Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Brother Zakir, peace be with you.

I am writing this letter to humbly ask you to leave Malaysia voluntarily. I will explain my reasons below, but first, I would like to thank you for many of the universal messages of Islam that you have shared over the years.

I remember watching one of your question answer sessions (Video Code: A.D. Zn_M_15) where you stood by the Quran when dealing with the problem of Sunni-Syiah divide. You stressed with no uncertain terms that there is no Sunni or Syiah divide in the Quran and our Prophet was neither. You quoted Quran 3:103 and 6:159 as evidence and reminded the audience that where the Quran is concern, we are only to be referred to as Muslims as per Quran 3:64. I fully support your stand and respect your resolve in this issue. Your understanding of the Quran on this matter is par excellence and exemplary!

It would be most beneficial to Muslim Unity in Malaysia if you can advise, explain and convince many of our local Ulama, even some muftis - many of whom you have shared a stage with, to stop this schism. For your information, it is a usual practice in many mosques all over Malaysia to paint the Syiah’s in a bad light especially during Friday sermons. If you advise them, they may listen to you. They respect you and want your approval. God-Willing they will pay heed.

Secondly, I would like to also thank you for clearing the way and setting the path for self-taught lay Muslim leaders (and not dressed as a typical ulama) to come to the forefront in leading Muslims. As a lay leader, you not only stand on par with classically trained Ulama, in fact you actually have surpassed many. I am truly envious.

Now, let’s get to my appeal – for you to voluntarily leave Malaysia.

Let me explain.

1)    Your presence is causing a family dispute

Allow me to use a family analogy. Our situation is akin to when a senior family member brings in a friend to live in a home but the other siblings are against it. It causes unhappiness and tension within the family. The senior sibling is unhappy that the other siblings do not respect his or her opinion while the latter perceives that the former is insensitive to their needs and feelings. The situation then gets more complicated. It is not nice for the family member who brought you in to ask you to leave as that is very un-Malaysian. We are at a catch 22 situation. You will need to volunteer and make it easy for the invitee.

2)    Your presence in Malaysia have negative impact on non-Muslims towards Islam

I have strong convictions that as a person who dedicates his life in the field of Da’wah, one of your main goals is to get non-Muslims to come closer to Islam. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, your presence is doing the opposite. It is counterproductive. If you volunteer to leave, you will be seen as noble and magnanimous and likely to alleviate this situation.

3)    Comparative religious debates do not work in Malaysia

While in many parts of the world, debates between religionists are game, but not so in Malaysia. In Malaysia, Non-Muslims are not allowed to counter your points when you give your views about their faith, let alone start a debate about Islam. It is illegal to preach to Muslims. When a new upstart convert like Firdaus Wong (perhaps someone who is emulating you) suggests that “Lebih mudah Islam dari agama Buddha” (It is easier to be a Muslim rather than a Buddhist), a Buddhist cannot really counter back with his argument to say otherwise.

Let me unpack this in simple terms. Basically, in Malaysia, when we debate with Non-Muslims, it is like a fight where we are allowed to punch the opponent as we please but they cannot punch back because their hands are tight to a tree. You know and I know that this is not Islamic as the Quran tells us to be fair (e.g. Quran 5:48) and give equal measure (Quran 83:1-3). We will also look like cowards and make Islam look weak. Both you and I do not want that, you would agree.

Our religious leaders and preachers in Malaysia for the most part preach to their faithful by sharing the beauty of their religion without the need to compare or belittle the other. It has worked for sixty years. We live in peace and harmony and we are a showcase to the world par excellence. With all due respect, we want to keep it that way.

I am not saying you must stop your debates. Do it elsewhere. Just don’t bring that culture to Malaysia, at least not till we have an equal playing field.

4)    Your presence is slowing down Malaysia’s political revitalization

Brother Zakir, many Malaysian Muslims look up to you. You have a large influence especially amongst the Muslim masses. Today, there is not one Muslim political party in Malaysia that commands a clear leadership. Asking you to leave is sensitive. It can be used as a political fuel to attack the other. No Muslim based political party will be willing to do that. We are in a conundrum. I plea that you be kind and volunteer to leave on your own. Help Tun Mahathir by choosing to give him an easier way forward. He has been kind and nice to you even though you were unkind to him before the general elections. That is the right thing for you to do. At least do it for him and by so doing, he can help Malaysia as a whole. Not just for we Muslims, but bring forth Malaysia towards a more stable and effective political state of affairs.

