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