I remember when my youngest brother was still in kindergarten. He came home and he said “Bismillahirahmanirahim Pak” when he was done said “Alhamdulillah Pak.” And so my father corrected him by saying that the ‘Pak’ isn’t necessary.
Of course my brother, being four years old at that time, insisted he needed to say ‘Pak’ almost to the point of wanting to cry. I hope you can deduce that ‘Pak’ is really his ustaz who taught him to recite those words.
Being the smart and great parents they are, they took my brother out of that kindergarten and enrolled in another one run by more intelligent people. And here lies the problem with most Malaysian Muslims (not my parents, but the situation!).
Malaysian Muslims have a problem with being gullible and easily fooled when it comes to religion. A slight deviation from what they are used to (whether right or wrong according to the faith) and their whole belief system gets turned topsy turvy.
And that is why the authorities have to work over time banning books and also constantly having to remind the rakyat not to believe this ustaz or that ulama. The rakyat is even reminded how to vote so they can go to heaven.
The fact is that Malaysian Muslims have had their minds ingrained with petty rituals and rules so much so that they don’t know any other way to live their lives. There don’t know how to adapt or even interpret the religion. They just do as they are told.
That’s how I remember religious class was like when I was growing up. We were told to memorise all kinds of doas and remember how many times water washed over our body parts so that our prayers won’t be rejected by God.
We never learned anything about philosophy, new developing thoughts and ideas in the Muslim world or comparative religion (not even between different Islamic sects, let alone between Islam and other different religions!).
Go to a bookstore and see how many books on Islamic thought and development you can find, especially in Malay since most Muslims in Malaysia are Malay. Then compare that with the number of books on Islamic rituals. I bet you it will illustrate my point.
Now, my daughter is in kindergarten and we opted for her to take additional religious studies classes after school. My wife did convey our concern to the teachers that we wanted her to enjoy the classes and understand it (as much as a four year old can).
Then a few days ago when I picked her up from school, she said to me “Pops. You know what I learned in amagama (that’s how she pronounces ‘agama’) class today?”. Here we go, I thought to myself.
“Do you know how Allah made the world? He just said ‘Be!’ and it became. He also said ‘Be’ and made the ocean. Maybe it’s like magic. But the buildings all around us, that was done by people. Cool right Pops?” she said.
Yes, it is cool indeed. The way the teachers teach the kids is more like storytelling and having fun. Hence, I think that my wife and I picked the right school. At the very least, it has given me hope that there might be a better future for Malaysian Muslims.