I have been reading Rafeeq Zakaria's book "Indian muslims:Where have they gone wrong?"-2004. He is the father of TIME Magazine editor and CNN GPS host Fareed Zakaria. One of the chapters in his book is titled "Muslim Attitude towards Hindu Heroes" which I found very interesting and wanted to share. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Muslim Attitude towards Hindu Heroes: Sudheendra Kulkarni, who has risen to be the constant official companion to Prime Minister Vajpayee, in his article 'Rafsanjani's Iran' written some years ago for the last page of Blitz: February 19, 1994, had rightly commended the extolling of the pre-Islamic scholar' Dr. M.B. Karimian, who was then with the Iranian embassy in Delhi. He asked why Indian Muslims should not feel proud of India's pre-Islamic past and hail its national heroes as Iranians do. I appreciated the spirit in which Kulkarni had said this; I also agree with him that we must revere one another's heroes, rites customs and traditions in order to build real bridges of understanding between Hindus and Muslims. In fact, this is the kernel of the teachings of the Quran, which is replete with praises of many other prophets. Indian Muslims have not lagged behind in following it; Urdu literature bristles with respect for their places of worship, their traditions and conventions and their festivals. As compared to its output, there is little to be found in Hindi or other Indian languages in praise of Prophet Muhammed and his companions. However, the common Hindu's ignorance of it is, indeed, colossal; their grievance is not only unfair but also unjust. Unfortunately, Kulkarni, despite his erudition, has proved to be no exception. In order to dispel the wrong impression of Hindus about Indian Muslims, I wrote the book "Iqbal: the Poet and the Politician" published by Penguin. I took the poet-philosopher of Islam as the peg. He was no ordinary Muslim. He is adored by Muslims all over the world. His poems are translated in many languages; in consequence he is read in many Muslim countries; in some they are used as textbooks. He is accepted as an authentic voice of Islam. My book deals mainly with Iqbal's perception of Hindus, their philosophy, their culture and also with the insight in which he viewed Hindu spiritual leaders. He has graphically depicted the role of Hindu sages played in bringing enlightenment to the world and the impact their teachings had on humanity. Until his last days, he wrote with great felling about India and the Hindus. He verses abound with love and admiration for them. Because he advocated 'a Muslim India within India' as a constitutional solution to the Hindu-Muslim political tangle, his great contributions to the cementing bonds between the two communities cannot - and should not - be brushed aside. I cannot do better than quote my translation into English of some of his poems on Hindu heroes. In his poem on Rama, Iqbal describes him as Imam-i-Hind, the spiritual leader of India The Cup of India has always overflown With the heady wine of truth Even the philosophers of the West Are her ardent devotees There is something so sublime in her mysticism That her star soars high above constellations There have been thousands of rules in this land But none that can compare with Rama The discerning ones proclaim him The spiritual leader of India His lamp gave the light of wisdom Which outshone the radiance Of the whole of mankind Rama was valiant, Rama was bold Rama yielded deftly his sword He cared for the poorest of poor He was unmatched in love and compassion About the Buddha, Iqbal wrote: India and he people did nor care For the Buddha's luncent message They could not appreciate the worth Of this invaluable gem What a pity the unfortunate ones Could not pick from that lofty tree The ripened fruit and taste its sweetness They failed to understand The secrets of life the Buddha unfolded They remained immersed in vague contemplation And could not gain from his benediction While the Heavens showered Their blessings from above The soil of India did not prosper From the resultant harvest of truth Even today for the lowly untouchables India continues to be a land of sorrow Her people are indifferent To the pain of the oppressed They only heed the Brahmin Who pontificates from his ivory tower The Buddha illuminates the lands afar Spreading the light of Truth all around And here is the description of Vishwamitra in his magnum opus, JavedNama, which was published just a few years before his death. First Iqbal describes him thus: An Indian sage sat Under the palm tree His hair tied on top of his head, A man superior to the ordinary To him the world was mere fantasy He was not bound by the movement of Time And then he makes his mentor Maulana Rumi, eulogize Vishwamitra's spiritual greatness: The wandered in search is Like a fixed star in the planet He has more strength than weakness His goblet is like the Arch of Heaven, His thought soars like Gabriel's wing, Like an eagle he pounces On the sun and the moon And walks beyond the nine spheres He tells the people of the world In a state of drunkenness Of hours calling them idols A flame can be seen even in his smoke And pride even in his prostration Like a flute he laments For separation and union Both overwhelm him Iqbal was extremely fond of Krishna and hailed his philosophy of action which was akin to his own philosophy of Khudi: "The heart and mind of the Hindu community has been nourished by the penetrating discussions that its learned thinkers have conducted on the philosophy of action. And finally they have concluded that the struggle of life which makes a man go through the trials and tribulations is directly linked with action; or in other words his existing human self is the result of his past deeds. And so long as this law of action operates, the result will be the same". When Goethe, the well known German poet of