ABU RAYHAN AL-BIRUNI’S STUDY OF OTHER RELIGIONS: A CASE ON HINDUISM
Studying other religions is a legacy left by medieval Muslim scholars. As a Muslim scholar, al-Biruni’s Kitab al-Hind was a unique contribution to the study of Hinduism. This study explores al-Biruni’s approaches to studying Hinduism, culture, and civilisation by reviewing related manuscripts and literature. Al-Biruni studied the Hindu scripture in its original language. He investigated Hindu theology and philosophy, their caste system in the society, law and ethics, rituals, and festivals. In Kitab al-Hind, an entire chapter was dedicated to Hindu scriptures which included Veda and Puranas. Concerning religious beliefs and divinity, there were various perceptions between the educated and uneducated people. Murti puja was a form of worship to express love and devotion towards God. However, the educated classes considered that idols were no more than intermediaries, and the idol-worshippers were being deluded from the actual worship of God. The Hindu caste system was established upon religious foundations where every caste used to have their mode of living and daily routine. Furthermore, Hindu rules, guidelines, and religious laws were developed by divine sages called Rishis, who provided laws of murder and theft, punishment of adultery, treatment for prisoners, and inheritance law. Al-Biruni took an objective, in-depth, scientific and authentic approach in presenting Hinduism, which made his work accepted by both Muslim and nonMuslim religious scholars. It is hoped that this paper would offer new perspectives to Muslim scholars on studying other religions, which may consequently enhance religious harmony in a multireligious society.
Keywords: Al-Biruni, Hinduism, religion, comparative religion, Muslim scholar.
Cite as: Al Masud, A., & Abdullah, M. F. (2021). Abu Rayhan Al-Biruni’s study of other religions: A case on Hinduism. Journal of Nusantara Studies, 6(2), 116-132. http://dx.doi.org/10.24200/jonus.vol6iss2pp116-132
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