The com­pas­sion­ate face of Is­lam

It should never be the state’s role to merely pun­ish the of­fender or their in­no­cent fam­i­lies, when the state it­self is in some way re­spon­si­ble for the crime oc­cur­ring.

The Star Malaysia - - Focus - Ja­hab­erdeen M. Yunoos

MUS­LIMS should wel­come the an­nounce­ment by Datuk Dr Mu­jahid Yu­sof Rawa, the Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment in charge of re­li­gious af­fairs, that it will be the govern­ment’s pol­icy to pro­mote com­pas­sion­ate Is­lam.

Ac­tu­ally, I be­lieve there is only an “Is­lam” whose teach­ings are pri­mar­ily com­pas­sion­ate, a bless­ing and mer­ci­ful. Any­one who reads the Qu­ran will know that it de­scribes it­self as a “heal­ing and a mercy to those who be­lieve” (Al Isra (17) verse 82).

In fact, the Holy Prophet Muham­mad him­self is de­scribed in the Qu­ran as rah­matan lil Alamiin for the whole world and the cre­ations (Al An­biya (21): verse 107).

Es­sen­tially, rahmah means love or af­fec­tion and is of­ten un­der­stood to mean the love of God for mankind and His cre­ations where He has pro­vided ev­ery­thing they need to de­velop and live on this earth. In other words, the Qu­ran guides mankind to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate this rahmah through its guid­ance.

One who reads the Qu­ran will also ap­pre­ci­ate that it be­seeches mankind to pon­der and think about life and the laws of na­ture to fur­ther ap­pre­ci­ate the rahmah of God.

Dr Mu­jahid also pointed out the use of state re­sources to con­front “pub­lic sins” and “pri­vate sins” to show, I be­lieve, that any use of re­li­gious en­force­ment pow­ers must be tam­pered with com­mon sense and com­pas­sion.

I be­lieve real schol­ars of Is­lam know that there is an abun­dance of lit­er­a­ture that dis­cour­ages the de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to ex­pose pri­vate sins.

For rea­sons which I can­not un­der­stand, Dr Mu­jahid has been ex­posed to ir­rel­e­vant crit­i­cisms by some Mus­lim re­li­gious ex­perts im­plicit within which is the as­sump­tion that he is ig­no­rant of the dis­course in these mat­ters.

I would have thought that this would have been an op­por­tu­nity for re­li­gious ex­perts to ex­er­cise hus­nuzan (ben­e­fit of the doubt) and to em­brace the idea of pro­mot­ing the com­pas­sion­ate face of Is­lam.

Un­for­tu­nately, this was not so, and sadly, this ex­posed their men­tal­ity for the judge­ment of the pub­lic, es­pe­cially by the think­ing Mus­lims.

For the past many decades, Is­lam has come across as a re­pres­sive, non-tol­er­ant, ex­clu­sive and even vi­o­lent reli­gion.

We are fa­mil­iar with the Is­lam­o­pho­bia, Is­lam bash­ing and even Mus­lims op­press­ing other Mus­lims in the name of the faith in some so­ci­eties.

There has even been a per­cep­tion for the past decades that some Mus­lim re­li­gious ex­perts will not speak up against univer­sal in­jus­tice (ir­re­spec­tive of the reli­gion of the vic­tims) un­less it fits into their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the “reli­gion” of Is­lam.

In­creas­ingly, the loud re­li­gious ex­perts are be­ing seen as be­com­ing ir­rel­e­vant in this chal­leng­ing new mil­len­nium where thoughts and tech­nol­ogy are no longer the same even com­pared to just 30 years ago.

Even Mus­lims are be­gin­ning to re­alise that some of the so-called re­li­gious ex­perts are noth­ing more than those schooled in some fiqh or in sim­ple lan­guage Is­lamic law as if life is made up of only law.

Their con­tri­bu­tions in the larger scheme of life ap­pear to be min­i­mal at best.

They are also per­ceived as be­ing dic­ta­to­rial with their views rather than per­sua­sive with sound ar­gu­ments. Hence, the gen­eral fear about re­li­gious ex­perts be­ing given po­lit­i­cal power.

