Question asked by a devotee: Some religions, like Islam, serve no good purpose. They mislead people and serve to increase their confusions. Their followers, rather than elevating themselves, degrade themselves. Why did the all-wise God create such religions in different parts of the world?
Answer by Swamiji: Our judgments are often based on inadequate data and understanding. All the prophets in history delivered their message in accordance with the time, place and circumstance in which they were preaching. Without understanding this principle, we could jump to rash judgments on their teachings.
The Hindu scriptures declare that the Buddha was God Himself. And yet He preached a religion that accepts neither the concept of God nor the soul. "Sacchita pariyodapanam etam buddhanushasanam". The emphasis is only on cleansing your mind. Shree Kripaluji Maharaj explains that at the time of Gautam Buddha, people were over-indulging in the ritualistic aspect of the Vedas. They were engaging in animal sacrifice. The Buddha preached a philosophy that helped the people rise from the platform they were at. Buddhism was the perfect philosophy for the people in that situation at that time. Now, if we were to say that Buddhism is a bad religion because it does not mention the existence of God, how far from the truth we would be.
Similarly, Christianity too may seem elementary in comparison to the Vaishnav philosophy, yet it has served humankind for two millenniums. If we read the writings of Thomas Kempis, St. John of the Cross and St Francis of Assissi, we will feel humbled before their fervor for devotion, their zeal for preaching, and their complete intoxication for God.
The same holds true for many Sufi saints, like Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, and Moinuddin Chisti. When I was a child, there was a Hindu girl in our neighborhood who used to read the Namaz, without ever having learnt it from anyone (she forgot it by her sixth year). It is possible that she was a good Muslim in her last life, and God arranged for her to continue the journey by giving her an appropriate Hindu birth in this life. So God alone is aware of the full importance of Islam in the development of humankind, and its impact on the development of culture, architecture, literature, music, etc.
A religion carries an entire civilization on its back for ages and ages. How then can we reject Islam as a bad religion? The Bible says, "Judge not lest ye be judged". The beauty of our Vedic scriptures is that they give us a broad vision of humankind, where we do not look upon ourselves as going to heaven and all others as going to hell. Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj shows this spirit by quoting from all the religious traditions of the world. Shree Maharajji also says in the Prem Ras Siddhant that often followers of one path consider themselves to be superior, and look down upon all other religious organizations, Gurus and denominations as being inferior. This is a Naamaparadh, or a spiritual transgression.