Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007



I have moved to

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dakwah course in Newcastle

Poster for da'wah course in Newcastle. Click on poster to enlarge.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Kafirs' R us-My seposen response Part 2

Dr Farish A Noor also didn’t come up with an alternative for the term “kafir”. Even the term “non-muslim” is not accepted by him. What should we call them then? Muslims? I don’t think that is an option!
Dr Farish A Noor also condemned Ibnu Taimiyah by saying that he opposed positive open discussion and also called for a clear divide between muslims and ‘kafir’. I am not a big fan of Ibnu Taimiyah, but I could not tolerate anyone who did not give a true picture about him.
Ibnu Taimiyah only called for purification of Islam and its practices due to the fact that too much “fahaman asing” had crept into this deen during his time. Greek philosophy was one and it had been discussed in the creed (akidah) subject. As a result, the subject of creed (akidah) had become very complicated subject. It used to be very simple and could be understood even by the badouins in the time of prophet. This complication had produced so many divisions and sects which had weakened the ummah. To name a few, 'Muktazilah' , 'khawarij', 'Qadariah', 'Jabariah' etc.
He also used his critical thinking to criticise any aspects of the Islamic practice that brought weakness to the ummah. One of it was the tendency of the ulama’ of that generation to blindly follow the ulama’ that come before them (taklid). He thinks that taklid by the ulama’s of his generation had made Islam not able to deal with new things. Thus, he opened back the door of ‘ijtihad’…
to be continued

Friday, December 15, 2006

currently fall in love with this song
Jalan Dakwah by Abu Urwah

Dari barisan usrah
dan dari umbi tarbiyah
muncullah lah sinaran fikrah
islam terus meniti masa
dari dewan yang selesa ke jalanan yang berhbab
pejuang kadilan dan penjulang kebenranan
bersama islam membina ummah
usaha daulatkan syariat
agar hidup penuh barakah
didalam sedih dan ketawa
dalam susah dan mewah
tetap teguh iman dan takwa

sehati sejiwa
dulu kini selamanya
walau apa yang melanda hadapi bersama
ya Allah ya rabbi
teguhkan iman kami
moga tabah hati tak berbelah bagi
berbekalkan islam
membina masyarakat
mengukuh ummat insan sejagat
setiap mehnah pastinya ada hikmah
berbaik sangka pada yang esa

rasulullah contoh ikutan
rinsip syura jadikan amalan
korban masa tenaga kita
dan fikiran perkasakan maruah kita
sehati sejiwa dulu kini selamanya
walau apa yang melanda tabah hadapi bersama
Ya Allah Ya rabbi
teguhkan iman kami

This is my comment in Malaysia today
Click here to see the full discussion

Not all non-muslim women need to follow this bill. It applied only to those who work in restaurants and certain public places. Please read the bill carefully and don't just blindly follow what the mass media said.

Why can't see it as a move to liberate women from being exploited in business? why can't we see it as an issue of professionalism? A Doctor can't wear what they want can they? Stop being Islamophobic.

This is an article about similar move by China...I wonder what the Islamophobic would say....

Female civil servants in eastern China have been banned from wearing sexy clothes and told not to use "dirty" language in the office.

Women have been asked to refrain from wearing revealing tops and leggings as well as too much jewellery at work, state media report.

They should "dress in a serious, proper, simple and natural way".

The regulations are the first of their kind in the country, says the partly state-owned China News Service.

The clothes must not be "avant-garde and ostentatious" , the regulations announced by the Zhejiang provincial archives bureau say.

Nor should they be "too thin and tight or showing the under-garments" .


The report also recommended women should adopt manners in line with their professional positions.

"They should use elegant language, avoid rude words and must not in any case use dirty or strange words," it said.

"When they receive guests or speak on the phone, they must say 'please' and 'thank you'," the report said.

"When they are dealing with people outside the office, they must be mindful of the government's image and their personal images."

Wu Ling, director of the women's commission of the bureau, said her office formulated the rules because more than 70 workers in the bureau's 90-strong office were women.

