Archive for category Southeast Asia
“I see that you are trying to grow a beard… like a terrorist,” a colleague commented. “Nah, it’s just laziness,” I quipped apologetically. I was caught totally off-guard. I thought my beard must’ve been messy that day to have a non-Muslim commenting on my appearance like that.
Later I looked in the mirror. Well, it’s not that messy. In fact it’s barely half an inch in length. But maybe the few stray strands puts off the whole beard. The few placing the rest in negative light, no thanks to the bad bearded people.
Unfortunately, it seems that having a beard tend to result in a negative comment. I do try to keep it as neat as possible, but just like the hair on my head, it gets ruffled or unkempt on occasions.
This is not the first time I have been associated with famous bearded entities. Because of my beard, I have been called a Taliban and Osama (bin Laden, the infamous). On both occasions by non-Muslims, though in an attempted light-hearted manner. Both of whom are not my closest of friends; to say that either they have a questionable sense of humor, or really feel strongly that the long beard correlates with Taliban/Osama-types.
Beard, the Muslim Identity
Every religion has its own identity, one which its followers attempt to project based on its teachings. So it is common to see followers of various religions wearing bangles, turbans, crucifixes, or the hijab/tudung. As a male Muslim, I put in my own effort in showing my Islamic identity by growing a beard.
The Islamic ruling on growing a beard (or not shaving one) differs, but it is at least a “great sunnah” (سنة مؤكدة) to keep a beard, as supported by the great Azhari Jaad al-Haqq Ali Jaad al-Haqq. Also “none of the Companions was known to have shaved his beard,” signifying the beard’s unique and distinct characteristic among the great men of Islam. Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said:
أَحْفُوا الشَّوَارِبَ ، وَأَعْفُوا اللِّحَى
“Trim closely the moustache, and let the beard grow.” (Muslim)
In short, to keep a beard is Islamic. It is an Islamic command, though not compulsory.
The Hijacked Beard
While I’m arguing that the beard is an Islamic thing to do, it would be confusing then to see Malay dudes (most of whom are Muslims) who sport beards, yet seem to be engrossed in non-Islamic mannerisms such as drinking and being rowdy. Unfortunately just like many other things, physical appearance manifested by the loudest group tend to end up in rash correlation. Examples of bad bearded people who “hijacked” the beard as “theirs”:
a) Terrorists: Their case is more simple to understand. They will abide by anything that they believe is even remotely Islamic. More so the beard, which is supported by hadith texts. It is thus of no surprise their bearded appearance.
b) The Malay gangster-wannabe types who also grow beards: Usually coupled with flame-colored hair, sometimes also blue or green. Their reason for keeping the beard is – I assume – more cultural than religious, one which I will bluntly categorize as a sort of “adult Malay-ness” identity (read: attempts at being taken seriously as abang-abang). While the beard do signal a sign of maturity for most, action speaks louder that facial hairs.
Aside from these two negative examples of bearded entities, most male Malays (in my circle at least) keep a short beard or goatee. They make up the Malay-Muslim demography who keeps a beard for religious reasons. Of course, there are others who do so for possibly aesthetic motives too.
I would say that the long beard is not that common among Malay-Muslims in Singapore, but still exists. Longer length usually denotes a sense of religiosity among Muslims. If you think long-bearded (3 inches or more) Muslim males are uneducated religious zealots, leave xenophobia at the door. In Singapore, the long-bearded Muslims I personally know are a PhD student, satellite engineer, a millionaire businessman, and a Cambridge graduate. Go figure.
1. Just because a Muslim grows a beard, it doesn’t mean he’s intent on harm.
2. It is Islamic to keep a beard. It’s a religious identity. Like when a Muslim wears a skullcap or turban, it doesn’t mean he’s intent on harm.
3. Stop equating the beard or anything that a terrorist has/does with Islam.
Nice watch. (Image credit)
4. Look at the picture above. Yes Osama has beard. And a Casio on his wrist. So just because Osama is wearing a Casio, does all Casio-equipped Muslims support him?
5. Osama doesn’t eat pork (I’m sure). So all non pork-consuming Muslims support him? (In case you are don’t know, Muslims don’t consume pork. And just because a food doesn’t contain pork or lard, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is halal.)
6. Stop the oh-you-have-a-beard-Osama-lover-haha comment. I find it insensitive and incongruous.
In conclusion, avoid binary logic.
And in case you missed it: just because a Muslim grows a beard, doesn’t mean that he supports terrorism. Period.
*cakap Melayu = speak Malay
“I feel disgusted with these types of people,” the Malay pakcik (uncle) lashed out. “Especially the girls… Those girls from universities. What, just because they’re in universities, they can’t speak Malay?”
I was in a cab, and the conversation was naturally in Malay. Amidst his tirade, the driver may have a point when he implied that higher-educated Malays are getting more alien to their native language (I’m not sure about the female comment). His concern is not isolated; for quite some time now in the Malay news, there have been debates over the decline of Malay usage among Malays, and the general perception is that the higher-educated Malays are the main culprit. It comes to no surprise though, as the same issue is also faced by the Chinese community in Singapore.
