Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tariq Ramadan on Respect, Thinking & Dialogue

On respect, thinking and dialogue

Professor Tariq Ramadan is a European Muslim who advocates reform in Islam and promotes interfaith dialogue. Born in Switzerland and the grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan Al Banna, the European academic has been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most important innovators of the century. He told ZAKIAH KOYA during his recent visit to Kuala Lumpur that Muslims must make an effort to move from mere formalism – a fixation on ritual – towards a committed spiritual and social presence.

MUSLIMS say that their religion is perfect and it is because of this many are against interfaith dialogues. What is the point they ask? So why are you promoting interfaith dialogues among religions?

We have a perfect religion, yes, but we are not perfect. Dealing with other religions means that we are challenging the very meaning of ours. When we have a dialogue, sometimes when we meet Jews, Christians, Buddhists, agnostics or atheists, the way they are helps you to better your religion as they may make you see something which you have neglected to see.

For example, when I was in South America, the priests there were talking of love. So, I learnt to also talk of the spiritual dimension of love in Islam and its importance in life. So the experience of others is helping you to have other viewpoints of your religion.

When we talk about values, when we speak about dignity and solidarity and when we talk about racism, dialogue can be very important because at the end of the day when dealing with Christians and Buddhists – why do they have to listen to me? – because together we want to change the world for the better. We want to make our world a better place.

Malaysia cannot have social cohesion if you do not have dialogue. We need this dialogue among religions. There are areas we can explore. For instance why do we believe what we believe? Is there someone who can believe that Allah is happy with the 100,000 people who are dying of starvation everyday?

Will there be someone who, when we speak of global warming, will convincingly say that God is happy with us? He is not. We know that we are not meeting the challenges and dialogue can be a meaningful exchange if we do not make it just an exchange of words.

Since Muslims say that their religion is perfect, why are you talking about the need to reform Islam?

I am not saying this. Islam does not need to be reformed and Islam has in itself tools for Muslims to have a true understanding of it. What we need to reform is the Muslim minds. The texts that the Muslims refer to – the Quran and hadith – are going to stay as text. They are not going to change. We have an immutable set of principles.

We are facing challenges. Islam is for all times and all situations but who is going to do the job? Our minds of course. And we have to evolve our minds with our rationality. It is our static rationality that is betraying the text. Active rationality is what makes the text universal.

Whose responsibility is it to bring all this about?

It’s a multiple responsibility. Of course, the first to be mentioned are the Muslim scholars, the ulama and the intellectuals. They have to come with a vision and they have to deal with the matter of authority. They deal with the text and scriptural sources. So, I would say they have a great responsibility on that.

I would also say the ordinary Muslims should understand that they are responsible too. Ordinary Muslims should understand that they cannot just blame the people at the top but understand that they too have power. As a result the ordinary Muslims are too passive, suffering from a mentality of victimisation and are always blaming others. They must understand that they have their share of responsibility in the whole process to shoulder.

Malaysia is a country with a lot of diversity. It is a plural society. How does Islam view these diversities?

This diversity is God’s will. The Quran says that if God wants it He could have made you one community. He said: We made you tribes and nations so that you may know one another.

It is God’s will. It is, therefore, not enough to tolerate others. We must respect them. As one prominent scholar said in one conference "who wants to be tolerant, we want to be respected."

In Islam the word, therefore, is respect, not tolerate. Who are we to tolerate? This is God’s will for me to be here. So it is for Muslims to understand that because Allah wanted Christianity, wanted Judaism, and Buddhism and atheists and anarchists to be here it is for them to respect God’s will. To respect means "I acknowledge the fact that you are here, I acknowledge the fact that you have to be respected – and more than that – I am asked by Allah that I have to know you, which is a two-way process of acknowledgment. Respect is to acknowledge you and know you that you are different and to know about you. My knowledge towards you is an act of respect." So, I think tolerance is not enough. We must remember that diversity is God’s will.

At the same time Muslims must stop the belief in this illusion that we have one and the same thought in Islam. There is diversity among Muslims too. It is a reality.

Never forget that this diversity is not only a challenge but also a gift. Through dialogue with Christians, Jews, Buddhists, they may make us better people.

Most Muslim societies are guided by their ulama and religious scholars. In time they have become revered people. Whatever they say is accepted without question. Thus many Muslims grow up with a fear of asking questions. It is unfortunate, don’t you think?

We have to respect the scholars but we should not fear to question them. Especially now. What is said today is not what was said fifteen years ago because the Muslims are experiencing new situations. The point here is ordinary Muslims should stop acting like blind followers and blaming the scholars for not doing their jobs when they themselves are not doing their job. What is their job? It is to come with a critical mind – there is no deep faith without a critical mind. You know there is one principle to be followed when you go to a scholar and you ask him for a fatwa. But when he gives you the fatwa, you have to ask him or her where does it come from. Give me the evidence. Not only do you get an answer but you have to understand where the answer comes from.

