Tuesday, February 12

REJECT CULTURE IN THE NAME OF ISLAM?

Effective reading class.
We were discussing about the problems of reviving the Malay wayang kulit, or shadow play in Malaysia. Questions were thrown about and answers were given freely among us, where half the class were Muslims and another half were not.

Suddenly, Ben stood up and spoke loudly.
“Sorry if what I’m going to say may offend some of you. In my opinion, the problem today is that Muslims have adopted the Arabic culture in their dressing and way of life. Anything that is not Arabic is considered unIslamic. That is why even the traditional Malay wayang kulit has been rejected by Malays because it is considered unIslamic. Even women’s way of dressing is no longer Malay style of kebaya and kurung. Now the women have to cover up in tudung, jubah, purdah and the men in long robes and serban. You have rejected your own culture and tradition in the name of Islam and Islamic culture.”

The hall fell silent.
We looked at each other. I waited for somebody to reply but it seemed like everyone was waiting for someone to take the initiative. I hated to do it but there seemed to be nobody else who wanted to answer Ben's provocative question. So with a silent prayer, I stood up. Haiyah, Aliya again.

There were two issues to be tackled. Firstly, that being Islamic means being Arabic. Secondly, Malays rejected the wayang kulit, their own culture, because it is unIslamic.
I explained to Ben and everyone in the hall that the concept of Islamic does not mean having to adopt Arabic culture. While it is true that Islam originates from the Arab nations, so do Christianity and the Jewish religion. Of course, with the Koran in the Arabic language and the obligatory hajj in Mecca, we naturally have a close connection to Saudi Arabia. However, being a Muslim does not mean that we have to adopt the Arabic culture of dressing. I explained the real concept of Islamic code of dressing for Muslims women, which is to cover all except the face and the palms of the hands for women, as stated in the Koran, surah an-Nur. It is fine for Muslims to wear anything as long as it is adheres to the teachings of Islam; not necessarily have to wear the jubbahs. However, some may choose to do so because jubbahs are loose and comfortable. Same for the men. They can choose to wear serban or go bare-headed. Nobody is being forced to follow the Arabic dress-code.

“But why didn’t the women wear like they used to in the 60s and 70s .ie. tight kebaya and free-flowing hair?”
“Because at that time most of them were ignorant of the teachings of Islam. With knowledge comes enlightenment and changes, laaa. We want spiritual advancement too, you know not just material comfort.”

“Why can’t they leave the wayang kulit alone? Why ban it from being performed in public?”
“Well, keep in mind that the stories in wayang kulit plays are Hindu epic of Ramayana and Mahabaratha, with jins, fairies and Hindu gods. The people who perform the shadow plays are Malay Muslims; hence it is contradictory to teachings of Islam. Furthermore, as we know, the puppeteers had some ‘mantra’ or chants before performance to appease the ‘spirits’ of the puppets, which is syirik or wrong according to Islam. So this shadow play is banned because it contradicts with Islamic teachings. Of course, if we adapt it to other stories and stop the ‘mantra’ ritual, of course it can be performed again or public viewing.”
“But that won’t be original wayang kulit anymore!!”
“Tell me the, what cultural practices remain pure and original today? Chinese wedding? Hindu funeral rites? We adapt according to the time and our increased knowledge, don’t we all?”

Others had joined in the discussion. We had a long heated one that day, and needed the wise comments of the lecturer to close the discussion amiably. There are still a lot of issues that the other communities do not understand or misinterpreted. Kost of these concepts are not highlighted or discussed openly, so the misinformation remains among the communities. Too bad.

After the class, I asked my Muslim friends why they has not answered Ben’s question.
“Eee, tak tau la bagaimana nak jawab, Aliya.” ( I don’t know how to answer)
“ Takut salah jawab, nanti kena batang hidung sendiri.” (Scared of answering wrongly, then I'd been seen as stupid)
“My English is not that good. I don’t know what to say.”
“ I was waiting for others to answer first, hehehe…”
Well, perhaps because I was not a born-Muslim I think differently. I don't keep quiet like most Malay Muslim ladies do. I guess being a revert gives one certain advantages and a different way of thinking. Also I believe that we have to be prepared all the time to answer such questions as well as we can. Loose the chance due to our own insecurities and we might loose the chance to give true information about Islam to others. The only way to be confident to answer is through readings of religious books on Islam, especially the Koran. Don’t you agree?

8 comments:

  1. From your previous post "Please, I'm still a Chinese", it is clear that you're a hypocrite yourself. You still bound to your own skin and race but you reject your roots, heritage and culture in the name of Islam, that only helps prove that muslims cannot accept other cultures and beliefs all because others are different and infidels. You call that harmony?
    Culture is an identity of any races in this diversified world and it also represents the soul and heart of each races. Ramayana is basically a hindu epic tale about good over evil and love conquers all, it used to be one of the gems in malay culture until local religious jihadists like PAS banned it on grounds that its against Islam. Yeah, as long anything is against Islam, muslims would ban it.
    -Liondance is against Islam. Ban it.
    -Carrying a kavadi to Batu caves is haram. Ban it.
    -Caroling from house to house during Christmas eve is haram. Ban it.
    -Ibanese warrior dances at Hari Gawai is religiously wrong to Islam. Ban it.

