic Mysticism when he said:
KHUDI KO KAR BULAND ITNA KE HER TAQDEER
When they crucified Mansur Al Hallaj, he was in a mood,
which assured him unity with God. This is why that, despite extreme persecution,
he repedtedly declared:
KHUDA BANDE IS KHUD POOCHHE BATA TERI
RAZA KYA HAI.
(Raise the dignity of your self so high that before
fixing your destiny God Himself should seek your
"I am the Truth i.e. God."
All Sufis believe in this Hindu tenet. Mansur was no
Sufi ideal as stated earlier, is founded on the love of
mankind, but it is the exact opposite of Islam, which is based on the hatred of
"Oh ye who believe! the non-Muslim are
Contempt of the unbelievers and persecuting them form the
major subject ot the Koran. Therefore, it cannot be the source of Tasawwuf
(Islamic Mysticism). Of course one does come across certain verses in the Koran
which can be interpreted to support Tasawwuf but this is a wishful act, which is
against the ethos ot the Koran. For example, it has several times called man as
Allah's lieutenant on earth and thus sounds a great honour for man but the
veneer disappears when one reads:
"Oh ye who believe! Murder those of the
disbelievers .... and let them find harshness in you."
"Certainly God is an enemy to unhelievers."
( The Cow, 90)
"Humiliate the non-Muslims to such an extent
they surrender and pay tribute." (Repentance: 29)
"Perish Man! How unthanktul he is!
Here man is condemned by Allah and reminded of his low
birth. The Almighty claims to have created him for no purpose but to worship Him
(L. QAF 155). One must rememher that worship is the lowest form of
self-humiliation that a person can show to his superior with a view to gaining
Of what did He (Allah) create him?
Of a sperm drop .." (LXXX - He frowned: 16)
Since Islam is the preacher of cruelty against the
non-Muslims, it cannot be the fountain of Mysticism. Does then, a Sufi get his
inspiration for love from the Hindu Scriptures? Yes, he does. Just look at the
following quotations from the Bhagavad Gita:
"He who is free from malice towards
It is evident from the two quotations that a person does
not have to belong to any particular faith because if he wishes well to all
beings and not just the Hindus, he automatically qualifies as the devotee of
God: he must not be a source of annoyance to the world! On the ccntrary, the
Koran prescribes torture of non-Muslims until they accept Islam or surrender to
the Muslims and pay (servility) tax. To encourage the Muslims to be aggressive,
the Koran sanctifies murder, rape and pillage of the unbelievers through Jehad.
This is the highest form of worship in Islam!
all beings, who is friendly as well as
compassionate .... that devotee of Mine (God)
is dear to me." (12. 13 -14)
"He who is not a source of annoyance
to the world, and who never feels
offended with the world ... he is
dear to Me (God)." (12.15)
In X. CXXIX: IV, the Rgveda states,
"Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning,
This Desire, has been personified as Kama, variously known
as the cosmic desire or the creative impulse. This is the first-Born of the
chaos that prevailed in the beginning and served as the source of all the
Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit."
At a later stage, Kama was represented as a handsome
youth, attended by heavenly nymphs. He is shown carrying a bow, which is a sugar
cane, and his bow is a string of bees. Kama uses love-producing arrows of
flowers. Once a person is struck by Kama, he is bound to fall in love. In fact,
Kama, the Vedic god of love is the messenger of sweet pleasure, whose purpose is
to create and soothe the pains of frustration.
However, Kama is not the ambassador of lewdness, and
this is demonstrated by the fact that as a Sanskrit term, applied to a
householder, it strictly implies pursuit of legitimate pleasures, both physical
This Vedic Kama appears as Eros in Greece and Cupid in
Rome. Even in these countries, he is equipped with a bow and arrows for inducing
love. The chivalrous or courtly love that prevailed in the medieval Europe may
be considered an extension of Kama, as understood in India. This shows priority
of the Indian philosophy and culture over Greece and Rome. However, the word
"love" assumed a different meaning in these two countries, especially
Greece, which was to act as the fountain of Western culture and philosophy.
Though it is claimed that it was a hetrosexual love, it also implies homosexual
love. This is what Platonic love means; Plato has used for illustration the
cohabitation of Socrates and Alcibiades, a beautiful youth, who later took part
in the Athenian politics. Citing them as the model of erotic love, Plato claims
that it can lead to true love, illumining the hearts of both the lover and the
loved. During the times of Socrates, the wise man, homosexuality was a part of
the Greek culture. The law did not approve of it but the custom did. As I have
discussed in 'The Wonders of the Rgveda," the Greek Chief God, Zeus, was a
replica of the Indian Chief God Indra except that the former, who had Ganymede,
a beautiful young lad, as his cup-bearer, indulged in homosexuality whereds the
latter, though erotically promiscuous, was hetrosexual.
