Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Destiny: Part 1

'O Allaah, there is no ease except in that which You have made easy, and You make the difficulty, if You wish, easy.’

I would like to apologize to drmaza.com English section readers for falling behind on my translation. It is truly one of the highlights in my life to have the opportunity to do this translation work, to give whatever little contribution that I can in the world of da’wah. I do miss the glorious feeling of satisfaction that I experience every time I complete translating an article because it means a lot to me to know that there are people out there who benefit from it.

My professional life as an engineer with Petronas has taken quite a significant turn and the path that I am walking on now demands a more extensive commitment and in meeting that requirement, it really drains me of my energy. Because of that, when I get home from work, I’ll have enough strength left to do only the basic life’s routine like solat and checking on Hajar’s homework and probably do a little bit of reading just before bedtime. Previously, I was able to effectively spend a couple of hours every night to work on the translation. These days, I can still spend a couple of hours every night sitting in front of my laptop but I can hardly finish up one paragraph by the end of it.

To do the translation, I have to do lots of intense thinking and this necessitates me to have a high level of energy. That is because I am not blessed with having intrinsic lingual flair. I am technically inclined by nature and my education background is technical. It is not like me to write using ‘ornamental’ terms and style. It is simply not in me. Therefore, I had to try hard to deviate from my ‘natural’ style of writing in coming up with a translation that is as lingually artistic as the original article. If it’s up to me, I would just write the translation in bullet format and probably with a diagram or two to illustrate the scenario being discussed.

Nevertheless, I hope that this is just another phase of my life that will only last for a short while. Probably, things will get easier (with less debilitating effect) once I get the hang of it. I pray for Allah to continously give me the strength, and to show me the way, to play a part in the sacred struggle of upholding His religion.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tajdid: A Necessity to the Ummah

Loose translation of ‘Tajdid Satu Keperluan Ummah’ written by Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin(http://drmaza.com)

Tajdid or the process of renewal to the religious comprehension is a necessity. Throughout the history of this ummah, the movement or the struggle of tajdid was instrumental in preventing the ummah from becoming weak and incompetent. In a sahih hadith reported by al-Imam Abu Daud, the Prophet s.a.w said: “Allah will raise for this community at the end of every hundred years someone who will restore its religion for it.”

All through the time, advocates of tajdid appeared one after another to carry out various endeavors and to confront different challenges. Tajdid was implemented in various fields for the wellbeing of the ummah. Caliphate ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was a prominent advocate of tajdid (mujaddid) based on the consensus of the ummah. After him, other scholars who were regarded as mujaddid appeared such as al-Imam al-Syafi’i (deceased in 204H), al-Imam Ibn Taimiyyah (deceased in 728H) and others.

The word ‘man’ or ‘someone’ as stated in the hadith above instigated different interpretations among the scholars. They debated whether the hadith implied that ‘someone’ will be sent for every century or a number of individuals will be sent but spread all over the place and in different countries, or if it implied any particular movement or the likes of it. Whatever it may be, it is more important to derive from this hadith that tajdid in Islam is necessary.

Tajdid does not denote the establishment of a new religion. There are two different definitions that can be assigned to tajdid. The first definition is to restore the religion’s original look just as we would restore the condition of something that has gone bad or has expired. Renewal or tajdid means that the situation and time renders it necessary to restore something to its original form. A practical exemplar is the renewal of our driving license or something similar. Basically, we have the original driving license but it has to undergo a renewal process because it is old or expired.

The second definition of tajdid is that it can also imply the innovation of certain element to fulfill contemporary need and requirement such as the innovation of modern vehicle. It has never been created before but it serves the same basic purpose required by humankind since the earliest of time that is to move from one place to another.

Therefore, in the context of Islam, innovation should be performed such that it does not change the religion but rather, it is to satisfy the new understanding or view brought about by the change in circumstances. However, it should not deviate from the essence and the requirement of al-Quran and al-Sunnah. In other words, the renewal of Islam refers to the restoration of the original look of Islam that is being practiced by the ummah because the look of Islam has been contaminated or neglected as time passes by and as circumstance varies. It can also refer to the construction of new understanding and new view to meet the contemporary requirement but is still centered upon the al-Quran and al-Sunnah.

In another hadith, the Prophet s.a.w said:

“This knowledge must be carried by those who are righteous among the successors (from one generation to another). They deny (oppose) the deviance performed by the extremists, the false claims made by the immorals and the interpretation done by the ignorants.” (Reported by al-Baihaqi, Ibn ‘Adi and others. Ranked by hasan by al-Imam Ahmad).

