Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Take not Jews and Christians for your friends...

Can I send Christmas greetings?  Can I join in the celebrations? The authorities are no help.  On the one hand they say NO! and on the other hand our leaders are officiating Christian functions.  Then again I don't need to worry, Christmas is over and 2014 is upon us.
Some views of Jerusalem
(Image from Wikipedia)
In the Quran, verse 51 of Surah Al Maidah translates as follows: "O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other.  And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily God guides not a people unjust." (Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation)

I do not have Jewish friends but many of my friends consider themselves Christians.  So how?

My problem often is trying to understand specific verses independently of other verses, forgetting that the Quran should be taken as a whole and that should form the basis of guidance for Muslims.  It's like taking only the beginning portion of the Muslim's Attestation of Faith (Kalimah Shahadah) i.e. "I believe that there is no god" and then going on to claim that Muslims are closet atheists. (Richard Dawkins should be pleased.)

Earlier this year I performed my Umrah/Ziarah (Lesser Pilgrimage to the Grand Masjid in Makkah and Visitation to the Prophet's Masjid in Madinah) which included a stop-over in Jordan and a visit to Jerusalem.  Talking to our guide in Amman, I could see that he was proud of the fact that his family had fought for independence from the Turks.

The Arabs wanted to free themselves from the 'yoke' of the Turks so they befriended the British and the French and sought their help and protection.  To honor the now independent Arab States, their new-found friends bestowed upon them Israel.

Today, almost every 'Muslim' State still looks up to Israel's foremost backer and protecter to make that problem go away.  I, for one, won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

In the meantime I'll still love all of my friends and remember them in my prayers, and Allah is my Guide.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to ask Quality Questions

I just noticed this in my 'draft' folder where it's been sitting for more than a year.  I suppose that now's a good time as any to share it.

Its said that the quality of your questions determine the quality of your life. When I mentioned that to someone, he asked me, "What is a quality question?" Funny thing is how we think we know something, but when someone asks about it you cannot answer. This was one of those times for me.

I found this note on a friends facebook page which I think will help in answering that question. He had got it from www.aspirenow.com.

Re-framing questions to maximize our power:

Original question: “Who am I?”
Revised powerful question: “What do I stand-up for?”

Original question: “What are my goals?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I just BE and yet be complete?”

Original question: “What is my life purpose?”
Revised powerful question: “What can I do where I maximize my life, my love, my happiness, and my burning desire to contribute?”

Original question: “How can I attract more love?”
Revised powerful question: “How much love can I give out and to whom do I want to give it to?”

Original question: “What am I getting out of this?”
Revised powerful question: “Who am I becoming from doing this?”

Original question: “Why is this happening to me?”
Revised powerful question: “How am I growing and learning from this situation?”

Original question: “Why did they hurt me?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I rise above the hurt to grow?”

Original question: “What else is there?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I be open to discover more?”

Original question: “How can I get more money?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I add more value to other’s lives?”

Original question: “How can I stay looking young and beautiful?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I share in the beauty in all things?”

Original question: “What will I do with my time?”
Revised powerful question: “What matters the most in this moment?”

Original question: “What do I want now?”
Revised powerful question: “What can I do to just be and not want or need anything?”

Original question: “How can I become more secure and protect my family?”
Revised powerful question: “How can I imagine the lives of those I love as “secure” in a way where nothing can harm us?”