Initially, I’ve never thought that of language to be that much of an issue. I’ve always regarded language as a mere medium of expression; so whichever one you choose, as long as the intended objective is achieved it doesn’t matter. To me what mattered most is how a person acts. So in our Malay-Muslim society, religion is more of a priority than language.
To me, a good Muslim is better than anything, no matter what the language spoken. It’s a no-brainer if you have to choose, for instance, between Malay gangsters who know their language, or pious Malay doctors who don’t know Malay.
So I didn’t really care about the “great Malay language debate”, until more recently. I had an encounter with two young tertiary-educated Malay ladies near a restaurant. They were complaining about something in English – boys, I think. I cannot recall the exact conversation, but weirdly enough, from the way they are dressed and they way they talk, the imagery that immediately comes to mind is that of American college girls that you often see negatively depicted on TV. Only this time it’s the Malay version.
At that very moment, I actually felt disgusted.
Proud to sound and act like ang moh
The thing about language is that one does not only learn how to say/read/write only, but the associated culture as well. Understandably when learning English, one has access to English movies, music, news, information, and many more. Unfortunately, most of these are popularized by the media through pure sensationalism.
What bugs me is when Malays – or Asians for that matter – subsume negative Western culture as their own. If it’s positive, I’m all for it. But the negative ones, such as immodest attires and uninhibited social norms, are those which directly undermine our own cultural values.
In this respect, Malay language has provided a layer of protection against the barrage of foreign values. Of course in this day and age, it is impossible to survive solely on the Malay language, as English is the established medium for work and school. So a healthy balance needs to be struck. Malay language still play a vital role as a conduit of good Malay/Asian culture, one that instills emphasis on respect and the traditional family structure, to temper against the overwhelming Western norms that most blindly adhere to.
Best of both worlds
Not only culture is under siege, but also religious principles. Here in Singapore, English is used the very moment you step out of the house. Schools and workplaces are not exempt from this, though mosques and Islamic institutions generally still use Malay language in daily affairs. At the same time, while there are increasingly more sermons and religious lectures being delivered in English, here in Southeast Asia, Malay remains to be an indispensable language to study the religion. Structured religious education provided by major local Islamic institutions such as Pergas and Perdaus is still being delivered in Malay (correct me if I’m wrong). Even less structured lectures in mosques is generally delivered in Malay.
As religious values should be inculcated from a young and tender age, especially with the weekly dose of Friday sermons, it is worrying if our future generation cannot appreciate its content. And since Friday sermons provide the window of opportunity to ditch or bridge the connection with those who rarely step foot in the mosque, the understanding of Malay is – the way I see it – synonymous with the introduction of religious guidance.
As highlighted in a recent newspaper commentary, a writer at first thought that – based on facial expressions – the young participants in a religious talk were engrossed by the speaker who delivered in Malay. But later when he spoke to them, he found out that while they were indeed impressed by the speaker, they were also confused by the Malay terms being used.
This is something that deserves attention. On a larger scale, limited comprehension of the language may affect the understanding of religious instructions. If Malay language understanding continues to deteriorate, the impact in the future may not only be cultural, but also a religious one.
Why oh why?
Perhaps more pertinent to the discussion is the “why” behind it. Why do Malays not want to speak Malay? Based on my expertly-derived rocking-armchair analysis, it boils down to two factors. Firstly and bluntly, English-speaking Malays are intentionally suffering from post-colonialism inferiority complex, symptoms of which include the delusion that speaking English means that you are clever, and speaking Malay means that you are stupid and of some lower caste. This is further compounded with what the “new Malays” perceive as Malay being the exclusive language of the mats and minahs; by conversing in English, not only are they “proving” that they are “successful,” but that they have “broken out” of the “Malay stigma.”
In refutation of this, I have to say that “high education” compares zilch to good upbringing. Just because one speaks English peppered with six-syllable words doesn’t mean he’s “better” or “smarter”. They’ve quickly and conveniently forgotten the MBA holders who are responsible for the global finance calamity. Yet I must admit, our education system is one that we can be proud of. A system which, against all odds, has successfully produced minahs who spew English expletives amidst their Queen’s English over a cuppa. Seriously, go to Starbucks and you’ll know what I mean.
Malay at home ≠ Failure at school
The second one is more easily digestible: parents want their kids to excel in school. But in order to do so, they believe that their English must be honed at home. Initially I was supportive of this, as I thought the Malay student may have an advantage over his peers if his English is good. But then looking at many many examples around me, of those who manage to read, write, and speak English well, they were mostly brought up in Malay-speaking home environment. Yes, even those so-called “new Malays”, we all know they grew up in Malay-speaking households too.
Then I realize how many people that I personally see and know, who were brought up in Malay-speaking homes. They went to Malay-speaking schools, studied in foreign universities which doesn’t use English, and yet are proficiently fluent in English. Some are even – while admittedly verbose – established English orators. At the same time, they are also able to seamlessly switch between the two languages fluently.
So why the need to speak English at home?
Speaking Malay at home
Thus far, I have decided that my home will be a Malay-speaking one.
