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
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
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
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
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam
Source: "Sanathana Sarathi Bhagavan's
70th Birthday Commemoration Volume"