Original question: “How come I feel out of control?”
Revised powerful question: “What can I do in this moment that is true to my self?”

~~~ from www.aspirenow.com ~~~

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Open Letter - Additional Comments

You know that my letter got published in The Malaysian Insider.
I can only clarify points for those who don't understand me, but for those who choose to misunderstand me, I can only say that they are well entitled to their opinions as I am to mine.  However, if someone finds some fact wrong in what I wrote, then please enlighten me that I can make any correction that may be necessary.

As I have said in earlier postings, I have no personal objections on anybody using the term Allah provided they maintain the integrity of the meaning of the word.  Anyone who says that non-Muslims using the word may confuse Muslim me is surely insulting my intelligence.

I would like to thank 2 readers, bimasakti and yk001nul, for their comments (reproduced below) which I consider is helpful in explaining my letter.

Instead of condemning Shaik Dawood with the standard criticisms of who owns which word, why don't you read once again what he has actually written. Why use the lower case 'allah' in the al Kitab to refer to to non-Judeo-Christian/non-Islamic deities like baal, ishtar, ishwar? Do you really believe your typical East Malaysian reading the al Kitab can distinguish between an upper case Allah and a lower case one? – bimasakti

The writer has highlighted accordingly the Muslims' concern. That is the point of contention when Muslims object to the usage of Allah in the Malay Bible. It was never about permission, but it's always about the literal meaning. 
To understand the 'confusion' the Muslims are always talking about, try visiting other places or country where the Bible is presented in the local vernacular. You can see that the word referring to God changes from country to country, from place to place. It's 'ibshaq' in Assamese areas of India, 'atoatl' in Nahuatl-speaking provinces of Brazil, and of course, 'allah' here in Malay-speaking Malaysia. Heck, in Hebei province of China, there used to be a Bible publication calling the God as Buddha, before some pressure from Buddhist groups corrected the problem. 
For a really central important concept in Christianity to be represented in such non-uniform way across the globe, isn't it a matter of concern to all Christians? In this, our Muslim brothers obviously has the better hand; the God is uniformly referred to as Allah no matter wherever they go, and you don't see them usurping the God concept from other religions for their own use. Interestingly, I read the Arabic version of Bible, and nowhere are there such transliteration confusion as the one found in our Malay Bible. Proper nouns are properly addressed as Allah, while references to generic deities and pagan gods are addressed either as 'rabb' or 'latt' (a generic name derived from pre-Islamic Nabatean goddess Latta). Thus it was no wonder that Arabic Christians are confused on the Allah ban ruling by our authority. So, it is inherently a Malaysian problem then. (Emphasis mine)
I've no idea why the missionaries of yore chose Allah instead of the pre-existing Malay-Sanskrit over-god word 'Mahadewa' when they first published the Malay bible in the 17th century. It just didn't follow the pattern used by contemporary missionaries elsewhere in the world around that time. Many reasons can be thought of; Christianization among Muslims, colonial politics, Muslim tolerance, or maybe just bad command of Malay language. 
One thing for sure though, is that it is a move worth reconsidering for mutual peace between these two great religions. I hope that Christians and Muslims here can get over their emotions and find a common ground to settle this issue once and for all. – yk001nul

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Open Letter to the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur

I just sent this letter to The Sun Daily, The Star, The Malaysian Insider and The Malay Mail Online.  I'm not sure if it will get published.  However, I share it here.

Most Reverend Tan Sri Datuk Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam, PSM, PJM
(Image from Wikipedia)

Open letter
Most Reverend Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam,
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur

Your Grace,
I am writing this as a concerned Malaysian Muslim on the distress caused by the “Allah” issue on the inter-faith/inter-ethnic relationships in our beloved Malaysia.

Before I begin, permit me, Your Grace, to quote from the well loved children’s book ‘Through the Looking Glass’ by Lewis Carroll.

 ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

 ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

I begin with this quote because I think that words do have meanings of their own and should not be taken out of context or used in ways that it was not intended to be used.

In writings on or about Islam in English, ‘Allah’ is often rendered as ‘God’.  Modern day Muslim scholars, however, think that Allah should not be translated as it is a Proper Name and is free of number or gender, whereas God can be general or specific (god/God), singular or plural (god/gods) and male or female (god/goddess).

Your Grace has been quoted in the media as saying, The First Article of Faith in the Catholic Creed and for all Christians is: ‘I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth’.  Any Christian, who denies or modifies this statement of faith, incurs excommunication and would be considered a heretic. It is to be noted that for centuries the Bahasa Malaysia translation and the Arabic equivalent of the one God, is the sacred word Allah, which the Christians have been using peacefully.

