Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Path of the Righteous

I've been called a liberal Malay by many of my friends and family members, a supposedly pejorative term. Here is the non-exhaustive list of times that I was called a liberal Malay:

1) A family dispute on whether it was appropriate to address the prophet Harun as Aaron. I argued that both names were interchangeable as Aaron was merely a transliteration of Harun, and that both names still carried the same meaning: The Exalted. They argued that Aaron was used in Judaism, so as Muslims we should stick to Harun for all intents and purposes. I disagreed, thus was called a liberal Malay.

2) A petition was circulating on social media, demanding that Aeon Big in Bangi stop selling alcohol. I said we shouldn't sign the petition, as it would infringe on the rights of the non-Muslims who consume alcohol. They said, "...but Bangi is a Muslim majority township! They should respect that! Think of the kids!" Well... Malaysia is a Muslim majority country, so should we sign a petition to ban alcohol in the whole country too? I did not know that in Malaysia, being a minority means you should not have rights, you know, out of respect. Tongue in cheek, I told them, "I won't sign this petition. But if there is a petition for better religious education classes where our Muslim kids are taught not to buy alcohol just because it is there, I'll sign that one." That was when they called me a liberal, just because I refused to let Aeon Big do the parenting for us.

3) At breakfast, my mom told me how ISIS was actually an Israeli agenda to tarnish the reputation of Islam and Muslims. A very plausible theory. Although so long as it remains a theory, we should not rule out other possibilities. "What other possibilities?" she exclaimed. Um, well... for one, the possibility that maybe ISIS are actually self-professed Muslims who are just sick in the head? "What are you talking about? Why are you defending the Jews? And why are you always skeptical when it comes to Muslims? Don't be a liberal." I got strawmanned, and I got called a liberal. The double whammy.

4) I commented on a Facebook article about how taking a cold shower at dawn is good for weight loss. The writer posited that when the skin absorbed cold water, the body would burn fat to keep our body warm. I argued that the skin wasn't capable of absorbing water simply because our skin was waterproof, otherwise we would all balloon up after a swimming session. Someone replied, "So basically you are saying the prophet was wrong?" I said, "No, all I'm saying is your reasoning behind the prophet's habits is flawed because your premise contradicts science." I actually agreed that the body burns energy to stay warm, I just disagreed with the water absorption part. Then they called me a liberal, all because I rejected a flawed post-hoc reasoning of a perfectly good habit of the prophet.

5) Someone told me that women were made of men's ribs. A classic in all Abrahamic religions. I said no, men and women were made of the same matter. He insisted I was wrong, because men are missing a rib. No we aren't. Men and women have the same number of ribs. A simple Google Image search would confirm that. Then they called me a liberal, all because I understood that the Quran should never be taken literally.

These are just a fraction of the occurences where I have been called a liberal Malay. Looking at the trend, I'm starting to see it as a compliment. If you look closely at these 5 anecdotes above, being a liberal Malay actually means:
  1. Understanding that Arabic is not the only acceptable language for the learning of Islam and therefore people should be free to use whatever language they please that help them get closer to God
  2. Having the intellect to distinguish right from wrong and the willpower to restrain yourself from transgressing without having to force everybody else to remove all temptations around you
  3. Being able to compare multiple viewpoints and make holistic judgements based on all possible parameters without succumbing to your own biases
  4. Possessing a good grasp of basic science
  5. Appreciating the different layers of meaning of Quranic verses and the remarkable quality of the literature. A good author plays with word nuances to allow for different interpretations. A good reader doesn't always take what they read at face value. The Quran is completely lost on people who have the analytical reasoning skills of a guppy.
Now, instead of being riled up when called a liberal Malay, I rejoice. To me it's not pejorative because it makes me a learned man with the ability to think for myself and for my own good. Being liberal helps me walk the fine line between religion and tradition. It allows me to discard prejudices that have made the Malay race as rotten and backward as they are today. It helps me see through the hypocrisy in people and call them out on their bullshit.  It helps me get ahead without having to put anyone else down.

Most importantly, it helps me rid myself of the one confusion that plagues Muslims: why are we so marginalised socially and economically eventhough we make up more than a fifth of the world's population and we are the most "enlightened" and "righteous" ones?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

hello, kinda following your blog and i'm just curious why there's no new post? i mean it's march 2016 already!! well i guess work is the reason, but hey if you have some spare time from the "work", etc...please write :)

Dottie With Dots said...

Yeah, whatever happen to you?

thiết kế nhà xưởng said...

Nice blog !!!
thanks for sharing
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