    Being a muslim supposed to help you to be more compassionate, accepting that all humanbeings are brothers&sisters and all lives are works of the creator, instead you did the other way around and follow those narrow-mindeds who enjoy dissing other races and faiths because others are different. Now isn't that hypocritic or what?

    Muhibbah my foot!

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  2. I suggest that you read a translation of the Quran to know that Islam have never rejected anyone's original culture and heritage as long as they are not against Islamic teachings. However, it is ifficult to separate culture from religious practices. Tell me, don't Christians forbid the putting up of family altar in Chinese and Hindu homes when Hindus and Buddhists convert to Christianity? Does't the church ban its Indian converts from carrying the kavadis? That which you call Chinese and Indian culture in your comment, are also banned by the Christian church, so why pinpoint all these only on Islam? Lion dance has ever been banned in Malaysia. Hindus can stil carry kavadis.I don't know where you get the idea that Islam bans cultural practices. Even in Kelantan which many refer to as an Islamic state, lion dances are still performed during the Chinese New Year celebrations.

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  3. Assalamualaikum WBT.

    The issues is whteher the culture is contradicted with islam or not? No matter whose culture it is, if it is not contradicted, it's ok, otherwise it's not ok.

    That's why we become muslim, we surrender ourselve to Allah, what is contradicted with the command of Allah, we will leave it, if not why should we call ourselves muslim

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  4. Waalaikumussalam warahmatullah bro masri,
    Thanks for dropping by. I guess it is easier for the public to put the blame on Islam and people who work hard at spreading the true teachings in Islam, rather than admit that some cultural practices which has been inherited from our ancestors really contradict with Islamic teachings, and therefore are wrong for us to continue them.
    An interesting point you made: Why should we call ourselves muslims. Well, from my observations, not many muslim malays are not comfortable calling themselves muslims, they rather call themselves malays. I wonder why.

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  5. Yeah, so what that verses exist? Can it be applied onto other faiths and cultures? Do you meant what you said? As far as I've seen, none of you 'sesats' actually practice what you preached and continually twisting facts. No matter what you've said, you're just scrutinise on the same old excuses that as long it's not of islam, it's haram.
    Where did I get the idea that Islam banned festive celebrations of other faiths? Why, from you sesats of course. Because it was you who said "...wayang kulit plays are Hindu epic of Ramayana and Mahabaratha, with jins, fairies and Hindu gods. The people who perform the shadow plays are Malay Muslims; hence it is contradictory to teachings of Islam. Furthermore, as we know, the puppeteers had some ‘mantra’ or chants before performance to appease the ‘spirits’ of the puppets, which is syirik or wrong according to Islam. So this shadow play is banned because it contradicts with Islamic teachings."
    When has wayang kulit brought harms to people who watch it and performs it? Nothing.
    Does wayang kulit require human sacrifices? No
    It was zealots themselves who make all the fuss around.
    See? Malay muslims don't even respect their own culture, won't learn to accept it as part of their identity because they're too ashamed to live with something that is HARAM. All these "kafir-mengafir" and "Haram-menharam" acts are clearly works of agama sesats and zealots like you.

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  6. You say things based on your emotions, your own man-made logic while Muslims based ours on the Holy Quran which we believe are God's words.
    Wayang kulit may seem harmless to you but we Muslims don't see things the way you do. We are not ashamed of 'living with something that is Haram' as you claim. To you it is not harmful but to Muslism it is if it contradicts with Islamic teachings. We obey God's words as stated in the Quran, 'If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah)never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost all spiritual good (3:85).
    Anonymous, come out and dialogue with me like a real man. Hiding behind the term Anonymouse shows how afraid you are of THE TRUTH.

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  7. Salam Kak Aliya..
    Mabruk 'alaki.. (moga Allah berkati kamu)..

    Just found about your blog.. very good.. keep up to do this dakwah & contribute the knowledge to others reagrdless of any religions..

    Just my humble 2 cents..
    About shelter house & other restriction about attire & other Malay practices there... I agree with you.. shuld not be like that.. I suggest that you can highlight this to pihak berkenaan.. sometimes, there are things yang terlepas pandang.. :)

    last but not least, would be nice if u spell Koran as Quran, dhikir as dzikir.. (..just small matter.. but to share with you.. :))

    Moga kita terus istiqamah pd jalan-NYA.. Jalan Bahagia.. :) Ameen..

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  8. Waalaikumussalam,
    Myzwar, Thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for your doa.. ameen. Frankly speaking, I avoid the jabatan agama Islam and all the seangkatan dengannya like the plague after all the problems I've had with them, hehehe. Please let me know where I misspelt the words for I may have missed them. Faham2 jer la, tulis blog di antara membuat kerja2 rumah, hahahaa..mungkin ada yg terlepas pandang.

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