In this series of articles, we are analysing similarities or common grounds between two major religions of the world: Hinduism and Islam. We have covered the following topics in the previous three articles: a brief introduction to Islam and to Hinduism, a comparison between the articles of faith in Islam and the tenets of Hinduism as mentioned in the Hindu Scriptures and the concept of God in Hinduism and in Islam. In this month’s article, we shall examine and compare the concepts of angels and of revelation in Islam and in Hinduism.
Concept of Angels in Hinduism and in Islam
We shall now examine the belief in angels of God in these two major religions and study if there are similarities.
1. Angels in Islam
Angels are a creation of Allah (swt). They have been created from light and are normally unseen. They do not have a free will of their own and hence they always obey the commandments of Almighty Allah. Due to the absence of free will they cannot disobey God. Different angels have been appointed by Almighty Allah for different activities. For example, Archangel Gabriel (Jibreel) was appointed to convey the revelation of Allah (swt) to the prophets of Allah.
Since angels are a creation of God, and not God, Muslims do not worship angels.
2. Angels in Hinduism
There is no concept of angels in Hinduism. However Hindus believe that there are certain super-beings, which perform acts, which cannot be done by normal human beings. These super-beings too are worshipped as deities by some Hindus.
Concept of Revelation in Hinduism and in Islam
Let us now study what the Hindu and Islamic scriptures state regarding God’s revelations or books revealed by God for the guidance of humans:
(i) Concept of Revelation in Islam
1. Allah (swt) has sent a revelation in every age.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“For each period Is a Book (revealed) (Al Qur’an 13:38)
2. Four Revelations mentioned by name in the Qur’an:
There are several revelations sent by Allah (swt) in different ages for the guidance of human beings of the respective ages. Only four revelations are mentioned by name in the Qur’an: these are the. Torah, Zabur, Injeel and the Qur’an.
Torah is the Wahi, the revelation which was revealed to Prophet Moses (pbuh).
Zabur is the Wahi, the revelation which was revealed to Prophet David (pbuh)
Injeel is the Wahi, the revelation which was revealed to Prophet Jesus (pbuh) and
The Qur’an is the last and final Wahi, the final revelation, which was revealed to the Last and Final Messenger Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
3. All previous revelations were only meant for a particular group of people
and for a particular time period.
Each of the revelations, prior to the revelation of the Glorious Qur’an, was meant only for a particular period and for a particular group of people.
4. The Qur’an was revealed for whole of Humankind
Since the Qur’an was the last and final revelation of Almighty Allah, it was revealed not only for the Muslims or the Arabs but it was revealed for whole of Humankind. Further, the Qur’an was not revealed only for the era of the Prophet (Pbuh), but it was revealed for the all of Humankind until the Last Day.
a. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
Alif Ram Ra. A Book Which We have revealed Unto thee, in order that Thou mightest lead mankind
Out of the depths of darkness Into light - by the leave Of their Lord - to the way Of (Him) the Exalted in Power, Worthy of all Praise! (Al Qur’an 14:1)
b. Here is a Message for mankind:
Let them take warning therefrom, And let them know that He Is (no other than) One God: Let men of understanding Take heed (Al Qur’an 14:52)
c. Ramadan is the (month)
In which was sent down The Qur’an, as a guide To mankind, also clear (Signs) For Guidance and Judgement (Between right and wrong) (Al Qur’an 2:185)
d. Verily We have revealed
The Book to thee In truth, for (instructing) mankind (Al Qur’an 39:41)
Al Qur’an is God’s Word. It is the most sacred scripture of Islam. It is the Last and Final Revelation of Almighty God which was revealed in the sixth century of the English Calendar to the last and final messenger Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
5. The Qur’an is mentioned in the previous scriptures and in scriptures of other religions. It is mentioned in the Qur’an:
Without doubt it is (announced) In the revealed Books Of former peoples. (Al Qur’an 26:196)
The mention of the Glorious Qur’an, this last and final Revelation of Almighty God, is made in all the previous scriptures and in the scriptures of various religions.
The other sacred scripture of Islam besides the Qur’an are the hadith i.e. the sayings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). These hadith are supplementary to the Glorious Qur’an. They do not and cannot overrule the teachings of the Qur’an nor will they contradict the Qur’an.
(i) Books of Hinduism
There are two kinds of sacred writings in Hinduism: Sruti and Smrti.
Sruti means that which has been heard, perceived, understood or revealed. It is the oldest and the most sacred of the Hindu’s Scriptures. The Sruti is divided into two main parts: the Vedas and the Upanishads and these two are considered to be of divine origin.
Smrti is not as sacred as the sruti. Yet it is considered to be important and is popular with the Hindus today. Smrti means memory or remembered. This Hindu literature is easier to understand because it speaks about the truths of the Universe through Symbolism and Mythology. The smrti are not considered to be of divine origin but are accepted as human composition. The Smrti lists rules governing the actions of the individual, the community and the society, which regulate and guide individuals in their daily conduct. They are also known as Dharma Shastra. Smrtis consist of many writings including the Puranas and Itihaas.
