The nature of my job is where I have to be serious and intellectual most of the time. Hence when it comes to blog-world, I would like to keep it simple, superficial and bimbotic.
Anyways, this is a going to be a serious post.
I detest discrimination. I abhor self-righteous people. I hate it when religion and politics mix. But then again, since when has it not?
I wouldn’t call myself staunchly religious but I do hold certain values and morals dear. And these are universal values and morals – which are not exclusive to only a set religion/faith/belief. Regardless of anyone’s religious beliefs, I strongly advocate tolerance, understanding and respect. My religion, faith and beliefs are no more superior than yours. And vice versa.
We live in a multi-cultural society. I feel sad whenever I meet someone who has never had the chance to “celebrate” or partake in activities which are outside of his/her cultural norm. I always urge my kids to extend their festivities to those outside their race/religion. I am grateful to live in a society where tolerance and understanding is largely (not all the time, mind you cos bigots exist in every society) adhered to.
I am not a Christian but I do “celebrate” Christmas and occasionally I do get soaked in the whole Valentine’s Day hype. These celebrations are just that – HYPE. It is all about COMMERCIALISM. It’s POP CULTURE. But all these don’t make me a Christian, nor does that make me any less of a Muslim or influence me to the extent of wanting to denounce my own faith. Seriously. What’s so wrong if I were to get immersed in seasonal goodwill? I get excited by Diwali and Vesak Day too! Does that make me a Hindu or Buddist? When I “celebrate” these non-Muslim festivals, does that mean that I will rot in hell? Who are you - a mere mortal - to tell me that I will rot in hell? You are not God.
This leads me to Malaysian politics. I get all incredulous whenever I read about the ridiculous politics in Malaysia. I dislike reading them but I have to because of my job. I can’t, not know.
Last month, I came across a commentary written by Raja Zarith Idris which first appeared in Malaysia’s English language newspaper, The Star and was reproduced in The Straits Times on the 18th of February 2011. Raja Zarith Idris is a Royal Fellow at the School of Language Studies and Linguistics at the University Kebangsaan Malaysia and holds a BA (Hons) degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford. She is also the current Sultanah of Johor.
All Muslim bigots should read and reflect upon what she has written.
Raja Zarith Idris wrote:
If Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Isa (Jesus), a prophet respected and revered in Islam, is it so wrong to wish a blessed day for those who celebrate it?
During the days before Christmas last year, I wished my friends who were celebrating it “Merry Christmas” in much the same way they would wish me “Selamat Hari Raya” or “Happy Eid”.
I find it rather sad that such a simple greeting – one which I grew up with and which I have never regarded as something that would compromise or de-value my own faith – is now regarded as something so religiously incorrect for us Malaysian Muslims.
When I was at boarding school in England, I had to go to church every Sunday because it was part of the rules. My father advised me to consider it as part of my “education” and he had no doubt that the experience would strengthen rather than weaken my own faith.
I was able to see the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam. I learned more than the average Malaysian Muslim would about Christianity. I learnt that just as we Muslims categorise ourselves according to the four different schools of thoughts of the four Imams (Imam Malik, Imam Al Shafi, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Ahmad Abn Hambal) and are either Sunnis or Shias, so Christians too are divided into different sects or churches.
Going to church did not make me less of a Muslim when I was a young girl, and neither does saying “Merry Christmas” make me less of a Muslim now. My faith has not been shaken just because I wished some friends a time of joy with their families. Neither will I suddenly suffer from amnesia and forget what my religion is.
What I do not wish to forget, however, is that there are good, kind people who are not of the same faith as me.
As Harun Yahya, the Turkish writer (he was selected last year as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan) noted:
“Islam is a religion of peace, love and tolerance”.
Today, however, some circles have been presenting a false image of Islam, as if there were conflict between Islam and the adherents of the two other monotheistic religions. Yet Islam’s view of Jews and Christians, who are named `the People of the Book’ in the Quran, is very friendly and tolerant.
“This attitude towards the People of the Book developed during the years of the birth of Islam. At that time, Muslims were a minority, struggling to protect their faith and suffering oppression and torture from the pagans of the city of Mecca. Due to this persecution, some Muslims decided to flee Mecca and shelter in a safe country with a just ruler. The Prophet Muhammad told them to take refuge with King Negus, the Christian king of Ethiopia. The Muslims who followed this advice found a very fair administration that embraced them with love and respect when they went to Ethiopia. King Negus refused the demands of the pagan messengers who asked him to surrender the Muslims to them, and announced that Muslims could live freely in his country.
“Such attitudes of Christian people that are based on the concepts of compassion, mercy, modesty and justice, constitute a fact that God has pointed out in the Quran.”
I do not wish to be a self-centred Muslim who expects friends of other faiths to wish me Selamat Hari Raya or, for those who are not Malaysians and therefore do not know about Hari Raya, a Happy Eid and yet do not return their goodwill when it is Christmas, Chinese New Year, Deepavali or Vesak Day.
Every year, friends who are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs or those without any faith come to our home to celebrate Hari Raya with us. They do so with sincerity and as a mark of respect for one of the most important days in the Muslim calendar. Why should we not reciprocate their kindness, show them the same mark of respect for their religion and wish them the same joy on their holy days of celebration?
