Just a thought – I see many liberal Muslims these days attempting to compare Namaz with Yoga, or Namaz as a form of exercise. I think the premise in itself is flawed and I will tell the reasons. In all established religions there is a tendency to associate it’s beliefs and rituals to science in order for it to acquire legitimacy. This is exemplified by the inane speeches of tele-evangalists like Zakir Naik and others from Hinduism, Christianity et.al. this pseudo-scientific premise for religion has become all the more important in the contemporary to keep organised religions relevant.
No one can deny that Yoga does have a Hindu heritage, but over the last 100 years it has sort of transcended religion with evolving forms like Power Yoga, Acquatic Yoga etc. However, the ruling govt in India is hell bent on reducing Yoga to a Hindu tradition whereby it’s commodity form is being sold via crony capitalists like Ramdev. Yoga is indeed a great exercise, but the only similarity one can associate with Yoga and Namaz is perhaps meditation. I know many elderly Muslims who can offer Namaz only while sitting because they have arthritis etc. So where is the exercise in this?
So even if I deduce that these are meditative forms – where are the benefits? I won’t go into the ISIS category because that is a given, but what about other Muslims? Have they been able to transcend Homophobia? Have they been able to transcend patriarchy? And what about Hindus? Have they been able to transcend casteism by chanting Om? Why is it that only the Shashtris and Tripathis moonlight as yoga gurus? Why is it that despite practising yoga, there are murderous lot baying for blood of the other?
These scientific mumbo jumbo help no one and instead perpetuate hegemonic pedantic ideas about one’s own belief systems that actually stem any true change to occur within that religion. High time that instead of looking at such faux legitimacy the believers look into their religious beliefs and question the various bigotry within them. It’s not enough for Muslims to condemn the ISIS but to question why radicalisation happens in the first place. And it’s sad to see that not many Hindus in this 80% population actually comes forward and condemns the Hindutva extremists or the RSS.
The coin is the same.
I want to add that I practice yoga daily and I am extremely uncomfortable with how the classes begin with a Sanskrit shloka. No, it is not necessary to recite any sholka to do yoga, however, I do chant Om and I have no issues with that.
Shaheen is a a PhD student in JNU and a writer and arts-practitioner.