In today’s polarising times, such advocacy of inclusivity and pluralism over religious exclusivism really matters.
India’s age-old spiritual ties with the Arab and Central Asian Sufi sages produced a beautiful Islamic heritage. Embracing Ibn al-Arabi’s notion of “Wahdatul Wajud” (unity of being), it strengthened the Vedic concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” in the country. This was in synergy with the prophetic tradition, al-khlaqu ayal Allah (meaning, the entire mankind is one family of Allah).
The Persian dervish, Shaikh Sa’adi, whose celebrated work gulistan (rose garden) has been part of the Indian Sufi texts, wrote an enlightening poem — Bani Adam (children of Adam), breaking down all barriers between different communities:
“All human beings are members of one frame,
Since all, at first, from the same essence came.
When time afflicts a limb with pain
The other limbs at rest cannot remain.
If thou feel not for other’s misery
A human being is no name for thee.”
In fact, this poem was inspired by an anecdote of the Prophet Muhamad (pbuh) in which he said: “The parable of your relation to others in compassion and kindness for each other should be that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with pain and restlessness.”(Bukhari)
Prophet’s son-in-law, Hazrat Ali wrote in his to latter to Malik Ashtar on his appointment as governor of Egypt: “Infuse your heart with mercy, love and compassion for the people under your rule. Either they are your brothers in religion or your equals in creation.”
This echoed in the recent universal message of Egypt’s spiritual leader and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar — the leading Islamic seminary in the world. He urged: “O’ Muslims in every part of the world! Make sure that human beings at large are either your brethren in faith or your equals in humanity!” He urged Muslims to coexist with other faith traditions — with Christians and Jews in the western flank and with Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists in the eastern societies.
In today’s polarising times, such advocacy of inclusivity and pluralism over religious exclusivism really matters. Remarkably, this is the emblem of the Amman Declaration recently issued by King of Jordan Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, the 41st generation direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It was gratifying to note that he reiterated the same message of Islamic moderation in India — the second largest Muslim population in the world. Highlighting the true Islamic heritage, he chose to send this universal Qur’anic message across the world from this land: “O humankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes that you may know each other. Truly the most honored of you before God is the most pious of you. (49:13)”.
Several other verses in the Qur’an demonstrate a wide divine embrace for all other civilizations, nations and cultures. As a result, Muslims were enabled to give to and take from different civilisations and cultures — travelling across the ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Central Asia, Africa, Caucasian lands to the Indian subcontinent. Thus, an Indo-Islamic heritage was evolved which enriched not only itself, but other parts of the world as well. Such pluralistic Islamic heritage is a product of human endeavour for a civilised society based on the foundations of plurality, inclusivism and moderation. It should be celebrated not only in words, but in practice.