Zakir Naik quotes Yajur veda (32.3) to prove that God doesn’t have a form. Whether God has a form or not according to Vedic scriptures is a secondary point. It’s more important to first question the authenticity of the references used by Dr Zakir Naik.
For instance let’s take the verse from Yajurveda in question. Zakir Naik quotes ”na tasya pratima astii “There is no image of him” (Yajur Veda 32.3)
Interestingly he also quotes Svetasvatra Upanishad (4.19) which has a similar verse: “na tasya pratima astii “There is no likeness of him” (Svetasvatra Upanishad 4.19)
Note the difference in the translation of the same verse appearing in two different scriptures. Why is Zakir Naik giving a different translation for the same verse? Also, in both the quotations, he has quoted only half the verse.
The complete verse from the Svetasvatra Upanishad (4.19) is “No one can grasp Him above, across, or in the middle. There is no likeness of Him. His name is Great Glory”
However Zakir Naik prefers to take only the middle phrase of the verse. It’s like telling a Muslim that the Holy Koran says, “There is no God”. When a Muslim demands where in the Koran it’s said there is no God, we quote the fourth Surah, 87th ayat. If he then expresses shock and incredulity, we give the reference, “The Holy Koran, translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Goodword Books, page number 58. He will certainly then open the concerned book and find the complete verse that says, “There is no God except Allah”.
Or we could give another example from the Holy Koran, 53rd surah, 23rd Ayat which says, “Allah has sent down no authority whatsoever .” The exact words used are ‘ma anzala i-lahu min sultanin in..’ ‘ma’ means ‘not’ and ‘anzala’ and ‘I lahu’ means ‘Allah has sent down’. Again the last three words, ‘min’, a preposition, refers to ‘any’ and ‘sultanin’, a genitive masculine indefinite noun translates as ‘authority’. Again the negative particle ‘in’ is used to indicate ‘No’. On the basis of this verse we can say that Prophet Mohammed is also not an authority because he isn’t sanctioned by Allah. The verse is emphatic on there being no messenger of God. However a Muslim may protest and implore us to read the whole chapter because that might give us a different understanding.
Similarly when someone quotes Vedas and Upanishads out of context, only to fulfil one’s own hidden and nasty agendas, we shouldn’t take it seriously. The meaning of the word ‘pratima’ when used in reference to God, and in the context of Vedas, refers to ‘likeness’. The word ‘pratima’ according to Vedic Sanksrit dictionary refers to similarity. Thus the Vedic scriptures clearly emphasize that God has no equal or no similarity. This however doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a form. Another word in the verse is ‘asti’. ‘asti’ means ‘be’, ‘exist’, ‘live’ or ‘constitute’. The verse therefore begs itself to be translated as “There is no one living or existing in any way similar to him.” Yes, the verdict of the Vedic literatures is God is one without a second. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a form. Zakir Naik and his followers are recommended to read the 112 principal Upanishads before concluding about the formlessness of God.
For example, the Gopal Tapani Upanishad (chapter 1, verse 10, 1.35, 1.1, 1.24) speaks about the form of the Supreme Lord. So does the Katho Upanishad (2.2.13, 2.3.10 to 16) explain the form of God. This is also confirmed in the Svetasvatara Upanishad (3.8-9) which substantiates the above verses by saying, “I know that Supreme Personality of Godhead who is transcendental to all material conceptions of darkness. Only he who knows Him can transcend the bonds of birth and death. There is no way for liberation other than this knowledge of that Supreme Person. There is no truth superior to that Supreme Person, because He is the supermost. He is smaller than the smallest, and He is greater than the greatest. He is situated as a silent tree, and He illumines the transcendental sky, and as a tree spreads its roots, He spreads His extensive energies.” From these verses one concludes that the Supreme Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-pervading by His multi-energies, both material and spiritual.
In fact the Koran itself mentions about God’s form. One can read the following verses from the Koran to be convinced that God has form Surah: Ayat (Chapter: Verses)- 55.27, 20.39, 96.14, 52.48, 20.39, 54.14, 38.75, 39.67, 48.10, and many more from the Hadiths. (Translated by Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr.Muhammad Muhsin Khan which is approved by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Saudi Arabia and published world over by the Saudi Kingdom for free distribution through their Embassies in different countries)
However the most appalling audacity of Zakir Naik lies in inventing verses and presenting only half the verses. Let’s see how!!
