The Indic Religions and the Vedas

The Indic religions, also known as Dharmic and Indian religions, are comprised of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and others. They are related with similar roots and core beliefs, but flower out in a variety of beliefs and practices. Let’s start with an intro to the history and then get into the Vedic creation story. Note that there is much crossover in elements of Hinduism to its other spin-offs, like Buddhism.

Emergence of Tradition

Hinduism traces it roots to at least the third millennium BCE in one of the largest pre-historic civilzations in the world around the Indus River in what is now India and Pakistan. Its cities (such as Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, and Dholavira) were quite advanced for their age, with drainage systems, public baths, and trade networks as far as Mesopotamia. It disappeared in the 2nd millennium BCE for unknown reasons. Its script has yet to be deciphered, so there is much still to be learned about the ancient Indus civilization.

The origins of Hinduism as we know it today go back to texts composed after the disappearance of the ancient Indus civilization.

Further reading: A Brief Introduction to the Ancient Indus Civilization

Distinctive Aspects

The term “Hindu” is derived originally from a Persian word indicating those who live “in the areas around the Indus River.” Using the term “Hindu” to refer to the religion began in the 1800s British colonial context.

Hindus generally say that “Hinduism” is a blanket term for a plethora of religious practices and beliefs in India, which vary considerably. For a non-Muslim, it is understandable why it would be perceived this way. But as Muslims, we see the world through the lense of a broader, Islamic concept, with Islam being the natural fitrah and everything else being a corruption of it. However, if you look closely enough, you can still find a number of Islamic remnants or fitrah imprints on world religions, and trace historical developments to confirm our understandings.

Despite the internal diversity of Hinduism, there’s a number of commonalities. Most acknowledge the Vedas as an authority, that the divine manifests in a diversity of ways, that there is an eternal soul (atman), and that the soul is reborn in body after body in a cycle of deaths and rebirths guided by karma, the repercussions of human action.

Though it is notable that Hinduism developed over time, so earlier beliefs and practices may be quite different than contemporary beliefs.

Brahman, names, and forms

As Muslims, we’ll find faint similarity to our aqida in descriptions of Brahman, which possibly is what the earliest Hindus called Allah before their beliefs fell off. The first and only true deity in Hinduism is Brahman, the creator God, the infinite and ultimate spirit that underlies all existence. Brahman pervades all that exists, even the other deities, which are viewed as manifestations of that one Ultimate, which they believe takes infinite forms. Some major deities are Vishnu, Shiva, the elephant-headed Ganesha, and the great goddess Durga. The Sun and rivers are considered mothers and divine forms worthy of worship to them. The essence of the soul (atman) is also seen as identical with Brahman, hence the greeting “namaste” where they salute the “Brahman” inside of you, your soul. This is connected to several practices in Southeast Asia like the wai in Thailand. The spiritual endeavor is in finding actualization of the soul, which is described deeply in the Upanishads, which are a later part of the Vedas.

The worship of the divine in multiple forms is described as “unity in diversity” in Hinduism. A shared assumption of Hindus is the understanding of the one in many “divine forms.” Common people may say that different deities just have different names and forms, but all of them are ultimately one. Hindus distinguish between the essence and its manifestations with names and forms. This is perfectly in line with what prophet Yusuf ﷺ says to the other prisoners in the Qur’an:

مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِهِ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءً سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُم مَّا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِن سُلْطَانٍ ۚ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ ۚ أَمَرَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ – 12:40

All those you worship instead of Him are mere names you and your forefathers have invented, names for which God has sent down no sanction. Authority belongs to God alone, and He orders you to worship none but Him: this is the true faith, though most people do not realize it.

Diversity of Worship – “Unity in Diversity”

Hindus have three broad paths of worship: knowledge (jñana), devotion (bhakti), and action (karma). One person may be devoted to meditation, another studies scripture, another worships images of idols, and another serving people or animals. Fasting and pilgrimages are also common. All of them may even be in the same family. Music, dance, and painting are also seen as worship of the divine, and they may even depict idols engaging in art themselves.

