Prof Dr. Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi
7th Dec 2015
In the wake of the horrific events in Paris and California the so called ‘middle ground’ Muslims are quick to denounce them as the work of an ‘extreme’ faction. Well, I have got news for the world. In my thesis, it is these so called ‘middle ground’ Muslims that ultimately give birth to these extremist factions they fear so much.
Perhaps many are in disagreement and in shock to my statement. I will elucidate.
Firstly, what do I mean by ‘middle ground Muslims’?
Middle ground Muslims are those Muslims who are hardworking middle class and upper middle class individuals who live the dream of an easy and care free life of having a family, owning houses and property for investment, send their children to both a ‘secular school’ and a religious school so that the children can be good Muslims. These individuals are men and women who travel to Umra and Hajj not once but a frequent number of times and also are devout congregants at mosques praying and listening reverently to the teachings of Islam from the ustazs.
These are the Muslims who find no use to expand their knowledge by reading books by critical Muslims and the more so reject any readings or opinions of the ‘kafirs’ or unbelievers like Mahatma Ghandi or Nelson Mandela.
To them, Islam is already complete. There need be nothing else that the whole history of human civilization or the whole knowledge of mankind in the West that is useful for them to go to heaven.
To their minds, the whole problems in the Islamic Worlds are caused by the Jews, Christians and the Evil West. Islam is not only complete but perfect in every sense and those who proclaim and practice being a Muslims are always on the right. These are the middle ground Muslims.
Where did I get this profile?
From analysing all the Muslims I have come in contact with, I would say 99% of them fit this profile completely. I have met Muslims in USA, UK, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and my own country and I find a similar profile.
Now of course, people can point fingers at ‘evil villians’ like the leadership of PERKASA, ISMA, PAS or UMNO but the reality is, the millions of Muslims ‘living the ordinary life’ are the first I would blame for allowing mindsets and perception of values that could not have come from the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Although I am not an ‘ulama’ but I have read enough hadiths and Qur’anic Verses to suspect that many of these middle ground Muslims are teaching or are allowing to be taught values and perceptions that go against the very grain of the Prophet’s teaching in order to bring about a Muslim that is open, humble, compassionate and tolerant and can exist in any social or political environment with ease.
The ‘small’ problem of creating Muslim who is an American national, a French National or even a Malaysian national is similar to the ‘big’ problem of suicide bombers and mass killings by so called Muslim jihadists. It is in the education of the children and young adult Muslims.
Where do they learn these ‘strange values’? Well, none other than from national schools, from madrasah, from religious vernacular schools, from the lectures at the mosques and you tube by clerics, muftis and ulama.
The Muslim parents are too trusting and uncritical when it comes to religious education. As long as their sons or daughters fast in Ramadhan, pray almost 5 times a day, where the tudung, they think that their place in heaven has already been reserved.
Muslim children who are critical of prevailing views and values that the host culture thinks are Islamic, will be dealt with a rebuff and a good talking to by their ustaz that asking so many questions are tantamount to blasphemy of Islam.
I will now list three major perception or values that are prevalent in the minds of these ‘middle ground Muslims’ which I think eventually lead the young adult Muslims to subscribe to the heinous deeds of the California and Paris shootings. I have lived among Muslims all my life and I know what I am talking about. My fault seems to be that I have too critical a mind sharply tuned by postgraduate education in USA and Scotland to analysed roots of problems and an educational background free from the entrapments of the Malaysian secondary and tertiary education systems
The first perception of middle ground Muslims that is passed on to their ‘practicing Muslim’ children is;
We Muslims must never make friends or trust non-Muslims because they are all ‘kafirs’ or disbelievers and forever shall remain our enemy. The reason is that if these people were good then they would have accepted Islam because the explanation of Islam, the Qur’an and the Hadith are all easily available. There is NO EXCUSE for the kafirs not to accept Islam. This proves that they have evil intention because they have rejected Islam.
Truly, I have heard this statement in ceramah or religious lectures and private conversations. This is the prevailing attitude and position of most Muslims and they feel absolutely righteous about it.
I trust my Christian friends whom I know to be righteous and good and I will trust them with my children’s welfare than I would some Muslims that I know. When I say such things, my friends brand me as ‘sesat’ or misguided.
Well, I told them, I do not know who guides you in the teachings of Islam but I am guided by the Prophet Muhammad himself in his decision to entrust the first group of migrants to Yemen under King Najashi who was a devout Christian.
