July 13th, 2014

Imbibing the spirit of Ramadan

A person who submits to hunger and thirst but does not behave righteously misses the whole point of the fasting month.

MUSLIMS around the world are submitting themselves with reverence to the mandatory fasts of Ramadan. It is appropriate, therefore, to reflect on the spirit of this holy month.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Its sanctity is derived from the fact that this is the month when the first revelation of the Holy Quran was sent down to Prophet Muhammad in the Hira cave on the Jabal an-Nour mountain, three miles north of Mecca, around the year 610.

Self-restraint: Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer, devotion, reflection and expiation. Muslims are commanded to fast so that they may “learn self-restraint” (Holy Quran 2:183). During Ramadan, the faithful are required to abstain from worldly desires, strengthen self-control and achieve self-improvement.

Ramadan reminds us of the myriad blessings of life which we take for granted. It teaches us to empathise with the hunger and deprivation of the less fortunate. It reminds us of our duty to alleviate their suffering. Charity and generosity are urged during Ramadan.

Soul-cleansing: The fast is not merely to detoxify the body but also the soul. The physical fast is an outward expression of the more significant spiritual cleansing and the bringing of solace to the soul. It is about refraining not only from food and drink but also from evil actions, thoughts and words. It addresses the whole domain of human nature and its ultimate aim is to promote piety, honesty, peace and justice.

Pursuing righteousness is the real purpose of fasting. A person who submits to hunger and thirst but does not behave righteously misses the whole point of Ramadan. A Hadith (saying of the Holy Prophet) narrated by Imam Jafar As-Sadiq states: “When you fast, all your senses, eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet must fast with you.”

The implication is that during fasting, we must abstain from all sinful acts, including gossip, slander and sinful thoughts. Patience, peace and tranquillity must be cultivated.

This brings me to the deeply distressing news that in this holy month of Ramadan, scores of Malaysian Muslims are finding religious fulfilment by joining the internecine dispute between Shi’ites and Sunnis in war-torn Iraq and Syria.

Who is financing their expedition is not known. What motivates them to dedicate their lives to such militancy is not clear. I wonder whether our periodic outbursts against the “threat from Shi’ites” may have fed the reservoirs of hatred that these “jihadists” are drinking from?

Jihad: This concept is wrongly interpreted to refer exclusively to a “holy war” even though it refers to any struggle, whether with a sword or a pen. The Holy Quran calls all Muslims to “invite all to the way of Allah with wisdom and beautiful preaching and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (16:125).

Jihad includes a struggle with oneself. According to a famous saying, the best jihad is by the one who strives against his own self for Allah.

Peace: The Quran emphasises that normal relations between people, nations and states, whether Muslim or not, should be peaceful (49:13). Maximum effort must be applied to advance the cause of peace (10:25). “If they incline to peace, you also incline to it.” (8:61) Whatever means are undertaken to work for peace during a conflict must be attempted over and over again. It is a blessing to transform fear into a sense of safety (24:55). Paradise is the perfect and absolute Land of Peace (6:127).

Sanctity of life: The Holy Quran in Surah 5:32 lays down that “anyone who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind and anyone who has killed another person (except in lieu of murder or mischief on earth), it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind”.

War: The Holy Quran repeatedly emphasises that war is hateful (2:216). War must be defensive to be legitimate. Use of force should be the last resort (2:190-192, 4:90).

Terrorism: Even in times of war, Allah forbids extremism and the transgression of limits (2:190). The Sri Lankan jurist, C.G. Weeramantry, points out that long before the Geneva Conventions, Islamic international law had built protection for civilians, non-combatants, prisoners of war, women and children. Even the mutilation of beasts and the destruction of harvests and cutting down of trees were forbidden.

Terrorism in all its forms, whether by inciting terror in the hearts of defenceless citizens, destroying civilian properties or maiming innocent people, is forbidden in Islam.

Suicide bombing: The Holy Quran in 4:29-30 forbids suicide.

In light of the above, it should be obvious that the “freelance jihadists” are motivated by a false sense of religiosity and are misusing Islam to express their own primordial feelings of hatred for “the other”.

They seem to “have just enough religion to make (them) hate, but not enough to make (them) love one another” (Jonathan Swift).

May the spirit of Ramadan enter their hearts and souls. We hope that they can return to their homeland to fulfil their duties to their country, community and family.

There is no dearth of mountains to climb and trails to blaze here. It is a form of escapism to dedicate oneself to an amorphous (and in this case, a questionable) cause abroad at the cost of one’s undoubted religious and civic duties back at home.

For the beleaguered citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Eqypt, where Western intervention is fuelling civil wars, we pray for the realisation that in wars there are no victories, only varying degrees of defeat. May Allah guide all parties towards self-restraint, restore peace and prosperity and bring them all closer to Him and to each other. had Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Home Opinion Columnist Jul 10. 2014

Jihad: Who are the real martyrs?

I REFER to the report “A Facebook farewell” (NST, June 23) about Malaysian youths Salman Al Farisi and Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki seeking to be martyrs in Iraq and Syria.

One was credited with the suicide bombing of 25 Iraqi soldiers, to which the other posted on Facebook “May your deed be accepted by Allah; may Allah accept your martyrdom”.

