A prominent Hindu personality of India, Achariya Mahant Dr. Saroopji Maharaj (Ph.D, D.D), embraced Islam in 1986 in the Indian city ofBhopal. His Islamic name is Dr. Islamul Haq. He entered the fold of Islam along with his wife and daughter. He is a highly educated and qualified person, well off and contented with his material resources.
He certainly accepted Islam of his own free will after making a thorough search into various religions of the world. His critical investigations did reveal to him the truth of Islam. He cites to the world his own example to dispel the allegation that Islam spread by dint of sword.
Following are some of the details of an interview given by him, which narrates the momentous story of the great spiritual revolution in his life:
Question (Q): How do you feel after declaring your entry into Islam?
Answer (A): It is infinite favour of Allah upon me that He has blessed me with His invaluable wealth of true faith that is Islam. I feel I am one of the most successful and fortunate persons of the world. While groping in the darkness of disbelief, I was regarded as 'Bhagwan' (God), where as in this new world of light I have attained my rightful status of ‘man’.
Q: Will you tell us something about your previous name and occupation?
A: My name was Mahant Dr. Shri Shakti Saroopji Maharaj Adasin Dharmachariya Odai Shakti. My hereditary profession was Hindu priesthood. As such, I served several Hindu religious institutions, the most important of them being the Ban Khand Ashram in Brindaban inMathura. The next one was in Bombay. The third one was an underground Ashram in Wawanas, spread over fifty acres of land and still under construction. It is an Institute of International repute. My duty was to preach religion and to enlist and train disciples.
Q: You have the reputation of being an erudite scholar. Will you please throw light on this aspect?
A: I received my elementary education in the Ashram (Hindu religious institute). I obtained my Master's degree in Orientalism from the Allahabad University (India), the degree of Achariya (in Sanskrit) from Gurukul Kangri, and the diploma of D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) from Oxford University. The last entailed comparative study of most important religions of the world. This was, in addition to Ph. D. in Orientalism. Thus I have to my credit double Doctorate in Divinity and in Orientalism.
Once I visited the Vatican City at the invitation of Pope Saint Paul VI. Great pressure was exerted on me there to accept Christianity. I was asked to speak on seven different topics. I acquitted myself of this difficult assignment so well in that seat of Christianity that the Pope, in recognition of my performance, conferred on me the honorary title of O.F.M.C.A.P. and also the citizenship of the Vatican City. However, Christianity did not appeal to me at all. I came back to India where I was elevated to the office of Mahant.
Q: When and where were you born? What is your lineage?
A: I was born on February 3, 1936, in the town of Brindaban, Dist. Mathura, U.P., India. I belong to the Vedi Wanash of Baba Nanak.
Q: What languages can you read and write?
A: I know some twelve languages, namely, English, Sanskrit, Greek, Dibro, Hindi, Prakirit, Pali, Gurmukhi, Marhathi, Gujrati, Urdu, and Arabic.
Q: You have been very close to the Hindu trend of thought. Do you think that they are scared of the Muslims?
A: The Hindu society of India is not scared of the Muslims. It rather fears Islam for its exalted merits as compared with the deficient and weak religious tenets of Hinduism. Islam's greatness consists in the fact that it liberates man from the shackles of color, feature, race, clan, language, land, riches, class, rank, and status. It gives him, instead, a lasting and firm entity. It calls men to bow down before one and only God. That is why they dread the might of Islam, which liberates man from every sort of slavery and bondage, except subservience to God. It is free from all man made formalities and rituals.
Q: Do you think that there is a possibility of Islam being wiped out from any country?
A: Islam is eternal and well founded. There is no power on earth, which can demolish or efface it. It might disappear from the lives of such Muslims as are weak in their faith (Eman). It will, however, continue to grow and flourish as long as there is even one Muslim in whose life the spirit of Hijrah (emigration) and victory taken root, and he has in him the enthusiasm of perseverance and gratitude.
