About a year ago, a manager in a Malaysian Islamic insurance company sent out an e-mail to all staff saying that it is haram to wish Hindu friends a Happy Deepavali (Diwali) because it is akin to promoting the religion.
That was being said by a manager. The above title was said by someone with some authority.
The above title is actually the heading from the Calgary Harald, a newspaper in Canada, and you can read about it here HERE.
I don’t know which part of Yoga that damages the faith of Muslims. I would love for someone to clarify this to me, and to millions of muslims worldwide who still go to the mosque, perform their daily prayers, after their yoga sessions.
Anyway, although I have gone for Yoga classes, I know nuts about Yoga. But I can tell you a few things. Firstly, I felt far better healthwise after attending some sessions, sex is always greater, and no Hindu mantras were being recited then. I know the Lord’s Prayer (Church of England version), I know the Litania Sanctorum of the Roman Catholic Church (although not all parts), I know the Jewish version of the arabic Alhamdulillahirrabbil ‘alamin (Blessed are you God, Lord of the Universe) which is Baruch hata adonai elo henu malech ha-olam. I also know by heart the Hindu Ganesha Vedic Shloka.
So what does that make me? A Christian, or a Jew, or a Hindu?
Being a muslim means upholding the 5 pillars of Islam. They are:
1) Profession of Faith (2 Kalimah Syahadah),
2) Pray at 5 prayer times a day,
3) Fasting a month during the month of Ramadhan,
4) Pay a tithe on property (Zakat),
5) Perform the Haj once in a lifetime if it can be afforded.
The root pillar is the Profession of Faith – that is to bear witness that there is no other god but Allah (which is also arabic for The God); and bear witness that Muhammad is His Messenger. If a muslim holds on to this root pillar, no one can say otherwise about him/her. If he/she does not perform the other four, then it is between him/her and God. If he/she drinks beer, it is between him/her and God. But to me, going back to basics, for as long as he/she continues to profess the Syahadah, he/she is a Muslim.
Going back to this Yoga issue, to me, it is a petty issue. But labeling Yoga as haram without much thought and research being put into it (much like the Tomboy issue I wrote about earlier), wil only produce negative results and a minus point for Islam. Islam will continue to be labeled as a restrictive, regressive and totally unfriendly religion.
Wait a minute? Isn’t Islam supposed to be THE way of life? The kind of life that ALL human beings would want to live by? Well, only if we go according to the al-Quran. However, the Islam that can be seen now is far from what the Quran teaches.
So, they say it is haram because of certain mantras (which I have yet to find). Silat, the malay martial arts, kicks off with mantras, invoking the spirits of certain people for strength and guidance during fights. How Islamic is that, seeking help from ungodly spirits? Isn’t that syirik (blashemy)? So, why isn’t silat haram? I am pretty sure, like Kung Fu, it originated from the Indian subcontinent as well, and was brought about during the Srivijaya era. Other malay traditions that originate from Hinduism include the bersanding where the bride and groom sit on the bridal throne; and, lighting up of oil lamps during the final days of the month of Ramadhan. These should be banned too.
While killing one’s self is also haram, no fatwa was ever made by the Ulamas (I shall come to the meaning of this word soon) on cigarette-smoking, although it has been scientifically and statistically proven worldwide as one of the causes of cancer. There are verses in the Quran to support the banning (declaration of haram) on smoking, such as:
“…he [the Prophet] commands them what is just, and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good, and prohibits them from what is bad…” (Surah al-Ar’af 7:157)
“…make not your own hands contribute to your destruction…” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:195); “…nor kill yourselves…” (Surah al-Nisaa 4:29)
Even Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said: “Whomsoever drinks poison, thereby killing himself, will sip this poison forever and ever in the fire of Jahannam (Hell).”
3 million people worldwide die from smoking-related illnesses, yet there is no unanimous fatwa on smoking. Is it because there are cigarette smokers amongst their (Ulama) ranks?
The best is of course, the issue of the favourite malay dessert called Tapai. It is actually rice fermented with yeast in the same way people ferment barley with yeast to make beer. The Tapai has between 5% to 11% (if fermented longer) alcohol content, whereas beer has between 3% to 4.8% alcohol content. Yet, there is NO fatwa whatsoever on tapai. One may argue that you can hardly get drunk eating tapai, but that is because after eating one or two, you’d feel full, and can hardly finish up more than 2 packets in one sitting. So, with such high alcohol content, why isn’t the tapai declared as haram?
It is all because the religious authorities will have trouble explaining to the masses about their dependence on tobacco and tapai that is in fact haram.
People do Yoga because of the good it brings. The form of Yoga that is being taught to the masses now is purely physical, spiritual only in the sense of serenity it brings after. One of the argumment against Yoga is why do Muslims seek serenity using Yoga while Islam provides serenity in the form of prayers? I know answering a question with a question is crap, but let me just ask this: if praying calms the mind and destresses the person, why is there a need for mosque committee members or mosque office-bearers, or people from the religious authority bodies need to smoke cigarette? Shouldn’t they be praying instead?
Let me also tell you about the time when the monastery at Saint Catherine was under the protection of the Muslim government centered in Madinah. Before the Romans came to attack, Muhammad (pbuh) forbade his men from taking revenge on the Christians at Saint Catherine, to help the injured, to repair/rebuild the damage monastery, should it get damaged.
Wait, was Muhammad Muslim or Christian? Did his men declare him an apostate? Did his men declare each other apostates for assisting in the reconstruction and repairs of the monastery?
Everyone knows how snake venom can kill or maim a human being. But if extracted and processed carefully, the snake venom can become an antivenin. Like Yoga, when derived properly, actually helps people. Unless you subscribe to this, you should stay away from expectorants.
So, leave the Yoga people alone. As long as they know whom to pray to, and who is the Messenger assigned to them, their Aqidah (faith) remains solid.
And the word Ulama, is the prural form for the word ‘Alim, meaning the knowledgable person. The root word is ‘Ilmu which means knowledge. Ulama are supposed to master around seven subjects including theology, physics, alchemy, astronomy, geography etc. However, the Ulama we have now know nothing. And all they ever do is to continue putting Islam in a further bad light.