By Sajad Ahmad Mir
The scheme of the Buddhist world-view proved to be quiet contrary to human nature and Dr. Nishikant started to grow indifferent towards the “despondent approach” of Buddhism. He depicts his experiences thus: “The inherent pessimism of Buddhism did not appeal to me at all and I soon grew tired of it. Every limb of my body and every faculty of my soul was quivering….”
While passing through different currents of thought he had to go to Paris and then to St. Petersburg, and along the way he learnt the French language. French opened up entirely new gateways of knowledge and perspectives to him and made him acquainted with a galaxy of thinkers and philosophers. He ventured to study the works of Moliere, Racine, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Renan and Taine. He applauds Voltaire to be the greatest literary genius that the world has ever produced, but his forty volumes of ‘Oeuvres Completes’ which encompasses almost all subjects of human thought and feeling failed to offer the sort of solace his heart, soul and mind was seeking. Renan, a hopeless atheist, had a significant influence on him but could not offer a panacea to a weary soul tossed for years on the tempestuous sea of modern scepticism. However, Renan aroused in him an interest in Semitic religion and Semitic languages once again.
The works of Max-Muller helped him on how to study religion and language from a scientific standard point. Dr. Nishikant threw himself voraciously with his old interest into the comparative study of all the major religions. Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Brahmanism on one hand, and Buddhism, Christianity and Islam on the other. Having returned to India he encountered theosophy as one of the leading movements of the day. Theosophy stimulated his old enthusiasm and strengthened his long cherished interest in the comparative study of religion. He embarked with earnestness on the study of Islam and Zoroastrianism which he had somewhat neglected before. However, the call of the founder of the old Parsee religion, Zoroaster, “I have brought light” did not resonate with him.
As for Islamic studies, he was fortunate to find a particular environment in Hyderabad where ample resources were put at his disposal in the library of Molvi Chirag Ali. His study was further reinforced by Syed Ali Bilgrami who brought him into contact with a religion, as Dr. Nishikant narrates, “So simple and intelligible, so reasonable and practical’. Having analysed and evaluated the teachings of Islam, Dr. Nishikant, after the long walk from Hesperian connotations to oriental philosophical annotations, expressly proclaims: “I have embraced Islam in all sincerity and earnestness”.
His intellectual restlessness was pacified by the mild currents of Islam and his noble heart was replete with the comfort of eternal truth. The complex riddle of life was ‘resolved’ by the pragmatic and tenable answers which took him out from pointlessness of life and on the clear path of truth. He throws light on some of the reason which moved him to do so. The first reason which attracted him to Islam is its solid, historical groundwork about which a prolific orientalist R.A Nicholson finds no way but to admit that “We have material of unique authority for tracing the origin and early development of Islam, such materials as do not exist in the case of Buddhism or Christianity or any other religion”. Dr. Nishikant, having been influenced by its historicity says, “After wandering helplessly for several years in the marshy bogs of divergent creeds and conflicting systems of philosophy, with only the will-o-the wisp of speculative reason to serve me as a guide, my weary soul has at last found refuge and consolation in religion based on a revelation that has remained unaltered ever since its first compilation under the first caliph, and in a creed that acknowledges as its Prophet of God, one whose historical personality is not only unquestionable but about whose youth, appearance, daily habits and even personal characteristics we know almost as much as we do about those of Oliver Cromwell or of Napoleon Bonaparte.”
Several scholars have doubted the existence of some of the historio-religious personalities of the world. Prof Wells does not hesitate to say, “Jesus was a mythical figure” and the same opinion was held by a prominent western thinker Bertrand Russell. Dr. Nishikant further elaborates, “In the Prophet, may peace be upon him, there is nothing vague and shadowy, mythical or mysterious, as for instance, in Zoroaster and Shri Krishna or even in Buddha and Christ. The very existence of those prophets has been seriously doubted and even totally denied. But nobody, as far as I am aware, has ever ventured to reduce the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, either into a “solar myth” or into a “fairy tale” as some eminent servants of Europe have done with Buddha and Christ. Oh, what a relief to find, after all, a truly historical Prophet to believe in!”
—(To be concluded next week)