Our kids will speak English almost every second when he’s out of the house. So it’s unfounded to worry about him not learning English, the worry should be placed on him growing to be a person who’s not proud of his background.
We should aim for that balance to allow Malay to blossom in the house. Not through corny Malay TV dramas, but through conversations, newspapers, and good books. Doing so will protect our precious cultural, and as a bonus, religious values.
There’s nothing to lose; your kids will still do well in school, and when he’s all grown up, he’ll still remember to kiss the back of your hand.
Nota: Bagi mereka yang bertanya kenapa blog ini tidak ditulis dalam bahasa Melayu, ini adalah kerana blog ini ingin ditujukan kepada mereka yang tidak berbahasa Melayu.
We are living in a world where emphasis on science and technology has never been greater. Be it from parents who want their kids to do well in school, employers which are putting expensive efforts in R&D, or the governments which want the economy to but down on expenses through innovation, the focus on material science does benefit – more or less – man to do improve on life on Earth.
But to what extent? Based on conversations and observations, while anecdotal, I have a fear that the belief in God is being eroded by the very emphasis in science. Scientific advancements and discoveries aside, it is the fundamentalist belief “science can explain everything” that bothers me.
As Muslims, we are usually well-protected from such forms of influence, as the “arch-opponent” for our faith is usually deemed to be the Christians, who also believe in the existence of God. Coupled with layers of tough measures to prevent prosletyzation against Islam, conversion issues are usually tackled with eloquent approaches – academic arguments, scientific evidences, etc – on why being a Muslim makes sense (for one, Islam doesn’t say that Christians and Jews are totally wrong).
In fact, if one were to believe in a religion, I would argue that none is more complete that Islam, from the moment you wake up, to interaction with people, food you eat, economy, up till the moment you go to bed, and even when you are sleeping. There exists specific Islamic guidance on all aspects of life. It is a way of life. The most complete way of life, based on the belief of Allah and his prophets.
Nevertheless, such concerns usually may be summed up in the question “which religion?”, so the debate over the existence of God never came up.
But, in current times, the belief in The Creator itself is gradually being overshadowed by science and its atheistic rhetoric. Its spread into the minds of Muslims bypasses the protective system designed against apostasy; some scientific theories are being accepted in schools as “unfalsifiable”, thus regarded as the “truth”. And it may easily be ingrained in the young Muslims who are just discovering the world of science. Chief among it is evolution.
The discovery of Ardi (above) – the name given to a 4.4 million year-old human-like fossil – made news late last year. One can only know so much about the past, but the discovery has prompted revisions on the theory of evolution. Nothing drastic; mainstream science still states that modern men evolved from chimps of the past.
Her skeleton promises to fill in gaps about how we became human and evolved from apes. It has already reversed some common assumptions of evolution.
Rather than humans evolving from chimps, the new find provides evidence that chimps and humans evolved together from another common more ancient ancestor. (Source)
Yet despite that, the details of evolution is still being questioned by those who believe in Creationism, which I believe are usually led by the Christians. Muslims seems to be at loss when questioned on their religious views pertaining to such scientific theories. With the caveat of quoting Wikipedia, the theory of evolution and its compatibility with religion is a relatively new subject to Muslims.
A 2007 study of religious patterns found that only 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, 14% of Pakistanis, 16% of Indonesians, and 22% of Turks agree that Darwin’s theory is probably or most certainly true, and a 2006 survey reported that about a quarter of Turkish adults agreed that human beings evolved from earlier animal species. (Source)
An article in the latest issue of the journal, “Science,” suggests the evolution-creationist divide is about to emerge in the Muslim world. The article’s author, astronomer Salman Hameed, talks to “The World’s” Marco Werman about why the debate is heating up now, and implications for Muslims on both sides of the debate. The creation story in Islam is similar to the Biblical creation story, according to Professor Hammed: “But unlike the Book of Genesis, it is not laid out in a chronological order, nor is it in one single place. Secondly, it has this six-day creation, but the length of the days is less ambiguous.” (Source)
To highlight the seriousness of the issue, there are also calls for the school curriculum in Saudi to be revised to stem “foreign ideologies such as the Theory of Evolution.”
Evolution in Islam
It began in the sea, some three thousand million years ago. Complex chemical molecules began to clump together to form microscopic blobs: cells.
These were the seeds from which the tree of life developed.
They were able to split, replicating themselves – as bacteria do. And as time passed they diversified into different groups.
How does Islam fare in the trolling against creationism? The advance of science, the proliferation of knowledge, and the smart-asses on the internet seemed to have given a new reason to scoff at beliefs which advocate creationism, i.e. all religions.
Some versions of Christian creationism theories believe the earth may be as young as 10,000 years of age, putting it on a collision course with scientists who place the earth at billions of years old.
Islam meanwhile doesn’t limit the theory of evolution to a time-frame; moreover the position of the theory of evolution is still somewhat vaguely established among Muslims.
Like many other issues which is not specifically stated in the Qur’an or hadith, it is open to many varying views. Some simply denounced evolution. Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah lined out the Qur’anic evidences of the creation of man, while steering clear of any scientific arguments.
