Common virtues of Buddhism and Islam

 Common virtues of

Buddhism and Islam

 We must cultivate mutual respect, trust and understanding among all the religions.

  • We must search, point out, and promote the common virtues and good points from our various religions.

  • We must ignore the controversial, potential igniting differences in various religions.

  • Actually, non of us can easily prove that the other religions are totally wrong and our religion is absolutely true and right. Religion depends on our faiths.

  • All of the religions some times need blind faith without any question.

  • We are not arguing here that any religion or all the religions are not true. Actually I am a practising Muslim and absolutely believe in Islam.

  • But I would never say or try to prove that other religions are wrong.

  • According to Islam, Allah had send more than 124,000 prophets to our world.

  • There is a strong possibility that the various religions are just the various forms of a common faith with different approaches.

  • There may be gradual degradation or slow changes because of prolonged time factor but we should not blindly accuse that other old religions are wrong.

In spite of serious instances of abuse of various religions by some of their claimed followers so as to justify or instigate acts of brutality and bloodshed, there are positive and helpful common themes in these religions. Therefore, peaceful and candid intra-faith and inter-faith dialogues are important tools in working for such goals. (Read more)

Dear Buddhist brothers, please don’t take it as an insult. Even if you could not accept my following idea, please forgive and forget about this. I am not degrading your Lord Buddha in to a Prophet.

  • Lord Buddha had revealed that there are a lot of Buddhas as much as the number of the sands on the Ganges River. And all of them could not avoid the ‘nature’ of Kama (Kan) and must at last die or end at Parinivarna or Nivarna (of nothing or free from all the sufferings of life i.e. the circle of Sansara- birth, old age, disease and death.)

  • I do not think that it is just a coincidence in the enormous numbers of Buddhas and our prophets.

  • I deeply believed that all of them are the same honourable great Holy personalities, whether we accepted as God or Prophets.

  • I hope God would definitely forgive me for telling this fact that even if you or I could get some superpower of God, we would definitely send our representative (Prophet) or go ourself (e.g. forgive me God) to the strategic place, Nepal, which is located between the two early great civilizations, China and India.

  • Accoprding to Islamic the prophets were sent by God to every nation.

  • In Islam, only Muhammad was sent to convey God’s message for the whole of mankind, whereas other prophets were sent to convey a message to a specific group of people or nation.

    • “And certainly We sent messengers (rasul) before you: there are some of them that We have mentioned to you and there are others whom We have not mentioned to you…” [Qur’an 40:78]
    • “For We assuredly sent amongst every People a messenger…”[Qur’an 16:36]
  • Muslims believe in other prophets other than those mentioned by name in the Quran as ther are many verses in the Quran that speak about this:

Additional numerous historical religious figures may have been prophets, but this is a source of debate and contention, among them: Zoroaster, Gautama Buddha and Rama. The Islamic Hadith and Qur’an support such claims that say that a messenger was sent to every people.

Allow me to quote the venerable Thubten Chondron’s Home page. Here the article by Dr. Alexander Berzin was really wonderful. It is titled, Islamic-Buddhist Dialogue.

“… Historically, Islamic law has accepted Buddhism as a “religion of the Book.” Because “Dharma” was translated as “law,” and “law” referred to “book,” Buddhists as “people of the Dharma” were understood to be “people of the Book” throughout medieval Central Asia. Islam tolerates all “people of the Book.”

Indonesian Buddhists posit Adibuddha, the primordial Buddha of the Kalachakra Tantra, as the “creator.” I had several interesting discussions with Buddhist monks in Indonesia about the issue of God in Buddhism. Since Adibuddha can be interpreted as the clear light primordial consciousness, and since all appearances of samsara and nirvana are the play or “creation” of that mind, we concluded that it could be said that Buddhism accepts a “creator God.” The fact that Buddhism asserts Adibuddha not to be an individual, separate being who created the universe, but something present in each sentient being, can be seen as a theological difference concerning the nature of God. That is, Buddhism does accept a “creator God” but with its own unique interpretation. As the Muslims say, “Allah has many names,” and many Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Jewish thinkers assert that God is abstract and present in all beings. Taken from_

Dear Buddhist brothers, don’t angry with me, I hereby apologize all of you from the bottom of my heart for copying and publishing the above paragraph. I just wish to show that we are not far apart. Not totally different.

