Peace be with you.
“Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah; surely Allah loves those who trust.” Quran 3:159
As Muslims, the above Quranic verse should be the guiding light in our day-to-day interactions with both fellow Muslims and Non-Muslims. In short, we must stop being nasty to each other and others. We need to follow our Prophet’s personal culture and make his personal culture ours - to practice empathy, love, care and forgiveness.
I have met Syed Azmi on numerous occasions this year. He was quick to volunteer and happy to help when we shared with him a campaign idea to do charity. I found out soon that doing charity and helping the poor are very close to his heart. One may say that he has made it his calling – he organises “free market activities” facilitating a platform where individuals and organizations can give away food, clothes, household items etc to the poor. While many other young Muslims spends their weekends lepaking and having fun, here we have an exemplary young Muslim lay leader who works for the poor – answering the Quran’s call that is to do charity.
I hope the religious authorities especially JAKIM can see that Syed Azmi had good intentions. From his point of view he did all that is needed to do, getting approval through MAIS and making sure a religious teacher to be present and explain the correct guidelines – although perhaps his religious expert may not be JAKIM approved. It is hard hearted to accuse him of wanting to challenge the clerics, ‘menghina Islam’, ‘otak berulat’ and other hurtful accusations instead of trying to understand where he is coming from.
The Quran tells us to avoid excessive assumptions towards another. Indeed, excessive assumptions can sometimes become a sin (Quran 49:12). There are even those who threaten to take his life and calling him a murtad. I hope JAKIM will advise these overzealous Muslims accordingly. How I wish Syed Azmi had worked with JAKIM on this campaign from the very beginning. I will unpack this idea at the end of the article.
But, I also do not appreciate the manner of which those who disagree with JAKIM who hurls insults to the religious body and their leaders. Insulting the religious authorities by name calling and mocking them does not make one’s argument any deeper or more Islamic. How we Muslims treat each other, especially how our opinion leaders handle disagreements with the other will play a bigger role in ensuring respect for Islam or otherwise. Religious leaders throwing insults and rough words towards each other can ‘menghina Islam’ far more than Syed Azmi’s dog patting campaign. We already have enough Muslims killing Muslims in Muslim countries. We in Malaysia can do better.
Where do we go from here?
I plea to JAKIM and all our religious authorities to not treat and see Syed Azmi and those like him as criminals. I truly hope that JAKIM and our religious authorities can work with and through lay Muslim leaders like Syed Azmi in making Islam relevant to the modern society. Mentor and coach them - not chastise them away. Take the dog patting campaign. Not all that Syed Azmi said was wrong. He is right about the hatred many Muslims have towards dogs and from this lack of understanding many do cruel things to a God’s creature. This is against Islamic teaching.
If Syed Azmi can work with JAKIM, we can right the wrong and work well within the Shafie traditions. It will be great if JAKIM can help Syed Azmi and those like him with information about how the Prophet said that a prostitute was forgiven by Allah because of her kindness towards a dog. In another occasion, when the Muslim army came across a female dog and her puppies while on a march, the Prophet posted a soldier nearby her with the orders that the mother and puppies must not be disturbed. These acts of kindness towards dogs by the Prophet will not only help Muslims be kinder towards them but also feel closer to Islam.
Furthermore with modern communications, the internet and globalisation, there is an urgent need to help young Muslims make sense why one mazhab is flexible and says dogs are clean (Maliki) while others say they are najis mughallazah. Young Muslims may question if this is a disagreement between sects rather than Islam itself. Please do not sweep these inquiries under the carpet. Please deal with them. JAKIM has the expertise.
As it is, JAKIM has many knowledgeable officers well trained in the various areas and I know a few personally who are well rounded, caring, and deep in thoughts and understanding. I am confident that JAKIM can practice as the Quran puts it in chapter 3:159 above, deal with them gently and avoid being rough and hard hearted so that the young will not disperse and shy away from Islam. I pray to Allah that JAKIM will pardon Syed Azmi and ask pardon for him and take counsel with him and those like him in their affairs.
I would like to end this article with the sharing of Quran Al- Hujurat 49 : 9 – 12 as a reminder to all and my humble self,
“And if two groups of Muslims fight against each other, reconcile them; and if one of them oppresses the other, fight against the oppressor till it returns to the command of Allah; then if it returns, reconcile between them with justice, and be fair; indeed Allah loves the equitable.
The Muslims are brothers to each other therefore make peace between your two brothers and fear Allah, so that you may gain mercy.
O People who believe! Men must not ridicule other men for it could be that the ridiculed are better than the mockers, nor must the women ridicule other women for the ridiculed women may be better than the mockers; and do not insult one another, nor assign evil nicknames; how base it is to be called a sinner after being a Muslim! And whoever does not repent - then it is they who are unjust.
O People who believe! Avoid excessive assumptions; indeed assumption sometimes becomes a sin, and do not seek faults, and do not slander one another; would any one among you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? So you will hate that! And fear Allah; indeed Allah is Most Acceptor of Repentance, Most Merciful.”