Sunday, November 9, 2008

Why some Muslim scholars are opposed to Yoga?

It is a norm today for the majority of Muslim scholars and Muslims generally to view Islam as an exclusive way of life. The need to differentiate Islam and Muslims from people from the other faiths is getting more and more pronounced. This has led to the need to draw the line clearly on what is Islamic and what is not.

The Yoga controversy is one more from a long list of matters that stems from this exclusive framework. Earlier this year, it was about the monopoly of the term Allah, ie. That it cannot be used in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible to refer to God (refer my earlier blog post for a detail explanation - )

How did the Muslims become exclusive about Islam?

The root of the problem is the general understanding and how Muslims today view the history of religions and Islam.

Contrary to Quranic hidayah (guidance), Muslims today seems to not see Islam as a long lineage of religion starting from Adam and concluding with Prophet Muhammad. Muslims today equate Islamic history with the advent of Prophet Muhammad thus making Islamic history almost synonymous with the history of the Arab people – negating all other spiritual traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, etc as emanating from the same Creator.

The Quran on the other hand suggest an all inclusive approach stressing that all religions came from Allah as He has sent messengers everywhere in the course of history; a few are named in the Quran, mainly those from the Abrahamic line while the rest are not mentioned at all. But definitely there were other messengers sent to other geographical areas like India, China, The Americas etc although the Quran strategically remain silent of any geographical areas so as to be all inclusive (Quran 4 : 164, 40 : 78, 21:25, 17:77, 43:6).

In fact, the Quran is so stern of this all inclusive approach that it decreed that any Muslim, who does not accept even one of the messengers, named or unnamed, ceased being a believer! Muslims also cannot make any distinction between any of them. (Quran 4 : 150-153, 2 : 136, 3 : 84).

Thus, to the Quran, Islam’s history is world history, not the history of the Arabs. The Quran’s version of the history of mankind started with Adam the first civilized homo-sapient (one who is endowed with the power of conceptual thoughts and language Quran 2:31) (Quran 7:70, also refer Quran 7:31, 17:70, 2:33, 2:37, 7:27 and 7: 35).

To stress this all inclusive approach further, the Quran made it very clear that Islamic and Muslim history must not be seen as starting from Prophet Muhammad as the Prophet himself was made to declare that he follows the religion of Abraham (Quran 16:123, also refer Quran 16:20, 2:135, 3:95, 4:125, and 6:61).

To make it final, the Quran points out that it is Allah not Prophet Muhammad who named Muslims, Muslim; long before the birth of the Prophet (Quran 22:78).

Almost all of the history books on Islam whether written by Muslims or Non- Muslims that usually record Islam with the coming of Prophet Muhammad and making the Prophet as the founder of Islam run contrary to the Quran. At best they are relating the history of the Arab people and how the Arabs impacted the world and built an empire base on their new faith, Islam. (Here is where the historian Albert Habib Hourani got it right by calling his book “A History of the Arab Peoples”).

It is this myopic view and basic assumption of Islam’s history that over the years has steered Muslims to deviate from having a universal all inclusive approach towards Islam and hence grew to be more and more exclusive rather than inclusive of all the other communities and spiritual traditions. This in turn makes Muslim society monopolistic towards God and the Heavens negating anything with a trace of other traditions and seeing them as being opposed to Islam. Consequently, since Yoga could be traced to Hinduism, it is deem as wrongful.

The Quran however ruled that all who worship in the monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques are in essence venerating Allah (Quran 22:40) and anyone who “believe, and those who follow the Jewish, and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (Quran 2 : 62, also refer to 5 : 69). The Quran declared and confirmed all previous scriptures and dictate itself as a ‘watcher’ over them ( Quran 5:48).

Early Arab Muslims and those earlier converts since the advent of Prophet Muhammad understood this all inclusive Islam. They saw Islamic history as world history and connected their generation with all the earlier generations of Adam’s descendents, absorbing human history as theirs.

Viewing history and Islam as all inclusive, they became God’s children in true sense. They developed into universal beings. With that framework, they became free of myopic, bigoted and narrow mindedness; free to learn, borrow, modify, rejuvenate, innovate and built upon knowledge, technology and life skills from all over the world be they from the east, the west the north or the south and made them their own. Creating a civilization of excellence at a time when Europe was still slumbering in the Dark Ages.

A simple example is in many Muslim’s hands: the prayer beads. Widely used long before the advent of Prophet Muhammad but modified to suit the Muslim worship. Muslims most likely learn to use beads from the Hindus and the Buddhist as they moved eastwards. You may want to do the same with Yoga :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Transcription Of The 1996 Star Interview

Apology , somehow the picture file cannot be enlarged in my earlier post and a few of you requested thru the blog and emails for a better version... anyway, this is the transcription ...

Anas Zubedy is a 32-year –old consultant in change management. He speaks Bahasa Malaysia, Hokkien, English and a smattering of Tamil.

“When i was three years old, my family shifted to Fettes park, a predominantly Chinese area in Penang.

“For years we were the only Malay family in the area and by the time I was five, I was proficient in Hokkien.

