Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Open Letter to All Muslim Friends in Malaysia:

In this Holy month of Ramadan, I can’t help but to delve into the true meaning of fasting and to gain an insight into Allah’s instruction for His people to attain piety. Islam as a great faith in the world has greatly impacted the lives of billions. As a non-Muslim in Malaysia who has voluntarily chosen to fast with Muslims in Ramadan, I have come to an understanding that the effect of physical starvation will never outweigh spiritual strength/renewal obtained through fasting. Naturally or supernaturally, physical starvation or hunger will create a heart of compassion in us and make us empathise with the sufferings of others. Ramadan is also a month for all the Muslims to do soul-searching and attain higher spiritual level so as to having a sound mind to distinguish right from wrong – also to receive revelation from Allah.
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Let’s look at what Quran says about fasting month of Ramadan:

"Ramadan is the (month) in which Qur'an was sent down, as a guide to mankind, and a clear guidance and judgement (so that mankind will distinguish right from wrong). Whoever among you witnesses the month of Ramadan should fast through it. But whoever is sick or on a journey, the prescribed period (missed should be made up) by days later. Allah wants ease for you and He does not want to put you into difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful" Q(2:185).

"O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for people before you so that you will (learn how to attain) piety" (Q2:183)
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Since Ramadan is the (month) in which Quran was sent down, as a guide to mankind, I have chosen to read the Quran in this Ramadan as part of my spiritual odyssey to seek the Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent Mighty Creator of the whole universe, to acquire basic understanding of Islam and to examine whether the non-Muslim world has wrongly accused Islamic faith and Muslims.
As a Malaysian of 33 years old, I am so ashamed to admit that I just learned the meaning of this word “Islam”, in fact Islam is derived from the Arabic root "Salema": peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of Allah and the peace of Allah.
Part of my reading of Quran has led me to the knowledge of Allah’s creation of the whole universe. I personally feel that it takes more faith to believe in the Theory of Evolution or Darwinism as Nothing is Nothing, how can Nothing becomes Something? Everything must have a beginning, and with every beginning there comes a “beginner”. So I acknowledge it is Allah who created the whole universe or Allah could have ignited the big bang to set the whole universe in order and bring forth life. So as a non-Muslim, I share a common point with Muslims that it is Allah who created the universe.

What is more intriguing to me is that Allah is a Mighty Creator who gives mankind the freedom to choose what they want to do; in modern terms, it is a respect of human rights. Allah created Adam and Eve as the first couple of Homo sapiens, and Adam went on to become the first Prophet of Islam. So let’s follow the story about what happened to this wonderful couple.

According to Quran, Allah commanded Adam to dwell in Paradise: "O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things therein as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both will be of the Zalimeen (wrong doers).(2:35)
Adam and eve were admitted to Paradise and there they lived the dream of all human beings. Allah permitted them to approach and enjoy everything except one tree that might have been the Tree of Pain or the Tree of Knowledge, some scholars call it Evil Tree. Allah said to Adam, "But come not near this tree or you both will be of the wrong doers." (2:35)

Adam was however a human being. Iblis (satan/devil) summoned all the envy within him and took advantage of Adam's humanity to exploit him. He started to whisper to him day after day, coaxing him: "Shall I guide you to the Tree of Immortality and the Eternal Kingdom?" He said to them: "Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals." He (Satan) swore by Allah to them both saying: "Verily I am one of the sincere well wishers for you both." (7:20-21)

Adam and Eve understood that they were forbidden by Allah to eat the fruit of that tree. But why Allah wanted to plant a tree in the Paradise?
1). Since Allah is Omniscient, Allah could have known beforehand that Adam and Eve would succumb to temption and therefore the removal of this evil tree must be made necessary, lest Adam and Eve fall into temptation,
2. Since Allah is Omnipresent, when Adam and Eve were about to approach the tree, Allah could appear in front of them and cautioned them against the serious consequences or Allah could stop the devil from talking to them, how could Allah leave them in the lurch?

