Quotes of Swami Vivekananda on Islam, Muhammad and Quran:
- Mohammed by his life showed that amongst Mohammedans there should be perfect equality and brotherhood. There was no question of race, caste, creed, colour, or sex. The Sultan of Turkey may buy a Negro from the mart of Africa, and bring him in chains to Turkey; but should he become a Mohammedan and have sufficient merit and abilities, he might even marry the daughter of the Sultan. Compare this with the way in which the Negroes and the American Indians are treated in this country! And what do Hindus do? If one of your missionaries chance to touch the food of an orthodox person, he would throw it away. Notwithstanding our grand philosophy, you note our weakness in practice; but there You see the greatness of the Mohammedan beyond other races, showing itself in equality, perfect equality regardless of race or colour.[Source]
- Mohammed— the Messenger of equality. You ask, “What good can there be in his religion?” If there was no good, how could it live? The good alone lives, that alone survives.[Source]
- Mohammed was the Prophet of equality, of the brotherhood of man, the brotherhood of all Mussulmans.[Source]
- Among Mohammedans the prophets and great and noble persons are worshipped, and they turn their faces towards the Caaba when they pray. These things show that men at the first stage of religious development have to make use of something external, and when the inner self becomes purified they turn to more abstract conceptions.[Source]
- England has the sword, the material world, as our Mohammedan conquerors had before her. Yet Akbar the Great became practically a Hindu; educated Mohammedan, the Sufis, are hardly to be distinguished from the Hindus; they do not eat beef, and in other ways conform to our usages. Their thought has become permeated with ours.[Source]
- For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam — Vedanta brain and Islam body — is the only hope. I see in my mind’s eye the future perfect India rising out of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible , with Vedanta brain and Islam body.[Source]
- I am firmly persuaded that without the help of practical Islam, theories of Vedantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind.[Source]
- Islam makes its followers all equal — so, that, you see, is the peculiar excellence of Mohammedanism. In many places in the Koran you find very sensual ideas of life. Never mind. What Mohammedanism comes to preach to the world is this practical brotherhood of all belonging to their faith. That is the essential part of the Mohammedan religion; and all the other ideas about heaven and of life etc.. are not Mohammedanism. They are accretions.[Source]
- It is a mistaken statement that has been made to us that the Mohammedans do not believe that women have souls. I am very sorry to say it is an old mistake among Christian people, and they seem to like the mistake. That is a peculiarity in human nature, that people want to say something very bad about others whom they do not like. By the by, you know I am not a Mohammedan, but yet I have had opportunity for studying this religion, and there is not one word in the Koran which says that women have no souls, but in fact it says they have.[Source]
- The fact that all these old religions are living today proves that they must have kept that mission intact; in spite of all their mistakes, in spite of all difficulties, in spite of all quarrels, in spite of all the incrustation of forms and figures, the heart of every one of them is sound — it is a throbbing, beating, living heart. They have not lost, any one of them, the great mission they came for. And it is splendid to study that mission. Take Mohammedanism, for instance. Christian people hate no religion in the world so much as Mohammedanism. They think it is the very worst form of religion that ever existed. As soon as a man becomes a Mohammedan, the whole of Islam receives him as a brother with open arms, without making any distinction, which no other religion does. If one of your American Indians becomes a Mohammedan, the Sultan of Turkey would have no objection to dine with him. If he has brains, no position is barred to him. In this country, I have never yet seen a church where the white man and the negro can kneel side by side to pray. Just think of that: Islam makes its followers all equal — so, that, you see, is the peculiar excellence of Mohammedanism. In many places in the Koran you find very sensual ideas of life. Never mind. What Mohammedanism comes to preach to the world is this practical brotherhood of all belonging to their faith. That is the essential part of the Mohammedan religion; and all the other ideas about heaven and of life etc.. are not Mohammedanism. They are accretions.[Source]
- This Vedantic spirit of religious liberality has very much affected Mohammedanism. Mohammedanism in India is quite a different thing from that in any other country. It is only when Mohammedans come from other countries and preach to their co-religionists in India about living with men who are not of their faith that a Mohammedan mob is aroused and fights.[Source]
Swami Vivekananda on Quran
