Dakwah through love

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Why does Malaysia Today carry so many articles on Islam? In fact, many such articles are personally written by me. Simple; because Islam cannot be separated from Malaysian politics, and the same goes for race as well. So, unless we can discuss, maturely and intelligently, issues related to Islam and Malay domination — meaning the New Economic Policy — then we cannot bridge the gap between Malaysians of different ethnicities and religious persuasions.

The ‘death’ of the opposition coalition, Barisan Alternatif (BA), is one case in point. There are of course two schools of thought with regards to this. Some say that PAS is to blame for trying, unsuccessfully, to implement Islamic laws in Terengganu. Others say it is DAP’s fault for being too anti-Islamic. Nevertheless, let me quote you an old saying: He is right, dead right, but he is just as dead, if he had been wrong.

Yes, that’s right. Right or wrong does not matter here. BA is just as dead nevertheless.

Muslims want the non-Muslims to understand and respect the sentiments of Muslims. What if the Christians say that the non-Christians should understand and respect the sentiments of Christians? First of all, how would Muslims take to being called non-Christians just like we call the Christians, non-Muslims?

And should not respect work both ways? We cannot demand respect. We need to earn respect. And we will only receive respect when we give respect. This cannot and will never be a one-way street. But Malays want it to be a one-way street because ‘Malaysia is an Islamic country and Islam is Malaysia’s official religion’.

The test of one’s Islam is not in rituals and rhetoric. But that is what many believe and practice. Okay, let us say that the non-Muslims are insulting Islam as alleged and that it is our Islamic duty to defend the dignity of Islam. That is what many bloggers in Malaysia Today are doing whenever they perceive Islam as being insulted. And what do we call this act? Is it jihad?

No way Jose! One cannot regard oneself as doing jihad if all one does is post anonymous messages on the internet using pseudonyms. Jihad is a noble cause and it cannot be considered noble if you lurk behind the bushes and hide your hands behind your back after throwing stones. A true jihadist (a.k.a. mujahideen) would face the enemy openly and defiantly and not worry about the consequences. You say you are scared of the authorities. You say you are scared of detention under the Internal Security Act. You say you are scared of losing your job. You are actually scared of losing your salary and of going broke. So you do things while hiding under the bed and then call it jihad.

That is not jihad. You are scared of losing your job and salary and the comforts that come with it. You are scared of losing your freedom. You are scared of this. You are scared of that. But aren’t you these same people who are screaming and shouting that we must be scared of God? Scared of God? You are certainly not scared of God. You are scared of losing your worldly things like your job, money, freedom and so on. What kind of Muslim are you? What kind of jihadist are you? You mentuhankan harta.

Look, do not Muslims believe that everything comes from God? Do not Muslims believe that all the wealth on the face of this earth is owned by God and God just temporarily allows us to ‘borrow’ them while we are still alive? Do not Muslims believe that we are mere trustees of all this wealth who have been entrusted (amanah) by God to look after them — and that we must use them properly and not misuse them in any way? Do not Muslims believe that we are all going to die one day and all the wealth we accumulate in our lifetime will be left behind when we go to our graves? We will bring nothing with us when we go to our graves.

So, according to our Islamic belief, all the wealth on the face of this earth is owned by God and we are but mere ‘trustees’ of God — and God decides who He will appoint as this trustee to look after His wealth. Okay, if this is our Islamic belief, why are we then so frightened to jihad openly on the excuse that we may suffer retaliation and lose all our kesenangan (comfort)? No man, no Prime Minister, no Umno, no government can take away this wealth if God does not will it. That is the way a true jihadist should think.

So, my fellow Muslim bloggers, before you get all excited and start fighting with non-Muslims because you say they are insulting Islam and it is your Islamic duty to perform jihad by defending the dignity of our religion, stop and ask yourself whether you are really doing jihad. By all means engage the non-Muslims, do proper dakwah work, and make them understand Islam and erase all these misconceptions about Islam. But be brave and Islamic in the way you do it. If not, then do not expect the non-Muslims to respect you or Islam. As I said, respect has to be earned, not demanded through threats. You more you demand it the more you will not get it.

Let me relate my personal experience on how difficult it is to do dakwah work in Malaysia — and I am using the word ‘dakwah’ to mean ‘information dissemination’ rather than ‘propagating’. One day, more than a decade ago, we tried placing Yusuf Ali’s English translation of the Quran in hotel rooms all over Malaysia. Since the Gideon’s Bible was placed in all the hotel rooms, why not the English translation of the Quran as well?

But the authorities would not give us permission to do so. And because of this the hotels would not accept our Qurans. The reason: they don’t want the Quran to be touched by the hands of non-Muslims as, according to these people, non-Muslims are ‘not clean’. Also, hotels are places of vice, so how can we place such a holy book in a ‘dirty’ hotel room?

