Lessons of Ramadan

JULY 4 — It has been an interesting Ramadan for me. 

I’ve lost weight. Got to finish a lot of work without being distracted by chips, peanuts, biscuits. Office is tidier without those titbits too.

Was able to focus and pay more attention to life’s details. 

Who I have erred, who I should make amends to. Where am I in life and whether I have done enough for my friends, family, countrymen. Whether I have treated enough patients and made a difference to their lives. Whether I have actually been treating them, allaying their concerns, or whether I was only treating their disease.

Very different things. 

The hunger and thirst gave me an insight into what it’s like to be without food and water. Nothing is more humbling than to watch and understand what it feels like to not be able and afford to eat when others can.

That is the essence of Ramadan. A reflection of who you are as an individual, your relationship with God, and your contribution, deeds to society and the community.

Never a reflection on others. 

Etiquette. Manners. Class.

But some Malaysian Muslims go overboard during Ramadan.

From labelling who’s kafir and who’s not, to telling non-Muslims to cover up and mind what and where they eat, it is all here in the country that initiated the “Global Movement of Moderates.”

They forget that we don’t just do things for the sake of doing it. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we will. It’s called restraint. Manners. Etiquette. 

For instance Malaysians are free to pass wind in the lift, wear sarong and singlets to the shopping complex, eat in front of those who are obligated to fulfil a religious tenet, but many choose not to not because there’s a law against it. Or a “fatwa” against it. 

We do it out of consideration, respect and the give and take that is expected of one living within a society. The very basis that escapes some Muftis who don’t understand that the ability to not do something when you can, is the definition of a free society.

You don’t do it because it’s against the law. Or “forbidden”. 

You don’t do it, because you don’t want to.

I’m proud of Malaysians who have shown such maturity. But for the Muftis to issue such a reminder would imply that we are mostly inconsiderate, ill-mannered imbeciles who do not know how to live and think in a convivial and pluralist society.

Which is rubbish.

Freedom to think and reason made Islam great once.

This need to dictate, control us cannot and should not be tolerated by anyone. It is counterproductive if we are truly serious about creating a society that is truly educated, mature and scientific.

Imagine if our Muftis were present in the old days. I don’t think Ibn Hazm would have figured out that the earth is round in the 9th century, 500 years before Galileo. Or that Al-Zahrawi would have designed many of our modern surgical instruments still in use today i.e scalpels, bone saws, forceps, and fine scissors.  

No. Their inventions would rival those of Universiti Malaysia Pahang’s RM189,000 “Hysteria Kit”, and Universiti Sains Malaysia’s recent “Miracle Water”. 

Islam encourages debate. Exchange of opinions. It advocates the use of reason. Not to stifle it.

Quran 10:99-100 says, “Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. So can you [O Prophet] compel people to believe? And it is not for a soul to believe except by permission of Allah, and He will place defilement upon those who will not use reason.”

The wish of a second class citizen.

As a second class citizen who might not be able to enjoy couple seats in cinemas soon, asked for my IC before buying Lee Kuan Yew’s book and signing up for Yoga classes, I’ve got two wishes to the government and Malaysians this Raya.

The first, is to the Malaysian government. If you read this, I implore you to keep all the so called Islamic “scholars” in check.

Stop sending them to Arab to learn Islam. Send them to China. To Korea and Japan. Islam have left the Arabian peninsula and expanded worldwide since the caliphate. The mess that the Arab world is in itself a testament that the true teaching of Islam has long left their land.

Our Muftis ignorance and insensitivity to multicultural, multi religious Malaysia is detrimental to the development and well-being not just of Muslims, but to the Malaysian public as a whole by threatening to rip apart the colourful, wonderful and beautiful fabric that we showcase everywhere but home.

They need to learn that they too are human, should be more humble and sensitive when issuing statements. 

The second goes to all Malaysians who call this home. Who need to realise that it is time to speak up and be heard. Who needs to tell their family, friends and colleagues that it is alright to be different. To be ourselves and not trapped by the mainstream dogma — which is living with the outcome of other people’s thinking.

The freedom to choose, opine, think, differ and debate on matters ― the hallmark of developed individuals ― are essential building blocks to a great, successful nation and civilisation.

The Malaysia that we all deserve. 

Let me wish all readers, followers Selamat Hari Raya. May this Aidilfitri herald the new beginning to a more vibrant, tolerant, respectful Malaysia.

Maaf Zahir Batin.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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