Dr. Wan Azhar bin Wan Ahmad
Senior Fellow, IKIM
I am utterly flabbergasted looking at the prejudices and misgivings of certain quarters of our people against religious teachings. I am speechless in awe reflecting on the degree of denial and obstinacy shown.
Time and again it is portrayed over the ill-perceived conflict between the syariah and civil laws. The recent incident, arguably claimed to have taken the nation by surprise, even considered a sad black day in the history of the country, is the purported local and global ‘outcry’ resulting from the whipping punishment meted and carried out on Muslim (women) syariah offenders not long ago.
While the offenders themselves obviously had no qualm about the punishment, many irrelevant others are immensely immersed and drown into unnecessary perplexing quandary.
Human rights advocates have been fighting for equality before law for all genders. Yet, astonishingly, when Islamic law stands in support of their claim, the very same people accused Syariah as uncompromising, inhumane, discriminatory, etc.
It is understandable if the criticism-cum-refusal came from the non-Muslims. But it is almost incomprehensible to witness that the rejection came from the Muslims themselves. Combined together, this group seems to glorify human rights doctrines more than honouring their own religious pronouncements, or the principles of true ethics and morality, if they ever embraced or understood any. This is secularism at its best.
It represents a process of secularization as certain section is influencing certain others to shy away from religion and any good value system.
Islam does not lay rigid emphasis on punitive actions. The whole religion is about knowledge, education and the inculcation of good values onto human being. Islam asks Muslims to refer to strict legal solution to solve disputes only as their last resort. Even this is always preceded with words for forgiveness and mediation.
Islamic law does not differentiate between male and female offenders. In fact, in achieving salvation, Islam is giving equal opportunity to both sexes. In the recent execution of the punishment, apart from the three women caned, four other male criminals were flogged. But those human rights vanguards close one eye on this.
For Muslims in this group, their secular inclination manifests their inadequate Islamic upbringing, resulting in confusion, and ultimately, compounded ignorance. It is ‘compounded’ because even after being told the truth, they stubbornly hold firm to their misunderstanding and false beliefs.
For the non-Muslims, they appear to have lost the sense of adab, the sense of respect of other religions. Camouflaging under the ‘sacred’ pretext of human-rightism, they claim the questionable right to interfere in the domain they have minimal or no knowledge about - Islam.
Those Muslim and non-Muslim detractors simply defy authoritative religious precepts, authentic knowledge, reliable authorities, irrefutable historical facts, the rules of reason and logic, and the rules of ethics and morality. In the process, they have consciously or unconsciously become atheists, agnostics, sophists, and secularists par excellence, or any appropriate combination of two or more.
It is amazing to learn the paradox that people conveniently acknowledge the authority of certain professionals in certain fields but hardly do the same in some other areas. For example, many will not risk their health or life visiting any unqualified physician for their medical problems and later on question the prescription given.
They do not dare challenging any registered lawyer, accountant, engineer, or architect for any matter within their respective fields of expertise and professionalism. Ironically when it comes to religion, many believe that it is a free trade zone for everyone to interfere with.
I fail to understand what kind of logic these people are holding to.
Pondering upon, we are fortunate because our nation is blessed with an abundant lot of educated people. But it appears that many do not have the wisdom that is supposed to come with that education. A considerable number simply do not know their limit.
One of the signs of wisdom is for one to know one’s limit of knowledge. This implies that one is not supposed to make comments on things that one is not well informed off. If one lacks knowledge on anything, one must first gather a sufficient amount of information, data or whatever necessary to fill the vacuum. Hearsay evidence or mere observation will not do justice to any particular problem at stake.
After gaining certain knowledge, only then one may issue any remarks. But even this is to be done with a clear conscience that one may need to responsibly alter or retract one’s opinion if someone more knowledgeable points to him that he is mistaken in certain respects or in the entire subject matter.
Failure to fulfill the prerequisites, i.e. to cross the aforementioned boundary means one is not wise anymore. Not knowing the limit in a way signifies stupidity. If and when one simply does that, and declines to take right advice, one does not only exposing one’s ignorance, but worse, one’s sheer arrogance.
Knowledge is not something neutral. It is ladened with values that one must not ignore: good and evil, right and wrong, beneficial and harmful.
In our context of a multi-religious society, every member of every group must always alert of each other’s sensitivities. If a non-Muslim is making unfair comments on Islam and its institutions, no sound Muslims will just keep quiet.
Similarly, if Muslims are making noise, for instance, questioning the rationality of the Christian’s concept of trinity, or the Hindu’s multiplicity of gods, or the practice of the caste system, the leaders and followers of these religions will just shut their mouths doing nothing.
Therefore it is extremely important for all groups in our pluralistic society, regardless of our religious and cultural background, not to touch the nerves and sensitivities of each other, especially those that pertain to theology and matters that have been granted by our esteemed Constitution.
Let’s affirm the general position that matters of religion do not fall under the purview of any layman on the street, even an educated one, as there are conditions to be met. Let’s maintain the status quo that religion is the business of those qualified experts and professionals.
Yes, religion is open to human interpretation, but not just by anybody. If one has fulfilled certain requirements, there will be no objection for one to engage into any religious discussion. In the case of Islam, this applies to everybody having the desire, determination and efforts for a better understanding.
I believe that the reality out there is not that worse. All the clamorous hue and cry over certain issues have been sensationalized by irresponsible perpetrators like unscrupulous journalists and manipulated by social activists to achieve certain agendas only known best to them.
Amidst the above, all that we need to bear in mind is that we shoulder the same responsibility to maintain the long inherited peaceful and harmonious living of the nation as it will tremendously drive the country further towards development and prosperity to the benefit of all.