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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Islamic Discourse: Readers' Responses

Through personal e-mails:

Dear Bakri,

That is an interesting article by Dr. Musa Nordin! Islam is a religion that can be adapted through all times until the end of this earth, that is, KIAMAT. However, those who want to discuss the true teaching of Islam must first be well versed with the true UNDERSTANDING of the religion. Simply using our AKAL (intellect) or logical thinking to adapt the teachings of Islam might lead people to be more liberal in implementing them. This in turn might destroy their akidah (belief). Like the doctor said, to educate people about medicine would be advantageous to both doctors and patients. The drawback is that if the patient feels that he is well versed with medicine, he might just self prescribe his remedies. This might in turn harm himself. In Islam, the ulama or gurus are needed to guide those who lack the understanding of Islam so that they will understand the religion better and will not deviate from the true teachings.

Sometimes the guidance provided by the ulama might seem outdated and cannot be implemented in our modern times, but we must understand why this is so. Understanding religion is a very complicated matter. It is made even worse if the true Islamic teachings are confused with modern understanding or LOGIC.Just to share my view on this matter.

Syed Zahiruddin

Dear Dr Bakri,

I am glad that you wrote about this. I have been harboring myself with some of your ideas. I do not think Islam should be put on such a high pedestal that only a few could truly understand it. In many instances, ideas from the so-called laity (are we not all?), have been shot down just because we do not have an Islamic scholarly background. Islam has been made too complicated to my mind.

What is your opinion on why Muslims now are so backward in secular studies? Islam was once at the frontiers of knowledge.


I would rather take it this way. Let the professional embark on religious studies before they pursue their chosen field, or pursue both concurrently. I believe that Muslim professionals today are better in their understanding of Islam as compared to those of the 1960s and 70s. Your view may look outdated since there are many professionals who are comparable to the ulama and ulama cum professionals. In Mesir, it is normal for an engineer or doctor who is also a hafiz. Be careful with the term “ulama.”

We need more statistics before we are justified in saying that those ulama know nothing about science and contemporary knowledge. As for controlling of our mind as you mentioned, I do not think that in this era they are so influential. People make up their own mind these days.
The following are excerpted from Malaysia-today.net

Admiral Tojo said:

Saya amat setuju dengan cadangan ini. Kepercayaan bukan ekslusivity satu satu golongan. Olih kerana ramai yang telah dan sedang mengambil langkah untuk mengetahui apa kah sabenar nya ajaran Islam yang terkandung di dalam Al Quran itu sendiri, banyak lah timbul isu isu, yang pada pandangan saya bernas, yang perlu di perdebatkan dan di kemukakan. Banyak juga isu yang berbangkit sekarang, berkenaan cara penyelaksanaan secara paksa, undang undang yang belainan dengan asas ajaran Al Quran, yang di panggil 'Islamic'. Syabas Dr. Bakri. Di Malaysia, jikalau dibangkitkan perkara ini, selalu nya yang membangkit kan perkara ini akan di heret ke Mahkamah Syariah. Ini saolah menunjukkan ada ajenda yang ingin di rahsiakan supaya orang ramai tidak akan mengetahui nya.

Ibn Abd Halim:

Apakah ini yang dikatakan kejumudan? Apa maksud alim? Ulamak seharusnya melengkapkan diri dengan ilmu-ilmu ukhrawi dan duniawi demi kemajuan ummah.
Syabas Dr.Bakri!

Pro-rights said:

The ummah looks to the ulama/scholars for spiritual guidance and inspiration, but some of them wear several hats. They have political ambitions and sometimes go beyond their normal scope of pastoral duties. Some do not lead by good example.
The other issue is that the same Arabic word in the koran would give rise to several different meanings when translated.

Loganpal said:

Thanks Dr BM! Fine and thought provoking blog; Islam and being Malay. Dr B’s ideas of what an Ulama should be seem such an idealistic and interesting view, in the Malaysians context.
Many US citizens view Islam from an Arabic, not Malay, perspective. I find myself explaining this all the time. Oil and 911 is changing how US views the world. Muslims and Malaysians have a burden explaining this. We have never hated, just envied you. Look at our Malaysian flag.
F*** Osama for f***ing it up and making the US to embrace its right wing nuts. Hope in Hilary.
It not easy to ask an Ulama to learn Mathematics when he wants to be a clergy. I think it is more important to teach a Malaysian version of the Koran. Jihad means personal sacrifice or resisting materialistic gains. Of course Dr BM also hopes that ulamas also understand economics, social science, and the arts and craft.

