September 17, 2010
Respect One Anothers Way of Life
by Prof Dr. Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi@www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT In the Quran, there is a verse that says that Allah has created man as many races and nations so that they would know one another. Muslims obviously take this verse to mean that all these different races of man were Muslims only. The verse does not stipulate as such and I read this verse to mean that we must respect one anothers way of life.
Anyway, if Malays feel that Chinese are a race of bad people and nothing good can come out of learning their language, customs and beliefs, how will we be able to live together as a nation or how can we explain Islam to them? In order to effectively communicate any message to another culture, we must not only learn the language but also immerse ourselves with that culture and belief system.
I have many times recommended that Muslim ustaz and ustazah who have degrees in Islamic studies take up post-graduate studies about people from other cultures and beliefs. But most ustaz and ustazah would still confine themselves ever smaller in scope to only the study of their own belief.
How is Islam to expand or be tolerated by others? I believe that all cultures possess knowledge from which all of us regardless of race or religion can benefit, the least of which is to be able to live side by side in harmony in a multi-cultural nation such as Malaysia.
The Prophet Muhammad once stood up to pay respect to a dead body he saw passing by in front of him. When the Muslims told him that the dead body was a Jew and wondered why he had paid respect to an enemy, he said, Does he not have a soul too?
Loving others as part of faith
Muslims believe that they must love only Muslims, their relatives, family and parents along with their undying devotion to the Prophet Muhammad and ultimately, Allah the most high. But in his book, In the Early Hours, the great teacher and scholar Ustaz Khurshid Ahmad recorded a hadith as follows:
There are three types of people who will experience the sweetness of faith: he to whom Allah and His Messenger are dearer than all else, he who loves a human being for Allahs sake alone; and he who has a great abhorrence of returning to unbelief after Allah has rescued from it as he has of being cast into Hell. (Muslim Bukhari, from Khurshid Ahmads In the Early Hours, pg 86)
In the hadith, it was narrated that we are to love all man as a prerequisite to faith for without it, there is only the imitation of rituals but no true faith.
Muslims who are mostly Malays in Malaysia feel that the non-Muslim citizens are nothing more than to be merely tolerated or coped with or put up with at arms length. Muslims are not to make friends with non-Muslims because non-Muslims are the enemies and not to be trusted.
We have to correct this attitude because the hadith does not mention that we must love only Muslims. We must love all men regardless of their belief. We must render all men our help, our sympathies, our concern our love. If not we would not be able to attain true faith as Khurshid Ahmad mentions:
Iman is something which must penetrate deep into your heart and generate love for Allah and his Prophet more than anything else. Unless this happens you cannot experience the real iman. To develop this love for Allah does not require us to retire to or seclude ourselves in a monastery.
This love makes us do our duty to Allah while we are on the street, at home or in the ! office. With this love, we live as servants of Allah everywhere, and willingly making every sacrifice required of us. In fact it propels us to share actively in the service of Allahs other creatures. True love of Allah makes us care for people and their needs. (from Khurshid Ahmads In the Early Hours, pg 64)
There are also a few hadith that Khurshid Ahmad highlighted about being respectful of neighbours. Islam considers it a great sin to put your neighbours in difficulty. The hadith again does not stipulate that the rights of neighbours must depend on whether they are Muslims:
O Messenger of Allah, such and such woman has a reputation for engaging very much in prayers, fasting and almsgiving, but she hurts her neighbours with her tongue quite often. He said, She will go to Hell.
Then he said O Messenger of Allah, such and such woman engages in only a little prayer, fasting and almsgiving and just gives a few pieces of cheese in charity, but she does not hurt her neighbours with her tongue. He said, She will go to Paradise. (Baihaqi Ahmad, from Khurshid Ahmads In the Early Hours, pg 125)
Thus arrogance was born
It is wrong for Muslims to take the attitude that they are perfect. No one is perfect. As human beings our imperfection is our asset to grow and be humble. Without a sense of humility humanity becomes an arrogant entity akin to Iblis who refused to bow to Adam. Iblis swore that he would put man astray by giving him or her this sense of perfection and thus arrogance was born.
Islam, as all the other great religions of this world, seeks to educate man how best to live this life amongst his or her family, community and others of different belief by teaching basic and simple human and humane values.
Science and technology are valueless and have no capacity whatsoever to t! each man how to live. Those who use simple logic or rationality and attempt to offer an alternative discourse than religion find themselves with a very short end of the stick. Ask that of Karl Marx or the like.
Religion was the force that saw the development of human civilisation and they would still be this force into the future. The problem of wars and misunderstandings are the product of leaders of societies that have interests that do not conform to entire communities and societies needs.
These very few leaders or politicians, on the one hand, purposefully play on the fears and uncertainties as well as the ignorance of the masses. Some leaders actually believe what they do is for the good of their religion but this honesty is not coupled with a broader concern that we are all imperfect and we are all inhabiting this spaceship, earth, together.
The way to our salvation lies in knowledge of one anothers faith that would strengthen all our faiths. Some may say that we must have the right or correct religion and there cannot be many correct religions. If Islam is right then Christianity must be wrong. If Islam is right then Buddhists must cease to exist and allow the youngest and most up-to-date religion to survive.
From my experience, I rejoice in the multiplicity of approach to aspire to a spiritual connection with Allah or God. All these approaches help me to understand and practice more meaningfully. Like a company that has a multiplicity of talents, it would thrive more than by enforcing only one standard way of operating or thinking.
Strength in differences
Humanitys strength is its differences of culture. Humanitys strength is also its imperfection. And humanitys strength is that it has a similar set of goalsto live peacefully and to leave this world in a state of ! acceptan ce or ridha. The many sages and prophets of old have taught us how to do this and all we have to do is to learn from as many sources as possible.
Finally we must be careful of those leaders who seek to drive their own private agendas and not let them create discord between us and our children. We must in unison reject all these leaders and their parties and elect new ones who understand and respect one anothers religion in a more liberal way.
The ustaz and ustazah who are given the responsibility to teach Muslims must equip themselves with the knowledge of mans civilisation and of other religions. If not they must refrain from making any comments at all outside their own limited educational experience in the madrasa or others.
From where I stand, I think Muslims must make the stride to liberate themselves from the shackles of perfectionism as this is an antithesis to becoming a true mukminun and be accepted in the grace of Allah the Most High.
In the movie Kingdom of Heaven, the message is that heaven must be a kingdom of conscience and not religion because the word bears a political and historical framework that can be twisted by individuals with personal agendas. Until Muslims realise their imperfection there will never realise in this world about the true meaning of perfection of Islam. I end with a verse of the Holy Quran:
Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, and who believe in God, and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward, with their Lord: On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Surah al-Baqarah, Verse 62)
Part 1: Malay-Muslims and the Perfect Religion Syn! drome
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