Not long ago, I was out on the street distributing the Bhagavad Gita in the South Central Indian City of Hyderabad. Hyderabad, like most cities in India, is a beautiful confluence of many cultures. Specifically, in Hyderabad, there is a significant mix of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian populations, and the history of the city has a strong Muslim flavour. For the most part, people have lived in harmony for hundreds of years. There have been flash-points and incidents of hatred, but relatively rare.
One day, as I stood on the street, I saw an elderly gentlemen, clearly Muslim from his long white beard with moustache shaved off, a baggy light-coloured Salwar Kameez, and a distinctive skull cap. He walked slowly, with a walker, that he gently placed in front of him, and then moved his legs closer to the walker, shuffling by slowly. I respectfully made way for this gentleman and greeted him with a little bow.
He passed back-and-forth a few times, and seeing his friendly countenance, I asked him if he would read the Bhagavad Gita. He said he most certainly would, if I had a Hindi version available. He then told me that he had been to the ISKCON Radha Madan Mohan temple in Abids, Hyderabad several times for the Sunday feast program, and had participated in Harinam Sankirtan, and taken Prasad many times at the temple. The surprise must have been clear on my face, because he then said “Do you know that I am a Brahmin?”.
He then explained “I am the Maulvi of this mosque around this corner. I have dedicated my life to Allah. I don’t eat meat and I don’t drink alcohol. I teach the scripture. So how am I not a Brahmin?”. He then added “The Gita was spoken by Allah and the Q’uran was spoken by Allah, so why would I read one but not the other?“. I was very much gladdened by his mature understanding. This is exactly our Vaishnava understanding too.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna describes the qualities of a Brahmin…
शमो दमस्तप: शौचं क्षान्तिरार्जवमेव च ।
ज्ञानं विज्ञानमास्तिक्यं ब्रह्मकर्म स्वभावजम् ॥ ४२ ॥
śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ
kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca
jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ
Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness – these are the natural qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/18/42/
So, if we see any living entity from any cultural background or any religious orientation who has these qualities, we must accept them as good as Brahmins. Of course, Krishna also says that Brahmin is not only by quality, but also by the work they do…
चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागशः ।
तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम् ॥ १३ ॥
cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/4/13/
Srila Prabhupada describes the 6 duties of a Brahmin…
Brāhmaṇas are supposed to acquire six kinds of auspicious qualifications: they become very learned scholars (paṭhana) and very qualified teachers (pāṭhana); they become expert in worshiping the Lord or the demigods (yajana), and they teach others how to execute this worship (yājana); they qualify themselves as bona fide persons to receive alms from others (pratigraha), and they distribute the wealth in charity (dāna).https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/5/17/11/
Based on instructions from the Vaishnava Acharyas, the great saintly teachers, we accept that Prophet Muhammad is an empowered messenger sent directly by God, practically, speaking a “shaktyavesha avataar” or a living entity but with the power to act in a way empowered by God. We accept that Jesus Christ is the son of God, a pure devotee fully dovetailed with the desire of God. We accept that there is only one God, known by different names and different degrees of understanding, as an impersonal spirit (Brahman), as a localized supersoul (Paramatma), and as the Personality of Godhead (Bhagavan).
When our constitutional position, or dharma, is deteriorated due to the contaminations of matter, the Lord Himself comes as an incarnation or sends some of His confidential servitors. Lord Jesus Christ called himself the “son of God,” and so is a representative of the Supreme. Similarly, Mohammed identified himself as a servant of the Supreme Lord. Thus whenever there is a discrepancy in our constitutional position, the Supreme Lord either comes Himself or sends His representative to inform us of the real position of the living entity.On the Way to Krishna, Chapter 2
I offered my deepest respects to that great Maulvi, that Muslim priest, who has realized the essence of Allah Consciousness in principle. Surely, he is very very close to Allah. By speaking his sweet realized words, he gave me hope that this world can be rectified from its current sectarian path.
In the same way, all the Muslims should accept the advanced Vaishnavas as good as their own Maulvis and Hazrats.
The Christians should accept the advanced Vaishnavas as good as their own nuns, monks, and priests.
The Jews should accept the advanced Vaishnavas as good as their own Rabbis.
This is the principle. One God. Many scriptures according to time, place, and circumstance.
So, what was our conclusion as we parted ways? We concluded that the genuine mature follower of any genuine faith tradition is very similar, they love God, and they love all of God’s creation. They see God everywhere, and see everyone as God’s children, to be loved and served. But the follower-in-name, a materialist or religion-politician of any faith is equally sectarian or in many cases, inhuman, and unfortunately, also evil.