بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
إِنَّمَا وَلِيُّكُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ ۥ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ
يُقِيمُونَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَيُؤۡتُونَ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَهُمۡ رَٲكِعُونَ
وَمَن يَتَوَلَّ ٱللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۥ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ فَإِنَّ
حِزۡبَ ٱللَّهِ هُمُ ٱلۡغَـٰلِبُونَ
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تَتَّخِذُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّخَذُواْ
دِينَكُمۡ هُزُوً۬ا وَلَعِبً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ مِن
قَبۡلِكُمۡ وَٱلۡكُفَّارَ أَوۡلِيَآءَۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ إِن كُنتُم
"Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah, His Messenger, and the Believers, those who establish regular prayers and pay charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship). As to those who turn (for friendship) to Allah, His Messenger, and the Believers― it is the party of Allah that must certainly triumph.
O ye who believe! Take not for (intimate) friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport, ― whether among those who received the Scripture before you, or among those who reject Faith; but fear ye Allah if ye have Faith (indeed).
(Qur’an: Ma-idah: 5:55-57)
Imam Muslim narrated a saying of the Prophet s.a.w:
وَقَالَ: لاَ طَاعَةَ فِي مَعْصِيَةِ اللّهِ. إنَّمَا الطَّاعَةُ فِي الْمَعْرُوفِ
"There is no obedience in matters of disobedient towards Allah. Obedience is only in matters of doing good.”
[Hadith reported by Muslim]
Islam teaches us to use our Allah-given faculty to reason, think and discern and be responsible in following anything. Thus, Allah s.w.t. warns:
وَلَا تَقۡفُ مَا لَيۡسَ لَكَ بِهِۦ عِلۡمٌۚ إِنَّ ٱلسَّمۡعَ وَٱلۡبَصَرَ وَٱلۡفُؤَادَ كُلُّ
أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ كَانَ عَنۡهُ مَسۡـُٔولاً۬
"And do not follow (pursue) anything of which thou hast no knowledge: verily (thy) hearing and sight and heart - all of them - will be called to account for it (on Judgement Day)."
(Q: Bani Israil : 17 :36)
In the past, while serving in PERGAS , I would actively participate and even penned my thoughts (viz. On AMLA , Orientalist, 9/11, Casino, Aurat , etc.), yet after the “Madrasah issue” and with the demise of almarhum al-Ustaz Syed ‘Abdillah al-Jufrie (beloved teacher and Islamic Scholar and was President of PERGAS then), I must admit that I have not participated in, nor was I consulted, on any issues concerning the ummah. Although, I do have my personal point of view which may somewhat differ with others regarding issues such as pertaining to ‘Moderate Islam’, ‘Aurat issue,’ ‘Interfaith & inter-civilizational Dialogue’, ‘Islam & Terrorism?’, ‘R.R.G. – Religious Rehabilitation Group‘, ‘MUIS Academy’. ‘Fatwa on H.O.T.A. (Human Organ Transplant Act) ’, ‘Madrasah development’, ‘Da’wah in Singapore ‘, ‘Can Non-Muslim use the Name of 'Allah'?’, ‘My comment on Islam Hadhari’, ‘MUIS Fatwa on Yoga’ etc., and even ‘MUIS’: Vision for Singaporean Muslims.’
At the onset, I must admit that I may not be fully aware of what has been discussed (especially, some of these are shrouded in the corporate-culture ethos of being discussed behind ‘closed-door’ where the choice of participants may have excluded, in the first place, many ‘dissenting’ voices). But this does not disqualify me from conveying my view regarding these issues. For some people may still hold to the fallacious thinking that their view is true only because “no one objected or because of absence of any significant objection” – whereas this conclusion they attained or rather ‘engineered’ may have been by excluding the possibility for any objection – through censuring or self-censureship (inadvertently or otherwise).” This, unfortunately, may have been the manner many issues have been handled or arrived at, seen as though it is through “mutual consultation” (shura).
Lately, I have been asked to put to paper some of my viewpoint on these. I do not claim to be always right in all my views nor do I pretend to be the expert on these matters, but I hope to share my deliberations on these so that it can perhaps be analysed, evaluated, even criticised or corrected. Whatever that may be beneficial to the ummah; we thank Allah s.w.t. for granting His Taufiq and Hidaaya, which hopefully can enrich the discourse.
