The Kaaba Black Stone - Mecca

The Kaaba Black Stone: A Holy Stone from Outer Space?

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Every day, five times a day, Muslims across the world face the holy site of Mecca and pray. Mecca is believed to be the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad but when followers visit the site, it is not actually Mecca they are facing but a building called the Ka’aba. The Ka'aba is a mosque and on one corner of this sacred building, is a cornerstone known as the Black Stone. Its history is shrouded in mystery and there is much speculation over what the stone might be. Many Muslims believe the stone is in fact a meteorite possessing supernatural powers.

The Hajj Pilgrimage Ritual

Millions of Muslims travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia every year and in a single day, Mecca is capable of attracting over two million Muslim followers for the annual hajj pilgrimage, considered one of the five pillars of Islam. 

There, they gather around the Ka’aba or simply Kaaba, a cubic-shaped building at the center of Islam’s most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid al-Haram. During the ritual of the hajj, pilgrims must walk around the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction, a ceremonial practice that has been going on for fourteen centuries.

Muslims praying around the Ka'aba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Muslims praying around the Ka'aba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia ( Mundairhouse)

The Kaaba measures 50 feet (15.2 meters) high, 35 feet (10.7 meters) wide and 40 feet (12.2 meters) long. It is covered with a black silk cloth, known as the kiswa and decorated with gold-embroidered calligraphy. On the southeast side of the building is a gold door. Inside, the floor is made of marble and limestone and has three pillars. 

A video 3D Animation of the interior of the Ka'aba:

The Kaaba is built around a sacred Black Stone which is tucked away in the eastern corner about five feet off the ground. Muslims believe the prophet Mohammad once kissed the stone and during their mandatory, once in a lifetime (at least), trip to Kaaba, they try to kiss the Black Stone if possible. If they are unable to, they simply point to it every time they pass on their seven-circle journey around the Kaaba. Each time pilgrims pass the Black Stone they recite a prayer from the Qur’an: ' In the name of God, and God is supreme .'  Non-Muslims are strictly forbidden from touching it and most of the year the Kaaba is covered in black cloth.

The Ka'aba Stone with the black stone corner facing

The Ka'aba Stone with the black stone corner facing ( Al-fouqarah)

The Cause of the Ka'aba Black Stone's Color

The stone is often described as a fragmented dark rock somewhere around two feet in length. Its surface is blackish in color, but there is speculation that this is due to how much it has been touched, along with the oils with which it is anointed. According to Muslim tradition, the stone was originally white, but turned black from being in a world where it absorbed humanity's sins.

First described in Western literature in the 19th century, Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt visited Mecca in 1814 and provided a detailed description of the Black Stone in his 1829 book Travels in Arabia:

“It is an irregular oval, about seven inches in diameter, with an undulated surface composed of about a dozen smaller stones of different sizes and shapes, well joined together with a small quantity of cement and perfectly well smooth; it looks as if the whole had been broken into as many pieces by a violent blow and then united again.” 

History of the Ka'aba Black Stone

Muslims believe that Allah ordered the Kaaba to be constructed. The story goes that Abraham built the mosque with his oldest son, Ishmael in the likeness of Allah’s home in heaven. 

Purportedly the oldest mosque on Earth, it is believed to have been originally used by pagans before Islam came into existence. According to Islamic tradition, the stone was set intact into the Kaaba’s wall by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the year 605 AD.

Muslims also believe that the Kaaba stone was once part of the stones of heaven.  There are various versions of its story of origin, all similar to one the another. When Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden, he was filled with sin. The Black Stone was given to him to erase this sin and allow him entrance back into heaven. Some instead believe the ancient stone was brought from a nearby mountain by the archangel Gabriel.

Comments

angieblackmon's picture

I just watched an episode of Ancient Aliens that talked about this subject. I'm fascinated by the whole thing. It’s an amazing part of their culture, and they AREN’T all terrorists...many of them are honest, faithful people.

 

love, light and blessings

AB

Tough, the still have to go.

Go where, exactly? They're already where they came from. Where do you want them to go? And why? Is it so that Western governments can go in and exploit their natural resources without restraint or consequences? Is it because you're unable to differentiate between innocent and guilty, and so the simple answer is to eliminate an entire religious group based on the actions of the few? Or is it simply because you're a bigot who hates Muslims? Are you under the impression that "Things You Don't Like" should not be permitted to exist in this world, because if so then guess what . . . tough for you.

As a functioning human intelligence I reserve the right and ability to interpret, especially to interpret for myself the implications and meanings of outside-originating directives...my copy of what to be a trusted translation of Sharia demands FGM.

THAT I insist is never, ever to be allowed, anywhere on the planet. Until those of Muslim completely divest themselves from such a belief and hideous practice, there will never be peace on this Earth.
Period. There are even more bizarre practices mentioned, but more anon.

all lies and don't ever believe anything on TV especially the History Channel, it's all BS manipulation and lies.

It is not anyone responsibility but yours alone!

Noah's son refused to believe his Dad, Abraham's Dad refused to believe his son, Egypt's Pharaoh refused to believe Moses.

This universe has a supreme creator we see his creations all over around us 24/7 (sun, moon, animals, nature, etc) but don't pay attention. We are in an exam-room from the minute we are born to the minute we die. Some will pass, others will not.

Blame no one but yourself. Religions can never be all right. Take it easy, be alone, read the Quran. In it, God talk to you even if you are not a Muslim. God is not male or female as nothing like him as he defined himself to humans in the Quran.

He sent Adam, ..,Jacob, Moses,..., Jesus, and Muhammed with one single message. Humans did make the variations and named things. Read & discover.

Perhaps I'm just not seeing it, but when looking at the pic below the video I don't recognize anything that looks like the silver frame depicted in the photo, 'The Ka'aba Black Stone with its frame.' Strange.

suggests, dig layers in the (symbol) may be attractive

Any nonsense will do, so long as the truth is avoided.

Sometimes a Shiva linga is just a Shiva linga..

Even the way Islam prays is against the will of God and does absolutely nothing for them except prop up their own ego.

Acts 7:47 “But Solomon built Him a house.
Acts 7:48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
Acts 7:49 ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, Or what is the place of My rest?
Acts 7:50 Has My hand not made all these things?’
Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.
Acts 7:52 “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,

Matt 6:5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Matt 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

And then how do you pray:
John 4:20 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
John 4:22 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
John 4:23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
John 4:24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
John 4:26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

1Cor 14:15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding.

You're actually comparing Islam to the Christianism, there are many things related between these two but some of them are different. Their way of praying, that you think is against the will of God. First of all, this is a different religion, so it's pretty normal that some practics( sorry for the bad english) has nothing to do about the christianism. Maybe you think that your religion is the best there is, that's your opinion, but I don't think that the best religion exists. There are some good and bad things in every religion so... And I don't know about you but your way of talking makes me think that you're some kind of a fanatic or something like that. What i'm trying to say is that if you open your mind, you may understand some interesting stuff about them... And seriously? Props up their ego? You're a funny guy, that's a good joke

I agree with you. As long as everyone thinks thier religion is the best or only one that really worships God, we will never have peace

Its is the heart of Muslim nation.We respect it.

