Open the Qu’ran and the very first verses that greet you are “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful (1:1); Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Universe (1:2); You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help (1:5).” Turn a few more pages and the Holy Book says, “There is no God, but Allah, and Mohammed is His Messenger”; “Those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah, theirs will be a heavy doom (3:4)”.
Now, turn to the sacred Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth… (Genesis 1)” This is the way this Divine Work starts, and further on it declares: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)”.
Next, look through the Vedas. The Ganapati Atharva Sirsham, which is a prayer to Lord Ganesha, says, “The whole universe emerges from You; is sustained by You and merges in You; You are indeed the all conquering Supreme Lord.” In the same Yajur Veda, the hymn Narayana Upanishad declares, “Narayana willed to create all beings…Narayana pervades the whole Universe...Ultimately everything merges in Him…It is Narayana alone who exists.”
On the face of it, every faith looks so dogmatic, isn’t it? “And this is precisely why we do not like religion” many so called rationalists and atheists will emphatically say. They will go on to add, it is religion which is the reason for so much unrest in the world today. To concur with their viewpoint is akin to accepting that the Sun moves around the Earth, as that is how it seems everyday to an ignorant onlooker. Only when one investigates further does he uncover that it is actually the Earth which is moving, not the Sun. It is the same with religion and the current world situation too. Only when we dwell deeper do we realise that, in truth, it is not the Faith, but partial, convenient, selective and shallow understanding and practice of the message of every Master which is at the root of every evil mankind is grappling with today.
And what we often fail to notice, realise and appreciate is that in spite of so many problems plaguing human society now, if there is one factor that always brings unity and harmony and confers solace, peace and strength continuously, it is the soul of every religion. It connects man to that infinite source of all joy, life and bliss, like no other object or event can ever do. In a revealing discourse on Oct 1st, 1976, Bhagavan Baba said, “The goal and the essence of all creeds, faiths and religions is just this – To sublimate the mind of man so as to guarantee liberation to the individual concerned, and also confer happiness to the society of which he/she is a unit.”
Bhagavan further explained, “Instead of uniting mankind in a common endeavour, religion today has become a system of walled enclosures, guarded by hate and fanaticism. Therefore, each religion has become an armed camp sunk in self-aggrandizement, trying to wean others into itself and preventing defections from itself. And that is why religion is being condemned as the root of chaos and conflict…. It has to be emphasized that religion is not the root cause of this state of affairs. The factional fights and fanatic hatred are due to the unruly ego that is given free play. In fact, religion strives to destroy just this vicious tendency. So, it has to be supported, not condemned. What has to be condemned is the narrow, perverted attitude of hating those who do not agree with you or who hold different opinions of the mysterious force that animates the universe.... If only each one lives up to the ideals propounded by the founders of one's religion, unaffected by greed or hate, the world will be a happier and more peaceful habitation for man.”
What this clearly means is that for religion to work for us the way it was originally intended, it has to be first understood in its undiluted, pristine form. Every word in the holy scriptures is the word of God, and they are not to be understood superficially. Just as every look or vision of the Lord is to be felt, experienced, relived and ruminated upon repeatedly to make the most of the divine blessing; so also every phrase and parable, hymn and sentence of these holy books has to be meditated upon to assimilate its truest essence. And only then should one put them into action. Only a few enlightened ones in every faith do this and they alone gain access to the nectar of divine bliss; but the majority miss the crucial essence, taken over by the literal and light meaning of the divine word.
Therefore, to help you, in not only understanding every Faith in its true richness and glory, and derive complete benefit, but also, more importantly, not be misled by its sometimes seemingly fanatic and inflexible pronouncements, we, in H2H, have periodically offered comprehensive articles on world religions explaining their tenets and facets, message and mission. In the March 2008 issue, we had as the cover story “The Enigma of Islam…Enlightened by Sai.” And the response to this was truly overwhelming. Wilbert M. Stephenson, from New York, wrote, “I never trusted any Muslim, and, after 9/11, I took a combative stance against the religion of Islam. But this article has dramatically changed my perspective…. Now I must begin loving my Muslim brothers and sisters.” Ms. Piyali, from USA, said, “I really enjoyed and learnt so much…I would love to read more on all the Five Pillars of Islam and other concepts like Jihad, etc.” Similarly, Jean Dixon, from South Africa, wrote, “I was blown away by it! Please could you continue the story…?” It is so many requests like these which propelled us to work on the second part of the cover story on Islam, and here it is, now offered to you, in this sacred month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a month of fasting and prayer, and appropriately, the current cover story has, as its focus, the second pillar of Islam which is Salah or remembrance of the Lord. Few truly realise and harness the power of true prayer. In fact, there is no problem as knotty in this world that prayer cannot solve. This may sound hyperbolic, but unless you experiment with it yourself, you will never be convinced. If, sometimes, you do not get the desired results, then what is probably wrong is the method, not the medium. What is the right way to pray? And why has the Prophet enjoined Muslims to pray five times a day? Is this practical? And further, why, at all, should we pray? What can prayer really do? You will find illuminating answers to all these and much more when you read our cover story "Salah – The Flag of Islam".
In reality, 90% of the articles in every issue of H2H have prayer as its undercurrent, though it may be obvious only at times. It is the same with this issue too. When you read the moving story of how Sai doctors and volunteers from the USA, UK, Russia and Belarus gathered in the small town of Bogodohovo, Ukraine, to offer much-needed medical help, counseling and brotherly love, you will see how it was the sheer power of the prayer and faith in the Almighty that made the entire mission so successful and rewarding. It is the same with the stirring tale of Ravinder in the Healing Touch section. A 23-year old from the north Indian state of Punjab, life, for him, had become a hopeless endeavour when a seemingly small accident threatened to make him permanently handicapped. And to add insult to injury, he was taken for a ride by doctors in a private hospital, who not only misdiagnosed and mistreated his case, but also made his poor parents part with their life’s savings with damaging consequences to the family. Finally, it was the prayers of Ravinder’s mother which did the magic. Today he is raring to jump into life with a new vigour. How did this happen? Read "The Revivified Ravinder".
And in this vein goes every story in this issue of H2H. Be it the amazing reminiscences of Mrs. Rani Subramaniam in the H2H Special section, or the story of Mr. Sivaramakrishnaiah in the Swami and Me section or the fascinating story of the Sai Movement of Costa Rica – each one is a testimony of this incredible power of remembering His name, holding onto His feet and surrendering one’s life to Him completely, which is in fact, the crux of Islam.
There is a vast difference between saying prayers and praying. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” When we immerse ourselves in sincere prayer, we truly lose ourselves in Him. There even may be something impossible for God, but nothing is impossible with His Name, for such is its power.
So, let us not lose this great opportunity! Let every second of our lives and every cell of our being, consciously or unconsciously, be engaged in His Name and His form. Let us live for Him and Him alone.