Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Religion

    15-Oct-2020   
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Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, popularly known as Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was born on October 15, 1931, to a Tamil Muslim family in the pilgrimage centre of Rameswaram on Pamban Island, then in the Madras Presidency and now in the State of Tamil Nadu. His father Jainulabdeen was a boat owner and imam of a local mosque; his mother Ashiamma was a housewife. He was served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. Respecting his journey as one of the great scientists of India, this article focuses on his religious journey.
 
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Criticism of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam over Islam
 
Although Dr Kalam belonged to a Muslim family, he had his own views about the religion. In his whole life, he never criticized religious faiths other than Islam. Moreover, he had followed non-Islamic rituals, which is forbidden in Islam. Several Muslim fanatics criticized Dr Kalam for his faith in non-Islamic rituals.
 
Moreover, some Islamic intellectuals raised questions about his Islamic faith. According to them, Dr Kalam was a Muslim only by name. One article criticizing Dr Kalam was written by Dr Rafiq Zakaria, an Indian politician and Islamic cleric who passed away in 2005. Known for his propagation and advocacy of conservative Islam, Zakaria was closely associated with Indian National Congress (INC).
 
In his article, Zakaria had opposed putting Dr Kalam's name along with previous Muslim presidents. Zakaria wrote, "He (Dr Kalam) was born a Muslim and bears a Muslim name, he should not be put in the same category as the two former Muslim Presidents, Dr Zakir Husain and Mr. Fakruddin Ali Ahmed. Both of them were as great a patriot and Indian to the core as Dr Kalam. But they were also Muslims in the real sense of the word; they believed in the tenets of the Quran and faithfully followed the traditions of the Prophet".
 
Zakaria points out how Dr APJ Kalam had refused to attend an event to speak on Prophet Muhammad's birthday and also turned down the invitation to deliver the Seerut lecture that aims to pay homage to Prophet Muhammad. As per the article by Zakaria, Islamic fundamentalists often considered Dr Kalam closer to Hinduism than to Islam itself.
 
Zakaria wrote,
 
"Dr Kalam feels much more at home with the Hindus. His Hindu friends, with whom he has spent a good deal of his life, have testified to the fact that he is far more attracted to Hinduism than Islam; I find nothing wrong with it. But for God's sake, do not describe him as a Muslim President and take credit for having obliged the Muslims for giving them this great honour… Dr Kalam never reads the Quran, but every morning he goes through the Gita and is enchanted by it. He is sincerely devoted to Krishna. He recites the Hindu mantras on every occasion. Namaz does not appeal him, nor has he ever fasted in the month of Ramzan. He is a strict vegetarian and a life-long Brahmachari. His roots are really in Hinduism, and he enjoys all the sacred Hindu scriptures. Hence the credit for his elevation, in communal terms, should go to the Hindus; to give it to the Muslims would be wrong. In fact, Dr Kalam himself would be happy if he is not described as a Muslim President and his name is not linked with Dr Zakir Husain and Mr. Fakruddin Ali Ahmad".
 
Muslim fanatics criticized Dr Kalam even after his death. When a statue of Dr Kalam with a Veena and the Gita, Quran and Bible was unveiled, Muslim groups had protested. They had said that Dr Kalam was not a Muslim as he prayed to idols and respected gurus.
 

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Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on religion
 
Interestingly, Dr Kalam himself was averse to recognizing himself by religion. He had said, "When I was asked by a young girl whether I was a scientist, technologist, or a Muslim, or an Indian, my reply was, 'First and foremost you should be a good human being and then all these elements are inside you'."
 
Dr. Kalam met the Hindu Guru Pramukh Swami of BAPS Swaminarayan Sampradaya eight times. Dr Kalam stated that Pramukh Swami inspired him throughout their numerous interactions. One such incident occurred the day following the terrorist attack on BAPS' Akshardham, Gandhinagar complex in September 2002; Pramukh Swami prayed for, and sprinkled holy water upon, the sites of all of the deceased, including the terrorists, demonstrating the view that all human life is sacred. Dr Kalam cited this incident as one of his motivations for writing Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji.
 

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In his writings, Dr Kalam stated that "[Pramukh Swami] has indeed transformed me. He is the ultimate stage of the spiritual ascent in my life... Pramukh Swamiji has put me in a God-synchronous orbit. No manoeuvres are required any more, as I am placed in my final position in eternity."
 
Dr Kalam noted that a key lesson taught by BAPS is to "remove I and me. The ego will vanish. If ego vanishes hatred will vanish. If hatred vanishes, peace will come."
 
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam: a role model for Indian youth
 
Dr Kalam never followed any faith blindly. Being a scientist, he had studied the things deeply before following any faith. Dr Kalam had studied the Quran, the Bible, Bhagwat Gita; He had never wanted to be Identify with religion. Dr Kalam's writings conclude that he had faith in Indian culture and values, which teaches humanity first and last.
 
If every youth of India weather belonged to any religion if understand the thoughts of Dr Kalam, he/she would never choose any un-Constitutional path which may harm religious harmony. Like Dr Kalam, every Indian youth should think of humanity before caste, creed and religion, to make 'superpower India' which was Dr Kalam’s dream towards the country.