Tuesday January 1, 2013
More than just a personal belief
By DR WAN AZHAR WAN AHMAD
SENIOR FELLOW / DIRECTOR
CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF SYARIAH, LAWS AND POLITICS
One’s acceptance of Islam signifies coming out from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, error to guidance, injustice to justice, and misery to happiness.
THE Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism, a poll carried out by the WIN-Gallup International (July 2012) reports that 59% of the world’s population is religious, 23% are not religious and 13% are atheists.
Religion is not just a personal belief and bondage with God. In the case of Islam, it gives emphasis to both belief as well as practice. Its teachings cover all aspects of human life, encompassing personal convictions, socio-legal and moral obligations towards man and duties towards God.
This discussion may sound dogmatic but we need to go back to basics as many seem to over simplify certain things envisaged by religion.
As the supreme reference, the Quran advocates that Islam is a religion that is free of doubt and error particularly on fundamental principles, providing guidance and mercy to the entire mankind.
Truth and falsehood have been so clearly explained by Allah (al-Baqarah, 2: 256). Once people are made plain of the right and wrong, the good and evil, then it is their call whether to embrace it or abandon it.
Islam indeed acknowledges the existence of other religions and imposes no restrictions for the latter to be practiced within their own respective territories. This does not mean that Islam necessarily recognises the truth claimed by these religions especially in theological matters.
This also does not make Islam exclusive as there exist an abundance of parallelism between the non-credal contents of Islam and those of other religions, enabling a harmonious peaceful co-existence and respect for all.
One’s acceptance of Islam signifies coming out from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, error to guidance, injustice to justice, misery to happiness.
From here onwards, one has to always increase his understanding of what it takes to be a Muslim, to appreciate, protect, preserve and further polish the “treasured gem”.
For Muslims, as expounded by Prof Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, the Quranic injunction “No compulsion in religion” (al-Baqarah, 2: 256) is to be understood and applicable to them in the sense that they are supposed to carry out all religious commandments willingly, not grudgingly.
To illustrate, Muslims must not feel compelled, for example, to perform obligatory prayers and fast, or in discarding adultery and intoxicating beverages, etc.
This is what al-Attas termed as “willing submission” to Allah in the way primarily prescribed by Him alone, reflecting sincerity and genuine obedience on the part of the servants.
Sincerity is possible with proper understanding of religion.
And Muslims must not emulate Satan because this cursed creature also acknowledges and submits to God, but grudgingly disgruntled.
The foregoing discussion aspires to show that one has to rightly and sufficiently understand Islam in order to embrace the religion more meaningfully.
The “islamicity” of a Muslim, either by birth or conversion, is not guaranteed if he fails to appreciate this.
Mutawalli, a Muslim scholar, says: “Religious belief should be founded on conviction and considered choice, not on mere imitation or conformity to the views and belief of others.”
To add, one’s decision to become Muslim must be judiciously done with wisdom based on knowledge.
One must not accept Islam by blindly following others without understanding, or making personal pleasures or other worldly gains as one hidden motivation.
Such ingenuine motives and objectives will not be able to stand the challenges of time.
It may happen, for instance, that once one’s marriage breaks down, that will trigger one to renounce Islam.
Here, the religion itself is not to be blamed as the real culprit is highly likely one’s own weak religious foundations, resulting perhaps from any combination of the following: an irresponsible spouse, family members, uncaring society or unscrupulous authorities.
It is for the above reasons, among others, that apostasy is regarded as a grave crime in Islam.
Religion is viewed extremely as a serious matter in Islam. It represents true enlightenment, wisdom, certainty, security, tranquility, justice, ultimate bliss of happiness, etc.
If one were to leave Islam, one is actually heading towards darkness, ignorance and all other opposites of the noble situations aforementioned. The right attitude to hold is, one should not be driven by failures in worldly affairs to give up Islam as if they were absolutely beyond repair. Arguably, it is sheer shortsightedness for one to do so.
A PhD dissertation by Mohd Azam Adil about apostasy in Malaysia at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (2005), and later corroborated by a study in Selangor (2010) by a local university, reveal that majority of applications to leave Islam came from ignorant Muslims, mostly converts.
And from a number of meetings or programmes with various government agencies and NGOs over the years, I can conclude that this sickening trend persists till today.
This worrisome phenomenon shows a severe lack of understanding about Islam.
Concerned Muslims and relevant authorities should be wary of this, not really to punish those deserters, but to introduce effective mechanisms and implement corrective measures to make them understand Islam better.
But, if one stubbornly insists on denouncing Islam despite all these efforts then leave him.
My great shifu al-Attas always says, religion, with special reference to Islam, is not meant for fools!
In the case of Muslims in Malaysia, Malays or otherwise, they should never be in any position to “lose” their belief if the social and other systems around them play their faith-based role(s) efficiently.