Brother Zakir, please consider my request. Do continue your good work elsewhere. It is unfortunate that many is not familiar with your other contributions like the United Islamic Aid programs which provides scholarship to poor and destitute young Muslims.
Do visit Malaysia often to preach the beauty of Islam without the need to compare or belittle the other faith. 

Please do learn and open your heart to the Malaysian way. In the Malaysian experience, our leaders, the Ulama included have managed the country for 60 years and create a beautiful, successful and peaceful society not just for Muslims but Non-Muslims alike. You may want to learn how we do it.

Be that as it may, I would be most happy to assist you in creating and promoting diversity and inclusion within the Islamic world. The Sunni-Syiah divide is the Muslim Ummah’s Achilles heel and I believe strongly you can help moderate it.

I end this appeal with a Quranic verse as my gift to you.

CALL THOU (all mankind] unto thy Sustainer's path with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the most kindly manner- for, behold, thy Sustainer knows best as to who strays from His path, and best knows He as to who are the right-guided” – 

Quran 16:125

Brother Zakir, I humbly appeal you to leave Malaysia voluntarily.  


Anas Zubedy
Malaysian Movement for Moderates
Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, July 25, 2019



Tema kempen #SaySomethingNice tahun ini adalah “Cita-Cita Rukun Negara sebagai Kompas kita’.

Pada hari pelancaran tersebut, saya berhasrat untuk mencadangkan untuk kita tambah INTEGRITI sebagai cita-cita yang ke 6 dalam Rukun Negara kita.

Jadi, cita-cita kita adalah PERPADUAN, DEMOKRASI, ADIL & SAKSAMA, LIBERAL, PROGRESIF dan INTEGRITY sebagai yang ke 6.


Dalam secara sepenuhnya, cita-cita tersebut adalah –

Bahawasanya Negara kita, Malaysia mendukung cita-cita hendak:

  • mencapai perpaduan yang lebih erat di kalangan seluruh masyarakatnya;
  • memelihara satu cara hidup demokratik;
  • mencipta satu masyarakat adil di mana kemakmuran Negara akan dapat dinikmati bersama secara adil dan saksama;
  • menjamin satu cara liberal terhadap tradisi-tradisi kebudayaannya yang kaya dan berbagai corak; dan
  • membina satu masyarakat progresif yang akan menggunakan sains dan teknologi moden.
Sila beri maklumbalas dan idea-idea anda. Terima Kasih.

Salam Moderat,


Nota : Jika ingin Bersama kami semasa pelancaran pada Ogos 6 ini, harap balas dengan cepat kerana tempat terhad.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


A Quranic analysis of the term Al-Birr in surah Al-Baqarah 2:177

In the mid 90’s I became aware of a very important verse in Chapter 2 of the Quran, Al-Baqarah 2:177. It became one of my favorite verses and since then I have spent a lot of time studying and researching about it. The verse provides one of the most complete and directly worded (muhkamah, not a mutashabihah) revelation spelling out what, who, when and how a person and the community can practice and pay attention to Al-Birr.

In this article, I would like to explore, study, investigate and examine what is the Quranic point of view of Al-Birr and propose a more definitive meaning and application of Birr. I wish to shed more light about Birr anchoring my discussions on verse 2:177 mentioned while at the same time cross referencing a few other key verses and related occurrences of the term Birr based on its Arabic root word BRR (BaRaRa).

Be that as it may, a short article like this cannot do justice to a deep and significant concept as Birr and its relationship to other key terms from the Quran (refer below). I am happy to inform readers that a more detailed and scholarly work is under way as my masters/PHD thesis at a local university.


It is important to note that verse 2:177 links Al-Birr to three other key concepts in the Quran and Islam namely, Iman (Believe), Sidq (Sincere) and Taqwa (God-Consciousness). Not to mention also, other key terms and concepts within them like the believe in Allah, The Last Day, Malaikah, Al-Kitab, The Prophets, Sedekah, Solah, Zakah, Keeping to Promises, and Sabr.

While Iman and Taqwa and to a certain extend Sidq are well deliberated and spoken within the Muslim world, especially Iman, Al-Birr have not been given adequate attention. This article would like to minimize this gap.

I also find it of great significance that Al-Baqarah 2:177 places Al-Birr as the all-embracing, overarching, all-encompassing – basically the umbrella and the principal concept that holds together and connects the three other key terms mentioned– Iman, Sidq and Taqwa.

It seems Al-Birr plays a major role in pulling together what it is to practice Iman (Believe) and what it takes to be a Sidq (Sincere), who is a Muttaqoon (God-Consciousness) and all the other key concepts and terms mentioned above. (refer to attachment 1 for the verse).

