If all religions teach that love for others is paramount to seeking true happiness and enlightenment, what are we doing mistrusting one another, wonders Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi.
I wish to comment on Dr Hasan Ali’s concern over the alleged attempts of Christian missionaries in converting Muslims. He has alluded to the presence of the men-in-white who are secretly doing Christian ‘dakwah’.
I have known Hassan Ali for a long time and my respect for him was to the extent that I had prayed he would be one of Malaysia’s prime ministers.
I had entrusted my children’s religious and moral training to his ‘summer camp’ programme and I deeply respect him as a man who embodies much of the character of the Prophet.
Needless to say I had wished that I would have had half of his knowlege and perhaps ‘iman’ before I leave this world.
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I do not wish to deal with allegations of him coveting the chief ministership of Selangor and that his latest ‘revelation of these Christian men-in-white affair is a tool to put him in the limelight and find favours with leaders of his own racist mindset.
In this essay I wish to put across three important points concerning this matter. My first point is that I find his allegation has little credibility.
My second point is that if Muslims were to have been converted to Christianity, why blame Christians and not our way of interpreting and teaching Islam?
My final point is that, I believe that all religions are like siblings in a family and that I have found great faith in delving into how each and every religion attempts to give solace to man concerning the right way to find happiness in this world and the next.
With respect to the first point, I find it hard to believe that such men-in-white actually exist. Why do I say so? Well after 50 years of living, this the first time I have heard of such a thing. Why have we not heard of this before?
Secondly, I have seen Christians visiting many houses in my housing estate and none of them has ever tried to strike up a conversation with me or my family about Christianity. I wish they would so that I could invite them in!
I have only had the Tabligh group coming to my house inviting me to the surau or masjid. Once a Chinese lady called at my house and asked: “Hello, ini rumah orang Melayu?” When I said “yes” she said sorry and went away.
Universal act of helping others
I have also seen those whom I think were Christians visiting Orang Asli bearing gifts of food and other life’s necessities. Why should we be angry with the Christians? To me they are practising what is perhaps a universal act of helping others in order to help our souls.
I have read about this in Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Islamic teachings. Universal! Except I do not see Muslims doing so in that manner.
The motivation gurus say that in order to stop anxiety and worry, talk to others who have an even greater problem and your worries or anxieties will become small in comparison.
Professor Dr Eaknath Easwaran says that “we can never make ourselves happy by doing things for ourselves, only the act of kindness and consideration to others will destroy the ego and then truly make us happy”.
Eaknath was of course deliberating from the Bhagavad Gita.
Finally, in a country like Malaysia with a police and military force made up almost entirely of Malay-Muslim population, I hardly think Christians would tempt fate foolishly in being too aggressive in their missionary works.
I think the Christians have great faith in their religion but they are certainly not stupid to do such a thing. So, I find Hasan’s allegation has little credibility, if any at all.
With respect to the second point, what if there were a few or many Muslims who have chosen to convert to Christianity, why must we blame the Christians?
Is it enough and hunky-dory to just pass a law that says no religion can tempt another of different faith to convert to their own? Such simplistic thinking indeed.
When I go to book shops to look for books on Islam to give my children, teenagers and young adults reading materials on Islam, I am at a complete loss since most of the books are too preachy and do not have any interesting presentation format to this kind of users.
In the Malay language, there is hardly any and in English, I would say very feeble attempts.
Our ulamas can preach long and loud, but they do not know how to speak to our young. Perhaps, we can train the likes of Azril to teach religious values in his many TV shows. He could pull in a big crowd.
Through their songs and novels
When I visit mosques to listen to ceramah and lectures, I am sad to find that their method of delivery is still the same with long-winded explanations without much appeal to the young. Most are without power points and the presentation formats are as dry as the bones of dinosaurs.
Now let us look at the TV shows. Well, there are some interesting ustaz trying to dump down some values to the public but the attempt is still too conservative.
We must have a ‘waktu rehat’ kind of a sit-com that might appeal more and perhaps then ask the ustaz to be more savvy with their moral examples and stories.
I like the books ‘Chicken Soup for …’ series and we should have this in Islamic frames. Incidentally, I love the WALI band that sings religious rock songs and some of these lads were trained in Pasentran or religious schools.
I think Indonesia has a much, much better way at approaching dakwah to the young through their songs and novels. I do not like the dramas that are imported from Indonesia.
