Monday, July 13, 2009

How to speak about Islam

How to speak about Islam
Azly Rahman
Jun 22, 09
12:43pm

The debate on who should or should not speak about Islam continues to be an interesting topic especially in Malaysia.

Non-Muslims are also joining the bandwagon in presenting ways on how to speak about Islam.

I suppose, like the topic of "jihad" that became popular on American prime time television since the early 1980s, the question of "Islam and feminism" in Malaysia is gaining popularity as the country continues to move from one phase of liberalization to another.

"Islam" which means "submission to the will of one God" has now become an adjective to linguistically violent words created by those who wish to destroy the essence of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); teaching that validated the message of other prophets in Islam - from Adam, Idris, Noh, Hud, Salleh to Musa, Daud, Zakariya, and Isa (peace be upon them).

The struggle for the hearts and minds of Muslims continues in all countries that have evolved in their various unique cultural moulds while Islam as a way of life offers its ideas on human and national development.

Ubudiah Mosque Perak MalaysiaInstead of arguing over this one particular aspect of Islamic law or ritual or even philosophical dimension, one needs to go back to the basics and explore the complexity of the faith before joining the bandwagon of public debaters.

For non-Muslims wishing to understand the debate, I do think a course of study on the Holy Quran and the Hadiths (traditions) is necessary to appreciate the gist of any dialogue on Islam.

We must be fair to any religion; to withhold judgment and to explore each of them with an open mind.

The beauty of appreciating how each human being strives to live a good and ethical life, lies in a scholarly pursuit of the ways various people achieve this.

Thus, to understand Hinduism, I began reading translations of the Vedas (Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda) and the Ramayan and the Mahabharatta.

I have used the Bhagavad Gita in my classes on Cultural Perspectives. To understand Buddhism I studied the life story of Siddharta Gautama and read the main idea of his teachings as well as how he arrived at the juncture of breaking away from Hinduism.

And to understand the Judeo-Christian tradition, I read the Jewish and the Christian bibles.

For basic Chinese philosophy, I read the Daodejing (Tao Te Chng) and the Analects of Kung Fu Tze.

Understanding other faiths

Essentially, I would then explore the sacred texts of the religion or cultural philosophy I wish to understand and appreciate.

I would approach the study of each religion not only from its historical, philosophical, and sociological point of view, but also from the hermeneutics and phenomenological aspects. In this sense it is useful to have a good grasp of the English language as most texts are translated.

In appreciating Islam in all its complexities and simplicity I would encourage my non-Muslim friends to consider the following course of action:

Study of the origins, content, and meaning of the primary sacred text of Islam, the Koran (Qur'an). Discuss the relationship between the Koran and the Hadith (a record of the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad).

Discussions on the relationship between the scripture, the self, spirituality, and social relations of production can form the basis of this study. Approach the reading of the Quran hermeneutically (in text and context) and phenomenologically (process of revelation and the psycho-social relations.

I suggest ten basic themes below as a framework of study:

1. understand the historical, cultural, and religious background and development of Islam;

azan islam call to prayer2. understand the major teachings and themes in the Koran and Hadith

and explain their historical and theological significance;

3. understand the various Islamic traditions and understand the differences between them;

4. understand the major differences between Islam and other major religions;

5. understand the ways in which Islam has shaped the development of social, political, literary, and cultural institutions in the Islamic world; and

6. study the life and work of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him)

7. understand the history of the formation of the Koran

8. understand the major themes and teachings in the Koran

9. understand the formation of the Hadith and their relationship to the Koran

10. study the institutional and legal development of Islamic society

It will be indeed a daunting task yet intellectually rewarding for one to begin the study before proceeding with any form of criticism against this or that aspect of the religion.

The message

Muslims believe in the concept of siddiq, amanah, tabligh, and fatanah which basically means that the message received from the teaching of Muhammad and the Quran is the truth (siddiq) and one must strive to guard this message from being adulterated (amanah), and teach others what Islam is (tabligh) but teach with wisdom nonetheless (fatanah).

