Anthropologists consider religion one of the ideal subjects. This is because it is universal to humans in that people from all walks of life have the freedom to initiate complexes of beliefs, rituals, and symbols that offers a connection to their experiences to the fundamental nature of the universe. This they do in a different mesmerizing array of ways. Religions, for example, may or may not involve gods; they may prefer simple family rituals or complex state festivals or some other conceptions of the ultimate good. The anthropological view of religion tries to explore how the different forms of religion came into existence, how they evolve over time and their meaning to the nature of human experience. This essay analyzes the differences and similarities that exist between the Hindu and Islamic religious affiliations of the people of the United States.
The Islamic religion traces its origin from the sands of Arabia. It is a monotheistic form of religious tradition that began as a reaction against the native traditions that had prevailed at the time based on the revelations received Muhammad, the prophet. Islam means submission or surrender and is mostly based on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Saunders, 2002).. The term Islam is more of an expression to Allah, who is believed to be the one who created and also sustains the world. Islam considers Quran their sacred text which contains the Prophets teachings that were revealed to him by Allah. One of the essential beliefs of Islam is that Allah is their one and only true God, who has no equal. Since its conception, the Islamic religion has expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula; its birthplace and has spread throughout the African, Asian, Europe and the American continent.
Hinduism on the other part is believed to have originated from the temperate climate of the Indian subcontinent as a result of the establishment of both foreign and indigenous traditions. It was also a form of continuation of the prehistoric religious beliefs of the civilizations that had faded away. Unlike other religions that were founded, Hinduism has no single founder since it was not founded on a religious principle. It was a culture that sprouted in India and later took the religious form. The tradition considers itself timeless, meaning that it has always been in existence. The entirety of its sacred texts known as Sanatana Dharma can be translated to mean The Eternal Teaching.' It can, therefore, be summed as a complex tradition which embodies a variety of religious interrelated doctrines and practices based on similar characteristics but at the same time lack a unified system of practices and beliefs (Smith, 1976).
Prophet Muhammad first received the Islamic message through the angel, Gabriel when he was 40 years of age on Mount Hira. The revelations that he continued to receive throughout his life were compiled into the Holy Quran. It is divided into 114 chapters (surahs) that contain 6000 verses (ayat) and presented in poetic Arabic. Another important text is the Hadith, which contains the deeds and sayings of Muhammad, popularly known as the sunnah. The Sharia or the Muslim law is also an important source of Islamic practice. The Vedas or knowledge is considered to be revelations from God by the Hindus that are eternal and cannot be violated. They are revealed to mankind at every age for their spiritual liberation and well-being. It forms the foundation of Dharma or Gods law upon which the entire creation rests. The Upanishads form the final part of Veda and constitutes the Vedanta, a philosophical base of Hinduism that contains' elements of monotheism and the Gods descriptions as the supreme Lord of the Universe (Eliade, 1978.
Some of the standard practices in Islam are the Salat, Shahada, Saum, Hajj, and Zakat. They constitute the five main pillars of the Islamic way of life and offer an opportunity for the strict adherence to the principles and practices of Islam written in the sacred texts. Some of the festivals include Id-al-Adha and Id al-Fitr. The Hindus worship God in different ways. In honoring the Dharma or Gods law, certain obligatory duties specific to gender, profession, caste or a persons age and the pursuits of human life that include Dharma (virtue), kama (sensual pleasures), Ardha (Wealth) and moksha (liberation) are performed. In the Hindu culture, pilgrimages are made to sacred places such as temples which are associated with saintly people and legends. Their festivities are celebrated all year round with the most popular being the Diwali and the Holi. Some celebrations come once in several years such as the Kumbh festival (Klostermaier, 1992). Muslims believe in Allah, the supreme God. They also acknowledge the succession of prophets and messengers from God, just as Mohammed is considered the last prophet. In the Hindu religion, Braham is regarded as a supreme Lord.
Hinduism has different varieties of religious leaders. All the priests have to come from the highest (Braham Caste) in accordance with the strict interpretation of the caste system. A person usually remains in the same caste into which he was born, his entire life with a possibility of being born into a higher caste during his next incarnation. Priesthood in this case is therefore hereditary. The religious leaders are responsible for guiding their followers to live a holy life. In the case of Islam, there are no ordained clergy who have been ordained with an authority over rites and rituals. Any Muslim who has sufficient knowledge can lead prayers or perform rituals in weddings or funerals. The learned members of the mosque are often referred to as Imams and they are tasked with teaching the basics of Quran and family law.
Role of women
Hinduism holds the belief that women were created by Braham to be a mans companion and facilitate procreation and the continuation of the family lineage. Just as other religions in the world, man is seen as a dominant figure. Hindus however worship many female deities hence the law prohibits men from neglecting or even harassing their wives. Just as in Hinduism, the Muslim women are respected and enjoy nearly all the rights that are accorded to men with the exception of leadership positions.
The Marriage Institution
Hinduism advocates for monogamy or one man one woman kind of a relationship. Islam on the other hand is totally against celibacy and monasticism. Marriage is considered an act of Sunnah and is highly recommended. Islam permits polygamy though women are only allowed to marry one man.
The mode of dressing according to Islam is based on the principle of modesty. Tight clothing is not allowed and their beauty and sexual attributes should not be displayed in public. The Muslim women are instructed through the Quran to wear Hijab (the head covering). There is no specific dress code in Hinduism except on specific occasions. Widowed women are forbidden from wearing colorful dresses and ornaments and public nudity is strictly prohibited.
Despite the difference in social and cultural practices between the Muslims and Hindus, the two religions have learned to coexist with each other. Each of the sides recognizes the responsibility bestowed upon them in maintaining peace, and harmony. They both share certain ideals and visions despite the differences in religious practices and belief systems. Such diversity exhibited by religion has opened more opportunities for interreligious dialogues in the globalized world.
Eliade, M. (1978). A history of religious ideas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Hinduism and Islam, A Comparison of Beliefs and Practices. (2015). Hinduwebsite.com. Retrieved 12 April 2016, from http://hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/h_islam.asp
Klostermaier, K. (1992). Book Review: "Philosphy of Religion in Hindu Thought". Journal Of Hindu-Christian Studies, 5(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.7825/2164-6279.1064
Saunders, J. (2002). A history of Medieval Islam. London: Routledge.
Smith, B. (1976). Hinduism. Leiden: E.J. Brill.
Living our religions: Hindu and Muslim South Asian American women narrate their experiences. (2009). Choice Reviews Online, 47(03), 47-1733-47-1733. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/choice.47-1733
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