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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.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Rahmatan Iil 'Alamin


Rahmatan lil 'Alamin (Blessings to the Universe!)

Nabila Fitri (Class 10, High School)


[With Ramadan ending, I post two prize-winning essays sponsored by the Silicon Valley, CA, non-profit organization GiveLight Foundation. The first is “Emulating Our Holy Prophet (s.a.w.)” by Damian Hardy, a twelve year old student at Rumah Kasih Harmoni Paya Jaras, Selangor. Tomorrow will be the second essay, Rahmatan lil'Alamin! (Blessings To All!) by Nabila Fitri (Year 10, High School, GiveLight Home, Indonesia. The originals are in Bahasa. I had the greatest pleasure in translating both.


            GiveLight Foundation was started by the former Proctor & Gamble Aceh-born executive Dian Alyan. She started the organization in response to the 2004 Asian Tsunami that devasted her home province and took the lives of 40 relatives of hers. Since then the organization has expanded its reach in over 13 countries including Malaysia and United States. Huffington Post’s O’Brien Brown described her as “The New Global Leader:  Dian Alyan, Building Homes And Futures For Orphans Around the World.” (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-new-global-leader-par_b_5964536)


If you wish to support this worthy cause, please visit the foundation’s website:  giveligh.org]



Rahmatan lil 'Alamin (Blessings to the Universe!)

Nabila Fitri (Class 10, High School)

GiveLight Home, Indonesia



Rahmatan lil'Alamin (Blessings to the Universe)! That is Allah announcing that He had sent Muhammad as a blessing to all, and with him, Islam. Islam teaches and spreads the culture of tsaqafah (charity), love, peace, tenderness, and respect for all human beings. It is a guidance for all. Islam transcends boundaries and limits. It means peace, and rahmatan lil 'alamin is love for all in the universe. The Islam of Rahmatan lil'alamin consciously puts God’s presence at the center of our life and community so as to foster peace and love for humans and nature. It is indeed a blessing for the entire universe, hence the same appellation given to Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w. For he had indeed given mercy and blessings to the ummah, lifting us out of our Age of Ignorance to the Age of Peace and Prosperity that we now enjoy. Rahmatan lil 'Alamin Islam also acknowledges the prophet’s presence in the center of our daily life and community so we too could foster peace and love, for humans as well as nature. 
               “And we did not send you (Muhammad), but to (be) a blessing to the universe,” as per Surah Al Anbiya (21:107). Allah did not send Muhammad except as a mercy for the whole world and to spread the message of Islam, not to destroy the infidels but to foster peace.


               The manifestations of the consciousness and presence of Rahmatan Lil Alamin are being tolerant; avoiding discriminatory attitudes, caring and concerns for others, and last, the mundane disposing of garbage in its proper place.

               An example of Islam rahmatan lil alamin is the teacher who is a resource to her students in helping them to learn. Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., was sent to teach and spread Islam, as a blessing for the world and all mankind. Rahmat means grace combined with tenderness and compassion; hence the Prophet’s appellation, rahmatal lil 'alamin. He brought blessings for the whole world, and not just Muslims. This is the message of Islam preached by the Prophet, s.a.w., to bring peace and security for all.

               We need religion. It has an important role in organizing and guiding our social life as well as in helping maintain social norms and restraints. It socializes individuals and exercises positive influence over individuals and societies, more so communities that are diverse. 

               Rahim (generosity) is Allah’s sacred blessing unique unto Muslims, thus khoshshun lil muslimin. Allah dispenses everything. If Islam is practiced right, then Allah will shower upon us His Rahman (Mercy) and Rahim (Generosity). Interpreted thus, the laws of Allah, sunnatullah, apply to both Muslims as well as non-Muslims. If followed, they too would get Allah’s blessings–His mercifulness as well as generosity. However, even though they are Muslims, if they do not make the effort in being kind, then they will not get these rewards. 

               God exhorts us to compete for His Grace. From this emerges God’s command for us to compete to do good. From this it follows we have to be competitive in all our endeavors. For example, Muslims who are not competitive in economic activities cannot expect to survive and will not become prosperous. Likewise if a non-Muslim were to be competitive in those areas, then they would rightly reap the just rewards in those areas.

               While the right to entry into Heaven is the mercy of Allah SWT, that privilege is restricted to believers. As such we can conclude that the unity of rahmatan lil'alamin is the unity of God's grace that is encompassed in all His mercy. In the context of rahmatan lil'alamin Islam, it (Islam) has arranged the manner and practices with regard to the theological, ritual, social, and humanitarian aspects. In theological terms, Islam gives a firm formulation that must be believed by every adherent, but this cannot be the excuse to force non-Muslims to embrace Islam (Laa Ikrooha Fiddiin). Likewise with religious rituals; those have already been laid out in the Qur'an and Sunnah in terms of their details as well as practices.
               In the context of social life, Islam provides only the basic guidelines or pillars. The operational details and practices would have to be arrived at consensually within each community, based on its values, diversity, and uniqueness. Islam recognizes this plurality of human societies, and views diversity as an aspect of His blessings. It is His blessing to test us to choose our own unique path towards development after factoring those various social elements and other considerations. 
               Plurality and diversity are Allah’s will, as expressed in Surah Ar Rum, Verse 22 (30:22) which approximately translates, “And yet another of his signs He created the heavens and the earth, the differences in your languages and skin color. These truly are signs for those who know.”
               Likewise the words of Allah in Surah al-Hujurat, Verse 13 (49:13): “O mankind, indeed we created you from a single man and a single woman, made you into nations and tribes so you may know each other. In Allah’s eyes, the most honored amongst you are the ones most aware of Him,  Allah is All-Knowing and All-Aware.” 
               Those verses place social pluralism as a necessary condition (conditio sine qua non) in God’s creation. In the Qur'an there are many verses mentioning love and salvation, among others Surat Al-Hujurat (49:10) which commands us to take care of each other and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood:  “Truly the believers are brothers. Therefore reconcile the relationship between you and fear Allah, so that you may receive mercy.” The lesson that we can draw from this is that to have peace, we should all treat each other as brothers. In this context, the late K H Hasyim Muzadi (1944-2017, founder of Al-Hikam School in East Java and Chairman of Nadhiatul Ulama fromm1999 to 2010) proposed three types of brotherhood (ukhuwwah).

First is Ukhuwwah Islamiyah, brotherhood that grows and develops on the basis of religion (Islam), be it on the local, national or even international scale. Second, Ukhuwwah wathaniyah, the brotherhood at the national basis. Third, Ukhuwwah basyariyah, that on the level of humanity.

               These three ukhuwwah have to be developed in their balanced proportion. One does not oppose or contradict the other two for only through these three dimensions of brotherhood can we realize the ideals and blessings of Lil 'Alamin.



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