Al-Quran and al-Sunnah are adjustable sources of Islam. However, there are two major problems concerning these two divine sources, first is that they are contaminated and second is that they are misinterpreted. Al-Quran is being contaminated by the irresponsible ones who add elements of Israiliyyat and mythical stories to it though its preservation is guaranteed by Allah. To the untrained eyes, those stories that are linked to the al-Quran are considered funny and impractical.

This blunder is commonly done by a significant number of religious speakers who frequently appear in electronic media in our country. Similarly, throughout the history, thousands of fabricated hadith were created to for the sake of various parties or due to lack of knowledge. In Malaysia, hadith is being quoted and narrated haphazardly by many individuals to the extent that even comical or garbled stories are linked to hadith. All these require tajdid.

Akidah is the core of Islam. The akidah of Islam is simple and comprehensible, as simple as the concept of akidah described in Surah al-Ikhlas. One who reads the al-Quran will find the intelligibility of akidah of Islam described in it, in Surah al-An’am for instance. The explanation is not convoluted like some syllabus used to teach people the attributes of Allah that goes something like Allah is existent and the opposite is non-existent, Allah is hearing and the opposite is deaf, Allah is seeing and the opposite is blind. Many of the muslims, new and old, are not clear about akidah and can easily ‘switch their religion’ despite having memorized this syllabus. This is because the syllabus was based on philosophical thoughts that is not as solid as the simple and comprehensible akidah described by al-Quran and al-Sunnah. We need tajdid in this area.

In applying fiqh, mazhab fanaticism that is being passed down to us by some religious conservative is causing us to become a society that is ‘color-blind’ on facts or completely lacking of curiosity not questioning what are the basis for the religious practices being performed. We fail to ask if the religious practice originates from al-Quran and al-Sunnah or is a mere presumption. Even those who are fanatic to mazhab Syafi’i are not sure if the opinions they are upholding are indeed the opinions of al-Imam al-Syafi’I (deceased in 204H) or are only words that come out of people’s mouth.

Even more worrying is the fact that our fiqh comprehension that is lacking of supporting evidence or built on weak evidence leads to narrow-mindedness and imposes inconvenience to the ummah. Unnecessarily arduous rules that are not based on clear nas are enforced such as the direction to ‘purify’ the whole house issued by some quarters. In addition to lacking of clear nas, it is unreasonably burdening. The need to have a fiqh comprehension that is based on strong supporting evidence and is undemanding is a requirement in this era. In a hadith, the Prophet s.a.w said:

"Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” (Reported by al-Bukhari)

Tazkiah al-Nafs or spiritual refinement that is being referred to by some people as tasawwuf is essential to the soul. However, a matter as delicate as that involving the spiritual bond of a person with Allah requires the guidance of al-Quran and al-Sunnah. If not, one will wander off and enter a world that is filled with philosophical words, dreams of the afterworld, stories of saints and the supernatural and various other strange philosophies. It no longer leads them to Allah but instead, it leads them into the messy domain of weird Sufism causing them to abandon their study on al-Quran as well as hadith and concentrate only on what their ‘tok syeikh (chief) says’. In this matter, tajdid is required.

Humankind needs politics to survive in a communal life. Islam has the guideline for that. However, because we have become so habituated to the Western politics, sometimes we are even worse than them, politics no longer brings forth happiness and tranquility to the ummah but it instigates nuisance, anxiety and other unpleasant states of mind. The application of Islam in our politics is hardly noticeable even by those who are spotting the Islamic brand or the likes of it. In this matter, tajdid is required.

A lot of the contemporary issues we are encountering these days were not known in the past. To ensure a continuous survival of the ummah, various new opinions are required to cater for the change that the ummah and the world are experiencing. The opinions of preceding theologians may not be wrong but have expired due to the change in time and circumstances. Therefore, tajdid to those opinions or formulation of new opinions that are still centered upon al-Quran and al-Sunnah are required and a must. Some of the nas from al-Quran and al-Sunnah has to be viewed in a much broader context in terms of its meaning and substance.

Therefore, obviously, the endeavor and movement that advocates tajdid is necessary for the ummah including us in Malaysia. This is regardless of the fact that every now and then, tajdid advocates are criticized and subjected to various slanders by those who are bothered by tajdid. Regarding this phenomenon, the Prophet s.a.w once said:

“Indeed Islaam began as something strange. And it will return as something strange the way it began. So give glad tidings to the strangers” He was asked, “Who are the strangers O Allah’s Apostle?” He answered, “Those who are righteous when the people have become corrupt.” (Reported by Ahmad, sahih)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Unity Government and Islamic Brotherhood

Loose translation of ‘Kerajaan Perpaduan dan Ukhuwah Islamiyyah’ written by Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin (http://drmaza.com)

‘Unity government’ has become a hot term. I am not sure what it means exactly. Is it possible that it is just like before when ‘Islam Hadhari’ appeared out of nowhere and only much later did its definition was discovered? Whatever it is, as a Muslim, I will be extremely pleased and happy if Muslims can make amends with each other and together, look for ways to preserve the wellbeing of the ummah.

