Book Sample – THE CONCEPT OF PROPHETHOOD IN ISLAM AND HINDUISM
Introduction to THE CONCEPT OF PROPHETHOOD IN ISLAM AND HINDUISM
In this short publication we are going to compare the concept of Avatar or incarnation of God on earth according to the Hindu philosophy with the concept of prophethood or messengership in the Islamic belief system. We will also explain why Muslims do not believe in incarnation as interpreted by Hindu scholars and philosophers.
What is Prophethood?
Prophethood or messengership in Islam is a special relationship between the seen and unseen worlds, the earth and the sky, the human being and the divine world, between the Creator and the creation. The concept of messengership in Islam is originally based on selection and choice of Allah.
A prophet in Islam is a mediator between common people and Allah who receives a divine message and conveys it to
people. According to Islam, prophets and messengers are human beings in many natural features but at the same time they were characterized by many distinct features and special qualities that may not exist in many people; rather, those good qualities could not be found together in any person.
A poet demonstrated this point in a brief and unique style, he said: “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a human, but not like others. Rather, he is a ruby among stones.”
The Definition of Messenger and Prophet – THE CONCEPT OF PROPHETHOOD IN ISLAM AND HINDUISM
The word an-Nabi (the Prophet) and ar-Rasul are used interchangeably in the Islamic theology. However, the word “Nabi” has three possible Arabic root words: it is derived from ‘Naba’ i.e., to prophesy, or give information or newsabout something that is beyond the five senses. because a prophet gives news or information about an unseen thing orworld.
Or the word ‘Nabi’ has been derived from ‘Nabwah’ that means to be high; therefore ‘Nabi’ means a man who has a high position in the court of Allah. Or the word is derived from an-Nabi that is the right path. On the other hand, the word ar-Rasul is derived from “Risalah” that means “to send”.
Thus, the word “ar-Rasul” denotes the person who is sent to some place or to someone. However, the word in the Islamic theology refersto a man who was sent from by with divine scripture to people. A Muslim theologian says that ar-Rasul is a man who was selected by Allah (Glory be to Him), blessed with a divine scripture to convey His message, and supported by his Lord with some unique miracles to verify his truthfulness
Are Prophets and Messengers Human Beings in Islam?
The prophets and messengers according to the Islamic faith were human beings; however, they were distinguished men characterized by the purest and highest mental and spiritual qualities that made them able and ready to receive revelation from Allah (Glory be to Him).
A messenger, according to the Islamic belief system, eats food, buys, sells, gets married and has children. A messenger also undergoes many natural experiences of disease, pain, strength, weaknesses, life and death, but he is surely free of everything that is hated or ugly
Incarnation in Hinduism – THE CONCEPT OF PROPHETHOOD IN ISLAM AND HINDUISM
Avatara means to descend (especially the descent of a deity from heaven, or appearance of any deity upon earth but more particularly the incarnations of Vishnu in the ten principal forms.) In addition, any new or unexpected appearance is also called “Avatar”.
Any distinguished person in the language of respect is called an Avatar or incarnation of a deity Avatar in Sanskrit refers to the incarnation of a deity in a human or animal form to counteract some particular evil in the world. The term usually refers to the ten appearances of Vishnu.
However, the number of Vishnu’s avatars is sometimes extended or their identities are changed, according to local preferences. Thus, Krishna is in some areas elevated to the rank of a deity and his half-brother, Balarama, is included as an avatar. In Hinduism, an avatar is the bodily incarnation of a deity on earth.
A Hindu god can incarnate in one place at a time and as a full avatar in many places simultaneously through partial avatars. The avatar appears to the devotee in whatever form the worshiper envisions, which, according to Hindu belief could be Muhammad (peace be upon him), Krishna, Buddha or any other personal god The purpose of the avatar’s manifestation is to restore dharma or righteousness to the cosmic and social order.
Dharma encompasses behaviors such as duty, ritual, law, morality, ethics and good deeds, etc. while any unnatural or immoral act or belief is called adharma When we compare the purpose of prophethood in Islam with the purpose of incarnation in Hinduism, we find them generally similar in many points.
The ten avatars of Vishnu explained- THE CONCEPT OF PROPHETHOOD IN ISLAM AND HINDUISM
But Islam makes this purpose amongst the duties and missions of the prophets and messengers who are human beings but chosen by Allah (Glory be to Him) for guiding people to the right path while Hindus believe that God Himself incarnates into a human or animal form to achieve these noble purposes. Avatars are most often associated with the god Vishnu, one of the members of the Hindu “Trinity” or Trimurti (although any Hindu god may manifest as an avatar).
Vishnu is considered the maintainer or preserver, as opposed to the other members, Brahma the creator and Shiva the destroyer. According to the Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu has incarnated as innumerable avatars in unlimited universes. The principal avatars are those of Vishnu. Vaishnavas (worshipers of Vishnu) normally recognize ten avatars, although figures such as Gandhi and Jesus are recognized as avatars by some people.
The ten avatars of Vishnu are:
- Matsya – The Fish
- Kurma – The Tortoise
- Varaha – The Boar
- Narasimha – The Man-Lion
- Vamana – The Dwarf
- Parasurama – Rama with the Axe
- Rama of Ayodhya (Ramachandra)
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