Hinduis see worship in other faiths and communities as simply dedications to another form of the Ultimate, Brahman. Through most of its history, Hinduism has had peaceful interaction with other faiths. Islam arrived early in its spread, Buddhism emerged in the heartland of Vedic culture, Christianity arrived in its first few centuries in South India, Zoroastrians arrived in the 9th or 10th century in the Western shores of India, and Sikhism grew out of Punjab in the 16th century. Conflicts have popped up in more recent times, but through most of its history it was a peaceful acceptance of differences.

Side note: As of 2020, the BJP party is ruling India, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organization with close ideological and organisational links to the much older Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS was banned in India three times, the first after a member assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 for his “weak” accommodationist approach towards the new state of Pakistan. You could describe them as “Hindu radicals.” The anti-Muslim violence you see today is not a norm of Hindu history, rather it is the result of radical right-wing politics.

Abdul Ghuffar Khan standing with Gandhi – many Muslims joined Gandhi, supporting his nonviolent protesting

Gandhi discussed Islam with his numerous close Muslim friends in India, whose relationships and alliances grew over the years. He wrote about Islam and the prophet Muhammad ﷺ:  “I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today 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 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 selflessness, his absolute trust in God and his own mission — these and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet’s biography) I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life.”

The German scholar of the Vedas, Max Müller, described Hinduism as “kathenotheism,” worship of one god at a time.” Diana Eck described it like “the pattern of the kaleidoscope” with components that reconfigure in designs at different moments. Many describe it as “unity in diversity,” where Brahman forms the central “true” deity with a diversity of manifestations. These are useful in that they help us understand how Hindus see Hinduism. We of course view this as polytheistic.

In our view, the diversity of Hinduism springs from a simple lack of clarity in instruction and belief. This is a common result of being disconnected from revelation for generations.

Cycle of Time

Hindus today generally see time as cyclical rather than linear. They see that the creation goes through cycles of existence, dissolution, and recreation. Creation will exist for trillions of years, then many believe it will be reabsorbed into Vishnu, who will then awake and create Brahman, who will then start a new cycle of creation. Though in the Vedas you’ll find references that Brahman is the only God, and the others didn’t exist before creation, hinting that they are themselves created.

Of course there is only one Creator. This story about Vishnu is a human tampering of religion. Though many Hindus believe that the Vedas are of supernatural origin, it is quite obvious just from reading it that is all too human.

Three major life cycle rituals among Hindus are naming the child, marriage, and cremation at death.

Karma, Rebirth, and Social Stratification

A major concept among Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, & Jainism) is the concept of karma and rebirth, where your deeds determine your next life. You go through these cycles until all of your karmas are exhausted through spiritual endeavor. But there is a difference of opinion about this:

  • Hindus believe the atman, or soul, is eternal and identical with Brahman, but trapped in one body after another until it is released from the cycle, then merging into Brahman upon its liberation (moksha).
  • Buddhists do not believe in a soul, but rather a consciousness that moves from one life to the next. There is debate among Buddhists about what exactly Nirvana is, be it a state or metaphysical place, etc. What is agreed upon is that it is a cessation of Samsara, the cycle of rebirths.
  • In Jainism, the liberated soul attains its pure form in solitude, not merging into a larger reality.

The exact origins of karma and rebirth are not known, though we know it originated in the Upanishads. By the later centuries of the first millennium BCE it was widely accepted and from here onward Hindu scriptures take it as an axiom. The first reincarnation story is in the Chandogya Upanishad in Shvetaketu’s story. His childhood friend asks him about the afterlife, he asks his father who doesn’t know, so he asks the king who explains it to him. He says this belief is a common belief among the Kshatriyas, the 2nd Hindu caste of warriors, and the secret of their power (courage in the face of death?). No wonder the concept is so central in the traditions of Mahavira Jina and Siddartha Gautama, the founders of Jainism and Buddhism, both Kshatriyas.