Why Allah allowed this mishap to happen to Adam and Eve, whom Allah had created to dwell in the Paradise? And why satan could enter or appear in Paradise?
The obvious answers to the questions above is “FREE WILL”- that Allah allowed the existence of this evil tree in Paradise so Adam and Eve could learn how to conquer temptation and they could be completely at ease in the face of temptation as they had the Peace of Allah and the Peace with Allah. Allah wanted them to be cheerful and happy in the Paradise and the Peace of Allah would empower them to sail through the temptation. Allah won’t want Adam and Eve to shout and yell and hold placards protesting against the evil tree. The presence of satan in Paradise is truly symbolic of the possible blemishes/imperfection in a perfect world.

Allah is Omnipotent and the Creator of the whole universe, Allah could have made Adam and Eve like a robot without freedom to choose what they want to do, and by a click from Allah, Adam and Eve could be completely destroyed. But Allah breathed a breath of freedom into Adam’s life, a freedom that allowed Adam to even defy the command of Allah!

The end:
Adam and Eve left Paradise and descended upon the earth. Adam was sad and Eve was crying. Allah accepted their repentance because it was sincere and Allah told them that the earth would be their realm and origin where they would live and die and whence they would come on the Day of Judgment.
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As I meditated on these Quranic verses, I can’t help but come to a deeper respect and appreciation for Allah’s magnanimity, loving-kindness and patience towards mankind, I couldn’t imagine how hard Adam and Eve had hurt Allah, but I know Allah is Merciful! Allah greatness is reflected through His meekness, gentleness, mercifulness, acceptance and forgiveness.

Dear Muslim friends, from Adam and Eve incident we can figure out that “innocence is not a virtue, but virtue is innocence tested”; only if Adam and Eve had overcome the temptation, could they be really counted as innocent. Allah wants His people to overcome temptation and be at peace with Him. Though Adam and Eve had failed to heed His command, Allah accepted their sincere repentance. Allah wants us to get up from where we’ve fallen down and move on with our life!

If Allah has allowed the Evil Tree and satan to appear in Paradise, who are we to close down discotheque and casino, ban pageant contest, ban bikini, ban alcohol, ban concert, etc in Malaysia? How can we justify a rapist sexual aggression against a scantily dressed girl? Can we lock up all the Muslim children in a remote village without internet access, TV and DVD player so when they grow up they won’t see the evil, hear the evil and talk the evil? No, we can never do that to our children! Living in seclusion is not the way Allah had prepared for Adam and Eve.
Allah never instructed Adam and Eve to burn down or bomb the Evil Tree as some religious bigots had done in our neighbouring countries. Instead, Allah said to them, “Enjoy your life here in Paradise and keep a distance from the evil tree and don’t eat the fruits.” After they failed to follow the command of Allah, Allah took the initiative to look for them and the sincere repentance of Adam and Eve moved the heart of Allah –The real problem with our society today is not that our corrupt Muslim politicians have eaten the forbidden fruits, but it is that they don’t have a heart of repentance at all after eating the forbidden fruits, and the forbidden fruits seem to taste sweeter and sweeter to them, it is a case of never “enough”.

Allah wants Muslims to be spiritual, NOT religious. Allah doesn’t want His people to over-emphasize on His Divinity and yet completely neglect His Humanity.

Allah wants Muslims to acknowledge the fact that He allows the world to become what it is today, to respect His authority that He has created different races with different cultures and different languages, if the Almighty Allah won’t want you to live in a multiracial environment, He would have created a world of the Muslims, by the Muslims and for the Muslims. Allah is Omnipotent, by one click He can easily move all the non-Muslims to the moon and achieve the goal of complete segregation between Muslims and non-Muslims, but Allah is Merciful and He has His ultimate purpose which both Muslims and non-Muslims may not be able to comprehend for the time being.
Since Allah has created mankind with different colors like black, yellow, white, orange, beige, etc, you and I have to accept it with a cheerful heart; racism has no room in our society as Islam forbids racism!

