(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=void 0!=f?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(void 0==f)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=0=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; 0=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&0=b&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Q&A Alif Ba Ta Conference: the Answer is All in the Koran

Why are we arguing about an Islamic state or doubt the ability of Islamic laws to carry our country forward? The answers to all our problems are in the Koran. Why not look there?

MBM: As a Muslim I believe the Koran carries the “message for all mankind, at all times, and until the end of time.” That is a matter of faith for me as for all Muslims. Again like all Muslims, I hold the Holy Book in deep reverence.

To treat it like a Merck Manual, where you would look up the index and then flip to the appropriate page to seek the remedy for what ails you would be disrespectful if not downright blasphemous, quite apart from insulting the intelligence of Muslims.

The late Fazlur Rahman suggested an enlightened approach. The Koran teaches through parables, anecdotes, and concrete examples taken from the ordinary lives of those Arabs during the prophet’s time. That was the only effective way to deliver the divine message.

Malays are very different from those ancient Bedouins, so too our culture, aspirations, and environment. We live in a humid not dry climate, in lush jungles not sparse desert. Our prized animals are water buffaloes not humped camels.

Fazlur suggested that we should deduce from the particularities of the Koran its underlying guiding principles. To do that intelligently would require us to understand the totality of the message, and to discern the texts and the contexts as well as the subtexts. Once we have grasped those principles, then apply them to the particularities of today. Both exercises demand considerable humility and intellectual exertion.

Let me illustrate. If I were to explain gravity to kampung folks I would relate to them the apple (or mango) falling to the ground, as per Newton. Now if I were to take those folks on a Ferris wheel ride with a mango in their hands and then asked them to release it when they were at the top, the fruit would “fall” skywards (at least initially and assuming the rotation was fast enough so the centrifugal force would exceed the gravitational pull). To village folks, that defies the laws if gravity until we explain the more universal principle of gravitational pull to explain the apparent contradiction.

If I were to explain gravity as F=Gm1m2/d2, where F is the force, G a constant, m1 and m2 the respective masses, and “d” the distance between them, the elegance of the formula notwithstanding, only math geeks would be enthralled. Others would have glazed eyes.

Likewise in comprehending the Koran; we should go beyond the literal and simplistic and instead seek the underlying universal principles. The easiest and intellectually lazy way would be to mindlessly quote selected passages to support whatever viewpoint you advocate. Yes, the Koran says stoning to death for adultery. However it also says you must have four eyewitnesses. To meet that requirement you would have to be fornicating in an open park and during broad daylight!

Far too often in our zeal with our newfound favorite Koranic verses we forget the numerous other passages that extoll the greater virtues of mercy and forgiveness.

I cringe whenever I hear scholars quote the Koran and then with supreme confidence if not arrogance assert, “And it means....” Imagine! All translations are at best interpretations. It would be more accurate and reflects humility as well as grace to add the proviso, “approximate translation.”

We carry this same arrogant certitude in our understanding of hadith and sharia. There is a hadith to the effect that the ummah would be divided into 73 sects, and all but one doomed for Hellfire.

Every Muslim believes that his or hers is the only right sect, the others misled. The consequence to this thinking is a messianic urge to “correct” the others and in the process you become intolerant and insufferable.

You are all engineers, comfortable with probabilities and quantitative valuations. If you were being told that you have a 1 in 73 chance (less than 1.5 percent!) of being right, what do you conclude?

So why not assume that your sect is one of those 72 destined for Hell? The immediate effect of such a posture would be that you become humble and tolerant of the other different interpretations. You want to learn from them. You become more receptive and forgiving of those who disagree with you. Your whole mindset becomes more positive.

As to the Koran having all the answers, Hamka once said that Allah in his wisdom and generosity had blessed us with two Korans. One he revealed to Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., which Caliph Othman codified in written form more than a decade after the prophet’s death, the Koran familiar to all.

The other is this vast universe that Allah had bequeathed unto us. As His vice-regents we have an obligation to also study this second Koran. Just as Allah has provided us with Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w. to guide us to the first Koran, He (Allah) too has provided us with the necessary tools to understand this other Koran. He has endowed us with an intellect, a gift unique unto humans. Cosmonauts exploring the outer reaches of the universe are studying this second Koran just as the scientists slicing genes, our inner living universe.

On Monday when you go back to the lab to explore the properties of a material or test a new circuit, you would be studying this second Koran. Yes, the answers are all there in the Koran, the book as well as the universe, but we have to exert ourselves intellectually and in many other ways to find them. That is how we find solutions and answers to our problems, not by looking up the index of the Koran and then flipping to and reciting the verses. Come to think of it, no one has as yet indexed the Koran, and wisely so.


Post a Comment

<< Home