One reason Hindu scriptures are so confusing is simply their humanness. Human beings change their minds and come up with new concepts, especially when they aren’t tied down by revelation with a clear creed. It seems that they first believed in an afterlife where we would meet again, but later came to the notion that we returned from the hereafter to be born again. The Vedic tribe is only one tribe of India so it is possible that this belief crept into the Vedic beliefs from other tribes, or perhaps from an internal innovation. Either way, once a successful class promoted this new secret idea of reincarnation as its key to success, it caught on.

We believe this is an innovation made up by human beings. This concept is still used to justify a caste system based on hereditary occupations, claiming that basically your economic and social status is based on what you did in a past life. Priests, the military, and mercantile professions were in the top castes. Some occupations were so “polluted” that they were considered “untouchables,” or “dalit” nowadays, and have suffered much injustice over the centuries, such as the breast tax. Hindus themselves have criticized this treatment of untouchables since ancient times.

For more on reincarnation and the Qur’an, see my article here.
For more on the origins of the idea of reincarnation, check out this article: https://www.hinduhumanrights.info/does-the-rig-veda-mention-reincarnation-or-not-part-1/

The Vedas & Upanishads

The earliest scripture of the Indic religions are the Vedas, particularly the Rigveda compiled around 1500-1200 BCE. The Rigveda was preserved orally before it was written down about 300 BCE. The Upanishads (AKA Vedanta) were the last of the Vedas, compiled around 800-200 BCE which deal with meditation, philosophy, and spiritual knowledge. The Upanishads mark a transition from Vedic ritualism to new ideas and institutions and form the core of Hindu philosophy. The concepts of Brahman (Ultimate Reality) and Ātman (Soul, Self) are central ideas in all the Upanishads and “Know your Ātman” their thematic focus. The Upanishads are the most well-known of the Vedas.

Buddhism and Jainism also arose in the same era of the composition of the Upanishads. They rejected the authority of the Vedas. The Upanishads do not reject the Vedas, but seek deeper meaning. They turn attention from ritual sacrifice for well-being on Earth to an inner search for the Ultimate, Brahman. The core of the Upanishads is that Brahman pervades the entire creation. There is a focus on the inner unity of all existence, and seeing yourself as connected to all others. You’ll find this core concept at the root of many forms of Hindu practice and its heterodoxies, like Buddhism, Jainism, Brahma Kumaris, etc.

Then came the Baghavad Gita around 200 BCE, and further religious and scriptural developments. These later scriptures are the “Hindu epics” which focus on morality in life. But all of these developments are rooted in their predecessors: the Vedas and Vedic religion, which itself also evolved over time.

Veda Reading

Let’s take a look at two creation stories in the Vedas. Note that the “oblation” is the fire ritual and offering to a deity which was a major ritual of the Vedic religion.

This poem was meant to puzzle and challenge, raise unanswerable questions, and pile up paradoxes.

There was neither non-existence nor existence then. 
There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. 
What stirred(1)? 
Where? 
In whose protection? 
Was there water, bottlemlessly deep?

There was neither death nor immortality then. 
There was no distinguishing sign(2) of night nor of day. 
That One breathed, windless, by its own impulse. 
Other than that there was nothing beyond.

Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning, 
with no distinguishing sign, all this was water. 
The life force that was covered with emptiness, 
that One arose through the power of heat(3).

Desire came upon that One in the beginning, 
that was the first seed of mind. 
Poets(4) seeking in their heart with wisdom 
found the bond of existence and non-existence.

Their cord(5) was extended across. 
Was there below? 
Was there above? 
There were seed-placers, there were powers(6). 
There was impulse beneath, there was giving forth above.

Who really knows? 
Who will here proclaim it? 
Whence was it produced? 
Whence is this creation? 
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe(7). 
Who then knows whence it has arisen?

Whence this creation has arisen
– perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not – 
the One who looks down on it, 
in the highest heaven, only He knows 
or perhaps even He does not know.

Wendy Doniger’s translation of the “Nasadiya” creation hymn (Rig Veda 10.129)

A few notes from this book:

  1. This verb is often used to describe the motion of breath and the verse may imply that the action precedes the actor.
  2. The difference between night and day, light and darkness, and perhaps the sun and moon.
  3. Tapas denotes heat generated by ritual activity and physical mortification of the body.
  4. Kavi denotes a poet or saint.
  5. May reference the bond in verse 4 or a measuring cord the poets delimit/create the elements.
  6. The verse contrasts male seed-placers, giving forth, above with female powers, impulse, below.
  7. They mean that the gods cannot be the source of creation since they came after it.