I am not telling that you and your religion is wrong. I just want to highlight the similarities. If we look at the virtues or goodness of teachings of all the religions, all are same, advising to do good and to avoid the evil or bad.

modern Islamic scholars have asserted that the Prophet Dh’ul Kifl–the “man from Kifl”–mentioned twice in the Qur’an, refers to the Buddha, with Kifl being the Arabic rendering of the name of Buddha’s native kingdom, Kapilavastu. The Qur’an stated that the followers of Dh’ul Kifl are righteous people. Secondly, al-Biruni and Sehristan, two eleventh century Islamic scholars who visited India and wrote about its religions, called Buddha a “Prophet …”

“Dispute not with the People of the Book save in the fairer manner, except for those of them that do wrong; and say, ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us, and what has been sent down to you: Our God and your God is One, and to Him we have surrendered’.” (XXIX: The Spider: 45)

In other places the Qur’an says:

Not all of them are alike; a party of the people of the Scripture stand for the right, they recite the Verses of God during the hours of the night, prostrating themselves in prayer. They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin Al-Ma’rûf and forbid Al-Munkar ; and they hasten in (all) good works; and they are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for God knows well those who are Al-Muttaqûn .(3:113-115)

Muhammad (pbuh) in Buddhist Scriptures:

1. Buddha prophesised the advent of a Maitreya:   

A. Almost all Buddhist books contain this prophecy. It is in Chakkavatti Sinhnad Suttanta D. III, 76:

“There will arise in the world a Buddha named Maitreya (the benevolent one) a holy one, a supreme one, an enlightened one, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious, knowing the universe:”

What he has realized by his own supernatural knowledge he will publish to this universe. He will preach his religion, glorious in its origin, glorious at its climax, glorious at the goal, in the spirit and the letter. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and thoroughly pure; even as I now preach my religion and a like life do proclaim. He will keep up the society of monks numbering many thousands, even as now I keep up a society of monks numbering many hundreds”.        

B. According to Sacred Books of the East volume 35 pg. 225:

“It is said that I am not an only Buddha upon whom the leadership and order is dependent. After me another Buddha maitreya of such and such virtues will come. I am now the leader of hundreds, he will be the leader of thousands.”     

C. According to the Gospel of Buddha by Carus pg. 217 and 218 (From Ceylon sources):

“Ananda said to the Blessed One, ‘Who shall teach us when thou art gone?’

And the Blessed one replied, ‘I am not the first Buddha who came upon the earth nor shall I be the last. In due time another Buddha will arise in the world, a holy one, a supremely enlightened one, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious, knowing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a master of angels and mortals. He will reveal to you the same eternal truths, which I have taught you. He will preach his religion, glorious in its origin, glorious at the climax and glorious at the goal. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and pure such as I now proclaim. His disciples will number many thousands while mine number many hundreds.’

Ananda said, ‘How shall we know him?’

The Blessed one replied, ‘He will be known as Maitreya’.

i. The Sanskrit word ‘Maitreya’ or its equivalent in Pali ‘Metteyya’ means loving, compassionate, merciful and benevolent. It also means kindness and friendliness, sympathy, etc.

One Arabic word which is equivalent to all these words is ‘Rahmat’.

In Surah Al-Anbiya:

“We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures.”
[Al-Qur’an 21:107]

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was called the merciful, which is ‘Maitri’. 

ii. The words Mercy and Merciful are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an no less than 409 times.

iii. Every chapter of the Glorious Qur’an, except Chapter 9, i.e. Surah Taubah begins with the beautiful formula, ‘Bismillah Hir-Rahman Nir-Rahim’, which means ‘In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful’.

iv. The Word Muhammad is also spelt as ‘Mahamet’ or ‘Mahomet’ and in various other ways in different languages. The word ‘Maho’ or ‘Maha’ in Pali and Sanskrit mean Great and Illustrious and ‘Metta’ means mercy. Therefore ‘Mahomet’ means ‘Great Mercy’.Here are some other links regarding Gautama Buddha’s Prophecy about Muhammad being another Buddha (Maitreya Buddha):

http://www.irf.net/irf/comparativereligion/middle/buddhism/dawahtobudhhists.htm

Comparative analysis:
http://www.irf.net/irf/comparativereligion/index.htm

Dear Buddhist brothers, after reading the above, if I were in your place, I would think that this Muslim is trying to put our God, Buddha under his Islamic Prophet and trying to put his Prophet as next Buddha.

No, no, no. I am just trying to rationalize that we all are the same. All the religions are same. We cannot or should try to run down, looked down as false on other religions. 

Not only the Muslims, but other religious persons could say or prove that the following teachings of Buddha are wrong. I personally could accept the following teachings of Buddha  as the absolute truth! 

But I am born in a Muslim family. So I decided to stay as a Muslim but would never look down on Buddhism as a wrong religion. I had learnt a lot of Buddhist teachings and also Scripture of Christians in the mission school.  And later read about other religions, Hindu, Jews etc.

But we understand that Buddhism does not explicitly recognize a God, or the concept of prophethood. However, there is no official Buddhist view of God, and Buddhism does not specifically oppose monotheism.

