6.) Hinduism as a Non-Proselytizing Religion: History or Nature?

In his book entitled Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment, Aziz Ahmad seems to suggest that Hinduism is non-proselytizing by its very nature. He writes:

The non-proselytizing and non-egalitarian resilience of Hinduism, could, on the other hand, ‘suck in’ and assimilate other faiths absorbing them into its own ever-growing, ever-changing spiritual complex, and fitting the former adherents of other faiths into its caste structure. ‘Hinduism’, observes Basham, ‘can absorb new ideas, and can even if need be find room for new gods; moreover, every passage in the Hindu sacred texts is open to figurative interpretation, so that it is possible for different schools of Hinduism to hold diametrically opposed doctrines without serious antagonism. Islam on the other hand cannot adapt or compromise.’ Hinduism succeeded in India in re-assimilating the seceding Buddhist religion, and quickly absorbed into its own ranks the Greeks, the Sākās, the Kushanas and the Huns who invaded the sub-continent from time to time. Islam alone, rigidly monotheistic, iconoclastic and religio-culturally insular, resisted Hinduism’s assimilative pull.[1]

However we are also told that:

The attitude of the Muslim state to the apostasy of Muslims was severe. Sultān Zayn al-Abidīn of Kashmir and Akbar are perhaps the only two Muslim monarchs who accepted the equal religious right of the Hindus to proselytize or reconvert. Generally, apostasy fell not so much on the person reconverted but on the Hindu proselytizer. A Brahmin who was accused of tempting Muslim women to the erotic Śakti cult was burnt to death by the order of Fīrūz Tughluq. Unlike his father, Jahāngīr considered apostasy a very serious offence, and he records the case of Arjun, a Punjabī Sikh preacher, who attracted to himself several Muslims including the rebel Prince Khusrau, and was sentenced to death. This case seems however, to have a strong political odour.[2]

Should not the non-proselytizing nature of Hinduism be attributed to this historical circumstance that it was hardly in a position to proselytize, rather than to its nature?


[1] Aziz Ahmad, Studies in the Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964) p. 75.

[2] Ibid., p. 86.

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One Response to “6.) Hinduism as a Non-Proselytizing Religion: History or Nature?”

  1. Shehjar Says:

    I think it can be attributed to both but during different phases. Consider that its possible that before the advent of Islam, it was by nature non-proselytizing and during Islamic rule, when it faced a need to adapt and proselytize, there was no scope to engage in it on a large scale due to harsh rules and punishments.

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