An Islamic scholar and lecturer also reminded me that as Muslims we must remember the importance of both the five Pillars of Islam and in the six Pillars of Iman (Faith), which are:
- Belief in Allah;
- Belief in the angels;
- Belief in the revealed Books (which include the Bible, the Torah and the Holy Quran);
- Belief in the Prophets (May Peace be Upon Them);
- Belief in the Resurrection and the events of Kiamah, the Day of Judgement; and
- Belief in the predestination (Qada’ and Qadar) by Allah in all things.
The prophets include not just Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him) as the last prophet and as the Messenger of Islam, but also in the 24 earlier ones who are mentioned in both the Bible and the Quran. Four of them are Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Daud (David), and Isa (Jesus).
So, if Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Isa (Jesus), a prophet respected and revered in Islam, is it so wrong to wish a blessed day for those who celebrate it?
We are now in the second decade of the 21st century. Surely, we should, now more than ever, be far more enlightened at a time when information of any sort and of all kinds are so readily available to us.
What is most important is that we regard one another as fellow citizens and treat each other with respect, regardless of our race or religion.
Dear “Sorry to Rain on Your Parade” (of bogus email address: firstname.lastname@example.org),
I am not gonna just deny posting up your comment, but better still, I’m gonna include it in this entry.
I just think that both the writer and you should learn MORE about your religion before spouting (and agreeing to) such “belief” which just further confuses the younger generation. Islam IS about tolerance, however the “People of the Book” only existed during the Prophet’s time. Want to know more? Read it up. The Prophet more or less said, “Those who practice a culture from a tribe will be resurrected amongst the tribe.” Now tell me – do you want to be resurrected as a Muslim or not? If you do, then start being a PRACTICING Muslim. Not just one by name, and then get your panties tied up in a bunch just because these “bigots” say you will rot in Hell (which they say based upon the Islamic KNOWLEDGE – which they searched for and have gained – that they have). Speaking of rotting in Hell, sure, you’re a Muslim, and you will get a chance to be in Heaven, but did you not learn that you will have to “serve your time” in hell (depending on how much you have sinned)? Also, a day in the Hereafter is equivalent to a hundred thousand years on Earth.
If you wish to blog a post denying all the above that I have written, be my guest. It’ll be a hoot reading your comeback.
I think you are missing THE point here – the whole idea of this entry is about being TOLERANT, RESPECTFUL and ACCEPTING of other people’s beliefs and faith. How POMPOUS are you to expect others to greet you well during your own festivities and not reply back in kind on theirs? Who are you to tell me that I should start being a PRACTICING Muslim? Are you GOD? OR are you the Prophet? *snorts* Dont give me bull and say that you are a well-meaning fellow Muslim. I never did claim that I will end up in heaven just because I am a Muslim. I wouldn’t know. Allahua’lam. You don’t know me and yet you assume. How presumptuous of you, eh? And if indeed you are a good pious practicing Muslim, what makes you think that you will end up in Heaven too? No man is perfect and based on this serving-time-in-hell-before-ending-up-in-heaven belief, all men should end up in hell first before they get to smell the gates syurga and be bestowed with 70-odd virgins that you men oh-so
lust desire for (trust homosapiens with pricks to come up with such “motivations” to make them more pious. Tsk tsk. This absurd “knowledge” is one of the many ”Gharib Hadiths” btw.).
NOW YOU TELL ME, are you so unflawed and perfect and that God has emailed or texted you or spoken to you in your dreams that you will bypass hell and go straight to Heaven to your harem of virgins? If I am gonna be rotting in hell to “serve time”, so will you And I’m sure you are all too aware of that.
The author and I should learn MORE about Islam before sprouting our mouths off to further confuse the younger generation, you say? I cannot vouch for Raja Zarith Idris but I sure do know that I have been educated well enough by my parents to not only know about Islam but other religions too. “Read it up” – you challenged. HAH! I didn’t just read it, I studied it! And I didn’t do theology as a minor in university so that I can follow my faith blindly.
You know what, kiss my ass, you bigot. Indeed you are missing the whole point of this entry. If I choose to celebrate and be merry with my non-Muslim loved ones in their festivities AND be taken in by the whole commercialism hype, that doesn’t make mean that my own faith has been rattled and will crumble and that I will be influenced to denounce Islam. This reminds me of that whole “Allah” incident which I have blogged about. Like what Raja Zarith Idris, Marina Mahathir and many other confident Muslims would assert, a confident Muslim knows that the basis of his/her faith are the five pillars of Islam and the six pillars of Iman AND will not be shaken in his/her religious beliefs just because he/she chooses to be tolerant and accepting of other people’s faith – even if he/she chooses to celebrate these non-Islamic festivities with them.
If the younger generation choose to be swayed by all these so-called un-Islamic practises, then the fault most likely lies on their shaky upbringing, understanding and confidence in their own faith i.e. Islam. And if I choose to be influenced by the hype and be merry with these un-Islamic practices with my fellow non-Muslim friends and family (yes as a mixed-raced person, I do have family who are non-Muslims), then let Allah, the All Merciful, decide my fate in life after death. Bottomline, it is between me and God. You, yes YOU, a mere mortal, have no right to preach to me when you, yourself are nothing but just as flawed.
Oh, by the way, it is St Patrick’s Day today Happy St Patrick’s Day, my readers!