Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I Interfaith Dialogue
A certain Jew lived near Shaykh Bayazid Bastami, the great Sufi saint. When this saint passed away, someone asked the Jew why it was that he had not accepted Islam. The Jew answered: “I see two Islams, neither of which can I accept. On the one hand there is the Islam of Shaykh Bayazid Bastami, which it is beyond my capacity to follow. Then there is the Islam of most Muslims, which I would be ashamed to make my own.”
Let us take a look at the religion a non-Muslim onlooker would see in the example set by Bayazid Bastami. He would see a life of renunciation, total retreat from the world and unstinted devotion. Great feats of endurance are its hallmark: nights spent in vigil, days in lengthy recitations; arduous pilgrimages, punctuated by prayer at almost every step; memorized incantations, repeated over and over again, thousands of times.
The religion which a non-Muslim onlooker would see in the rank and file of Muslims, on the other hand, might be one which appears far from the true Islam: talking about faith but acting in one’s own interests; much prostration before God, but little humility before men. What is the good of reciting the Quran, the observer might think when he sees the Muslims’ observance of this common practice, if people do not act on it in their everyday life? Is this true religion, to bear the banner of Islam where it carries credit, but to have nothing to do with Islam when there is no credit to be gained thereby? The impression that a non-Muslim onlooker might receive is one of Muslims misusing their religion as a pretext for pursuing nationalistic ends, as divine sanction for selfish ambitions.
Islam is a simple, natural religion, possessing a tremendous inherent appeal to human nature. Because of the directness of this appeal, the religion of Islam spread, over a large portion of the globe in the first phase of Islam during the time of Prophet Muhammad and his companions. Later, however, contrived, innovatory versions of Islam began to appear, with the result that Islam lost its natural appeal. Islam is a religion which has been preserved in its entirety. For this to be restored, all artificial veils have to be removed from the face of Islam. Islam has to be revealed in its true original form, as it is reserved in the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet. Its spread will then be phenomenal, as in the early days.