Wednesday, November 26, 2008

a question of approach...

Just imagine, for one moment.

Press statement for immediate release by the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia.

"Fatwa 101/2009

The National Fatwa Council of Malaysia hereby announces a Fatwa passed on 25th November 2009. This Fatwa is passed unanimously by the members of the Council during its meeting on the same date. The full members of the Fatwa Council are as stated in the annexure to this announcement.

The Council is mindful of the highly stressful environment that many Malaysians, in general, and the Malaysian Muslims, in particular, are in at the present time. Work and family commitments, financial and business undertakings as well as various other factors tend to put a lot of stress on many of us, Malaysians. In the light of the economics meltdown which economists and analysts are predicting to take place in the near future, the Council expects the stress situation to get worse.

The Council acknowledges that as a  result, many Malaysians are now more conscious about their health and issues relating to the same. The mushrooming of fitness centres and health spas are testimony to the growing interest among Malaysians on health issues. The Council is of the opinion that this is a healthy development.

Islam encourages the "ummah" (the society) to live a healthy life. The mandatory prayers in itself consist a set of flowing movements which have  scientifically been proven to promote the well beings of its practitioners. The highly stressful environment that we live in in the present days  may result in high blood pressure, cardio vascular problems, stroke and a host of other health problems which could, if untreated, be fatal.

It is therefore necessary for all of us to look after ourselves and our health. A healthy body is after all necessary for a healthy mind. A healthy mind is would be able to effectively and positively contribute to the betterment of the "ummah" .

The Council notes that one of the various forms of exercises which are preferred by Malaysians, including Malaysian Muslims, is the practice of yoga. Concerns have been raised by some members of the public, as well as the members of the Council, that yoga is a form of exercises practiced by and originate from the Hindus and that such practices may include certain religious rituals which may be repugnant against Islamic principles.

The practice of yoga, to the Council's understanding, may consist of 3 elements, namely:

a) physical movements or exercises;

b) chanting or uttering certain mantras; and,

c) meditation.

It is therefore imperative that Muslims who practice yoga do not inadvertently  or unknowingly transgress Islamic principles which may cause them to commit unpardonable sin in Islam, such as the practice of idolising a god other than Allah s.w.t.

After much research and deliberation, including hearing the opinions of various yoga practitioners and experts - the references of the Council's research and the names of the various experts and yoga practitioners are annexed to this announcement -  the Council would like to encourage Muslims to continue engaging in physical exercises whenever possible in order to ensure good health. The Council would like to however remind that some yoga movements are complicated and may instead be hazardous to one's well being. The Council therefore advises Muslims to engage a proper trainer in order to ensure an effective and safe physical exercises sessions.

In so far as the yoga practices consist of mantras and chanting in the form as recorded in the enclosed compact disc, it is the Council's opinion that such mantras and chanting ought not to be practiced by Muslims as the same consist of words or phrases which is praiseful of idols or gods other than Allah s.w.t. Such practice, in the Council's opinion, should be immediately stopped as it is a cardinal Islamic principle that a Muslim ought to only worship one God, Allah s.w.t.

Other mantras or chanting, which may take the form as recorded in the enclosed compact disc (disc "B"), which consist of only words, phrases or sounds which are relaxing in nature may be uttered as the Council does not see any religious significance in them.

The Council wishes to impress on all Malaysians, especially our Hindu friends, that this fatwa is not intended to decry the yoga practices among Muslims. It is just intended to be a gentle advice to Muslims on a question of Islamic faith. Muslims may call the Council or e mail the Council at the numbers or address provided on the Council's web site if the need arises.

The Council wishes all Malaysians Muslims all the best in their pursuit of physical and spiritual health.

May God bless all of us and our good deeds."

The fatwa on yoga, as announced by the National Fatwa Council, in my opinion, was a top class failure in public relation. The Council gave a short statement. That was it. Till today, I have not read the actual "fatwa" or decree, which I, as a Muslim, am supposed to adhere. All I had read was newspaper reports. Many of us, me included, do not have a clue as to who the members are and quite how these members arrived at their conclusion that yoga is unIslamic. It might as well have been a decision by the Star Chambers for all we know.

And quite why all the fatwas issued by the Council have to be in the negative form (as in, Muslim cannot do this and Muslims shall not do that) is frankly beyond me. They sound so unfriendly. And they make Muslims sound so...stupid and recalcitrant, as if we have to be told what NOT to do all the time.

I am not going into the correctness or otherwise of the fatwa. What I am saying is, why can't a fatwa be issued in a positive light, like the one I have taken the trouble to write above? For once I think, Muslims would like to be told that what they are doing is alright but in areas where they might be wrong, they would be obliged for some tender guidance and fatherly advice. Not a stern "you SHALL NOT do this and that"!