What the Muslims are doing is that they just want answers and very often they are having a "touristic" attitude towards fatwa. They are looking at scholars and they choose the scholar that they want that gives them the fatwa that they want. In the end they get the fatwa they are looking for. This is not Islamic – an attitude which is lacking in sincerity. We need more sincerity from the Muslims and more critical minds – and carry out deeper challenges and deeper questions – not only how do I enter the mosque and such.

The scholars must listen to the community and know what is happening. By definition, a scholar is serving the community – not to be served by the community – his power or authority is coming from the community he is serving. What we have now is the other way round. We are idolising some of the scholars and in the process giving them authority over us.

We have to revive the questioning mind. During the time of the Prophet, when he gave an opinion or a ruling his companions questioned him, "Is this coming from God or is this coming from you?" When he said, "This is my opinion", they said then we challenge you. They were challenging his authority to find out how he came up with his opinion. If it is coming from God, no problem.

You must have heard that there is a request by a Catholic publication, the Herald, to use the word "Allah" when referring to God in its articles in Bahasa Malaysia. The government has objected to this. What is your view on this?

If you travel around the world, in the Arab world, Allah is used by all Christians – Coptics and others. To us, Allah is the one God who sent us the prophets Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. When we use Arabic, we say "Allah", when speak in English, we say "God" and when we speak French, we say "Deus".

The point is the substance and the substance is one God. We are using the language to say it. Some of the scholars coming from the literalist trend, the Salafiya-al Harfiyat, say that Allah is a very specific name.

The majority of the Muslims are using the word "God" when they speak English and the other words in other languages. Allah is not the God of the Arabs but Allah is the only God of all human beings. This is what we are saying.

When we speak other languages, you change by knowing what you are talking about and we understand that He is like nothing we can imagine Him to be. Therefore we cannot describe Him. So when I speak English, I do not have a problem saying "God" and in French I say "Deus" and that’s it.

When the Christian Arabs speak Arabic, in their Bible, they use "Allah" to speak about God. So, you cannot deprive them using this as this has been the case for centuries and in Arabic, God is Allah.

The Roman Catholics among them do not use "Allah" to describe Jesus. There is no problem there. And my understanding of their general hypothesis is that the Trinity is Three in One but they are not confusing the three dimensions of One God. If that is not a problem for them neither is it for us.

But we must also be aware that the Christians, depending on traditions that they are following, are promoting the concept of the Trinity. Each group has its own truth or understanding of it.

Would you describe yourself as a moderate Muslim?

I am not using this vocabulary. This qualification is coming from the colonisers who always had a binary view of the colonised – the good and the bad, the moderate and the fundamentalist.

All the people who resisted colonisation were bad and fundamentalists and all those with them were the good and the moderate. I think it is silly.

You are aware, of course, there are too many literalists and formalists among Muslims in Malaysia and many parts of the world. Are you saying that it is wrong for Muslims to be like that and that there is a need for them to be more than that?

The literalists are looking at the Islamic text, the Quran and the hadith, in a very literal way. I am not saying that they are less Muslim, but they are followers. Maybe in their literal faithfulness, they become less faithful to the objectives of being a Muslim.

I want be very faithful to the meaning of the text but I also want answers for my time. So, the reformist trend here is what we have with the first companions of the Prophet saw – some of them were looking at the objectives, not only at the literal meaning of the verses. I am following that one.

There are texts – I respect them and there are objectives – I have to reach them. So I am between the objectives I want to reach and the text I have to understand. Between that, there is the critical thinking – the dialectic process – which is exactly the reformist trend.

We need to go back to the origins to find out what is the creativity and the confidence of the first
companions of the Prophet Muhammad. Today what we lack is confidence when we deal with the text, and we do not have confidence to face the world. Is the text for us to strictly just read and not change the world? We read whole night and don’t change the world throughout the day.

To change the world we need our critical thinking – the rationality, the understanding. We need to have our heart not sleeping during the night and the mind never sleeping during the day. This is what we need, this awakening process. It is important.

You are Hasan al Banna’s grandson and because of that many Europeans and Americans do not think you are what you say you are. To them he was a fundamentalist and an extremist and that what you are doing is to present a friendly face to what they think he was. How do you handle people like them?

I think that a variety of the people who talk of my grandfather never read about him, never knew him. I would never let people judge my grandfather with superficial perceptions. Only 5% of what he wrote is translated into English. Just try to understand what he did and said. Someone who said no to colonisation and who created 2,000 schools, half for girls in a time where this was not the trend is just unbelievable.