I spent 14 years of my life as a practicing Classical Sunni Muslim. I travelled to Morocco in 1998 and spent a month intensively studying about ten hours a day at the most ancient University on this planet, the Qarawiyyin, in Fez. We studied Islamic Theology according to the 'Ashari schoo; Islamic Jurisprudence according to the Maliki school; Qur'anic Recitation according to I forget which of the seven schools of recitation and we studied traditional Sufism. That was within my first six months as a convert to Islam. I was also initiated into the Nimatullahi, Shadhili and Qadiri - Rifa'i Orders of Sufism. My ex-wife is an Egyptian-American Muslim and her family is obviously all Muslim. Our little son, who is now six years old, is Muslim. So is his stepdad, Saleh, who serves in the US Coast Guard. I majored in Comparative Philosophy and Religion in college and have spent a considerable amount of time studying Islam -- both Sunni and Shi'a -- from the outside and the inside.

I consider myself to be a Renewal Jew, now, like Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi, and I come from an extensive Jewish ancestry, both Sephardic and Ashkenazi. Rabbi Zalman believed that Muhammad 'Ibn 'Abdullah was a True Prophet, but he followed the way of his ancestors because it is the original path of Abraham given to Isaac's lineage. I have taken that road also but I think it is only fair to straighten out some fallacies stated here.

First of all, the overwhelming majority of Muslims that I have met are very gentle people. True, many of them are a little closed - minded by today's standards but they are a very far cry from this notion of vicious thugs and terrorists and anyone who pretends otherwise is either a liar or someone who has never known too many Muslims.

The notion that FGM is a teaching in Islam is false. There is nothing Qur'anic even mentioning it. The only type of circumcision taught Islamically is male circumcision, as with Judaism. FGM is a practice among some sub-Saharan African tribes. It is not an Islamic practice. Here are some quotes from the Wikipedia article on Female Genital Mutilation:

"In 2007 the Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research in Cairo ruled that FGM had "no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions."[98][2]:70[n 18]

There is no mention of FGM in the Bible.[100] Christian missionaries in Africa were among the first to object to FGM,[101] but Christian communities in Africa do practise it. UNICEF reported in 2013 that, for example, 55 percent of Christian women and girls in Niger had experienced FGM, compared with two percent of their Muslim counterparts.[102] The only Jewish group known to have practised it are the Beta Israel of Ethiopia. Judaism requires male circumcision, but does not allow FGM.[103] FGM is also practised by animist groups, particularly in Guinea and Mali.[2]:175"

So it is obviously an African practice. My ex-wife was never "circumcized" and neither have any Muslim women whom I have known, for they would have talked about it. Every Muslim girl that I knew in college always shuddered and saw it as an act of ignorance by people who didn't have much of an education.

There are teachings in each of the World's Religious Traditions which, when taken out of context and placed in the hands of the insane or psychotic, lead to chaos, abuse and violence. There are also teachings -- in the majority of each sacred tradition -- which lead aspirants toward a constant search for wisdom. Most religious scriptures are filled with wisdom sayings.

Today, it has become acceptable to pretend that Islam is an evil religion filled with all kinds of anti-social teachings while Christianity and Judaism are blessed and sacred faiths that have no ill taught within the pages of the Tanakh or the Gospels' pages. This is obviously a far cry from the truth.

Anyone who has read the Book of Joshua knows that, taken out of context, it teaches a very extensive tale of sacred genocide in which each of the pagan city states, from Jericho to the rest, was put to the sword and every man, woman and child of each city - state was slaughtered. To me, it is fascinating that people who hold this as part of their scripture -- especially those crazy fundamentalists who take it literally as the "word of G-d" -- have the gall to point at Muslims and call them violent. Talk about hypocrisy.

If Islam really taught "terrorism" then we wouldn't see one or two episodes every year or two. We would see dozens of episodes every single month. We have roughly six million Muslims in the United States of America. About half of them are teens or older. So that means we have about 3 million Muslims capable of acts of terror. So where is all the terror? With three million Muslims in this country, why aren't we seeing things happening every day?

I'll tell you why. Because Islam does not teach terrorism and because those who take that kind of interpretation are the vast minority, that's why. "Shari'ah" does not mean "violent, extreme religious law." All it really means is "laws based on religious codes" in Islam. That's all it means. And these can be from very liberal, loving codes based on encouraging the universal virtues of love, compassion, mercy, justice, loyalty, humility, courage, etc. to draconian laws used to punish an individual who transgresses. As I have said, most Muslims whom I have met are very gentle people -- and when they say that they believe in the "shari'ah," the overwhelming majority are not talking about draconian legal principles. They are talking about laws that encourage the universal virtues of humanity as found in the wisdom teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. So let's grow up and stop being bigots.

And let's look at each people without prejudice and hatred so that we can look into their scriptures and find more clues as to the ramifications of expanded theories and explanations, such as those of the Ancient Astronauts.

Manuel; My thanks for your most profound thoughts and words of wisdom. Hopefully they will shed a light upon those of little understanding and help others to learn to accept.

Kaaba is the place where every year thousands of Muslims come to pray. This is the only house of Allah on earth this is the most blessed place on the earth

Has the black stone been examined scientifically? X-rayed? Im curious as to whats inside of it and the chemical composition of it... If it has any signifigant importantance than it should be used for something more than just a corner stone... Maybe the electro magnetic field around it should be tested

I don’t think it’s been tested. My understanding is that “It is too Holy” for scientific testing

Dear Mr/Mrs.....Plz try to think this one through.... is one of the chapters in the quran "the holy book of muslims" more than 1400 years aged. This chapter is called "At-tariq" or the knocker in english... It translated in english as the following.
(At-Tariq
O, by the heavens and the knocker
And what makes you know what is the knocker
The piercing star.) Here god is swearing by the knocker star and stating to the world 1400 years ago through mohamed that he is the all mighty creator by giving them a scientific fact that they won't even understand at that time by saying in his own words (And what makes you know what is the knocker)
The piercing star.) This scientific fact is for generations to come to be proved by non muslims to the muslims that there is a star out there piercing the silence of universe and knocking on our doors! Plz watch this video and just give it a little itch in ur brains.... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/At-Tariq https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b_4VI2V4Occ

GLOBAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM AND THE THREE JUDAIC RELIGIONS

To understand the grave menace of global Islamic terrorism and the spread of extremist Islamic ideologies it is necessary to go back into history and examine why, though the three Judaic/Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam share a common religious and cultural background, yet today Islam stands apart in many ways from Judaism and Christianity, and in fact it also stands alone among all religions of the world. To understand this issue better I propose to examine in some depth the origin, growth, similarities and differences between these three religions. But before doing so, I would like to highlight the following:

Muslims can be classified into 4 categories: Liberal, open-minded, modern Muslims; Moderate Muslims, Extremists and Ultra-extremists. The issue of terrorism and the rapid spread of extremist Islamic ideology is extremely dangerous not only for non-Muslims who are victims of Islamic terrorist acts but also for Muslims themselves who are victims of these terrorist acts, as well as the vast majority (90% or more) of Liberal and Moderate Muslims who belong to various sects such as Ahmadiyya, Sufi, Shia, Baha’i, Bohra, etc., including the Sunni sect itself which largely spawns these Wahhabi, Salafi, etc. extremists, and who are being compelled by these extremist forces to lead regressive lives The danger is also great for Muslim females from various sects, who despite claims which are made to the contrary, are discriminated against in so many ways under regimes and societies which are influenced by extremist ideologies. If we look around the Islamic world today, we find that a large proportion of the Muslim population in various countries are already being subjected to extremist ideologies including imposition of the Sharia in its regressive and even gruesome forms. While the world is now making serious attempts to tackle individual acts of terror, yet the far more serious issue of the spread of fundamentalist, medieval, regressive, extremist Islamic thinking which drives and fuels these terrorist acts is perhaps not yet fully understood thereby leaving room for better tackling of the issue. It must be noted here that these acts of terrorism and extremist Islamic ideologies are ‘mushrooming’ everywhere and taking root in numerous ‘pockets’ across the world, and unless appropriate action is taken immediately in a multi-pronged, collective, co-ordinated and purposeful manner by all countries across the globe it will become increasingly difficult as time progresses to contain and eradicate this menace. In India terrorist acts and the spread of extremist Islamic ideology have over the years assumed very serious proportions. It is time that every Indian (including those in Kashmir who are being misled by Pakistan and by Muslim leaders, politicians and extremists) every Indian leader, politician, political party, etc. irrespective of whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim, need to wake up fully to the danger confronting the country, and keeping aside their political and other interests / differences, tackle this problem head on, in a united manner, as one single force. For truly all are under threat including those very extremists themselves who propagate their extremist ideologies and/or engage in violent acts.

But now, in order to understand clearly the various dimensions of global Islamic terrorism and the fundamentalist, extremist ideology which is taking root everywhere, it is necessary to go to the roots of these problems by going back into history and examining the origins, growth, similarities and differences, etc. between the three Judaic/Abrahamic religions viz. Judaism, Christianity and Islam and also look into related issues. I will do this under the following heads:

*Similarities between the three Judaic / Abrahamic religions
*Origin, nature and growth of the three religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam
*Violence in the three religions
*Differences between the three religions
*Causes of terrorism
*Points to ponder upon by Judaic religions
*Points of contrast in Hinduism

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE THREE JUDAIC /ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS

The people of all three religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam share a common history and a common religious and cultural background, which began about 4000 years ago (c. 17th Century BCE) with the patriarch Abraham and his sons, which common history and background has been described in the Hebrew Bible of the Jews, the Old Testament of the Christians and later in the Quran of the Muslims. The religious concepts, beliefs and practices obtaining at that time were as follows: Monotheism i.e. belief in one God; conveyance of the word of God through prophets such as Noah, Abraham, Moses and many others; unquestioning acceptance/obedience of God’s word; God is concerned with the everyday actions of mankind and directs and keeps records of the lives of human beings in every small detail; at the end of the world, on the day of judgment, all human beings will be resurrected, God will judge them and send them to heaven or hell as per their actions during their life on earth. The concept of God is of a being who is almighty, loving, merciful, forgiving and just, but is also very strict; rewards obedience of his word, on earth and in heaven; is threatening, fearful, harsh and punishing of disobedience by inflicting suffering on earth and in hell. Punishments for acts against the word of God such as murder, idolatry, blasphemy, adultery, fornication, false accusations of illicit sex, violating the Sabbath, etc. include death through beheading, stoning, burning, strangulation; amputation of limbs or portions thereof; flogging; equal, retaliatory punishment or like for like as in ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, limb for a limb, etc. which last was followed either literally or figuratively through money compensation. For death punishments stringent restrictions were placed in terms of the number of witnesses required for an offense, etc.. Both the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament, whose religious philosophy Islam (7 AD) too has accepted and recorded in the Quran, are described in research studies, as being full of violence and as evidence of both a violent society and a violent God where the power and glory of God is described in the language of violence. As per studies there are more than one thousand passages which refer to God as acting violently or supporting the violence of humans and more than one hundred passages involving divine commands to kill humans. Judaism's texts and the Old Testament contain both violent and peaceful doctrines. Attitudes and laws towards both peace and violence exist in the traditions of this period. Throughout history, these religious texts or precepts have been used to promote as well as oppose violence. The God of this period and subsequently is referred to by Jews as YHWH in Hebrew (translated into English as ‘LORD’), by Christians as God or Lord and by Muslims as ‘Allah’.

Though the people of the three religions have a common history and background basic differences emerged between them as can be seen from the following:

ORIGIN, NATURE AND GROWTH OF THE THREE RELIGIONS

Christianity

Though Christians accept the Old Testament and have included it in their Bible, yet truly speaking, Christianity emerged in the 1st century with the advent of Jesus Christ (4 BC-30 AD) and his teachings as recorded in the New Testament. Christianity was originally a sect of Judaism, but diverged from Judaism because of irreconcilable differences between Judaism and Christianity with regard to the Christian concept of God as a trinity ( i.e. One God made up of three persons The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit), non-acceptance of Jesus by Jews as the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament or as being ‘divine’, replacement of Jewish laws by Jesus, etc. Those Jews who followed Jesus came to be known as ‘Christians’ and those who did not, remained as Jews.
But apart from the differences mentioned above, the main contribution of Jesus in the present context of terrorism, was that his teachings and his life constituted a shift from the religious teachings contained in the Old Testament. One shift was in the conception of God from a being who is described in the Old Testaments as being loving, merciful and just as also very strict, threatening, fearful, punishing, violent, etc. to a conception of God by Jesus as a being who is more compassionate and loving, who is not condemning, who is like a loving father who treats alike both the obedient and disobedient, righteous and unrighteous, who is more lovingly concerned about the one lost sheep rather than the remaining 99, and going deeper ‘the kingdom of God is within you’, etc.. This shift in the very conception of the nature of God resulted in a shift from a religion based on strong power and authority of the almighty, strict obedience, constant fear of punishment from a very exacting God, etc. to a religion which created greater scope for a more loving relationship between man and God. Further, this shift was made not only in man’s relationship with God, but also more importantly between man and man and had a wide-ranging impact on religious practices, laws, social behaviors, etc.. Some of the prominent shifts were in concepts such as ‘forgive others as God forgives’; to enter the Kingdom of heaven be child-like; love both one’s friends and enemies; instead of equal, retaliatory punishment viz. an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ a shift to ‘whoever slaps you on one cheek turn to him the other cheek too’; against condemning and punishing other people by saying ‘Let him, who is without a sin, throw the first stone’ (stoning of Magdalene for adultery); serving your brother is like serving God; purification of oneself through repentance rather than by symbolically shifting sins into a lamb and killing it as an offering to God; love and respect for women (respect her, uphold her, gender equality); moving away from ego and arrogance (the greatest among you will be your servant, whoever exalts himself will be humbled), etc.