As a Muslim, I fully support anyone’s use of ‘Allah’ in the context that Your Grace was quoted above, whether Christian or otherwise.  (I must qualify that this is my personal opinion and may not reflect the views of the Malaysian Islamic authorities.)

In the AlKitab, God is translated as Allah.(e.g.: Genesis 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. / Kejadian 1:1  Pada mulanya Allah menciptakan langit dan bumi.)  This, I think, is the God/Allah that Your Grace refers to.

However the AlKitab also translates god and gods as allah, albeit with a lower-case ‘a’. (e.g.: Deuteronomy 32:17 They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know, to new gods...  / Ulangan 32:17 meraka mempersembahkan korban kepada roh-roh jahat yang bukan Allah, kepada allah yang tidak mereka kenal, allah baru...)

To the best of my knowledge, there is no allah (with a lower-case ‘a’) in the Malay Language.  Even in Arabic, god is i’lah.  The Malay word for god is dewa, with the plural form written as dewa-dewa.  God is also Tuhan.

Interestingly though 'Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites' in 1 Kings 11:5 is translated as 'dewa kejijikan' while 'Milcom the god of the children of Ammon' in 1 Kings 11:33 is 'allah'.
Goddess is translated as dewi.  (e.g. 1 Kings 11:5 … Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians… / 1 Raja-Raja 11:5  … Asytoret, dewi orang Sidon… )

In Malay, Allah is always the proper name, while Tuhan is the general term used for God.  The Translators of the AlKitab have chosen to reverse the order, so that Tuhan is the proper name and Allah is the general form.  (e.g.  Deuteronomy 6:4  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! / Ulangan 6:4  Dengarlah, hai orang Israel: TUHAN itu Allah kita, TUHAN itu esa!  Also in: Mark 12:29 ...Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. / Markus 12:29 ...Dengarlah, hai orang Israel, Tuhan Allah kita, Tuhan itu esa.)

Your Grace, I cannot claim to know the intentions of the Translators of the AlKitab.  I can only assume that they were persons well versed in the Malay Language who choose to follow Humpty Dumpty.  I find this misleading, deceitful and dishonest, and as a Muslim I feel extremely hurt and insulted.

Your Grace, in the interest of truth and harmony, may I suggest that Your Grace appoints a person or persons to undertake an honest and accurate translation of the Bible in the Malay Language.  Deo volente, we will have an early closure to this issue.

May the Almighty bless and guide us in all our endeavours.

I am, Yours respectfully,

Shaik Dawood

Note:     Bible quotes in English from New King James Version, quotes in Malay from AlKitab (Lembaga AlKitab Indonesia)

Friday, October 18, 2013

The 'ALLAH' Issue, Will there be a resolution any time soon?

'Palace of Justice'
Putrajaya, Malaysia
(from Google Images)
The Court has decided and now the court of public opinion is in full swing.  While some agree that it is about 'preventing confusion' and 'preserving harmony' many others are asking, "what happened to freedom of religion?"  I have shared my opinion earlier here, here and here.

In Islamic writings in English, 'Allah' is often rendered as 'God'.  However, some scholars maintain that the word should not be translated as 'Allah' is unique, while God can be general or specific (god/God), male or female (god/goddess), singular or plural (god/gods).  Moreover 'God' has different connotations to different people based on that individual's conception of God.

The Sikhs use 'Allah' to describe God as do the Qadianis. (In Malaysia, as in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, the Qadianis are not considered Muslims.) Those of the Baha'i Faith probably also do the same.  (The founder's name is Baha'u'llah.)

Now let us look at the Christian use of the word.

In the English Bible, there is not only the word 'God', but there are also 'god', 'gods' and 'goddess'.  God may be translated as Allah, but how do you translate the other three?

In the AlKitab [the Indonesian Bible] God is Allah [upper case first letter for both]. (e.g.: Genesis 1:1 / Kejadian 1:1), god is allah [lower case first letter for both] (e.g.: 1 John 4:8 /1 Yohanes 4:8) gods is also allah [the 's' plural form to be understood from the context] (e.g.: Deuteronomy 32:17 / Ulangan 32:17 ... demons that were no gods, to gods they had never know, to new gods...  ...roh-roh jahat yang bukan Allah, kepada allah yang tidak mereka kenal, allah baru...), but goddess is dewi [here a Malay word is used instead of an Arabic one] (e.g.: 1 Kings 11:5 / 1 Raja-Raja 11:5).

Interestingly though 'Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites' in 1 Kings 11:5 is 'dewa kejijikan' while further down in 1 Kings 11:33 'Milcom the god of the children of Ammon' is 'allah'.

In Malay, God [upper case 'G'] is Tuhan, while god, gods and goddess can be rendered as dewa, dewa-dewa and dewi respectively. Even in Arabic, god [lower case 'g'] is i'lah not Allah.

So if the Church insists on using Allah to include god and gods (as used in AlKitab), it could be seen as act of provocation (i.e. purposely using words out of context with possible intent to offend/insult) and not about freedom of religion.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bucky Quotes

R. Buckminster Fuller
(image from http://www.rwgrayprojects.com )
With all that is happening around us everyday these days, I'd like to share the following Bucky quote for us to reflect on.  I copied it from the book "A Fuller View" by L. Steven Sieden.

What can a little man effect toward such realizations in the face of the formidable power of great corporations, great states, and all their know-how, guns, monies, armies, tools and information?

