Spirituality is directly linked with various paradigms such Enlightenment, Ultimate reality, Personal development or purification of thoughts & hearts, Oneness of the universe, inner-Peace and even with knowing the true God.
Siddhartha Gautma (500 BCE) transformed as Buddha in India/Chinese origin, is considered and world widely accepted as spiritual or philosophical inspiration across all civilisations such as Eastern religions or philosophies and Western world. Historically, advent of Buddha period was started after Hinduism and before Islam-Judaism-Christianity and others. I will specifically address here acceptance of Buddha as prophet in Islamic context where there are strong evidences reflect that Buddha could be one of thousands of prophets from God who were sent down on earth for the guidance of the people.
Buddha and his philosphy’s does influence greatly, upon many intellectual and domains from classic to modern and then post-modern eras. Buddha’s commandments, sayings and wisdom often are quoted in both eastern and western intellectual world. Of course, it does inspired to modern educated Muslims too. It is also important that there are so many common grounds between Islam and Buddhism. Therefore, Buddhist have always been living peacefully ( with minimise conflict or history of any kind of violence ( under Muslim political regimes in different part of the world in India, Central Asia & Indonesia).
Once, as a Muslim, I thought that wisdom of Buddha is very relevant and applicable in the contemporary complex world to address the mostly psychologically and philosophical issues in mostly domains of modern life. Many authors, gurus, spiritual masters and business leaders do get influenced by Buddha and his wisdom in many ways.
As Muslim, there could be many following criterion to accept and admire Buddha for his worthful and spiritual teachings :
- If we would find any clear or indirect clues in the Holy book of Quran and in Muslim recorded authentic traditions, about such a person that could be Buddha as our previous prophet or Nabi or holy person such as ‘Luqman’, ‘Keizer’ before advent of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in 570 AD ?
- Being a Muslim, how much extend we can take guidance from life and teachings of previous Prophets such as Jesus (PBUH), Moses (PBUH), David (PBUH), Ibrahim (PBUH) etc.? If yes than why not from Buddha if he would also be proven as prophet?
- There could be possibility that Buddha was lost or forgotten prophet of the Muslims and if it is, then why and what make us to deprive to get benefits of his teachings side by side of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and other prophet’s teachings or wisdom.
Great revolution Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions including later-caliphs brought from Arab along with Mediterranean region, was most profound in terms of civilisational development, social justice, Tauwheed & Theological , political expansion and of-course purification of hearts and mind through super humanistic and secular values such as tolerance, compassion, love, mercy, integrity & serenity.
It is important to know that there were major developments in fundamental domains such as ‘Science’ had not been addressed in pre-Islamic era till 750-800 CE. Later, science and related modern subjects were flourished with great contribution of chain of Muslim scientists and intellectuals such as Jabir Ibne Haydn, Al-Razi, Al-Khawarzmi, Avicenna, Ibn Rushd etc.
Similarly realms of philosophy were filled by earlier Muslim philosophers such as Al-Kindi, Al-Gazzali, Ibn Arabi , Rumi and Mutzalites in addition with Islamic modernists in last few centuries. Through Islamic mystic traditions we know that our prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to meditate and spend lonely in the caves, away from his family house in the city. A large number of common Muslims and Islamic scholars consider Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also as ultimate spiritual master. There are many authentic sayings that reflects importance of purification of hearts, inner-self and recognising true God through self-discovery. In today’s world, these prophetic ways of struggle to achieve pure inner-self has been institutionalised known as Sufism, ‘Tasawwuf’, a mystic or philosophical version of Islam.
In the fields of personal development and spirituality, a very few Muslims philosophers have contributed as compared to size of geographical regions of 1.8 billion Muslim population across the world i.e. almost 1/4 th of the whole world. Those were included Rumi (1207 C.E.), Ibn Arabi ( 1165 C.E.) Al-Ghazali (1058 C.E.), Iqbal (1877 C.E.) and hundreds of local regional Sufi sheikhs in some Muslim countries.
Modern educated Muslims feel that they do not see clear and direct foundations/guidance from original Islamic literature in today’s pro-Islamic civilisation about modern subjects, issues, challenges and realms of personal and professional or business life such as Psychology, Human behaviour, Self-help, entrepreneurship and monies, Personal and leadership development.
Unfortunately, it seems that Muslims have done very little intellectual and practical works in this context, perhaps, due to the huge gaps and discontinuity with previous asset of Muslim scientists and philospher’s generations many hundreds years ago.
- 4 In this context, If we Muslims would own Buddha’s philosophy and take its pearls as part of Islamic faith, perhaps, considering Buddha as prophet like others previous prophetic traditions, then we as Muslim individuals, groups and families can reconnect rich Islamic heritage in modern lines. Especially, we can empower ourself, explore self-improvement and purification of thoughts, discover Self and continue to re-write pure wisdom that fulfil challenges of modern Muslim minds.
- 5 – On the other hand, being a dedicated Muslim, can we learn and explore Buddha’s and his teachings on secular level to cope the modern intellectual challenges?
There could be great benefits for Muslim youth to own Buddhist teaching to keep them inside folds of Islam because there are large concentrated intellectual and spiritual groups in the external world who owns Buddhist teachings as atheistic philosophy. Many people born and brought in western world are inspired by Buddhist philosophy certainly.
- 6 If we try to connect Buddhist teaching as Islamic heritage along with Prophetic and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) traditions than we can turn many scattered intellectual Muslims minds as ‘Theist’. Therefore, they can work positively in contemporary world towards peace and relevant modern developments in Muslim lands and across the world.
I believe that interesting results from above mentioned research questions or intellectual work to perceive and follow Buddhist teachings in Islamic paradigms, may also help the youth and modern educated Muslim community, keep away from fall into atheism.