After the death of Alexdader the Great this Hellenistic
tendency based on Platonic love flourished in the Middle East. No wonder the
Koran repeatedly declares bride-like youths as a part of paradise, where they
will serve the lucky ones. This Greek tradition entered the mystical poetry of
Persia with full force. Its greatest mystical poet Jalal-ud-Din-ar-Rumi
(1207-73), whose love poetry, consisting of 26,000 couplets, is considered next
to the Koran, sought God through the association or another man. One of the men,
he loved was murdered hy his own sons out of domestic jealousy.
Though Kama is the fountain of the Greek mystical love,
the concept of beautiful youths, who radiate divine affection through
association with an older man, acting as the teacher, is the Greek contribution
to Mysticism. This practise gained extreme popularity in the Persian poetry. To
give it legitimacy, the Sufis quote a hadith: "I saw my Lord (Allah) in the
form of a youth with a cap tilted."
A Sufi saint is usually poorly dressed and requires
just about enough food and water to keep his body and soul together. In fact,
the word Sufi is derived from SUF, meaning wool.
The Sufis practise monastic life, which is against the
tenets of Islam:
"And monasticism they invented - We
Obviously, Islam holds monasticism as an ungodly way of
life, which goes against the grain of the Prophet, who had nine wives, two
concubines and about thirty household servants. However, the Sufis claim that he
lived a life of extreme poverty and wore mended clothes. They do so to justify
their monastic style of living. Is having nine wives, and the rest, a life of
did not prescribe it for them - only
seeking the good pleasure of God; but
they observed it not as it should be
observed. So we gave those of them
who believed their wage; and many of
them are ungodly." (LVII -IRON: 25)
However, all Hindu saints do not practise celebacy.
Many of them have wives and children. A Sadhu is a Sadhu because he leads a
meditative life based on abstinence. This is how a Sufi lives.
8. Mystical Concert or Sama
Islam does not allow indulgence in music. This is the
reason that we do not hear of any great Muslim musician, but a musical concert
or Sama has become an integral part of Sufism. Sama is considered the vehicle
for expressing the restlessness of soul for union with the beloved. In all
musically sung poems the beloved happens to be a male. This tradition, which
became a feature of the Persian poetry, has penetrated the poetry of every
Islam-dominated country in the world, and is quite evident in Urdu as well as
other languages of the Indian sub-continent.
Though love of boys was given a fillip by the Persian
poetry, especially Ar-Rumi, the ritual of starting mystical sessions with the
introduction of music and erotic poems is said to have started in Baghdad during
the mid-9th century. The purpose of music and singing is to induce ecstasy among
the listeners. Jalal-ud-Din-ar-Rumi inspired the organisation of whirling
dervishes, who danced to melodious music for gaining spiritual bliss.
Islam does not tolerate music and dance. Treating it as
a part of divine worship is unthinkable to any true Muslim scholar, yet the
Sufis justify it on the authority of a single hadith, which is probably
apocryphal because it does not conform to the Prophetic Model.
Music and dance are part of the Hindu temple- worship,
and this is the source of the Sufi Sama.
9. Pir and Murid
According to the Islamic tradition, a faithful needs no
Waseela or Divine Medium other than that of the Prophet Muhammad; the Koran is
his perfect teacher. All Sufi Orders such as Qadiriya, Suhrawardiya, etc., are
founded on an initiation ceremony called "Bayat:" the novice places
his hand in the master's hand and swears allegiance to him. The master or Pir is
treated like god by the novice (Murid) because he seeks divine union through the
This is the imitation of the Hindu model of Guru-
Chaila. It incorporates most yoga principles and practices, which even
Pythagoras took back to Greece when he visited India.
Finally, I may draw the reader's attention to Dhikr
i.e. recitation of Isme Azam i.e. "Allah Hoo" which is the imitation
of the Jaap of Om or Ramnam.
There are several other Vedic features which have been
incorporated in Tasawwuf but I think that I have said enough to make the point.
This is what renders Tasawwuf, the Islamic doctrine. The reason is the terror of
the orthodox mullah, who has always been politically ascendant for enabling the
Muslim rulers to wage holy wars against the infidels, and has thus acted as the
royal tool of power. The Sufi, who was looked down upon suspiciously, found it
necessary to exaggerate the spiritual grandeur of Muhammad. Again, being a lover
of humanity, he had no use for the rulers except praying for them in their hour
of need. The fate of Dara Shakoh, the Sufi brother of Auranzeb, who was declared
a heretic and executed at the instigation of the orthodox mullahs, serves as a
good example of this truth. Finally, poetry is more a matter of the heart and
less of the brain. As Sufism became its major subject, it affected masses
through its erotic appeal and the lure of easy salvation through the agency of
the PIR, whose own entry into paradise depended on Muhammad, further exaggerated