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do attacks on swami have any message for us?
An In-Depth Inquiry

This article has five parts:
Part 4


Since Haraldur Erlendsson’s article claims Swami is anti-Muslim, I now wish to deal explicitly with Swami’s relationship over the years, with both individual Muslims and the Muslim community at large. This is a long story and I can at best offer only brief glimpses. Let me start by reminding all our readers that for as long as one can remember, Swami has emphasised the Universal aspects of spirituality. Further, as a constant reminder of this principle, Swami has not only had built the Sarva Dharma Stupa (Multi-faith pillar) in Prashanti Nilayam, but has also put in place appropriate murals depicting the unity of faiths, both inside the Poorna Chandra Auditorium and also in the College auditorium.

Sai Seva Dr. Dewan
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The Sarva Dharma Stupa, which lies next to
Bhagavan's residence, Yajur Mandir
On one side is Sai and on the other is the
holy star and the crescent

Turning now to Swami’s personal relationship with Muslims, those familiar with the history of the early days of the Sai Avatar would undoubtedly recall how the Muslim teacher Mehboob Khan had an enormous love for young Sathya, and how Sathya reciprocated.

After Swami was established in the present premises, He had a Mosque built for the Muslims in Puttaparthi, because Swami appreciated the great difficulty the local Muslims had in going all the way to Bukkapatnam, [several kilometres away] for praying in a Mosque. We invite you to click on the links given below that give you a glimpse of this Mosque built by Swami as it was many years ago, and as it is today.

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Bhagavan Baba had this Mosque built for the local Muslims of Puttaparthi
An inside view of this hallowed Masjid where
regular prayers go on

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Glimpses of the Puttaparthi mosque,
a gift from Bhagavan

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Parveen Sultana sings often in His Divine Presence
at Prasanthi Nilayam
Parveen Sultana with her husbad
Ustad Dilshad Khan - their love for Swami is total

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Rashid Khan receiving a gift from Bhagavan, after a scintillating performance in Chennai, in January 2007

Next, Swami has had excellent personal relationships with individual Muslims, including distinguished ones. There are many I can mention but I shall restrict to just a few, picking examples at random. Who in Prasanthi Nilayam has not seen the famous singer Parveen Sultana come again and again, to sing in Swami’s presence?

Similarly, who in Puttaparthi has not seen the equally famous Sarod player Amjad Ali Khan come [along with his entire family], not only to have Swami’s darshan but also play for Him? In this context, I should of course not forget the amazing tabla maestro Allah Rakah, and also his equally famous son, Zakir Hussain.

And let me not omit to mention Rashid Khan who sang before Swami on Republic Day 2007, during the Yajnam that was performed in Chennai. By the way, there are two important things of note, about this concert. First is that most of the songs Rashid Khan sang were composed to honour Sai; secondly, two of the accompanists in his musical party were from Pakistan!

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Rashid Khan extremely happy to be performing in front of the Lord

At this point, I would like to narrate an incident that took place many years ago, when I was the Vice Chancellor. One afternoon, after the darshan and the Interview sessions were over, Swami called me in as usual. After I was asked to be seated, Swami asked me, “Do you know what happened this morning?” I replied, “No Swami” as I was busy in the University.

Swami then continued: “This morning, I called a group from Iran for Interview”. Here I must mention that from time to time, Iranians do come here in groups and they have been doing so for years. A good many of them have had amazing experiences and in fact, some years ago, a whole series of discourses were translated into Persian by Iranian devotees and broadcast over Radio Sai. But that is not what I wish to discuss now, and so let me get back to what Swami told me.

He said, “Inside the Interview room, some Iranian devotees said to Me: ‘Swami, please perform the Upanayanam of this boy and initiate him into the Gayathri.’ And do you know what I did?” Naturally, I replied, “No Swami.” He then said, “I shall tell you. I asked them, ‘Why do you want this boy to chant Vedic Mantras when he should be chanting verses from the Koran? All religions sing hymns to praise the same God. It is better for your boy to learn to be a better Muslim than to learn new verses from some other religion.’ The Iranians were surprised. I then spoke to them at length about the Glory of Islam, and repeatedly advised them that they should all be good Muslims!”

This was not all; Swami told me that one reason why He was very insistent was that the Iranian devotees did not really understand the dangers they would face if back home they started chanting hymns from other religions. Since there was a strong streak of fundamentalism in their native land, they would be exposing their lives to danger; it was to prevent them from coming to harm that they were dissuaded, Swami explained. If that is not compassion, then what it is?

Continuing on the theme of Swami and Muslims in general, there is so much that can be said. Obviously all that cannot be included here, but I would like to mention a sample. If you want to know whether Islamic scholars come to Swami, here is an example of one who did so. He is Maulana Waheeduddin Khan.