Ramadan is a significant month for all Muslims around the world, may all Muslims, including Jihadists, experience the Mercy of Allah in this festive season. Muslims will never “know” Allah without really “experiencing” the mercifulness of Allah.

May the physical fasting bring for more spiritual hunger for our Muslim politicians to fight for social injustices and the oppressed.

May the sincere repentance of Adam and Eve be seen in all of our Muslim politicians, who have secretly eaten the forbidden fruits.

May all the Muslims in Malaysia open up their hearts to embrace multiculturalism and diversity as Allah has permitted it to happen in Malaysia.

May all the Muslims in Malaysia be able to distinguish right from wrong in this fasting month of Ramadan to discard all the bad leaders so righteousness and justice can be re-installed in our country.

May Islam-“peace and purity” saturates into every corner of our society.

May Allah protect our country, bless our King and Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim!

Last but not least, I would like to wish all Muslim friends in Malaysia Happy Hari Raya.

Loi Bih Siang, Benjamin
benjaminloi.blogspot.com

†The word Allah in the Arabic language means God, or more accurately, The One and Only Eternal God, Creator of the Universe, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.

7 comments:

jen said...

Salam Benjamin,

I just woke up and decided to check up whats the latest news in our beloved country. Yesterday, all my friends were pumped up after reading and debating on racial sentiment news. I asked them "if I'm in Malaysia and race riot really happened, which non-malays should I kill?" They silenced. They now realised that killing is plainly killing. It is not commanded by Allah. That makes us murderers not Jihadist.

Most of my fellow Muslims lads esp those in UMNO are merely singing the Quranic verses as they do not bother reading the interpretation and this is a common practiced in Malay community. The first revelation to the Prophet p.b.u.h by Allah was read and repeated three times.Read, Read & Read! I'm really happy to see that you gained wisdom from the interpretation but feels contrary to my fellow Muslims in UMNO. I hope all Malaysians esp Muslims will follow your lead by understanding Islam and read before comment. One has not eat the food before but confidently vouch it's sweet or sour.To readers of my comment, go ponder and ask your conscience. Malaysia is our only tranquility place. Its big enough for all of us. Every Malaysians' soul needs just happiness not indefinite amount of wealth nor power.

kee said...

So far, only you and RPK had given me a very clear insight of Islam.

Thk u.

Fareez said...

Dear Benjamin,

I stumbled upon your blong from links placed on facebook and i must say that this write up by you has certainly been interesting.

Your efforts to understand Islam and to share in our spiritual practices is very praiseworthy. At a time when the Islamic faith is greatly maligned and abused, you have managed to sift through the misinformation and delve into the actual teachings of Islam without the usual prejudice.

I applaud you and i wish you peace and blessings in return for your open mindedness.

You established a very important point i think. What is faith without temptation? If we eliminate temptation from our lives, how will we be tested with regard to the stength of our faith? More importantly, what right have we to take away other's way of life just because we do not agree with it?

Which Muslim has the stronger Iman? The Muslim that has women (or men) and alcohol readily available but chooses not to indulge OR the Muslim that has none of these available to him and cannot even make that choice?

There will be people that disagree with me and state that Malaysia is an Muslim country and we should not condone immoral activities like concerts, clubs, and other forms of 'immoral' entertainment, but i say that as a Muslim majority country we have bigger fish to fry than just the random disco.

Don't you find it disgusting that a country that has a muslim majority is so afflicted by corruption? I thought that we were Muslims and Muslims are supposed to abhor corruption?

Don't you find it strange that in a Police force that is dominated by Muslims, we find one of the most corrupted parts of our country?

Muslims in Malaysia seem to be trying to outdo ourselves in reaching a ritualistic nirvana, where the person that wears the biggest serban is king. We have to move beyond appearances and superficial manifestations of faith and look deeper into our tauhid and iman to Allah. While recognising that not everyone wants to live by your rules and should not be made to.

