A surau is a prayer room or hall. It is not quite a mosque. You can even have a prayer room or surau in your home or place of work. But even if it is a mosque what is wrong if non-Muslims use it to pray as long as they take off their shoes and cover themselves decently?
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
“On YouTube, yet another religious row stirs”, said The Malay Mail report today.
Malaysians are again picking up their well-worn pitchforks after a video surfaced on YouTube yesterday allegedly showing a Muslim prayer room in Johor being used by Buddhist tourists for worship.
The 85-second-long video titled “Surau dijadikan tokong???” (A surau turned into a temple?) begins with an external shot of a small building and a close-up of what appears to be a sign in Arabic script over a doorway.
A surau is a prayer room or hall. It is not quite a mosque. You can even have a prayer room or surau in your home or place of work. But even if it is a mosque what is wrong if non-Muslims use it to pray as long as they take off their shoes and cover themselves decently? Anyway, in the first place, they would not be allowed into the mosque if they were indecently dressed.
All over the world prayer rooms are ‘shared’ by those of different religious persuasions. This has never been an issue for either Muslims or non-Muslims. So why is it an issue in Malaysia?
It is reported that after the Muslim army’s siege of Jerusalem in 637, Patriarch Sophronius refused to surrender except to the Caliph Omar himself (the Second Caliph after Prophet Muhammad) and Omar travelled to Jerusalem to accept the surrender.
He then visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Sophronius invited him to pray inside the Church. However, Omar declined so as not to set a precedent and thereby endanger the Church's status as a Christian site. Instead, he prayed outside in the courtyard, in a place where David was believed to have prayed.
Around 550 years later the Mosque of Omar was built on that site, opposite the southern courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Muristan.
Omar refused to pray in the church not because it was unsuitable for prayers but so that there would be no conflict later as to whether the church has now been turned into a mosque. In other words, Omar respected the status of the church and wanted it to remain a church.
Many churches in England have been turned into mosques and/or Islamic cultural centres. No one regards this as an insult to Christianity or Islam.
So, no, today, I do not want to write a long-winded cheong hei article. I just want Muslims to reflect on this and not see everything as an insult to Islam. So what if all religions share one prayer room or hall? Do we not all pray to the same God? And if Muslims subscribe to the doctrine “there is no god but God” then for sure we all pray to the same God -- just that we do so in different ways.