Such per­cep­tions, ad­mit­tedly, are un­fair to the more ra­tio­nal, sin­cere and ded­i­cated Mus­lim schol­ars who have con­trib­uted much to the growth of Is­lamic lit­er­a­ture.

It is also un­fair to the im­age of Is­lam and to Mus­lims in gen­eral.

Hence, the need to re­verse the neg­a­tive nar­ra­tives about Is­lam by some of these Mus­lim re­li­gious ex­perts them­selves.

Which face of Is­lam is the Mus­lims pro­ject­ing is an im­por­tant ques­tion that needs to be ad­dressed.

Un­doubt­edly, fiqh is nonethe­less im­por­tant in the life of Mus­lims but one must also know that the teach­ings of Is­lam are be­yond that.

The greater part of the 6,236 verses of the Qu­ran is de­voted to re­li­gious and moral themes while there are only about 350 “le­gal” verses in the Qu­ran.

It is com­mon knowl­edge among Mus­lims who read the Qu­ran that for ev­ery pun­ish­ment men­tioned in the Qu­ran, God pro­vides for the for­giv­ing of the wrong­doer.

This for­give­ness part, how­ever, has not been suf­fi­ciently high­lighted such that Is­lam is wrongly pre­sented as a rigid and puni­tive reli­gion.

Mus­lims can­not con­tinue to pre­tend that all is well within the Mus­lim world. It is not – legally, eco­nom­i­cally, so­cially, po­lit­i­cally and so on.

To­day, it is a tough chal­lenge to iden­tify a model Mus­lim coun­try where there is truly jus­tice, good gov­er­nance and a place where any­one, whether Mus­lim or nonMus­lim would like to go to and live.

These are ma­jor is­sues and on­go­ing de­bates among the Mus­lims but one that needs to be hon­estly ad­dressed. I would prob­a­bly touch on some of these is­sues in an­other ar­ti­cle.

For now, I would like to state my sup­port for the pol­icy of pro­ject­ing the com­pas­sion­ate face of Is­lam.

Malaysian Mus­lims must re­claim Is­lam by de­ter­min­ing which “face of Is­lam” they want so long as it is con­sis­tent with the teach­ings of the Qu­ran and most au­then­tic Sun­nah.

For more than twenty years now, a small group of us have started a move­ment to en­cour­age the birth of com­pas­sion­ate cit­i­zens in our coun­try be­cause we be­lieve that ed­u­cated cit­i­zens alone can­not guar­an­tee col­lec­tive hap­pi­ness.

In this world, all of us un­dergo var­i­ous kinds and de­grees of suf­fer­ings and chal­lenges just to live whether in our per­sonal, pro­fes­sional or pub­lic lives. All of us need to learn and ac­quire the skills of be­ing com­pas­sion­ate so that we can be col­lec­tively happy.

Com­pas­sion is the ex­pe­ri­enc­ing of an­other per­son’s suf­fer­ing ac­com­pa­nied by our ac­tion to re­move that suf­fer­ing.

For ex­am­ple, we know a per­son who is poor, we not only sym­pa­thise but we take ac­tions to al­le­vi­ate that per­son’s poverty in some way, not by merely giv­ing him a to­ken char­ity.

In the en­force­ment of laws, we use our power of en­force­ment in the most com­pas­sion­ate way pos­si­ble, and not harshly.

It should never be the state’s role to merely pun­ish the of­fender (and of­ten their in­no­cent fam­i­lies) when the state it­self is in some way re­spon­si­ble for the crime oc­cur­ring.

Like­wise, a dog­matic or ag­gres­sive ap­proach to reli­gion bereft of com­pas­sion will also push some peo­ple away from God.

Why would any­one want to fol­low a re­li­gious ex­pert who is al­ways con­demn­ing oth­ers and ap­pear to play God by in­sist­ing that only his in­ter­pre­ta­tion and un­der­stand­ing of what­ever he has read is the ul­ti­mate un­der­stand­ing?

Do oth­ers not have a right to eval­u­ate his un­der­stand­ing and even to eval­u­ate his level of cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties?

So let Mus­lims take heed of the prin­ci­ple of hus­nuzan and the teach­ing of the Qu­ran that we hear all views and take the best there from.

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