Monotheism in the Vedic Religion
The Vedic period was totally unaware of the idea of monotheism. Worship of the elements of the nature was the prevailing phenomenon; the glorification and sanctification of the earth, water, sun, air and fire was the prominent feature of the Vedic period. The people of this period believed these natural and cosmic elements as the designer and creator of the universe. This issue has been detailed by an expert of Sanskrit, Pundit Romesh Chunder Dutt, who elucidated that Veda has ordered its followers to worship the elements of the nature, which means there was no concept of monotheism in Vedic period or at least, the concept was obscure.(1)
Hindu religion has passed through several stages and witnessed numerous sects and cults, including: the Vedic religion, Wam Margi, Buddhism, Jainism, Shiva, Vedanta, Barhamo Smaj and Aryah Samaj, and so forth. All of these sects of Hinduism produced pagan beliefs and perverted philosophies. This is not my opinion, but the opinion of the most famous Hindu writers.
The Beliefs and Practices of Wam Margians
Wam Margi, a sect of ancient Hindus, had some strange beliefs and immoral practices; whoever likes to know them in detail should refer to the book of Diyanand Sarsvati. However, I am going to quote here some of them in order to show the true face of some ancient Hindu sects, Diyanand Sarsvati says about Wam Margi: “If a man goes on drinking till he falls on the ground, and rising up again drinks, he is freed from rebirth (which is a penalty for sin), i.e., he gets salvation.”(2)
They rejected the Vedas and Puranas as final authority in religious matters, as Diyanand has stated: “A man may go to all women except his mother. The Vedas, philosophies, and Puranas are like ordinary prostitutes.”
If Islam did not come to them, they would have been wandering in darkness and delusions, before Islam, they were in error and deviation in belief, thought and action. It is Islam that freed them from the ugly and heinous acts, Diyanand says regarding some forms of worship amongst Wam Margians:
“Cohabitation with a woman in monthly course is as meritorious as bathing in the sacred tank of Pushkar (in Ajmer), with a fallen, or low caste woman a pilgrimage to Benares, with a skin-dealer’s wife as bathing in the Ganges at Prayaga (Allahabad), with a laundress as a pilgrimage to Mathura, (the birth-place of Krishna, the Christ of India), and with a prostitute as a pilgrimage to Ayudhya (Oude, the birth-place of Rama.”(3)
Diyanond Sarsvati criticizes them, saying: “There will be few people in the world as foolish and ignorant as these followers of Wam Marg.”(4) He adds: “Their religion spread over a great part of India in the course of time. They fraudulently coined and practiced certain religious rites in the name of the Vedas.”(5) This proves that they were believers in Vedas and a part of the ancient Hindus. They had a vast outreach in Indian society, and were present in the major parts of India in its length and width. Do you expect any kind of monotheism in such society that was unable to even distinguish between what is right and wrong in the matter of sex?
What is Shaivism?
The belief of Shaivism was also based on polytheism and idolatry in the field of faith and obscenity, and lack of modesty in morals and customs, Shaivism had odd beliefs and practices, they worshiped the private part of a female as was stated by Dyanand Saraswati, he says: “The Wam Margians and Shivites, both came to the understanding of establishing the worship of the nude and female generative organs, called the Linga and Jaladha’is in Vernacular. Thus, they were not ashamed to worship them, and it never flashed upon their mind that it was an act of barbarians and so was not fit for them.”(6)
Religious Conditions in India during the Medieval Period
It is clear that before the light of Islam came to India all sects of Hinduism were based on the worship of idols. The whole India has been mired in paganism and idolatry; there was no sign of monotheistic trends at all. This is what the history of India says, and it is the fact that can be established through the authentic history that came to us about the religious conditions of Indian sub-continent.
It was Islam and Muslims that introduced the concept of monotheism to India and its people whose religious leaders were influenced by Muslim thinkers and preachers and began reforming campaigns across India. Shankar Acharya was the first person who tried to abolish the idolatry from the Indian society.
Vimala Angelina says in this regard: “The Arabs and the Turks introduced the concept of monotheism to India. Idol worship was common among Hindus. The three Acharyas (scholarly teachers) namely Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Madhavacharya accepted the idea of monotheism and played an important role in the revival of Hinduism.”(7)
Shankaracharya was born in 788 A.D., in a Brahmin family in Kerala, which was a center of Islamic Da`wah since the early years of Islam on the hands of the Muslim Arab traders and businessmen.
Therefore, it can be said with full confidence that the idea of monotheism came to the minds of Hindus through their contact with Muslim traders and preachers. This was the first blessing of Islam and Muslims to Hindus. Islam was the fundamental reason for the awakening of Hindu minds to the monotheism.
In fact, the monotheism which was preached by Shankaracharya never was a part of Hindu doctrine, especially; if we take into our account that the Muslims had entered Malabar in 700 A.D. Muslims had a considerable presence in Kerala. The world-famous historian and geographer, Abul Hasan `Ali Ibn Hussain Ibn `Ali Al-Mas`udi (895-957 CE), came to Cali Kate during 880 A.D. and said that Muslims were present there in a significant number in Malabar who belonged to Amman, Basra and Baghdad who married there and resided permanently. There was a chief of the Muslims, known as Abu Sa`id ibn Zakariya. Shankaracharya was born during that period and in the same area and began to criticize the paganism and polytheism inviting people to the monotheism. Do you not agree with me that Shankaracharya learned the faith of monotheism from Muslims? We have proved above that there was no sign of monotheism in the Hindu society. Any sect of Hinduism that originated between Hindus and called for the rejection of paganism was surely influenced mainly by Islam and Muslims. It is strange to find among Hindu brothers who hate Islam. Why such hostility to Islam? It is not logical to hate who has enlightened your mind and illuminated your path.
We have mentioned monotheism here as an example, but the fact is that all areas of human life, including: religion, belief, thought, philosophy, literature, architecture and society was influenced, improved and enlightened by Islam and Muslims. In the next article, we will cover what blessing was brought by Islam to the Hindus in the areas of social life.
(1) Pundit Romesh Chunder Dutt. C.I.E. in his book “The Civilization of Ancient India” in its sixth chapter as well as an article entitled “Veda Amrt” Arya Gazette 25th Nov. 1926.
(2) Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Satyarth Prakash, An English Translation by Durga Prasad, Virjanand Press, Lahore 1908, p. 297.
(7) Vimala Angelina, History and Civics 7, Dorling Kindersley, India 2007. P.28.