Q: Did you ever admit the greatness of Islam even before embracing it?
A: I had studied ten great religions of the world in their respective original forms. I was therefore already convinced of the divinity and truth of Islam. Among my contemporaries have been great world-teachers and Hindu Shankar Achariyas, e.g. Rama Gopal, Mahanand Maheswar, Swami Akhanda Nandji, Guru Gowalkar Baba Sahib Deshmukh, Vinoba Bhave, etc. All of them were very kind to me. In early 1981, Acharya Vinoba Bhave invited me to his Ashram, Param Dham, to deliver lectures. Among the great Hindu Mahants present on the occasion, was Dada Dharam Adhikari. All of a sudden he put to me a very intriguing question: 'Swami Ji, you have studied many religions of the world. Which one do you find the best for man'? I replied: Islam. He said: 'But Islam is a very tied up religion'. I replied: The very one that is 'tied-up' also grants freedom, while the one that is considered free ties down man to continual slavery. Man is in need of a religion that has remained 'tied-up', a religion that keeps man under restraints in this worldly life but sets him free in the hereafter. In my opinion, it is Islam alone that qualifies to be the best religion.
Q: It is really a matter of great courage that you should have expressed your appreciation for a religion, other than your own, with so nice arguments. This certainly testifies to the greatness of Islam that you feel in your heart. Now please also enlighten us on the incident that urged you to embrace Islam, at a time when you were very well aware of the predicament and the suffering, which the Muslims are presently undergoing. Today, when every-where people are talking about a Hindu revolution, how could you pluck up courage to take this thorny road?
A: It was years of long thirst and search which eventually materialized into a great event. It was in January 1984, that one night I saw a dream that a great crowd was pursuing me when I ran and then stopped, the crowd also ran and stopped. Suddenly I stumbled over something and fell on the ground. In a moment's time two unknown hands lent me support to stand up. After standing up my eyes were fixed on a brightly shining face but I was not able to recognize it. Someone standing close by prompted me that it was the Mohammad (P). This made me fall into a trance. The Holy Prophet asked me to pronounce the 'Kalimah' (Article of confession of Islamic Faith). Holding my right hand into his own, he himself pronounced the 'Kalimah' and I followed him, until the recital of the Article was completed. Thereafter, the Holy Prophet (P) embraced and commanded me to teach the 'Kalimah' to the people of this country. I do not remember how long this vision lasted, but when I came back into my own, it was 3 a.m. My wife also had an inspiring vision at about the same time on the same night. We shivered out of extreme joy and ecstasy at this happy coincidence and rare favour. The strings of the soul burst suddenly into melodious tunes. We felt as if we were Muslims of the first century, which, we began to feel an irresistible urge to bring back to this earth in its true splendor as early as possible. This pleasant vision set us thinking that some great revolution was going to overtake this earth.
From that very day we began to plan how to pronounce the 'Kalimah' of Islam formally and publicly. This led us to tour many regions and establish contacts with Muslims, while we performed, in privacy, the Salat and other ritual prayers as per Islam. This continued until we visited Bhopal, the city of scholars. On May 10, 1986, with the appearance of the moon of the Holy Month of Ramadan, I, together with my wife and young daughter, entered the fold of God's blessed religion that is Islam. In other words, we returned to our nature. After years of aimless wandering in the wilderness, we were able now to breathe in peace and sleep in calm and quiet.
Q: The Hindus in general allege that Islam spread by the sword and exercise of force. What is your view about this?
A: I am myself a living proof against this allegation. It is, however, a fact that not only the common but even the educated Hindu is still sticking to this false notion.
Q: You have studied several religions besides Islam. Have you come across any reference in them to Allah, the Holy Quran, Mohammad (P), and Islam?