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Maulana Waheeduddin Khan speaks in
Baba's presence in Prasanthi Nilayam

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Maulana Waheeduddin Khan, distinguished Muslim scholar, seated next to Bhagavan in 2005
The respected Maulana receives a gift of love from Bhagavan during the inter-faith conference, 2005

If you want to know about Muslim VIPs who have come to Swami, then let me mention that the First Lady of Kazhakistan has been here many times. We have had also ordinary devotees coming from out there in Central Asia. In fact, H2H had earlier brought to you recalls by them. We offer them once more here.

And then we had a prominent Sheik from the Gulf, Sheikh Nahayan, Minister of Education of the UAE, fly in on his personal jet, have an Interview with Swami, and fly right back!

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The First Lady of Kazhakistan, leaving Bhagavan's interview room
Sheikh Nahayan, Minister of Education of the UAE, during a personal audience with Bhagavan in 2005
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Sheikh Nahayan, enjoys his precious time
with Bhagavan in the interview room
Sheikh Nahayan receiving a memento in the presence of Indian Ambassador in UAE
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Sheikh Nahayan, and the Indian Ambassador during a charitable event in UAE
On stage during closing ceremony of Unity Cup Match '97, from left to right, Zaheer Abbas, Hanif Mohammed

We have had eminent cricket players from Pakistan here at the time of the Unity Cup match here.

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Sheik Abdullah, Kasmiri political leader, with Bhagavan

I must not forget that when Swami went to Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah the political leader [whom Nehru referred to as the Lion of Kashmir] called on Swami.

Years later, his son Dr. Farooq Abdullah came twice to Puttaparthi to have Swami’s darshan and I was a witness to that on both occasions. Dr. Najma Heptullah former Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha [the Upper House of the Indian Parliament] has come for Swami’s darshan. There was also Dr. Bashiruddin of Osmania University, Hyderabad, who came here many times. By the way, his wife, Dr. Zeba Bashiruddin was a member of the English Department here for many years and has written quite a few books on Swami.

Groups from Turkey come regularly, and a couple of times I have seen groups come from Egypt as well as from West African countries. In this context, I might call attention to an interview I once had with a Professor from Egypt. The interview has been broadcast over Radio Sai and the transcript has been published in H2H.

The Incredible Story of Gen. Dawood Suleiman

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The former Director General of Police in Baghdad, shares his personal story with Prof. Venkataraman
Gen. Dawood Suleiman, and his wife - very happy to come to the physical presence of Baba

But the most amazing instance of how Swami gives a call is the experience of a man from Iraq who showed up here, literally out of the blue. Let me narrate that story as it unfolded for me.

It was in the year 2004; Swami was in Brindavan and I too was there. One day around 1 p.m. or so, I was told that there were two people from Iraq who would be coming to the Guest House and that I should meet them there. I was very curious not only because I was not aware of any previous visitors from Iraq, but more so because right then Iraq was in a turmoil [which, unfortunately, it still is in], following the Second Gulf War. The Americas were in occupation and going was tough for all, especially the locals.

For me, it was a wonder that anyone was even able to get out of Iraq, and come all the way not only to India but to Bangalore to have Swami’s darshan. It was just too good to be true; so I decided to go out and meet these visitors. Luckily, Sai Prakash of our studio was in Brindavan – he had come for Swami’s darshan - and he had a video camera with him. I asked him to be present when the Iraqis came and bring the camera with him. What he recorded was amazing and you will see it all by following the link below. As a prelude, I would like to mention the following.

The person whom you see in this video clip is Gen. Dawood Suleiman of Baghdad. He was the Director General of Police in Baghdad, when Saddam Hussein came to power. He served under Saddam for a couple of years but found it increasingly difficult to obey the orders from above, because to him they appeared illegal and immoral. So, along with his wife, he escaped and went first to Turkey and later to Bulgaria, where he spent many years doing business. In the process, he made some money, but his heart was all the time in his native land. He told that when he was away, he would often pray, sometimes even by going to a church, which he did while in Bulgaria.

One fine day, Saddam was removed from power, and Suleiman thought it was time to return. He did but when he came back, the sight that greeted him filled him with as much pain as he felt when he left. There was still a lot of violence and ordinary people suffered in many ways as they did earlier, though for different reasons. He was offered his old job back but he rejected the offer. He told me that he did not want to serve the occupiers of his country. Every day he and his wife would pray to Allah to help his people but things did not improve.