One who dislikes seeing Muslims reconciling with each other is like one who is possessed by satan because of a never-ending grudge or pointless fanaticism or unbounded prejudice. That sentiment is deemed as wicked unless he can prove that dispute among Muslims is more beneficial than harmony. Allah says (translated as):

“The believers are but a single brotherhood: so make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive mercy.” (Surah al-Hujurat: verse 10)

It used to be that the word ‘asabiyyah’ represents sectarian or racial fanaticism which always leads to squabble and fighting. These days, ‘asabiyyah’ manifests itself in a form of political party, association, jamaah and various other form of fraternity. Consequently, driven by the sectarian fanaticism, people are ceaselessly in dispute with each other. The Prophet s.a.w said:

“…One who fights under the banner of a people who ate blind (to the cause for which they are fighting. i. e. do not know whether their cause is just or otherwise), who gets flared up with family pride, calls, (people) to fight for their. family honour, and supports his kith and kin (i. e. fights not for the cause of Allah but for the sake of this family or tribe) -if he is killed (in this fight), he dies as one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya”. (Reported by Muslim)

In a narration whose sanad (chain of narrators) is weak but is supported by the previous hadith, the Prophet s.a.w said:

“Whoever calls for ‘asabiyyah, fights for the sake of ‘asabiyyah and dies because of ‘asabiyyah is not belonging to us.” (Reported by Abu Daud)

‘Asabiyyah disease is present not only in the form of Arab or Persian or Malay racism but it also manifests itself in the form of political parties that are established under the name of democracy these days. Principles and sanity evaporates into thin air only because of fanaticism for a certain political party or hatred towards the opposing party. It is to the extent that even those who supposedly fight for the cause of the Arabs or the Malays can link up with other people to subjugate their own race.

Similarly, those who claim that they are fighting for the cause of Islam are willing to work with the non-Muslims to go up against Muslims. Even more, some self-proclaimed ‘nationalists’ stoop to disgracing their own race only because of political disagreement. Likewise, some quarters who are supposedly Islamists are inclined to befriend a socialist capitalist, and even the anti Islamic state, but get aggravated when they are asked to make amends with Muslims. Political parties have molded a form of ‘asabiyyah that is upsetting and detrimental to Muslim brotherhood.

I truly hope that Muslims in this country will move away from thinking only about the interest of their party and instead, start thinking about the wellbeing of the ummah which is of much bigger importance than their party. The Prophet s.a.w praised al-Hasan bin ‘Ali because he performed a deed that caused the dispute between the supporters of Mu’awiyah r.a and the supporters of ‘Ali r.a to cease. Abu Bakra r.a said, "Once while the Prophet was addressing (the people), Al-Hasan (bin 'Ali) came and the Prophet said, 'This son of mine is a chief, and Allah may make peace between two groups of Muslims through him." (Reported by al-Bukhari)

The prophecy in this hadith became a reality when Saiyyidina Hasan voluntarily relinquished the top government post and handed it over to Mu’awiyah after his father, Saiyyidina ‘Ali, passed away. Following that, Mu’awiyah took complete control of the government and Muslims labeled that year as ‘year of reconciliation’. (Ibn Kathir, Al-Ba`ith al-Hathith, pg. 177, Beirut: Dar al-Fikr). In addition to that, Mu’awiyah himself wanted the Muslims to benefit from harmony. He said, “Who will care for the Muslims (if their fathers are killed)?” (Reported by al-Bukhari.

In commenting this hadith, Ibn Taimiyyah stated: “The Prophet s.a.w praised al-Hassan for the reconciliation that he did and named him as sayyid meaning ‘chief’. This was because Allah and His Messenger liked and blessed his action. If the war that occurred among the Muslims was commanded by Allah and His Messenger, surely the Prophet would not praised the reconciliation done by al-Hassan. If war was commanded by Allah and His Messenger, by stopping it, it meant that al-Hassan had abandoned his duty or disregarded an act that Allah favored. This hadith is clear evidence that proves al-Hassan’s accomplishment was praiseworthy.” Ibn Taimiyyah, Al-Khilafah wa al-Mulk, pg. 84).