As Muslims, I am sure we find this to be an easy refutation. But for non-Muslims who are disconnected from Revelation, scriptures like this only add to confusion. To me, this hymn is also the result of the author’s own confusion in contemplating these questions and the confusion in his society. What an incredible result of what happens to a people without revelation, and what a great blessing Islam is!

The more you look at other scriptures, the more you really appreciate surat al-Ikhlas in it’s simplicity and great clarity. To me, this also indicates proof of the Divine authorship of the Qur’an, which is unlike any other scripture.

Here’s another Vedic hymn.

1. IN the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha, born Only Lord of all created beings.
He fixed and holdeth up this earth and heaven. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
2 Giver of vital breath, of power and vigour, he whose commandments all the Gods acknowledge -.
The Lord of death, whose shade is life immortal. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
3 Who by his grandeur hath become Sole Ruler of all the moving world that breathes and slumbers;
He who is Lord of men and Lord of cattle. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
4 His, through his might, are these snow-covered mountains, and men call sea and Rasā his possession:
His arms are these, his are these heavenly regions. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
5 By him the heavens are strong and earth is stedfast, by him light’s realm and sky-vault are supported:
By him the regions in mid-air were measured. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
6 To him, supported by his help, two armies embattled look while trembling in their spirit,
When over them the risen Sun is shining. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
7 What time the mighty waters came, containing the universal germ, producing Agni,
Thence sprang the Gods’ one spirit into being. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
8 He in his might surveyed the floods containing productive force and generating Worship.
He is the God of gods, and none beside him. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
9 Neer may he harm us who is earth’s Begetter, nor he whose laws are sure, the heavens’ Creator,
He who brought forth the great and lucid waters. What God shall we adore with our oblation?
10 Prajāpati (Lord of Creatures)! thou only comprehendest all these created things, and none beside thee.
Grant us our hearts’ desire when we invoke thee: may we have store of riches in possession.

Ralph T. H. Griffith’s translation of the “Hiranyagarbha” creation hymn (Rig Veda 10.121)

Prajapati means “lord of creatures,” though it is often interpreted as referring to a specific Vedic deity.

Note that he invokes different deities and asks which one should they give their offering to. These early Vedas seem to focus on ritual sacrifice to deities for well-being in the world, as is typical of polytheism.

Vedas and Modern Hinduism

When you study modern Hindu practices, you’ll notice that many are still rooted in the Vedas, which are the roots of the Dharmic religions. For example, Agni is the fire deity, which still plays an important role in modern Hindu ceremonies, such as in weddings. In North Indian tradition, they make seven circles around a ceremonial fire, each round signifying a specific blessing they request of the deities. They give offerings of ghee and rice in a fire, believing Agni will give them prosperity. The red dress symbolizes the sun, which is also worshiped.

There are multiple creation hymns with different stories, indicating speculation and a lack of a definite belief. The listener seems encouraged to add to the discussion or come up with his own interpretations. Perhaps the listener is encouraged to seek the answer through their own experience with the divine, indicating that the answer can only be realized through experience rather than words, in their view.

The Vedas are as far back as Hinduism goes on the record so far, and the rest of the Dharmic religions grow out of human endeavors from here. Notice that, when disconnected from revelation, human beings go in all sorts of directions. Answers are scarce and questions proliferate, assumed to be unanswered or unanswerable. Only through revelation can we find these answers in a definitive (qati’) way.

Upanishad Reading

While Hindus consider the Vedas as authoritative texts for inspiration, they do not engage with other sections of the Vedas as they do with the Upanishads. Even unlettered Hindus express the idea of unity of existence in everyday language.

In The Story of Svhetaketu (p 132), a spiritual discussion between a boy and his father, you can find monotheistic concepts.