Some attempted to combine both scientific reasoning and for Muslims to ally with Christians and support Intelligent Design.
…Said Nursi, in the 1950s, foresaw an alliance between Islam and Christianity against materialism. He prophetically wrote, “A tyrannical current born of naturalist and materialist philosophy will gradually gain strength and spread at the end of time, reaching such a degree that it denies God. … Although defeated before the atheistic current while separate, Christianity and Islam will have the capability to defeat and rout it as a result of their alliance” (Nursi, Letters, s. 77-78).
…Intelligent Design (ID) is a term that implies creation. The universe and life are not products of blind forces of nature, ID holds, but show evidence that they were designed by an intelligence. The ID Movement has deliberately chosen not to specify the identity of the Designer. Through science you can demonstrate convincingly that there is a designer, but you can’t go further without invoking theology. (Source)
Some, such as Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller went to great lengths to debunk evolution.
“Though their existence provides the basis for paleontology, fossils have always been something of an embarrassment to evolutionists. The problem is one of ‘missing links’: the fossil record is so littered with gaps that it takes a truly expert and imaginative eye to discern how one species could have evolved into another…. But now, for the first time, excavations at Kenya’s Lake Turkana have provided clear fossil evidence of evolution from one species to another. The rock strata there contain a series of fossils that show every small step of an evolutionary journey that seems to have proceeded in fits and starts” (Sharon Begley and John Carey, “Evolution: Change at a Snail’s Pace.” Newsweek, 7 December 1981).
Speaking for myself, I was convinced that the evolution of man was an unchallengeable “given” of modern knowledge until I read Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species“. The ninth chapter (The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Ed. J.W. Burrow. London: Penguin Books, 1979, 291-317) made it clear, from what Darwin modestly calls the “great imperfection of the geological record” that the theory was not in principle falsifiable, though the possibility that some kind of evidence or another should be able in principle to disprove a theory is a condition (if we can believe logicians like Karl Popper) for it to be considered scientific. By its nature, fossil evidence of intermediate forms that could prove or disprove the theory remained unfound and unfindable. When I read this, it was not clear to me how such an theory could be called “scientific”.
However, it seems clear that none of the Islamic views support that Prophet Adam evolved from an ape. So what does that make of the hours of evolution-of-man being hammered into young Muslims’ mind? How do we answer this, amidst all the differing views and opinions? Do we even have a concrete answer?
Answering with the Mind
Islam and science have also been supportive and complimentary. There are many many many verses recording scientific facts revealed some 1400 years ago, long before they were discovered by scientists. (Dr. Maurice Bucailles’ The Bible, the Qur’an and Science is a good start.)
The Qu’ran and sunnah revealed passages about the creation of earth and space which is compatible with the Big Bang and expansion of universe theories. For instance, as for the video above on the Tree of Life, which stated that everything started out in the sea, the Qur’an states (which also includes the Big Bang):
أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ أَفَلا يُؤْمِنُونَ
“Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one united piece, then we parted them? And we have made from water every living thing, will they not then believe?” (al-Anbiyaa’:30)
وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَ كُلَّ دَابَّةٍ مِنْ مَاءٍ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَمْشِي عَلَى بَطْنِهِ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَمْشِي عَلَى رِجْلَيْنِ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَمْشِي عَلَى أَرْبَعٍ يَخْلُقُ اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“And Allah has created every animal from water: of them there are some that creep on their bellies; some that walk on two legs; and some that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills for verily Allah has power over all things.” (al-Nuur:45)
(Sidenote: In the same video, there is also an interesting point which is related in the Qur’an, regarding the extinction of dinosaurs and the appearance of the birds. At 4m 24s, it noted “…65 million years ago, a great disaster overtook the Earth. Whatever its cause, a great proportion of animal life was exterminated. All the dinosaurs disappeared – except for one branch, whose scales had become modified into feathers. They were the birds.” After Prophet Adam’s descent to Earth, which he is told to take sartorial cover from the feathers of the birds as in al-A’raaf, 26: “You Adam’s sons and daughters, We had descended on you a cover (that) conceals your shameful genital private parts, and feathers/riches/possessions, and the fear and obedience (of God’s) cover/dress, that (is) better.” The word for ‘feather/riches/possessions’ here is ريشاً and usually translated as adornment, but in it’s original meaning, it is referred the feather of birds; the bird’s feather is its adornment. Obviously this is a relation which may require some stretch of imagination, so I’ll pause here. Furthermore, this doesn’t exactly assist my argument below.)
Answering from the Heart
Yet despite the great scientific revelations of the Qur’an, humans have a tendency to nitpick on one single scientific theory (evolution) which may not be explained by the Qur’an? Or perhaps it will be, in the far future, once Allah decides to reveal that particular detail to mankind. What is the possibility that we didn’t evolve from apes? Long ago, everyone on earth believed the world was flat, and that theory was history. How sure are we about evolution that it can’t be falsified and proven otherwise?