In Malaysia, we do not expect for the Muslim political parties to hand over their authority to each other. Yes, we need to have a strong balance of authority between the government and the opposition. Our hope is for them to be able to sit at the same table to discuss the wellbeing of the ummah especially on issues that are specific to the Muslims. Isn’t there any common point of interest between UMNO and PAS on specific issues? It is acceptable for us to have different opinions and even to argue but there has to be a common point of interest when it comes to issues that involve the wellbeing of the ummah and the nation. The line of thought must be established on the foundation of nas (religious texts) and ukhuwwah islamiyyah (Islamic brotherhood) while fanaticism that traps people in partisan confinement must be restrained. Islam is not just about politics. Islam also encompasses akidah (faith), akhlak (personal manner), economy, education and many more. In a critical time like this, doesn’t any one of them reserve a few of their precious breaths to spend it thinking about the wellbeing of the ummah on issues that are specific to us? If UMNO and PAS are able to sit with the groups that adopt different principles and different cause of struggle in an amicable and pleasant manner, isn’t there any room for them to sit together? We shall be concerned about what the Prophet s.a.w said:

“Allah hates the most a person who is obstinate when arguing” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

That is the reason why, when I was having a long talk with Tun Abdullah in London two weeks ago, I suggested that UMNO and PAS sit together to discuss issues outside of the political theme. Try to learn to understand each other and do it for the sake of Allah and not for the sake of party.

They may have a bad record of reconciliation effort experienced in the past but time and generation has changed. What we have today is not the same as yesterday. Today, people are more mature whereas the situation is getting more critical. The discussion shall no longer start off with issues on power but it shall be centered upon the wellbeing of the ummah. Blessing will come if there is a genuine sincerity. Allah will reveal to us the path that leads to goodness. When an enemy of Islam wishes to reconcile, we are commanded to accept it. This command is even more applicable if the reconciliation is among Muslims.

Allah says (translated as):

“But if the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah for He is one that heareth and knoweth (All things).” (Surah al-Anfal: verse 61)

Some people say that the reconciliation among the Muslim political parties will cause ‘others’ to be victimized. I am puzzled by that statement. Every time we have two groups sitting together for a discussion, does it always mean that other group will be victimized? If it is a Muslim making that statement, I think that he can be likened to the followers of Abdullah bin Saba who instigated the battle between ‘Ali and ‘Aishah. When they saw that ‘Ali and ‘Aishah was going to reconcile, they set off a surprise attack that dragged the Muslims to fight with each other.

Ibn Kathir (deceased in 774 H) stated that when those who were involved in ‘Uthman’s assassination, specifically the rebels, heard about ‘Ali’s decision to reconcile with ‘Aishah, they became worried. They discussed it among them and said, “They have reconciled at the price of our blood”. They meant that the reconciliation implied that weapons would be then be directed towards them. They continued discussing it until ‘Abdullah bin Saba suggested that they spark off a fight so that the battle would still occur. Before dawn, they attacked both the armies of ‘Aishah and ‘Ali simultaneously causing both sides to think that the other side had broken their promise. ‘Aishah’s army said, “’Ali’s army has attacked us!” whereas ‘Ali’s army said, “’Aishah’s army has attacked us!”. Thus, the Battle of Jamal took place and caused so many casualties among the Muslims. (al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah 7/249, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah).

As stated by Winston Churchill: “History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time”.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Women's World in Malaysia

Muktamar PAS has been concluded and two of its headlines grabbed my attention. First is the maiden appearance of my good friend Puan Hawa Yaa’cob at the PAS national level presenting the motion formulated by Dewan Muslimat Melaka. She is only 32 but has achieved so much in life. Just a few years after working in her first job as a Chemical Engineer, she made a bold step of quitting her job to concentrate on her preferred career as a Unit Trust consultant (she likes the term Wealth Advisor better).

Many were skeptical of her move naturally since being skeptical is what we Malays do best. It did not take long for her to prove them wrong. After what seemed like a blink of an eye, the number of her clients built up so much that she had to set up an office to manage them and today, she is so much at the top of it all.

Hawa presented the motion that called for the denunciation of the judiciary which she said did not appreciate the principle of separation of powers between the executive and legislative and did not take drastic actions to restore its image. It was indeed a heavy topic to discourse and only a lady as single-minded as Hawa can deliberate it with ease.

She has always been passionate about making the country, and even the world, to change for the better. Her dedication in contributing to the society is immeasurable. I have always supported her involvement in politics because she has all the quality to not just be good at it but most importantly, to yield a worthy impact to the society.