People questioned my grandparents on how they could send their daughter to school and the daughter in question was my mother. This is the way my grandfather was. When he was, for example, promoting a kind of Sufi trend –which is spirituality – which sprouted into 1,500 such organisations, shouldn’t I respect him for this?

So, to all the people today judging him while he was dealing with the world in the 1930s and 1940s, I would say this is unfair. And when you don’t read someone fully, don’t judge that someone especially based on the words of his enemies (the British colonisers).

I don’t have a problem with people referring to my grandfather wherever I am because this is a fact. But I am trying to present my own thoughts and I am asking the people to assess my view by reading what I have written.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ulama Saudi mengenai isu dinding & terowong Gaza

Pandangan ulama Saudi - Syeikh Yusuf ibn Abdullah (berkaitan tindakan Mesir menutup terowong)

As widely known, Egypt is now constructing a huge, indissoluble, bomb-proof steel barrier that will stretch about 14 kilometers along the Egypt-Gaza borders and go nearly 20–30 m deep into the ground. It has been stated that the purpose of this wall is to obstruct the tunnels and prevent the smuggling of aids to Gaza. Construction is supervised by the American, French, Israeli, and Egyptian intelligence agencies. About 6 kilometers of the wall have been built so far.

In an uncouth reply to those objecting to the steel wall, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit said, "No Arab whosoever has the right to tell Egypt, 'Do so and so' or 'Do not do so and so,' no matter what his argument or motive may be and no matter how much important the case he is addressing may be"! What is your opinion in this regard?

Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner, thanks a lot for the confidence you placed in us. May Allah help all of us do our work satisfactorily for the sake of Him!

How sorrowful the reality of the Muslim Ummah is today. Wasn't it enough for Gazans to be subject to ceaseless attacks and irresistible raids by Israel ? Has Israel failed to crush Palestine so that Egypt offers its service to topple the unvanquished Gazan army? And what fault did Palestine commit for Egypt to do so with it?

Anyway, with regard to your question, Dr. Yusuf ibn `Abdullah Al-Ahmad, a prominent Saudi scholar, states,

Indeed, the construction of the steel wall to block the tunnels through which aids were transported to Muslims in Gaza is prohibited from the Shari`ah perspective, and it is among the gravest sins in Islam. This is because it implies siding with non-Muslims against Muslims, and involves injustice toward our fellow Muslims in Gaza, by tightening the siege over them and choking them. It was authentically reported in Sahih Al-Bukhari, on the authority of Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him and his father), that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "A woman was entered into Hellfire because of a cat that she had confined till it died of hunger; she neither fed it nor set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth." So, how would it be with those who lock up an entire Muslim community?

Undoubtedly, the sin comes upon all of those who participate in the crime of establishing such a wall, whether in word or deed, even the construction workers themselves, since it is a form of cooperation in sin and transgression. In this regard, Almighty Allah says,

(Help you one another in righteousness and piety, but help you not one another in sin and rancor: Fear Allah, for Allah is strict in punishment.) (Al-Ma'idah 5: 2)

As for the statement made by the Egyptian foreign minister, it contradicts the Shari`ah's injunctions of enjoining good and forbidding abomination, as Almighty Allah (be He Exalted) says,

(And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish Prayer and they pay Zakah, and they obey Allah and His Messenger [i.e. Prophet Muhammad]. As for these, Allah will have mercy on them. Indeed, Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.) (At-Tawbah 9:71)

Thus, it is obligatory for all Muslims in general, and those of authority and influence in particular, to spare no efforts in order to stop the construction of the wall, lift the siege, and remove the injustice suffered by our fellow Muslims in Gaza.

I ask Almighty Allah to strengthen our brothers in Palestine, grant them victory, and preserve them through Islam.

I also recommend those participating in the construction of the wall to fear Allah, the Exalted, and to remember that they will stand before Him on the Day of Judgment. No believer should sell his religious commitment for a worldly gain.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

The Arabic text of the fatwa is quoted from IslamLight.net

Tariq Ramadhan bidas Ulama Azhar - Terowong Gaza-

It is common knowledge that the Palestinians have long been direct victims of the directionless, spineless and hypocritical polices of the Arab leadership. It is equally common knowledge that the State of Israel need make no effort to impose its vision, its methods and its objectives. Given the support of the United States, Europe’s guilty silence and the compliant passivity of the Arab regimes, we know what to expect. The foreign policy of most Arab states has been described with good reason as “pro-Zionist.” Their cowardice and treachery comes as no surprise.