And perhaps the actual danger comes from the fact that most of the college and university-educated Muslims are simply trained have a systematic thought process; one before two, have money before kids, etc. While it may be beneficial, it may also hinder the faith in Allah and the spirit of tawakkul when in dire circumstances, such as those who would thinks that a credit loan is the foremost solution to monetary problems instead of praying first to Allah. This also signals the loss of adab to The Creator, He is the utmost whom we seek refuge and help in any situation.
A pertinent question was asked by Ziauddin Sardar:
[The scientific-miracles apologia] opens the Quran to the counter argument of Popper’s criteria of refutation: would the Quran be proved false and written off, just as Bucaille writes off the Bible, if a particular scientific fact does not tally with it, or if a particular fact mentioned in the Quran is refuted by modern science? (Source)
How true, not everything can be scientifically explained. How would one scientifically explain heaven and hell, isra’ mi’raaj, and many more instances of mu’jizah gifted to our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ? Scientific knowledge is still growing and ever-changing pending new findings and experiments. How would one explain the ruh (soul) to scientists? Even with the MacDougall Experiment in 1907, the loss of weight upon death was some 21 grams, which some argue is either the weight of breath inside the human body, or within the margin of error.
Attempting to justify everything with scientific knowledge may lead to bad science. One doesn’t need to be convinced of the scientific advantages behind Allah’s instruction. It could simply be a test for the heart and soul, to elevate the faith of the believer and condemn those who aren’t.
A friend once asked me why do Muslim women wear the hijab. I told her for reasons such as modesty and humility. She replied, “But you do not need reason to do that. If you believe in Allah, why do you need to question his command?”
Not every single thing can be proved by science. Instead in this “everything-can-be-explained-by-science” world, more emphasis should be placed on faith. Just because you believe in miracle, doesn’t mean you must or can explain it.
Even though the fitrah of the human is belief in The Creator, having ourselves tamed to do otherwise in years of secular institutions only serves to enhance our insecurity through the limited reasoning of the human mind. Often the teachings of Islam is sidelined to accommodate the peer-pressure rhetorics of society dominated by secular atheistic opinions.
For this reason, it’s not surprising that non-religious, college-educated adults fall back on purpose-seeking explanations. Many people have little understanding of evolution and instead view it as a cultural belief, thinking: “‘I’m a good secular liberal, I’m no yokel, I believe in Darwin,'” Bloom says. (Source)
And the gifted Sayyed Hossein Nasr recently pointed out:
The secularist paradigm which was created in the 17th century is itself a pseudo-religion in that it is a view of the nature of reality. There is no abstract knowledge; knowledge is always within the framework of a worldview, of a way of looking at the nature of reality.
We need to be reminded that secularism itself is not value-free. It is heavily influenced by the post-Christian movement, and the result is looking at everything from a completely atheistic point of view.
We always forget that Allah is the creator of this beautiful earth, suspended in space with the other planets religiously moving on a trajectory determined by Him. We always forget that Allah doesn’t need scientific reasoning to create, “kun fa yakuun” (“Be, and it becomes”), as was how we were created into beings. We always forget that we were created from nothing, and once we pass away, from nothing we will be recreated. Nothing is impossible, as Allah the Omnipotent Creator is unlike us, not bound by the laws of physics which He imposed on us mortals. If he decided to create Prophet Adam from dust, then he be. And he was.
…regarding the issue of natural “laws,” or more precisely, the issue of causality which is a prerequisite for the construction of natural laws. Scholars from Ash`ari school of theology, such as Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, denied the principle of causality, asserting that Allah is either acting directly or through the angels. This was done in order to uphold the omnipotence of God who, given a strict view of causality, would be subservient to the laws of nature, and, hence, would not constitute the ultimate reality. (Source)
Allah doesn’t need a cause. Kun, fa yakuun.
Even experts who delve deep in the knowledge of science find themselves berlieving in the existence of a Creator. For instance, the man who cracked the genome code said:
“When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have found it,” he said. “But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along.
“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”
While from Einstein himself:
“There are people who say there is no God,” he told a friend. “But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.” And unlike Sigmund Freud or Bertrand Russell or George Bernard Shaw, Einstein never felt the urge to denigrate those who believed in God; instead, he tended to denigrate atheists. “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos,” he explained.
In fact, Einstein tended to be more critical of debunkers, who seemed to lack humility or a sense of awe, than of the faithful. “The fanatical atheists,” he wrote in a letter, “are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who–in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’– cannot hear the music of the spheres.”
So, while the certain parts of the Qur’an may be supported by science, we must also remember that many other parts involve the ghaibiyyaat, the world of the unseen, not bound by the laws of science and physics that applies to Allah’s creations: the minerals, animals, elements, planets, and his creatures which we do not even know exist. Some people are more keen to credit unexplainable events to the “force of nature”, rather than Allah. Lest we forget, our very existence is bound by our purpose in life. Humans are no “accident” of “nature”. We will be questioned on our doings.
Evolution and Islam by Shaikh Nuh ha Mim Keller (recommended)
A comment from Malaysia Kini on the legalization of sports betting in Malaysia:
Vincent Tan (the tycoon who obtained the sports betting license) was reported as asking why these Muslims groups are unhappy when the government has made it clear that Muslims are not allowed to bet.