2 2 “In the beginning was only Being,
One without a second.
2 5 Out of himself he brought forth the cosmos
And entered into everything in it.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

In tasawwuf we also have a concept that inspiration (ilham) and the secret conversation with Allah occurs in the heart throw the window to the ruh (soul). A key difference, however, is that Allah is fundamentally different from His creation, whereas in Hinduism they believe the soul is part of Brahman. Concepts like movement and place are not befitting for Allah, for they are attributes of created beings, and the soul is a creation of Allah.

10-1 “As the rivers flowing east and west
Merge in the sea and become one with it,
Forgetting they were ever separate rivers,
10-2 So do all creatures lose their separateness
When they merge at last into pure Being.
10 3 There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that.”

You see references that everything comes from Brahman in this recurring climax to each miniature allegory his father gives. You find such a concept very predominant in Hindu meditative practices.

In this Isha Upanishad you see a focus on awareness about the identity of individual self with the Ultimate that pervades everything and meditation combined with action to achieve moksha.

1 The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all.
The Lord is the supreme Reality.
Rejoice in him through renunciation.
Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord.
2 Thus working may you live a hundred years.
Thus alone will you work in real freedom.
J Those who deny the Self are born again
Blind to the Self, enveloped in darkness,
Utterly devoid of love for the Lord.
4 The Self is one. Ever still, the Self is
Swifter than thought, swifter than the senses.
Though motionless, he outruns all pursuit.
Without the Self, never could life exist.
5 The Self seems to move, but is ever still.
He seems far away, but is ever near.
He is within all, and he transcends all.
6 Those who see all creatures in themselves
And themselves in all creatures know no fear.
7 Those who see all creatures in themselves
And themselves in all creatures know no grief.
How can the multiplicity of life
Delude the one who sees its unity?
8 The Self is everywhere. Bright is the Self,
Indivisible, untouched by sin, wise,
Immanent and transcendent. He it is
Who holds the cosmos together.
9-11 In dark night live those for whom
The world without alone is real; in night
Darker still, for whom the world within
Alone is real. The first leads to a life
O f action, the second to a life of meditation.
But those who combine action with meditation
Cross the sea of death through action
And enter into immortality
Through the practice of meditation.
So have we heard from the wise.

(page 57)

Now the Mundaka Upanishad. Here you’ll find the oft-quoted expression Satyameva Jayate or “Truth alone prevails/triumphs,” which is the motto of independent India and even the title of a talk show about social issues in India. Mundaka focuses on the right discipline and moral stance to attain spiritual awareness about the identity of the self.

1 The wise have attained the unitive state,
And see only the resplendent Lord of Love.
Desiring nothing in the physical world,
They have become one with the Lord of Love.
2 Those who dwell on and long for sense-pleasure
Are born in a world of separateness.
But let them realize they are the Self
And all separateness will fall away.
3 Not through discourse, not through the intellect,
Not even through study of the scriptures
Can the Self be realized. The Self reveals
Himself to the one who longs for the Self.
Those who long for the Self with all their heart
Are chosen by the Self as his own.
4 Not by the weak, not by the unearnest,
Not by those who practice wrong disciplines
Can the Self be realized. The Self reveals
Himself as the Lord of Love to the one
Who practices right disciplines.

(page 194)

The Taittiriya Upanishad distinguishes between “pleasure,” fleeting in nature associated with senses, and “joy,” a deeper lasting feeling. The body is not to be neglected, but deeper joy comes from “stillness of mind.”

Part 1:
May the Lord of day grant us peace.
May the Lord of night grant us peace.
May the Lord of sight grant us peace.
May the Lord of might grant us peace.
May the Lord of speech grant us peace.
May the Lord of space grant us peace.
I bow down to Brahman, source of all power.
1 will speak the truth and follow the law.
Guard me and my teacher against all harm.
Guard me and my teacher against all harm.
2 Let us learn the art of recitation,
Which calls for knowledge of letters, accent,
Measure, emphasis, sequence, and rhythm.

