At a spiritual, metaphysical and philosophical level, such a statement can have many inner meanings, but if it were true – how can other religions co-exist with Islam at a theological level? If every non-Muslim is considered as a non-believer, and if Islam ‘mandates’ its followers that such non-believers should either be converted or killed, how can we even have a dialogue with them?
This is a widespread belief among many people and perhaps their source of discomfort with Islam. My friend told me that someone who read Koran thoroughly must come out strongly against such a widespread belief and make a public statement, providing the relevant references. How many people would have read Koran? If you are a Hindu, or a Christian or a Buddhist – you are not expected to read the holy book of Islam. May be half the Muslims do not know Arabic and so they cannot read Koran themselves.
What use is another newspaper article in any case?
Any sane person like my friend knows intuitively that such a belief has no basis and must be false. Islam apparently means peace and the Prophet called himself the messenger of peace. Therefore, any such belief must be self contradictory.
But, sanity today is an endangered species.
Our knowledge of history comes largely from various propaganda machines and is constructed by what we read about events in the newspapers. Newspapers report only events. Can they report progress, can they report ten thousand years of human evolution, can they even make an attempt to report what a religion and culture is all about?
But, it is a fact that we live in the age of short term memories and information overload. There is just too much information these days – most of it is pure junk – traveling at the speed of light. Short of asking everyone to read Koran – is there any other sane solution to such a wide spread belief?
There is overwhelming evidence in history that kings, leaders and clergy use their power with disastrous effects. Some societies – like some of the Polynesian islands like Easter Island and the Maya Kingdoms completely destroyed themselves largely because of the attitudes of their leaders. In all such cases, Religion was invoked by the leaders and rich people to justify their own ends, and to make people firmly hold on to certain belief systems.
Religion is a very deep rooted value system, and it can be and almost always is exploited by people in power to their advantage, to promote their own vanity or as an instrument to keep people ignorant.
However, religion and culture do not live in history books or buried in historical monuments. They exist for and through the common people. If we meet an average American, we can estimate the American value system, their religion and culture in five minutes of interaction – we may not be able to write detailed analytical essays, but we understand it intuitively. What a religion and culture stands for is represented by its living monuments – the common, average people. If you interact with an Indian – even casually – you get a ‘feel’ of Indianness, if you meet a Buddhist you get a ‘feel’ for Buddhism.
The average, common people – not people in influential positions – like scholars, clergy and leaders – but just average common people – internalize their culture so deeply and radiate their value systems all the time. They do it unknowingly, without any pretence. There is no drama, no cultivated, politically correct or incorrect responses. Their responses are natural.
If you meet a Muslim autoriksha driver in Hyderabad or a Muslim carpet merchant in Bangalore, a Muslim antique dealer in Delhi – what impression do you carry about them? I believe that impression is always correct. My impression is they are very tolerant, graceful, genuinely honest and nice people. To me, that is what Islam is.
Is there a better answer than that? Can any amount of scholastic reports answer such questions better than our own first hand experiences? Why don’t we trust what we observe, what we feel about our own fellow human being? Why do we place an overwhelming reliance on the media and other propaganda machinary?
There is so much of “manufacturing of our concent” that goes on in the world today by our governments, by our leaders and by the multi-billion dollar corporate houses. They have vested interests. Therefore, in today’s world – it is much better to trust our own first hand experience. If we don't then there is a danger that we lose our own innate ability to discern, and become unwitting instruments of manipulation by the powerful.
God is one when religion is dead.