(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.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Hadith And Sunnah Are Like Stars In The Heavenly Sky

Hadith And Sunnah Are Like Stars In The Heavenly Sky
M. Bakri Musa

The hundreds of thousands of hadith and sunnah(purported sayings and deeds of the holy prophet) are like stars in the heavenly sky.

            The ancient Mayans saw patterns in the night sky that changed with the seasons. With that, they created their calender to guide them as to when to plant and to celebrate. To the Polynesians, ancient and modern, those stars are their compasses as they sail the vast Pacific. Unlike modern GPS, those stars never run out of batteries!

During Mawlid Nabi (observance of the prophet’s birth), Muslims reflect on the wisdom of his words and recall his many exemplary deeds. Hadith and sunnah, like the heavenly stars, guide us. However, merely reciting them but without the associated reflections and actions would achieve little.

            That would be akin to primitive tribes who struck gongs, fired cannons, and sacrificed their virgins to frighten or appease the giant dragon from devouring their moon. When the eclipse was over, they congratulated themselves for having saved the universe.

            The Saudi writer Adil Salahi said it best in the epigraph of his biography of the Prophet, Muhammad:  Man And Prophet. Muslims would best demonstrate their love for the Prophet by following his teachings, not by singing his praises.

            Yet the sine qua nonof Mawlid Nabi, in Malaysia and elsewhere, is the endless singing of praises for the man. Malaysia goes further, with colorful parades, grand festivals, and glittering award ceremonies thrown in.

            As for emulating the prophet’s many sterling attributes, many are content with aping the man’s superficialities, as with sporting unshaven faces and donning overflowing robes. Others resort to acquiring child-brides and/or multiple wives. We imitate the prophet in the most able way that we can, was their lame pathetic excuse. They do not even bother to hide their carnal urges.

Those Muslims forget or never learned that the prophet’s actions and motivations were expressions of his charity. The four wives limit was to tame the then unlimited number, as with today’s obsessions with trophy cars, prized mares, and pedigreed bitches. It was also to redress the social problems of the many widowed through wars. As for child brides, at the time they were then the tried-and-true instruments for cementing inter-tribal bonds. Those noble sentiments are the very opposite of the priapic propensities of current corpulent Muslims.

            Then consider the hadith where the prophet predicted that his ummah(followers) would be divided into 73 sects, and all but one would be misled and hell-bound. This one hadith, more than any other, is instrumental to the on-going schisms in Islam, what with every Muslim believing that hissect is the only true one, the rest misguided.

The irony that this hadith is the most frequently expounded upon escapes me. I would have expected it to be buried deep in the archives, retrievable only by obsessive scholars. Far from enlightening the ummah, the glut of commentaries only adds to the confusion.

            The clarity and centrality of this hadith escape these erudite scholars. If your sect has only a 1-in-73 chance of being correct, that means you have a corresponding 72-in-73 (over 98.6 percent) probability of being misled! That is a certainty in statistics. A humbling thought!

Perversely, most Muslims conclude otherwise; they believe theyare among the super-select rightly-guided!

            A destructive corollary to that hubris is the messianic zeal to “correct” the “misled” to the point of intolerance of those who do not share your interpretations. You become exclusive, insular, and most dangerous of all, closed to new or different ideas. Such arrogance and certitudes are the very antithesis of the qualities demonstrated by our holy prophet.

            If you read the probabilities right, or are humble enough, and assume that you are among the misguided 72, that motivates you to learn from the others, believing that one of them would be rightl. You become inclusive, tolerant of others, and open to new ideas in the process.

With the religious freedom afforded me in America, I have benefited much from the teachings of the Wahhabis, Ismailis, Ahmaddiyahs, and others. From the Wahhabis, I appreciate the crucial role of rites and rituals in anchoring social and family stability; from the Ismailis, communal goals and efforts; and the Ahmaddiyahs, the importance of learning and social welfare. All those sects, and others, have enhanced my understanding of this great faith.

It is not a surprise that American Muslims are becoming more ecumenical, no longer identifying with any particular sect. With my mosque in California, we have been privileged to host visiting imams and ulama of various theological persuasions, to the benefit of our congregation.

By contrast, in Malaysia, if I were caught reading Shiite literature, I could be jailed under the Internal Security Act, the same draconian penalty imposed on the communists!

Back to that hadith, when asked as to which sect was the rightly-guided one, the prophet responded, “Ahl as Sunnah wa’l Jama’ah” (Those of the tradition and congregation).

Scholars and ulamas have long been engaged in endless puerile debates to identify this chosen, privileged group referred to by the prophet, and the accompanying quest for Muslim unity. The crusade for the return of the caliphate is a variant of this sentiment. We ignore that of the first four “rightly-guided” caliphs, three were assassinated – hardly the reflection of a united ummah even then.

“Just follow the Koran and the sunnah,” is another simplistic mantra endlessly and meaninglessly pursued. If only we were to do that, then Muslim unity would be assured. Again, here we forget or ignore that even when the prophet was alive, there were already vigorous debates on the very nature of the Koran as well as the prophet’s utterences. Imagine over 1400 years later!

We are more likely to achieve unity, or at least peace, not through coerced unanimity, but through greater understanding and better appreciation of the differences that necessarily exists among the ummah. Be inclusive. Accept and tolerate the differences amongs us. Better yet, embrace and celebrate our diversity.

That is the essence of the prophet’s rightly-guided Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l Jama’ah. That should be our northern star.


Post a Comment

<< Home