part 4:
1 O Lord of Love, revealed in the scriptures,
Who have assumed the forms of all creatures,
Grant me wisdom to choose the path
That can lead me to immortality.
May my ears hear always the sound of O M,
The supreme symbol of the Lord of Love,
And may my love for him grow more and more.
2 Lord, may I grow in spiritual wisdom,
And may I have food and clothes and cattle.
May students come to me from far and near,
Like a flowing river all the year;
May I be enabled to guide them all
To train their senses and still their minds;
3 May this be my wealth, may this be my fame.
0 Lord of Love, may I enter into you,
And may you reveal yourself unto me,
The pure One masquerading as many.
You are the refuge of all devotees.
1 am your devotee. Make me your own.

(page 245)

Commentaries on the Upanishads

Here are two commentaries on the Upanishads. The first is a Hindu who is stressing the timeless quality of the Upanishads in his view, because they address questions asked by many people in many historical contexts. The second is by Dr. Katz who suggests that truth, according to the Upanishads, are found in the deepest levels of consciousness, a knowledge found through experience.

The Upanishads, though remote in time from us, are not remote in thought. They disclose the working of the primal impulses of the human soul which rise above the differences of race and of geographical position. At the core of all historical religions there are fundamental types of spiritual experience though they are expressed with different degrees of clarity. The Upanishads illustrate and illuminate these primary experiences.

This does not mean that the message of the Upanishads, which is as true today as ever, commits us to the different hypotheses about the structure of the world and the physiology of man. We must make a distinction between the message of the Upanishads and their mythology. The latter is liable to correction by advances in science. Even this mythology become intelligible if we place ourselves as far as possible at the viewpoint of those who conceived it. Those parts of Upanishads which seem to us today to be trivial, tedious and almost unmeaning, should have had value and significance at the time they were composed.

The Principal Upanishads by S. Radhakrishnan (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1968)

It was quite clear: This was not about belief, it was about experience. The sages were speaking about states of consciousness in this life that could be experienced by anyone. The fundamental insight was that the deepest layer of one’s own experience, one’s Self, was identical with the basis of the world outside. There was a unity of all things.

The Upanishads: A New Translation by Vernon Katz and Thomas Egenes (New York: Penguin Books, 2015)

Firm Grounding and Types of Knowledge

There are different sources of knowledge. One you can learn through observation and experimentation, like science. There’s also contemplation of what we know to draw new conclusions, like deduction. There’s also learning from what others have learned. But then there’s also the most important source of knowledge: revelation (وحي). Revelation is given to us through true prophets and transmitted to us through chains of transmission. Only Islam has a system of grading chains of transmission for accurate preservation of revelation.

Thus, Islam is the only true religion on Earth because every other religion is disconnected from revelation. Either they’re so far divorced from it, like in folk religions and Dharmic religions, that we don’t even know what their last contact with a prophet was (it could be thousands of years). Or like Judaism, where earlier Jews changed the scripture so many times to promote their own agendas that the original is impossible to recover. It’s lost. Or Christianity where the actual scripture itself, the Injil that was revealed to prophet Isa ﷺ, was never actually written down or memorized and the New Testament is merely a collection of stories via anonymous chains of narrators to promote the church.

In Islam we have a concept of experiencing Allah ﷻ, but that’s more of a spiritual level and status with our Lord via the hard work of suluk and Allah ﷻ choosing us to be drawn near to Him. The spiritual wayfarer (salik) has to be firmly grounded in his Islam and iman, knowing his fiqh and aqida (creed), before he can truly explore tasawwuf. Some even say tasawwuf is a manifestation of your aqida. Scholars like Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy on him) said “whoever studies Jurisprudence (tafaqaha) and didn’t study Sufism (tasawwafa) will be corrupted; and whoever studied Sufism and didn’t study Jurisprudence will become a heretic; and whoever combined both will reach the Truth.” [the scholar’Ali al-Adawi , vol. 2, p 195.) And this is the essence of Hinduism: they have spirituality without connection revelation, no revealed law (fiqh), and no clear creed (aqida). Same thing with other religions like gnostics in Christianity and Kabbalah in Judaism.