A: With the exception of Buddhism and Jainism, all religious literature contains the name of Allah and Mohammad or Ahmad (P). These names are very clear in the Vedas. The word 'Ala' occurs in chapter 1 of the Rig Veda, which is the first of the four. Later on, this word takes the name of Allah. Similarly, 'Moha-mmad' and Ah-mad' occur for Mohammad and Ahmad (P) respectively. The word 'Kurdha-noo' has been used in the Rig Veda for the Holy Quran.
Q: You have entered the fold of Islam after giving up huge wealth and renouncing a life of comfort and luxury. What is your source of livelihood now?
A: If I had at my disposal the empire of all the world, I would have given it up for the sake of the great blessing that is Islam. The possession of the riches of 'seven worlds' would not have given me the joy and contentment, which I have derived from Islam. I am a medical practitioner of the Ayurvedic system. I am grateful to Allah that I am able to make both ends meet with honour and ease.
Q: As a soldier of Islam, what message would you like to convey to the Muslims of the world?
A: In reply to this question I may mention a Christian parable. One morning, after completing his night prayers, Jesus (P) Christ (P) was walking on the surface of water to reach the other side of the river where some of his disciples were waiting for him. The disciples were astonished to see this extraordinary scene and asked Jesus (P) Christ (P) in great amazement if they too could walk like him on the surface of water. Jesus (P) Christ (P) replied: 'yes, surely, provided that you keep your eyes up towards me. If you divert your eyes in the least, you are bound to get drowned'. The disciples stepped on the surface of water with their eyes fixed towards Jesus (P) Christ. After thus walking some distance they began to doubt whether they were actually walking on water. No sooner did they turn their eyes downward than they fell in the water.
He continued: It is my solemn request to the Muslim world that they should constantly keep in view and fulfill the conditions laid down by the Holy Prophet (P) for walking across the river of this world so as to reach safely its other side. If we make the slightest deviation, they are bound to drown themselves in the river, never to be rescued. There is still time for the Muslims to correct themselves and to concentrate their vision on the right point. If they act so, they shall, God willing, be crowned with success in all that they do.
Q: What should, in your opinion, be the qualities of a Muslim? How would you define a Muslim?
A: Who can't define a Muslim better than the Prophet of Allah, Mohammad (P) himself? He said: A Muslim is like the honeybee that visits only beautiful, fragrant flowers and shuns dirty things. It sucks nectar to make honey - not poison, and that too not necessarily for itself but for others. Men, birds and animals, all alike, profit from it. In this purpose the bee exerts itself to the utmost, without harming anyone. In another Hadith the Holy Prophet (P) said: A Muslim is one, from whose tongue and hands, another Muslim remains safe.
Q: Lastly, what steps do you propose to take to revive the first century of Islam?
A: Praise be to Allah. This is indeed a good question. The longing to see the return of the first century of Islam on this earth is present in the hearts of many enthusiasts who are live and young. This century of Islam has at no time been far away. As a matter of fact, this century has been lying concealed in the hearts of the Muslims themselves for many centuries, like a live seed. All that is needed is to weed out the wild shrubs of desire and greed. In order to revive the first century of Islam, the soldiers of Islam will have to make a new pledge, take an oath of allegiance, and work on the field of action with their pure Faith, lofty ambitions and Bilal's enthusiastic perseverance. They will have to mould their lives on the pattern prescribed by Allah and His Prophet, with new dedication and submission. When a Muslim leads his life with such consciousness, in him will spring up the qualities of a true believer: this in turn will transform the entire atmosphere into virtue and goodness.
With this in view I am planning to launch a 'MOMIN MAKING' movement. This will entail peeping into the depths of the believer's way of life, to diagnose the worldly and spiritual maladies of theirs and to cure them, and to weld the shattered Muslim society into one healthy, integrated body. For the present I have started action on a three-point programme: (1) To defend and protect Islam, (2) To support and uphold the Muslims within the boundary of worldly and religious values, (3) To convey the divine message to the entire world in the respective languages of the people.