No more Namaste from me

Those who know me will be shocked by the title of this post. I have always been a person who believes that despite one’s religious beliefs, we should give every religion its due respect. My resolution not to say Namaste from now onwards is in no way a reflection of my disrespect for Hinduism (I have been blessed with more Hindu friends than of any other religion. But then, religion never determined my friendships).

Recently I had a conversation that changed my opinion. I always greeted my friends (especially their parents) with a Namaste, Sat Sri Akal or Salaam Alaikum respectively, whenever I wasn’t using the more common Hi or Hello. I was proud of the fact that some of my Non-Muslim friends greeted me with Salaam as well.

But during a recent conversation, it was pointed out that Muslims should never say Namaste. I was outraged by the narrow mindedness of the speaker, whom I respected dearly. I argued that it was a give and take situation, where we gave respect to each other’s religions and in turn got the same for ours. I didn’t mind addressing someone with their religious greeting if it pleased them. What was wrong in using some specific words of greeting that didn’t belong to my religion?

Well, it turned out that I was wrong.

I was asked to think of the meaning of Aslam Alaikum. I replied that it meant ‘May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be with you.’ This was a good neutral way of greeting and blessing the other person, right? So, what was wrong if I used this with my Non-Muslim friends or they used it with me. Nothing really.

Then I was asked whether I knew the meaning of Namaste. Well, to be honest, I didn’t. It was then brought to my knowledge that Namaste in Sanskrit could be broken down to ‘namah’ means bow, ‘as’ means I, and ‘te’ means you, translating into “I bow to you.” Since Hindus believe that God or the divine spirit resides in everybody, one is expected to greet others by bowing to the Godly qualities present in them.

Now this was something that bothered me.

I never hesitate to accompany my friends to Temples. Gurudwaras or Churches. Although my eyes show respect to the religious deities in front of me, I never bow my head in front of anyone except Allah. This is one of the five pillars of Islam, to never associate anyone with the Almighty. We are not allowed to do sajdah (Bow Down) in front of anyone other than God. And I believe in this firmly.

With slight hesitation, I countered that I didn’t mean to bow down in front of anyone when I say Namaste. I was just using the word as a friendly greeting.

The look I got for this remark is unforgettable.

You can’t go on saying stuff without meaning it. Why would you bow down your head in front of a human being?

To this, my answer was that God resides everywhere, including within us.

But does that mean, He resides within the wrong-doers as well? The terrorists, rapists, murderers and all other criminals? Can you bow down in front of them when you offer your namaste to them?

I had no answer to this. I don’t think I can bow down in front of anyone, let alone the wrong doers. No one except the Almighty God.

So, I can either continue uttering the word without meaning it or alternatively give up using it. I chose the latter. So, from now onwards, unless convinced otherwise, I won’t be using Namaste to greet anyone. For a neutral greeting, Good morning is the best that I can come up with. 🙂

 

Image copyright with the Artist- LuullaSM 2015, Inc

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4 thoughts on “No more Namaste from me

  1. I think the notion is wrong. The main idea is to respect others feelings.
    Allah has advised us time and again in the holy Quran that we should present the best of our self to others. Its their right on us. As far as going by the literal sense is concerned does it mean when you play Holi or wish your friends happy Diwali or merry Christmas that you actually believe in their Gods or the mythology behind these festivals etc. Or for that matter if you support them in practicing their religion openly do you believe in their God, No right.

    Let me put it this way, unless other wise stated explicitly backed by the context as well in either Quran or Hadith you should not believe in the hardliners. There is also a few hadith whose interpretation restricts you to take pictures of yourself (and post them for that matter). It has a more direct reference in
    the scriptures. So if you choose some which you like and others by literal sense you are being a hypocrite. And hypocrisy is a grave sin which deserved deepest parts of hell as described in the hadith.

    1. First of all, thank you for reading my post and voicing your opinion. I really enjoy the thought provoking comments this post is generating. In reply to your comment I would just like to say a few things. I do respect others feelings to the best of my ability. And yes, I celebrate all festivals. The intention is to unite people together, to be a part of their celebration and happy times. But I don’t recite mantras or sholoks or hymns. Because I believe in my God, and in Him only; even though I give due respect to everyone’s beliefs.
      Here its a question of what I won’t be saying anymore, and I am in no way asking others to do the same. Namaste still comes out of my mouth when I see an old uncle with a tilak walking past me. It will take getting used to, to avoid saying what I don’t mean.
      And yes, I don’t follow so many things in my scripture. I am still in the process of understanding my Religion and my life. Maybe I am a hypocrite, but my intention is to follow the right path as and when it reveals itself to me. And that is a step by step process. For now, this is one step further towards my awakening 🙂

  2. HI Hanadi,

    I will be factual with this one.
    (Because feelings on such topics could become dangerous, as they have the power to hurt people deeply)!

    Nature is full of diversity. It includes the Galaxies, the Solar System and of course our very own Earth. On Earth, we find immense diversity in Plant and Animal kingdoms. And the Animal Kingdom is where we essentially belong ….!

    So you see, Humans have evolved and rather slowly. But we are the best that this Nature (name it God) has come up with, atleast so far. Also, we have been in a continuous evolution phase for long and still are. The evolution of Humans affects not just the physical but also the mental capabilities, which essentially is the imagination and creativity. To my mind, a few such amazing creations of Humans are – Language, Religion, Culture and even Countries. But each one of them has a purpose to solve, a need to satisfy.

    Now Let’s talk about the subject of your interest here.

    ‘Namaste’ is a word in a specific language, may be with a meaning, but more importantly with a purpose. And the purpose is similar to any other word in a different language like Salaam or Sasriyakaal or Asalaamwalaikum. However, we can derive any logic or meaning as we like but its the purpose and our need to greet people and probably strike a cord with them instantly that propels us to use such greetings.

    Meanings are derived. You need to interpret them. Hence, meanings change with people because people differ in their interpretations. I guess, meanings depend on the Intent of the person. And if the intent is to greet people and not draw under focus on the meaning, you don’t always need to convince yourself. Because otherwise, you will need to know the meaning of a lot of things……and remember even names of People in certain languages have Meanings !!!

    There’s only one last thing to do now…………

    Thank you for your patience to go through this fairly long comment from me. You don’t need to approve of this. These are just my thoughts Post, if you like.

    1. I agree with you that the intention is more valuable than the meaning when we use a word. But the meaning also has its own importance. I never judge others from using what they like. This post was for my awakening, my realisation that what I was saying was in contrast to what I believe in. While I respect other religions, I believe that I cannot bow down in front of anyone else other than God Almighty. For me, His name is Allah. Everyone has a right to follow whoever they want as long as they have complete faith in what they are believing in and are following the right path of humanity. And yes, as and when I come to know the meaning of the words I use unintentionally, I will try to stop using them if I don’t believe in them. Won’t that be more honest of me? To say only what I believe in?

      Anyway, thank you for sharing your opinion with me Aditya. You are right, it’s a never ending process of evolution. I sincerely hope we all evolve into better human beings rather than better Muslims/Hindus/Sikhs/Christans 🙂

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