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Islam rather famously disapproves of polytheism, but I have noticed something of an overlap between Islamic and Hindu ideas, and want to know what classical Islamic scholars have concluded on the matter. Muslims and Hindus have lived together in India for centuries, and Mughal Emperors fluctuated between interfaith dialogue and intolerance. Mughal rulers even elevated Hindus to Dhimmi.

As far as I understand it, Islam emphasises strict monotheism (no God but Allah), in a way Judaism and Christianity don't. The Second Commandment doesn't deny the existence of other Gods, but rather insists that the God of Abraham must come first.

To clarify; for Muslims Allah is indivisible and absolute (tawhid), while for most Christians the trinity exists: God is father in heaven, son in Jesus, and Holy Ghost (comparable to the Holy Spirit in Judaism).

Furthermore, in the Old Testament God phrases things to imply there are other Gods or divine characters of equal status (Genesis 1:26 "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness"). At least, in this podcast world expert in the New Testament and early Christianity Bart Ehrman concludes as much (1h:20m... I'm not in a position to argue against someone who has studied the oldest copies of the Bible in ancient Greek and Hebrew).

Hinduism is a very broad spectrum of belief and practice, which lacks anything considered an immutable source of absolute truth, like a Torah, Bible, or Quran. However, a common foundational Hindu belief is that the nature of reality is illusionary (Maya versus Atman), and there is one absolute and ultimate creator God (Brahman). The other Gods are 'avatars', which is to say illusionary forms.

The most common interpretation is of a 'supreme divinity' in the Trimurti; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Shiva the destroyer. It's also worth clarifying, as per Britanica.com:

"The trimurti collapses the three gods into a single form with three faces [...] Scholars consider the doctrine of the trimurti to be an attempt to reconcile different approaches to the divine with each other and with the philosophical doctrine of ultimate reality (brahman)"

Many Hindus believe in an 'ultimate reality/truth' in the form of Brahman (easily confused with Brahma). This is said to be both the source of all existence and an unchanging absolute. Some Hindus are also practically monotheist, in the sense of worshiping Krishna as the source of all reality.

This made me wonder... given the coexistence of Muslims and Hindus in India, there must be classical scholarship by Islamic theologians on the question of how Islam and Hinduism compare with specific regards to Allah and Brahman.

What seems most curious to me, is that if Brahman is understood as a singular, absolute, and ultimate God/reality, then that is essentially Allah without (or pre?) Mohammad. This comparison must surely have been written about by some scholars, presumably most likely during the Mughal Empire.

To be clear, I am not interested in a simple definition, but an educated and technical one. I would like the cited opinions of experts who are familiar with both Islam and Hinduism.

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Neither the prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) nor any of the prior prophets referred to in the Quran ever mentionned anything about the Indian-Brahman religion outspokenly.

Islam scolars usually reject Hinduism as polytheism and refuse to identify any Indian deity with Allah because no Indian deity is mentioned, and polytheism is clearly rejected in the Quran. You can see this indirectly from here that Brahman is not considered a reception of Allah. Little is said in Islam fiqh directly concerning Brahman. I found one citation in a Salafya source.

Hinduism divides Allah, the One God into three principles, assigned to deities. Brahman stands for God as the Creator, Vishnu for the Preserver, and Shiva for the Destroyer. The deities are assigned to principles or properties of God Allah. In this sense, the notion of Brahman cannot be understood as identical to Allah but only a part of Him. Hence, both from Muslim and from from the Hindu view, it is not appropriate to identify the notion of Brahman in the sense of Hinduism with Allah. Nevertheless, Brahman traditions were partly received in Islam during the islamisation of people who formerly adhered a Brahman religion DR.AZLY RAHMAN (duplicate here).

In contrast to this, the Sikh religion knows the One God ੴ , but although it is based on Indian traditions, the One God is not entirely identified with Brahman but with Allah.

The recent Hare Krishna sect, a monotheistic branch based on the Vedic tradition, identifies Krishna with Allah which is logical (as one god cannot be beside another One God) but not supported by religious history, where Krishna is a manifestation of Vishnû (not Brahma).

See also a valuable Answer from Hindu SE on this topic.

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  • There seems to be a lot of confusion in this answer between the terms "Brahman", "Brahmin" and "Brahma". Despite the similarity in their names, they are three entirely different concepts and cannot be conflated.
    – goldPseudo
    Dec 28, 2021 at 19:14
  • @GoldPseudo Both the words and the concepts of Brahma and Brahman in Vedic and Hindu religions are difficult to discern, some sources are almost monotheistic where the idea of Brahma is close to Allah, sometimes it is only the god-creator, the latter seems to be usual Hindu dogmatics.
    – Jeschu
    Dec 28, 2021 at 19:32
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    Thank you for your answer, I have edited the question, as this is complex stuff. I think there is some confusion about distinctions between Brahman and Brahma, etc, which is easily done and I have tried to explain, in terms of absolute v. illusionary. So while it's true some Hindus believe in the Trimurti as independent beings, others take them as different illusions or faces of the same entity. Dec 29, 2021 at 21:53
  • I think your question is rather on Hinduism than on Islam. Maybe it is a better way to describe the Islamic / Jewish understanding of Allah (difficult enough) and ask a Hindu to what extent it's similar or different from his notion of Brahman.
    – Jeschu
    Dec 30, 2021 at 8:42
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    @Ahmed I can try but I don't have anything prepared so it will take some time to do so
    – Jeschu
    Dec 30, 2021 at 9:06

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