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.