The Call to the Path of God — Mohamed Hatta Shaharom

DEC 20 — DayakDaily on December 18, 2018 reported that the Association of Churches of Sarawak (ACS) wanted the federal government to stop using public servants or teachers to carry out any form of Islamisation in Sabah and Sarawak.

At the same time, ACS expressed deep concern over Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s statement about making Sabah and Sarawak the Islamic propagation fields (medan dakwah) of ustaz and ustazah. The collective term or plural term asatizah for both ustaz and ustazah is used here.

Earlier, Maszlee was responding to a question in Parliament by Datuk Tuan Ibrahim bin Tuan Man (Kubang Kerian) regarding Islamic religious teachers from Peninsula Malaysia who were serving in Sabah and Sarawak.

The minister advised them to make these two states their medan dakwah (field of the call) and medan mereka menaburkan bakti (field for them to distribute devotional acts).

For any practising Muslim, the whole world is his or her field for the call to the path of God.

It is a Quranic injunction that they execute this in ways that are wise and good (Al-Qur’an 16: 125). A Muslim does not need to be a religious teacher to heed this call to propagate the word of God or Allah.

In a generic sense, every Muslim is a propagator of the call or pendakwah. Whether one succeeds or fails in this mission of walking the talk is another issue that deserves analytical attention.

The oneness of God or tauhid, the messengership and prophethood of Muhammad His most beloved slave, and the rest of the tenets of Islam and faithful conviction are all inculcated in the call.

But the call does not end there. The message and practice of justice and mercy to all is of paramount importance in the social commitment of Islam.

Asatizah are trained and their qualifications are accredited. Their basic diplomas and degrees are in established Islamic fields, like jurisprudence, ethics and etiquette, the law and the call to Islam. On top of these Islamic degrees, they would have diplomas in education.

So when Maszlee mentioned medan dakwah, he (like all like-minded Muslims the world over) would not only mean the propagation of Islam without coercion (Al-Qur’an 2: 256), but also the interfaith dialogues and the reaching out to the world at large.

Unfortunately in Malaysia, since almost everything is politicised — from the black shoes of school children to new lofty ideals in education — the more subtle meaning of the “propagation of Islam” is easily missed.

If the “propagation of Islam” is given a social face in the community, it must also be given the inner spiritual and ethical face; for true life does not know the dichotomy between the social and the spiritual.

Let’s return to the asatizah. As qualified and knowledgable educators, they would be among the right groups of professionals to convey Islam to the world.

We would expect them to interact with followers of other faiths, atheists and agnostics, always with merciful understanding or at least voluntary tolerance.

To Muslim school children, these asatizah would be among the best coreligionists to guide and teach them in all things Islamic.

We would expect these young educators to teach and show the spirit of “mercy to all the worlds” brought by the messengership of the Holy Prophet (Al-Qur’an 21: 107).

These young educators should be the propagators of not only dakwah but also islah — a term seldom discussed by the reading public.

Islah is a Quranic term (Al-Qur’an 11: 88) that can be translated as reform. The reforming of the self towards goodness is needed almost daily for the human being easily slides into forgetfulness or carelessness — thus ignoring personal or social duties.

The final part of the minister’s statement medan mereka menaburkan bakti (field for them to distribute devotional acts) must not be missed in our scrutiny.

In the Malay language, the phrase menabur bakti (distributing devotional acts) is almost always followed by the words “in society” or “in the nation.” Thus, asatizah who are involved in personal guidance, social outreach and the cleansing of the soul are also expected to execute good deeds in society.

Having declared his advice to the peninsula's religious teachers in Sabah and Sarawak, the Minister should just go on with his political life.

However, he should always be sensitive to the needs and angst of the Malaysian multireligious populace.

Malaysians must be aware that to the asatizah of Peninsula Malaysia or of Sabah and Sarawak, the spirit of outreach to others (dakwah) and the reform (islah) of the selves would always be alive in them.

This is of course understandable since they share a similar understanding of the basic principles of Islam that shape their psychosocial outlook of life.

*Mohamed Hatta Shaharom is Chairman, Board of Govenors, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.


*Prof Mohamed Hatta Shaharom is Chairman, Board of Governors, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.