t always tickles me how Utusan Malaysia and gang always shout “derhaka” when things do not go according to p
These fatwas, said Asri, were issued by “literalist” Islamic scholars — those who understand the contents of the Al-Quran but insist on only literal interpretations, without any revisions.
“These people are against the formation of any society, political party, demonstration, nasyid, art and much more. If their fatwas are accepted, the Islamic world will crumble and people will not flourish.
“What is bad is that this movement is being benefited by cruel and corrupt leaders within the Islamic world. When hadiths are interpreted politically and literally, it is as if Islam gives leaders a “licence” to oppress their people while the people are tied, gagged, without any ability to object or act,” said Asri in a statement today.
What made things worse, said the academic, was that Quranic verses which are seen to be in favour of the ruling government would be read and promoted through every possible channel, while verses which warned people of the “cruelty of leaders” were ignored.
“In Malaysia, we saw this phenomenon during the heated demonstration recently … this (discussion) here is not meant to support or condemn the peaceful demonstration, but just to discuss some people’s understanding of certain hadiths,” said Asri.
Asri cited a hadith by Huzairah r.a and said that it was often used to defend the actions of leaders and to prohibit people from criticising the government, in whatever form.
The hadith quotes Huzairah as asking Prophet Muhammad S.A.W what should be done if the Prophet comes upon another leader who does not adhere to the Prophet’s teachings. Prophet Muhammad’s response was that even in such situations, loyalty and obedience to that said leader would be a priority.
The hadith in Malay is as follows: Hadis Huzaifah r.a: “Akan ada selepasku para pemimpin yang berpetunjuk bukan dengan petunjukku, bersunnah bukan dengan sunnahku, dan akan bangkit dalam kalangan mereka lelaki-lelaki yang jantung hati mereka seperti jantung hati syaitan dalam tubuh insan”. Kata Huzaifah: “Apa yang patut aku lakukan wahai Rasulullah, jika aku mendapati keadaan itu?”. Jawab baginda: “Dengar dan taat kepada ketua, sekalipun belakangmu dipukul, hartamu diambil, dengar dan taatlah” (Riwayat Muslim).
“This hadith becomes a sticking point to the extent that there are those who say ‘if leaders kill my family, I will not charge them in court.’ Imagine if all Muslims felt like that; then leaders of the Muslim world would rule without unopposed,” Asri added.
He stressed that a hadith cannot be read separately but needed to be examined and understood in its entirety, together with the relevant Quranic verses.
“If we do not do that, it will be a flawed interpretation … at a time when the world is protecting human rights, we are suddenly pulling our people back with literal interpretations. How then can the beauty of Islam be appreciated by say, a person who has just learnt about the religion?
“In some ways, leaders in Western countries are more honest and responsible towards their people compared to leaders in Muslim countries today … sometimes animals in Western countries are treated better than a Muslim who lives in a Muslim country — often beaten, ridiculed, imprisoned, or even killed without ever having the courage to speak out,” Asri said.
The academic stressed that no leader was above the law, and warned religious institutions against using Islam to defend the actions of corrupt and unjust leaders.
Bersih went ahead with Saturday’s rally despite being denied police permission, plunging parts of Kuala Lumpur into chaos and resulting in nearly 1,700 arrests, scores injured and the death of a PKR division leader’s husband.lan.
It obvious to everyone that the Najib government mishandled Bersih 2.0 and now instead of doing a mea culpa, the government and Utusan Malaysia and Star and the New Straits Times (or should it be the New Doctored Times) are going on about how Ambiga Sreenevasan and comrades disrespected the King and Sultan of Selangor by going through with rally.
It needs to be noted that all the newspapers twisted the King’s statement on urging everyone to come to negotiating table. They were also silent when Umno politicians and ministers voiced displeasure over the King’s “independence” in seeking a solution to the election fraud problem. And some of them even wonder whether the King had constitutional standing to meet Ambiga and others.
In contrast, Ambiga and Bersih have been nothing but respectful of the King.
But at this juncture, I think it is important for all Malaysians to take a step back and understand one fact: The King or the sultans are not God. Only God is infallible.