The individual can take initiatives without anybody's permission. Only individuals can think, and can look for the principals manifest in their experiences that others may be overlooking because they are too preoccupied with how to please some boss or with how to earn money, how to take care of today's bills. Only the individual disregards his fears and commits himself exclusively to reforming the human environment by developing tools that deal more effectively and economically with evolutionary challenges.

Humans can participate - consciously and completely - in fundamental ways, to changes that are more favorable to human life.  It became evident that the individual was the only one that could deliberately find the time to think in a cosmically adequate manner.
Buckminster Fuller: An Autobiographical Monologue/Scenario

Friday, September 27, 2013

Reviving Communist Ideology

Karl Marx, author of Das Kapital
and The Communist Manifesto
Image from Wikipedia
Now that Chin Peng is dead, communism is again in the spotlight.  The IGP says that stern action will be taken against those trying to revive communist ideology in Malaysia.

I remember reading somewhere that the reason the socialist / communist movement hasn't taken real root in the United States is that it has high levels of economic productivity and social mobility. Also contributing is the the strength of their religious beliefs and the absence of feudal remnants.  The poor considers himself / herself a millionaire who just happens to be down on his / her luck at the moment.

This is in opposition to Russia and elsewhere in Europe where it held appeal to distraught workers and others who feel oppressed.

Maybe the authorities should take the above into consideration before they come up with some hastily laid plans 'to curb the disease', so to speak.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Al Quran Al Kareem

Al Quran cover
Image from Google Images
I've been attending weekly lectures, together with some family members, at this place in Taman Tun. It's on tafseer, an explanatory translation of the Quran.

One of the points that the Ustaz keeps repeating is about the Muslim's duties towards the Quran. There are obligatory duties (i.e. Must do) and there are optional ones (Nice to do).

Among the optional duties are that one should read the Quran, memorize it and seek blessings from it.

Among the obligatory duties are to understand the Quran, ponder upon it's teachings and implement them in our lives.

When I think about it, my emphasis has always been on reading it (never mind if I don't understand the meaning of what I read) and seeking blessings from my reading.  On memorizing, I've done a few short surahs (chapter) just so that I can perform solaah (ritual prayers).

I've never really given any importance to understanding the Quran let alone implement its teachings. Earning a living was already hard enough, and letting religion get into it was unthinkable.  Of course I did my solaah and my sawm (fasting), but that was it.

May Allah forgive me for my ignorance and guide me (and all of us) to His Way.  Ameen!

Monday, September 23, 2013

AlKitab - my personal view

Image from Google Images
Actually this is still about the "Allah" controversy.  Many of my Christian brothers and sisters, including my brothers and sisters of other religious persuasions, think this is only about language so why the fuss?

When we translate religious texts into other languages, the name is usually not translated.  That's why we have the Quran (sometimes spelled Koran), the Gita, the Vedas, the Tao and etc. all in English.  In Malay, the names are retained but the spelling may differ slightly based on pronunciation.

The Bible is translated as AlKitab in Indonesian, but the word is not Indonesian but Arabic.  In Arabic "kitabun" is a book while "Al Kitab" means "the book" but the Bible is not "a book" nor "the book", it is a collection of books (the number varies among the different denominations), so why the need to translate the title?  Why not leave it as "Bible" or "Bibel" based on the way it is pronounced.

The Old and New Testaments are translated as the Perjanjian Lama and Baru.  To me the word "Testament" means a covenant, a statement of belief, an evidence of proof or something in those lines.  "Perjanjian" on the other hand simply means an agreement or contract.

Coming to "Allah", it is Arabic and not Malay.  If it is to be used, it must be used in the way it is understood in Malay i.e. the specific name for God.

The problem with using it in the Bible is that God is used sometimes as the specific name for the Deity and some times in the general sense.  Other times the specific name of the Deity is Lord, Lord God and even Lord Jesus.

I think that the way forward is for the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, as the "guardian" of the Malay Language, and the Church authorities to get together in producing an accurate Malay translation of the Bible.

Having said that, what about those, like the Islamic religious authorities, who think that having a Malay translation of the Bible would lead to mass apostasy among the Muslims?  My answer is, "Please resign your posts.  If you cannot educate Muslims in the proper concepts of their faith, why are you there?"

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Adverts in my mailbox

Pamphlets littering the street
Image from Wikipedia
I'm sure you find pamphlets, ad magazines and other unsolicited advertisement stuff in your mailbox from time to time. I'm no exception and often the thing is discarded even without a second look. Sometimes, however, I do browse through booklets or magazines just to see what is being offered.

Usually there are offers for goods and services and there have been one or two occasions where I have actually dialed the phone numbers given to make inquiries.  I have yet to make a purchase though.

