Sai Baba And Islam
Prof. Zeba Bashiruddin
"I have come not to disturb any faith but to reaffirm each one's belief, so that a Muslim may become a better Muslim ..." After reading these assuring words of Baba, who would like to proclaim that mankind is lost? The Covenant, for me, strikes a double cord. It reminds me of an ancient promise of the Gita and the Quran that God guides mankind from darkness to light. Also, it brings home the truth that in order to improve, one has to seek within one's self.
At Baba's Feet I have learnt many facts of my own faith. For instance, when the cobwebs of cliches and external impositions are removed, one realises that all search for the same meaning in life, all seek happiness that is unchanging. Only one has to change the focus of one's priorities. This change of focus happened to me several years ago with Baba's injunction: "You don't even know your own religion, how can you know Me?"
That has been the beginning of an inward journey. Baba has always assumed a presence that remains with me - the "I" in me. The meanings of several words and concepts have appeared in a new light in the process of growth; for example, surrender, ideal and the goal of life acquire a different dimension.
The term surrender is the literal meaning of the word 'Islam'. Dissolution of "otherness" from cosmic force is surrender. It signifies giving up the illusion that man is merely a physical body. Is this not what Baba has been repeatedly telling us? When the awareness is uprooted from the temporary and the transient values and planted in the soil of the eternal, the process of surrender is completed. In Baba's words it is ALLAH. Phonetically 'A' is Atma and 'L' is LAYA. Hence Allah is a state of awareness where "otherness" merges into Atma.
Surrender also means, according to Baba and the Sufis, we seek Allah without a desire for reward or fear of punishment. Baba has indicated how you become a devotee.........when you surrender yourself completely and are ready to carry out every command of the Lord." (Gita Discourse Page: 12) The devotee concretises this ideal and his life becomes a pattern for the community to follow. In Islam this ideal devotee of the Lord is presented in the character of Prophet Mohammed.
It is said that the character of the Prophet of Islam has been the Quran. In other words the message in the book of Wisdom has been practised by the messenger. Humility, according to Baba, is an outstanding quality of man. The Prophet, it is pointed out, "never has claimed for himself any leadership except rendering truthfully whatever Allah has ordained." The Quran is also full of examples of the Prophet's love of Allah. Baba has often related how the Prophet desired to spend the last moments of his life remembering God instead of advising his disciples.
Baba also corrected a Muslim devotee who referred to the Prophet having eleven wives. Baba said, "No, he had only one wife - his love of Allah." Thus, in Islam, while a simple and honest life is marked out for an ideal man, the core of existence is always the love of the Divine. See ONE, say ONE, (Shabistari: The Secret Garden) is the dictum. This whole-hearted attachment to the Divine signifies both for Baba and Islam, the goal of life.
Undimmed by any other concern the goal has always been stressed by the Sufis in Islam. It is in essence a state of awareness, when darkness and light are surpassed and the cosmos is taken into the heart, when only love exists, then one has just touched the goal. This experience, variously named by philosophers, is basically the same. One need not go to heaven. Its signs "are everywhere in the world as well as within," says the Quran. "The whole world is filled with God." Baba points out (Gita Discourses: page 247): "the multiplicity of form in the external disappears." Both Baba and Rumi advise: "Keep the eye on the Infinite." Surprisingly, the analogy used by them is similar - that of the sugar in sweets and light in lamps. The use of "I" in the Quran and by Baba for the personal aspect of God also is the same. At the same time He is impersonal too. He remains "One without a second." (Gita Discourses: Page 21). When correctly understood, this also is the meaning of the first principle of Islam which declares:
GOD ALONE IS (LA ILLAH ILLA ALLAH)
Prof. Zeba Basbiruddin
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam