Zakir Naik has this to say when asked about “Is idol worship needed for concentration”?
Zakir Naik says:
“The brother has asked the question, that the Hindu Pandits and Scholars – they agree that the Vedas is against idol worship, against making an image of Almighty God – but they give the logic that initially, because the mind is not matured, you require ‘idol’ to concentrate. Later on, when you reach higher consciousness, ‘idol’ is not required. If this is the logic, then I would like to say that we Muslims have already reached the higher consciousness. We don’t require…We don’t require any ‘idols’ to concentrate on Almighty God – We have already reached the higher consciousness – If this is the logic. But now let us analyze. Once I was having a discussion with a Swami, from the ISKCON, ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ – you know its there in Bombay – ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’. He came to IRF, and we were having a discussion on idol worship. So he gave me the example that brother Zakir, see when your son asks you, ‘why does it thunder? ‘So you tell him that ‘Aayee maa chacki Peesti hai’. ‘Aayee maa chacki Peesti hai’ – ‘that is the Grand mother in heaven, she is grinding flour. Why? Because the child is innocent – He can’t understand – Therefore we give this. Similarly, human beings… because they are immature initially, – idol is allowed – Later on when they get matured, idol is not allowed. So I tell them… and I told this, Swami from ISKCON, ‘Hare Rama Hara Krishna’, that I will never tell my child, when he asks me, ‘why does it thunder?… that ‘Aayee maa chakki peesti hai’ ‘Grandmother is grinding flour’. You know why, – because to tell a lie, is ‘Haraam’ – Its wrong to tell a lie, in Islam. You cannot tell…even if it’s a white lie – you can’t say. In extreme cases, certain cases… when someone puts a gun, and you lie – that’s a different thing – Otherwise normal circumstances, why should a person lie? Because, if I tell my son, ‘that Aayee Ma chakki peesti hain’ ‘Grandmother is grinding flour in heaven’ – when he goes to school, and when the teacher teaches him that the thundering after lightning, is due to expansion of rapidly heated air – he will think, the teacher is lying And afterwards when he comes to know the fact he will say ‘my father was a liar’. ‘Ayee Maa Chakki nahin peesti hai’. So this is the problem. Then why should we say such wrong things? And this philosophy is there, common amongst all human beings – Common most of them, if not all. And you know, we have… like people who stay in a building… like, when they play with their children – you know they throw the toy out – ‘Kawwa lekey gaya’ – ‘Crow has taken it’. – You know. You do the action of throwing the toy out of the building –‘Kawwa lekey gaya’. Then you find even your child is throwing out toys. And then when you ask these parents…‘Why are your children throwing out toys? ‘Woo toh… everyone does – Sab log karte – Sab children phektain hai. The mother will tell… ‘all the children throw out toys – So if my child throws… what is great?’ All the children don’t throw – It is because most of the parents do this trick.- Kawa leke gaye. So even he wants to do that trick – Even he throws it out. My son, Alhamdullillah we are staying in 9th storey,…9th storey in Mazgaon. My son has never thrown out any toys. You know why? I have never played that trick with him – ‘Kawwa leke gaya’. So you teach wrong things and your child remains following wrong things. Best is to give the answer – Simplify…Simplify and give the answer, to the best of the their understanding. I know the child… many things, he doesn’t understand – Give the answer in a simple way. But if you don’t know the answer, you should have the guts to tell the truth… ‘I don’t know’. But most of the children specially nowadays, they won’t take the simple answer. If I tell my son ‘I don’t know’ – he will tell me… ‘Abba, why don’t you know?’ So what happens, then we have to do our homework – We have to go and find the answer – It educates us, as well as our children. But never tell a lie -You can never let your child grow up on falsehood. There are other Pandits, when I have discussions, they give me the example that, ‘See brother Zakir, we don’t know that Vedas are against idol worship, and its wrong to do idol worship. But initially, in standard one, because the mind is not matured, idol worship is fine – But when they graduate, then idol worship is not required. So I tell them that if a person goes to school in standard one, the fundamental, the basics, of any subject should be strong. If the basics and fundamentals are strong… in future – even the structure will be strong. If the basics are not strong, the structure may not be strong. So if a teacher teaches in Standard One… in Mathematics, 2 + 2 = 4. Even after he goes to standard 3,4,5 and he passes school, when he becomes a graduate, even if he does Ph.d in mathematics, yet 2 + 2 will always remain 4. He may learn Trigonometry, Algebra, Logarithms…but the basics of Arithmatics addition 2 + 2, will remain the same. If the teacher teaches wrong things, 2 + 2 is 5, or 2 + 2 is equal to 6, in Standard 1 – what will happen to the student when he graduates?. Therefore the basics should always be strong – the fundamentals should always be strong. And these Scholars, they know very well, the fundamentals of the Vedas are regarding concept of God – ‘that God has no image’. You cannot make any idol of God – that is the fundamental. I ask these people, that if you know that the followers of your Religion are doing wrong things, it is your duty to correct them. If your son says 2+2=5, will you keep quiet…In standard one? You will say – ‘NO’ ‘NO’, let him graduate, and then I will tell him that 2+2 = 4 -Will you say that? You will correct him initially – you won’t wait till he graduates. As much as you can explain, you explain. So if you know that the Vedas, are against idol worship, it is their job to tell the people, that this is the fundamental of faith. Even in the initial stages, you can worship Allah Subhana Wa Taala, without any idol. Hope that answers the question.”