Furthermore, I read a book by none other than Dr Mohamad Asri Zainal Abidin who wrote in one book that ‘it would be a sad thing if Allah allows non-Muslims who are good into heaven and ignore us Muslims. These people have never been shown good examples of what Islam stands for by Muslims even though there are many books on Islam.’
In the Qur’an I understand that there are Verses in which Allah says that among the People of the Book who are devout, full of good deeds and feared Allah, they will be forgiven and rewarded by Allah. These are not ‘practicing Muslims’ but great souls of humanity.
Finally, Muslims have forgotten the basic teaching of Islam that NONE of us Muslims knows who Allah will admit into heaven. Even if you have been a Mufti for 30 years, that is no guarantee. Even if you are the head of a self proclaimed ‘Islamic’ political party for 40 years, that is no guarantee.
Even the Prophet has whispered to his daughter, Fatimah, that he does not know her fate in the hereafter. Now, my question is, do Muslims know these simple teachings of Islam?
Perhaps they learnt them but the lessons were buried under the busy and crazed mindsets of setting up an ‘Islamic State’ to the point that killings and murders and deals with opportunist politicians are the order of the day.
The next perception or value is as follows:
We Muslims will all end up in heaven, regardless of our crimes and shortcomings. Yes, we may be tested in Hell but it will be for a brief period and then Allah’s Mercy will take over and we will find ourselves in Jannah. So, if we do excellently good deeds, we will fly into heaven without any trials but if we come up short, don’t worry, we will all end up still in heaven. Anyway, all sins can be expiated by doing extra prayers, feeding the poor, going to Hajj which cleanse everyone of sins like a new born baby.
Wow! What a perception. A blank cheque straight into heaven. Carte Blanche!
Truly, I heard the first part of the statement straight from a Malay Corporate member in one consultancy meeting I had attended. The second part I heard in conversations and ceramah.
No wonder Malays are so free to accuse people of heresy, of sodomy, of blasphemy and of intent to topple the democratic government of Islam. These Malays fear no retribution because they think just by being Muslims and doing a few rituals, they are the beloved of God.
Where do these Muslims pick up such glaring misconception of sins? From religious education.
I was in a state of shock when one of my good friends said that it is okay to frame someone with sodomy if we can remove him because we cannot prove that he was in cahoots with the CIA in order to destroy the Malays and Islam in this country.
This is from a man who insists all his sons to go to a Hafiz school where you must commit the Qur’an to memory. This is the same man who in my university days in America goes to all length to ensure that we got halal chicken every week.
Regardless of what he thought of Islam and our differences in politics, he is still one I would trust my family with but I was very sad of his racist understanding of Islam. Don’t Muslims know about the dangers of slander and false accusation to another Muslim or to non-Muslim?
As far as I understand, in Islam, when one does wrong to another, one must settle it in this world and ask for forgiveness from that person wronged. You ask forgiveness from man first before you ask forgiveness from God.
If you stole something, you may be punished with imprisonment but you still have to return the goods or else your account in the hereafter is in the red. If you are unable to ask forgiveness from those you have wronged because he or she has passed away, then you must ask the family to forgive you but that is inconsequential in comparison to asking the forgiveness of the person when he or she was alive.
Similarly, if you have stolen and was unable to return the equal amount of value because you have no means, then you must ask the owners to proclaim that what you have used to feed your children and wife to be ‘halal’ or else all those will be accountable in the hereafter. As I understand it no amount of Hajj pilgrimage, feeding the poor or extra prayers can expiate from the sins of doing wrong to another without that person’s action of forgiveness.
But many Muslims go through life back biting, slandering and gossiping without any conscience as to the dangers of the toungue. The great Imam Ghazali has listed over 20 misdeeds of the tongue that would put Muslims into hell fire.
That is why I am extra careful about talking bad of others until I know the facts and that I have a clear conscience free from petty vengeance or idle gossiping. I do not want to be those Muslim politicians who steals the rakyat’s money through corruption and having to pay back every single sen or having to ask all tax payers, Chinese, Indians, Malays for their forgiveness.
I also do not one to be a Mufti, or a religious teacher or a political leader who have to ask forgiveness in the hereafter from the non-muslims that they have slandered under the game of political expediency.
How is it that such teachings of Islam that is as strict as the punishment in the hereafter for slander and money politics have been left out or poorly instructed to young Muslims?
