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On first glance, Islam and Vedanta look nothing alike. Islam clearly states the supremacy of Allah, and that there can be no God other than Allah. Vedanta says man has God within himself, and clearly allows as many Gods as there are people.

Allahu AkbarThese core differences are not necessarily as deep as they appear, however. Vedanta allows for Allah by many names, but in the Upanishads it emphatically states that there is only one supreme God and all the various names are but different reflections of this one God.

So Vedanta agrees that there is only one God and it is Allah. It just lets people call Allah by different names, and it lets each person advance in their understand at their own pace.

The relationship between Allah and man is a trickier one. Islam clearly states that Allah created but is not man, while Vedanta is less absolute on this point. For people who make devotion to God their chief spiritual practice (bhakti yoga), Allah is usually greater and ultimately other than man. But for others, including American Vedanta, man is part of Allah and therefore a limited reflection but not actually other than Him.

Since both views exist within Vedanta, Muslims can grow spiritually from Vedanta while still staying within the teachings of Islam. The Muslim just needs to follow the Ramanuja strain of Vedanta instead of the Shankaracharya strain since Ramanuja also was of the Muslim understanding that man came from God but is not himself God.

Sufism is the natural connecting point between Islam and Vedanta. The core idea of Sufism is connecting directly with Allah through complete surrender to Him. This is Vedanta by another name, and the Muslim will find that Sufism is the truth of Vedanta but wrapped in an Islamic language and culture.

For more on why Islam and Vedanta ultimately lead to the same goal, read our essay on “One Truth, Many Paths.”

He is the First and the Last, the Outward and the Inward; He is the Knower of everything.
-Qur’an, Sura 57:3


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