Man's interest in God is as old as his own existence. He has struggled ever since his creation to find his Creator. He tried to see the Celestial Being in different forms; sometimes as the sun, the moon or the constellation of stars. And sometimes as a moghty river or a lofty mountain or the earth itself. However the Supreme Being continued to elude man. From the Neolithic Age, ten thousand years ago, to the present times, the search has been ceaseless; more and more anthropological finds were discovered from time to time as the pursuit intensified. Indeed it has been a fascinating journey of discovery beginning with the primitive man. As he evolved into a civilized creature and wandered through the ages, from the ancient world of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, India, China, Greece, Rome and Iran, gathering their distinctive responses, his awareness of his Creator acquired a more concrete shape. In Palestine and the deserts of Arabia he forged ahead with the monotheistic creed in a manner that took the world by strom.
Then doubts arose about His very existence in some quarters, more particularly in the latter half of the last millennium. Atheists gathered force and some even argued whether there was such a thing as God; They declared that even if He existed, He was dead. However, this was only a transient reaction; as time passed, His need was felt more than ever before.
Dr. Rafiq Zakaira, an eminent scholar of international repute, has delved deep into the subject; after intensive research, he has traced the long and chequered history of man's ensuing struggle to discover the One and Only Supreme Being who has provided humanity with real solace and inner peace. This is a historical, not a religious survey; it analyses the place of God in every major religion cutting across religious precepts and practices and brings out the continual discovery of the only One who has endured.
About the Author
Dr. Rafiq Zakaria has had a distinguished career in field as varied as law, education, journalism, politics and Islamic studies. He is a Chancellor's gold medallist of the Bombay University and a Ph.D. with distinction from London University. He was called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn. From his student days he was active in the freedom struggle, both at home and abroad. After a successful legal career he served as a cabinet minister in Maharashtra for fiteen years. In 1978 he became deputy leader of the ruling Congress Party in Parliament. He has held important assignments including that of Prime Minister's Special Envoy to the Muslim world in 1984. He has thrice represented India at the United Nations, in 1965, 1990 and 1996.
Dr. Zakaria is a scholar of international repute. He has authored more than fifteen books, including A study of Nehru. His rejoinder to Salman Rushdie, entitled Muhammad and the Quran, published by Penguin International, has become a world classic. His other books deal with Indian politics and the history and jurisprudence of Islam. He has also authored two novels - one historical and the other political. Tow of his latest books: Price of Partition and Gandhi and the Break-up of India, received rave reviews. An eminent educationist, he has founded a dozen educational institutions of higher learning in Mumbai and Aurangabad. He has chaired several important Government of India committees and has been a member of the National Jury for the Ambedkar Award and of the National Integration Council. He has been passionately involved in the promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity and has delivered prestigious memorial lectures at various universities.
Why did I venture on this project - the human quest for the one and only God? The subject possessed me; the urge to probe it gripped my mind. I realized it was not an easy task. I had to unearth whatever I could and weave it together to bring out the Divine Unity from the multiplicity of gods and goddesses. It took me over five years to complete the search; it needed much patience and perseverance and a great deal of arduous and in-depth analytical work.
The title Discovery of God may seem rather presumptuous; but the fact is that every age made its own contribution to discover the Supreme Being in one form or another. Indeed philosopher, intellectuals and scientists have forever been debating whether such a One does exist at all. There are scores of treatises, which have gone into every aspect of His Being and non-Being. Why then, this new exercise? The answer is simple. This is not about His existence or non-existence. Nor about His numerous attributes. It is about the human endeavour of find Him in his splendid isolation, as the one and only Creator of all creations. Most of the books that have been written about Him have dwelt upon either His evolution or His varied manifestations, or the historic maze through which man's concept of God has developed. In my search I came across traces of this in anthropology, archaeology and historical chronicles, which showed how the human urge has manifested itself, from time to time, leading to the goal of that One God. This is evident from the struggle that had to be waged by various forces led by prophets, saints and rulers bringing the one and only God closer to human understanding.
Karen Strong's book, A History of God is an enlightening study; but it covers only four thousand years of that quest and concentrates on the three major works on God also trace His story in either a Judaical or a Christian environment. It is the Biblical God who is said to embody the be-all and end-all of that Supreme Being who is the Ultimate Reality. About the Islamic viewpoint, which is far more, sternly devoted to the propagation of stark monotheism, the available material is scanty. The Hindu approach needs to be properly dissected since the Ultimate Reality in its Oneness is not easily discovered nor comprehended from the mass of its scriptural literature.