Perhaps, there are other religious-based ones that are more interesting but have failed to get pass our religious censor board.
I think we should set up an academy of creative arts and put young men with religious education and train them in the arts and multi-media in order to produce a generation of ‘hip ulamaks’ and make Islam more attractive to our young.
With respect to the third point, I hold to the personal view that all religious faiths are brethren or siblings, Islam being the youngest in the family. Christianity and Judaism, I view as older brothers with Hinduism being the eldest to my knowledge.
The reformative ideas of Buddhism stems from Hinduism and can be considered part of the same family of religions. I can’t understand why Muslims hate to be viewed in this manner. My article on Malay-Muslims and the Perfect Religion Syndrome explains much of this view.
For me, I find great joy in reading many books about ‘Positive Thinking, Inspiring Messages’ and ‘You Are What You Think’ by the Christian psychologist Dr Norman Vincent Peale. His books have helped me a great deal in dealing with anxiety issues as well as cultivating a closer relationship with God.
He has virtually eliminated any feeling of resentment on those I find difficult to deal with.
The books of Eaknath on meditation, commentary of the Bhagavad Gita and controlling the mind, help train the mind to focus at will and not let it wander ceaselessly.
His commentary of the Bhagavad Gita teaches me that the path to the love of God is through subjugating the ego and the way to do that is to put others first.
Readings of Islamic religious texts gives me much information but their style is not as exciting and motivational as the books described above, simply because the texts are translations of classical work such as those of Imam Ghazali, Ar-Rumi and Abdul Qadir Jailani.
Two thoughts from YouTube lecture
Only the work of modernists like Dr Aidh in his famous book ‘Don’t Be Sad’ comes close to an easy and consoling motivational work.
Thus, if we view all religions as one big happy family, imagine the resources that we have to tap on in discovering the true meaning of happiness. Let us not get involved into a debate of ‘my religion is true ergo yours is not”.
Some Muslims insist that there must be somebody who is right and somebody that is wrong. Simple. Well, I beg to differ. If you have five children like me, can you claim to love one child less than the others?
I love all of them equally whether one is bad-tempered or good-natured or what have you; they are all my children.
If you were a parent who can insist that he or she loves one of his or her children more than the others, I am afraid to tell you that you are indeed a ‘bad’ parent to do so.
Finally I wish to summarise what I understand from a YouTube lecture given by Profesor Dr Muhammad Tahir al-Qudri on ‘Signs that Allah Loves You’. Two things caught my attention.
First, he said that we must annihilate our worldly selves in order to open our hearts to the divine attributes of love from Allah.
We must disassociate from our love of positions, wealth, popularity and many other vices in order to receive the attributes of the divine. One of the attributes of Allah is that he loves all mankind, whether good or bad, wealthy or poor, Christians or Muslims and so forth.
So, if we Muslims were imbued with his love and attributes we too would love all mankind, whether Muslims or of other faiths. Even Khurram Murad in his book ‘In the Early Hours’ wrote that the Prophet says one of the signs of iman is to love all man for Allah’s sake.
Of course, those who have done wrong with criminal acts must be punished and we shall hate their deeds but still open our hearts for them if they recite their ‘tauba’ or repentance.
Thus, if all religions teach that love for others is paramount to seeking true happiness and enlightenment, what are we doing mistrusting one another? Which religion is true and which is false? That is the wrong question and certainly the wrong discourse.
We should strive to be the best at attaining the divine attributes of love and care for others in whichever religion we profess, and let every individual choose their own path.
Lao Tze said “the way that can be told is not the eternal way”. Our own paths are ours and ours alone to determine and no one person can make this journey for us except our own self. The journey of a thousand steps begin with our own feet … and not others.
In closing, I wish Hasan Ali well in his career and hope that he can still be one of our great leaders of this country. I still have faith in him to do what is right for others in this country and not for his own selfish calling.
Only then is true leadership born. No self-appointed leader is acknowledged by history nor any that is propped up by parties of vested interests. I plead to Hassan Ali not to stoke the fires of religious and racial hatred in this country for the sake of his and my children and for the sake of all caring citizens of this country.
Prof Dr Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi is a 23-year veteran academic and teaches architecture at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. He specialises in mosque and Islamic architecture particularly that which relates to Malaysia using a hadith-based and socio-cultural approach in order to create the total idea of built environment suited for a whole social structure.