Review on Anwar Shaikh's ETERNITY
by Dr. David Frawley, U.S.A.
Anwar Shaikh is an original thinker on a great
search to find Truth. He has a real intuition of the spiritual reality toward
which the universe and all human beings are evolving. He is striving to
understand this imminent Divinity in his own way and express in his own
language. Mr. Shaikh is not willing to accept the standard answers from various
religions and philosophies for what Truth is supposed to be but is developing
his own experiental approach. In his path he questions everything and challenges
accepted dogmas and mythologies of all types, both religious and non-religious.
In his book ETERNITY, he examines the religions of the world, particularly those
of a Biblical origin (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), as well as philosophy,
politics, econamics and mysticism, taking a grand historical sweep of what we
have known as human civilization which as any real thinker knows, contains much
confusion, violence and corruption, even in the field of religion.
His view of what we have called religion is not
particularly flattering, but is honest, logical and generally well informed. It
is not the view of an atheist but that of a mystic who has enough real inner
perception so that he cannot bow down before any organized religion. His words,
though often critical are never destructive in their intent. He is looking for
Truth and not accepting as truth what may be mere human opinion or contrivance,
even if it is part of a religion.
Many of his comments about religion are similar to what
European thinkers from Voltaire to Bertrand Russell have made in the past few
centuries, as since this period the authority of the church was no longer there
to prevent people from challenging the dogmas of Christianity. Other comments of
his reflect a mystic's criticism of religion, which as an outward show is
designed more for purposes of social control than connecting people with higher
reality. His view of the evolution of the soul reminds one of such Indian
systems as Sankhya, Vedanta and Buddhism, though he is clearly thinking for
himself and not trying to conform to any system.
The unfortunate thing for Anwar Shaikh is that he was
born a Muslim and such writing has put his life in danger. Otherwise he would be
an important thinker who has questioned religion and civilization from both a
rational and spiritual perspective, whom genuine seekers should be willing to
read. Shaikh has dared to examine Islam with the same critical scrutiny that he
has examined other religions. In fact his critique of Islam is milder than his
critique of Judaism, and he does not spare Hindu yogis and Tantrics from his
polemics. He even respects Mohammed as a great man and social leader, but not as
the last of the Prophets. But this is not enough as for orthodox Muslims; for
them one born a Muslim should remain a devout Muslim and not criticize Islam or
Mohammed at all.
Yet no member of other religions is going to ask that a
writer like Anwar Shaikh be punished for writing such a book though they might
not agree with some of the things that he says. However, the Islamic world still
largely lives in a medieval era, pre-age of reason, when the church could punish
or execute a person for writing something questioning its dogmas and authority.
A fatwa can be made in any Islamic country calling for punishment or even death
of any Muslim who commits blasphemy; that is, who finds Islam or Mohammed to be
not entirely holy.
Such a fatwa, though so far with less publicity, has
been levelled against Anwar Shaikh like those against Salman Rushdie or Taslima
Nasreen. Yet while Rushdie has spoken more as an artist and Taslima more as a
social reformer, Anwar Shaikh has taken a deeper approach and is speaking as a
truly religious person, one that is concerned about the ultimate Truth. And the
conclusion he comes to is very simple. Man is God and God is Man. Man is
evolving toward God and need not subordinate himself to any external divinity.
Is this such a terrible thing for any one to say? Have not most mystics said
There is a tendency for other countries to tolerate or
ignore this intolerance in Islam, which has left true thinkers from Islamic
countries, like Anwar Shaikh, with little support from the world outside to
protect them. Fortunately for the world Mr. Shaikh lives in Great Britain, which
is not an Islamic majority country that can carry out such an edict, though the
Islamic minority in that country has asked for it to be enforced.
In previous ages religion held an iron grip on the
minds of people and prevented free thinking. Today religion has to confront
serious questioning. It can no longer say that it is written in the Bible or the
Koran, or the priest or the mullah said so and therefore it is beyond question.
I think the religion that can honestly dialogue with such as Anwar Shaikh, face
his questions and work with his insight, has genuine value for all people. But a
religion that must silence such a genuine seeker only in the long run risks
destroying itself. In any case, we must admire not only the intelligence but the
courage of Anwar Shaikh who is willing to speak out on these matters.