It is common knowledge that Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the leader of our Constitutional committee wrote several critical books/ essays on Hinduism, the most prominent among them being ‘Riddles on Ramayana’. While Dr. Ambedkar did write about Islam, I feel there are still some riddles that require answers. In this series, I try to examine some of them from a Hindu’s perspective. Risala means ‘message’ Arabic and refers to the Holy Quran.
Why did Prophet Abraham break idols?
Is it ok for a so-called Prophet to violate someone else’s faith for no reason other than fanaticism. The story of young Abraham tells us that when Abraham saw the elders of his tribe worshiping idols, he questioned them and while they were away broke all of them except the biggest of them. When questioned, he said that the biggest statue broke all the others calling their stupidity in not accepting that idols don’t speak.
Here Abraham appears like a rational minded myth-buster, an absolutely scientific guy. Wait! This needs to be decoded properly.
1. Did Abraham think that idols cannot speak and hence should not worshiped? No. Holy Quran says that Allah had already invested Abraham with the knowledge of false gods and the need to condemn them. Abraham’s actions were, thus, not out of his own reasoning but were based on Allah’s command. Muslims couldn’t have taken Abraham as their prophet had he acted as per his volition.
2. What has he given in return? It may sound like good reasoning not to worship life less idols having been rooted in dogma. But then what have we got in return? more dogma. Belief in fairy tales, actually angels and a jealous God who henceforth decided to speak only to select individuals guiding them to create strife on earth. The only proof of existence of this one God is the destruction of those who refused to believe in him by his minions on earth and some self-fulfilling prophecies.
Iconoclasm is a recurring theme in Abrahamic religions. The subsequent messengers/prophets like Moses and Muhammed have ordered breaking idols (of false gods). Now in today’s ‘secular’ world what if a divinely inspired non-believer who gets a guidance from his God / Angel destroys a mosque / synagogue calling it worship of a false God?
How a Puranic-Hindu would have responded such a situation?
Well, we did have our own monotheists. For example, Rakshasas were hell bent on worshiping only one God i.e., Shiva to the exclusion of all else. Not just that, they hated Vishnu to the core. Now, when Hiranyakashipa demanded the infant Prahlada to show him Hari (Vishnu), Prahlada replied at Hari was everywhere and hence everything was worthy of worship. Here the wise Prahlada was talking of God’s omnipresence, which his father could never understand until the Lord manifested Himself in a pillar and put an end to his ignorance and misery. Every time there was Adharma, this God descended upon earth to establish Dharma. Unlike the one God, he did not order his minions to fight for Him. Had there been a Prahlada among the Babylonians, the largest idol would have spoken to Abraham.
P.S: While researching about this piece, I figured out that the story of Abraham breaking idols is not a part of old testament, but was a midrash by a Rabbi in 2nd century. Somehow, this story reached Allah who then included it in the holy Quran.