I think, had the Council issued the fatwa on yoga in a more humane and friendlier manner - like the one above - it would endear itself to Malaysians and such fatwa would not have kicked up the totally unnecessary storm as it did.

Public relation. Have you all ever heard of that?

 

 

 

 

 

10 comments:

Oldstock said...

Masyaallah, Art. My mind missed your first sentence and jumped immediately to read the `Press Statement'. I was wondering, how come I missed seeing this statement in the MSM.

You've hit the nail on the head here. After all these years, the people in authority still do not know how to use the correct approach.

And there are many among us Muslims who hold on the belief that whatever the Fatwa Council says is unquestionable... *sigh*, macam mana nak maju?

Anonymous said...

Art,

How to teach an old mule new tricks?

Those in the current fatwa council r just that - old mules with puerile stubbornness cultivated via archive thoughts. They r so rigid in their thoughts that they cannot reinterpret the holy teachings in a modern & new environment, & make them relevant as such.

The holy prophet, after the h'jillah from Mecca to Medina, managed to converts the people of the Medina to his teachings. He did it because He adapted to the Medina environment.

U can only follow blindly & can't ask questions - simply because they claimed to be the learned authority in matter Islam. All ummah must follow their guidance!

To these old mules Public Relationship is haram.

Perhaps its time for some self-searching for the Malaysian ummah. There should be more 'opened-minded' ulama like the Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.

Make Islam relevant to the 21st century, instead of forcing the 21st century to accept what Islam was as it is now!

juslo said...

hey man,

check this out...

Fatwa Bans Red Devils and Christian Clubs
http://juslo.blogspot.com/2008/11/fatwa-bans-red-devils-and-christian.html

Knights Templar said...

Bro ...my reasons for not Questioning the Fatwa is rather obvious ...it concerns not us Infidels ...and the Hindu Sangam has no right at all to Question it.Now the issue is between the Palace and the Council.Sorry to say this Bro ...But please permit me ...30 juz..144 surah...6666 ayat... dah PERFECT and Complete!
And i dont think the Faith of my Moslem Brothers and as Brittle as some might think!

Salam

Anonymous said...

Art

Good stuff except you missed the officious 'jilik' / 'bab' etc. or should it be 'jijik' / 'boob'?

Extension of the fatwa would be 'you can destressed by visiting halalspas, take another wife or beat up the present one'.

Boleh?

bob

woodyooi said...

Art,

You can be suspended for two days, do you know that ? Like Gobind the MP.

How can you cook up something so clear, real and truthful to the extent that the "real guy" may even be deeply jealous of you ?

;)

-woody

Anonymous said...

Like Oldstock, I too missed your openning statement and thought that there was nothing wrong with the Press Release.

Maybe these morons should consider putting you on retainer to write their press releases and avoid being the laughing stock and the butt of jokes around the world.

I hear with much amusement when callers asked if Malaysians are crazy banning yoga in Radio talk show on one of Sydney's popular drive time program.

Argus Eye said...

Brilliantly written press release. Sadly, it remains a fantasy for now.

Btw, I have not had the opportunity to congratulate you. Yes, 7th of Nov is what I'm talking about.

Master class..Hats off!

Argus Eye
http://pantheon-of-argus.blogspot.com

Mr. Smith said...

"They sound so unfriendly. And they make Muslims sound so...stupid and recalcitrant, as if we have to be told what NOT to do all the time."
====================
Stupid?
Is that why Muslims are told what books NOT to read and to protect them these books are banned? Is that why Christians are told not to use the term 'Allah' as Muslims would be confused?
Is that why concerts by Western artists and sexy dances are banned so that Muslim would not be 'contaminated' by unhealthy hedonistic culture?
When will they ever realize that morality comes from within, from a formed conscience, from a religious grounding that gives one the ability to judge between right and wrong?
May I ask why with all these from these protections and 'shielding' from sin, Muslims ( civil servants, politicians, police and judges) are so corrupted.
Not to mention the snatch thefts, drug addiction and teen sex that is taking place today.

artic turban said...

It is therefore imperative that Muslims who practice yoga do not inadvertently or unknowingly transgress Islamic principles which may cause them to commit unpardonable sin in Islam,'
I read it to this part,
and a question AROSE,
, why don't they concentrate on corruption?
AND THAN THERE WAS THIS STATEMENT WHICH i FOUND TO BE RATHER CONTRIDUCTORY, to the statements of reassurance thet Najib and his M.O.F. and bank negara has reassured the public about, that we Malaysia are rather special, and won't be affected by the economic meltdown?
Than what does this mean, does the national Fatwa council have inside information?, IS SOMEBODY LYING? WHO?
'In the light of the economics meltdown which economists and analysts are predicting to take place in the near future, the Council expects the stress situation to get worse'.
SO is the national fatwa council now specialist in the Malaysian economy, than what about NAJIB, WHERE DOES HE STAND?Can somebody answer? HELLO UMNO ANY ANSWERS.