“Tell me,” I asked a friend before I reverted to Islam, “why do some Muslim Malays don’t follow the teachings of Islam?”
I had a lot of opportunity of observing how the Malays, who comprise about 60% of Malaysian citizens, live in this country since I grew up. As all Malays are supposed to be Muslims, most people take them as models of Islamic living. Yet there are a number of those who don’t adhere to the teachings of Islam. There had been reported news of incest, rapes, break-ins and all sorts of crimes conducted by Malays. There were and are Malays who drink liquor, had extra-marital affairs, eat food at non-halal restaurants yet claiming that they’re Muslims, and that they pray 5 times a day. Oh, so confusing.
My friend paused for a moment.
“Well, Muslim Malays are not the only Muslims in the world, but of course being in Malaysia, it’s normal to judge Islam through the Malays’ behaviours and lifestyle. But don’t see Islam by what the Malays are doing here. Islam is a universal religion, so you shouldn’t narrow your scope to just Malays. The best way to discover the true teachings of Islam is to read the al-Quran and the Hadith. You may read the translations of Quran in English or Malay to find out more.”
“I have, but I still don’t understand. If Islam teaches the right behaviours, why do I see Malays performing all acts of sins? Aren’t they Muslims too?”
“Yes, they are Muslims because they believe in Allah s.w.t and prophet Muhammad as the Rasulullah. But they may not be Mukmin, or the faithful ones.”
“What do you mean?”
“Islam is the same religion everywhere in the world; it’s never wrong. It is the true religion. But its followers are people of many races, each with different local cultures and lifestyles. It is not easy to remain faithful to the true path when around you there are many temptations. Human nature is ruled by desires for fun. Everybody has the choice between good and bad. That’s why we need Allah to guide us, by always remembering His teachings. You’ve heard of people of other religions doing bad things too, haven’t you?”
“Yes, I have.”
“When we read news about Christians priests or Buddhist monks doing bad things, do we say that Christianity and Buddhism teach their followers to do bad things? Of course not. We know that those people chose to do the bad things although as religious leaders, they should show good examples. We don’t blame their religions. Same goes for Islam and Malays. Do not blame Islam for the bad things some Muslims do. There are good Muslims and not-so-good Muslims, same as there are good Christians and not-so-good Christians.”
“So what’s the point of being a Muslim then? I don’t want to be like one of them who do bad things after reverting to Islam.”
“InsyaAllah, you won’t. Like I’ve said, we are given choices, so always choose to do the good things by following what Islam teaches, not by emulating what everyone around you are doing, for they may all be wrong and you’re the only one right. Muslims, regardless of our races, should always strive to be better people, by following the true path and putting Allah as the centre of our faith and our conscience.”
“Well, what about terrorism? If Islam teaches peace, why do we hear about the attacks by Muslim militants on other countries? Why choose war and kill other people?”
“Terrorists should not be limited to just Muslims. Israelites and Americans attack other countries, but are they labelled terrorists? No. Muslims do not choose to go to war. But when they are attacked, should they just remain quiet and let themselves be victims? Would you let yourself be bullied if you were them? Look at Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. How long have those people suffered? When people are pushed into a corner, naturally they’d retaliate, in the only way they think best. I’m not saying that everything they did was right but we have to understand why they’re doing them.”
There’d be many more of such dialogues I had before I was finally convinced about my choice to revert to Islam is the best, and that the time is right.