Thursday, December 10, 2009

The writer of this article is someone whom i have met and whose work i admire. i commented on her writings many times this is the latest. read with an open mind

The sounds of faith
DEC 9 — Part and parcel of living in a multiracial country like Malaysia is that we live among the sounds of faith. On the outset, we look like a model nation: churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples, and mosques. Some churches are also in shophouses!

For my Muslim friends and I, we require the call to prayer to remind ourselves of our duty to Allah — to pray, and also use the five azans to roughly tell us the time (!), and yes, when to break our fast. (Yes, we Muslims do fast when it is not Ramadan but that’s another story for another time. Word limit).

One of my fondest memories about the azan, though at that time I almost choked and reprimanded my father, was the time when I lived near a surau with two different bilals. One was Indonesian and I surmised that when I listened to his flaming and smoking ceramah about Jews and Zionists. The other was Malay, and always shouting to the point that his ceramah was incomprehensible. My father listened to all this calmly. After another rant by the Malay bilal/imam, my father came to the conclusion that the man must be an Umno imam because “… imam PAS semua merdu belaka… bila ceramah lembut tapi ada impak…” I was mortified because for all my modernity, there were some things you didn’t do and that was to make fun of your local imams!

However, as we all know, the azan and the call to prayer for Christians, Hindus and our non-Muslim brethren have become a contentious issue among us. Yes, the Muslim “voice” is dominant as there are more of us, hence the siege mentality felt by non Muslims. “Allah” is being battled in court and international watchdogs are watching keenly Malaysia’s impending fundamentalist stance. I am not going to bore you by reminding you of what has been happening religiously; you read the news and you know what is happening.

But my non-Muslim friends who are brave enough to voice out their feelings, whom I have to be thankful for their honesty, will ask: why are your mosques so noisy? Cannot sleep la. Always got some ceramah.

Down where I live is a Hindu temple and across the road is a mosque, and there is always something going on, but I manage to sleep. You try staying in Bali, the temples are always chiming. I once frightened myself silly wondering why the Balinese temple next door kept having prayers at night, but you know what? The moral of the story is this: you learn to adjust. Or put a pillow over your head and go back to sleep.

I cite a few Quranic verses when my non-Muslim friends ask whether Islam encourages compassion for non-Muslims:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (Chapter 49, Al-Hujurat:13)

And tell my servants that they should speak in a most kindly manner (unto those who do not share their beliefs). Verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men; for verily; Satan is man’s foe ... Hence, We have not sent you (Unto men O Prophet) with power to determine their Faith. (Chapter 17, Al-Isra:53, 54)

To every people have we appointed ceremonial rites (of prayer) which they observe; therefore, let them not wrangle over this matter with you, but bid them to turn to your Lord (since that is the main objective of religion). You indeed are rightly guided. But if they still dispute you in this matter, (then say,) "God best knows (the value of) what you do." (Chapter 22, Al-Hajj:67, 68)

Perhaps what we need to do among ourselves is retune our minds to accept and enjoy these “sounds”.

Thich Nhat Hanh, who wrote “Peace Is Every Step”, recounted about his visit to the west and how he had not heard Buddhist bells where he was. Still there were many church bells in Europe. When he gave a lecture, he made use of church bells to remind his students and himself of mindfulness. He went on to say: “We have to learn to really enjoy our church bells and our school bells.”

I was struck by that passage when I read Hanh’s book. All it took was just a change of attitude. A devout monk in a foreign, secular land, missing his temples and bells… and yet he chose to embrace its substitute (church bells) to remind him of the beauty of God and life. Perhaps, and I am sure readers of this article will contest this greatly. For surely, a change of mindset is not the answer to ills in Malaysia? Even though it may not be the answer, it could be the start of positive developments, yes?

A Muslim friend, who goes on a lot of missions, wrote this once in a Facebook debate on minarets: “I loved being in Bosnia... I could hear both the azan and church bells... there were minarets, crosses (both Orthodox and Catholic) and there was also the Star of David. There were separate graves and there were mixed graves.”

If educated and well-travelled Malaysians can ask me how I could love travelling to Bali with the many Hindu “djinns” dancing on the island, and why I appreciated the architecture of medieval European churches, am I being naïve and idealistic to think that magnamity can happen in my country?

Let’s start by being mindful. Unless of course there’ll be a fatwa against mindfulness as it stems from Buddhist teachings.

Note (1): The Yusuf Ali translation of the Holy Quran was referred to for this text.

My Comment

The report is well balance but sadly it shows how liberal and Chinese hunk lover you are but deep down underneath it still shows you are a Malay. Minarets and adzhan are not part of faith. Minarets are accessories to Mosque and were created 80 years after Muhammad’s death and the 4 rightful Caliph. Adzhan was a call to prayer and the first Muezzin was Bilal. He calls the Adzhan from the rooftop of Muhammad which act as a Mosque too. There was no loudspeaker, no amplifier thus these modern gadgets are now part of the accessories just like Adzhan which is a tradition but not of faith! Thus when Kamal Ataturk decree the adzhan was to be done in Turk was he wrong? I am sorry to digress, no he is not wrong for it is not part of faith just like the doa or supplication which can be done in Malay or any other language the person is happy with, for God hears your doa in whatever language!

I always found that the morning adzhan in my neighbourhood meddlesome because my neighbourhood is consist of many races and I was taught by my religion to mindful of others. In this tech world we live in the faithful could programme his clock, his handphone or even the TV to remind him of his obligation to pray making the call to the faithful as obsolete but a tradition thus do you need to have the volume full blast! Why can’t we be mindful!, why do you believe Dina that Malays need to show and parade their faith but are not to me faithful afherents to God? I try to fulfil my obligation to God, Im lucky that I could, like clockwork wake up before Adzhan Subuh yet I am mindful to others because my religion taught me too! Why can’t you? Malays like me are an anomaly, for you have the Conservatives and the liberal like Art, but yet none dapat mengupas the meaning of Muslim without getting into rhetoric.

One is not a Muslim by what you can see but what you cannot see. A Muslim is a Muslim by his deeds and action without forgetting his obligation to his maker outwardly and inwardly. So Dina let’s go out together and discover the joy of me! By the way please go to my blog as I commented on the Minarets!


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