“In fact, i can say that Bahasa Malaysia is my first language, Hokkien my second followed by English. I mean, outside the house i grew up like a Chinese kid. I played with the other Chinese kid and mingled with them a lot.

“Later, i even had the chance to experience the Indian way of life. This was when i was in standard four. I become friend with a new classmate, an Indian, and being close to him, i naturally spent a great deal of time at his house. It was then that i absorbed the Indian culture.

“For example, i remember reading about Hinduism in his house. I also learn to call his grandmother pathi and, during Thaipusam, i joined in the celebration by dancing with the Indians. I practically became one of the family.

“Sometimes my mum would return to Medan (Sumatra) and that’s when his mum would cook Indian food for me.

“I was fortunate that the situation was such that it allowed me to be exposed to more than one cultural setting. I learn so much about cultures other than my own. More than that, I learn to respect them.

“There are so many benefits we can derive from this. For instance, in business we can learn to think Chinese and at home we think Malay hospitality.

“Placed in a global situation, we should fare better than homogeneous societies for we have the experience of working with various kinds of people.

“We must see multi-racial Malaysia as an opportunity for creating universally oriented men and women who would, one day, take centre-stage in leading the world.

“But in order to achieve this kind of unity, Malaysians must first understand and accept two things: First, we have to understand and appreciate the fact that the Malays gave away what they called “Malay land” (tanah Melayu) and shared it with the other ethnic groups like the Chinese and Indians, so much so that they have created a new entity called Malaysia.

“Secondly, since 1957, the non-Bumis have accepted and made this country their country. So from now onwards, whether we like it or not, a new race called Bangsa Malaysia has come into being.

“Efforts in building unity must start at the earliest age possible. Parents must ensure that their own personal biases are not filtered down to their children.
“The school too plays a vital role in uniting all Malaysians. In the long run, it would be wiser and more beneficial to open all boarding schools like Mara, ITM, and Maktab Sains to all races.

“The current national school system integrates the Chinese, Tamil and Arab schools under one roof. The ideal situation would be if the national school caters to those who desire to learn their mother tongue. It would be even better if we make it compulsory for all Malaysian to learn a language other than English and their mother tongue.

“For example, a Malay student should learn either Mandarin or Tamil as a second language. I think the Malays are presently on the losing end. The Chinese or Indians know at least three languages, but most Malay knows only two.
“Barisan Nasional’s efforts towards creating a single multi-racial party should be our next step. I believe most Malaysians would find it attractive if there is a direct membership to BN without having to go through UMNO, MIC or MCA. Perhaps after Wawasan 2020, UMNO can stand for United Malaysian National Organization.

“At the end of the day, the more towards national unity should come from within each and everyone of us. Every individual in this country must be aware that he or she plays a vital role. We should not unite due to political or economic reasons but because we truly desire to be one nation.

“The Muslims must also remember that the “Al-Quran preaches ummah wahidah, the concept of one single community. As this country is led by Muslims, this would be a great opportunity for them to practice this concept.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

A note to my late father about UMNO Leaders, The Malays, NEP and the 30% Bumi Quota.

Omar bin Sheikh Isa my late father passed away of cancer on April 10th 2003. He was 73.

I am not an UMNO man, my late father was. Many times my late father was a little upset with my politics. This usually happened when my ideas are not in line with UMNO’s politics. One such example was when I suggested that all MARA schools and ITM be opened to non-bumis too during an interview with The Star back in 1996- an idea PKR leaders like Dato Seri Anwar and Dato Khaled find currency today (refer below for the press article and my nerdy picture back then!!!).

My suggestion was not base on politics. My reasoning was and still is, opening them to all will work better for everyone not just the Malays and Bumiputeras, but also the Chinese and Indians as many Malaysians have their first real experience of knowing and sharing between races when they share a room together in campus. Taking that away from young people who will have to deal with a multi-cultural nation and business society and more so a globalize world will just delay an experience to learn about each other to years later.

While my late father was sometimes upset with my politics, he was never troubled as he knew that his son has the humanity, nation and everyone regardless of race at heart. He also knew that I valued UMNO’s position, contributions and especially in many ways the UMNO leadership. I once told him that I hope UMNO some day will be able to become United Malaysian (as opposed to Malay) National Organization and my believed that well before any other parties become truly multiracial – UMNO would.

In fact it was the members of UMNO and the Malays in large numbers who since the first election willingly voted in nonracial lines – voting Chinese and Indian leaders in MCA and MIC. Without this willingness, Chinese and especially Indian representation in government would be almost impossible. It was this same kind of people who decided in March 8th to vote the opposition including the DAP. (DAP should take note of this fact, or you may just have only one term in Penang!)

My late father also knew that I give credit when it is due and I have a heavy dose of respect to UMNO leaders, the Tunku, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein and of coz Tun Dr Mahathir - although I was rather critical of some of Tun Dr Mahathir’s actions.