Therefore, it is important that we become more aware of the term and concept Al-Birr and what it takes to be an Abrar, a person who practices Birr.


If AL-BIRR is such an important term and concept, why then it is not known, discussed and mentioned at the popular level? Personally, I feel that Al-Birr as a key concept in Islam is either neglected, forgotten (perhaps a more politically correct description would be, “hidden”) or substituted with other terms like piety and righteousness or virtue.

This is especially true if you only read translations of the Quran – like many non-Arabic speaking Muslims do. The former confuses us with Taqwa while the latter lacks a wider and deeper meaning of Al-Birr. In the Arabic speaking world, Al-Birr is also usually explained as ‘good’ – which the Quran has other more closer terms like Ma’ruf, Khayr and Hassan. In the Malay translation, Al-Birr is usually rendered as simply “kebajikan”.

Let me explain further.

As mentioned, the root word for Al-Birr is derived from the root word Ba-Ra-Ra which means the forest or dry land – signifying vastness and broadness, expansive, forever growing, fertile and save land, infinite. Al-Birr is therefore by itself a concept that describes something of immense and vast implications and standing.

At Quran 52:28, Al-Birr is stated as an attribute of Allah – Al-Barru Al-Rahimu while at Quran 80:16 the Quran is guaranteed was borne by the hands of scribes,noble and Bararatin (usually translated virtuous/pious, which I see as limiting and incomplete and perhaps even incorrect).

Therefore, as stressed earlier, it is not a surprise that the Quran places Al-Birr as the principal and central conceptual term at Al-Baqarah 2:177 where Al-Birr is directly shown as the glue that holds together the practice of Iman (Believe) and linking key behavioral patterns and framework of believe that makes a person a Sidq (Sincere) and Muttaqoon (God-Consciousness). (Refer attachment 2)

This is HUGE!

If I am correct, the practice of Birr can bring infinite chain reactions of positive results and an Abrar is the human catalyst of great and infinite change. Being an Abrar, is then the ultimate aim of humanity and the goal of an ambitious, talented, capable and thoughtful Muslim.


An Abrar has a very weighty place in the Quran. At Quran 3:193 we are told to du’a (pray) to Allah to let us breathe our last breath as an Abrar – the ultimate aim of a human being. Yes, a serious Muslim is asked to pray to die an ABRAR!

I see this prayer as pertinent for life here on earth as well as the hereafter. At Quran 2:177, the Quran showcases an Abrar as someone who can afford to give away his or her wealth not only to those who are near of kin, but to the orphans and needy, the wayfarer, the beggars and at the same time is able enough to free those who are trapped from bondage. As such, to die as an Abrar suggests that it is not enough for us to be successful in the hereafter, but we must also be successful today on earth (also refer Quran 2:201). An Abrar it seems, is one who is savvy both in the mosque as well as the boardroom – but at the same time not a niggard. A person who not only believe but also perform great deeds! A truly successful human being.

The entire chapter 76 of the Quran is themed to contrast between two groups of mankind, those who choose to be an Abrar (Quran 76:5) and those who choose Kufr (Quran 76:4) with more focus and attention on the former. Abrar being the successful one. Unfortunately, the chapter is named either Ad-Dhar (Time) or Al-Insan (Man) words taken from the first verse, although the majority of 31 verses in the chapter refers to Abrar. I wish our religious experts re-look and consider changing it.


While at the scholarly level one may be able to find some serious writings about Al-Birr, at the popular level it is almost completely unknown or neglected. How many of you have heard of the term? 

A quick check on google, books and writings about Islam both by Muslims and Non-Muslims sources alike would show the extreme lack of mention.

This is a huge loss. This is a big gap. Remember that we are to pray to end our lives as an ABRAR. In fact, we need not have to look farther to identify these obvious gaps.

Even if we put together the Five Pillars of Islam (Rukun Islam) and the Six Pillars of Faith (Rukun Iman) by the Sunni Muslims, we will still not complete the total scope covered by Al-Birr as outlined in Al-Baqarah 2:177.

While Rukun Islam added the shahada, fasting and pilgrimage to Mecca and Rukun Iman the belief in Qada and Qadar (Fate and Pre-destination), both these Sunni central pillars of Islam (the Syiah and other sects have a different combination for their pillars) and Iman fall short in key areas where we are asked to PAY ATTENTION TO within Al-Birr namely,

1.    Expending wealth, no matter how much one may love them to first and foremost,
a.    the near of kin, then,
b.    the orphans,
c.     the needy,
d.    the wayfarer,
e.    the beggars, and,
f.      for the freeing of human beings from bondage.