I suggest that we move beyond the petty politics of race and religion and start to take a good long look at ourselves as a nation and decide our path not on the basis of which race is leading or following, but on a universal level where everybody agrees on the best course of action.

Noonak said...

Dear Ben,

after well over 1400 years since its birth, Islam that was propagated by the last Prophet of Allah, Muhammad (pbuh), has grown all over the world embraced by millions with diverse, nationalities, cultures and languages. And 14 centuries have seen it evolve into many different ways either better of worse. Today, I believe its spiritual side is very much diluted than originally meant.

Consider in Malaysia where the Malays are largely muslim by birth. Most disregard the meaning of being muslim and what it meant by being true muslims. In other words, most (I must also stress here, not all) are superficial muslims. Most receive a generally second hand or third hand knowledge either by teachers, parents, friends etc. of what Islam is about. Most ignore reading the Quran as how it was really intended by merely reciting them and reading its translation. The fact is, the Quran is meant to be read as it is because it is addressed to each of us, mankind (in its original Classical Arabic!).

With repeated readings of the Quran and increased familiarity, we will be guided throughout our lives. As we live on with increased experience, knowledge and technology, the Quran will reveal a different or/and deeper meaning and we realize that there are many ways at looking at a particular verse and discover its secret/hidden meanings. The Prophet himself (pbuh) remarks that the Quran’s wonders will never cease to end. Not many Malaysian muslims can claim to be able to read the Quran in its true form thus be able to reflect better for themselves instead of having to rely on others’ translations. (It is God talking to you with an interpreter middleman).

This is not to say that reading translations are bad. Myself included, translation is the only way in deciphering what those Arabic words meant (regretfully). It would be better though otherwise… As it is, the Arabs only consist of mere 20% of the world’s muslims so naturally, translation is very important. But to realize that there is only so much that one can translate. The original language provides for a much more broader and complex dimensions that cannot be captured by other languages and reading the scripture is not like reading a scientific journal with each word having precise, rigid meaning.

This is not to belittle the benefit of recitation which can really bring peace to the soul and help to create a bond to the Quran. But recitation is not the main reason for its being, rather, an important factor to build an understanding and relationship with the Holy Book. So by mere recitation only - like what is generally being done here, is not what it was really for. That’s to show how far muslims today is to the ideal progressive muslims like the Prophet intends. Being muslim, I don’t blame others but only ourselves. Allah (s.w.t) and the Prophet (p.b.u.h) promised that those who return to the Quran and Sunnah will be saved in these end of times. Save here shall be taken as not just safety from Hell fire but also acquiring prosperity, successs and peace in this world. Well, this is generally not happening considering the state of most muslims around the world. Easy to guess what’s lacking.

Lastly, Allah Almighty and Glory be to Him, is free from any weaknesses nor can He be hurt in any way by our actions and ignorance. We only hurt ourselves.

Forgive me, the long ramblings, but I am truly happy that you share the common belief in one God and indeed, we are, regardless of religion / race / whatever that sets us ‘different’ and rejoice in the fact that your reading and understanding of the Quran shows much effort has been done and exceeds more than most of my fellow malay muslims I’ve known. I wish the very best of luck to you in your further journey to discovering this Last Miracle whose author is God Himself. With patience and good guidance, may it last a lifetime bringing you much joy, peace and happiness. Amin.

ASHAR said...

TO Benjamin:

Ya amat bagus apabila bukan muslim itu mempelajari agama Islam mudahan beliau(Benjamin) mendapat hidayat dari apa yang dipelajarinya tantang agama Islam.

Artikel ini adalah komen beliau terhadap tafsiran dari bacaan beliau sendiri dan berkaitan dengan perjuangan beliau yang jelas seangkatan PKR, Anwar Ibrahim. Tulisan beliau ini hayalah dari satu sudut pandangan beliau sendiri dari terjemahan Al Quran. Sedangkan Agama Islam itu menyeluruh dan berkaitan antara satu sama lainnya. Bermaksud sudut pandang yang berbagai di kaji dengan dalil-dalil Aqli dan Nakli.

