Season of goodwill

By Raja Zarith Idris
Sunday Star
Sunday January 9, 2011

If Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Isa (Jesus), a prophet respected and revered in Islam, is it so wrong to wish a blessed day for those who celebrate it?

DURING the days before Christmas last year, I wished my friends who were celebrating it “Merry Christmas” in much the same way they would wish me “Selamat Hari Raya” or “Happy Eid”.

I find it rather sad that such a simple greeting – one which I grew up with and which I have never regarded as something that would compromise or de-value my own faith – is now regarded as something so religiously incorrect for us Malaysian Muslims.

When I was at boarding school in England, I had to go to church every Sunday because it was part of the rules. My father advised me to consider it as part of my “education” and he had no doubt that the experience would strengthen rather than weaken my own faith.

I was able to see the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam. I learned more than the average Malaysian Muslim would about Christianity. I learnt that just as we Muslims categorise ourselves according to the four different schools of thoughts of the four Imams (Imam Malik, Imam Al Shafi, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Ahmad Abn Hambal) and are either Sunnis or Shias, so Christians too are divided into different sects or churches.

Going to church did not make me less of a Muslim when I was a young girl, and neither does saying “Merry Christmas” make me less of a Muslim now. My faith has not been shaken just because I wished some friends a time of joy with their families. Neither will I suddenly suffer from amnesia and forget what my religion is.

What I do not wish to forget, however, is that there are good, kind people who are not of the same faith as me.

As Harun Yahya, the Turkish writer (he was selected last year as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan) noted: “Islam is a religion of peace, love and tolerance.

Today, however, some circles have been presenting a false image of Islam, as if there were conflict between Islam and the adherents of the two other monotheistic religions. Yet Islam’s view of Jews and Christians, who are named ‘the People of the Book’ in the Quran, is very friendly and tolerant.

“This attitude towards the People of the Book developed during the years of the birth of Islam. At that time, Muslims were a minority, struggling to protect their faith and suffering oppression and torture from the pagans of the city of Mecca. Due to this persecution, some Muslims decided to flee Mecca and shelter in a safe country with a just ruler. The Prophet Muhammad told them to take refuge with King Negus, the Christian king of Ethiopia. The Muslims who followed this advice found a very fair administration that embraced them with love and respect when they went to Ethiopia. King Negus refused the demands of the pagan messengers who asked him to surrender the Muslims to them, and announced that Muslims could live freely in his country.

“Such attitudes of Christian people that are based on the concepts of compassion, mercy, modesty and justice, constitute a fact that God has pointed out in the Quran.”

I do not wish to be a self-centred Muslim who expects friends of other faiths to wish me Selamat Hari Raya or, for those who are not Malaysians and therefore do not know about Hari Raya, a Happy Eid and yet do not return their goodwill when it is Christmas, Chinese New Year, Deepavali or Vesak Day.

Every year, friends who are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs or those without any faith come to our home to celebrate Hari Raya with us. They do so with sincerity and as a mark of respect for one of the most important days in the Muslim calendar. Why should we not reciprocate their kindness, show them the same mark of respect for their religion and wish them the same joy on their holy days of celebration?

An Islamic scholar and lecturer also reminded me that as Muslims we must remember the importance of both the five Pillars of Islam and in the six Pillars of Iman (Faith), which are:

> Belief in Allah;

> Belief in the angels;

> Belief in the revealed Books (which include the Bible, the Torah and the Holy Quran);

> Belief in the Prophets (May Peace be Upon Them);

> Belief in the Resurrection and the events of Kiamah, the Day of Judgement; and

> Belief in the predestination (Qada’ and Qadar) by Allah in all things.

The prophets include not just Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him) as the last prophet and as the Messenger of Islam, but also in the 24 earlier ones who are mentioned in both the Bible and the Quran. Four of them are Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Daud (David), and Isa (Jesus).

So, if Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Isa (Jesus), a prophet respected and revered in Islam, is it so wrong to wish a blessed day for those who celebrate it?

We are now in the second decade of the 21st century. Surely, we should, now more than ever, be far more enlightened at a time when information of any sort and of all kinds are so readily available to us.

What is most important is that we regard one another as fellow citizens and treat each other with respect, regardless of our race or religion.

