Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Why are we destroying our belief systems?

Its a pity that I see a lot of condemnation on the ulama (the Muslim cleric who are learned in most aspects of the Muslim religion) by both the Muslims and the non-Muslims. And the non-Muslims who do not understand anything about Islam are doing this, with in some cases the encouragement from the Muslims. Aren't those Muslims ashamed of themselves, calling themselves Muslims and yet condeming the Ulama, who have learned their Muslim religion through the lines of the teachings and teachers who were and are the succesors to Prophet Muhammad PBUH. And I feel very uncomfortable about it. Ulama are learned people and I believe that they are God chosen, may not directly but as they have taken all the trouble to learn the Muslim religion very thoroughly they must have 'heard the call'. They are the representative of Prophet Mohammad PBUH in his absence, these are the people who continuously teach his teachings. They are not rulers though they can be. Its the opposite with the Government, the Government people are chosen by the people, at least in today's context, they are not God chosen. In a sense they may be but not in the same class as Ulama.

Muslim bashing seems to me to be the order of the day. Its very worrying. Muslim as far as I know do not start Christian bashing. or Hindu bashing or Buddhist bashing, not on the Internet anyway or maybe I have not read them or not been able to find any of their site. But Muslim bashing is almost everywhere in the Internet (and in the mass media). The trend cannot go on. Its has to stop some time. But the Internet being in virtual space, (and mass media being controlled by certain interested parties) no one can stop such bashing.

Here is an interesting article which was sent to me by a friend through a discussion group. I have to assume that the article is authentic as it has a URL source.
Mansour El-Kikhia, San Antonio Express-News, 2/28/04 stories/MYSA27.09B.mansour0227.f64a584.html

Muslims believe Jesus, like Moses before him, was sent to show them the way of doing good, of practicing mercy and salvation.

Like Christians, Muslims believe he was born of a virgin, and they also believe his mother is a perpetual virgin. Indeed, according to Muslims, Jesus completes the human cycle, for just as Eve was produced out of man without a woman's seed, so is man produced from a woman without a man's seed. Muslims also believe Jesus did heal the leper and perform miracles. They also believe in his social and economic teachings. They observe the Ten Commandments that Jesus followed and like him reject usury in trade. Indeed, only Muslims follow Christ's teaching on usury and trade in money.

The honoring of Jesus extends to his mother, companions and those close to him. A case in point is John the Baptist. The Koran refers to John as Yahya, which means "everlasting." Muslims believe God gave him that name because he would die as a martyr for the sake of God, and all martyrs are everlasting. Many Christians are unaware Muslims believe that at the end of time Jesus Christ, not Muhammad the prophet of Islam, will return.

There are, of course, also profound differences between the faiths, but in the final analysis Islam is more willing to accept these differences than it is given credit. Had Islam pursued a model of inquisitions and forced conversions, Spain and by extension all of Latin America, Eastern Europe, India and everywhere Muslims went would have now been Muslim.

They didn't because "there is no compulsion in faith," and in the end none of us is in a position to judge anyone else. Let's leave that to Allah.
End quote.
At least I can safely say, from the article and from what I learned in my Muslim classes, that the Muslims and the Christians have similar background. I believe that this applies to the original Christians - the Nasara, as mentioned in the Koraan. And I also believe that similarity also exist with the original Jewish religion - the Yahud as mentioned in the Koraan. I dare not mention any further than that as my knowledge on these matters is very limited.
The further mention of the subject can be very controversial and there is a lot of 'if' and 'wherefore', and emotions involved. I am going to go very narrow in that it will be just through my own experience, my country, my race and my religion. Even then my belief (and probably my earlier religious belief) system have been diluted by my studies and my visits overseas. Not to say though that if have I not visited these overseas countries my belief will not be diluted though. I shall try not to be prejudiced against any system that have diluted my belief system. Religion is a belief and the dilution occurs even in my own country (in addition to my overseas study and trips) when politic tries to champion religion in a situation of "I am holier than thou" in a political system even in a so called Muslim country like Malaysia. Even talk on Islamic as a way of life may be viewed as mean and a force to unseat the ruling Government.

I am a Muslim. Born a Muslim and a practicing Muslim. The belief system that I was born in is a Malay belief system, my narrow kampong, district, State belief system which may be very different from that of another locality. When I was very young, the belief system was a "Don't" belief system. I have written on the "Don't" in my earlier blog. The "Don't" system have controlled my earlier life. By today's standard it was very negative, all people in the kampong then believed in them, and I was induced to believe in them. If I went against the "Don't" when I was young, I would have been punished. In those days punishments was by being caned until you beg for mercy. So I behaved accordingly and respected all the "Don'ts". I have found out by now that some of the "Don'ts" are not "Don'ts" at all but just entrenched in the society's belief system or started through superstition or by someone who have vested interest..

