Dr. Mike Mohamed Ghouse
When a Hindu falls in love with a Muslim and wants to get married, a red flag is raised by his/her family and the community. Hindus are concerned about losing a member of their flock to another religion, and Muslims have difficulty coping with idol worship.
Idol worship is considered an unforgivable sin in Abrahamic (Islam) religions. Their construct of God is acceptable to most people as it is the commonest God you can see. There is no image or description of him or her to turn some people off. It was built around the second commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.” No matter what image of God you create, it will not be acceptable to all. How do we find a solution to this conflict? What is Idol worship?
Hindus believe in one supreme God, as do the Abrahamic faiths. However, some see God in physical manifestations represented by his attributes, and an equal number of them see God as the Abrahamic religions do.
- “Ekam evadvitiyam” “He is One only without a second.” [Chandogya Upanishad 6:2:1]
- “Na casya kascij janita na cadhipah.” “Of Him there are neither parents nor lord.” [Svetasvatara Upanishad 6:9]
- Na tasya pratima asti” “There is no image of Him.” [Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:19]
- Na samdrse tisthati rupam asya, na caksusa pasyati kas canainam.” “His form cant be seen; no one can see Him with the body’s eyes.” [Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:20]
- “shudhama poapvidham” “He is bodyless and pure.” [Yajurveda 40:8]
Quran Sura Ikhlas
112:1 SAY: “He is the One God
112.2 “God the Eternal, the Uncaused Cause of All Being
112:3 “He begets not, and neither is He begotten
112:4 “and there is nothing that could be compared with Him
The purpose of every faith is to bring tranquility within an individual and peace and harmony in societies, and worship takes you there. Whether you are a Hindu or a Muslim, both of you worship to find peace. Again, for some, God commands them to worship; for others, it is an excellent way to reboot the cluttered mind and bring tranquility.
Look at it this way: every day, you will receive or make a phone call to someone and speak for at least five minutes, which may not be necessary. Similarly, Hindus can worship God in a designated area, while Muslims can do the same anywhere in their homes. If one is a devout Hindu, it will take about 5 minutes in the morning, and for a fully practicing Muslim, it will take 20 minutes to pray five or three (Shia tradition) times a day. Prayers serve an essential purpose – to bring composure to the cluttered mind. You do your prayers, and I will do mine, and it will not be a conflict. You are on the phone with your mother, and I am with my mother for five minutes. Is it a conflict?
Look at it this way: every day, you will receive or make a phone call to someone and speak for at least five minutes, which may not be necessary. Similarly, Hindus can worship God in a designated area, while Muslims can do the same anywhere in their homes. If one is a devout Hindu, it will take about 5 minutes in the morning, and for a fully practicing Muslim, it will take 20 minutes to pray five or three (Shia tradition) times a day. Prayers serve an essential purpose – to bring composure to the cluttered mind. You do your prayers, and I will do mine, and it will not be a conflict.
There is no need for a religious conversion of an individual Hindu as long as he or she believes in God, to whom he or she is accountable, and cares for his or her fellow beings. This is indeed the fundamental doctrine of Islam.
When societies evolve, they come up with do’s and don’ts to protect their communities, preserve harmony, and maintain equilibrium. However, when two cultures come together, conflicts arise, and everyone struggles to figure out how to move forward with the least disruption.
Many Muslims see the world in terms of believers and non-believers/kafirs. On the one hand, the holy Quran bestows the best of earth and heaven upon the followers of Islam; on the other, it issues warnings and punishments to the kafirs. Kafirs are always mistaken to be Hindus; it is not valid they are not. Hindus are not Kafirs. However, some Muslims and Hindus qualify to be Kafirs. Kafirs are those individuals who reject the existence of God; thus, they are considered reckless and immoral and are not accountable to anyone for their actions. That was the case of Kafirs in history, but today’s Kafirs, Atheists, and Agonistics are responsible individuals. Accountability is the key here, those who are accountable feel responsible for their actions to keep the social order and harmony in the world.
The ultimate goal for Hindus is Moksha, which is freedom. Until their soul reaches that stage, they will go through reckoning in every life cycle until the final step when they will be free and enter Paradise. Hinduism has its own four pillars; Dharma – living a righteous life; Artha – earning legitimate income; Kama – loving and caring for family and fellow humans; and Moksha – achieving absolute freedom.
The ultimate goal of Muslims is to be free as well. On the day of Judgment, they will be judged on the good they have done to their fellow humans and the environment and earn a ticket to Paradise.
Paradise is where you don’t have to fight with the traffic to reach home, struggle with income, worry about the security of your job, be concerned about your family’s health and your children’s safety, and retire safely. Paradise is a state of soul where you are free from fear, apprehensions, and tensions.