The writer is Royal Fellow, School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), and holds a BA (Honours) degree in Chinese Studies, University of Oxford.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 - 2:45 pm

    Will MMK n NR lock up RZI under ISA?
    What hv CSL n KTK 2 say abt dis? Or they elegantly silent until their bosses hv spoken

  2. #2 by undertaker888 on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 - 3:13 pm

    islam umno is the dangerous kind. hypocrites of the pharisees and sadducees kind. every stone you turn under the religion umno, has the stench of money and corruption in it. anyone tries to change the order of the day will be arrested immediately under ISA, OSA, and every other A.

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 - 3:18 pm

    Read dis too
    She seems 2 appreciate d multiethnic human gene pool n human genomes
    UmnoB racists hv insulted her grandmother as Si Mata Sepet, descendants of beggars n pros\titutes, balik Cina dll
    Let’s not even talk abt dat WAN PERN HAN JIAN Tea

  4. #4 by DAP man on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 - 3:49 pm

    UMNO Malays claim their race and religion are superior to other Malaysian’s.
    God does not care how superior you are. It’s the way you lead your life. You may be think you are superior but your behaviour is damn inferior.
    You don’t touch a dog, you don’t eat beaf, you don’t drink beer but you are corrupted like hell and you wallow is illicit sex.
    When politicians semonize on religious matters, then you devalue your superiority.
    Tell me, where is your superiority.

  5. #5 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 - 4:59 pm

    Mahathir said malays by nature are born slower in mind,not as bright as other ethnic especially chinese so NEP acting as a tongkat is a prerequisite for their handicap nature.Then how can they claim they are superior.If truly go by the statement made by mamak that malays are weak and not mentally competitive,suffice to say,lacking in their own faith,then their religion no less or more superior than others,right?Mamak and gangs are really confusing these whole lot of poor malays.Wake up my malay brothers and sisters,everyone is born equal and one must have wisdom and faith to decide his or her destiny.Isn’t that the right answer if you believe god is fair to all his created being?No?By playing ignorant and still holding on to the cursed tongkat,you are actually mocking god and that is the fact.Unless you are fool enough not to know anything like robot depending on live battery controlled by the bogey or self claimed malay saviour,mamak the father of racist.

  6. #6 by good coolie on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 - 10:55 pm

    I had a very good Muslim friend who gave me Christmas greetings with a “Season’s Greetings” card. That’s alright, I know what she meant.

  7. #7 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 - 12:49 am

    Raja Zarith,
    Welcome to the world of peace-loving, tolerant, friendly and kind people.

    It’s heartening to know that there are NORMAL people around who are neither green-eyed monsters nor baying for the blood of others.

    If only….if only Malaysians can all be like that.

  8. #8 by k1980 on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 - 8:55 am

    So many excellent novels worldwide and yet they chose this racist book. Mata sepets sold their daughters because they did not have food and not eligible for nep

  9. #9 by k1980 on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 - 9:03 am

    one thing the rich mata sepets such as viagra chua do for sure— they don’t sell their daughters, they bed someone else’s daughters

  10. #10 by monsterball on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 - 11:03 am

    Most educated Muslims exposed to the commercial firms are non racists and practical Malaysians.
    They do feel shameful over UMNO B’s hypocritical and double standards dirty politics. .just as sincere Malaysian Chinese are shameful over MCA and Gerakan.
    Malaysians are getting smarter and that will be the downfall of our corrupted racists government.

  11. #11 by tak tahan on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 - 11:23 am

    k1980,the interlok says mata sepets sold their daughters because they did not have foods and not eligible for nep?Really?Since when?Which incidents?But i’ve heard the bodoh sombong kinds raped their daughters on many numbers of occasions.Confirmed by news media and newspapers.Check this out with cintanegara.

  12. #12 by k1980 on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 - 1:07 pm

    Ever heard of dr mamamak, a beneficiary of the nep, selling his daughters? Why? Because he has money.

    Help, I can’t find the book ‘interlok’ amongst the 1,159 Best Books of All-Time! Why choose that cheap author?

  13. #13 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 - 7:35 pm

    D most goodwill n hospitable person in M’sia must b Saifool, d PASSIVE HOMOSEXUAL

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