Buddhism is usually regarded as a religion (or a spiritual philosophy) without an Absolute Creator God (who created the universe ex nihilo and to whom worship and adoration are due). Even though an Absolute Creator God is absent in most forms of Buddhism, veneration and worship of Gautama Buddha (and other Buddhas) do play a major role in both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. In Mahayana Buddhism there is the notion of the Buddha as the omnipresent, omniscient, liberative essence of Reality, and the idea of the Buddhas as generators of vast “Buddha lands” or Buddha Paradises, in which beings will unfailingly attain Nirvana. (Wikipedia)

In Buddhism, there is no Supreme Being named that is the creator of all. However Gautama Buddha does state that our thoughts make the world. The Buddha considers thought as the creator of the world.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.

Dhammapada, 1.1-3

All the religions’ virtues or values or the essence of are good, same and we differ in practice only. I think the covering outside form and the way we practice are the things dividing all of us. The Essence of all the religions  are  the same. 

Even we, humans used to like new models of cars and chased the new fashions. I believe that God Himself purposely avoid the creation of assembly line product HUMAN ROBOTS. 

In every religion we believe in Angels. God create Humans different from Angels. If all the humans are same it may be boring. God given us the choice, we could choose Good or EVIL. And God had given promise that the good persons will be rewarded and the bad would be punished. 

Buddha never taught that all other good persons from other religions would be punished or are going to HELL.

Jesus also never preached that.

And Allah also clearly said that those GOOD Non-Muslims could enter HEAVEN. 

The Five Precepts 

The Five Precepts constitute the basic Buddhist code of ethics, undertaken by lay followers of the Buddha Gautama in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions.

The Five Precepts are commitments to_

  1. abstain from killing,

  2. stealing,

  3. sexual misconduct,

  4. lying and

  5. intoxication.

The laity undertake to follow these training rules at the same time as they become Buddhists, taking refuge in the Triple Gem: In the Buddha (teacher), in the Dharma (teaching) and thirdly in the Sangha (community of monks and nuns).

The following are the five precepts rendered in English and then Pali:

  1. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking the life (killing) of living beings.
    Pānātipātā veramani sikkhāpadam samādiyāmi

  2. I undertake the precept to refrain from stealing. (lit. “taking what is not offered”)
    Adinnādānā veramani sikkhāpadam samādiyāmi

  3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct (adultery, rape, exploitation, etc).
    Kāmesu micchācāra veramani sikkhāpadam samādiyāmi

  4. I undertake the precept to refrain from false speech (lying).
    Musāvāda veramani sikkhāpadam samādiyāmi

  5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants which lead to heedlessness. (Can include intoxicating ideas)
    Surā meraya majja pamādatthānā veramani sikkhāpadam samādiyāmi

  Noble Eightfold Path 

Noble Eightfold Path is, in the teachings of the Buddha, declared to be the way that leads to the end of dukkha, or suffering. Essentially a practical guide of bringing about ethical and meditative discipline, the Noble Eightfold Path forms the fourth part of the Four Noble Truths, which have informed and driven much of the Buddhist tradition

These are divided into three basic categories as follows:

A.Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā, Pāli: paññā)

1. Right view

2. Right intention

B.Ethical conduct (Sanskrit: śīla, Pāli: sīla)

3. Right speech

4. Right action

5. Right livelihood

C.Mental discipline (Sanskrit and Pāli: samādhi)

6. Right effort

7. Right mindfulness

8. Right concentration

In all of the elements of the Noble Eightfold Path, the word “right” is a translation of the word samyañc (Sanskrit) or sammā (Pāli), which denotes completion, togetherness, and coherence, and which can also carry the sense of “perfect” or “ideal”. 

And if we look at the HINDU religion, we all could be surprized as starting from the basic concepts of life, sansara, nivarna, kamma to the vocabulary, glossary, terminology and jargon, all are almost the same.

Just look at the Christian Tritiny. God, Father and the Son. I am ashamed when some non-Christians mocked this vague or different concept as I believed in the GREATNESS of JESUS. Yes, whether we believed that he was a Prophet as Islam taught us or one of the Trinity or all, it is beyound our human’s knowledge. Why should we argue uselessly?

In Islam, we have to believe those facts which are beyond our common sense or knowledge. We must believe in all the prophets send by Allah.

It is clear that although we believe in Jesus and Moses, we cannot accept all the teachings of present Christianity and Judaism. But I also never believe that it is right to tell that they are wrong. This is not my point or idea to argue the different concepts and beliefs of the religions.

  • I here by want to promote mutual understanding and respect of all the religions.

  • Let us not provoke each other.

  • Let us promote mutual understanding, mutual love and mutual respect for each other.

  • All the religions have common good virtues and teachings.