Following last year’s murderous attack on Gaza by Israeli forces, we may have thought we’d seen the worst. That judgment failed to take into account the ingenuity of the “worse yet” scenario produced by the Egyptian regime and the “religious authorities” of al-Azhar. In the name of “national security”, of the fight against “terrorism”, and ultimately, of combating “corruption”, “smuggling” and “drug trafficking”, the Egyptian government is building a wall reaching twenty meters below ground level to stop the “Gazans” from carrying out their “illegal” activities and from digging “smuggling tunnels.” Of course, the Egyptian government has no intention of confining the inhabitants of Gaza to their hell; of course, the measure is dictated only by concern for national security! So persuasive is the argument that the committee of religious experts of al-Azhar quickly endorsed the government decision, declaring it to be “islamically legitimate” (“in conformity with the Shari’a”) for the country to protect its borders. (The al-Azhar scholars were responding to a fatwa issued by the International Union of Muslim Scholars that had ruled the exact opposite, that the Egyptian decision was “islamically unacceptable.” )

For shame! So this is how justice is mocked, how power and religion are misused. The Palestinian people, and most of all the inhabitants of Gaza, are denied their dignity and their rights; deprived of access to food, to water and to basic health care. And now, the Egyptian government becomes the ally of Israeli policy at its worst: isolating, strangling, starving, and smothering Palestinian civilian life after having eradicated hundreds. The aim is clear: to choke off all resistance and to destroy its leadership. The Egyptian government has blocked convoys attempting to deliver badly needed aid to the Palestinian people in an effort to raise the siege of Gaza. The mobilization that brought hundreds of women and men from around the world to Rafah was met by refusal upon refusal by the Cairo authorities, along with a strategy of selective humiliation.
For shame! No wonder the Israeli government purring with contentment. After all, a new and “promising” start for the “peace process” has been announced! There will be something for everybody: the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt has spared no efforts to draft a new and “comprehensive” program. A splendid “peace process” indeed, in whose name civilians have suffered months of blockade before their leaders are invited to take their place at the “free” and “respectful” negotiating table. Israel can keep on purring: it can play for more time without making the slightest concession. Settlement activities are to be temporarily frozen—except for construction projects already underway. Finer negotiations would be hard to find!

It cannot be repeated often enough: the Egyptian “national security wall” is a wall of shame. The religious authorities that have legitimized it have behaved exactly like the notorious “ulama” (Muslim scholars) or “Islamic councils” that openly serve power, whether of dictators or the forces of colonialism, or of some self-styled Republic specializing in the manipulation of religion. What can possibly remain of their credibility after issuing a “political fatwa” that lends the Islamic endorsement of craven scholars to the power of dictatorship? Silence would have been far better.

We must condemn these unacceptable acts, and stand beside those who resist with dignity. If successive Israeli governments know one thing—with which we must agree—it is this: the Palestinian people will not surrender. For those who may still harbor doubts, we must add a second certainty, that of time: History is on the side of the Palestinians; it is they who represent, today and tomorrow, hope for the noblest human values. To resist oppression, to defend one’s legitimate rights and one’s land, to never yield to the arrogance and to the lies of the mighty. As for the power of the Israelis, the Egyptians and others, as for the fatwas of government-appointe d ulama, these things too will pass; they will pass, and will be forgotten. Happily forgotten. For the duty of memory is transformed into forgetfulness when it comes to the names and the acts of dictators, traitors and cowards. (This article first appeared in Tariq Ramadan Site)

Global Arab Network

Tindakan Mesir satu jenayah- Fatwa Ulama' Jordan

Amman - A panel of Jordanian Islamic scholars on Sunday issued a fatwa (judgement) considering the steel wall being built by Egypt along its border with the Gaza Strip a "crime" and urged all Muslims to move to prevent its construction. "This racial wall, which is being built by Egypt in collusion with the United States and Israel, is tantamount to a crime and a taboo," as far as Islamic teachings are concerned, said the legal committee which is affiliated to the Islamic Action Front (IAF), Jordan's largest political party. Egypt has said that the building of the steel wall is a "sovereign defence decision" designed mainly to block drug trafficking through tunnels running under the border, which are dug illegally and used to smuggle supplies and weapons. The Jordanian scholars said a wall would "aggravate the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by blocking the arrival of food supplies and medicine to the enclave through the tunnels and thus precipitate the death of patients". The panel also contended that it would prevent the smuggling of arms to the fighters of the radical Palestinian Hamas group and thus hinder the "jihad" operations against Israeli troops.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Take time.............

Take time to think...it is the source of power,

Take time to play...it is secret of perpetual youth,

Take time to read...it is fountain of wisdom,

Take time to pray...it is the greatest power on earth,

Take time to love & be loved...it is God-given privilege,

Take time to be friendly...it is the road to happiness,

Take time to laugh...it is music of the soul,

Take time to give...it is too short a day to be selfish,

Take time to work...it is the price of success,

Take time to do charity...it is the key to heaven.