Lately a lot of money lenders have also resorted to this medium to promote themselves.

What fascinated me to write this post today were advertisements in one of the ad mags from two Wats (Thai Buddhist Temples) in our Northern States.  They were offering help to those who were down on their luck.  Nothing interesting about that!

What was interesting was that they both carried a testimonial each, purportedly from Malay Muslims, on how they were helped in overcoming their hardships and how thankful they were for having relied on these temple priests.  One was a lady who won the 4-digit lottery to ease her financial burdens, the other a male did not specify the nature of his problems but is ever thankful to the priest who helped him even if he is of another religion.

I'm sure the "Champions of Islam" will be aghast at these acts of apostasy (not to mention the advertisements itself), but I would like to know where they usually hide when their Muslim brother or sister most need them.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The 'ALLAH' controversy again.

I recently attended 2 talks at UTM in KL.  One was delivered by Imam Afroz Ali from Australia and the other by our distinguished professor, YM Tan Sri Prof. Dr. Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas. Neither were about the Allah issue, but some points came up that I think are necessary for us to understand what it is about.

Imam Afroz at Dewan Jummah, UTM

Prof. Al-Attas at Dewan Utama, UTM
Firstly, "Allah" is not the monopoly of any group or persons.  Secondly, "Allah" is the specific name of the unique and only creator of the universe.  The generic "God" in Arabic is "illah".

So if anyone wants to use the word "Allah" in it's meaning of the unique creator and the one and only worthy of worship, no one should have any problems with that.  But if the word is to mean anything different, such as one of many or one of a third, than it is not acceptable.

When I saw a copy of the Al Kitab, the Indonesian Bible (I have never seen a Malay Bible), the verse at Mark 12:29 "...Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one." is translated as "...Dengarlah, hai orang Israel, Tuhan Allah kita, Tuhan itu esa." (Markus 12:29).  I.e. the specific "Allah" is used to translate the generic "God" while "LORD" (it is capitalized in this case denoting a specific name) is translated using the generic "Tuhan".

Using a specific name of God to describe a generic term seems to be what Muslims in Malaysia consider as insulting.  If the Arabs and Pakistanis have no issues with this, its their problem to live with.

Maybe the Churches in Malaysia and the Malaysian Authorities should consider getting out a Malay translation of the Al Kitab so that Christians can practice their faith in peace and Muslims don't feel insulted.

The Sikhs use "Allah" to mean the One God and "Allah" is not associated with the name of any of their Gurus.  (Any Sikhs think that this statement is wrong, please correct me.  Thanks.)  That's probably why they are not really involved in this controversy like the Christians.

Note:  Why I choose Mark 12:29?  That was what I could find with 'Lord' and 'God' in the same verse, given the short time I had.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Happy Malaysia Day!

Its a few days before Malaysia day but I thought that I would wish all my fellow Malaysians early.

There seems to be a lot said about a flag being raised by some activists on Merdeka day at the Padang Merdeka.  Many are calling it the "Sang Saka Malaya" but my friend, Fahmi Reza, says that it's known as the "Bendera Rakyat" and was known to have been raised as early as 1947.  That's 10 years before Malaya became an independent nation.

The Bendera Rakyat
Last year, in conjunction with our 55 Merdeka celebration, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia published a commemorative book titled "Formation of A Nation - a photographic flashback".  In it the origins of our Jalur Gemilang are mentioned.

A competition was held in 1949 to design a flag for the new Federation.  Of the many entries received, three were shortlisted:

  • Two crossed krises encircled by eleven white stars, set against a blue background.
  • Two crossed krises at the centre with two concentric circles of white stars - the inner circle bearing five stars and the outer circle bearing six stars - set against a blue background.
  • Six blue horizontal stripes alternating with five white stripes with a crescent and a five-pointed star at the top-left corner set on a red background.

To cut a long story short, the choices were voted upon and after some adjustments were sent to London for King George VI's consent.

And the approved flag:
Flag of the "Governor and Company of Merchants of
London trading into the East Indies" or
"the Honorable East India Company"
 [Image from Wikipedia]

Oops! sorry!
This is our Jalur Gemilang.

(Of course it had only 11 stripes and the star only had 11 points.)

This is the Federation of Malaya flag before amendments:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The 'ALLAH' controversy

Haven't been blogging for quite a while and with so many things happening, now seems to be a good time to get back on the bandwagon to share my 2 sen (cents) worth.

Now that the appeal hearing is over, I don’t fancy the position the learned judges are in.   Whatever their decision, it’s not going to be popular.  I wonder, in a case like this, if the decision can be purely legal without any emotions coming into play.  And I wonder if the judges will consider the 'them' versus 'us' reaction that is surely going follow when the verdict is delivered.

I think that the whole issue has very little to do with faith and everything to do with trust.  We just don't seem to trust each other.  More importantly, I think, we don't trust ourselves.