Let me begin with:
CRITICAL EVALUATION OF MUIS’ VISION
MUIS, on their web-site states:
“We envision a Muslim community that:
•  Holds strongly to Islamic principles, yet is adaptable to change.
•  Is morally and spiritually strengthened to face the challenges.
•  Is enlightened about Islamic history and civilisation.
•  Believes a good Muslim is also a good citizen.
•  Is well-adjusted in living as full members of secular society.
•  Is progressive, beyond rituals or form.
•  Is enlightened and appreciates richness of other civilisations.
•  Practices pluralism and is inclusive.
•  Is a blessing to other communities.
•  Serves as a model and inspiration for others.
1. “Holding strongly to Islamic principles” already includes the requirement for Muslims to adapt to situational & contextual conditions faced. Islamic principles, as principles are meant to be (when it claims to be divinely inspired), must itself be unchanging (i.e. the principles). The phrase “adaptable to change” may imply that MUIS may even suggest changing these principles too! In the post-modernist era, when they (post-modernists) call for the rejection of every traditional value because to them nothing is permanent except change, for to them “there is no objective truth or reality” . Thus, our fear may not be unfounded. MUIS must not be vague as to what is its stance to this post-modernist threat.It seems that the author (or authors) of this 'charter', are apologetics interested to please the ‘other audience ’ rather than guiding the community as to how to ensure Muslims adherence to the unchanging Islamic principles (which they must be taught to never be changed, which may tantamount to them committing “irtidad” or “riddah”- apostasy). Whereas to be truly upholding these principles, we would already embrace the requirement towards adaptability to any situation in terms of our practices within the acceptable Shar’ie parameters. And this is not suggesting “change” (in the sense contained in the post-modernist catch-phrase), which our community must be warned of its iconoclastic tendencies towards anything held sacred.
2. "To face challenges", Islam as al-Deen, would be comprehensive to provide guidance & education for developing Muslims to be capable of confronting every challenges in life. This charter seems to suggest that perhaps Islam is only capable of strengthening the community’s “moral and spiritual” (as the author or authors of this 'Charter' seems to have reduced it to). If this is indeed the case, we beg to differ - nay, Islam can even strengthen their physical, social, economical, political and ethical etc. - every domain in life. To limit it to be only capable of strengthening them “morally and spiritually”, exposes the author or authors secularist worldview of religion, which Islam is not. Perhaps, MUIS may only wish to admit that their given task in developing the community is limited to morality and spirituality. Is it really the case? May we even ask: “Does MUIS, if guided by Islam, only has the potential to strengthen just the moral and spiritual aspect to the Muslim’s life?” But, surely being the representative of the community Islamic, such reductionist tendency (limiting it to moral and spiritual) in terms of their responsibility does not commensurate their privileges conferred upon them, as is clear for example in their being empowered (AMLA - Administration of Muslim Law Act) to managing the wealth (eg. zakat, waqf, bayt-al-maal etc.) and administration of various Muslim community’s institutions.
3. This aspect i.e. “Is enlightened about Islamic history and civilisation” is to be supported. As this aspect is wide, and the approach can simply be narrative, we would rather that it be done with specific approach in building “shakhsiyyah” (identity). The approach should be to inculcate and develop grateful Muslims (‘abdan sha-kuu-ra); who possess high-self-esteem and dignity; whose knowledge of their history is not truncated; who see their existence as replacing the ranks (“saff” or “sufuff”) of true witnesses who strive (“shaahid-mujaaheed”); and whose knowledge of other civilizations is extensive with a critical mind yet appreciative for whatever knowledge and wisdom which can be learnt from.
4. We are inclined to believe that this aspect: “Believes a good Muslim is also a good citizen” is for public-relation, to appear politically correct. Yet we would be concerned if the approach tends to subject Muslims towards conforming to whatever policies so as to qualify being good citizens, rather than inculcating what good Muslims should be which may make them not mere citizens, but Muslim citizens who positively contribute towards shaping opinions.We have always differentiate between a “good citizen” with a “good person”, which for us, it is not necessary synonymous. A “good man” we believe will be a good citizen, but a “good citizen” may not be a “good man.” This is because the standard or criteria for being “good” must be based on ethical-moral principles derived from universal values of religion or higher-philosophy, rather than be subjected to policies derived from “democratic” processes. We are warned about following something merely based upon majority:
وَإِن تُطِعۡ أَڪۡثَرَ مَن فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ يُضِلُّوكَ عَن سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ
"Now if you pay heed unto the majority of those (who live) on earth, they will but lead thee astray from the path of Allah:..."
