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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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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, April 17, 2022

Living Surah Al Fatihah: Part 7 of 8: Those Whom Allah Favors

 Living Surah Al Fatihah During Ramadan 


M. Bakri Musa


April 17, 2022:  Seventh of Eight Parts:  Those Whom Allah Favors 


Guide us along the path of those whom You have favored, we pray to Allah as we recite the sixth ayat of Al Fatihah.  As Allah does not let us know whom He favors, this and the last ayat (“Not those who have incurred Your wrath”) serve more as a Rorschach test of sorts. That notwithstanding, the Qur’an does hint of certain individuals whom He favors.


For Muslims, topping the list would be Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., together with all earlier prophets. Sunni Muslims would include the four Rightly Guided Caliphs – Abu Bakar, Omar, Uthman, and Ali, the last being the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law. Shiite Muslims have a more exclusive list; they have much less favorable views (putting it mildly) of Abu Bakar, Omar, and Uthman.


Next those Heaven-bound as per the Qur’an would be the shayids (martyrs), those who died in Allah’s cause. That word today has a radically different meaning, thanks to 9-11, the Talibans, and other Islamic extremists. As is evident, whom society deems worthy of being syahid reflects more on it than of the individual.


Beyond that, characterizations of those whom Allah favors come from hadith, sayings attributed to Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w. One has it that a prostitute was admitted to Paradise because she once brought water to a dog dying of thirst; likewise a man for picking up a thorn on a pathway thus preventing others from injuring themselves. In terms of professions held in high esteem by Allah, we can assume that the lady’s would not be on His list. As for dogs, they are not the favorite animals of Muslims. Yet Allah in His wisdom deemed her worthy of that exalted place for her single good deed.


Imagine then the rewards awaiting veterinarians! Yet Malays were in an uproar over pictures of vet students petting their dog-patients. As for the man who removed the thorn, if that were to be the reward for such a simple good deed, how much greater would it be for the engineer who built the road or bridge so villagers could bring their produce to market or their sick ones to the hospital?


That assumes the bridge to be safe. If through corruption or negligence the bridge were to collapse in a rainstorm, then it would be but a dangerous trap, an attractive nuisance in the language of American tort lawyers. Its builders would then be liable for punitive damages.


Another group of syahids, relevant today, would be victims of pandemics. Funeral rites could be dispensed for them as those would be redundant; they already have reserved slots in Heaven. That makes sense for among the major factors spreading a pandemic would be contagion through funeral rites. China controlled its devastating Manchurian plague of 1910-11 when the Emperor decreed that all bodies be burned in mass graves. Traditional Chinese funeral rites are even more elaborate than Muslim ones, perfect portal for spreading lethal communicable diseases. Heed the prophet’s message. When there is a plague, do not go there; if you are already there, do not leave – the essence of quarantine.


As for prophets and their reserved slots in Heaven, was that because of their prophethood or great deeds? Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., emancipated the ancient Bedouins, making them give up their tribalism, spousal abuses, eye-for-an-eye sense of justice, and their odious practice of female infanticide. Would leaders who perform comparable good deeds deserve similar rewards even if they had not been specially dispensed with Allah’s prophethood? Or the reverse, someone selected as a prophet but failed to live up to God’s high expectations. Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., expressed his own lack of confidence in executing Allah’s command when given his first revelation high in the cave above Mecca.


China’s Deng Xiaoping, a communist and thus an atheist, uplifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty, a feat unmatched in history. The closest would be medieval Western Europe with the introduction of capitalism. That took centuries and impacted a much smaller fraction of the then global population. With his monumental accomplishment, would Deng merit a slot in Heaven? If he did not because of his presumed Godlessness, at least hundreds of millions of Chinese today enjoy their heaven on earth, compared to the hell their parents and grandparents endured during Mao’s disastrous Cultural Revolution, or under earlier Emperors with their “Mandate from Heaven.”


Along the same line, would the developers of polio vaccines deserve to be in Heaven, or is it only for Muslims?


I once posed this question in a religious class. I went further and asked them to name individuals whom they know personally who should be in Heaven. I was touched by their responses. One offered his favorite teacher, another our Imam Ilyas, and a third, her mother. When her classmates dismissed her choice, belittling her mother’s efforts as being obligatory maternal duty, she defended it by saying that her mother did it well and with love, in contrast (presumably) to the burgher flippers who do it as a job.


To me it would not be Heaven without Sudirman, P. Ramlee, and Saloma there. They had brought joy to and uplifted the hearts of millions with their melodious voices. As for the promised 72 virgins that would await me should I end up there, what would be the comparable rewards awaiting my loving wife? After all it would not be Heaven for me if I were to be deprived of her company. Thus the difficulties when we confuse imageries and metaphors with concepts and ideas. 


Next:  Last of Eight Parts:  Those Who Have Incurred His Wrath


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