Jesus made a radical shift in the teachings, religious beliefs and practices that were prevalent during his time, He not only emphasized peace, harmony, forgiveness, non-violence, etc. but also practised what he preached including living a life free of violence and killing.

It is a fact however that after Christ’s death his followers viz. Christians engaged in various violent acts as evidenced by the Holy Inquisition, the Crusades, aggressive wars by Christian countries, the holocaust, hatred, aggressiveness and incredible cruelty towards ‘infidels’ and ‘heretics’ under the slogan of ‘struggle for the holy faith’, forced conversions, etc.. These acts of violence are largely against the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament) and of Jesus’ life as he lived it. The other books of the New Testament such as the Acts, Epistles, Revelation, the Book of Romans, etc. are records of events post Jesus’ death. We shall examine the New Testament, in the context of violence post Jesus’ death, in a bit more detail later.

Over the centuries Christianity has given rise to various sects and groups such as Catholicism, Oriental and Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism (which includes groups such as Lutherans, Adventists, Baptists, etc.), Interdenominational, New Thought, etc..

Judaism

The religion, culture and way of life of the Jewish people has been described at the start including the concept of God as a being who is loving and merciful as well as punishing and violent; conveyance of the word of God through prophets; God’s active involvement in the daily life of human beings; obedience/disobedience of God’s words, rewards and punishments including violent punishments, resurrection after death, concepts of heaven and hell, etc. . Judaism's texts contain both violent and peaceful doctrines. Attitudes and laws towards both peace and violence exist within the Jewish tradition, and Judaism's religious texts or precepts have been used to promote as well as oppose violence. But over the centuries the religious beliefs contained in Jewish texts were questioned by the Jews themselves right from medieval times through to the Jewish enlightenment of the 18th century and to present times. As a result today there are different sects/streams of thought in Judaism such as Orthodox Judaism, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Humanistic Judaism, etc.. These various sects cover a wide range of views such as the assertion in Orthodox Judaism that the Torah and Jewish law are divine in origin, eternal, unalterable and have to be strictly followed; Reform Judaism which says that Jewish laws should be viewed only as a set of ‘general guidelines’ rather than as a set of restrictions and obligations which must be observed by all Jews; Conservative Judaism which promotes more "traditional" interpretation of Judaism's requirements than Reform Judaism, Humanistic Judaism which rejects the religious aspects of Judaism while retaining certain cultural traditions. There are still other schools which have argued that Judaism is a non-creedal religion that does not require one to believe in God. There are also many Jews who consider themselves atheists. In modern times, some liberal Jewish movements do not accept the existence of a personified deity active in history. Many Jews describe themselves as being ‘secular’. For these Jews their Jewish identity may be a very powerful force in their lives but they see this as being largely independent of traditional religious beliefs and practice. This portion of the population largely ignores organized religious life, be it of the official Israeli rabbinate (Orthodox) or of the liberal movements, Reform or Conservative, which are common to the diaspora around the world particularly in the west. In modern times, Judaism lacks a centralized authority that would dictate an exact religious dogma.

Islam

Islam began in the 7th Century AD. Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal primordial faith revealed many times earlier through prophets such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, the last prophet being Muhammad (570-632 CE). The Quran is considered to be the final, verbatim word of God, revealed to Prophet Muhammad. The Quran is supplemented by the teachings of Muhammad and his living example known as ‘Sunna’ which have been preserved in the ‘Hadith’. Muslims consider Muhammad to be the last law bearing Prophet of God sent by God to sum up, finalize and convey God’s divine message to the whole world. Islam means ‘submission’ or ‘surrender’. The teachings described above in the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament have been accepted by Islam and form a part of the Quran. This includes as described above belief in one God i.e. monotheism; the concept of God as a being who is mighty, loving, forgiving, merciful and just, as well as stern and violent in punishing; conveyance of the word of God through prophets; God’s active involvement in the daily life of human beings; rewards and punishments for obedience/disobedience of God’s words; resurrection after death, heaven and hell, etc.. Muhammad taught that his message was identical to those of Abraham and Moses. Muslims regard Muhammad more as the restorer of the true monotheistic primordial faith obtaining at the time of Judaism or earlier rather than the founder of a new religion.

Islam prescribes obligatory acts of worship. The Sharia or Islamic law cover various aspects of life, like daily living, rules of fasting, charity and prayer, inheritance, marriage, restitution for injuries and murder, punishments, economy, governance and foreign relations, etc.. Much of the methods of jurisprudence have evolved with the objective of preventing alteration or innovation. Hudud (literal meaning "limit", or "restriction") is an Islamic concept and refers to punishments which under Islamic law (Shariah) are mandated and fixed by God and are specified in the Quran. These include punishments described at the start such as death through beheading, stoning, burning, strangulation; amputation of arms and legs or portions thereof; the law of equal retaliatory punishment or like for like such as an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, limb for a limb, life for a life; flogging; etc.. for acts such as idolatry, blasphemy, adultery, fornication, false accusations of illicit sex, consuming intoxicants, robbery, theft, rebellion and other mischief against the Muslim state, highway robbery.

An important aspect of Islam, in the present context is ‘Jihad’ which means to ‘strive or struggle’. Jihad in its broadest sense, is "exerting one's utmost power, efforts, endeavors, or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation". Depending on the object being a visible enemy, the Devil, and aspects of one's own self (such as sinful desires), different categories of jihad are defined. Jihad, when used without any qualifier, is understood in its military aspect. Jihad also refers to one's striving to attain religious and moral perfection. Some Muslim authorities, especially in the Shia and Sufi sects, distinguish between the "greater jihad", which pertains to spiritual self-perfection, and the "lesser jihad", defined as warfare. Within Islamic jurisprudence, jihad is usually taken to mean military exertion against non-believers and non-Muslim/Muslim combatants. The Qur'an is considered the ‘source book of Islamic principles and values’.

VIOLENCE IN THE THREE RELIGIONS:

All three religions, Judaism, Christianity have practised violence in the form of killing of non-believers and perceived enemies of a religion; religious wars; genocides, massacres, mass murders; expulsions; slavery; statutes which humiliate and stigmatize groups; forced conversions; systemic violence against women; capital and other physical punishments; world-wide colonialism; systemic violence such as poverty, racism and sexism; terrorism which has included acts like kidnapping, assassination, mass murder, suicide bombing, airline hijacking, etc.. Today though there are instances of terrorism in other religions too almost all religion-based terrorism in the present-day world is Islamic. Other religions have mostly reformed and now largely tolerate criticism and diversity without violence. The Islamic world has not yet reformed, and reacts very much in the same way to critics and dissidents now as it did many centuries ago. The fact is that almost all religion-based terrorism in the world today is Islamic.