My earlier belief system was a very narrow and very unscientific. All people in the kampong were Muslims. But most of them only pay lip service to the religion. Not many really practiced the religion as it should be. For example, on Fridays the mosque may be full of people performing the Friday prayers, but the respect they pay to the sanctity of the mosque may not be very pure. At other times, except for a few in numbers, I observed that not many pray 5 times a day. Of course during fasting month they all seemed to fasted, but I knew then many only did it for social reasons; if they had the chance to eat they would. In fact I knew many people ate in the privacy of their own houses, probably shutting all doors and windows while they ate. Many tried to go the Mecca to perform the Haj but most could not afford to, as they were poor folks. Those who made it to Mecca were people with certain amount of mean. And when they have performed the Haj and returned to the kampong, they expect everyone to call them "Haji so and so", and if they don't get called that they get very angry. And they may pretend to be very religious though their knowledge of Islamic religion might be very limited. Tithes? Not sure how they paid their tithes. But the dilution in the belief system I experienced included believing in ghost and spirits. An example I can quote and remember very clearly that many people in the kampong had 'spirits' as their companions. To cure those sick and to guard against evil people. If you fall ill in the kampong, you go to your witch doctor, not the African type but near enough. These 'witch doctors' were just decent people dressed normally like other people and you could not tell if they were witch doctors or not, until they became one when trying to cure the sick. In my kampong then they always practiced their crafts at night when trying to cure the seriously sick. In the dark of the night in the house lighted by flickering kerosene lamps they performed, with a tray full of their medicine goodies, calling on various spirits to come and cure the sick who might be lying down in front of them and those not too sickly be sitting. They with their face hidden in a cloak would perform various rites and acts, supposed when the various spirits enter their body and performed various ways using various implements to get the sickness out of their patient. Normally the process would take about half the night and be repeated one or two nights later, and if the case was not that serious be repeated a week or so later. They also paid homage to trees, rivers and lakes. What sort of belief system was that? A Hindu belief? I am not sure. A belief in witch doctorship? Or a belief in religion. But the Muslim religion frown on such belief. I grew up in that sort of mixed belief. One may laugh about it now but in those days I truly believed in that. So am I a good Muslim?

With such belief system in existence even as far back as only about 50 years ago, I wonder where were the Muslim ulama in those days. How come then they did not try to guide these Muslim to the correct way of the religion? Probably my village was too remote or probably the people were not ready to receive the true teaching of the religion. Or was it that there was no political expediency to teach the religion? Was it that religion was separated from political life under the British? Was it the early beginning of secularism in Malaya? I have no answer.

As I grew older, religion became a more important aspect of my life. Now I can say that I am induced into accepting the Muslim religion readily because I meet more learned Muslim people. Or is it that here is now more learned Muslim religious people who are willing to come forward to teach the religion? . Or is it that I have seen the 'light'?. In fact all these come at a time when I am now growing old. Could it have happened when I was younger. Probably not as I see nowadays the younger Muslim do not really care about religion. There are exceptions though and I have seen many young Muslims at the mosque every night, especially those in the urban areas. Or is it because there is higher density of young Muslim people in the urban areas that I see them coming to mosque? I could be wrong when I say that many young people do not really care about the religion. Or is my conclusion being induced by my stronger belief of the religion? Difficult to say.

But there are occasions when we are cohearse into a belief system due the survival instinct; take for example where a person may not at all believed in a religion and being cohearsed into such belief. Cohearse is a very strong term to use but the situation is that it is stronger than induced into believing into a religion. When you are cohearsed normally you are being forced to follow the flow of social tide and if you go against the flow you get hurt. So you follow the social norm. But here where you actually have a situation when your belief system warped.

I have heard people mentioned about obsessed with Islam, or with any religion for that matter. And a non-Muslim will look at a Muslim who follow the Koraan and the Hadiths strictly as being extreme, so they call them extremist. But why is it that only Muslims are called extremist?. I am sure there are people of other religions who are also in that category. I think this is where the mass media show its double talk. It sells to call Muslims extremist, and it will hurt them physically and financially to call other religious extremes as extremist.

What about those obsessed with race or with politic? Aren't they also in the same category as extremist? And those who are obsessed with sports, extreme aren't they? Golfers, footballers, baseball players and others. And their followers, they almost treat these sports like religion.

Muslim belief do not change with time. Muslim belief tries to adapt to time, but where time wants to override the Muslim belief time has to change. After all time is God's creature and even time must follow God's laws. Its just by coincidental, I believe, that the present civilisation follows this path. Has it followed another path, we would have another civilisation based on the Koraan and the Hadiths. And I believe that it is possible to have that civilisation.

So I believe and so conclude my belief.

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