Saturday, February 01, 2014

On the khutbah/Friday sermon


 
 
The whole day today my mind had this long question-and-answer session concerning the Muslim Friday prayers and what should change in the way the congregation is spoken to. I had these random questions in need of perspectives, in light of the rising tension emanating from the ‘Allah’ controversy:

1. Why should Friday sermons put people to sleep and be used to sow the seeds of hatred and ignorance, rather than promote intercultural and inter-racial and international understanding? Have we not have been having enough of violence on the streets as a consequence of these urgings to divide and destroy? Should people boycott religious hatemongers parading themselves as pious people using house of worships as cells to promote hatred?

2. Friday khutbahs will remain hypocritical if they do not talk about the hypocrisy of the ruling class in the way they spend money, consume conspicuously, breed hatred, fight endlessly over power and its insanity, the production of high-brow pornography, etc.

I imagine the jemaah/congregation will finally wake up if these are addressed, since they are the most meaningful topics relating to the reality of things and ones that place religion as a meaningful human invention to alleviate human problems based on scientific, moral and ethical solutions, grounded in radical-ecumenical tradition and not merely a showcase of human obedience .

3. Imams delivering engaging khutbahs should also be postmodernists and transculturalists instead of merely becoming parrots to the dictates of the state.

They should be able to craft their own speech texts true to the ability of their intelligence to share new ideas, promote multiculturalism, bring people of all faiths together, think like a cosmopolitan, well-read in comparative religion, able to extract, extrapolate, and espouse universal values of all religions, be in tune with the pressing matters of the day, speak up against gluttony especially of the rich and the 1 percent of society, and above all do not speak ill of any religion, any race, anyone professing any kind of truth meaningful to them.

How can we create such imams and replace those out to damage society with them?

4. Why should the jemaah/congregation pray for the continued longevity of morally questionable rulers of empires - of despots, dictators, demagogues?

Why not pray that those who hath oppressed the people for generations will arrive at a moksha, a boddhisatva, a catharsis, a stage of spiritual peak performance, a personal enlightenment, an illumination, a deep and poignant realisation that they ought to resign from their ill-constructed positions and worldly matters and devote their lives to ceasing all further attempts to create wealth and sustain power for themselves and their families dynastically, so that the poor will be spared of being further used and abused under a system of tyranny sanctioned by religion that continues to blind people, maim and mutilate, and debilitate the mind, body, and soul of the very purpose of existence - to connect and to liberate and to break away from all forms of demagoguery.

Why can't we be made to see this picture clearly?

Why not create Paradise on earth?

5. And why should khutbahs be about doing good for a reward of Paradise only for oneself? Why not fix Hell on earth by overthrowing Evil and creating Paradise on earth for everybody? We cannot continue to allow myths to dominate our will to practice good science and promote good revolutionary ideals, can we?

6. And why should not Friday khutbahs be about further elevating the status of women in society, girls to go to schools safely, and men warned of the wrath of abusing women and treating the latter as objects of desire and chattels and even as human cattle. Why not speak up against any attempt to stop women from advancing economically, giving them the rights to the most basic necessities in life such as riding a car or even riding a bicycle.

7. Why not use sermons to condemn the violence that has been inflicted on girls going to school in Pakistan, that or the Talibans in Afghanistan, of the Saudis and their oftentimes ridiculous fatwas on women, and any acts of hidden or physical violence inflicted on women?

Or better still, why not challenge the idea in the Quran itself that women are only good as   rewards of those “dark-eyed houries, chaste as virgin pearls, a guerdon for their (the good-doers’) deeds ...” especially for those choosing to die as suicide bombers, and explain to the jumaah/congregation of the paradoxical idea of women in Islam that must also be deconstructed?

Why not sermons to also be about this fundamental notion of women’s rights often abused even by the most pious-looking Muslims?

I don’t know the answer to these questions and I hope those reading can share their thoughts on my ideational meanderings on this Chinese New Year.



DR AZLY RAHMAN, born in Singapore and grew up in Johor Baru, holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in International Education Development and Masters degrees in four areas: Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication. He has taught more than 40 courses in six different departments and has written more than 350 analyses on Malaysia. His teaching experience in Malaysia and the United States spans over a wide range of subjects, from elementary to graduate education. He has edited and authored four books; Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, Future (2009), Thesis on Cyberjaya: Hegemony and Utopianism in a Southeast Asian State (2012), The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity (2013), and the latest Dark Spring: Ideological Roots of Malaysia's GE-13 (2013). He currently resides in the United States. Twitter, blog.
 

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