There are two primary versions of the Yajur Veda: Shukla Yajur Veda (White) and Krishna Yajur Veda (Black). Both contain verses necessary for rituals. Zakir Naik impresses gullible people by quoting chapter numbers and verse numbers from rote memory, but you can see for yourself how his references are pathetically poor. Before quoting 32.3 as Zakir Naik has done, he first needs to specify which version of the Yajur Veda is he referring to? Let’s first take the Black Yajur Veda. This has seven khandas or cantos. Each of these cantos has less than eight chapters (total of 44 chapters). The correct way of quoting a reference from the Yajur Veda would be [Canto no, chp no, verse no, Black / White Yajur Veda]. But as it turns out this is the least of Zakir Naik’s intellectual sloppiness. When Zakir Naik says it’s 32nd chapter, let’s assume it is the sixth chapter of the fifth khanda. (Because sequentially it becomes the 32nd chapter; first canto has 8 chapters; second- 6 chapters; third- 5 chapters; fourth-7 chapters; fifth-7 chapters; sixth-6 chapters and seventh-5 chapters). Now let’s take the third verse of this chapter (as it becomes 32.3- as per Zakir Naik’s quotation). The verse extolls the glories of Varuna, Brahaspati and Indra. There is no mention of Supreme God and His having no form.
Maybe Zakir Naik has referred to the White Yajur Veda. Let’s then examine this scripture. The Shukla (White) Yajur Veda has forty chapters. The 32nd chapter offers oblations to Vayu, Chandra, Surya and Agni. The third verse specifically talks about the source of all the demigods: “There is no counterpart of him whose glory verily is great. In the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha, Let not him harm me. Than whom there is no other born. He deserves our worship”
How can Zakir Naik, who claims to be a teacher of comparative religion ignore the whole verse and take only a part of it and distort the meaning of this verse to suit his interests? Either it is due to his sloppiness or his slyness. We leave the decision up to our intelligent readers.
One should also note that the White Yajur Veda exclusively deals with rituals and it doesn’t give philosophical conclusions. The Black Yajur Veda contains little more explanatory material about the rituals. However both texts primarily lay down rules for the performance of various sacrifices and do not offer conclusions on God’s form. To conclude about the form of God based on some abstruse verse, and to confuse innocent Hindus seems to be the occupation of Dr. Zakir Naik.
Then what is the source of Zakir Naik’s Yajur Veda quotes? He claims to have taken the translations of Yajur Veda from Devi Chand. Let’s see the credentials of Mr Devi Chand.
Devi Chand is a disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Swami Dayananda Saraswati was heavily influenced by the Christian criticism of idolatory during his times. Swami Dayananda Saraswati, like his Christian critics, could not comprehend the difference between idols and deities, and so he concocted his own version of Hinduism which not only rejected deity worship but also rejected the form of the Absolute Truth. This rejection was in flagrant violation of the many scriptural references to the form of God and the description of deity worship in the Pancharatra shastras and the Shilpa Sutras. Following in Dayananda Saraswati’s unfortunately misled footsteps, Devi Chand has distorted the Yajur Veda texts which were in vogue three thousand years ago. Therefore Zakir Naik should not refer to speculations on Vedas by those who study Vedas with an ulterior motive, but rather he should study the Vedas under a guru, a spiritual master, who comes in the proper disciplic succession.
Of course, Zakir Naik is unlikely to change his perverse ways, but we request our truth-cherishing, intelligent readers to help innocent people to see through the fallaciousness and the maliciousness of Zakir Naik’s presentation by widely circulating articles like these.
7. Katha Upanishad, Translaetd by Vidyavachaspati V. Panoli
8. Bhagavad Gita As it is, (7.7), translated by Bhaktivedanta Swami, (Bhaktivedanta Book trust Publication)
11. Yajur Veda, translated by Arthur Berriedale Keith, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1914)
12. The texts of the white Yajurveda, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith, sacred texts.com