Awang Kera said:

Dear Brothers, Sisters, and Friends:
I am happy that we Muslims in Malaysia, at least those of us who are open to fresh ideas and new perspectives, are beginning to speak up. We have been too quiet for far too long. In so doing, we are signalling to the ulama, the politicians, and those who parrot them that they do not have a monopoly on the “truths” in Islam.
The same goes to the people in IKIM, JAKIM, JAIS and the other state religious departments. They all should instead be role models--as enlightened thinkers, not doctrinaires or stooges,issuing politically motivated fatwas and interfering in our private lives.
They are in league with the politicians to control and dominate us by imposing their Islam on us. These ulama in particular and their associates are actually scared that they will lose their role in our society if you and I can argue intelligently with them on the basis of our own ability to think and reflect on the Message of the Holy Quran.
To me,when they threaten us with legal action in the Syariah Court, tha is a clear sign of desperation, their basic insecurity and weaknesses. They are losing the battle of ideas with us.
You will note that I put “truth” in quotation marks. What is truth? That question had plagued the Greek and Islamic philosophers and other thinkers for thousands of years. This quest for truth will continue because it is a Divine challenge to man.
Man needs to reflect in wonderment and praise the Majesty of Allah, The Most Merciful and Most Compassionate. Look around us in our physical world, and we will realise that we cannot understand everything that ALLAH created. Because of our ignorance,we take everything including our envirvonment for granted. We even abuse our power because we believe we can be God.
I may be an economist and understand economic development. Ask me about trees, plants animals, ants and other things, and I will plead ignorance and ask for help from those who are knowledgeable. Even in my field, I have to ask for help. For example, I am not an econometrician, or a monetary economist. I have also to regularly review and update my knowledge in my own field.
Our world is a complex ecological system that is constantly changing, sometimes in violent spurts or bangs, but imperceptibly most of the time. But our earth is only one unit in the galaxy of the Sun, Moon,Mars, the other planets and the distant stars, each with its won defined roles, yet existing in harmony.
What we think we know is therefore minute compared to what we need to know, and yet do not know. Whoever this Doctor who is mentioned in Dr. Bakri’s article may be, he has stopped learning and has closed his mind. I for one would not go to this doctor for my medical advice. He would probably make me more sick. I certainly will not deal with someone who seeks to play God with my life.
Fortunately for Muslims, the Holy Quran is the Guide and the Source of Faith. Read, reflect, and try to understand The Holy Quran., but we can never attain perfect understanding of Allah’s message. As a result, the real Islamic man, in his humility, will be constantly challenged to seek the Divine message. He is a seeker of Knowledge, hopefully leading to the Truth.
For those who are interested in reading the intellectual journey of one Muslim man, I suggest Dr. Zaiuddin Sardar’s Desperately Seeking Paradise.
Finally, I wish to state that we must not be scared to be different, to disagree and to express our views. I believe we as individuals can make a difference to our country. The least that we can do is to prevent Malaysia from receding into the Age of Ignorance.
We live in a plural society. As such we must be open, enlightened and tolerant of our fellow citizens and try to earn their respect.
Our ulama must understand that our world is changing and like us, they too must respect the dignity of difference. Like us, they too must look at the world with fresh eyes. If they are true scholars of Islam, they should attempt to eliminate their biases, hangups and big egos. That will take humility, which is in short supply today.
Once again, syabas Dr. Bakri.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Bakri,

Good work. More than ever our society need people like you, Dr Kassim, the Submission group and others to continue to challenge our minds in intellectual manner within the context of the Quran. Majority of our Muslim brothers and sisters today are so entangled with traditional beliefs and practices not sanctioned by Quran. Most of them are neglecting the God's Sacred Book. Sadly, this is what the Quran itself predicts.

3:59 AM  

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