It may be noted that much of the acts of violence by various groups in these three religions are undertaken in the name of religion, and inspiration and support for these acts of violence are cited from religious texts. Thus the Hebrew bible and other Jewish texts, the Old Testament, The Quran and Hadith are replete with acts of violence from which practitioners of the three religions have drawn inspiration and justification for their acts. Regarding the New Testament, Jesus’ teachings and his life as he lived it were a shift from the violent teachings of the Old Testament. However, the four Gospels of the New Testament contain two references to the sword (Matthew 1:34 and Luke 22:36), and one reference to killing (Luke 19:22-27)(The New King James version). It also contains some verses which are couched in the language of violence which describe threats of punishment by God, one verse about inflicting punishment on self for wrong-doing, , some which are in the nature of predictions of the shape of things to come, one of Jesus taking action against two demons, some which are metaphorical in nature, etc.. These verses go largely against Jesus’ teachings and his life as he lived it and perhaps can be interpreted in different ways. The other books of the New Testament such as the Acts, Epistles, Revelation, the Book of Romans, etc. are records of events post Jesus’ death. It may help for Christian researchers to research and analyze from which religious texts, the Old Testament or New Testament, and which portions thereof, did Christians draw inspiration and justification for their violent acts and to what extent do they do so today.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE THREE RELIGIONS

The difference between the three religions is that while Judaism and Christianity have, over the centuries, gone beyond the original teachings in their religious texts and reduced the stranglehold of religion on their lives, Islam has not done so. Various factors such as the Jewish Enlightenment of the late 18th century, the exposure of Jewish diaspora to the diverse cultures, religious beliefs, education, etc. of the host countries in which they lived, the scientific advancements made by the Christian Western world to which the Jews too were exposed, etc. resulted in both Jews and Christians developing free, critical and independent thinking; a scientific attitude to all fields of knowledge including religion; questioning of religious texts; willingness to accept criticism and divergent views which gave rise to a number of sects and denomination which co-exist today largely peacefully together at least at the physical level; greater tolerance and acceptance of other religions, etc.. The release of the strangle hold of orthodox, narrow, fundamentalist religious thinking resulted in considerable growth in science and technology, the arts, and intellectual progress which got translated on the ground into considerable material progress, prosperity and better standards of living for their societies. The contributions made by Christians and Jews have benefited the whole world and are significant even if we take a single parameter such as the number of Nobel Prizes won by people belonging to these two religions. Thus, between 1901 -2000, Jews who constitute only .2% of the world population won 20% of the approximately 850 Nobel Prizes awarded, Christians who constitute 32.5% of the world population won 65.4% of Nobel Prizes awarded, while Muslims who constitute 21.5% of world population won only .6 % of Nobel Prizes i.e. 5.

So, while Jews and Christians have gone much beyond their early religious beliefs, values and practices and have greatly developed their inclination and capacity for critical, independent, free and creative thinking and action, such a transformation has not happened with Muslims. As in the other two religions different streams of thought and sects developed in Islam too. But followers of these sects do not co-exist peacefully together and Muslims do not co-exist peacefully with other religions too. In addition, while the rest of the world has made significant strides in human rights, gender equality, laws based on freedom and equality, more humane forms of punishment, etc. Islamic societies are actually going back to Sharia laws and re-introducing Hudud laws of punishment such as public flogging, death through beheading and stoning, amputation of limbs, etc.. By 2013 approximately 12 of the about 50 Muslim-majority countries had made Hudud applicable, mostly since 1978. In the last 35 years or so beginning with the Bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon in 1983, Islamic terrorism against other countries both Muslim and non-Muslim and even by one Muslim sect against another has assumed huge global dimensions. While Muslims have not contributed in any significant way to the welfare, scientific, intellectual and material progress of the world, they are leading in their hostility towards the entire world. This despite the fact that Muslims all over the world owe their intellectual progress, technology and prosperity to the rest of the world. The prosperity of Muslim countries is only because of Western discoveries and technology which have created a demand for Arab oil and caused an inflow of valuable foreign currency, which inflow of foreign money has enabled Muslim countries to enjoy higher standards of living, better material comforts, and benefit in various ways from the intellectual advances and technology available in the world which did not originate in Muslim minds but in the minds of people belonging to other religions, notably as of now, in Christian and Jewish minds. Islamic terror against the world amounts to one ‘biting the hand that feeds one’.

CAUSES OF TERRORISM

One of the main reasons for terrorism is an attempt by Muslim extremists to use terrorism as a means to ‘level down’ more progressive, advanced, developed and prosperous countries/societies to their own level rather than to ‘level up’ their own regressive, backward and underdeveloped countries/societies to that of the more advanced and prosperous countries. Why does this happen? If one looks around the world one finds that those countries have developed and prospered where creativity flourishes. Further creativity flourishes only when people have the freedom to acquire knowledge, to question and think critically, to think and act independently, to explore and experiment, and to be creative with regard to all aspects of life, whether it be science and technology, the arts, their personal lives, religion, etc.. Societies which do not allow such freedom in thought and action do not and cannot grow, develop and prosper. Lack of intellectual freedom and action is a major factor which holds Islamic societies back. Another factor which holds Islamic societies back is ‘gender inequality’ where, despite claims being made to the contrary, equal treatment is not meted out to both the genders, and females who constitute 50% of the population are not given educational and other opportunities to develop and contribute to their full potential to their societies. With regard to this aspect too, if we look around the world, we find that greater the total number of people in a country / society, who irrespective of gender, class, etc., are given opportunities to grow and contribute to their full potential to their country /society greater the development and prosperity of that country/society. So, there are serious drawbacks in Islamic societies which hold these societies back. But the very nature of Islamic societies is such that the stranglehold of fundamentalist, medieval, regressive, extremist religious beliefs, values and practices are so strong that consciously and instinctively these societies know that, given their ideologies, mind-sets, beliefs, values and practices, it would be very difficult for them to catch up with more open-minded, creative, developed and prosperous countries. But instead of recognizing and accepting this truth, and taking the more difficult path of changing and ‘leveling up’ by critically and objectively examining and questioning their beliefs, values, practices, etc. they follow the easier path of ‘leveling down’ other countries / societies. For destruction / leveling down is always faster and easier than construction / leveling up. And how is this ‘leveling down’ done? Muslim countries know that they cannot wage full-fledged wars against more advanced countries and level them down, so they engage instead in smaller proxy wars through acts of terror to accomplish the same end. Broadly speaking, they try to ‘level down’ by using terrorist acts to destroy the physical and other assets of these countries; demoralize and weaken their people; reduce the population and influence of other religions in absolute/ relative terms in the entire world or in specific territories, while on the other hand, increasing in absolute / relative terms the population and influence of their own religion through various methods such as killing, terrorizing and driving out other religious groups from specific territories (as happened with the local Hindu Pandit population in Kashmir, India); forced conversions; strengthening relative to the influence of other ideologies, the hold of their own narrow and regressive ideologies on their people by effecting deeper mental conditioning in them, isolating and/or insulating them from other influences, punishments or threats of punishment for deviating from religious norms / drifting to other religions / other Islamic sects; propagating their ideology to new groups using tactics such as forced conversions, propaganda, etc..