Let’s look at what the Quran says about the above three paragraphs; 2:62 (Asad) VERILY, those who have attained faith, those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians and the Sabians. – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.”
Mohammad Asad is one of the Quran’s most respected and widely accepted translators. He writes: “The above passage- which recurs in the Quran several times – lays down a fundamental doctrine of Islam. With a breadth of vision unparalleled in any other religious faith, the idea of ‘salvation’ is here made conditional upon three elements only; belief in God, belief in the Day of Judgement, and righteous action in life.”
Islam requires a belief in God. The idea entails that you are accountable to the creator for your actions on that elusive day. Upon which you will be freed or put through tests again. However, the third item requires honest effort in life. What is virtuous action? It is honoring others’ rights and learning to respect the God-given uniqueness of each one of us. Salvation in Islam comes from taking care of God’s creation.
God created everything in harmony (Quran 55:8-11) and told us that we are the Khalifa (manager) on the earth (8 billion of us, not just Muslims). We have the responsibility to preserve and maintain that harmony. “For [We shall requite] all those who hold fast to the divine writ and are constant in prayer: verily, we shall not fail to requite those who enjoin the doing of what is right (7:170).” Here, prayer means one is constantly on a vigil, seeking forgiveness for his shortcomings and asking guidance to be on the right path.
Islam is simplest if you keep up with the Quran. Mohammad Asad’s translation and interpretation are most recognized and followed by Muslims worldwide. Without question, Muslim societies have built up a bureaucracy just like Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, and others.
Islam emphasizes caring for fellow humans. Numerous examples exist; an irreligious man who knocks on a neighbor’s door and shares his food is better than a man who always prays but does not care about fellow beings. A woman who goes out of the way to bring water to a thirsty dog and saves its life gets her sins forgiven.
Imagine God as the CEO of the universe. Like any corporation’s CEO, He would appreciate those who will protect and preserve the corporation’s assets, prevent losses, bring revenues, and maintain social cohesion and harmony with fellow employees for the smooth functioning of the corporation. God is no different.
If it is not common sense, then it is not Islam – 20 Islamic values that contribute toward social cohesion and harmony- which God wants, so all of us (8 billion) can feel secure. https://worldmuslimcongress.org/islamic-value-pluralism/
Practical implications to Hindu-Muslim Marriages
The Quran calls for believers to think and question everything, which is what we will do here as a prelude to the question, can a Muslim marry a Hindu?
Nearly 50 verses in the Quran call on Muslims to think, reflect, analyze, and follow, but a few are listed here 3:190-191, 8:22,36:46, 6:50, 41:53, 12:11, 13:3. 7:179, 10:100.
Do Hindus reject the existence of God?
Not at all.
I know of no Hindu who rejects the existence of God.
Is Allah a God of Muslims?
Not at all.
Allah is the name of the ‘creator God’ of all the universe. Allah is not a being or a thing; He is not the property of Muslims or any group. It is simply a name for the energy or the Noor that caused the universe and everything in it. Let me put it this way, Allah is the common causer of all creation. The Quran says he is the God of the universe (1:2) – the God of 8 billion people.
Does Allah have many names, or limited to one?
Indeed, Allah has many names.
Muslim scholars have pulled 99 words out of the Quran representing each attribute and called it Asma-e-Husna. The number 99 means unlimited. The Hindus have Sahasranama, a thousand names; again, a thousand here represent infinite.
Do Hindus believe in one ultimate God?
Yes, they do.
Do Hindus believe in multiple Gods?
Not at all.
Hindus believe in Asma-e-Husna, different attributes of the same God. The creator, sustainer, and recycler are the main attributes and many more representations.
Do Hindus believe in accountability for their actions?
Yes, they do.
The law of Karma works its way. When one is free from harmful actions to fellow beings, they are liberated from the cycle of birth or the pangs of conscience and receive Moksha, freedom, liberation, salvation, Mukti, Nijaat, etc. Moksha is the state of mind or soul without tensions, hassles, apprehensions, fears, and anxieties, and it is free from all that.
What do Muslims have in terms of accountability?
Muslims are to account for their actions on the Day of Judgement, and if they have done more good Karma, they will be liberated and get a pass to paradise. And what is heaven? Do you see anything different than Moksha?
The bottom line is the same for Muslims and Hindus–freedom!
Atheists and Agnostics may not believe in God, but accountability is the function of living amidst others. Whether a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or an Atheist, if he rapes, kills, or steals – he will get the same punishment from civil society.
Are Hindus Kafir?
