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Friday, January 20, 2012

Surya Namaskar and Muslim Response

Mike Ghouse

The Surya Namaskar is a Hindu religious tradition, a beautiful act of bowing to the Sun and welcoming the first rays of dawn as an expression of gratitude to the energy it breathes in to life and everything about life.

India is a pluralistic society, where we have come to respect every which way one worships one, none or many representations of God. Even among Hinduism we have an amazing diversity of people who express their gratitude from no to an iconic to an abstract manifestation of that elusive creator.

The Chief Minister of the State of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan called on the schools and the public to join him in the Surya Namaskar to beat the Guinness world record set by the Kazakhs who currently hold the world record in mass prayers. The intent of performing this act with a million people was not for spiritual need, but to get on the Guinness Book of World Records; a crazy passion of Indians.

At least Shivraj Singh Chouhan did better than Rick Perry, the governor of Texas who invited the evangelist exclusively to pray for the nation’s well being in a certain way to exclude all other Americans including Christians of different denominations. Indeed he duped the evangelicals in buying their support for his bid to the Presidency.

The Times of India reported that the city’s Chief Muslim cleric Qazi Abul Kalam Qasmi said, "Parents should take a call on sending kids to school, if there is apprehension that the child may be forced." The newly appointed Qazi maintained that Suryanamaskar, which involved 'bowing before the sun', was against Islamic tenets. "If a Muslim performs the 'suryanamaskar' the child and his parents would both be accountable in the act of felony." Qasmi maintained.

Indeed, the Qazi is right; it is not an Islamic practice to bow to any manifestation of God, but the God himself the non-visible energy. Everyone should have the freedom to pray or not pray in certain way and no one should compel or look down for not participating. That is our pluralistic ethos for over 5000 years and we need to be loyal to that heritage.

An alternate way to look at the opinion of the Qazi would have been to participate in the group act, but do it in a way that works from an Islamic point of view. This would have meant that we are all in this together for a better India and better place to live cohesively. However, no one should expect everyone to jump and do what they do. It would have been a good example of working together without compromising our faith.

Prophet Muhammad had led mass Prayers for rain and famine and for other goodness of the society. Two years ago, I was planning on going to Florida and witness a pastor burn the Quraan, if he was indeed burning, I was going to pray my two Rakat (unit) Nafeel Muslim prayers next door to his Church in an open space with prior permission from the City. We all would have prayed for his well being along with several fellow Muslims. Burning Quraan was not an act of bravery but stupidity and countering it with anger would have been greater stupidity. Unfortunately he postponed his act and I had a 9/11 Unity Day event the next day in Dallas as well.

There are examples set by Prophet Muhammad for situations like this. While he was travelling to Taif, a few miscreants pelted rocks at him causing him to bleed, his associates wanted to go get the boys, but Prophet stopped them and instead asked them and the Angel Gabriel to join him in prayers and pray for their well being. This is what Jesus meant when he said, turn the other cheek.

Prophet Muhammad was the ultimate peace maker, every act of his is a model for us to learn from, and he was the consummate conflict mitigater and goodwill nurturer.

When we attend weddings, some of us are strictly vegetarian and some eat variations of meat products from fish and poultry to beef. We wear different clothing’s and drink a variety of sodas to coffee with cream or black and same goes with the tea. Do we have a problem with that? Then we should not have the problem with this either as long as the Chief Minister is not getting his wish at the cost of public funds.

The right wingers among us need to honor Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and Hindus for their choices and each minority should not take this as an imposition in a free society. Nor any one should be negative if one does not participate.

May Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s dreams to solidify his political stand come true and those who are opposed to him politically can also hold a Chandra Namaskar to get what they want, but together, let Madhya Pradesh go on the Guinness book of world records. Bengal or any other state has a choice to out do it as well.

[Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies where no Indian has to live in anxieties, discomfort or fear of the other. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. His work is indexed at www.MikeGhouse.net and his current articles at www.TheGhousediary.com. Mike Ghouse is now associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Foreign Editor. He can be contacted at MikeGhouse@aol.com]

1 comment:

  1. ASA brother Mike 

    Thank you for all your efforts to ensure respect for all faiths and for all people

    But I wanted to comment on your last posting about 

    The Hindu practice of bowing at the sight of dawn


    We do the dawn prayer

    With the intention of bowing down to the creator 

    Of the sun and the moon 

    As the verses teach :

    Salat-al-Kusuf: The Prayer of the Eclipse
    By Usama Abu Zayd

    بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ
    Bismillaahir rahmaanir rahiim.
    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ اللَّيْلُ وَالنَّهَارُ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ لَا تَسْجُدُوا لِلشَّمْسِ وَلَا لِلْقَمَرِ وَاسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُنَّ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
    Wa min aayaatihil lailu wan nahaaru wasy syamsu wal qamaru laa tasjuduu lisy syamsi wa laa lil qamari was juduu lillaahil ladzii khalaqahunna in kuntum iyyaahu ta'buduun.
    "And among His Signs are the night and the day, the sun and the moon. Prostrate neither to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah who created them, if it is truly Him you worship."(Fussilat 41:37)
    Islam and the Solar Eclipse
    "The Sun and the Moon are two of the Signs (Ayat) of Allah: they do not darken for the death or birth of any person, but Allah strikes fear into His servants by means of them. So when you see them darken, remember and mention Allah, declare His Greatness, offer prayer, give in charity, and supplicate to Him and seek His forgiveness." (Bukhari)
    These were the words of Muhammad, Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, when a solar eclipse took place on the very day that his infant son Ibrahim passed away: 29th Shawwal 10 H / 27th January 632 C.E. A false prophet would undoubtedly have claimed that such a magnificent celestial event was a sign of heavenly mourning for the loss of his loved one, but not so the final Messenger of God, who led the community of Muslims in prayer for as long as the eclipse lasted, then admonished them regarding their reckoning with their Lord on the Day of Judgment.
    The Muslim reaction to lunar and solar eclipses in general and the forthcoming solar eclipse of Friday 15th January 2010 in particular - according to accurate astronomical calculations -- can be summarised as follows:
    1. Solar and lunar eclipses are reminders of the Day of Judgment, when the sun, moon and stars will all lose their light. "When the sight is dazed, and the moon is buried in darkness, and the sun and moon are joined together: Man will say on that day, ‘Where is the refuge?’" (Surat al-Qiyamah, the Resurrection)
    2. Being a reminder of the Last Day, the eclipse is a time for prayer, charitable acts, freeing slaves and generally remembering Allah and seeking His forgiveness.
    3. To have belief in heavenly bodies (sun, moon, planets, stars) as having power over events and people’s fates and fortunes is to reject Allah by ascribing partners to Him."And among His Signs are the night and the day, the sun and the moon. Prostrate neither to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah who created them, if it is truly Him you worship."(Surat Fussilat, the Signs Explained). Thus one cannot worship God by worshipping creation -whether the devotions are offered to Nature, heavenly bodies, idols or human beings. The worship of something or someone created in whatever form, Muslims consider to be an underlying error of many groups active in the UK, from pagans, Druids and New Age cultures (for whom the eclipse is a sacred event) to the numerous Christian denominations. The popular but false, empty faith in astrology, so widespread in the popular press, is also condemned in Islam. Islam teaches people to constantly turn to the Source of all events: Allah.

    dr. Hind jarrah