The second reason for terrorism is that many Muslim extremists wish to protect and propagate their ideology either because they are genuinely convinced and zealous about their ideology or because they (such as Muslim leaders, etc.) have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo / in preserving and propagating their extremist ideology. Many Muslim extremists may be genuinely convinced and zealous about their ideology due to a number of factors such as deep mental conditioning; non-exposure to alternate schools of thought, cultures, religions, etc.; inability to adapt and cope effectively (like people of other countries / societies / religions do) to the rapid changes taking place in the modern world with a consequent tendency to cling to the old, the known and the familiar; etc.. Both groups of extremists, whether motivated by genuine religious zeal or by vested interests, wish to protect, preserve and further propagate their ideology in various ways such as by further deepening the mental conditioning of their people by preaching, etc.; isolating and insulating their people from outside influences; punishing those who deviate from religious norms or those who move to other sects, other religions, etc.. But these Muslim extremists also know that, in spite of their best efforts to condition and enslave the minds of their people, because of advances in communication, easier modes of travel, etc. Muslim societies cannot be isolated and kept insulated from outside influences for long and that it will become increasingly difficult to prevent exposure of their people to alternate ideas, values, cultures, religions, etc.; to the greater intellectual and other forms of freedom found in other countries, societies and religions; to alternate educational, social, legal, political and other systems; to other styles of living; to the greater intellectual development and material prosperity which are so apparent in other countries and societies , etc., and therefore, that their extremist ideologies cannot be protected and preserved for long. Apart from their apprehensions about the danger to their ideologies due to natural exposure to outside influences which could happen as a result of advanced modes of communication, travel, etc. Muslim extremists may also be concerned that because they are more backward with regard to war and other technologies, in the event that their lands are forcefully occupied by more advanced countries through war, etc. their ideology could again be under threat due to the influx and influence of new ideas, values and practices; intentional propagation of the ideologies of other religions / Islamic sects; coercion and forced conversions; etc.. Here it must be noted that the desire of Muslim extremists to preserve their extremist ideology is not vis-a-vis just other religions but also vis-à-vis other Islamic sects themselves who are following different or more liberals forms of their religion. So to protect and preserve their extremist ideology, here again, Muslim extremists find that the same terror tactics described earlier for ‘leveling down’ other countries/societies/religions could also be used to protect, strengthen and propagate their extremist ideologies among their own people; propagate it further to other territories and religious groups through killing, forced migrations, forced conversions, etc.; ‘level down’ advanced countries/societies in the numerous ways described so as to reduce their appeal and influence; etc..

A third reason for engaging in terrorist acts are religious teachings which justify, endorse and encourage anger, hatred and violence, particularly against people belonging to other religions, for which violence they are promised rewards both on earth and in heaven. So apart from engaging in violent terrorist acts for the reasons mentioned above, individuals who are weak, insecure, frustrated, revengeful, hateful and violent for any reason whatsoever, including personal reasons, find that by engaging in violent terrorist acts they can hit two birds at a shot. On the one hand they can release their own pent up feelings of frustration, hatred, revenge, violence, etc. and on the other hand by undertaking these acts against people belonging to other religions., sects and countries they will be earning, as they have been taught, rewards both on earth and in heaven. So, you may find many frustrated and violent individuals who get drawn to the opportunities that terrorism offers to engage in violence and who have no qualms about doing so because they have often heard Muslim leaders preach that violence is justified against people belonging to other religions or against the enemies of their religion; or as acts of revenge for grievances (doesn’t matter whether they are imagined or real); and further that it is justified even if the victims are members of their own religion if this violence is undertaken in the larger cause of their religion. The Quran contains numerous passages advocating killing and violence in various forms from which Muslim extremists draw inspiration and justification for their violent acts.

POINTS TO PONDER UPON BY JUDAIC RELIGIONS

There are some issues / problems which are common to all three Judaic religions and are present even today. While Judaism and Christianity have somehow got past them to quite a great extent to reach their present levels of intellectual, social, political and material development, yet these issues have not yet been clearly and properly resolved by them as yet, as a result of which, Judaism and Christianity have not evolved enough to enable their followers to reach to higher realms of spirituality. In the case of Islam these issues are far more serious and have not helped followers of Islam to reach even higher levels of intellectual, social, political and material development. This is because Muslims have rigidly clung to the past, have been hostile to change, and are wary of examining their religion critically and considering new thoughts and practices, because there is always a threat of violence for any scrutiny or deviation however small from the tenets of Islam. I would like to highlight the following issues with reference to Islam, but as I said, these issues are present in Judaism and Christianity too though to a lesser degree.

Let me start with a story narrated about Edmund Burke, a British parliamentarian and historian, who wanted to write a complete history of the world right from the beginning when life started on earth with marine creatures. To do this he collected all kinds of facts, figures, etc.. But one day he heard a shot behind his house. He ran out, saw a crowd of people, a man lying on the ground, he had been shot with a gun, he was bleeding profusely and was going to die at any moment. There were a number of eye witnesses to the whole incident. Burke inquired about the incident from them but got so many different versions of the incident from the eye-witnesses and some of the versions given were so contradictory to each other that Burke was amazed. And then, a big question arose in his mind “ What am I doing? I am trying to write the whole history of mankind right from the time when life originated in the ocean many centuries ago. And here, an incident just occurred, there are many eye-witness, but each of them has a different story to tell. I have no eye-witnesses of that distant past about which I am trying to write, and even if I had eye-witnesses it would be of no use …” Deep in thought, he went back into his house and dropped the entire project of writing the history of mankind. Apart from this story, a number of research studies have been conducted, where incidents were made to happen right before the eyes of various subjects who were asked to give reports of the incidents immediately after they witnessed them, but it was found that their reports varied regarding what they had observed, their perceptions and interpretations, the conclusions that they reached, etc..
To proceed from this background, the first issue which is particularly acute in Islam and which forms the base of the next issue too, is that followers of Islam, are generally unwilling to question; to look at issues objectively, critically and analytically; to think and act independently; to explore and experiment; to be open-minded, to be receptive to new information and consider alternate points of view; search for the truth wherever this search may take them, etc.. The question here is that if freedom to think independently and creatively is accepted in some spheres such as science, the arts, etc. then why is questioning, independent thinking, a search for the truth and for deeper truths not allowed in the field of religion/spirituality? The entire progress of science and technology rests on one scientist questioning an earlier scientist’s theory and replacing it with other better or alternate theories. Nobody holds the view that a Galileo or a Newton or an Einstein, were and are the sole custodians for all time of all truths pertaining to science, and that nobody can or should question them, or that nobody can or should replace their views by alternative or better views, theories or inventions. Then the question is as to why is it that such a strangle hold on free, independent inquiry exists only in the realm of religious inquiry and social norms? Can one or a few persons who lived way back in the past, when societies were less developed, when we had numerous warring tribes and the situations were so different, when there were no easy means of communication, travel, etc. to know about, understand and benefit from alternative cultures/societies/theories/living practices/religions, etc., be the sole custodian(s) for all time of all religious/spiritual /social truths and practices? Just as there are constant changes and improvements in scientific theories, inventions, etc., where one theory gets replaced by another better theory or one invention is replaced by another improved version or a totally new concept altogether, why are such changes and improvements not allowed to happen in the realms of religion, spirituality, social life and in beliefs, values and practices in various spheres of life? Why is independent thinking and creativity not allowed only in these realms? Christians and Jews managed to side-step their religious texts and developed independent thought and action which they applied initially to the fields of science, arts, etc.. But the discoveries and inventions that they made in the sciences enabled them to use these as a stepping stone to question the content and truth of their religious texts and their religious beliefs, values and practices. Though Christian authorities initially resisted it for a long time, yet gradually the Christian Pope and the Church accepted the truth of various scientific discoveries that were made such as that the earth is not at the centre of the universe, that it is the earth which revolves around the sun and not the other way round as reported in the Bible, that the story in the Bible of the world being created in six days is not true and that creation did not happen in this manner, etc.. As a result of this freedom to question, we have a number of sects in Judaism and Christianity who hold a wide range of views about the content of their religious texts, the degree to which they accept the truth, rationale and correctness of various statements made, their interpretations of the same, the extent to which they follow various religious beliefs, values and practices, all of which has enabled them to be open and tolerant to alternate points of views and to criticism, to co-exist relatively peacefully with other sects in their own religions and with other religions, and to adapt to and cope with a rapidly changing world. Some Muslims have taken steps in this direction, but they are not given a free voice and attempts are made to stifle them through threats of violence, etc.. Muslims all over the world need to introspect on this. When societies do not provided freedom to think critically, independently and creatively, and to express this free thinking in actions too, then these societies lose heavily before long on all fronts.

