Tag Archives: muhammad

Hindus do it, so why can’t Muslims?



Hindus do it, so why can’t Muslims?
By Zan Azlee

A good friend of mine is a Hindu priest.

He told me that Hindus are not polytheists: the different deities they pray to are just avatars of the same one God that they all believe in.

So, Hindus are actually monotheists who worship different manifestations of the one God.

He went on to explain to me that the different avatars are meant to appeal to different types of people from different backgrounds, customs and what-not, so that they can relate to the faith.

Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions, and over thousands of years, I guess this is one way for the religion to remain relevant.

I like that. It shows that a religion can be organic, adaptive and interpreted for the times so people can get the best out of it.

And if I relate it to my own faith, which is Islam, I feel there are extreme similarities, especially in the fact that it claims to be a religion for all time.

For a religion to be timeless, it needs to evolve with the times. And before the fundamentalists start calling for my head, let me clarify that I am not suggesting for a change in the basic tenets.

The core beliefs of the religion will always remain the same. However, there is a need for intelligent discourse and proper study of how this way of life can remain just that in this day and age.

Many of the references and interpretations of how we practice Islam are rooted so deeply in what happened hundreds of years ago that one may find it of no relevance today.

I think it is high time for Muslims to move forward, especially so in Malaysia where everything related to Islam has been stagnant for too long.

All we’re obsessed about are rituals, rather than forward thought. Discussions that dominate the public sphere seem to be more about how many times wash should wash our hands before we can pray, or the position of your index finger while sitting during prayers.

I remember reading a passage from ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’, a book written by British Muslim scholar Ziauddin Sardar, of which I will paraphrase below.

He had travelled to the heartland of Pakistan to visit and study Islamic madrasahs. While he was at one particular hall observing students memorising the Quran, one young boy approached him.

The boy, puzzled as to why Sardar didn’t have a beard like most of his teachers, asked him why he didn’t keep one like the Prophet Muhammad and that it was sunnah.

Sardar responded with a question. He asked the boy if he would rather travel by riding on the back of a camel today than sit in a modern car. Of course in a car, said the boy.

But the Prophet rode camels everyday so it should be sunnah, said Sardar. Sardar went on to say that he believed that if a shaver was commonplace during the Prophet’s time, he would have used it.

What the Prophet did was a product of his time. What should be sunnah is really the spirit that he embodied such as his kindness, patience, tolerance and ability to easily forgive.

I think that in the challenging times we face today, with Islam’s reputation under seige by the likes of DAISH and other un-Islamic groups, reinterpreting the religion to make it more relevant is key. And it’s one thing we can learn from our Hindu brothers and sisters.

Which reminds me, to all Hindus (and all Malaysians), have a happy and blessed Thaipusam.

[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]


Here we go banning books again



Here we go banning books again
By Zan Azlee

Malaysian Muslims are a weak and stupid bunch. We have established that for a very long time now because we constantly need supervision so that we don’t fall prey to manipulation.

We have all kinds of rules and laws telling us what we can and cannot do. We have all kinds of people, the so-called leaders and authorities, telling us what we can and cannot do.

It looks like all the religious studies that have been compulsory for us Malaysian Muslims students who go to national school have not worked at all.

We still don’t know anything about the religion. So many books have been banned because it doesn’t conform to the Islam the so-called leaders and authorities want us to believe in.

Hence the most recent banning of books imposed by the Home Ministry about two months ago have been a slew of religious ones that have somehow found their way into the country.

They are:

1. The teachings of the Quran by HU Weitbrecht.

2. Bahaullah And the new era and introduction to the Bahai faith by JE Esslemont.

3. Detik-detik pembongkaran agama: mempopulerkan agama kebajikan menggagas pluralisme-pembebasan by Nur Khalik Ridhwan and Sirsaeba Alafsana.

4. Jalan yang lurus: kita harus meneroka jalan ini by Kassim Ahmad.

5. Tabut: penjelasan tentang segala sesuatu by Abdul Kahar Bin Ahmad Jalal.

The first two books in the list above were published so long ago, almost a century ago to be exact, that one can wonder how much of a threat it can be.

Both are actually books about different religions (Christianity and Bahai) and written by Europeans. Sure, The Teachings of the Quran is about Islam but from a Christian’s perspective.

Having the books around actually gives us Muslims an opportunity to study other religions and equip ourselves with good comparative religious understanding.

That would actually strengthen our own faith, wouldn’t it? Unless, of course, we don’t understand our own religion enough to be able to compare it.

In fact, all the books on the list, whether written by Europeans, Indonesians or even our fellow Malaysians, should provide us with knowledge.

Even a book with negative information can provide us with valuable lessons for deeper understanding and reinforcement of what we believe in.

