Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ludibra Ventis

In the 5th century, whenever the Greeks need any advice on how to live their life, they will get the advice from the Oracle at Delphi. This temple is on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It is an arduous effort to walk up the hill, make an offering to the gods, indulge in mesmerizing music and suffocating in incense and receive the advice by one of the priestesses. The Oracle are believes to be the intermediaries of god, Apollo. Few asked the reason behind the revelation. At that time, Socrates went against the current by constantly challenges the ‘conventional wisdom’ of the Greeks and he is so provocative until his fellow citizens they eventually voted for death penalty for him.

We then come back to our present time, here in Malaysia. Recently, there was a fatwa against Yoga. As usual, there was hue and cry against the said decree. It was declared that yoga is not permissible in Islam due to its appurtenant to Hinduism elements, history and purpose. Religious advisor to the Prime Minister quoted in the Sunday Star dated 30 November 2008 as saying that going against the fatwa is a crime because it is a crime against religion. The non Muslim is advised not to interfere as this is an Islamic affair.

Basically, the message for Muslim is to shut up and just follow the fatwa. As it was mentioned earlier, to go against the fatwa is a crime against religion. For non Muslim, keep out from Islamic affairs as it is none of their business.

Giving the benefit of the doubt, the fatwa Council may have done a thorough research on the subject matter. There is no ambivalent of doubt that they are the expert in their field. I have nothing but honorific words for the Council. But is it necessary for differing view (which leads to differing act) leads to a criminal offence?

Perhaps the sudden decree caught the public off-guard. Some quarters especially Muslims that have been practicing yoga all these years without abandoning their faith (as per their allegation) feel that somebody owes them an explanation.

Somebody is asking the rationale behind the ‘conventional wisdom’, and should we hand them the criminal penalty’? A non Muslim is asking for explanation and we tell them it is none of their business.

We promote that Islam is the way of life; universalia ante rem or a universal concept but when the non Muslim is asking for explanation, we shun them away. I guess this is a giant step forward for a Dakwah effort in Malaysia.

At least Dr. AbdulFatah Haron Ibrahim, the member of Research Panel for JAKIM making more sense in his approach to this conundrum. The Islamic Theology and Philosophical Professor refers to the circumstances that yoga may be haram (New Sunday Times, November 30, 2008). To be fair, there are alternatives in achieving tranquility via exercise that is through prayers. Perhaps it is also a valid question to ask Muslims who practices yoga in order to achieve greater health; why can’t they achieve the same result when they perform their prayers?

In an unrelated issue, at the judicial front, the former Chief justice Tun Abdul Hamid had delivered a speech at the Harvard law School on “harmonization of Common Law and Syariah in Malaysia: A practical approach”. He is suggesting a merger between the civil and the syariah courts, and I quote;

“To determine whether our law is Islamic or syariah-compliant, we should not be looking backward 1,500 years and comparing whether our present law is the same as the law then. The test should be whether it contravenes the syariah principle”

In the land of ‘Malaysia Boleh’, it is quite surprising that the above suggestion draws a lot of flak to say it is ‘tak boleh’. A constitutional law professor from a local university says this cannot be done because Islam is a matter for the states. Another senior lawyer says that this idea is not constitutional. If you follow the arguments deeply, you may realize both emphases on the form rather than the substance. Here we have a man who questions the ‘conventional wisdom’ of why the separation is a practice. Can’t it be done the other way around? If the answer is negative, justify! But please, do not hide behind the form cloak as substance.

If we are saying that Islam is a universal concept; a way of life, can a Muslim admit that a common law principle which is not contradict the Islamic principle as a good law. On the other hand, can a non Muslim accept that an Islamic principle which is in conformity with the ‘universal’ concept as a valid and enforceable as law. Rather than castigating the ‘differences’ and the sinuous concepts of the two jurisprudence, perhaps the time has come to look at the similarities of the two principle. In fact, I do not intend to say that this idea is workable or otherwise but in limine, it is a good provocative thought in the development of legal jurisprudence in Malaysia.

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things” (Machievelli, The Prince, 1513)

These two unrelated events have one thing in common; it touches on Muslim asking the rationale of the ‘conventional wisdom’. These are definitely not a ludibra ventis; ‘the plaything of the winds’.

Insular minds produce generations of ‘haters of reasoning’. We should persistently question the so-called ‘conventional wisdom’ and to understand the rationale behind the norm.

“when one is freed and gets on his feet and turn his head and walks towards the light-all he has seen till now was false and a trick, but now he sees more truly” (Socrates)

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