Finally, there is the perception or values which form the granddaddy of statements:
Allah says Islam is Complete and Perfect. Therefore, we Muslims should have no need of knowledge prior to the revelation of the Qur’an nor should we require any knowledge of philosophy, sociology, history, psychology or any human sciences because we have the Qur’an which guides us. (Of course, going overseas in the ‘kafir’ country for heart surgery or other major surgery is okay)
When I was praising one of my Malay post graduate student who had just completed a wonderful Masters Thesis on housing issues in Malaysia from the analysis of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures, she said something funny to me. She said, “Prof, I would like to do PhD with you on the subject of Islamic Architecture or housing.”
I asked her why she did not want to continue her studies of different cultures as this was more important. She answered, “Well, I want to learn about Islam and architecture only because I feel that studying other cultures who believe in other faiths are a waste of my time because we are Muslims.”
I was at a loss to say anything at first but then I had to go into a three hour discourse on human civilization and its importance for our appreciation of the world and even of Islam.
Many Muslims who are considered ‘fundamentalist’ or committed Muslim find my personal study and understanding of Buddhism, Hinduism, Western Spiritualists, Taaoism, Christianity completely disturbing. They do not understand my thesis that the Islam of the Prophet Muhammad came at the tail end of the great search for God and man’s spiritual quest and that the Qur’an is the final chapter of this great search.
If you read only the Qur’an then it is just like reading the end part of a novel where you already know the ending but you failed to value the ending as you do not know the story from the beginning. Many of my academic friends refused this analogy.
I tried again. I said, okay if Islam was a PhD thesis, don’t you think that it is strange if we do not know its position in the history of mankind before we proceed to examine the questions of humanity? No thesis would be valid without its literature survey to position an issue as well as the methodology chosen. Still my academic friends do not accept my second analogy.
To them Islam is Islam. Don’t compare and don’t place it in the kafir world of knowledge. To them We have 1500 years of Islamic civilization to understand….we have neither the time nor the need to spend on those useless knowledge of the Western civilization that contradicts the teachings of the Prophet.
When I heard this, I just kept quiet and moved away from the limited ‘discourse’ of Malay academics at public universities. This is also a notion that is propagated knowingly or unknowingly by ustazs and religious officials.
Thus, I would like to summarize my thesis on the tragedies in California and Paris. It is all very well to blame IS, to blame so called jihadists, fundamentalists and others alike whether it is an individual, a political party, an organization or a school of thought.
In my analysis, the real fault lies solely with ‘middle ground Muslims’ who has unwittingly allowed the three perception of Islam to be taught indirectly or directly by ustazs who studies in cultural, political and religious isolation within a framework that has no curriculum to understand the richness of humankind’s history of thoughts and achievements.
That is why, I never sent my children to any religious school because I do not want them to be bigots, nationalists and racist individuals. The entire Muslim world and Muslim organisations in non-Muslim countries must look long and hard at the education of the young whether we are to teach them to be inclusive global citizens or exclusive bigots and racists.
If we still let such values or perception of the mere three that I have elucidated go without any serious evaluation on the qualification of our religious teachers, then we have committed our children to the rising tensions between Muslim and non-Muslims and have ultimately prepared them to be co-opted by extremist elements under the guise of nationalism, ethno-centricim or the idea of the glorified caliphate.
If I had the power of finance and administration, I would disallow any religious school that do not have a course in human civilization taught by responsible individuals that do not use their time to mock other faiths and cultures.
I would insist that the teaching of Islam focus on correcting the three perceptions and values I have written about.
Firstly, Islam must not be taught as an isolated thought or event in the history of mankind. There is much that our history of human existence can teach us and reinforce the values in the Qur’an and Hadith. Our young will find that all other faiths have similar values and need to be respected.
Secondly, the young should be taught that all deeds against Muslims and non-Mualims must be settled in this world and no amount of prostrating oor pilgrimage can replace the need to ask for forgiveness from those wronged.
Thirdly, the young must learn to trust all man who possess the basic ideas of humility, compassion, tolerance and good manners. We must also teach them to be open and magnanimous like the Prophet in dealing with small misunderstandings.
I would also require all Muslim students to visit houses of worship of others in order to cultivate a deep sense of respect for these great traditions of instructions to man on how they ought to behave to one another and how to treat the world we all share.
To me, the pathway to the door of Allah’s Mercy is the peace one feels as part of humanity, the natural world and the human and environmental events that unfold in our daily lives.
Without a sense of inclusiveness we would ultimately exclude ourselves from the peace that is already present in all of us.
Our education of our young is paramount for their great future. But we ourselves must unlearn the wrong teachings of society on Islam and embrace the true spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, the Mercy to Mankind.
Dr. Mohd Tajuddin is a Professor of Architecture at UCSI University, Cheras