Sunday, November 2, 2014

Unraveling the tales of Krishna Bhakts among Muslims

As promised it’s high time I throw more highlights on the manuscript of the forthcoming book, ‘The Muslim Devotees of Lord Krishna’.
The author, Dipankar Deb, I personally know as a youngman of Science, is into something different.
The touch of glibness he displays on a subject as difficult and as potentially controversial is fascinating. The author, in short, brings insight and voluminous knowledge to bear on the subject and the result creditably is a series of fascinating discourses on individuals who turned Krishna bhakts and the emphatic assertion that “the all merciful Lord Krishna is available to anyone who approaches him”.

This philosophy is actually only a testimony of an inherent strength of Indian national and social life. We often hear among intellectuals and western observers of India that complexity of India is essentially based on the division of Islam and Hinduism. Yet there are striking features. Both the religions have survived along side each other in the country even as Islam was actually ‘imposed’ and brought from outside.

One Krishna Bhakt selling books on the Lord to a Muslim soldier in Turkey

But Islam took roots in India and despite contradictions even on the ideological plane as Hinduism is a conglomeration of beliefs and Islam affirms the preeminence of One God, many things unite Hindus and Muslims.
It is therefore, I was not surprised that despite the gory partition of the sub-continent, this year I received first Diwali greetings from across the border – albeit a Muslim friend – in Pakistan.
Now where does Lord Krishna stand in all these?
The proposed book not only talks about Vaishnava poets like Rahim, Salebaga and Nasir Mamud, it tries to argue eloquently that the principle of qualification for Lord Krishna’s love is bhakti, the dedication, and not the birth.
“Anyone irrespective of birth, willing to undergo purification process of regulations, is a natural recipient of the Lord’s mercy,” it says. 

A group of Krishna admirers 
My understanding of Lord Krishna’s essential teaching or the underlining philosophy of Sanatan views, is that becoming ONE with Krishna the devotees (Bhakts) unite with a manifestation of the Absolute. 

In much simpler form, the road to God is through love and if one turns pages on Sufism, one would find undeniably similar theme.
Thus, the powerful words which are extremely useful and I present an extract from the manuscript is: “A fanatic cannot bring one to God but can turn one away”. At the same the author quote Iskcon founder, Srila Prabhupada, and reminds us: “religion without philosophy is fanaticism”.

Having led the readers around the idealistic platform, the manuscript I have in hand, also states that : “….many devotees from Islamic background have recognized the soul’s intrinsic state in Krishna Consciousness”. Subsequently, the author makes a very emphatic remark: “they (the individuals) have become “better Muslims, re-establishing a bond with the Almighty”.
In this context, the preview would also find relevance in the author’s attempted argument that Krishna influence was found in Mughal arts and paintings and the Mughal effect was reflected in Vaisnava practices.

 “The Malwa plateau region in Madhya Pradesh has a rich history of devotional arts and the early influence of Islam can be seen in the Vaisnava arts in this region”.
The book would be thus a history book in part and in a part a collection of diary pages and also a mini-compendium of memories of the author in his interaction with friends and followers of Krishna. Among other things it dwells at length on the Muslim devotee poets and readers could find it interesting that one of the names of Lord Krishna is ‘Uttamasloka’ – meaning one is praised with the choices poetic words. 

Not all Vaisnava poets wrote in pristine Sankrist, he says.

It goes without saying that the book is written honestly and is painstakingly researched. Thus among a few individual Muslims who turned Krishna Bhakts, we have a fascinating tale of Raheh Younis, who grew up in Beirut Lebanon and later turned Krishna Bhakt and also the first Muslim disciple of Prabhupada. Similarly fascinating is the story of Ben Moradi, born in Iran 1950.

There are few other tales. Well, I need not flatter anyone and that too on a man’s maiden attempt to pen a book on such a complex subject. However, some patrons of this blog and readers of the future-book might complain about certain lapses. Many could find it difficult to categorize the book in one particular genre. Is a religious book for Krishna followers alone? Is it a mixed bag or is it objective enough which questions the rationale of over-emphasis on mysticism and oriental philosophy?

Is the book at hand more an ambitious project on talking about non-believers’ transformation as Krishna Bhakts than merely narrating a straight forward story of Krishna admirers among Muslims? Is the author with his known Lord Krishna admiring leaning qualified to reflect the richness of the imagination and also the successful acumen in handling both the plot and treatment?

Without dwelling on the merits and demerits of this debate, one can only assert that the limitations and follies of the budding writer certainly do not reduce the merits of the book.


  1. Qur’an 8.12-13 which state: “I will cast fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. So strike at their necks and strike at every finger. Do so because they defied God and His Messenger. Whoever defies God and His Messenger: (let everyone know that) God is severe in retribution.” It was perplexing for her as to why the All merciful Lord would engage in retribution and ask for heads being severed or fingers crushed, simply for her inability to believe in Him. “How is He then Supremely merciful?” I often ponder. Muslims who became Krsna bhakts must have denounced the barbaric Islam. Don't u think so? Can any sane person agree to kill someone for disbelief?

  2. I think it's not justified to call Islam - barbaric. One could disagree with some parts of a sacred book. Defiance is not entertained in many religions.

  3. I am overwhelmed by the title of the book ‘The Muslim devotees of Lord Krishna’. But I also feel annoyed because I understand Lord Krishna as a great unification figure. So, Krishna devotees need not be categorized as Muslims or non-Muslims. It’s simple, they are just Krishna Bhakts. Pious people. Yet the effort deserves attention because the topic itself suggests that the book if researched dutifully would be a landmine of information.