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This lady was obviously very moved
by her experiences in the ashram
Gen. Dawood Suleiman is overjoyed as he remembers his encounter with Bhagavan

And then one day, something strange happened. Suleiman told me that he heard a voice that said in a clear tone: “Go to India.” At first he dismissed this as mere imagination, but then the ethereal voice kept on calling out, commanding him to go to India; but it did not tell him where to go and what to do on reaching India. So, poor Suleiman was utterly confused. When the voice became persistent, he decided to share his experience with his wife. His wife was aghast. She could not understand one bit, and asked her husband many questions – all this Suleiman told me when I met him and talked to him.

She asked, “Where do you want to go in India?”

He said, “I do not know!”

“What do you mean by ‘I do not know’? How can you just go there without knowing where to go and whom to meet?”

“What can I do? The voice did not say anything about those details.”

“In that case, you are not going anywhere. Don’t you realise travel in this country is not safe? To go to India, you have to first travel out of this country.”

“What you say is true. Baghdad Airport is not functioning, and there are no civilian flights in and out of this country. We have to go India by the land route.”

“So how do you think you are going to India? Drop that mad idea!”

“How can I? The command was so clear!”

So on the debate went until, seeing her husband to be adamant, the lady decided that if her husband was mad enough to go to India, she would accompany him just to make sure that she was by his side in case he needed help. And so they managed to get visas to travel to India and travelled by bus and taxi to the border of Iran. They then crossed over into Iran and had to travel for many days in that country. This was by no means very easy, since earlier, during the Saddam regime, Iran and Iraq had fought a bloody war that lasted eight years in which thousands were killed. From Iran, they crossed into the Province of Baluchistan in Pakistan, and travelling through Pakistan, reached Lahore. From there they took a bus, crossed over into India and reached the holy city of Amritsar in Punjab. Already more than two weeks had passed since they left Baghdad, and they still had no idea of where they were going!

In Amritsar, they were told that if they wanted to meet a holy man then they should go South, which then took them to Delhi. There, in Delhi Railway Station, by a series of apparent coincidences, they were put on a train to Puttaparthi, and when they landed in Prasanthi Nilayam Railway station, they saw a huge picture of Swami! Their eyes lit up and Dawood was overjoyed. Excitedly he told his wife, “We have come to the right place!” They then made their way to the Ashram but Swami was in Bangalore. They prayed in the Ashram. Later, a German devotee got into a conversation and after hearing their tale told them, “Baba is in Whitefield. I am going there and shall take you there. Come with me.” That is how the pair landed in Whitefield and now watch the video below to see and hear the man narrate it all to me, while I listened absolutely stunned!

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Mr. Dawood Suleiman shares his incredible story

Many Muslims Respect Sri Sathya Sai Baba

We hardly notice but yes, Muslims do come here, as described, from all over, including Uzbekistan for example.

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Suffering lepers receive loving treatment from
Sai seva dals in Africa

We have them doing service too, like you see here in far away Gabon in West Africa [where French is spoken rather than English].

Oh yes, I should not miss the Seva being done in Nigeria to lepers there by Swami’s devotees.

Did you see the video clip carefully? Did you notice that the people being served were lepers and Muslims by faith? And that the service was being done by Swami’s devotees? How would this be possible if Swami was anti-Muslim?

And now take a look at this – Muslims being treated in Swami’s hospital, absolutely free. That is not all. Just follow the link below and listen to what the patient in that video clip says.


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Durlabh Khan and his mother - all smiles now after the boy received a new life after a free heart operation in 2007
Farookh gained a new life and lots of hope after a successful free heart operation
in April 2008

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"Nobody gave me even Rs. 10 for medicine, but here lakhs are spent freely" - A Muslim patient from Mumbai

The patient you saw is a taxi driver from Bombay [now Mumbai]. He had a heart problem and no money. Everyone left him high and dry; he was desperate when he heard about Swami’s hospital. Then he came here and was saved; no charge of course. And responding to the gift of life he received, he says, “What is the use of relatives? They all abandon you when you need them most. I have a father and brothers, but nobody gives even Rs. 10 to buy a medicine. And here, lakhs are spent freely. I know what it means because I have suffered all my life; I have ran pillar to post for medicine...Now, once I completely alright, I want to come and serve in this hospital whenever I can."

The simple truth is that Swami is above all religions. Years ago, when devotees were not as familiar with Him as well as they are today, He often would say that He has not come to disturb anyone in his faith or belief; rather, His intention was to reinforce the belief of that person in his or her own religion. Here is a narrative that substantiates that remark. It concerns one Mr. Wellington [now no more], and as you can judge from the name, Mr. Wellington was a Christian. The story I am about to narrate was told by Wellington himself during a talk he gave many years ago; thus, my narrative is based on what I actually heard.