"The reason why we see dressing as a priority is because it is the first impression that people get from the female civil servants," she said.

Story from BBC NEWS: pr/fr/-/2/ hi/asia-pacific/ 3621864.stm

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Kafirs 'R Us: Why we need to think beyond the Muslim-Kafir divide.


I hope that it is not too late for me to respond regarding this matter. I would comment mostly on the first part of Dr Farish article.
I was quite distress to read about his experience with an ustaz which I think was brought into light to stress his point about the negativeness of kafir word usage in our society. Before proceeding, I think I need to emphasise here that I totally disagree with the ustaz (not ustaz azmi, but ustaz mentioned in the article) point of view as I believe that kafirs are those who reject the truth brought to them. In the case of the people who live in an isolated island, how on earth are they going to reject the truth (Islam) when it is not brought to them yet? They are NOT kafir. I think most Muslims in Malaysia hold this view and I wonder why a PhD holder like him would want to bring up the above experience. He had given an exaggerated negative picture of how the kafir term used, and he did this purposely to support his point that came later in his article.
I would have to agree with Dr Farish that “kafir” term does give a negative meaning in Muslim communities throughout the world, though not in an exaggerated way as mentioned earlier. That was the reason behind the call by Dr Yusuf Qardhawi to adress the ‘kafir’ as non-muslim for the sake of ‘dakwah’. The idea is to break any unnecessary barrier so that propagatory work would be easier, not the like of Dr Farish’s that want the barrier to be diminished so that Muslims can ‘integrate’ and be like the non-muslims. However, I have to refuse his invitation to abandon the usage of kafir word altogether as it is the term used by Allah SWT in the Koran and in the sayings of the prophet Muhammad SAW. Even though the word used to mean something else, it has become a religious term to refer to the non-believer. Yes, the meaning of certain word would change as time goes. Regardless, it would not be appropriate for us to change the meaning of kafir in the Qur’an. Let us have a look Chapter 2 (The Cow) verse 26 in the Koran which says “But if you fail to dothis and you will most certainly fail, then hae fear of the fire whose fuel is men and stones and which has been prepared for the Al Kafiruun”. Can you imagine of changing the meaning of “Al Kafiruun” in this verse? Certainly not! Those who cover seed with soil (petani??) would be very angry if they are the one referred in that verse! Kafirs R’ us? Huh? Do you want to be the people adressed in that verse!! To be continued……