2.    Keeping of promises when a promise is made.

3.    Being patient in
a.    misfortune,
b.    hardship, and,
c.     in time of peril

4.    The stress TO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO externalities as it does not fulfill the requirement of Birr.


I have strong convictions that these gaps have major impact on Muslim behavioral patterns, focus and what we PAY ATTENTION TO and as such to what we consider and see as more important - both at the individual and community level. Allow me to give you a socio-economic example.

While 3 of the 10 nations with the world’s highest GDPs per capita are Muslim-majority countries (Qatar, Kuwait and Brunei), but three of the 10 countries with the world’s lowest GDPs per capita also are Muslim-majority nations (Afghanistan, Niger and Somalia). Some oil-rich countries with Muslim majorities, particularly the Gulf states, have median GDPs per capita that are higher than that of the United States. Statistics of international organizations about poverty and human development places the Muslim majority nations amongst the most backward and poorest countries in the world, yet, Muslims globally spends billions of dollars each year for pilgrimage – an average of USD12 - 15 billion dollars annually. Luxury and expensive hotels have sprung up in Mecca, offering, among other extravagances, a view of the Grand Mosque.

While pilgrimage is important, could we have spent the money for the betterment of the family, the poor, the community and the world at large if we are more Birr?


I believe that the application of Birr at the individual, family, community, national and global level which have the possibility to cure many of the problems of humanity. For example, in “expending wealth, no matter how much we may love them” to the six categories of people mentioned, could be the core and fundamental policy for economics and social development that can eradicate poverty, human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

It is my hope that our religious experts and leaders will consider coming together to discuss ALBIRR and make Birr one of the central pillars in Islam. I am an optimist. After all the Quran 3:139 says,

“So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: For ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith.”


Anas Zubedy

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


In any civilised society no one will resort to violence, or the threat of violence, to stifle the voices that one does not want to hear.  Unfortunately, this is what happened in Malaysia a few days ago when some bigots managed to force the cancellation of a public seminar on ‘The Amman Message’ organised by certain civil society groups scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur on the 13th of July 2019. A Facebook Account holder threatened to bomb the venue of the seminar, the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS).

Threatening to bomb a place constitutes an act of terror. While there have been instances in the past when force has been employed by groups to disrupt peaceful public gatherings, this is perhaps one of those rare occasions where an individual blatantly links himself and the group he is representing, Gerakan Banteras Syiah( the movement to stop the spread of Syiah) to a terrorist threat. It suggests a degree of boldness which we have not witnessed before. 

What is shocking about this brazen act is that it is driven by a stark lie. It projects the Amman Message as a devious instrument to propagate Syiah teachings when anyone who has a basic understanding of the Message knows that it merely recognises the validity of all 8 Mathhabs (legal schools) of Islam and forbids takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims. Aimed at creating unity and harmony within the Muslim Ummah, the message was initiated by a Sunni Ruler, King Abdullah of Jordan in 2004. The majority of those involved in drafting and endorsing the document were Sunnis. Besides, the Amman Message was unanimously adopted by the summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now Cooperation) in Mecca in December 2005. It is undoubtedly true that the Amman Message is one of the most important documents produced by the Muslim world in the last 100 years.

Manufacturing a lie in order to tarnish a noble effort and then deploying that lie to whip up popular emotions is becoming quite pervasive in our society. Of course, the manipulation of the lie is so much a part of politics in Malaysia and most other countries. Nonetheless, in a situation in which fears are exaggerated and uncertainties are exploited even more than in the past, the lie becomes even more impactful --- and therefore more dangerous.

It is a pity that so few Malaysians including human rights advocates are prepared to expose the lies that are churned out.  Even the threat of violence to silence the truth has not elicited as much condemnation from sane and rational people as it should. When the people are not doing enough, it becomes imperative for those in authority to act with courage and firmness.  

In the case of the aborted Amman Message seminar since names and identities are known it is assumed that the police have not encountered insurmountable difficulties in their investigation. As one of the three organisers of the seminar, the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) would like to know what action has been taken against the individual and group that threatened to bomb the venue. The public has a right to know.

It is only when prompt and effective action is taken against those who threaten peace and peaceful dialogue that we will be convinced that the rule of law is supreme in our society and that we uphold civilised norms of human behaviour.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) Malaysia.
14 July 2019.