There are several Holy Scriptures of the Hindus; among them are the Vedas, Upanishads and the Puranas.
i) The word ‘Veda’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘vid’, which means to know. The word ‘Veda’ therefore, means knowledge par excellence or sacred wisdom. There are four principal divisions of the Vedas. (Although according to their number, they amount to 1131 out of which about a dozen are available. According to MahaBhasya of Patanjali, there are 21 branches of Rig Veda, 9 types of Atharva Veda, 101 branches of Yajur Veda and 1000 of Sam Veda)
ii) The Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Sam Veda are considered to be more ancient books and are known as ‘Trai Viddya’ or the ‘Triple Sciences’. The Rig Veda is the oldest and has been compiled in three long and different periods of time. The 4th Veda is the Atharva Veda, which is of a later date.
Rigveda is mainly composed of songs of praise.
Yajurveda deals sacrificial formula.
Samveda refers to melody.
Atharva Veda has a large number of magic formulas.
iii) There is no unanimous opinion regarding the date of compilation or revelation of the four Vedas. According to Swami Dayanand, who was the founder of the Arya Samaj, the Vedas were revealed 1310 millions of years ago and according to other scholars they are not more than 4000 years old.
iv) Similarly there is a difference of opinion regarding the places where these books were revealed and the Rishis to whom these Scriptures were given. In spite of these differences, the Vedas are considered the most authentic of the Hindu Scriptures and the real foundations of the Hindu Dharma.
i) The word ‘Upanishad’ is derived from ‘Upa’ meaning ‘near’, ‘ni’ which means ‘down’ and ‘shad’ means ‘to sit’. Therefore Upanishads means sitting down near. Groups of pupils sit near the teacher to learn from him the sacred doctrines.
According to Samkara, Upanishad is derived from the root word ‘sad’ which means ‘to loosen’, ‘to reach’ or ‘to destroy’, with ‘upa’ and ‘ni’ as prefix. Therefore Upanishad means ‘Brahma knowledge’ by which ignorance is loosened or destroyed.
The number of Upanishads exceeds 200 though the Indian tradition puts it at 108. There are 10 principal Upanishads however some consider them to be more than 10, while others state that there are 18.
ii) The Vedanta meant originally the Upanishads, though the word is now used for the system of philosophy based on the Upanishad. Literally, Vedanta means the end of the Veda, Vedasya-antah, the conclusion as well as the goal of Vedas. The Upanishads are the concluding portions of the Vedas and chronologically they come at the end of the Vedic period.
iii) Some Pundits consider the Upanishad to be superior to the Vedas.
3. ITIHAS - EPIC
There are two Itihas or epics namely the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Ramayana is an epic, which deals with the life story of Rama. Most Hindus are aware of the story of the Ramayana.
Mahabharata is another great epic, which speaks about the feud between the cousins: the Pandavas and the Kauravas. It also contains the life story of Krishna. The story of this epic, the Mahabharata, is also commonly known to most Hindus.
4. BHAGVAD GITA
Bhagvad Gita is the most popular and well known amongst all the Hindu scriptures. It is a part of the epic Mahabharata and contains 18 Chapters in Bhishma Parva Chapters 25 to 42. It contains the advice given by Krishna, in the battlefield, to Arjun.
Next in order of authenticity are the Puranas, which are the most widely read scripture. The word ‘Puranas’ means ‘ancient’ The Puranas contain the History of the Creation of the Universe, history of the early Aryan Tribes and life stories of the divines and deities of the Hindus. The Puranas are revealed books like the Vedas, which were revealed simultaneously with the Vedas or at sometime close to the revelation of the Vedas
Maharishi Vyasa has divided the Puranas into 18 voluminous parts. Chief among the Puranas is a book known as Bhavishya Purana. It is called so because it gives prophecies of future events. The Hindus consider the Bhavishya Purana to be the word of God. Maharishi Vyasa is considered a mere compiler of the book the real author being God.
3. OTHER SCRIPTURES
There are several other Hindu Scriptures like Manu Smriti etc.
4. MOST AUTHENTIC HINDU SCRIPTURES ARE THE VEDAS
Amongst all the Hindu Scriptures, the Vedas are considered the most authentic. No other Hindu Scriptures overrule the Vedas. If there is a contradiction between the Vedas and any other Hindu scripture, the opinion of the Veda will prevail, according to Hindu Scholars.
Thus we have examined and highlighted similarities between the concept of angels and revelation in Islam and in Hinduism as mentioned in their respective scriptures. In subsequent articles in the present series, we shall study the similarities between the concept of prophethood, life after death, fate & destiny and worship in Islam and in Hinduism.
And all praises are for the One and Only God and Creator Allah, who alone is worthy of devotion, complete submission and worship.
English translation of verses of the Glorious Qur’an is taken from Abdullah Yusuf Ali.
(To be continued)
The author, Dr. Zakir Naik, is a well-known orator and scholar of Comparative Religion. He is the President of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org