- Let the Vedas, the Koran, the Puranas, and all scriptural lumber rest now for some time — let there be worship of the visible God of Love and Compassion in the country. All idea of separation is bondage, that of non-differentiation is Mukti. Let not the words of people dead-drunk with worldliness terrify you. ” — Be fearless” “Ignore the ordinary critics as worms!” Admit boys of all religions — Hindu, Mohammedan, Christian, or anything; but begin rather gently — I mean, see that they get their food and drink a little separately, and teach them only the universal side of religion.[Source]
- Religion must become broad enough. Everything it claims must be judged from the standpoint of reason. Why religions should claim that they are not bound to abide by the standpoint of reason, no one knows. If one does not take the standard of reason, there cannot be any true judgement, even in the case of religions. One religion may ordain something very hideous. For instance, the Mohammedan religion allows Mohammedans to kill all who are not of their religion. It is clearly stated in the Koran, “Kill the infidels if they do not become Mohammedans.” They must be put to fire and sword. Now if we tell a Mohammedan that this is wrong, he will naturally ask, “How do you know that? How do you know it is not good? My book says it is.” If you say your book is older, there will come the Buddhist, and say, my book is much older still. Then will come the Hindu, and say, my books are the oldest of all. Therefore referring to books will not do. Where is the standard by which you can compare? You will say, look at the Sermon on the Mount, and the Mohammedan will reply, look at the Ethics of the Koran. The Mohammedan will say, who is the arbiter as to which is the better of the two? Neither the New Testament nor the Koran can be the arbiter in a quarrel between them. There must be some independent authority, and that cannot be any book, but something which is universal; and what is more universal than reason? It has been said that reason is not strong enough; it does not always help us to get at the Truth; many times it makes mistakes, and, therefore, the conclusion is that we must believe in the authority of a church! That was said to me by a Roman Catholic, but I could not see the logic of it. On the other hand I should say, if reason be so weak, a body of priests would be weaker, and I am not going to accept their verdict, but I will abide by my reason, because with all its weakness there is some chance of my getting at truth through it; while, by the other means, there is no such hope at all.[Source]
- We want to lead mankind to the place where there is neither the Vedas, nor the Bible, nor the Koran; yet this has to be done by harmonising the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran. Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of THE RELIGION, which is Oneness, so that each may choose that path that suits him best.[Source]
Mahatma Gandhi on Muhammad, Islam and Quran
- I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind. I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. When I closed the second volume of the book about his life, I was sorry that there was not more for me to read about his great life.
- “From my reading, I received the impression that the Prophet was a seeker of Truth. He was godfearing. In this I know I am not telling you anything new. I am only describing to you how I was impressed by his life.”
Gandhi on Theory and Practice of Islam – by Dr. Anupma Kaushik.
The word Islam means peace but today it invokes images of violence, totalitarianism and irrationality. (Afkhami, 1995, 33) Islam is one religion which of late has been associated with terrorism and fundamentalism worldwide. Names like ISIS, Boko Harem, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Al-Shabaab, have become synonym with fundamentalism and terrorism. (Times of India, 2015, 10)Â The troubled spots in the world today such as Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan where violence and fundamentalism have disturbed peace are mostly associated with Islam. (The Hindu, 2015, 12) This raises the question whether Islam is a peaceful religion or not? However this is not a new question for a country like India which had a huge Muslim population living with people of other religions at times peacefully but at others not so peacefully. Even in pre independence era leaders like Gandhi had to deal with this issue.
Gandhi claimed that he had read the Quran more than once and also many books on Quran and the Prophet. (Gandhi, 1949, 235) He claimed he had read Maulana sahib’s Life of the Prophet and also Usva-e-Sahaba and insisted that Islam never sanctioned destroying places of worship of other religions. (Gandhi, 1949, 139) He also claimed that the Prophet often fasted and prayed and that the Prophet had revelations not in moments of ease and luxurious living. Gandhi claimed that he had cultivated respect for Islam. (Gandhi, 1949, 94) He clearly saw the difference between teaching and practice of Islam. He regarded Islam to be a religion of peace. Â He claimed that there is nothing in the Quran to warrant the use of force for conversion.Â He also claimed that the holy book says in the clearest language possible that there is no compulsion in religion. Â To him the Prophets whole life was a repudiation of compulsion in religion. Â He argued that Islam would cease to be a world religion if it were to rely upon force for its propagation.Â (Gandhi, 1949, 19) He had the view that Islam in the days of Harun-al- Rashid and Mamun was the most tolerant amongst the world’s religions but there was a reaction against the liberalism of the teachers of their times. The reactionaries had many learned, able and influential men amongst them and they nearly overwhelmed the liberal and tolerant teachers and philosophers of Islam. He believed that Muslims are still suffering from the effect of that reaction, but he believed that Islam has sufficient in it to become purged of illiberalism and intolerance. (Gandhi, 1949, 99)