Has it ever occurred to them that in the eyes of Allah, they may not be martyrs, that the ones they blew up were martyrs instead? The victims were Muslims, and they died for a “legitimate cause”.

Has it occurred to them that their foes might not be killed? I read in the newspapers that most Iraqis who join the police and armed forces do so because that is the main way to earn a regular income to support their families. Unlike the “so-called jihadists”, they do not join to kill or to be killed. They fight the “jihadists” because they| are attacked.

During the World War 2, when the Germans overran France, they told most of the captured French soldiers to simply lay down their arms and go home. Despite their vicious Nazi doctrine, the Germans saw no point in wantonly killing the French soldiers.

The NST report said Salman’s mother was pining for him. Has it occurred to Salman that those he wanted to kill also have mothers (and wives and children), who would be pining away, too? Datuk Wan Abu Bakar Wan Teh Ibrahim, Dengkil, Selangor NST Letters 10 JULY 2014 @ 8:06 AM

Law: Hudud is not about punishment but prevention

IS Malaysia ready for hudud? I think it is almost impossible to follow in Brunei's footsteps and introduce hudud in Malaysia, even as crime rates are spiking. It is not possible to implement as the laws would only apply to Muslims, who represent more than 60 per cent of the population in this country.

In recent times, many Malaysians, both Muslims and non-Muslims, have called for hudud to be implemented as they think it would be a deterrent to criminals. People will welcome it if they think it can bring down the crime rate and make them feel safe. If we look beyond religion, it might work but not in its current form.

Hudud is a term used in syariah to describe the class of punishment for crimes such as theft, fornication, adultery, consumption of alcohol and apostasy. It would be difficult to implement hudud in Malaysia because of the multiracial balance of the country.

Non-Muslims might think of it as a deterrent but it is too complex and complicated to be implemented in our diverse society. Crime has become a pertinent worry for many Malaysians, who are used to regularly reading media reports on snatch thefts, robberies and murders.

According to police statistics, cases of violent crime are increasing over the years.

Hudud itself is a reminder to human beings on the importance of observing boundaries. In its philosophical sense, hudud is not a rigid and dogmatic set of rules. The harsh punishments of hudud were meant to deter people from committing crimes. But in this modern world, it would not be practical.

Before we even try to table the bill in Parliament, we need to look at a few matters. Is the hudud criminal code properly tabulated so that it can be made available for all Malaysians to read, understand and raise questions? If it is, then it should be published and circulated for all to read and understand.

This is vital before any further discussion takes place. If there is no organised set of laws yet, who decides what goes into the hudud criminal code and how will it be done? If there is no proper set of hudud laws, then Malaysia is not ready to have them passed in the first place.

Non-Muslims should be educated first on hudud before it is implemented. There is a misconception that it is all about the cutting of hands and leaving people limbless. Hudud is not about punishment but prevention. Hudud is only one part and a base of syariah. A wider issue is whether in a multiracial and multireligious society like Malaysia, the implementation of the laws will bring us forward towards a more civilised and enlightened society or will it bring us backwards.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves this: what kind of society would we prefer for ourselves and for children so that all Malaysians will live in peace and harmony? In what way will hudud solve or lessen the crime rate in our country? Will laws promote better morality among the people?

Implementing hudud might give the perception that it is the shortest way to reduce crimes. There is no one system that can totally stop crime. Best way to reduce crime is by sorting out the imbalances in society.

Some people resort to crime because of necessity and poverty. Education is the only pathway to solve this imbalance in society and is the most important step in crime prevention.

What Malaysians should be more concerned about is the enhancement of democratic institutions in the country and introduction of appropriate rules and laws to regulate their lives, no matter if it is secular or hudud laws.

Kauselya Muniandy, Ipoh, Perak NST Letters 10 JULY 2014 @ 8:07 AM

Trust: Violation of an Islamic principle

READING reports on the alleged burglary and sex assault by a Malaysian diplomat in New Zealand was devastating.

Media all over the world are reporting this. This incident, especially involving a Muslim, is a violation of one of the most basic principles in Islam, which isamanah (trust or trustworthiness).

Diplomats should hold on to this principle more strictly as their acts not only affects themselves, but also tarnishes the image of the country and religion.

In Islam, the concept of amanah is not just paying lip service to it but is something that should come from the heart. The status and importance ofamanah among Muslims is stated in the Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim.

In the Musnad of Ahmad, there is a narration from Saidina Huzaifah saying that, Prophet Muhammad had told us about two things. One of these we have already witnessed with our own eyes. The unfolding of the other is still awaited. The first thing was that, “First of all, amanah was sent down into the hearts of the men of faith. Then, the Quran was revealed and the people of faith acquired knowledge from the Quran and practise from the Sunnah.”

It is important for Muslims to fulfil the obligations and duties that give pride to the doer, religion and country.

It has long been accepted by scholars that amanah includes everything one is entrusted with by the syariah, from obligations and prohibitions, and every state of life which relates to this world or the hereafter.

An amanah worker will always remember that any wrongdoing will reduce his own reward and affect the judgment in the hereafter. Muslims should go back to basics — remember that we live in a temporary world but will live forever in the hereafter. Dr Siti Suriani Othman, senior lecturer, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Nilai, Negri Sembilan NST Letters 12 JULY 2014 @ 8:07 AM