It all depends on the base that we already have within us. If we have a strong base, then we will have a strong sense of self and evaluation. If we have a weak base, then we are weak.

And to actually strengthen that base, instead of banning all that is against what we believe in, allow it, then provide counter-argument and rebuttals so that we see see the point.

Then we would build minds that are open, understanding, critical, analytical and open to discourse. We can only learn when we are exposed to many different things.

As Prophet Muhammad is known to have said; “Seek knowledge even as far as China.” So the world is large and wide. We shouldn’t muzzle knowledge.

And that brings me to something else the Prophet said; “Whoever conceals knowledge would be muzzled on the Day of Resurrection with a muzzle of fire.”

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]


Blessed to celebrate two great prophets



Blessed to celebrate two great prophets
By Zan Azlee

What a great time to be Malaysians! It’s December 25 and that means it’s Christmas.

So Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry Christmas to all Malaysians and let’s celebrate it with joy.

And what makes it even greater is the fact that Christmas Eve fell on the same day as Maulidur Rasul, or the celebration of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Now how about that? Two great prophets being celebrated on two back-to-back days.

This is a good time for us all to rejoice and remember the spirit of brotherhood among us.

And we have been reminded of this spirit by none other than one of Malaysia’s favourite pop stars, Stacy Anam, of Akademi Fantasia fame.

The Sabahan singer became a Muslim last August and she was even reported to have tried out fasting just to get a feel of it before her conversion.

Last week, she had posted on her Instagram account a video of Christmas carollers singing “O Holy Night” to celebrate the Christmas season.

No wrong in that, of course. Seeing that she was a Christian and would most probably be celebrating it with her family who are still Christians, it was definitely a nice gesture.

I am a Muslim, yet have relatives who are Taoist, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians. And I celebrate Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali and, yes, Christmas, together with the entire family, with vigour.

But surprise! Stacy was attacked on social media by people who questioned her intentions as if it was a big sin for her to share the joy of a celebration.

Stacy, stand tall and do not be apologetic.

Year in and year out, we hear the same thing. The overzealous and unreasonable Muslims who think themselves as holier and try to impose their narrow mind on everyone.

A Muslim will burn in hell if they wished others Merry Christmas, for whatever reason unexplainable. And this is the same for any other festivals or celebrations that aren’t what they deem “Islamic”, they say.

Living in a multicultural and multireligious country, or specifically, the world, we cannot afford to create divisiveness and exclusivity if we want to live in peace and harmony.

It would be apt to celebrate the life of the prophets by emulating them.

Muhammad, for example, always preached understanding and non-violence against neighbours and citizens of different faiths under his government.

And was it not Jesus who preached to “love thy neighbour as thyself”, no matter race, religion or creed? Weren’t these two wise men chosen by God to teach humans?

So if you have even an ounce of faith in you, do the world a favour and just look at your neighbour and, it doesn’t matter who they are, just wish them a blessed Maulidur Rasul and a Merry Christmas.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

I agree with Ridhuan Tee


I agree with Ridhuan Tee
By Zan Azlee

I never thought in my entire life that I would one day state publicly that I am in support of my self-declared arch nemesis Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. But here it is, on this good Friday, that I am writing my column (which is usually utilised to condemn Mr. Tee) to show my support of his recent columns on Prophet Muhammad.

He wrote in his past two columns in Sinar Harian that although it is condoned for Muslims to praise the Prophet, we should not go to the extent of being too obsessed with him. The action and reciting of the selawat to the Prophet is encouraged in Islam because it shows love for the messenger and also the unity of Muslims. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet
By Zan Azlee

Call me murtad (apostate), I don’t care. Call me syirik (polytheist), I don’t care. Heavy accusations in Islam, these two. I hope the accusers have the necessary proof, evidence and criteria to do so. I, an official Muslim, hereby publicly declare that I have no problems with other religions aside from Islam using the word Allah to refer to God.

Most of the times when I write my column, it is to address a readership that is as wide and as general as possible without targeting too specific a group. But this week, I am writing to Muslims in particular (err, but if you are an infidel, you can still continue reading!), and especially Malay Muslims.

As Muslims, we are obligated to believe in the existence of the prophets and this includes the prophet Jesus, who brought to the world Christianity, and even Moses who brought Judaism. As a Muslim, we are also obligated to believe in the existence of the holy books and this includes the Bible which taught Christianity and the Torah which taught Judaism.

And, when we believe in all this, we also have to believe that all Abrahamic religions come from one God, and in Arabic (the main language of Islam’s Quran) the word is Allah. So, when an argument is made that Christianity and Islam are two different religions, no one can deny it. It’s true. These are two different religions.

But when it comes to God, both these different religions refer to the same God. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet (oh crap, did I just objectify God as a rose?). [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]