Muslims argued with Gandhi claiming that he is wrong in saying that Islam enjoins non-violence upon its followers and that the Prophet himself met force with force at Badr. Muslims even argued that use of force is allowed on the particular occasions specified by Islam and especially against the non Muslim Government Islam prescribes only sword, protracted battle and the cutting of throat. (Gandhi, 1949, 261) Gandhi accepted that being a non Muslim he can always be challenged and hence is at a disadvantage while interpreting the Quran. However he argued that he was aware of the battle of Badr and similar incidents in the Prophet’s life and also of the verses in the Quran that contradicted his claim of Islam being a peaceful religion. He asserted that it was possible that the teaching of a book or a man’s life may be different from isolated texts in a book or incidents in a life. (Gandhi, 1949, 262) Same goes for the Quran and the Prophet and to Gandhi the central teaching of the Quran remained that of peace. (Gandhi, 1949, 263) Gandhi acknowledged that some passages can be quoted from Quran which are contrary to peace. But he argued that same can be found in Christianity and Hinduism as well. He reasoned that we are all growing along with various religions. He acknowledged that the followers of Islam are too free with the sword, but in his opinion that was not because of teaching of Islam but due to the environment in which Islam was born. He argued that Islam is a comparatively new religion and is yet in the course of being interpreted. He rejected the claim of Maulvis to give a final interpretation to the message of the Mohamed.Â (Gandhi, 1949, 134)
He found Muslims to be brave, generous and trusting if their suspicions were disarmed. (Gandhi, 1949, 62) He however acknowledged that in his experience he has found that Muslims are as a rule bully. (Gandhi, 1949, 48) However he tried to explain this behavior by stating that although non-violence has a predominant place in Quran, the 1300 years of imperialistic expansion has made the Muslims fighter as a body. They are therefore aggressive. Bullying is the natural excrescence of an aggressive spirit. Hence they have become bullies. (Gandhi, 1949, 66) He claimed to have read Quran and to him it did not sanction or enjoin murder. (Gandhi, 1949, 125) He believed that Muslims have an ordeal to pass through. He felt that they were too free with the knife and the pistol. He cautioned that the sword is not an emblem of Islam, but clarified that Islam was born in an environment where the sword was and remains the supreme law. He lamented that the sword is too much in evidence among the Muslims despite the message of the Prophet.Â He advised that it must be sheathed if Islam is to be what it means – peace. (Gandhi, 1949, 131).
He clarified that however good Islam may be in abstract the only way it can be judged is by the effect produced by each of its votaries considered as a whole. (Gandhi, 1949, 63) He told the Muslims that they cannot protect Islam with the lathi (stick) or sword. The age of lathi (stick) is gone. A religion will be tested by the purity of its adherents. He argued that if a religion is left to the goondas (criminals) to defend it, it will do serious harm to that religion including Islam. Islam will in that case no longer remain the faith of fakirs (mendicant monks) and worshippers of Allah. (Gandhi, 1949, 78)
He objected to destruction of Hindu temples by Muslims. (Gandhi, 1949, 71) He acknowledged that he had found difficulty in the Muslim circles about invoking reverence for Hindu Vedas and incarnation. (Gandhi, 1949, 98) He expected Muslims to tolerate other religions. He reminded Muslims that Islam is judged by their conduct. (Gandhi, 1949, 72) However he also argued that when a person of any religion does evil, it is an evil done by one person against another and each one should personally try to remove the evil because we are persons first and our religious identity is secondary. One should not blame the Muslims as a whole for some evil committed by a person or a group of persons. (Gandhi, 1949, 22) He explained that when blood boils, prejudice reigns supreme; man whether he labels himself a Hindu, Muslim, Christian or what not becomes a beast. (Gandhi, 1949, 44)
He advised that it is no use becoming angry with all Muslims in general. (Gandhi, 1949, 24) He sought to gain Muslim friendship by right of love. (Gandhi, 1949, 26) In his characteristic non-violent arguments, he argued that if only one party were to continue its guilt and the other consistently remained patient and suffering the guilty party would be exhausted in the effort. If there is no reaction following the action the world would attain salvation. (Gandhi, 1949, 37) But if we answer an abuse with a slap a slap is returned with a kick, the kick than is returned by a bullet and so the circle of sin widens. But generally those who believe in taking a tooth for a tooth after a time forgive one another and become friends. So let us recognize this rule of mutual forgiveness and forget one another’s wrongs. The easiest method of achieving peace is to give up the idea of complaining against one another and to concentrate our attention upon taking preventive measures so that there is no recurrence of madness. (Gandhi, 1949, 38)
