Mullahs in Indonesia may have labeled yoga ‘un-Islamic’, but India’s ulemas categorically refuse to do so. They take a staunchly commonsensical and culturally attuned position on this centuries’ old practice. “It is a good health practice, beneficial to mankind,” said reputed Islamic scholar Maulana Ahmad Khazir Shah, Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom, Deoband. “There can be no objection to riyazat or exercise in Islam.”
What about the chant of ‘Om’, which has deep religious significance for a Hindu, meaning literally ‘God as Sound’?
“The statement of eminent yoga teacher Baba Ramdev settled the matter once and for all," said the maulana. "He assurred that it is not necessary, while performing yoga, to utter Hindu religious chants. One can repeat ‘Om’, ‘Allah’ or ‘God’, whatever one prefers. So there is no controversy."
“I have learnt yoga myself,” said Aijaz Ilmi, executive editor of the Kanpur based Daily Siasat, one of the oldest Urdu newspapers in North India. “What is wrong with something that is obviously good for health?”
About ‘Om’ he agreed with Maulana Ahmed. “To chant or not to chant Om is a personal choice. But yoga by itself is unimpeachable.”
Then what led to the extreme Islamic reaction in Indonesia?
Vali Nasr, well know Iranian-American scholar, told HT last November, “Today’s narrow salafi view of Islam being exported from Saudi Arabia tries to divorce Islam from culture.”
Noted Maulana Syed Athar Husain Dehlavi, a ‘Deobandi’ said, “People in conservative Islamic societies get nervous if yoga teachers do pravachan (discourse) saying the guru is a living god. That goes against Islam.”