Thursday, 10 January 2008

Malaysia Must Re-Interpret Islam from 10th Century Thinking : And Malaysia is NOT Saudi Arabia

From Dr. Syed Alwi: Read here the Open Letter to Malaysia-Today

Dear RPK,

It has been quite a while since I last wrote in to
MT (Malaysia-Today).

In the past few months we have witnessed more ethno-religious incidents in Malaysia.
(Read here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here)

Is this the fault of politicking on the part of the BN government?

I do not think so.

The average Malaysian Malay is an Islamically conservative creature. We have to look beyond UMNO to explain all of these incidents.

The way I see it - there seems to be an INCONSISTENCY between traditional Islamic interpretations and
the modern reality of a multi-cultural state like Malaysia.

If mosques continue to preach that your next door Non-Muslim neighbour is destined for hell-fire - then, of course, it will be difficult to maintain harmonious ethnic ties.

The Islam that we know today is based largely on the interpretation of 10th century Muslim scholars. The Imam Mazhabs.

But are such interpretations applicable today?

The Non-Muslims in Malaysia are NOT Dhimmis. And Malaysia is NOT Medina of the 7th century.

Muslims and Non-Muslims share political power in Malaysia whereas Muslims had 100% political control in Medina of the Prophet's time. That is a very significant difference.

The Muslim world is still emotionally tied to the circumstances of Baghdad of the 10th century. Indeed the Muslim world has - for 800 years - NOT contributed much to Science at all - since the fall of Baghdad to the Tartars.

We as Muslims have to move on. We have to accept the advances of science. We cannot deny science...........
Having said that, I must also add that Muslims have to find newer and more relevant interpretations of the Quran and Hadith.

Muslim scholars and ulamas must sit down and come up with a new Fiqh, a new Tafsir and a new Mazhab.

We simply cannot follow 10th century interpretations in the 21st century.

If we stubbornly persist in doing so - then of course we shall face all sorts of inconsistencies. Baghdad of the 10th century is vastly different from Malaysia of the 21st century.

What bothers me most - as a Singaporean Muslim - is watching all these ethno-religious incidents unfold in Malaysia.

Muslims are a minority in Singapore. It does NOT help us to see our nearest Muslim neighbour fall apart. Yes - fall apart. To us in Singapore - it appears as if Malaysia is unravelling.

And it bothers us since - according to the late Tan Siew Sin - we are Siamese Twins.

The way forward for Malaysia is to consider re-interpreting Islam....

Malaysia is NOT Saudi Arabia and ASEAN is NOT the Middle East.

Best Regards.

Syed Alwi

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