Going Beyond Religious Affiliation

Sai Seva Dr. Dewan
Dr. B. Ramakrishna Rao

Wellington belonged to the State of Kerala in the South West part of India, where there are many Christians. He first came into contact with Swami, when Bhagavan made a visit to Kerala on the invitation of the then Governor, Dr. B. Ramakrishna Rao, an ardent devotee. A Marxist government was in power then, and Wellington, a prominent Communist, was a member of the Government. In fact, he was the Health Minister.

One of the functions arranged in honour of the visit was the opening of a small free dispensary, set up by the local Sai Organisation. Swami was to do the opening, and Wellington had been invited to the function; I believe Governor Ramakrishna Rao was also to attend. So, for purely protocol reasons, Wellington agreed to come to the function, though he was far from having cordial feelings towards Swami [for those of you who might be unaware, the Marxists were all supposed to be atheists; it is a different matter if they privately followed different faiths!].

Subsequent to that event, during which Swami was very kind and friendly to Wellington, He said to him, “Why don’t you come and see Me in Puttaparthi?” Wellington nodded and one fine day, he did make the trip. In his talk, Wellington said that he had deep apprehensions coming here. There was the Marxist side of him that asked him to reject God while the Christian side of him was warning him about a “Hindu sect” trying to brainwash him! Wellington said, “As I entered the gate, my doubts increased because what was the first thing I saw? A statue of Ganesha and people religiously worshipping it. The worst fears of a Hindu conspiracy were aroused in me. I was taken inside and seated on the veranda.

We were all waiting for Swami while my doubts kept on increasing and I was even becoming somewhat angry with myself for having come here. Just then, Swami came and with a smile, He called me for an Interview. This was a new experience and I now began to worry what would happen to me. “Would I be asked to give up my Christian faith?” I went in with not joy, as all others did, but with doubts, anxiety and even suspicion. And do you know what happened inside? The first thing Swami said when He started speaking to me was: “ Wellington, be a good Christian! That is all I want from you and nothing else!”

Wellington then went on to say that from that day he transformed completely, spreading Swami’s message of Love and sacrifice as his prime mission. In fact, towards the end of his life, even when he was quite sick, he was constantly touring all over Kerala, giving talks on Swami and His Love, wherever he went. That says something, does it not?

For Swami all faiths are equally good, being boulevards leading to the same God whose children all humans are. That is why everyone comes here, again and again. Hislop came till he was physically unable to. And you know what? When he was very sick with cancer, he went to Japan and New Zealand on a very demanding lecture tour to speak about Swami and tell devotees about His Love as well as teachings. Just recently, Radio Sai broadcasted a whole series of excerpts from Dr. Sandweiss’s latest book in which all this is described in detail. And I have seen Howard Murphet of Australia [Swami used to call him the old Australian Lion!] come here many times, even in his nineties. It is no wonder that Murphet described Prasanthi Nilayam as the place where the road ends [I believe he even wrote a book with that title].

Yes, they all come here, for who can fail to be drawn by Pure Love? Everyone feels welcome, as you see in the pictures below. You see them all, including Christians from not only Europe and America but also Latin America, Buddhists from Sri Lanka to Japan, and of course our own Sikhs, Parsis, etc.

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Christians celebrate Christmas every year at Bhagavan's ashram, Prashanti Nilayam
Buddhists in Prasanthi Nilayam to mark the
occasion of Chinese New Year

I could go on and on in this vein; however, I shall not. That said, I must include this clip which shows Dr. Michael Nobel, great grand Nephew of Alfred Nobel, Chairman, Appeal of Nobel Peace Laureates Foundation.

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Dr. Michael Nobel of the Nobel Peace Laureates Foundation on what Baba means to him


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Dr. Micheal Nobel

Did you hear what Dr. Nobel said? He is an agnostic and yet he believes in Sai Baba’s philosophy. Why? Because ultimately it is Pure Love alone that transcends all barriers, has the capacity to heal, and to bring universal harmony. All that, I suppose would help us understand better what Swami means when He says:

There is only one caste, the caste of humanity;

There is only religion, the religion of Love;

There is only one language, the language of the Heart:

And there is only God, who is Omnipresent.

It is indeed a great pity that instead of making an effort to understand the teachings and the message of Sai Baba, detractors spend so much time and energy in concocting and fabricating untruth, for what purpose we do not know. But then that is their nature and unfortunate lot, not to be touched by goodness and sacrifice. For our part, we must be careful not to be persuaded by carefully packaged and marketed falsehood, preying on the sensibilities of people who are not fully informed. It is for informing all of you out there, we, here in H2H, have gone to great trouble to put together this article. We do hope you would not only read it carefully but also bring it to the notice of as many people as possible.

This article has five parts:
Part 4

Write to Us at H2H
Vol 6 Issue 10 - OCTOBER 2008
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