Kafirs 'R Us: Why we need to think beyond the Muslim-Kafir divide.
(Part I)
It should be old news to us by now that we live in a country where sectarian politics is the cornerstone of Malaysian political culture and that the sectarian/communita rian mindset permeates all levels and areas of Malaysian life. For decades, even before independence, Malaysians have been encouraged (first by the colonial authorities and later by the post-colonial elite) to think firstly in terms of their own narrow and exclusive communitarian interests.(1) Racial divisions form the basis of Malaysian politics, and these artificial ethnic frontiers are further enforced and perpetuated by the communalist and sectarian parties that rule this country.
Increasingly, however, we have witnessed the slow but inexorable process of a delineation of communitarian borders of sorts: While in the past we were taught to think in terms of 'Malay/Bumiputera' , 'Chinese' and 'Indian' divisions, these days a second register of differentiation has crept into the picture: that of religious difference. As if it was not bad enough that Malaysians remain divided on issues of race, ethnicity and language, nowadays we cast suspicious glances across another contentious divide: that between Muslims and ' kafirs'.
Of course it has to be pointed out that the Muslim-kafir divide is just as artificial a construct as the racial/ethnic divide. What is more this division is introduced to us now from an early age, and speaking of my own case I only encountered the final frontier of the Muslim ummah while at school. The fateful encounter happened while I was attending religious (re: Islamic) class (the other kids were attending Civics class instead). The ustaz (teacher) was teaching us about Muslims and Kafirs. The dreaded kafirs, he informed us, were our enemies and that Muslims had to be on guard all the time. The redoubt of Islam was besieged from without by the nefarious non-believers who would do anything to overcome our faith and confidence, and were constantly conspiring to bring about the downfall of Islam. This was the same ustaz who claimed that our biology textbooks were full of kafir theories of evolution and that the pages with drawings of human skeletons should be ripped out of the book because such graphic images were haram.
Some of us found it odd, to say the least, that we were now being told that our friends and teachers were the evil enemy who we had to guard ourselves against. Reacting to this sudden epistemic crisis that had befallen me, I turned to the ustaz and asked him a hypothetical question:
"Dear Ustaz", I began, "if what you say about the kafirs is true, then tell me what would happen in the following case. Suppose there was a remote island someone out there and on that island lived a community of people who had no contact with the outside world. They have never heard of Islam, Muslims, the Prophet or any other religion for that matter. Would they still be kafirs and what would be their fate?"
With booming voice and flared nostrils the ustaz turned to me and said: "You big-eared skinny boy, how dare you ask such a profoundly stupid question? Of course they are kafirs because they are not Muslim, and like all kafirs they will end up burning in hell for eternity."
I protested on the grounds that this fictional community I had just invented had never heard of Islam or the Prophet. How could they possibly be blamed for not being Muslim, and how could they be judged and condemned for something they were technically not responsible for and guilty of? But at this point the ustaz began to point to the ceiling with his forefinger (a dangerous sign, as that meant he was about to lose his temper and someone was about to be caned) and warned me that I would fail my religious class if I kept asking such provocative questions.
More than two decades later I find myself an older (and hopefully wiser) person and my understanding of Islam has developed accordingly. Irked by the ustaz's unsatisfactory answer, this question has been an abiding concern of mine for years. (I kid you not, dear reader - I literally spend nights awake thinking of it.)
The question has become all the more relevant and the answer all the more important now, as we live in a world where religion has become so thoroughly politicised and the form and content of all religions perverted by those who claim to be defenders of the faith. From the Muslim world to neo-Conservative America, from India, now under the sway of the Hindu fascists of the BJP/RSS to Israel, now under the domination of Zionist zealots; we see the signs of intolerance, religious bigotry and sectarianism all around us. In case any further proof was needed, evidence of this sort of sectarian thinking was demonstrated recently by our very own Prime Minister, who warned Muslims of the dastardly 'Jewish conspiracy' to rule the world by proxy at the OIC conference. Perhaps it does not come as a surprise to us that the Islamists of the opposition were not inclined to issue a protest against this obviously sweeping general statement, for it is well known by now that both UMNO and PAS speak the same language of oppositional dialectics when dealing with the relationship between Muslims and the Other.
The irony is painfully obvious: Practically every religion in the world claims to bear the universal message of love, peace and tolerance for humanity in general. Yet if you have been watching the news or reading the papers over the past few years, you would have noticed that there has been an awful lot of blood-letting in every part of the world. Much of this senseless bloodshed has been carried out in the name of God. Mosques are smashed to pieces in India so that Hindu fascists can erase the Muslim past of the country. In Afghanistan Buddhist statues are demolished so that Muslim fascists can forget their Buddhist and Hindu past. The erasure of the past takes place faster than history can be written, and all of this is happening in the name of God and universal love. If this is how religious people show their love for others, one wonders what they might do when they get upset…
The root of the problem, however, is not religion itself. There is nothing in Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism or any other creed that says 'thou shalt go into thy neighbours territory and conduct carpet bombing and terror attacks so that thou mayest lay claim on his vital resources or commiteth ethnic cleansing'. Yet as Abdulaziz Sachedina has argued in his Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (2001): 'The problem of religion as an instrument of political ends is as old as history'.(2) The question is how and why is religion so often used as the basis for a politics of communitarian and/or sectarian politics, and how can we get out of this trap? The question is doubly important in the context of plural societies like Malaysia, India, Europe and America, where this diversity – if not managed and instead manipulated – can turn into a potential tinderbox instead.
Kafirs and Others: The need for Muslims to rethink alterity and difference.
One could argue that the root of the problem lies in the terminology we use ourselves. The term 'kafir' has to be understood and analysed in its historical context and here is where the exercise of ijtihad (rational critical interpretation) comes in.
