I’m no expert in Islam but…

By Zan Azlee
June 03, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 3 — Religion seems to be quite a hot topic whenever it is discussed. This is especially so when it comes to Islam. And even more so when it challenges conventional thought.

I’ve learnt this over the course of writing my thoughts and opinions openly and frankly all this while and receiving the opinions and thoughts of the readers as well.

Sometimes the comments that I get are just okay and sometimes, they can be quite passionate. The latter is when I feel obligated to respond.

My column last week received quite a range of comments that I felt warranted a proper response from me this week.

There were many that concurred with my thoughts, but no point responding to them. That would just be preaching to the converted.

What I really want to do is to respond to those who disagreed with me. Everyone is definitely entitled to his or her opinion, but right now I have the pen in hand!

Among them were those who raised the fact that I am not credible enough to comment on Islam since I did not take courses on the Quran and Sunnah at University of Malaya.

Someone even accused me of not attending religious talks at the mosque outside of the regular Friday prayers. This must be someone who goes to the same mosque I do. How else would he know?

Apparently, only those who have the right academic qualifications are allowed to comment on Islam. And me, with my odd combination of accounting and journalism degrees, just am not part of that elite group.

This is what has been holding the Muslim community back. People who think that only an elite few should have the right to discuss the religion.

And I wonder if they are referring to the same elite few who ridiculously declared that yoga and poco-poco dancing are haram and need to be banned!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but that sounds very much like a Christian clergyman to me. And even then, the concept of that clergy died long ago together with the Dark Ages in Europe.

In fact, even the Hindu community, with their strict caste system, have changed for the better. Now, religious leaders do not have to be a Brahmin.

My Indian friend (who suffers terribly from all my Indian jokes!), who happens to be from the Kaunder caste, is a Hindu priest at a temple his grandfather founded in Klang.

It’s true that the Quran states that scholars should be held with high regard. But it never said that only a select few could be scholars. In fact, everyone is encouraged to be one.

I believe that Islam is a very democratic religion and everyone has a say in it. That’s where the concept of consensus came about in the religion.

We the people need to discuss, critique and have dialogue for a better understanding and also for the sake of progression and advancement of Islam.

We the people cannot leave it to the self-proclaimed religious intellectuals to dictate what is to be done, and we to just follow blindly.

With the almost limitless amount of resources we have these days, knowledge can easily be obtained to equip ourselves for discussion and dialogue.

With that being said, we are all human beings and human beings are far from perfect. I am definitely not perfect. And neither are the religious scholars.

Of course, I rightfully admit that I am no religious expert. But I do read, and sometimes, I even think. And the last I checked, I didn’t need to enrol at the International Islamic University or Al-Azhar University to do that.

I believe that everyone, lay people and religious scholars included, should actively participate in discussion, debate and interaction for the betterment of the religion and society.

Although I started last week’s column by expressing doubt at the Malaysian Muslim’s openness to dialogue, I was extremely happy with the comments and opinions that I received due to it.

It proved that although we have differing views, we choose to fight with words and thoughts to prove our points rather than with sticks, stones and guns.

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 9:36 am

    Matters of religion are not those secular & worldly affairs. How can you mix up & try reconcile both??? In the case of latter one can make a convincing case, the need to question, debate especially when there’s out there “almost limitless amount of resources we have these days, knowledge can easily be obtained to equip ourselves for discussion and dialogue”.

    In Islam we’re addressing matters relating to the sacred text, the word and will of the Almighty. Here’s where clerics qualified from Al-Azhar University and “self-proclaimed religious intellectuals” who “take courses on the Quran and Sunnah” from renowned Islamic universities will know and deemed by faithful to know more and have the final say more than you even if you earned your “odd combination of accounting and journalism degrees” from Harvard and Cambridge!

    When you say you’re no expert in Islam, that’s the end of the matter, period – no “but”(s). Fact is you’re trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. It is an effort that will end in defeat. You have to elect eventually which way to go. You can’t traverse at same time two paths leading opposite ways.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 9:55 am

    Still having said the above I hope there are more people like Zan Azlee around.

  3. #3 by undertaker888 on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 11:00 am

    Those umno scholars thought that we are offending God by not having this and that to discuss about religion. But it is their actions that really offended God.

    A bunch of Pharisees and Sadducees. Generation of vipers.

  4. #4 by monsterball on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 2:46 pm

    Najib is not afraid of God.
    He dares to use God in politics for his own good.

  5. #5 by Sam Goley on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 11:18 pm

    Anybody should be able to express the opinions on any religion. That’s a part of life. If your faith is strong enough, it really shouldn’t matter what anybody else has to say about anybody else’s religion, as long as people try their best to stay civil.

  6. #6 by Sallang on Saturday, 4 June 2011 - 12:16 am

    Idi Amin of an African country had a direct telephone line with God. What was the number?

  7. #7 by cemerlang on Saturday, 4 June 2011 - 11:14 pm

    A few ground rules would be good. Like you have a very open mind. Like you can take it when you are criticized negatively. Like you can still remind calm. Because religion is personal and what is personal is emotional and emotions can be very powerful. Like you have the Vatican in Rome and yet you have the mafias there. Like you have the epicenter of Islam in Saudi Arabia and yet you have all the extremists there. How to balance the yin and the yang ?

  8. #8 by good coolie on Saturday, 4 June 2011 - 11:51 pm

    Let me remind all preachers that though you are “selling” something good(your religion) you still have to convince the “buyer” (the person you seek to convert) that your religion is good and useful. CONVINCE, do not hold any kind of sword (temporal or eternal) in front of the buyer, for that trick does not work in the modern world – it has “gone with the wind”, so to speak.

  9. #9 by ktteokt on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 - 9:24 am

    And did ALLAH instruct them to place loudspeakers on top of mosques and contribute to noise pollution?

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