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Sufism And Hinduism

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Sufism is a mystical sect of Islam. Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. It is considered to be the oldest living religion in the world. Both Hinduism and Sufism have many beliefs and practices dedicated to reach their final goal, however certain details of the beliefs and practices differ.
When people follow Hinduism and Sufism there are certain principles and goals that are suppose to be followed and reached. In Hinduism the aims of life, known as Purusharthas or human goals are: Dharma-right conduct, Artha-material gain, Kama-sexual love and Moksha-salvation. All men who follow Hinduism try to achieve these goals. (Viswanathan 34) A belief system in Sufism that is similar to these goals are the five pillars of faith. All the people who follow Sufism are suppose to follow these pillars to be considered a true Sufi. The five pillars of faith are: Devotion to one God-proclaiming He is the one and only true God, the ritual prayer five times daily, almsgiving (giving charity to the poor), fast during the holy month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca, if the Muslim has the resources to do so. The last pillar is the only one out of the five that is conditional. (Lings 74)
Religious texts are common in both Sufism and Hinduism. Hinduism's most sacred texts are the Vedas, which means knowledge. There are four Vedas and they claim to teach a man the highest truths that could lead him to God. The Vedas are the Rig Veda (Veda of Hymns), Yajur Veda (Veda of Liturgy), Sama Veda (Veda of Music) and the Atharva Veda (Contains the knowledge given by the Sage Atharvana). The Vedas mainly consist of Samhitas-basic texts for hymns, formulas and chants, Brahmanas-directions for performance of rituals, Aranyakas-mantras and interpretations of rituals, and Upanishads-a number of texts revealing the ultimate spiritual truths and various suggestions of ways to realize this. The Rig Veda is basically a book of hymns to gods that the Hindus believe in like Indra (the God of Heaven) and Agni (fire). The Yajur Veda contains the knowledge of rites. It has the rules explaining how to perform religious rituals. It is a priestly handbook because it gives directions on the rules and regulations of how to make an altar. In the Yajur Veda sacrifice is one of the most important parts. The Sama Veda contains the knowledge of chants. The word Sama means "melody." The Sama Veda was sung when a sacrifice was performed. To some extent the Sama Veda is just a repetition of the Rig Veda, sung with a melody. Classical Indian music originated from the Sama Veda. The Atharva Veda also known as the Brahma Veda because the chief sacrificial priests and Brahmins used it as a manual. This Veda contains many magic charms and incantations. (Viswanathan 42)
An important religious text in Sufism is the Qur'an. The Qur'an literally means, "the recitation" It is considered a holy book because it is said to have the exact words of Allah (God) himself. These words were revealed to the Muhammad over a twenty-five year period. The Qur'an is written in Arabic. The Qur'an consists of 114 chapters, also called surahs and has a total of 6,236 verses, also called ayant. The Qur'an is used as a guide to follow Sufism as well as other Muslim sects. (Al-Qushayri 58)
People who follow Hinduism and Sufism celebrate certain holidays, while there are other religions that don't believe in celebrating holidays. Hindus celebrate Diwali, a five day Hindu festival that occurs on the fifteenth day of Kartika. Diwali means "rows of lighted lamps" and the celebration is often referred to as the Festival of Lights. During this time, homes are thoroughly cleaned and windows are opened in order to welcome Laksmi, the goddess of wealth. Candles and lamps are lit as a greeting to Laksmi. Gifts are exchanged and festive meals are prepared during Diwali. (Diwali (Divali, Dewali, Deepavali))
The holy month of Ramadan is celebrated in Sufism. Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. It is during this month that the Muslims including the Sufis fast. They fast during the daylight hours and eat small meals in the evening and visit friends and family. Ramadan is a time of worship and contemplation. It is a time to strengthen family and community ties. This holiday is important and is part of the five pillars of faith in Islam. (The story of Ramadan)
One of the main differences between Hinduism and Sufism is that Hinduism is henotheistic and Sufism is monotheistic. Hindus recognize a single deity, and view other Gods and Goddesses as manifestations or aspects of that supreme God. This is sometimes confused with polytheistic religions when the Gods and Goddesses are actually viewed as separate supreme Gods. (Robinson) Sufis believe in one and only one God. In order to be even considered a Muslim, people need to recognize that. Affirmation that there is only one God is the first of the five pillars of faith.
When referring to religious texts and scriptures the description and treatment of women in Sufism and Hinduism differ. For Sufism, the Qur'an simply states that men and women are equal before the eyes of God. Under Hinduism certain scriptures such as the ethical code, Code of Manu states "that a girl, young woman or even a aged lady should not do anything independently, throughout their whole life there should be someone protecting them from their father to their husband to their son." (Viswanathan 56) According to the texts the Sufis seemed to be more lenient when it came to the women. In society women were not treated the way the scriptures and religious texts instructed them to be. Male dominance was visible in both Hinduism and Sufism. Of course there were some exceptions. In some divisions in Sufism such as the Bektashis women have always been integrated with men in religious ceremonies. (Helminski)
The Sufis and Hindus shared some of the main ideas in their religions such as principles, or goals to follow, celebrating holidays and both had religious texts. The differences between the two varied from the how the religious texts depicted women should be treated and the belief of one or more than one God.


Works Cited

Al-Qushayri, Principles of Sufism. Berkeley,CA: Mitzan Press, 1992.

"Diwali (Divali, Dewali, Deepavali)." Valuing Our Differences: Celebrating Diversity. 2003. Medical Center. 30 Nov 2006 .

Helminski, Camille Adams. "Women and Sufism." Genosis #30"1994" 30 Nov 2006 .

Lings, Martin. What Is Sufism?. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975.

Robinson, B.A. . "Hinduism." 26 Aug 2005. Religious Tolerance. 30 Nov 2006 .

"The story of Ramadan." Ramadan on the Net. 2004. Holidays on the Net. 30 Nov 2006 .

Viswanathan, Ed.. Am I a Hindu?. San Francisco: Halo Books, 1992.

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