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Did Swami Vivekananda Praise Islam?

May 25, 2021 Authored by: Dr. Subroto Roy

Background

Next year, the The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda by Advaita Ashram, Kolkata will complete 100 years. Also, this month his Advaita Ashram completed 122 years! Both these epoch-making events have influenced countless people but most importantly our own Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. We can now understand the criticality of the contents of this collection.

The speeches and letters of Swamiji disturbs me more often than not. I do not mind the contradictions, but when I see some letters and statements which appear dubious in nature, an alarm bell which might have far reaching consequences on Bharata as a nation, rings rather excruciatingly somewhere.

The very clear view Swamiji held about what happened to Indian music thanks to Mohammedans and Islam is clear from the following statement appearing in Chapter XIII of page 2010.

What real music we have lies in Kirtana and Dhrupada; the rest has been spoiled by being modulated according to the Islamic methods…The Mohammedans took up the different Râgas and Râginis after coming into India. But they put such a stamp of their own colouring on the art of Tappa songs that all the science in music was destroyed.

Now this is a destruction of intangible heritage which Swamiji is referring to. In no uncertain terms again, he makes a clear distinction between essential thoughts of Indic origin on page 2151.

In Vedanta the chief advantage is that it was not the work of one single man; and therefore, naturally, unlike Buddhism, or Christianity, or Mohammedanism, the prophet or teacher did not entirely swallow up or overshadow the principles.  

He puts Vedanta on the highest pedestal again on page 2151:

So, says Vedanta…for you to become religious means that you will start without any religion…see things for yourself;…then, and then alone, you have religion.

Swamiji clearly justifies why the Islamic invaders were unwelcome into India on page 1260:

When the studious Greeks visited Hindustan to learn of the Hindu, all doors were open to them, but when the Mohammedanwith his sword and the Englishman with his bullets came their doors were closed.

In some places he allegedly praises ‘Koran’ and ‘Hadis’. This is when one wonders whether Swamiji has actually read the Quran etc. I am sure he must have. Then why should he create a false eulogy? He was a Sanyasi and an avatar purush? 

Most of these statements were made in comparison to Christianity during his speeches in the West. Even then a lie is a lie, which Swamiji could not have told. If any follower of Swamiji was asked which one he believed, Swamiji himself or the publisher, I am sure s/he would chose Swamiji and would not accept that he would tell a lie. But s/he would not mind accepting (at least) the mistake of the publisher.

Now, if he had such high regard for Advaitism then why would he call it heartless. Swamiji has called the Advaitist ‘heartless’ in a letter to a foreign disciple (6.4.150 Mrs. Bull 12th Dec.,1899):

My mistakes have been great; but everyone of them was from too much love. How I hate love! Would I never had any Bhakti! Indeed, I wish I could be an Advaitist, calm and heartless.

Note that he uses the word ‘heartless’ for Hindu-s, Indians, intellectual writers, animal killlers, competition in the Western world, etc. in various places. 

The Bombshell

Then comes the famous/infamous letter designated in the book as 6.4.142 Sarfaraz Husain  (Written to Mohammed Sarfaraz Husain of Naini Tal) on 10th June, 1898 and that appears on pages 2518-9 in chapter 6 of the collection.

In this letter Swamiji while talking of Advaitism allegedly tells inter alia:

I believe it is the religion of the future enlightened humanity… yet practical Advaitism, was never developed among the Hindus universally… if ever any religion approached to this equality…it is Islam and Islam alone.

I had an intellectual argument with my friend and a very senior Professor Sudhir Kumar, of the Panjab University, Chandigarh when he very kindly sent me a scanned copy of this letter expressing dismay at what blunder Swamiji had committed. My sincere thanks to Prof. Kumar because without his sparking this argument in my mind, the present investigation would not have started in the first place.

I did not want to believe that an avatar purush like Swamiji would make such a politically correct statement and a ‘blunder’. I asked my friend if he had seen the manuscript of this letter before believing it, which he didn’t see any need of since the letter has been around in intellectual circles for decades – as a given. His arguments were convincing enough and I did believe for a moment that the letter was actually written by Swamiji.

However, when I settled down, I felt there was something definitely incoherent. I wrote to Vedanta Ashram on May 22, 2021 by email. I reproduce the letter below:

Dear Sir,

I am an experienced senior journalist based in Pune.

I request you to send me the handwritten manuscript of pages 415,416, & 417 of Swami Vivekananda’s Complete works?

In these pages he has written a letter allegedly to Sarfaraz Hussein of Nainital.

The Manuscript will help me deeply understand the truth.

Thanking you in anticipation

-Sd

(Note that these page numbers of of the eight volumes which were originally published in a set)

Today, (May 24, 2021), perhaps the communications/publications in-charge –  Swami Vedavratananda kindly wrote back to me via email the following letter (I give below a screen shot of the same):

The absence of such an important manuscript is bound to put question marks on the authenticity of the alleged letter written to a Sarfaraz Husain. 

First, was there any known check regarding the authenticity of the letter? This question is valid because it must have been handed over to the Advait Ashram by the addressee – Hussain. Did anyone try to find out whether the letter was not a forgery? 

Secondly, How could such an important manuscript be lost (If we assume it was lost)? These are important questions considering he gravity of the letter especially when it involves none other than Swami Vivekananda who even today has millions of followers. What message will it send to them. 

Most important of all, what would be the position of our own Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in regards to Islam considering that Swamiji is his role model and he himself is allegedly praising Islam? The PM must have read this letter and naturally believed it? Just imagine the impact this letter will have on his policies?

But his piece of investigation makes us all feel rather naive. Obviously, there is no way to either believe or disbelieve this alleged letter and its content now. I would not believe it considering what Islam has given the world – the taste of the pudding in its eating.

How can a published piece of literature be quoted everywhere when there is no proof of that letter being written at all?

The inconsistencies force one to wonder whether there were omissions and commissions in putting together the manuscripts or speeches of Swamiji in the whole collection; Is The Collected Works of Swami Vivekanada an authentic document. If one published letter is dubious, how can we believe in other parts of the work?

If there were omissions and commissions, one needs to find out the modus operandi. If not, a clarification from Advaita Ashram is worth demanding. A check on what other such organisations are publishing is very much the need of the hour, because if misinformation campaigns are run by organisations masquerading as ‘Hindu’ organisations, then the day would not be far off when the people of India will start rejecting the great knowledge tradition under Sanatan Dhrama.


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