Jangan kerana satu sudut pandang dari Benjamin yang jelas memehak ke PKR boleh meracuni fikiran umat Islam Di Malaysia pula.

Saya mula tertarik dengan kenyataan Benjamin : "So as a non-Muslim, I share a common point with Muslims that it is Allah who created the universe." . Tapi pada footnote tulisannya ada pula terjemahan : †The word Allah in the Arabic language means God, or more accurately, The One and Only Eternal God, Creator of the Universe, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. The word Allah to mean God is also used by Arabic speaking Jews and Christians.

Apakah saudara Benjamin merujukkan kepercayaan saudara Benjamin itu kepada Allah orang Islam atau Allah orang agama lainnya. ...???

Saya amat berharap agar orang Islam sekarang tidak mudah di racuni dengan kefahamam Liberal Islam yang akan memesongkan aqidah umat Islam.

Semuanya perlu ada pendekatan yang betul dan tepat....sebagai seorang individu muslim dan pengusaha muslim itu ada perbezaan tangung jawab yang jelas dan nyata. Itu mungkin saudara Benjamin belum pelajari. Mudahan Allah membuka pintu hatin saudara Benjamin untuk mengakaji lebih mendalam tentang Islam dan kebenaran agama Islam.

Memang ramai yang belajar agama Islam tapi sedikit yang mengkaji agama Islam. Ini pun jelas antara belajar Agama Islam dan Pengkaji Agama Islam.

Samada belajar Agama atau pengkaji Agama perlu ada gurunya, rujukannya hinggalah ke pada rujukan para ulama nya. Tangung jawab indivudu dan penguasa itu berbeda tapi tujuan nya sama, Ad-Din, menuju jalan Allah.

Dalam artikel Benjamin:

"If Allah has allowed the Evil Tree and satan to appear in Paradise, who are we to close down discotheque and casino, ban pageant contest, ban bikini, ban alcohol, ban concert, etc in Malaysia? How can we justify a rapist sexual aggression against a scantily dressed girl? Can we lock up all the Muslim children in a remote village without internet access, TV and DVD player so when they grow up they won’t see the evil, hear the evil and talk the evil? No, we can never do that to our children! Living in seclusion is not the way Allah had prepared for Adam and Eve.

Allah never instructed Adam and Eve to burn down or bomb the Evil Tree as some religious bigots had done in our neighbouring countries. Instead, Allah said to them, “Enjoy your life here in Paradise and keep a distance from the evil tree and don’t eat the fruits.” After they failed to follow the command of Allah, Allah took the initiative to look for them and the sincere repentance of Adam and Eve moved the heart of Allah –The real problem with our society today is not that our corrupt Muslim politicians have eaten the forbidden fruits, but it is that they don’t have a heart of repentance at all after eating the forbidden fruits, and the forbidden fruits seem to taste sweeter and sweeter to them, it is a case of never “enough”. "
Saudar Benjamin perlu faham, akan tangung jawab sebagai "Pemimpin Islam" pula. Mereka yang akan menangung dosa atas setiap yang mereka luluskan , laksanakan yang menjuruskan kemungkaran,"No Ad-Din". Mereka adalah Khalifah Islam yang memimpin.

Memang kita individu Islam hanya boleh membantah dan menghalang tapi kalau "Pemimpin Islam Mungkar" tetap melaksanakan apa yang mungkar itu, itu diluar kemampuan kita. Yang jelas, Individu Islam tidak sepatutnya memilih "Pemimpin Islam Yang Mungkar" kerana mereka juga terheret akan kemungkaran yang berlaku.

Pemerintah muslim ada tangungjawabnya dalam melarang pembangunan yang mungkar dan mengalakkan pembangunan akan ke jalan Allah..."Ad-Din". Individu Muslim pun ada tangung jawabnya.