History shows that monotheism had caught peoples imagination right from the dawn of civilization and the objective continued to move people, at different times in different places, much before the birth of Prophet Abraham who is regarded as the father of the idea of One God. I was, therefore, fascinated by the progressive development of the notion of the one and only Supreme Being from the earliest to the present times. My research took me from the remotest ages in the past to the more awakended, enlightened modern era. The idea which had originated as early as in the Neolithic Age remained too vague and confused for a long time; it took shape gradually and became universally acceptable as the ages passed and the need for it began to be acutely felt by a suffering humanity, seeking inner solace in the hope that it would open up the gates of the empire of the soul for them.
The search for that Ultimate Reality, in its progressive realization, proved baffling; but I persisted, gathering material and unraveling it. Being the first effort of its kind, it is bound to suffer from several handicaps. I hope better minds will fill in the gaps and produce a more comprehensive history of the evolution and progression of monotheism; it will provide the sure key to the furtherance of human brotherhood. If every one of us were to have faith in the one and only God, then the unity of His creatures, drawing sustenance from Him, becomes inescapable. Gandhi believed in the absolute oneness of God as it led him to work for the oneness of humanity.
This naturally stems from the fact that God has created all humans as equal and endowed them with certain inalienable rights that include those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Adherence to them must result in peace and harmony among His creatures. But when faith in His unity is disputed, then conflicts arise and believers fight against believers, killing one another on one selfish pretext or the other. Nevertheless, most human beings, despite their religious differences, continue to reconcile themselves to the fact that God alone invokes in them a sense of virtue and comfort without which they cannot get out of the web of restlessness that engulfs them from within. In Him they find inner equanimity and a sort of fulfillment which material gains fail to provide. This is beautifully illustrated by the Hindu prayer, the favourite hymn of the poet-philosopher of Islam, Allama Iqbal.
In this voyage of discovery, many traveled with me, many assisted me. It is not possible for me to name all of them but I shall be failing in my duty if I do not record my deep sense of gratitude to one of the celebrated scholars of international repute, Prof. Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC. He is the author of universally acclaimed books in the realm of history and politics. He writes with deep sensitivity, grace and ease and an awesome depth of learning and erudition. His Foreword has added greatly to the value of the book; it is a masterpiece of scholastic perception.
My wife Fatma has, as always, been my colleague and my partner in this venture. Her inexhaustible patience and energy and her relentless pursuit for excellence have contributed substantially to this work. Her long experience of editing in The Times of India groups of newspapers for over twenty-five years, her facility with the language, her ability for nine tuning and her penetrating eye in unearthing the vital missing links in a presentation, have always been of immeasurable value to me. As the Governor of Maharashtra Dr. P.C. Alexander has said, she chisels whatever I write, thus bringing out a 'perfect product'. I can never repay the debt I owe her.
Her former colleague in The Times of India, Savita Chandiramani, presently Executive Editor of Marg has, as usual, painstakingly and ungrudgingly read and reread several drafts of the manuscript, correcting and making valuable suggestions. I am indeed beholden to her.
To the publisher, the young and dynamic Harsha Bhatkal, I am grateful for the keen interest he has taken in the book and for producing it in such an attractive form. His talented team comprising Rahee Dahake, editor of Popular Prakashan, Jijesh Gangadharan, assistant production manager and Ganesh Pednekar, layout artist, worked hard and were of great help. Praful Satam of Stan Advertising who has a high reputation in the world of printing, designed the cover and guided the various facets of this production; I am sincerely thankful to him.
Ramakrishan Salvi, Art Director of the well-known magazine Gentleman, illustrated the endpapers, depicting the imaginative theme of the 'House of God'; he has fused historical places of worship of different religions from different times and of different peoples into a striking pattern.
I also wish to thank my assistant M.V. Raghavan as well as the other members of my staff for the tremendous effort they put in as they cheerfully typed drafts and redrafts over the years, willingly working round the clock for months on end. Raghavan took care of every detail without which no work of such enormity could see the light of day.
And finally to sum up, I am inclined to agree with Benjamin Disraeli who said, "the best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it".
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