The second headline that caught my attention was the motion to ban SIS. Dr Lo’ Lo’ made a swift statement denouncing that motion and instead, she called for everyone to engage more in discussions rather than making speculations.

No one party or faction is free of flaw including SIS. However, to charge someone or some group with endangering the akidah of the Muslims necessitates the accuser to provide evidences that can prove beyond doubt the danger is truly existent and operational. If they believe that some of the standpoints embraced by SIS are misleading or do not conform to the true teachings of Islam, it should be stated as that rather than haphazardly condensing into one general statement that is light on the tongue but heavy on the scale of justice.

It is comforting to know that those holding the top posts in Dewan Muslimat like Dr Lo’ Lo’ and Dr Mariah have a more congenial attitude towards SIS and prefer to use the educating approach rather than the punishing approach. One needs to know and understand the causes that SIS is fighting for in order to ‘make a sense out’ of their existence.

But then, the detractors will add to their argument that the end does not justify the means. If that is the case, what we should be saying to all the women’s right activists is, as mentioned by Dr. Asri in one of his articles titled ‘Oh Wanita! Pastikan Arah Perjuanganmu’, that we wish to tell all the advocators of women’s rights that we are with you and your struggle to uphold women’s right but we have to ascertain first the course of the struggle. We will work it out together and with Allah’s Aids and Blessings, we will make the country, and the world, a better place for women, and men, to live in.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Woman of Paradise

'Shouldn't I point out to you a woman of Paradise?'
Dr. Munâ al-Qâsim

Ibn `Abbâs said to `Atâ b. Rabâh: "Shouldn't I point out to you a woman of Paradise?"
He replied: "Indeed. Do so."
Ibn `Abbâs said: "Do you see that black lady? She approached the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: 'I suffer from epilepsy and during a fit, my body becomes exposed. So please supplicate Allah on my behalf.'
"Then the Prophet said to her: 'If you choose, you might rather bear it patiently and you will attain Paradise on account of it. Or if you like, I will beseech Allah to cure you.' "She said: 'I will bear it patiently. But my body gets exposed, so please beseech Allah that my body will no longer be exposed.' "The Prophet (peace be upon him) beseeched Allah for this." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (5652) and Sahîh Muslim (2576)]

The woman's name was Su`ayrah – though some say her name was Shuqayrah – al-Habashiyyah al-Asadiyyah. She was known as Umm Zufar. She was a tall, black lady, and one of the Companions remembered for her patience. She had been Khadijah's lady in waiting. After Khadîjah's demise, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to show her extra deference and respect.

When she grew older, she became afflicted with epilepsy, and her body would become exposed due to the severity of her seizures. The Prophet (peace be upon him) beseeched Allah on her behalf to preserve her modesty. He also gave her glad tidings of Paradise.

There are many things we can learn from her example:

1. Her story teaches us that we need to turn to Allah with our needs. We need to fear Him and worship Him alone and seek refuge with Him. It is Allah alone who can cure our ills and alleviate our suffering. Our sincerity and faith when we turn to Allah can benefit us in amazing ways. Medical doctors admit that faith has a great affect on healing, often more pronounced than medications, though medications certainly can benefit us.

2. We also learn how virtuous the quality of patience is. This hadith shows us that when we bear illness in patience and fortitude, it is a means by which our sins are forgiven and by which we attain Allah's blessings and entrance into Paradise.

Al-`Aynî says in his commentary on this hadîth: "The exercise of patience in affliction bequeaths to us Paradise. Bearing one's tribulation with fortitude is better for the one who knows he is capable of handling it without becoming weak in his resolve." [`Umdah al-Qârî (21/215)]

We can also see how the Prophet's glad tidings were a help and a comfort to her. It gave her hope. The role of a positive attitude in coping with illness and in aiding the recovery process is well-known.

3. We can see the respect that the Prophet (peace be upon him) showed this woman by his giving her the choice. He respected her right to make the decision for herself in a matter that affected her life. He let her know her options, while showing that he was well aware of the extent of her suffering. He knew it was best for her to be patient if she had the fortitude to bear her illness. However, he trusted her to make the decision for herself.

4. We can learn from this woman the value of modesty. We can see her concern for keeping her body from being exposed when she had a seizure, in her asking the Prophet (peace be upon him) to beseech Allah to protect her modesty when she was not able to control her movements and was free from all blame. We can also see how the Prophet (peace be upon him) readily complied with her request. We must know that the Prophet's supplication has a special value, and his supplication was certainly answered.

We should compare her concern with the willfully immodest dress of many people today.

And Allah knows best.

Taken from http://www.islamtoday.com