My late father also knew that I am not pro or against UMNO or its leaders in toto. For example while I was critical with Tun Dr Mahathir’s handling of the judiciary, I was all for his idea of capital control and telling the IMF to screw off! While I may not agree in the way Dato Seri Anwar’s sodomy case was handled, I agree that as PM and the boss he can sack Anwar for consistently contradicting him in the nation’s policies (read here ).

If my late father is still alive today, he would be very concern and upset with the current attacked on the NEP and 30% Bumiputera quota by the oppositions and especially the member parties within the Barisan Nasional. He would be very dissapointed and probably even angry with those UMNO members or Malays like Zaid Ibrahim whom he will see as ' kacang lupakan kulit'. He would say something like this in Penang dialect, " Zaid ni, dia dulu jadi kaya pasai UMNO la... la ni apa dia nak bising pulak? ". He and I would have had an interesting discussion. He would have wanted to know what i think...

Here are my tots... Yed (that is how we call him, Yed is the shorter version of Waled – father in Arabic.) I communicate with Yed in Penang Malay, so I hope you readers can make sense of the dialect.

Title – Depa Ni Yed (These fellas , Yed)


Depa ni Yed, tak nampak orang Melayu ni minta 30% saja. Dulu masa lepas May 13th bila Tun Razak ambik alih tempat Tunku, dia tak gelojoh. Dia boleh nak ambik 50% lebih… tapi dia mintak 30% saja.

Depa ni Yed, tak paham. Bila Tun Razak jadi ketua Mageran atau NOC dia ada kuasa penuh. Dia tak mau bagi balik kerajaan ke tangan rakyat pun boleh – terus control saja pun boleh. Tapi tak … tak sampai 2 tahun dia bagi balik secara sukarela dan buat balik demokrasi berparlimen. Depa tak nampak semua ni Yed. Benda macam ni tak pernah jadi kat dunia ni Yed. Orang kalau dapat kuasa macam tu… dah buta kuasa, simpan sampai mati. Tun Razak sebagai pemimpin UMNO cool Yed, dia bukan darah dictator.

Depa ni Yed, tak nampak yang elok kalau ada kat pemimpin UMNO, depa nampak tang kotok saja…tula anas dok bilang dari dulu dah… anas tak macam tu Yed. Yang betul kita support, yang salah kita tak support. Bila Tun Razak jadi ketua dia tak ambik semua kuasa, dia pi panggil banyak-banyak orang, banyak parti sampai lebih dari 10 parti … lepas tu dia share dengan semua, Melayu, Cina, India, orang Sabah dan Sarawak.

Depa tak nampak Yed, bila pemimpin UMNO dapat kuasa almost mutlak, depa pikiak macamana nak menyatukan balik rakyat… bukan tukak road sign nak tunjuk-tunjuk depa terror… tak ada klas langsung… Melayu kata.. macam kera dapat bunga… depa macam budak-budak. Yed

Depa ni Yed, tak nampak ka… Melayu ni suka kongsi, semua depa nak share… rakyat lebih dari 50% tapi nak minta 30% saja…pelik kan .. tu lah Melayu Yed..

Depa ni Yed, tak tau apa depa nak… jadi depa nak tentang semua… bila suka depa support seratus peratus…. Bila tak suka depa bantang seratus peratus ...Tak reti jalan pertengahan.... takda orang yang seratus peratus baik... tak dak yang seratus peratus buruk... smalah parti -parti politik..

Depa ni Yed, tak nampak NEP ada baiknya ada buruknya. Yang baik banyak orang miskin dah selamat dari kemiskinan… macam kita sekeluarga. Yang silapnya banyak orang-orang bukan golongan Melayu dan bumiputera terlepas – ada banyak orang Cina yang miskin dan tambah-tambah orang India Tamil dan Serani yang kita lupa tolong. Itu salah… tapi NEP mesti ada…untuk nak tolong semua yang miskin… semua yang perlukan pertolongan

Depa ni Yed, tak reti… kita mau Development, tapi kita tak mau Corruption. Kita nak “ Development Minus Corruption”. Bila NEP di salah guna untuk corruption kita tentang. Tapi kalau NEP buat pertumbuhan kita support. Memang tak patut banyak yang kaya terang tang tang… tak buat apa pun yang bawak hasil… dapat duit atas angin … yang tu duit haram Yed! Depa yang jadi kaya raya duit masuk poket tapi apa pun tak dak…

Depa ni Yed, ingat depa pandai… depa tentang 30% nanti Melayu minta 50%... nanti baru terkelam kabut… terkejut tergempak! Siapa rugi… depa rugi jugak ..semua kita rugi… pasai kalau tak ada balance … semua orang rugi… nanti tambah berkelahi… semua kita rugi…

Depa ni Yed, maunya bagi pi lah 30% …bukan mintak 90 ka 100 ka … 50 % pun tak… 30 % saja… bagi pi lah… tapi corruption dan duit atas angin, kontrak tanpa hasil tambahan … dapat duit macam tu saja… kita tak boleh terima … yang tu kita bantah …

Macam tu la Yed, selagi tak kecoh, depa ni tak senang … depa ni Yed, mungkin tak paham…mungkin tak nampak… apa nak buat Yed…