And here is my response to his claim.
Well, the thing is Zakir Naik has not understood the concept of form worship well in he context of Hinduism, or Sanathana Dharma.And has tried to debase it with a wrong understanding and misleading examples.
In Hinduism, the form is a symbolism of abstract aspect that is encompassed,or defines God.God, objectively is Formless,that’s true; but the same formless aspects of God are symbolised by forms.
Its like “quantities are abstract, but we represent them by numbers”. Or,”Gravitational force acts everywhere in the universe, but we represent them by a formulae: F=Gm1m2/r^2.(Where F is the Gravitational Force, G is the universal gravitational constan, m1 and m2 are the masses of the two objects which pull each other, and r is the distance between them.)
In the same way,the forms symbolise an aspect of God.
The examples of “thunderbolt explanation” and of “2+2=3 or 4” are misleading examples here, when you consider the fact that the deities in Hinduism are symbolic representations of an abstract aspect of Nirguna Brahman(Formless Brahman).
Let me explain, by taking the thunderbolt example he gave ans show how its a misleading example in this context.
the example he gave for explanation for thundering/lighting is incompatible with this case, because here is a case of symbolism in Hinduism and representing an abstract quality/aspect, rather than a substitute for formless God. it is not substituting the formlessness of God and then claiming that God is formless, but it agrees/endorses that God is formless, and then proceeds to tell that abstract aspects are represented by forms. in the case of mythical example vs scientific explanation, the mythical explanation is not a “symbolic” representation of scientific principle. both are different, however in the former case,the symbolic representation implies a formless aspect of God. Also, in the case of mythical example vs scientific explanation, the mythical example does not imply the scientific principle in any way. if he mythical example is the physical explanation, then scientific principle is wrong, and vice versa. but this is not the case with symbolism in Hinduism, the symbols relate to, as metaphorical depiction of the abstract,formless aspects of God.When the mythical explanation for thunder is taken as a physical/literal reality by the student, Hindus do not take the forms as physical/literal forms of God,rather as metaphorical or symbolic depictions. Zakir Naik has done a mislead explanation for debasing the idea behind form worship.
That is to say, the mythical explanation for thunderbolt gives an impression that is different from the scientific explanation,when both are taken literally-their ultimate meanings are different.and thus, the former would have been , as Zakir naik states,”lying”.
But not the same with the case of symbolism- because, symbolism represents the same principles/aspects of the Formless Brahman/God.The symbolised projection of abstract aspects of God is called as “Saguna Brahman” and the objective,formless,face value of God is called “Nirguna Brahman”.
Thus, for both cases(symbolism and objective analysis of Formless Brahman; Saguna and Nirguna Brahman)-the end results are the same-both imply the same meaning, the only thing is their approaches are different. In the former case, the aspects that are abstract are symbolised,while in the latter they are seen as they are-as abstract aspects.
The same goes with the 2+2 example he gave- both the cases; 2+2=3 and 2=2=4 imply two different meanings, but, in case of symbolism of Brahman(called as Saguna Brahman) and Nirguna Brahman, both their inner meanings are the same.they are told of, or explained in two different ways.
A person who understands what symbolism is, that it is a representation of a quantity would not get confused between Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman and feel that the former is a “lie”- because he understands that Saguna Brahman is not taken literally as a physical entity, but a poetic representation. He would take Saguna Brahman manifestation and Nirguna Brahman manifestation in its own ways,the former as a representation and the latter as face value of the aspect.Thus even if a person meditates upon Saguna Brahman, he is still meditating on the right track if he understands that Saguna Brahman in not literal/physical, rather a representation of an abstract quality/aspect.
And this is NOT the case with the child who gets confused between the mythical and scientific explanation of thunder, as Zakir Naik told above.
Thus, keeping these salient points in mind,which Zakir Naik has overlooked, or being ignored in general, one can see that there is no problem in meditating on forms.There is no “misleading” or “lying upon” of students/kids as he claims to be there!!!
The thing is both cases have to be understood in its own terms and taken in its own ways-misunderstandings creep in when symbolism is taken at face values, or,vice versa.
Thats where Zakir Naik seems to have made the mistake.
Zakir Naik also gives references from Vedas which he thinks debases, or opposes what he calls as “idol worship”(even though,we hindus know for sure its not “idol worship”, its form worship).
The problem here is that he has taken many of these verses without a prior understanding of basic concepts of Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma, and taking these verses, most of them ripped apart from their contexts, injects Islamic monotheism into it, and thus driving them away from their very actual meanings/implications.
Here is my analysis, although its somewhat weak and needs to be further strengthened,but I hope a surface touch of Hinduism’s arguments for worship of forms/manifestations.
(In this article, there are few spelling errors here and there, kindly bear with me!)