the nineteenth century, makes his hero Faust read in the Bible the word 'action' instead of 'speech', Goethe's visionary eye detects the same point, which the Hindu pandits and rishis had observes hundreds of years ago. In this strange way, they had resolved the conflict between authority and freedom or in other words between coercion and responsibility. Undoubtedly their creative ability is worth admiration, particularly the very courageous manner in which they accepted the various philosophical conclusions which this confrontation led to. "They said that when the self is determined by action, then there is only one way of getting out of it and that is by renunciation of action. This was dangerous from both individual and communal points of view and required some ingenious mind to clarify the contradiction. In the intellectual history of manking, the name of Shri Krishna will always be taken with great regard and reverence because it was this magnificent man who attacked the philosophy renditions of his country and his people and placed before them the truth that renunciation does not mean total inaction. Actions is the damnd of nature, which reinforces existence; renunciation means non-attachment or indifference to the results of action." There are numerous other poems on Guru Nanak, Swami Teerth, the Himalayas, the Ganga, the Gayatri and such other Hindu topics; I have translated them into English and given then in my book. However, Iqbal is not alone in this respect, there are numerous essays, novels, short stories and poems of different shades and in varied style which extol the virtues of Hindu gods and goddesses, their customs, festivals and traditions. Nazir Akbarabadi captures the spirit of Hinduism in such enchanting rhythms and charming gutturals that there are few poems which can compare with them in sound and imagery; his poems on Holi is a masterpiece. Below is the opening stanza: When colorful Holi Came sailing with a sweet Rapturous motion; when it threw Away the veil from the face And put forth before the eye All shimmering with bright ornaments; Then merrily She set out her foot And the anglets showered a spray Of sweet and charming music From her eyes flashed A successions of coquettish winks And some passionate sighs Vibrated in her breast. The translation cannot capture the beauty and ecsatsy of Nazir's original pieces in Urdu. Likewise, Sikander Ali Wajid's long poem on Ajanta and Ellora caves is moving epitome of a Muslims's involvement with Hindu ethos. The piece-de-resistance is, however, Galib's poem on Kashi. He is the greatest Urdu poet of all times, whose very verse intoxicates the reader. He wrote a long poem in Persian on the spiritual majesty of Benares. It is so beautiful in its expression, so melodious in its rhythm and so full of picturesque imagery that I doubt whether there is anything as captivating in any other language. It is entitled Chirag-i-Dair (Temple Lamps) and has been beautifully translated into English by the well known Urdu novelist and Ganapith Award winner Qurratulain Hyder CHIRAG-I-DAIR (Temple Lamps) Ghalib's poem on Kashi May Heaven keep The grandeur of Benares Arbour of bliss, meadow of joy, For oft-returning souls Their journey's end. In this weary Temple-land of the world Safe from the whirlwind of Time, Benaras is forever spring, Where autumn turns Into the touch of sandal on their foreheads Springtime wears the sacred thread Of flower-waves And the splash of twilight Is the crimson mark of Kashi's Dust on heaven's brow The Kaaba of Hind this Conch-blowers dwell Its icons and idols Are made of the light That once flashed on Mount Sinai These radiant idolatrous naiads Set the pious Brahmins afire When their faces flow Like moving Lamps on Ganga's banks Morning and moonrise My Lady Kashi Picks up the Ganga-mirror To see her gracious beauty Said I one night to a pristine seer (who knew the secrets of whirling time) "Sir, you well perceive That goodness and faith, fidelity and love Have all departed from the sorry land Father and son are at each other's throat Brother fights brother Unity and federation are undermined Despite these ominous signs Why has not Doomsday come? Why does not the Last Trumpet sound? Who holds up the reins of the Final Catastrophe?" The hoary old man of lucent ken Pointed towards kashi and gently smiled "The Architect," he said, "is fond of this edifice Because of which there is color in life He would not like it to perish and fall Hearing this the pride of Banaras Soared to an eminence Untouched by the wings of thought Apart from Iqbal, as I have mentioned earlier, many other poets and writers have written on the Vedas, the Upanishads and the world renowned Ramayana and Mahabharta. Dozens of their translations are available in Urdu and in several, books commentaries have appeared; the various aspects of their philosophical approach to men and matters have been discussed and dilated upon. It is, indeed an unjustified slur on Muslims that they are not interested in Hindu mythology; many of their scholars have learnt Sanskrit and mastered the language in order to get into the spirit of the Hindu sacred books and understand its varied manifestations. Urdu literature is replete with their contributions; also the plays of Kalidas, for instance, have been the favorites of several Urdu script writers and of dramatic teams and companies. There are enchanting poems on Dassera, Holi, Ganpati and other such festivals; other Hindu rituals and ceremonies are equally in poetry as well as plays -------------------------------------------------------------------------- There are a lot of interesting tidbits as well in the rest of the book like AlBiruni (one of the early scholars who learned Sanskrit) and later during the Mughals the first translations of Hindu scriptures as well as other works into a foreign language were done in Persian and/or Arabic primarily.