No, Vincent Tan. It is not only the Muslims who are unhappy – most non-Muslims are unhappy, too. No sane non-Muslim will support your argument. We non-Muslims are with the Muslim groups asking the government to withdraw the betting licence.
A bit late here in Singapore as the sports betting is common, and the two casinos are already in operation, but relevant nonetheless.
Recently, the local Muslim Singaporeans were treated to a news regarding a group of people following a so-called ustaz (religious teacher). Apparently, the so-called ustaz had told his followers that Singapore faced an impending cataclysmic earthquake measuring more than 7.0 on the Richter scale, which were to occur on a certain date – 29th or 31st January 2010.
Fearing the worst, the group of followers, said to be around 30 families, packed their bags and traveled to Malaysia to escape the quake. Of course, the quake didn’t happen, as life went on for people on the lil’ red dot.
Then news spread the follower’s trip and the reason behind it, and people chastised them for being so gullible, and also for the so-called ustaz to be reprimanded.
Apparently from sources that I have access to (correct me if I’m wrong here), this ustaz apparently received the “news” of an “impending quake” from the above. In this day and age, one can only be extra careful to say the least, especially with regards to rumors coming from possibly shady people, and of course Fox News. Here are some points I’d like to raise:
1. Obviously, news like these should be inspected and sieved carefully; one can only assume the character of the teacher – pious or otherwise. But in this day and age, as much as I like see myself as a religious believer, I am usually more than skeptical about those who claim to profess ilham (inspiration) from Allah. While I must note that ilham is still a rare possibility, the followers must practice their due diligence and not follow it blindly.
2. One of the tell-tale signs of a suspicious teacher may be his request for exclusivity and secrecy of his teachings. This is apparent in many cults, be it Western-based or otherwise, and it doesn’t take common sense to figure that good science – or knowledge for that matter – is one which is able to stand the criticism, openness, and debate. That is why in the Arabic countries for instance, there is this culture of their religious leaders attending the lectures of their peers. Sadly one which is lacking here, I say.
3. At least, verify any questionable issues raised by your religious teacher (a warning of an impending quake is definitely one of them) with established religious lecturers, not some taxi driver with no formal religious education training, and especially not the kakis you meet over your teh/kopi session.
4. By any means, please do not just forward any news/SMS/email you receive without checking its sources. Even if the source is verified, do not forward it if it brings no one any good. This, as well as common sense, is one of the good practices when dealing with new technology. Among these good practices is also not to use the video recording technology like a 6-year-old would; recording everything in his path. Especially not coitus.
5. Do not have sex before marriage. Do not have premarital sex and record it. Even if you are married, do not record sex. Men, regardless of their charm and seeming innocence, shouldn’t be trusted with really sensitive materials, and aren’t grown up until they reach circa 60 years of age. So if you do receive potentially damaging items of other people, do not forward it to anyone else. See #4.
6. If you spread damaging materials of other people, and they kill themselves because of it, are you partially responsible for it then? Please do what is right. Let the mind triumph over temptation, for once.
A stranger called me out of the blue pleading for my help. He wants to know if there is any way in which I could assist to purge copies of a file that has been circulating on the Internet. The file in question is actually a 3-minute pornographic video clip of a Singaporean Malay girl.
Apparently, the video is that of his 22-year old niece. The 3GP file allegedly shows her in full nudity while engaging in various sexual activities with her ex-boyfriend. Spiteful after being told to end the relationship, the revengeful lover purportedly gave the file away to several of his friends.
The video has since been making its round on local pornographic forums and file sharing networks. According to the uncle, the file is so widespread that it ended up in the hands of the family’s relatives who often teased her during the last Hari Raya visits.
Drowned in humiliation, she committed suicide about a month ago by leaping from her bedroom window. According to the uncle, her body was so mangled that they had to keep the “kain kafan” (burial shroud) sealed throughout the eerily somber funeral ceremony.
The 40-day anniversary of her death is approaching soon and her family members and close friends are thinking of holding a gathering at her parents’ flat to offer prayers for her soul. The Malays call it a “kenduri” and it is largely believed to offer some reprise for the dead. Besides, it is an opportunity for the family to gain closure over the tragedy.
But before the prayers, the family is appealing to all those who are having the file to delete and cease it from distribution. With a heavy heart, I had to explain to the uncle that it is not possible to simply “purge” a file on a sex forum without the intervention of the site’s owners.
I pray that her soul will finally be at peace.
While “Allah” issue in Malaysia (warning: Wiki link) has raised more than just eyebrows, I have stated in a previous post that while the usage is seemingly allowed according to Islamic canonical sources, bearing specificity to the Arabic language, those who are against it would assert that the contextualization of language (specifically Malaysian vis-a-vis Indonesian) would render that argument invalid.
Further readings I came across also inferred to the relatively contemporaneous usage of the word Allah by Christians in Malaysia. Previously, the word tuhan has been used as the translation for god. So why the recent recourse for the right over Allah?
Being frank, I must say that the jury is out until these speculations are cleared.
Adding to that, here’s NUS linguistics lecturer Jyh Wee Sew’s enlightening article in the Malay daily recently (19 Jan), elucidating the exclusivity of religious terms.
