Hinduism: Is it monotheistic or polytheistic?

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

There are different festivals in Hinduism, one of them is Divali.

File:Diwali Diya.jpg

Diwali, the festival of lights, is a prime festival of Hinduism. Shown here are traditional Diyas that are often lit during Diwali

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad writes in his book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth, in the chapter on Hinduism:

Hinduism is a class in itself in the comity of religions. To find in Hindu literature evidence of revelation as understood in traditional Divine religions is a difficult task. This is so, mainly because on the one hand the concept of revelation is wholly confined to the Vedic teachings, while on the other, God is mentioned to have manifested Himself in human form to instruct mankind.Though in Christianity too, Jesusas is described in a manner somewhat similar to that of Krishnaas, the similarity however is superficial. In the personification of Jesus Christ, God the father remains in command of the universe, and a manifestation of His sonship somehow displays itself in the human image of Jesus. Again in the case of Christianity, there is a third person entitled the Holy Ghost who is neither Christ, nor God the father, but is an integral part of the Trinity in its own right.Hinduism however, is not clear concerning the manifestation of Brahmâ in the person of Krishna. Did he rule the heavens and the earth from his heavenly seat even when Krishna remained on earth, or was it Krishna who as God personified governed the universe during his human phase? Or was Krishna merely an apparition or icon while God remained in command in the heavens like He ever was? Questions such as these remain unanswered.

For details go to: Alislam.org.

Krishna (left), the eighth incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu or svayam bhagavan, with his consort Radha, worshiped as Radha Krishna across a number of traditions – traditional painting from the 1700s.  Borrowed from Wikipedia

Our behavior and relationship with the world around us is a reflection of the nature we believe God to possess. All teachings are intertwined with and emerge from a religion’s concept of God. It is reflected in the way its adherents pray, in their sacrifices, rituals and all that ultimately can be described as the ‘texture’ of a religion.

Of all major world religions, Hinduism as it is practiced today is arguably the most challenging to define in terms of this concept in that it ranges from one extreme to the other – that is, from absolute monotheism to belief in an infinite number of gods.  To read an article by Bilal Rana go to page 22 of Muslim Sunrise: Spring 2006 volume.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

It evolved from the Vedic religion of ancient India. The major branches of Hinduism are Vaishnavism and Shaivism, each of which includes many different sects. Though the various sects each rely on their own set of scriptures, they all revere the ancient Vedas, which were likely composed about the mid-2nd millennium bce. The philosophical Vedic texts called the Upanishads explored the search for knowledge that would allow humankind to escape the cycle of reincarnation. Fundamental to Hinduism is the belief in a cosmic principle of ultimate reality called brahman and its identity with the individual soul, or atman. All creatures go through a cycle of rebirth, or samsara, which can be broken only by spiritual self-realization, after which liberation, or moksha, is attained. The principle of karma determines a being’s status within the cycle of rebirth. The Hindu deities having the widest following are Vishnu and Shiva, who are worshipped in various avatars, or incarnations. The goddess Durga also has a wide following. The major sources of classical stories about the gods are the Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavadgita, one of the most important religious texts of Hinduism), the Ramayana, and the Puranas. Historically, the hierarchical social structure of the caste system was also important in Hinduism. In the 20th century Hinduism blended with Indian nationalism to become a powerful political force in Indian politics. In the early 21st century there were more than 850 million Hindus worldwide.[1]

File:Kailash Tibet.jpg

Sacred Mount Kailash in Tibet is regarded as the spiritual abode of Shiva

Reference

  1. “Hinduism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 20 Apr. 2010 ca.com/EBchecked/topic/266312/Hinduism>.

7 replies

  1. Messiah of this age, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani claimed to be second coming of Krishna
    He is also referred as Promised Messiah, he writes in Lecture Sialkot:

    Finally, let it be clear that my advent in the present age is not for the reformation of the Muslims alone, but I have come to reform the people of all the three religions: Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Just as God has appointed me the Promised Messiah for the Muslims and Christians, so am I the Avatar for the Hindus. For the past twenty years or so, I have been proclaiming that just as I have appeared in the spirit of the Messiah son of Maryas for the purpose of removing sins which have filled the earth, so have I come as Raja Krishna—one of the greatest Avatars of the Hindu faith. In other words, I am the same person by virtue of spiritual reality. This is no fancy or speculation on my part. The God of heaven and earth has revealed to me, not once but a number of times, that for the Hindus I am Krishna and for the Muslims and Christians I am the Promised Messiah. I know that the ignorant Muslims, on hearing this, will immediately say that by assuming the name of a kafir, I have openly accepted disbelief. But this revelation is from God and I have no choice but to proclaim it. Today
    it is for the first time that I am announcing it before such a large gathering, for those who are from
    God are never afraid of the reproaches of faultfinders.