(Q: An 'am 6 :116-117)
5. Again we cannot help but believe that this aspect: “Is well-adjusted in living as full members of secular society” is for public-relation, to appear politically correct. Yet, for this statement which unqualifiedly endorses our society as “secular society” is most regrettable. We must object and respond with basis of our deference to this view – which we believe is a ‘secularist’ viewpoint. Our nation and society is not “secular” (in the sense of upholding secularism as its national ideology as in Turkey) but rather a “multi-religious, multi-cultural” society which is what our Constitution and Social contract uphold, albeit by managing this plurality with according respect for its citizens’ right to whatever faith or ideology which they profess – not negating religion nor eradicating its public manifestation in society and in the dynamics of social multi-ethnic interaction. Being a “multi-racial and multi-religious” is not being “secular” or upholding “secularism .” There is a need to clarify a common misapplication of the term “secular” which inadvertently has led to confusion. Yes, it is an accepted social-convention in ensuring harmonious co-existence, that any racial and religious views which tend to be sensitive and can be volatile to cause friction to the fragile multi-ethnic, multi-religious co-existence should be excluded in our national politics. Some people may conveniently but carelessly describe this as being secular. But, this is incorrect for we are not being “secular” as though our nation has adopted “secularism” as a state ideology. Some advocates of “secularism” may have assumed as though it has, and may have “religiously” asserted that our nation is indeed secular. They forgot that this term “secular” was not in the social-contract expounded in our Constitution, whereas every Singaporean know and acknowledge the multi-racial and multi-religious constituent that our nation uphold, not secularism. Have we forgotten the pledge we proclaim in school, when we “... pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion...”?
6. This statement: “Is progressive, beyond rituals or form”, may be some peoples’ appraisal of the current state of Muslims who seemed (to these appraisers) to be indulging in “mere rituals and forms” devoid of understanding of its meaning and significance. Is this a fair assessment? To even suggest that Muslims indulge “rituals and forms” reveals the author or authors’ (the draftsmen) subtle distaste to some religious practices sanction by Islam, which actually contains profound meaning and significance, and therefore cannot be regarded as rituals or forms. Would their implicit concern contained in this phrase not be similar to criticism by the ignorant non-Muslims who tend to regard all forms of worship in Islam as “mere rituals”, and therefore not progressive?A fair suggestion would be to emphasise “inculcation of the profound meanings of Islamic practices which serves to develop and motivate a community of excellence.” We prefer excellence which connotes positively, every goodness rather than the word “progress” which may suggest ‘change in the sense of moving forward’ that may not necessarily be good. This is because, sometimes to excel we must be ready to even retract ourselves from the present error and return back to the proven correct path, though it meant re-living aspects of the old ways.
7. We have no objection to wanting our Muslim community to be “enlightened and appreciates richness of other civilisations”, but this would be incomplete to that which Islam teaches us Muslims to discern (from principles in Al-Qur’an and as-Sunnah). So let us complete this phrase with “.. and are enlightened of criterion to sieve the beneficial from that which may be harmful and antithetical to Deen al-Islam” – lest Muslims may transgressed by accepting the wrong thing from other civilization as warned by our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.: [man-tashab baha bi qawmin fa huwa min-hum] “whoever imitates a people (in whatever aspect), he is from amongst them (in that aspect).”
8. “Practices pluralism and is inclusive”. Because we do not know for certain the reason why this clause was included, yet we hope that it is not influenced by the current trend advocated by some who wish to blur any distinctions which differentiate religions. This phrase from amongst the list, invoke deep suspicions of those who advocate transcendental unity of religion, who dislike the exclusivity of any religion, especially “al-Islam” because Islam’s message explicitly makes that ‘bold’ claim:
“Verily, the religion (accepted) in the sight of Allah is al-Islam - إِنَّ ٱلدِّينَ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلۡإِسۡلَـٰمُۗ ” (Qur’an: aali’Imran:3: 19).