He argued that religion is being interpreted in the lives of those who are living these messages in silence and in perfect self dedication. The seat of religion is in the heart. We have to write the interpretation of our respective faiths with our blood.Â (Gandhi, 1949, 135) He advised everyone to not force their views on one another. He argued that those who force others to respect their religious wishes are irreligious savages. (Gandhi, 1949, 46) He argued that an attitude of non violence in mutual relations is an indispensable condition. People must not break each other’s head in respect of religious matters. (Gandhi, 1949, 47)
He believed that Muslims alone are not to be blamed for everything in every place. (Gandhi, 1949, 84) When he received reports of acts of violence by Muslims he investigated the facts before passing judgments. (Gandhi, 1949, 55) He had to deal with cases in pre-independent India where Muslims had abducted Hindu boys and girls who were forced to embrace Islam. The remedy he suggested was non-violent resistance and if that is not possible than through most violent self-defense. (Gandhi, 1949, 119) He received complaints that Muslim men invade Hindu quarters and insult Hindu women. They also take forcible gifts from Hindu shopkeepers. (Gandhi, 1949, 152) Gandhi termed such men who let their women be abused and their goods be taken by force cowards. He said where there are cowards there are going to be bullies. Hence the cowards need to be taught how to be brave. (Gandhi, 1949, 152) But at hearing about murders of Hindus he asked out loud if Muslims are practicing terrorism. (Gandhi, 1949, 282)Â He declared the Khaksar organisation to be a militant organization in 1940. (Gandhi, 1949, 301).
However he claimed that he can never be an enemy of Muslims no matter what any one or more of them may do to him. (Gandhi, 1949, 163) His ultimate remedy was to deal with the wrong but not to hurt the wrong doer. (Gandhi, 1949, 163) Thus to him the ultimate answer lay in the concept of ‘Live and Let Live’ or mutual forbearance and toleration in life. He claimed that this is the lesson he had learnt from the Quran. (Gandhi, 1949, 236) In his opinion, religion binds man to God and man to man and hence Islam binds not only Muslim to Muslim; but also Muslim to non-Muslims. The message of the Prophet was not just for Muslims and if anyone claims to the contrary he does greatest disservice to Islam and is poisoning the minds of Muslims. (Gandhi, 1949, 310).
In fact when he was travelling to quell Hindu-Muslim riots in Bengal, he always carried the Gita, the Quran and the Bible. (Gandhi, 1949, 500) He appealed to Muslims to do away with purdah system. (Gandhi, 1949, 502) When some Muslims objected to this and said that Gandhi had no right to speak on Islamic Law, Gandhi countered by saying that this is a narrow view of religion. He hoped that this narrow view was not shared by other Muslims. He claimed the right to study and interpret the message of Islam. He said that Islam was not a creed to be preserved in a box. It was open to mankind to examine it and accept or reject its tenets. (Gandhi, 1949, 523) He also appealed that women folk should be rescued from the thralldom of ignorance and superstition. (Gandhi, 1949, 506).
He considered himself to be as good a Muslim as he was a Hindu and an equally good Christian and Parsi. (Gandhi, 1949, 538) During his prayer meetings, he always included verses from the Quran Sharif. He reminded people of folly of looking upon one religion as better than another. (Gandhi, 1949, 585) Some people at times objected to recitation from the Quran when prayer meeting was being held in the Valmiki Temple. He preferred not to hold the prayer meeting without the recitations from the Quran. (Gandhi, 1949, 584) When some Muslims objected to his reading of Arabic verses from the Quran,herefused to accept the objection. He asked why cannot he acclaim Mohammed as his Prophet. (Gandhi, 1949, 589).
He advised both Hindus and Muslims to not look towards leaders for solutions but to look towards themselves and if they did than their desire for peace would be reflected by the leaders. (Gandhi, 1949, 505) He quoted from the Prophet that, “A perfect Muslim is he from whose tongue and hands mankind is safe. No man is true believer unless he desireth for his brother that which he desireth for himself. The most excellent jehad is that for the conquest of self. Assist any person oppressed, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.” (Gandhi, 1949, 509).
He welcomed inter-religious marriages with mutual friendship and respect for religion of each other. (Gandhi, 1949, 542) He did not believe in state religion and opposed state aid to religious bodies. He only wanted schools to give ethical teachings as fundamental ethics were common to all religions. (Gandhi, 1949, 543)
Other Non-Muslims on Muhammad, Islam and Quran
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) British philosopher, mathematician, and Nobel laureate, whose emphasis on logical analysis greatly influenced the course of 20th-century philosophy.