The second issue is about ‘force-fitting’. The world has changed tremendously in ways that were unimaginable not only a century ago but even more so 20-40 centuries ago. We cannot go back to the past. There are two ways to deal with this change. One, we can adapt to the present by doing various things such as changing or modifying elements of the past so that it suits present conditions better; drop elements of the past which are no longer relevant today; add elements which are relevant and needed for dealing with the new situations we are faced with. On the other hand, we can keep the past as it is and try to ‘force-fit’ the present to the past. All three Judaic religions attempt such ‘force-fitting’, though again the problem is most acute in Islam, because while followers of Judaism and Christianity do attempt such ‘force-fitting’ yet they have side-stepped their religion, and managed to run their religious and daily lives in such manner that they proceed on more or less parallel paths which converge and diverge at various points. But there is often an uneasy co-habitation between the two making it difficult to resolve some issues. So it is necessary to understand this phenomenon of ‘force-fitting’ more clearly. Force-fitting is like taking a scientific theory, and forcefully fitting further facts, new information, new developments, etc., into the existing theories by stretching, twisting, convolution, etc.. Such force-fitting can only lead to distortions, aberrations, irrational thinking, and in religious and social life to improper fits, injustices, etc.. When new information, etc. do not fit properly into old theories, etc. one should be ready to modify the theory or ideology suitably, discard the theory or ideology in part or in full, and if necessary formulate an altogether new theory or ideology, or even consider the possibility of having no theory or ideology at all whether old, modified or new. In doing so, we may recognize and acknowledge the role that a particular person(s) played historically to help us reach up to this point with their theory, ideology, etc. but at the same time we should be ready to move beyond that person(s) to other scientists, thinkers, philosophers who may propound new and better theories, ideologies, etc.. But in Islam everything is sought to be force-fitted into the existing ideology through principles of jurisprudence which have evolved with the objective of preventing innovation or alteration in the original religion. Since the world has changed in such radical and divergent ways in a manner which human beings could not have conceived of even in the past one century leave alone 20-40 centuries ago, principles of jurisprudence such as strict adherence to the letter of religious texts, consensus which is anchored to the past, analogical derivations, preference for custom and precedents over independent thinking, etc. does not allow sufficient scope for adaptation, modification, change and progress. Everything in the world must be allowed scope to change, adapt and evolve. If this is not allowed, then just as species which are not able to adapt and change for some reason are at a disadvantage and in peril, likewise societies which follow static ideologies will find it increasingly difficult not only to adapt and thrive in changing environments but will also be in constant conflict with other societies/countries/religions, with sects in their own religions which are more in step with the times, and are changing, evolving and progressing better and faster than them.

But the question is why do Muslims, particularly Muslim extremists want to stick to their regressive ideologies and go against the universal basic human urge for freedom, growth and realization of one’s full potential? There are a number of reasons for this: The first is the deep mental conditioning which societies as a whole undergo over many generations and also the mental conditioning that individuals go through since birth in their families and societies. Being mentally conditioned, having developed mind-sets, they cling to the ideology, beliefs, values and practices that they have been conditioned with since birth. On the other hand the world is constantly changing and because of advances in communication, easier modes of travel, etc. one gets exposed to alternative ideas, values, practices, changing life styles, etc.. Some people and societies who are more open-minded absorb the changes, adapt well to them and are able to live comfortably and profitably in the new environment. But the greater the mental conditioning, greater the isolation and insulation which prevents people from getting exposed to, familiarizing themselves with, adapting to and benefiting from alternate schools of thought, cultures, religions, systems, etc. greater is the mismatch between the old conditioning and the new circumstances, lesser is the adaptation, greater the tendency to cling to the old, the known and the familiar, and greater the effort to protect and preserve the familiar world as they know it. Invariably such a mismatch leads to violent conflicts which can happen within individuals themselves, between individuals including among family members, between intra-religious sects/groups, between different religions/countries/societies, etc. where different individuals and groups are changing, adapting, absorbing new ideas, values and practices, and moving ahead at different paces. That is why in every religion, group, ideology, etc. we will always find some who cling to the old and fight hard to preserve it and others who are more open, better adapted to and more welcoming of the new. The urge for freedom, growth and realization of full potential is very strong not only in individuals but in whole societies. But at the same time there is the pull of mental conditioning, mind-sets, inertia, a desire to be securely anchored to the past. So because of the pull of these two factors, different individuals, groups, sects, religions, countries, societies move, adapt, change and progress to different degrees. In such a scenario, the alternatives various societies have before them are to make an effort to move forward, change, adapt and be in sync with the world, or try forcefully to be where they are, be in conflict with and try to pull the rest of the world back, all to their own great disadvantage and peril.

Another aspect common to all three Judaic religions is the tendency of these religions to use religion as a means to acquire political control/power and thereby make economic gains too. This political control and power is sought through various means such as attempts to invade other countries, increase the number of people who follow their religion through propaganda, forced conversions, etc.; reduce the number of people who follow other religions through killing them, etc.. But trying to achieve political and economic ends through religion, mixing religion with political and economic ambitions makes for a toxic cocktail. Here either religious wars are fought to gain political and economic power to propagate a religion or wars are fought to acquire political and economic power using religion as an excuse. All three religions have sought to do this at various times in history.

POINTS OF CONTRAST IN HINDUISM

I would like to highlight some aspects of Hinduism which are a contrast to the Judaic religions from which followers of these religions may draw cues which they may find relevant to the present discussions.