If by “inclusive” they mean that Muslim should be open to the probability that “others may also be true and right” (please bear in mind that Islam is open to this probability; but a probability is certainly guesswork – i.e. it may or it may not!). Suggesting only “it may be right” (without equally contending that it may also not be right) this is tantamount to asking a Muslim to accepting a “dzonn ٱلظَّنَّ ” (surmise or conjecture), which Allah warns us against and not knowledge of truth,:
وَإِن تُطِعۡ أَڪۡثَرَ مَن فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ يُضِلُّوكَ
عَن سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِۚ إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا ٱلظَّنَّ وَإِنۡ
هُمۡ إِلَّا يَخۡرُصُونَ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعۡلَمُ مَن
يَضِلُّ عَن سَبِيلِهِۦۖ وَهُوَ أَعۡلَمُ بِٱلۡمُهۡتَدِين
"Now if you pay heed unto the majority of those (who live) on earth, they will but lead thee astray from the path of Allah: they follow but conjecture (dzonn ٱلظَّنَّ ), and they themselves do nothing but guess*. Verily, thy Lord knows best as to who strays from His path, and best knows He as to who are the rightly guided."
(Qur’an: An 'am 6 :116-117)
وَإِنَّ ٱلظَّنَّ لَا يُغۡنِى مِنَ ٱلۡحَقِّ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا
"Yet behold, never can surmise (conjecture - ٱلظَّنّ ) take the place of Truth (Haqq)"
(Qur’an: Najm 53 :28)
9. This is one of the most important characteristics which our community to should strive to project vis-a-vis other community, yet by stating only: “Is a blessing to other communities”, it seems incomplete for we know the original phrase is “ ... (raHmatan lil-‘aa-la-meen] blessing for the whole world!”. Actually, we Muslims must seek to obey and emulate the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. who epitomises the “Mercy & blessing”. Does MUIS endorse this? When a Muslim strive to be good, but only to seen by others to be good and “a blessing” to them, this is contrary to what Islam teaches.The emphasis in Islam, as the advice to the ummah, is solely in the “obedience and emulation of the Prophet’s ways”, not allowing to be deviated into trying to make pleasing to others as the main motive. It would be better to explicitly state those virtues which Islam seek to inculcate in Muslims when they obey and emulate the Prophet, which can be appreciated by others as blessings – e.g. “a community exuding justice, care, compassion, mercy, truthfulness, courage, patience, perseverance, loyalty, and devotion, ethical, god-fearing, etc.” There may be some aspects which they may have misunderstood and are less appreciative, yet Muslims must not be apologetic about their disliking it because our main purpose as Muslims is only to obey our religious dictates, not to be pleasing or patronizing others.
10. Yes, this vision for our community to: “Serves as a model and inspiration for others” is indeed what we are generally enjoined by Islam, nay, even to become the “khayra ummah” (the best of community). But, our concern here is that our being the best must conform fully to the dictates and standards of Al-Qur’an and as-Sunnah. If these, our ways, are also accepted as positive and good by others, they can be said to be merely coincidental, because we know that our primary task is in practicing our religion of Islam “sincerely for Allah’s sake” ( مُخۡلِصِينَ لَهُ ٱلدِّينَ, ) “even if the unbelievers do not like” ( وَلَوۡ كَرِه ٱلۡكَـٰفِرُونَ ).
When we hope to be regarded as model, it is not to being concerned about pleasing others or to be accepted by them. It is pathetic and sad when certain Muslims tend to be too apologetic, ‘bending-over backwards’, and would dare even to compromise on some Islamic religious principles just to be accepted as equal citizens. Instead we should educate ourselves and them of our religious obligations so that they too can understand our rights to practice them. We must have confidence that this nation of Singapore, and its Constitution, already sanctions a multi-religious society where freedom of every religion is guaranteed.
*PERGAS - "Persatuan Ulama dan Guru-guru Agama Islam Singapura" (Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers' Association)
*MUIS - "Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura" (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore)
*AMLA - Administration of Muslim Law Act.
*H.O.T.A. - Human Organ Transplant Act.
(2nd draft -3/04/09)