• “Our use of the phrase ‘the Dark Ages’ to cover the period from 699 to 1,000 marks our undue concentration on Western Europe… From India to Spain, the brilliant civilization of Islam flourished. What was lost to Christendom at this time was not lost to civilization, but quite the contrary… To us it seems that West-European civilization is civilization; but this is a narrow view.” [History of Western Philosophy, London, 1948, p. 419]
Hamilton Alexander Roskeen Gibb
Hamilton Alexander Roskeen Gibb (1895-1971) A leading orientalist scholar of his time.
• “But Islam has a still further service to render to the cause of humanity. It stands after all nearer to the real East than Europe does, and it possesses a magnificent tradition of inter-racial understanding and cooperation. No other society has such a record of success uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity, and of endeavours so many and so various races of mankind … Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If ever the opposition of the great societies of East and West is to be replaced by cooperation, the mediation of Islam is an indispensable condition. In its hands lies very largely the solution of the problem with which Europe is faced in its relation with East.”[Whither Islam, London, 1932, p. 379.]
• “That his (Muhammad’s) reforms enhanced the status of women in general is universally admitted.” [Mohammedanism, London, 1953, p. 33]
James A. Michener
James A. Michener (1907-1997) Leading American writer; recipient of honorary doctorates in five fields from thirty leading universities and decorated with the Presidential Medal of freedom, America’s highest civilian award.
• “No other religion in history spread so rapidly as Islam . . . The West has widely believed that this surge of religion was made possible by the sword. But no modern scholar accepts that idea, and the Qur’an is explicit in support of the freedom of conscience.” [Islam – The Misunderstood Religion, Readers’ Digest (American Edition) May 1955]
Edward Gibbon (1737-1794). Considered the greatest British historian of his time.
• “‘I believe in One God and Mohammed the Apostle of God,’ is the simple and invariable profession of Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honours of the prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virtue, and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion.”[History Of The Saracen Empire, London, 1870, p. 54.]
• “More pure than the system of Zoroaster, more liberal than the law of Moses, the religion of Mahomet might seem less inconsistent with reason than the creed of mystery and superstition which, in the seventh century, disgraced the simplicity of the gospels.” [The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 5. p. 487]
Jared Diamond Professor of Physiology at the UCLA School of Medicine; recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1998.
• “Medieval Islam was technologically advanced and open to innovation. It achieved far higher literacy rates than in contemporary Europe; it assimilated the legacy of classical Greek civilization to such a degree that many classical books are now known to us only through Arabic copies. It invented windmills, trigonometry, lateen sails and made major advances in metallurgy, mechanical and chemical engineering and irrigation methods. In the middle-ages the flow of technology was overwhelmingly from Islam to Europe rather from Europe to Islam. Only after the 1500’s did the net direction of flow begin to reverse.”[Guns, Germs, and Steel – The Fates of Human Societies, 1997, p. 253]
Annie Besant (1847-1933) British theosophist and nationalist leader in India. President of the Indian National Congress in 1917.
• “I often think that woman is more free in Islam than in Christianity. Woman is more protected by Islam than by the faith which preaches Monogamy. In Al-Quran the law about woman is more just and liberal. It is only in the last twenty years that Christian England, has recognized the right of woman to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times.” [The Life and Teachings of Muhammad, Madras, 1932, pp. 25, 26]
Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949) A writer, poetess and one of the most visible leaders of pre-Independent India. President of the Indian National Congress and the first woman governor of free India.
• “Sense of justice is one of the most wonderful ideals of Islam, because as I read in the Qur’an I find those dynamic principles of life, not mystic but practical ethics for the daily conduct of life suited to the whole world.”
• “It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy for, in the mosque when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim: “God Alone is Great.” I have been struck over and over again by this indivisible unity of Islam that makes man instinctively a brother.”
[Lectures on “The Ideals of Islam;” see Speeches And Writings Of Sarojini Naidu, Madras, 1918, pp. 167-9]
Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975) British historian, Lecturer at Oxford University.
• “The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue.” [Civilization On Trial, New York, 1948, p. 205]
William Montgomery Watt
William Montgomery Watt (1909- ) Professor (Emeritus) of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
• “I am not a Muslim in the usual sense, though I hope I am a “Muslim” as “one surrendered to God,” but I believe that embedded in the Qur’an and other expressions of the Islamic vision are vast stores of divine truth from which I and other occidentals have still much to learn, and Islam is certainly a strong contender for the supplying of the basic framework of the one religion of the future.'” [Islam And Christianity Today, London, 1983, p. ix.]