‘Adakah satu perspektif transformatif diperlukan untuk menghadapi masalah perpaduan?’
Memang tidak wajar untuk menyamakan isu kemelut linguistik nama khas dengan sejarah yang berlaku 40 tahun lalu. Masalah dasar pada empat dekad lalu ialah kemiskinan atau lebih diakuri sebagai masalah ekonomi.
Masalah pada hari ini sebenarnya isu antiglobalis yang cuba disandung pada media cetak yang dianggap sebagai cabaran kepada agama Islam.
Terdapat banyak perkara yang perlu difikirkan dalam kemelut yang melanda keheningan masyarakat majmuk di Malaysia. Isu yang paling asas bukanlah isu perpaduan tetapi isu keharmonian.
Perpaduan antara kaum tidak akan mencapai konsep kawah lebur (melting pot), malahan ia tidak perlu menjadi begitu.
Kaum masing-masing telah pun sedia maklum dengan identiti sendiri seperti cara beramal ibadat, sistem bahasa, budaya makan, kepercayaan adat resam masing-masing.
Keunikan masyarakat majmuk yang begitu baik perlu dikekalkan dengan mantap. Setiap kaum harus bebas tetapi dengan peka menjalani kehidupan menurut tabii yang diwarisi.
Yang penting ialah keharmonian antara kaum dipelihara menerusi cara hidup yang bertatasusila.
Dengan mengakuri keistimewaan nama Tuhan agama sesuatu kaum yang lain tanpa menyamakannya secara globalis, keharmonian akan terpupuk.
Isu mutakhir yang menggugat keharmonian masyarakat majmuk berpunca daripada isu bahasa.
Keinginan menggunakan nama Tuhan secara merentas agama ternyata satu usaha yang tidak wajar kerana agama tidak lut globalisasi.
Reaksi dan suara daripada penganutnya bahawa keistimewaan nama keagamaan dipelihara sudah jelas dan ia harus dihormati serta dituruti oleh institusi perundangan serta sosial.
Konsep arbitrari bahasa iaitu rujukan bahasa bersifat wewenang ternyata tidak berlaku akibat peristiwa pembakaran gereja di Malaysia.
Konsep wewenang bahasa ini disalahtafsirkan daripada buku Ferdinand de Saussure yang disusun oleh pelajarnya selepas kematian beliau. Pembetulan masalah bacaan linguistik struktural ini boleh dibaca dalam buku From Interaction to Symbol oleh Piotr Sadowski (John Benjamins, 2009) yang antara lain diterangkan bahawa lambang bahasa merupakan hasil evolusi rujukan yang bertimbunan sejak zaman lampau.
Dengan ini lambang bahasa tidak mungkin bersifat wewenang tetapi merupakan himpunan makna yang mantap. Rujukan nama Tuhan dan rujukan nama khas yang lain sudah tidak mungkin disamakan dengan rujukan baru sesuka hati.
Faktor emosi tidak boleh diabai secara struktural. Sebagai contoh lain, usaha menghalalkan makanan Cina bernama Bak Kut Teh iaitu masakan sup tulang rusuk babi. Walaupun digantikan dengan daging ayam dan lembu, ia tetap dibantah oleh masyarakat Melayu kerana nama tersebut tidak halal didengar. Inilah yang dimaksudkan sebagai evolusi rujukan yang bersifat rujukan langsung atau isomorfik. Sebenarnya banyak rujukan isomorfik yang tersirat dan tersurat pada nama.
Bagi menjawab persoalan awal, perspektif yang transformatif tidak semesti pandangan yang bersifat radikal atau baru. Satu pemikiran yang mapan dapat dimanfaatkan daripada peribahasa Melayu ‘buat baik berpada-pada, buat jahat jangan sekali’.
Bagi perancang awam, pegangan wajib ialah tentukan nama hendaklah berpada-pada agar istilah agama kekal abadi. Jika pihak berkuasa lebih peka dengan sentimen ini, kemungkinan besar kerugian harta benda dan hakisan nama baik sebuah negara yang memang terkenal dengan keharmonian kaum tidak akan berlaku.
What’s up with name association these days?
I try not to comment on such subjects; the internet and newspapers are already laden with views and arguments from more qualified experts. But then I received an email related to the movie “Avatar”, which said:
Before you get your children excited over “AVATAR” and keep saying the word again and again.
An Avatar is in incarnation of a fragment of God on Earth. Avatars that are known of in the West include, Christ, Buddha, Rama, and Krishna; but there are many others as enumerated in the Bhagavata, the story of all the major Avatars.
To be frank, the first thing that came to my mind when I hear the word “avatar” was the small picture that is placed by a user in an internet forum, as a mean to identify himself. But that may be because I am partly internet-biased.
However, such associations of terminologies are nothing new, although it’s given its time in the media now. Especially, with the current debacle over the usage of the word “Allah” for Christians in Malaysia.
“Allah”: Is it for Muslims only?
To answer that, the easiest method will be to ascertain whether the word “Allah” was used in times before Islam. According to the editable Wikipedia (pinch of salt), the term “Allah” was already used in pre-Islamic times in the Middle East.