Jaggi Vasudev, one of our contemporary Hindu seers says, ‘Hindus are seekers not believers. Even if God stands before us and tells us anything we will question God’. Hinduism has been very scientific in its entire approach to seeking the truth about the universe, its origin, nature, etc.. Enlightened Hindu seers encourage people to explore the truth for themselves, not to accept anything without questioning or unless it is as per their own direct experience. Thus Gautama Buddha said ‘Do not accept anything that I say unless you have experienced it yourself’. The late Jiddu Krishnamurti, a modern Hindu seer, says 'Question everybody. Question Buddha, question Shankara, question Einstein'.

To understand the concept of God in Hinduism we may draw a distinction between religion and spirituality. In religion one looks to an external God. In spirituality one seeks the God within. One seeks the God within by turning one’s mind inwards through meditation and moving to a point where one’s mind and sense organs cease to operate, and in this state of ‘no mind’ or ‘pure consciousness’ one gets enlightened and perceives for oneself the absolute truth of the self and the universe. It may be clarified that the truth that we perceive of the world around us is a ‘relative truth’. It is relative to our minds and sense organs. But the world as perceived in states of ‘pure consciousness’, when the mind and sense organs cease to operate, constitutes the ‘absolute truth’ of the world. This ‘absolute truth’ cannot be described in words, but we may if we wish, refer to it in common parlance as ‘God’. This absolute truth which one can find within us, is universal and is present in every grain of sand, in every atom, everywhere. It is because this universal absolute truth, which one may call ‘God’, is present in everything and pervades the entire universe, that Hindus see, revere and worship God in anything and everything whether it be trees, animals, birds, stones, a blade of grass or whatever.

Hinduism accepts that God exists everywhere in both animate and inanimate forms, that God can be seen in and worshipped in any form, and that there are different approaches and paths that can be followed to realize God. It believes that every individual is unique; each individual has different capabilities, different personalities and is at different stages of growth; and therefore it allows people to proceed at their own pace, by any method, by any path and in any direction that suits them in their spiritual journeys. It has also evolved methods, approaches and techniques to suit the personalities of different individuals. Since not all would be able to conceive of concepts such as ‘ absolute truth’ or an ‘abstract God’, Hinduism offers concepts and images of ‘personal Gods’, allows use of concrete symbols, idols, images, and belief systems, etc, which people can use to ‘anchor the mind’ and as ‘stepping stones’ to move from ‘religion’ with its rites, rituals, beliefs and focus on an ‘external God’ to deeper meditative states which will lead them into higher ‘spiritual’ experiences. Hinduism is very democratic. It allows a whole range of attitudes, beliefs, practices, etc. in the realm of spirituality. Thus it acknowledges the right of an individual to believe in and worship God in any form; the right of an atheist not to believe in God at all; or the right of a person not to follow any prescribed mode of worship or even not to worship at all; the right of a person to merely turn the mind inwards, meditate and discover God for oneself; or it allows one not to bother about the subject of religion or spirituality at all. It is also gives people the right and even encouragement to question and debate with authorities whatever be their rank and stature (including the greatest sages); it has evolved a number of techniques of meditation to suit people of different temperaments, to enable people to move from religion with its rites, rituals, beliefs, symbols, idols, images, etc. and focus on an external God to the higher realms of spirituality where there is an effort to discover the God within, to understand this truth that we call 'God' in its most abstract form, and thereby, unlock and understand the truth of the self and the universe.

Since Hinduism accepts that there are different approaches and paths to realizing God, it accepts any approach, ideology or religion as a valid route to spiritual growth. As a result, Hinduism accepts the right of others to follow their religions, has not sought to proselytize through propaganda or forced conversions, and has not used religion as a tool to gaining political power. Hinduism however has tried to share its wisdom, insights, specific concepts and methods with people of other religions, countries, etc. but this is not done with the intention of converting people to Hinduism so as to increase its numbers, and in fact, these concepts, methods, etc. can be practicsd by people of other religions within the framework of their own religions. On the other hand Muslims who invaded India converted Hindus to Islam in large numbers through coercion and violence, and Christian missionaries too converted large numbers from Hinduism to Christianity largely through propaganda, offering inducements, deception, etc. . But in both cases conversions of Hindus to Islam or Christianity were undertaken by Muslims and Christians to increase their numbers. Since the conversions undertaken by Muslims and Christians of Hindus to Islam and Christianity in order to increase their numbers has changed the demographic pattern of India, and this has caused other problems for India, in the past few years there have been attempts by some Hindu groups to re-convert Muslims and Christians back to Hinduism who had earlier been converted from Hinduism to Islam or Christianity. The animosities towards Muslims and Christians regarding religious conversion of Hindus to Islam and Christianity continue to this day with efforts continuing to be made to stop such conversions and to reconvert people back to Hinduism. These efforts at re-conversions are a reaction and retaliation to conversions undertaken by Muslims and Christians and are not a part of Hindu philosophy.

Hinduism also does not preach violence. But over the years Muslim invaders committed numerous atrocities against Hindus, killing them, enslaving them, forcefully converting them to Islam, etc. and are continuing with their atrocities even today through their numerous terrorist attacks and other forms of violence. The British likewise invaded India and committed similar atrocities such as killing, enslaving (though to a much smaller degree than Muslims) and conversions largely through propaganda, offering inducements, deception, etc.. In self-defense and retaliation Hindus too over the years have resorted to violence such as rioting, communal violence, etc., largely against Muslims because of their continued use of violence in various forms such as acts of terrorism, etc. and also to a much smaller extent against Christians because of their continued efforts to convert Hindus to Christianity in order to increase their numbers. But because violence is not in the religious ethos of Hinduism Hindus are much more sinned against than sinning.

But in spite of India’s rich spiritual heritage, due to factors such as vested interests, etc. aberrations have crept into Hinduism over time and the earlier wide-spread spirituality with its scientific temper, emphasis on meditation to turn the mind inwards, open-mindedness, etc. has over time given way to religion with its blind beliefs, rites, rituals, focus on an external God, etc., further development of vested interests, etc. which in turn has given rise to problems such as inequalities in Hindu society, attempts by fringe elements to enforce their narrow thinking, etc.. But there is now a move back in Hinduism to its earlier spiritual philosophy with its emphasis on a scientific temperament, revival of interest in meditation to turn the mind inwards, attempts to bring about greater equality between various sections of society, etc..

It had been mentioned above that Hinduism tries to share its spiritual insights, concepts, methods, etc, with people of other religions without requiring them to convert to Hinduism, and that these concepts, methods can be applied by other religions groups within the framework of their own religions. As a result, you now find that in various parts of the world, various religious groups such as Christians, Jews, etc. have benefited from Hindu spiritual philosophy, its concepts, methods, etc. and have adopted techniques such as meditation, yoga, etc.. Many Muslim countries too have accepted and are practicing techniques such as yoga and meditation.

Among Islamic sects Sufism has used religious beliefs and practices as a stepping stone to reach to higher realms of spirituality.

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Payava's tomb from Xanthos, now in the British Museum.
The Tomb of Payava is a decorative rectangular tomb that was transported in the 19th century from a site in Turkey to England is one of the most remarkable artifacts related to Lycian culture exhibited at the British Museum. The carvings which create a unique symbolic message from ancient times, is a key piece to the puzzle of the city of Xanthos and its ruler.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
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