Historically, Kafirs were the specific group of people from among the Meccans who harassed, chased, and persecuted the believers. They were some of the Meccans and not all of them.
Shamefully, the term Kafir was used as a derogatory term and should not be acceptable in any civil society. Hindus are not Kafirs. Many Muslim scholars in India have written about it, including your friend, and the World’s largest Islamic organization Nahdutul Ulama has also declared that the word Kafir should not be used as a derogatory term; it is not.
When you hear the phrase “Surrender to God,” It simply means subscribing to the rules for creating cohesive societies where everyone can live in harmony and without fear. After all, everything in nature runs precisely, whether it is the sun, or the tilts of the earth, to give seasons and sustain life. There is a system created by every religion to create safe societies.
The purpose of religion is to create cohesive societies where all of God’s creations can live securely and in harmony regardless of their race, belief, culture, ethnicity, or any other uniqueness. God created everything in balance, and he expects us to sustain that.
Our words and actions should respect and accept the otherness of others. Live and let live. What is our loss if someone worships God differently than you? Really, what is your loss?
Hindus are not Kafirs, and let’s consciously remove the abuse of the word to use it derogatively. We are all from Adam and Eve, or we are all part of the Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum. We are all part of the same family and the same creator.
Can a Muslim woman marry a Hindu man?
For a long time, Muslim men married women of the book–Jews, Christians, and Muslims (Abrahamic), while Muslim women rarely married outside Islam. Likewise, Hindus married only within their faith or sometimes to others from the Dharmic (Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh) traditions. These norms are changing; a Muslim woman is now marrying a non-Muslim man.
According to the Pew and Dr. Amin’s surveys (38% Hindu, 45% Muslim), about 40% of Hindus, Muslims, and others marry interfaith. This trend is gaining momentum. This article is written to find answers to age-old questions about who can marry whom.
The increased interfaith marriages are due to globalization and the secularization of societies. Today’s young Hindus and Muslims who grew up as minorities in American schools or at the workplace are continually exposed to each other, spend time together studying, dining, working, and sometimes falling in love.
Initially, faith is not a consideration in their relationship, but it becomes an issue when the couple decides to get married. Lovers have no filters, but parents and societies do. Parents are not at fault either; they cannot fathom the relationship because they grew up in closed-minded communities with historical conflicts between Hindus and Muslims.
It is said that if God did not want a Muslim-Hindu marriage, it would have been said in the Quran. God does not make mistakes; instead, he empowers us to figure out our own equilibrium. Further, the Quran calls there is no compulsion in matters of faith. [Quran 2:256]
“And among His signs is that He created mates for you from among yourselves (it could mean a Muslim as well a Hindu) so that you may find tranquility in them, and He placed love and compassion between you. In these are signs for people who reflect.” [Quran 30:21]
Indeed, the Quran is a universal book of guidance for Muslims; it does not say God puts love between two Muslims, but it clearly says between two humans. It appears as if God has installed a GPS Chip between two individuals, which brings them together. Therefore, there is no reason to believe the Quran will restrict the marriage of a Muslim to a Hindu.
India’s renowned poet Ghalib writes that love happens; no one starts saying I want to love this person. There is no reason or rhyme for falling in love.
Fundamental religious beliefs between Islam and other faiths could bring complexities to many interfaith couples. Most Muslim communities believe that a marriage must be “accepted” by Allah. For this reason, a Muslim would expect the non-Muslim spouse to convert to Islam before an Islamic wedding ceremony, the Nikah.
This practice (expectation of conversion of the non-Muslim spouse for Nikah) can be challenged based on Islam’s universal pluralistic worldview.
The same can be said for orthodox Christian or Catholic communities for asking for conversion before a church wedding. A Hindu may not ask the Muslim’s intended spouse to convert to Hinduism but will undoubtedly want him or her to follow certain Hindu practices.
It is essential also to understand Quran 2:221, “Do not marry women who associate others with Allah (polytheists, idolaters), until they believe in Allah. A believing bonded woman is better than someone who associates others with Allah, even if she pleases you. Do not marry men who associate others with Allah until they believe in Allah. A believing bonded man is better than a man who associates others with Allah, even if he pleases you…”
Compatibility is the bottom line meaning of the above verse 2:221; it simply says that compatibility is the key to the success of any marriage. God loves harmony among his creation, particularly married couples. The wisdom is to marry someone on the same wavelength as you rather than someone with a conflicting belief. The Hindu community consults astrologists and birth charts (Janam Patri) to ensure the couple is compatible. But real compatibility is when the couples find it out themselves.
Interpreting the scriptures?
