the-south-asian Life & Times               July - September 2010




 Editor's Note


 Photo Essay

 - Mehrangarh

 - The Walled City

 - Jodhpur Royals

 - Music Festival

 - Unusual Places to

 Bishnois - the True


 Cover Story
 Muslim Liberals
 - Ustad Amjad Ali

 - Aamir Khan

 - Saiyid Hamid

 - Anu Malik


 Doon School at 75

 - Interview with
   Dr. McLaughlin

 - Inspiring Legacies

 - Tribute to Nandu by
   Late RL Holdsworth

 - Old Boys 

 Mangalore &




 The Last Queen of


 Visa to Heaven
 & Hell


 Tarot Readings


 the print gallery

 the art gallery









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Visa to Heaven and Hell

By O.P.Dutta

Religion is born out of fear of the unknown. One has only to look at the fire temples around to reflect on this statement. The earliest religious people, the Hindus and Zoroastrians, were fire worshippers. Even today fire is a witness to everything that is binding to Hindus.

The unpredictability of the elements turned rain, wind, lightning, sun, and the moon into deities. Fear was the catchword, hence a prevalent saying in rural Punjab - `Ghassun Nede, ke khuda’ (What is nearer - a menacing fist in the face or God) - of course the first, because you can see the fist come flying into your face but cannot see God. Brahmins, priests and clerics created Heaven and Hell to instill even greater fear in men. And they give such detailed description of hell as though they have been there recently on a tourist visa.

The fear of the unknown is a universal phenomenon, and the quest for the One that creates and then destroys his own creation, widespread and timeless. Even the tribes in the far off desert of ‘Arabi’ did not remain unaffected. The perception of a faceless God was too much for the common man, who created and worshipped Gods made of wood, stone and even metal.

Then came on the scene Prophet Mohammad with the message of God. He was a simple man who could not read and write, but delivered the message right. God in his utmost wisdom, selected Mohammad as his medium because he knew a simple man would not even think of adding his own bit to the divine messages.

This time the idea of one merciful God, caught on because it saved the common man from manmade ceremonies, ostentations and even orgies. What appealed most was the idea of ‘Akhawat’ (equality amongst all men), which implied there would be no distinction between the Master and the slave. Dr Iqbal put it so beautifully "Ek hi saf main khade ho Gaye Mehmood-O-Ayaz, na koi bunda raha aur no koi banda nawaz".

(King Mehmood and his slave Ayaz, stood side by side in the presence of God. Now there was no Master and no Slave)

The idea of equality even in financial matters was shown by ‘Suthre Shah’, a faqir. His reputation as a God’s man brought him to the Court of the Sultan of erstwhile Punjab. The King, in a benevolent state of mind, sent for a Thal (big tray) full of gold coins, asked the Faqir to touch it and then distribute the coins among all those present . Shahji paused and humbly asked "Shall I make it an ‘Ilahi Baant’ (divine distribution) or ‘Paigambar`s Baant’ (Prophet’s way of distribution)?

The King thought to himself ‘Of course God is greater’ so let it be divine distribution. The Faqir picked up a few coins and threw them to hundreds of men present and then threw the full Thal in the lap of the King, "What are you doing?" asked the King with indignation. "This is the divine distribution’. If your majesty had asked for the Prophet’s distribution, I would have to count and give equally to all".

This, and other attractive features of brotherhood, simplicity and piety in Islam appealed to one and all around the world, like Christianity did about 600 years earlier. Some historians allege that sword was used in the spread of Islam. Even if there be a few black sheep, it would be unfair to the Prophet and his Islam that greet every one with "Let peace descend on you".

But men would be men. The Crusades that disturbed the peace of half of the world for centuries were fought between Muslims and Christians, although the apostles of peace, Jesus (Issu) and Moses (Moosa) were the revered messengers of God in both Islam and Christianity. Is it not ironic that they call them "Holy Wars"? What is so holy about shedding each other’s blood?

Sufism started in Iran but quickly spread to other countries such as Iraq. Sufi saints Moin-ud-din Chishti and Salim Chishti are two shining examples who travelled to South Asia carrying the message of tolerance and co-existence.

They say God made man in his own image. Even in Islam man is like "Ashraful – makhluqaat" – to top all creatures and living beings. It is said that all Angels were asked to bow before him. Iblis (Satan) refused to do so and was removed from the presence of God. But Iblis did not rest and continued to influence the life on earth. Dr. Iqbal in his dialogue with Iblis is asked "Gar Mujassar Ho Kabhi Khilwat To Pooch Allah Se – kissa – E – Adam Ko Rangin Kar Gaya Kiska Lahoo". (If you ever find Almighty alone with you, ask him whose blood has made the story of mankind so colorful)

Iblis` claim may be true but for God sake who wants such colours. Let life be colourless and white, which is the symbol of peach on earth. It is a complete fallacy that a fanatic is nearer God. On the contrary, God is all love and mercy. But there is nothing to beat Dhyansingh’s definition of religion. In March 1947, a mob of Muslim fanatics came down upon the village of Dhuldial, fully armed with guns, swords, chains, kerosene and petrol. In few hours all the Sikhs and Hindus were wiped out, the rest fled except Dhyansingh who had buried himself under the cattle feed in his house.

Next morning, he had to come out, only to be accosted by Muslims of the village. They all advised him to convert to Islam and live there peacefully. In order to do so he had to meet the cleric in the local mosque. Left alone with the cleric, Dhyansingh told him that he was ready to be converted but he had one condition "Sir! You will have to take a solemn oath on the Holy Quran that you will not divulge the fact of this conversion to other Muslims".

"I will take the oath" said the cleric. "But please tell me why?"

Dhyansingh smiled and said "Tomorrow when the Muslims kill me, I will have the last laugh, poor fools would not know that they are killing another Muslim and not an infidel".

For most of us religion is just a label.

Mahatma Gandhi when asked to comment on his son Hari Lal embracing Islam, said, "I don’t worry about him because he is as much a Muslim today as he was a Hindu previously."







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