    Let it be clear that Raja Krishna, according to what has been revealed to me, was such a truly great man that it is hard to find his like among the Rishis and Avatars of the Hindus. He was an Avatar—i.e.,
    Prophet—of his time upon whom the Holy Spirit would descend from God. He was from God, victorious and prosperous. He cleansed the land of the Aryas from sin and was in fact the Prophet of his age whose teaching was later corrupted in numerous ways. He was full of love for God, a friend of virtue and an enemy of evil. It was God’s promise that, in the latter days, He would send someone, i.e., an Avatar, in his image. Hence this promise has been fulfilled with my coming. Among other revelations regarding myself, I also received this revelation:

    ‘O’ Krishna, slayer of swine and protector of cows, thy praise is recorded in the Gita!’

    Hence, I love Krishna because I have come in his image. Another resemblance between the two of us is that the same qualities that have been attributed to Krishna (for instance, his being the destroyer of sin, the consoler, and the nourisher of the poor) are also the qualities of the Promised Messiah. From the spiritual point of view, therefore, Krishna and Promised Messiah are one and the same; it is only the regional terminology that is different.

    Now, in my capacity as Krishna, I warn the Aryas against some of their errors. One of them, which I
    have already mentioned, is that it is not right to believe that all the souls and particles of the universe,
    also known as Purkarti or Purmano, are uncreated and eternal. The fact is that there is nothing uncreated except Parmeshwar Who does not depend on anything for His existence. Anything that depends on others for its existence cannot be uncreated. Are the attributes of the spirits innate and has nobody created them? If this is so then the union of souls with bodies can also come about by itself and the coming together of material particles can take place on its own. If this were indeed so, you would be left with no rational argument to believe in the existence of Parmeshwar. If reason can accept the concept that souls with all their innate attributes are self-existent, then it would readily accept the other concept that the union and separation of souls and bodies is also self-existent, for
    once self-existence is considered to be a fact, there is no reason why one path should be left open and the other closed. No logic can justify such approach.

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/LectureSialkot.pdf

  2. Monotheistic Strands of Hinduism
    Monotheistic strands of Hinduism have from time to time remerged.
    The Sikh religion, which is in fact described as a hybrid of Hindu and
    Islamic traditions, is such an example. The point of departure between
    Sikhism and Hinduism is the Sikh belief that God is one and cannot be
    subdivided with representations in the forms of animals or natural elements.
    Yet, many Sikhs are regarded as fully Hindu by Hindus in some areas of
    the Punjab in India. Hinduism therefore has an attitude which
    accommodates both strict monotheists and idolaters. It appears therefore
    that the concept of God in Hinduism is relatively decentralized, as
    compared to other faiths such as Islam.

    http://www.muslimsunrise.com/dmddocuments/2006_iss_1.pdf#page=22

  3. Assalamo alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu

    While searching for various materials while dialoguing with a Hindu friend of mine, my attention was drawn to the following extract on page 13 from Hadhrat Massih Mawood (a.s)’s book Message of Peace (http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Message-of-Peace.pdf), which reads as follows:

    “The good news in all this for those who seek reconciliation is that all of the Islamic teachings are also found in the different parts of Vedic teaching.”

    Unless I am understanding it incorrectly, it is being mentioned here that ALL the Islamic teachings are also found in the different parts of Vedic teaching, which made me desirous to find a parallel being drawn between Islamic teachings and Vedic teaching, putting each Islamic teaching on one side and matching it with the corresponding Vedic teaching.

    Perhaps might you and others want to comment on this as well?

    Jazakumullah

  4. Dear Afzal,

    Thank you for your interest in finding common ground.

    If you read all holy & ancient texts of India, polytheism is not to be found. The Rigveda is the most ancient & most revered text. Many say it is polytheistic while some say it is really monotheistic. However, its language is very archaic Sanskrit and most people can’t make sense of it, to be honest.

    To get a better idea about Hinduism, read some good translations of Bhagavad Gita. This is the book most read as the holy book of our religion. You will find that it essentially preaches submission to the will of Almighty God.

    Thanks & Regards. May God help you in your quest.

  5. why don’t u stop talking about stuff we already know and put down the answer instead of hide it in a whole bunch of words x-(

  6. I thought it was interesting u know all that stuff about god, he is a wonderful person but just give us the answer instead of hiding it like I said!

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