Ultimately, as people who are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus, we should finally be guided by our religious teachings and the TRUTH.
The final decision is not what the King says but what our God teaches us. Surely, election fraud is not promoted by any religion.
Amitabh Pal is managing editor of The Progressive magazine and author of the new book “Islam” Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today (Praeger, 2011). My review of Pal’s book will appear in print in the next issue of Fellowship magazine, and I recently conducted an interview of Pal via e-mail to ask him some more questions about his book and continuing work.
Why did you write this book?
I have been interested in nonviolence since I heard about Mahatma Gandhi’s accomplishments as a child. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, I remembered about a Pashtun friend of Gandhi — Abdul Ghaffar Khan — who founded a remarkable movement dedicated to nonviolence and social reform. I did a profile of him for The Progressive, and this piqued my interest in nonviolence in the Muslim world. I wrote about other such personalities and movements, and, eventually, this led to my book.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Germany, where my father, a naval architect by profession, lived for four years. When I was barely two, my parents moved to the United States. But since they had already decided to return to India, much of my schooling even during this phase was in India, mostly at a boarding school. When I was eleven, my family and I shifted to India. I came back to the United States as a young man of twenty.
Tell us about Lucknow. Did you have Muslim friends or neighbors?
Lucknow, the capital of the largest state in India, is famous all over India for its Hindu-Muslim composite culture and for its politeness (tehzeeb). My neighborhood was a microcosm of India’s syncretism. On one side of our home, we had Christian neighbors; on the other, we had Hindus. And across the road, we had a Muslim landlord (nawab), no less, residing in a large, ancient house. (In fact, he used to own the entire neighborhood and sold my grandparents our house.) In true regal style, he always had a gatekeeper sitting outside his house who used to greet everyone in the traditional Muslim manner. And on Muslim festivals, the nawab used to send over to us choice Indo-Muslim dishes.
How has the book been received?
The book has been received affirmatively. People have reacted with positive surprise to the message of the book and its findings. I have received a number of invitations to talk about the book. And for better or for worse, I am not yet on the radar of professional Islamophobes, so I haven’t received any hostile feedback.
How has the book been received in India?
The book has to date only been published in the United States. I do hope to get it published in India. It is sorely needed there, since most Indians have forgotten the contributions of giants such as Ghaffar Khan to the Indian independence struggle. If the book can contribute even a bit to clearing up misconceptions about Islam and its history in India, it will have more than fulfilled its mission.
With regard to American Muslims or the Muslim World, what makes you hopeful?
2011 will go down in history as the most significant year in modern Arab history. The Arab people have seized charge of their destiny. Regardless of how things eventually turn out (and I am more optimistic than most other commentators), this is an epochal shift. I can’t tell you how excited and hopeful I am!
With regard to American Muslims or the Muslim World, what are you worried about?
I am worried about the negative social and political influence of the Saudi Arabian monarchy, in my view the most retrograde force in the Muslim world. The regime has crushed (for now) the democracy movement in Bahrain and complicated things in Yemen. Simultaneously, it is busy using its oil money to spread its regressive version of Islam throughout the planet.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reviewing for The Progressive (in the July issue) an amazing book — John Tirman’s The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars. It is the first comprehensive effort that I know of to catalogue the effects of U.S. wars on people in all corners of the world. I am finishing up right now Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic: An Alternative History of Postwar Germany, an authoritative account of Germany since World War II.
How are things at The Progressive?
This has been a very exciting year for The Progressive! We’ve been covering the Wisconsin fight-back against Governor Scott Walker’s misrule like no other national publication, since it is happening literally in our backyard. And through my writings, we have kept regular tabs on the upheavals in the Middle East. If only we had more resources to devote to such important issues (my not-so-subtle appeal to readers to subscribe and donate!).
What is your next book project? Are you going to revise “Islam” Means Peace in view of the Arab uprisings?
If all goes well and if I have a publisher willing to support me, that is indeed what I hope to do. My dream project will be to go to Egypt and Tunisia (and Syria and Bahrain and ….) to interview those people who made these historic events in the Arab world possible. Inshallah, my dream will come true!