Just imagine, for one moment.
Press statement for immediate release by the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia.
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,
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?