Christ religion

If we respect each other’s religion, many of our problems will go away: Zafar Sareshwala

Hindus and Muslims have lived together in India for over 1,000 years. Islam reached India shortly after its birth in Arabia. I visited India’s first mosque, the Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kerala, which was built in the 7th century.

Growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I never felt different just because I was a Muslim. Most of my classmates were Hindus, Christians or Parsis. We used to visit each other’s houses and celebrate each other’s holidays. Today, such social interaction has diminished, even though our Class of 1981 has a WhatsApp group.

I have been a practicing Muslim since the age of 15 and have not missed a single namaz in the past 43 years. Even when I’m on a plane, a train or a car, I do namaz. I have visited 40 countries and all Indian states and union territories without skipping namaz.

I also regularly visit churches and temples. Whenever I go to Varanasi, I visit the Sankat Mochan temple. Sometimes the Mahant himself takes me to the temple. Once when my wife and daughter were with me, we hired a boat just to watch the aarti on the Ganges.

Urdu translations of the Ramayan and Mahabharat are available in the madrassas with which I am associated.

There are many non-Muslims in my team who lead entrepreneurship workshops for the less fortunate. I went with them to Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, Meenakshi temple in Madurai, Rameswaram temple and Bhavani temple in Kashmir which gave me a fascinating experience. Another spiritual journey was to the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

I lived in England for seven years. One of my neighbors was a priest who regularly took me to church. In Palestine and Israel, I went to all the important churches as well as the mosques. This is how, I felt, I could discover different cultures.

Urdu translations of the Ramayan and Mahabharat are available in the madrassas with which I am associated. The famous poet Anwar Jalalpuri and his wife translated them into Urdu. A long time ago, I went to Jaipur to take a look at a Persian translation of the Ramayan. Christian scriptures are also present in our madrassas.

I tell madrassa students to learn about Hinduism and Christianity, just as I tell my Hindu friends to read the Quran and study the life of the Prophet. If we respect each other’s religion, I believe that many of our problems will disappear.

As said to Anirudha Karindalam

Sareshwala was Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University.