We cannot change the scriptures, but we certainly learn today to interpret them as intended.
We need to understand the essence of God’s wisdom rather than the literal text, as the words expand and shrink in meaning. Everyone is a believer, whether you are a Muslim, Pagan, or Hindu, and you believe in accountability of your karma (or action). Even atheists have their beliefs. Atheists today are responsible and accountable for their actions, sometimes more than some religious people.
In Islam, there is a prohibition on the marriage of Muslims to polytheists or idolatresses. However, Hindus are not polytheists nor idol-worshipers. They have the liberty to express God by many names and forms, as is expressed in Rig Veda; as Ekam sat, vipra bahudha vadanti (there is only one Truth, but said in various ways).
The forms and names are available to a Hindu but are not mandatory. A practicing Hindu may not use any form or character of God while meditating but may want to use an iconic representation of God (murti) during pooja (worship).
Pluralism in Interfaith Marriage
In today’s pluralistic, especially in America, religion is increasingly becoming personal in nature and applicable to the believers of that faith. However, a Hindu-Muslim couple will find resistance from parents and communities for the way they may wish to run their married life or raise children.
In the past, every Hindu or Muslim society preferred their daughters to marry within the faith, believing that it would prevent divorce and the risk of their daughters returning to their homes. These rules were framed when women did not work and depended on their parents or husbands for sustenance in South Asian societies. But today, in America, most women are independent, take care of themselves, and will not be a “burden” to their parents. Unfortunately, even today, in some sub-societies of India, a girl is considered a burden by much of the Hindu society.
People are conditioned to think in binary terms – Halal or Haram, Zero and One, Day and Night, Black and White, and they are comfortable with it. No tradition wants to lose a member of their culture to the other, whether you are a Hindu or a Muslim. For these reasons, these two societies will not allow a Hindu-Muslim couple to marry without hassle.
In conservative Muslim countries, an imam may not perform the Islamic Nikah without conversion (Shahadah) of the Hindu party; however, in America, a progressive Imam would perform Islamic Nikah without conversion of the Hindu.
To avert the marital gridlock, sometimes a Hindu may fake-convert. Young adults should understand that any religious commitment to marriage is not a hollow ritual. It has deep meaning and consequences. Fake conversion could also have legal consequences, especially during child-custody battles during a potential divorce proceeding. Instead of a fake conversion, it is better to be truthful and honest (truthfulness is emphasized over 75 times in the Quran, which is one of Islam’s central values), especially when other options are available, meaning a “Hindu” can marry a Muslim without conversion.
Suppose a Hindu-Muslim couple manages to have an in-depth conversation with their parents as adults or seek guidance from an interfaith Marriage officiant who can also counsel on conflict mitigation. In that case, others may come together to support the couple. Invariably, even if the parents are reluctant initially, they will come together when they have their grandchildren. America brings positive changes in every American, especially when there is an intention to share and respect equality from both sides.
God is within us; he is “closer to us than our jugular veins” (Quran 50:16), meaning He is aware of what goes on with us. No one in the family or workplace would ever question the rituals you follow on the toilet seat, so why should they ask how you pray? America is a land of liberty and freedom; the Hindu-Muslim couple can always think outside the box. Parents, too, may accept when they see their children happy. Happiness is indeed the bottom line for all parents.
An actual pluralistic couple will decide to do both ways; for example, to teach children from Geeta and Quran. An exclusivist supremacist person will impose their religious ideology on their spouse and propose settling for only one of two ways. Those couples not ready to face reality now may opt for either of two religious’ options. It is the couple’s choice of how to run their private life. But compulsions to change the other create friction in relationships. After all, you must be happy and live in harmony, so why mess it up?
Pluralism is respecting the otherness of the other, including faith, political belief, and the culture of others. It is about admiring the goodness in others without asking them to be your copycat. Islam and Hinduism are fundamentally pluralistic faiths. If the couple is genuinely pluralist and believes in equality of two faiths, a successful and ever-lasting Hindu-Muslim married life is possible.
Check this out: Can a Muslim Woman Marry a Non-Muslim?
Dr. Mike Mohamed Ghouse is an Interfaith marriage Officiant, Social Scientist, Public Speaker, thinker, author, TV commentator, and newsmaker. He is deeply committed to Pluralism in Religion, Politics, and Society, along with Human rights and religious freedom. He is the founder and president of the Center for Pluralism, Director at the World Muslim Congress, a think tank, and a wedding officiant at Interfaith Marriages and Muslim Wedding Officiant. His new book American Muslim Agenda is available on Amazon, and “Standing up for others” and “American leads in social norms” are coming soon. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions to issues of the day.