These are also the attributes of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in that the message of Islam is spread with the utmost wisdom, befitting what Muslims believe as the prophet's role as not only the last but the seal of the prophets (khattamul anbiya)

Speaking about Islam and any religion for that matter need not be a confrontational act if we begin with the fundamentals with the help of those who devote their entire life studying the holy texts.

For Muslims, the teaching of the Koran and the guidance given by the Prophet Muhammad is to be preserved/guarded as a basis of the foundation of a society based on intelligence, faith, reason, social justice, and most of all for the evolution of a classless, caste-less, and corrupt-less society that elevates the soul of human beings - from the levels of animal, vegetative, rational, to the one that "knows".

5 comments:

JONATHAN FOO said...

Humility, passion to understand God as He Is and most of all, His Grace are necessary to bring about a union with Him.

Islam means "with love in your heart surrender & submit to the Will of Allah."

Bible Psalm 46 (10) "Be still and know I Am God."

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Page 490:

"When God grants His Blessings and His Grace, the asctatic arousal takes place within us ( mind ). It is also through the experience of such happenings and reactions that we can feel the Presence of God, and thus achieve Oneness with Him."

Experiencing God is greatest at or beyond the Super Conscious Level of the Human Mind.

Humans should learn to imbibe the Essence as contained in all Scriptures for they all come from Him.

Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...

THINK OF GOOD THINGS IN RELIGION

Religion is a very personal thing
More than merely what one thinks
With religion may freedom bring
God's aroma and nothing that stinks

(C)Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 140709
http://MotivationInMotion.blogspot.com
Tue. 14th July 2009.

SRR said...

I am impressed that you have taken the initiative to read up about other religions and its relevancies, and have encouraged others to do the same.

I have devoted approximately over 20 years of my life studying, researching and investigation religion and the paranormal, the supernatural and other questionable claims.

My opinion is, when one has carefully and diligently studied every religion or at least the major ones without being biased to any religion or faith system, one should in fact form an idea more towards Universalism or Atheism or something close along these two groups like Agnosticism and such. One will either find a form of balance or remove it all. Not becoming biased to only one.

In simple words, an individual who did his/her homework thoroughly, will either embrace all religion as equal without making any religion superior to the other or he/she may reject all religions altogether as they begin to understand that all religion have the same motives but with different roots but have evovled through time according to a particular society at a particular place and at a particular time. New religions will seem more sensible compared to the old ones. Nevertheless, they are all man-made system of control for a particular nation to live in a certain manner.

Anyways, I like to advise those who wish to embark studies in religion, always keep this simple formula in your mind:

You can't start with a conclusion, and work backwards to find supporting facts and evidence for something. You need to find the facts and evidence first, then see what that information supports. In other words, no individual should start of the studies in believing or being biased to a certain religion or believe system. Rather an individual should become a believer in something only after proper facts and evidence is produced through responsible and personal reseach and studies.

If you do it the other way around, meaning, if you have already concluded that your faith is the only true one, and then, you start your research in religion, no matter what happens, you will still see your own religion is superior or is of the ultimate truth. Therefore, you are not really researching but rather you are only comparing. You are simply wasting your time. If you have already concluded, then don't do any reseach. It is simply pointless. And you will remain biased and unrealizingly confused.

"What is wanted is not the will the believe, but the wish to find out..." ~ Bertrand Russell

"All religions bear traces of the fact they arose during the intellectual immaturity of the human race before it learned the obligation to speak the truth." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Anonymous said...

Anyone deny: To you yours, to me mine?

Anonymous said...

How to speak about Islam...

... when it becomes a crime for a non-malay to be found within the grounds of Akademi Pengajian Islam, Universiti Malaya.

... when anything said has the tendency to be deemed seditious.

... when...

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