And to my humble knowledge, the term “Allah” is already being used in the Middle East today to refer to “God”, so much so that if you can get your hands on an Arabic-language bible, you can see clearly that the word “Allah” is used in it. (Sidenote: the debate over there must have been much more interesting, if there were any.)
Even the famous Muslim preacher Ahmad Deedat had been saying the word “Allah” does exist in the bible. At the same time, he also pleaded:
I had made some public statements regarding my discovery of the word “Alah” as alternatively spelled from the usual Christian spelling “Elah.” My plea to the Christians was this that spell the word as you like, with an “A” or an “E”, with a single “L” or double “LL’s”, but for goodness sake pronounce the word correctly, as we Muslims do.
…As much as the Englishman has the right to dictate to us as to how his language is to be sounded, surely we Muslims have as much right to demand a common courtesy when taking the name of God. We do not wish the word Allah to go into limbo like the “Yahuwa” of the ]ews. More than 6000 times the formula “YAHUWA ELAH,” or ya”HUWA ALAH,” or “HUWALLAH,” (He is Allah!) occur in the Hebrew manuscripts of the Jewish Bible, commonly called the “Old Testament,” by the Christians.
However in this blog here, the author posited that the the word “Allah” is used exclusively by the Muslims, and the Christians were advised with caution when using such terms.
The ex-PM of Malaysia has also lent his voice to the issue, citing his disagreement over the permissibility of the usage of “Allah” for non-Muslim reference.
This puts him at loggerheads with his own daughter, who sees no wrong in the usage, and also, surprise surprise, the Islamic political party PAS, which allows the usage of “Allah”, with caution against abuse.
Let Islam/Muslims be the Trendsetter
Yet, it is very common for Muslims be on the opposite of the spectrum, i.e., apprehensive of non-Islamic terms being used in everyday communications, such as the word “idol”. Muslims, generally, are very aware of the etymology of the word “idol”, especially when American Idol variants first came to our shores.
Then there were the Muslims who warned me when an Ar-Raudhah mosque (Bukit Batok, Singapore) was built with no dome, and star polygons decorating it. They say that if another religion were to take over the mosque, they don’t need to do any redecorating. Firstly, I think it’s unlikely that “another religion” will “take over” the premise, and secondly, I think they confused it with the Jewish Star of David.
Same as those who sees the designs in window frames as Christian crosses. Some people may even freak out at the uncapitalized sans bottom-stroke “t”.
Still, such mindsets come from those who are not keen on Muslims copying from other people, yet unknowingly they are hogging everything that’s un-Islamic. Then there are the multi-colored rubber wristbands (made popular by superman Lance Armstrong), the supposedly-beneficial magnetic bracelets, and many more trends which numerous Muslims bulldoze through to be a part of.
This is the Palestinian-popularized kuufiyyah. People usually know it as keffiyah. (Image credit)
Then sometime two years ago, American talk-show host Rachel Ray came under fire for wearing one of those Palestinian kuufiyyah in her commercial. Of course the ad got pulled off as idiocy auto-translates that into support for the Palestinian cause.
Personally, aside from the controversy, I think the kuufiyyah is one of those examples that Muslims can learn from; a Muslim-associated symbol that is being internationally accepted. While its current usage on fashion runways is not something that a Muslim should be proud of, it does aid in the much-needed awareness for the Palestinian cause.
How wonderful is it if we can have more beneficial teachings and ideas which originate from Islam and Muslims themselves. Such trends and positive influences had contributed to the spread of Islam in Southeast Asia, through the generous Yemeni merchants (or some argue the Indian Muslim merchants came first). The spread of knowledge into Europe and the contribution the Islamic philosophers, scientists, religious scholars and many more in the time of “medieval” science and technology, Islamic architectures and designs being replicated and explained today through mathematics and many more, were all due to Islam and Muslims being the trendsetters of their time.
Come to think of it, it is hard to think of contemporary Islamic trendsetters nowadays. Nobel (non-peace prize) laureates, brilliant inventors, and skilled orators (no entertainers please) are what we need badly to give a positive lift to our disdained image today. While consistently producing world-class trendsetters admittedly takes time, I think the Palestinian shawl is a good place to start.
So what now?
Back to the usage of the word “Allah”, while it is already being used in native Arabic-speaking countries, Deedat’s word does hold sound advice. However, in religiously-sensitive Malaysia, one has got to understand that the usage of the word may lead to more confusion than liberation.
While it is true that language, as well as fashion, evolves from one time to another, one has also got to weight the nuances of sentiments, and ramifications of judgment.
For instance, some restaurant owners display “Allah” openly to signify that they serve halal Muslim food. So maybe one day, the time will come when a customer got to ask whether that hanging “Allah” frame means they serve halal food or not; issues like this must be considered too before passing judgment.
As for me, I’m still waiting for the proper hijab is going to be an international fashion trend.
Beza Antara Merebut Nama Allah Dan Mempertahankan Akidah (The Difference Between Wrestling for Allah’s Name and Defending the Faith)