Blue Skin – Racism and the Caste System

I remember my time in Southeast Asia and China before I converted to Islam, and I saw a number of depictions of Hindu deities, like Rama, as blue skinned. Why this peculiar choice of color? In the caste system of India, the lower castes are generally perceived as having darker skin and the higher castes lighter skin. Racist British colonialism probably had a role in exacerbating this, I imagine. Indians in the northern parts are also fairer skinned in general.

Recent studies have shown that the caste system solidified and consolidated it’s stranglehold during the reign of the Guptas (319 to 543 CE; ironically called the ‘Golden age’), long after the epics and Vedas were written. And in those stories, many of the protagonists were considered gods and described as dark skinned. So how can a god be portrayed as a black person in a highly Brahmanical society, when that color is associated with lower castes and impurity? It cannot happen, and so the color blue was chosen instead. In comics like ACK the lay people are light-skinned or dusky, those explicitly known to be black are instead blue, and the asuras (demons) are always black, except the ones who defected to the good side. Comics like ACK are perhaps outright propaganda which develops subconscious, covert racism in Indian children, and by extension the caste system.

Covert racism is “disguised and subtle, rather than public or obvious. Concealed in the fabric of society, covert racism discriminates against individuals through often unnoticeable or seemingly passive methods. Covert, racially biased decisions are often hidden or rationalized with an explanation that society is more willing to accept. These racial biases cause a variety of problems that work to empower the suppressors while diminishing the rights and powers of the oppressed. Covert racism often works subliminally, and often much of the discrimination is being done subconsciously.” In covert racism, one openly says that racism is bad, but in their actions you find racism and they make up excuses for it. And they convince others that the excuse is the truth and children are raised to believe that the excuse is the truth.

So they’ll give all kinds of spiritual explanations as to why these deities are portrayed as blue, but in reality it’s just a subtle cover up for covert racism.

Summary: Convoluted and Confused

To put it simply, Hinduism has a few core, common beliefs, but the details can flower out in all kinds of directions for each individual. The rituals themselves vary tremendously, and sometimes can be essentially child-like, like having these little statues and lighting incense and pouring a milk offering for the elephant-headed Ganesha. It doesn’t have an explanation behind it and if you ask for one you get a hippe-era tripped out explanation that’s just all over the place. They have no defined creed. People have even created websites which generate Deepak Chopra-type stuff and it’s hard to tell a computer algorithm put it together.

You have this world of contradictions where your karma, good and bad deeds basically, will determine your next life and yet you have these untouchables who can have their rights trampled on because they violated some unwritten rule about where they can drink water from or where they can live. It’s hard to take any of it seriously and I almost wonder if many Hindus do take it seriously. It doesn’t have a very compelling argument, to be honest. Nowadays in India it’s almost like a mere show of nationalism and homogeneous thought and persuasion, where the culture itself has become the end goal. Sort of like the alt-right in America, where many of them are atheists, and simply preserving and living out a certain “white” culture is the new end-goal in itself, rather than trying to live a good Christian life.

One of the goals of Shaytan is to waste your time and distract you. This swirling whirlpool of Hindu aphorisms and justifications of shirk (associating partners with Allah ﷻ) and an unjust caste system seems suspicious. One may argue that “it’s many in One,” but the reality is that Allah ﷻ is separate from His creation, and to claim that He resides within His creation is to attribute qualities of created beings to Him, like time and space, when He far is above such limitations and imperfections.

Further Learning

Is there any reason why Krishna/Rama are depicted to be dark/blue skinned?

New-Age [Nonsense] Generator

Gandhi and Islam

Does the Rig-Veda Mention Reincarnation or not ?

A Hatred for Hindus – This is a short, but interesting read of propaganda against Hinduism to discredit the Indian National Congress. It can serve as an excellent case study of discrediting religion for political aims. Despite the fallacious arguments, Beverley Nichols’ book was still influential among Britons.

The Rise of a Hindu Vigilante in the Age of WhatsApp and Modi – India, the world’s largest democracy, has also become the world’s largest experiment in social-media-fueled terror.

3 thoughts on “The Indic Religions and the Vedas

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