In my previous post, I tried to make it clear that not all Muslims are Arabs, and not all Arabs are Muslims. Now I am asking permission to tweak that statement to take it a little bit further: Not all Muslims in Malaysia are Malays, and not all Malays should be Muslims. This is going to be one of my more controversial post, so click here if you don’t feel like being sapped into my thoughts.
Once, I was scolded for bringing up my discontentment with our constitution, but it is not going to deter me today. I do not agree that all Malays in Malaysia must be Muslims. My reason is simple. In sports, you only want to keep those who are committed to your team or you would trade them off for someone else who does, no? Yes, religion is more complicated than a baseball league. We should not want to trade our fellow Muslims away, but if they so wish to not be part of the Muslim community, why force them? What good will it bring? From the outside, people would get confused by these Muslims who do not defer to the teachings of Islam; from our own perspective, there is a proclivity by these people to disparage Islam and its adherents for forcing them to believe in something they do not. Ultimately, no one wins as the ummah would be weakened by these dissembled munafiks.
Where I am today, on average 3 to 4 people take the shahadah over the phone every week, and to think there is no such thing as a National Department of Islamic Development breathing down our neck. This may be an amateur observation, but what I could conclude is that people in the west, especially in the United States, are attracted to Islam because the Muslims that they encounter in their everyday life are genuinely sincere in their submission to Allah. We are Muslims, and we act as one, because we want to, not because the law tells us to do so. And when others see this, the true beauty of Islam shines through, and people are attracted to it. Instead of trying to emulate so-called Muslim nations in the Middle East where the black market for alcohol has never disappeared, why not we study how Islam has become the fastest growing religion in the United States, a Christian nation that promotes freedom of religion? Opponents to my argument would contend that this is a false analogy. Muslims in the United States are mostly professionals and rich immigrants, thus they are capable on their own, whereas Muslims in Malaysia range from high school dropouts to our highest intellects, and so some of them need guidance from a religious department. If this is so, it makes my argument easier. It seems that the best way to keep Muslims from turning their backs away is not to compel them to believe in something they do not, but to educate them so that they could think on their own regarding matters most crucial to a person’s spiritual health.
One of my first conversations with Sofiya four years ago was regarding this topic. Then I asked her what her father’s opinion is, since he is a professor of philosophy and Islam. Her answer intrigues me. Apparently her father said that if people want to convert away from Islam, let them be, because eventually they will realize the light they have abandoned. For me, that statement is empowering. It is simple yet powerful. If you truly believe in Islam and its truth, why fear? Why do you feel like Muslims would leave this beautiful religion of ours in masses if they are allowed to? Do you lack confidence in this religion you call your own? Or are you calling your own brothers and sisters fatuous, not capable to distinguish right from wrong? I read in a forum somewhere where non-Muslim Malaysians believe that a majority of Malays would not be Muslims if not for our constitution. My response would be, “Let’s prove them wrong and allow these people to make their own decision.”
Me, for example, is handed out pamphlets upon pamphlets on Christianity and Jesus almost every other day on my way to school. But do you see my faith dither? I hope not. Because I know the truth, I politely decline them. There is no need for a department of religion to take these fine men and women away in handcuffs because they are trying to proselytize me. That is what they believe in, and I respect that. After all, I believe in Jesus, son of Mary too. Just because they want to sway me away does not mean I am swayed. Simple. In fact, the best way to counter their actions is to increase your own. Be gentle, provide amenities to the weak and poor, and pray for them. God listens to prayers by those who believe. Essentially, hidayah is not ours to force on people in the first place as it belongs solely to God. We may guide, but guidance has to be handled with care, and more importantly, with respect.
“As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they incur.” (Al-Baqarah: 6-7)