Finally, we had to seek help from the Prime Minister’s Department and only after we got its support did the authorities change its stand and grant us permission.

One of the first hotels to accept our Quran was the ‘kafir’ hotels like Hotel Nikko. The ‘Muslim’ hotels owned by Pernas did not want to accept them because it was too much trouble for them to have to ‘look after’ the Quran.

I grumbled about this to an Arab friend whose wife does not wear the tudung (so you could say ‘modern’ Arab) and he laughed. “When Prophet Muhammad received the Quran, was he a Muslim at that time?” asked my friend. “And when he taught his family the Quran, were they already Muslims?”

“The Quran is not for Muslims only but for all mankind,” argued my Arab friend. “So what is wrong if non-Muslims touch the Quran? In fact, they should be encouraged to pick it up, read it, and maybe even take it home with them. Never mind whether they convert to Islam or not! The objective is to help them better understand Islam and erase whatever misconceptions they may have about Islam.”

“And so what if hotel rooms are places of vice as what the authorities say,” added my Arab friend. “First of all, it is stupid to assume hotel rooms are meant for vices. Anyway, I know of many Muslim homes that stock liquor. So what do we do? Do we go to every Muslim home in Malaysia to see whether there is liquor in it and remove the Qurans from these homes if there are?”

It is attitudes like these that invite non-Muslims to ridicule Muslims, and Islam. They cannot attack or criticise Muslims if we do not give them a reason to. So lighten up. Don’t get too disturbed by criticism. Reply if you wish and only if you are capable of doing so. Ignore it if you also wish. Don’t always assume we are right and they are wrong. It could be that our narrow-mindedness is the reason we are being criticised.

Let me share with you an e-mail I received from a Malaysia Today reader which is self-explanatory:

Assalamu Alaikum, and Hi,

I love to read your articles especially those pertaining to your past experiences and some of the views expressed by you… they are gems…. that can only come from direct experience.

Your latest on Malay and Malay-Islam is one of the best as it speaks so much of what I thought of Islam in Malaysia.

I am a Chinese converted to Islam by marriage. I have had to suffer in silence from nasty remarks of my Malay-Muslim brothers. There were times when I thought to myself that if I wanted to become a Christian, any sects, they would welcome me with open arms, offer transport for their religious classes and Sunday prayers. In Malaysia, Malays expect you to know Islam before you can be a Muslim.

I have encountered a lot of problems in conversion until a friend helped me. The Imam of a small district in Pahang was very understanding and he remarked that a lifetime may not be sufficient to study Islam. We should take a step at a time.

I am guilty of conversion because of marriage and have been “condemned” by many of my Malay-Muslim colleagues as being insincere. I do not deny this fact but humbly believe that it was the Almighty Wa Ta’ala that had decided that I become Muslim by marriage. For 20 years (I am now retired from Govt service) I was a non-practising Muslim though I did not take pork and I did fast every Ramadan. But I was not a “proper Muslim” according to the definition of Malay-Muslims. It was then that I was wandering in the “wilderness”.

But God works in a mysterious way. A few years ago, I was literally compelled by my Boss to accompany his group to Saudi Arabia on a business trip and it was then that I saw the practice of sincere Muslims in the city of Makkah. And I realised how narrow-minded the Malay-Muslims in Malaysia are.

The difference between the Muslim in Makkah and the Malay-Muslim is simply this…… The Malay-Muslim takes Islam as a ritual and that every action is ritualistic. The Muslim in Makkah takes Islam as a way of life. I felt so odd that every time we pray, in between meetings, I was the odd man out to perform wudhu. The Arabs do not need to perform wudhu before every prayer provided certain conditions are fulfilled. And the most beautiful part of Muslims in Makkah is that they can pray anywhere. I remember visiting a private hospital in the Holy City where we prayed Mahgrib outside the building….some sort of a “five foot way” but much wider. And members of the public joined us in prayer. The surprise was that the Imam for the prayer was a medical specialist from the hospital.

It is this attitude that Islam is a way of life, and as Allah the Almighty, Lord of the Worlds, has observed that Islam will not bring undue difficulties to the believers.

After the trip, I got a proper perspective of Islamic practices, and although I consider myself to be jahil, I have not given up the strife to seek knowledge. And with Allah (SWT)’s guidance I shall triumph. I do not consider myself as a convert, but rather as a revert…… as Adam the first Prophet and the first man was born a Muslim. Why should we not be considered born Muslims?

I only hope that there are more Malays who have the wisdom and the perseverance as you have.

Please continue your life’s journey…. Like you I have already retired from Govt Service, and a few years older than you. I have started late in life, in the ways of God…. and as such I have more opportunities to commit “crimes” (according to the Malay-Muslims), though I shall say that God has given me more opportunities to learn from these mistakes, and the prayer “Astaghfirullah al azeem” will be more meaningfull to me than to others.