Now 'Kafir' is a morally loaded term. It is descriptive, normative and prescriptive at the same time. Of late there have been some well-intentioned (but I would argue, ultimately naïve) people in this country claiming that the term kafir is neutral. If that be the case, I would challenge them to go to their neighbour's house and start calling them kafirs and wait to see the results. Soon enough it will become clear to them that the term kafir does not simply mean non-Muslim: it is a negative term that frames the Other as the diametrical opposite and negative juxtaposition to the Muslim norm.
In fact I would go even one step further by arguing that even the term 'non-Muslim' is problematic, for once again it sets the Muslim subject as the norm and the other as its negative counterpart, recognised and identified by his/her deficiency. One does not, for instance, refer to women as 'non-males'; and if any man attempts to do that I dare say that he will be met with a very strong contrary response in due course. So why do we Muslims continue to see other human beings as those who do not have what we have ( i.e. they lack a Muslim identity) and why do we maintain such negative categories like 'kafir' and 'non-Muslim' in our daily expression of normative Islam? It should be obvious by now that to think of others in terms of lack or deficiency is patronising and demeaning, if not downright aggressive and provocative.
What is more, by employing such a simplistic mode of differentiation we also contribute to the homogenisation of the category of 'Muslim' itself, and by doing so give the mistaken impression that only the Muslim-Other dichotomy matters; denying the internal differences that exist in the Muslim community that is actually far more heterodox, plural and too complex to be neatly contained within such simple categories. To put it in another way, to look at other faith groups as the dialectical Other to the Muslim community becomes a convenient way to overlook the 'others' within the Muslim community itself, and an easy way to erase or deny that such differences exist in our midst.
Let us get to the bottom of this and investigate the etymological roots of the word itself, how it came into being, how it was first used and how it has evolved over the centuries.
The Oxford Dictionary of Islam has, under the heading 'Kafir', the following definition: 'Kafir : Unbeliever. First applied to Meccans who refused submission to Islam, the term implies an active rejection of divine revelation. All unbelievers are thought to face eternal damnation in the afterlife.' (3) Related to the word kafir is the term kufr (disbelief), which the dictionary notes 'is a significant concept in Islamic thought, the word kufr or one of its derivatives appears in the Qur'an 482 times.' The dictionary adds that kufr 'also means ingratitude, the wilful refusal to appreciate the benefits that God has bestowed.' (4)
Does this then imply moral and rational agency at work: i.e. that the state of disbelief (and ingratitude) is a conscious act (of refusal)? Does this mean that every kafir is wilfully blind to the message of Islam – and therefore liable for blame and subsequent moral judgement? To understand this we need to go even further back to trace the etymological roots of the word.
Anyone who has studied the origins of the word kafir would know that its etymological roots lie in the word ' kuffar', which is an Arabic term used in agriculture to mean to 'cover a seed with the earth'. How does the word 'kuffar' change its meaning to the word 'kafir'? The process is a simple one, which is based on what linguists call the 'slippage' of meaning as the Signifier is never permanently affixed to its intended Signified. The metaphor of covering a seed with the earth is transposed to a different context, where it is given a new meaning- that is, to 'cover one's heart' from the message of God. Such examples abound in the religious texts of numerous Ulama and even the Murshid'ul Am of PAS, Tuan Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat, has commented on this in his Tafsir Surah Yunus. (5)
The plasticity of the term kafir shows that its meaning is context-bound, and thus can be altered and made to evolve over time according to the circumstances it is deployed. Words can mean different things depending on the context that we use them and how we deploy them. This is a natural phenomenon and it happens to be an ordinary feature of language-use.
Now there exists a plethora of different schools of thought dating back to the earliest stages of Muslim history on the question of the meaning and status of kafir/s. (For as we have mentioned above, the Muslim community is a complex and internally-differen tiated community.) Though many Muslims today make the mistake of immediately conflating the term kafir with a host of negative ideas and concepts (thereby forming a negative chain of equivalences that equates kafirs with evil, the enemy, the outsider, etc) there also exists an alternative view – based on the tauhidic principle of unity of God and creation currently being revived by Islamist intellectuals like Rached Ghannouchi – which locates the kafir within the boundaries of the totality of creation; posits the view that the kafir is the constitutive (and therefore necessary) Other to Muslim identity, and which emphasises instead the common bond of humanity that is shared between Muslims and those of other faiths.
This is a tradition that dates back to Muslim thinkers like the Spanish mystic Sheikh Muhyi al-Din ibn Arabi (6) who, in his Fusus al Hikam (Bezels of Wisdom), argued that caring for other human beings and showing respect to their beliefs and lifestyles was part of devotion to God himself. In the chapter on Jonah in the Fusus al Hikam he writes thus:
"Know that this human creation, in all its spiritual, physical and psychic perfection was created by God… Indeed solicitude in caring for God's servants is better than killing them from an excessive zeal for God… God says, the recompense of one evil (act) is an evil like it (42:40), referring to retaliation (against the Other) as an evil action. But whoever forgives and does good (to the Other) his reward is with God (42:40)… This is because God is manifest in the name of the Other, only through his existence, that whoever preserves him preserves God."
For ibn Arabi, it is clear that love and respect for the other is a step towards devotion to God himself, and any unjustified abuse, persecution or discrimination of others is tantamount to an attack on God as well. Today an entire generation of Muslim thinkers like Rached Ghannouchi, Nurcholish Madjid, Abdul Kareem Soroush and others are saying the same thing: that the bonds of humanity come before all else, and that the relationship between Muslims and others needs to transcend the simplistic oppositional dialectic that has characterised Muslim-Other relations of late and which has been so evidently destructive to all parties concerned.
But when did this hostile view of the non-Muslim other arise and more importantly, why does it endure? Here again a step back in history would prove useful for our enquiry.
End of Part I.
(The author would like to acknowledge the help of Sumit Mandal and Suriya Osman in writing this article.)