Kita tidak boleh mengangapkan ulasan dari saudara Benjamin ini sebagai satu yang menyeluruh...Bagi saya iyanya membawa kepada kefahamam yang di sebut JIL( Jemaah Islam Liberal ).

Seperti dalam artikel pepecahan umat Islam part 1 di

http://isteri-mamak-tua.blogspot.com/2008/08/perpecahan-umat-islam-melayu.html

timbulnya konsep baru dalam kefahaman Islam seperti Islam Liberal (JIL) merupakan satu tipu helah dalam memesongkan aqidah umat Islam sejagat sejajar dengan perkembangan dunia morden. Ianya dicetuskan oleh Leornard Binder, diantara sarjana Barat keturunan Yahudi.

"Agama Islam itu mudah lagi memudahkan, tapi berserta dalil-dalil nya. Bukan sengaja di ambil mudah."


Selamat Menjalankan Ibadah Puasa.


_ashar_
Angkatan Lancang Kuning Nusantara.

Amuraria said...

Peace Benjamin
Happy to read your comments on Islam ! Please visit here to know & understand more on Islam :
http://www.harunyahya.com/index.php

Hope you will get something from it ,all the best & peace to you :)

benjaminloi said...

Thanks Azhar:
I truly appreciate your comment, there is only ONE Allah and Allah is an Arabic word, which is also used by other Arabic speaking people to refer to their God.
I believe that Allah has given us the freedom to do what we want to do and Allah has permitted Jin to tempt us, let's refer to Quran:
1. The rebellion of "Jinn" or "Genie" and the beginning of satanism (actions of devil beasts) :
A jinn, djinn, from Arabic جني jinn (genie)- is a supernatural fiery creature who is said to possess free will, Evil jinns are said to lead humans astray. In Islam, Satan, known in Arabic as Iblees, is the iconic jinn that refused to bow down to Adam when ordered to by Allah.
Background:
According to the Muslim Faith, when the Almighty Allah created Adam (the father of the human progeny) out of a lump of clay, and commanded the angels to greet him with a 'Sijda' (prostration in humility), Ibless the satan hesitated to obey and accept Adam as his superior because he claimed his own superiority over Adam by virtue of his age long devotion to Allah and creation out of fiery fire. His reluctance to obey and bow before Adam, however, resulted in his condemnation and he was therefore, eternally banished from the pleasure of Allah. Under this great humiliating disappointment, the satan, however, pleaded with Allah that he and his progeny (the satan belongs to the progeny of the jinn or genie) may be granted an everlasting opportunity to mislead mankind into error and sin in order to test the devotion of Adam and his progeny to Allah. This request was granted by the Almighty Allah with the commandment that whosoever followed the satan's path will forfeit His pleasure and that his abode will be in the fire of hell eternally.
The first treacherous act of satan under this arrangement started with the temptation of Adam himself in the well known episode of Eve and the "forbidden fruit" which resulted in the banishment of both Adam and Eve from the heavenly paradise as a punishment against Allah's pleasure and thus the treachery of satan, the avowed enemy of the progeny of Adam, has continued throughout the ages causing perpetual misery among the best majority of those people who succumb to his allure in defiance of the commandments of Allah.
In this respect there are two kinds of people in the world, those who follow the commandants of Allah, and those who are susceptible to the temptations or enticements of satan. There has always been a mighty struggle between the followers of satan and the believers of Allah ever since the creation of Adam in which the latter have always vanquished the former.
2. Name of satan: Iblīs (Arabic إبليس), is the name of the primary devil (Shaytaan or Satan) in Islam. The word is derived from the Arabic verbal root balasa بَلَسَ, meaning "he despaired"; therefore, the linguistic meaning of Iblees would be "he/it that despairs or causes despair".

Allah wants us to obey Him and conquer the temptation of satan!!!

Why don't you agree with it?

May the peace of Allah reign in your heart, Amin!

ben