I have raised this point before in my earlier writings. Suffice to say that the introduction of the racial/ethnic census was part and parcel of the colonial enterprise during the 19 th century and was a convenient way for the British (like the Dutch, French, Spanish and American) colonial power to maintain its grip on a plural society that it could divide and rule. It in important to note, however, that the colonial census became increasingly general in its broad specification of ethnic groups. The early census, for instance, did not posit the existence of a homogeneous 'Malay' group, but rather emphasised the differences between Malays, Bugis, Javanese, Rawanese, Kerinchians, Minangs, Patanis, etc. The same was the case with the communities from China and India, who were differentiated into groups like Hakka, Hokien, Cantonese, Bengalis, Tamils, Punjabis, Pashtuns, etc. It was only by the mid-20 th century that the broad categories of Malays, Chinese and Indians was adopted.

Abdulaziz Sachedina, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 4.

John L. Esposito (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. p. 165.

Ibid. p. 176.

Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, Tafsir Surah Yunus, Ma'ahad ad-Dakwah wal-Islamiyyah, Nilam Puri, 1998. pg. 91.

The Sufi mystic Sheikh Muhyi al-Din ibn al-Arabi was born in Murcia, Southeastern Spain in 1164 and travelled widely throughout his life, teaching and writing in the major centres of Islamic learning till his death in 1240 in Damascus. At an early age ibn Arabi was exposed to the ideas and theories of the Muslim rationalist philosophers ( falasifa) of both the Mutazilite and Asha'arite schools, who were themselves exposed to the ideas of the Hellenic philosophers. Ibn Arabi's writings – the chief of which are the al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Illuminations) and the Fusus al-Hikam (The Bezels of Wisdom) – were thus heavily marked with the imprint of logic and the philosophical method, though his aim was to demonstrate the poverty of the rational intellect and the superiority of Gnostic wisdom instead.