  • Let us highlight the common and similar teachings and leave the differences to practice personally in our own homes and in the premise of the religious worshipping places. We must fulfil our religious rituals and prayers in our own houses and in worshipping places.

  • We should avoid argues, debates, quarrels and discussions on religious differences. These must be avoided in the public but it should be strictly done  in the confines of our own religious community.

  • We should have a communication hot line open always to discuss any social and religious problems among the different faiths as we are staying together and the potential problems will crop up any time.

Engaged Islam is the path we, Muslims in Myanmar should choose, in this modern world of multiethnic society.

  • As we are staying in a non-Islamic country, it is more important for us not to isolate our-selves.

  • But we must communicate, relate, discuss and have a dialogue with or Buddhist Burmese friends.

  • No man is an island. We should not just stay in our own religious atmosphere.

  • We have a lot of things to do in unity despite of our differences in religions.

  • We have to build our beloved country.

  • We have to work together to eradicate hard core poor. Many social and welfare works. World peace and more important than that, peace, stability and progress of Myanmar etc.

We should cooperage extensively in various social and welfare works.

 Please just read the following article by HRH Raja Petra Kamarudin

The law of relativity
Posted by Raja Petra   
Thursday, 10 January 2008
Mankind is quick to judge and pass judgement according to their own values and beliefs. They believe that if they believe it is right then it has to be right and if they believe it is wrong then it has to be wrong. NO HOLDS BARREDRaja Petra KamarudinImage

For example, I am a poor man. I am poor in relation to the wealth that Bill Gates has. And Malaysia Today is making me poorer by the day. But in relation to a Bangladeshi labourer who washes dishes in a Mamak restaurant for a living, I am a rich man. After all, how many Bangladeshi labourers live in a semi-detached house overlooking a golf club? So perception is therefore everything. And this perception can be influenced or clouded by time and place.

There is another thing that influences how you see things. And this would be your own values and beliefs. If you believe that such a thing is right then it would become right, and vice versa. And this belief, again, would be influenced by time and place.

In the pre-Islamic days, women in the Arabian Peninsular were allowed more than one husband. And daughters would be buried alive because women are ‘worthless’ compared to men. Women are merely ‘property’ that can be passed down just like sheep and camels. Nevertheless, in spite of women being regarded as property, they could have more than one husband. In Europe, at around that same time, women would be made to wear chastity belts to ensure that they did not indulge in sex with another man. And halfway across the world the women there, ‘second-class’ people according to Arab standards, could legally enjoy sex with many men.

The same time but in two different places and what was right for one society was very wrong for another. So who are we to judge what is right and what is wrong? Right and wrong all depends on when that particular thing happened and where it happened.

Right and wrong are very much in the mind. It very much depends on how you have been brought up and educated and what your mind has been conditioned to become. And religion of course plays a very big part in all this.

Let us look at another example. Muslims would be very offended if you invite them for dinner and the food is non-halal or there is pork on the table. Even if there is no pork on the table but the kitchen cooks pork they would still feel offended. You have to ensure that the restaurant is totally pork-free and that the food is halal. It is not enough that pork is not on the table.

But Muslims do not feel offended if they invite vegetarians, Hindus or Buddhists for dinner and there is beef on the table. While Muslims may become very violent if you serve them pork, they are cool about serving vegetarians, Hindus and Buddhists, beef. If you point out to them that according to your religious belief beef is not halal, they would just suggest you lay off the beef. They would not apologise and instruct the waiter to remove the beef. They would then continue consuming beef in front of you. Try eating pork in front of them and see how they would react.

To Muslims, it is wrong to serve pork or even have it on the table or cooked in the kitchen. But it is right to serve beef and have it cooked in the kitchen and even eat it in front of you while you look on totally repulsed by the sight. The Muslim view of right and wrong would be what is right and wrong in Islam. What about what is right and wrong in the other religions? Muslims regard only Islam as the true religion and all other religions as false so they will only take what Islam says is right and wrong as the criteria. The right and wrong for the other religions need to be ignored or else you would be regarded as ‘practicing’ the values of another religion.

Unfortunately, this value system and the yardstick adopted to gauge right from wrong make Muslims very selfish. They only worry about what is right and wrong from the Islamic perspective while totally ignoring what may be allowed or taboo for the other religions. They would not bother to find out the religious persuasions of their dinner guests or ensure that the right menu is prepared in compliance to that particular religious belief. But they expect you to know that they are Muslims and that Islam forbids pork. And it is your duty to ensure that the restaurant is totally halal and that not only there is no pork cooked or served anywhere in the restaurant but that the beef and other livestock have been properly slaughtered the correct Islamic way.

Mankind is quick to judge and pass judgement according to their own values and beliefs. They believe that if they believe it is right then it has to be right and if they believe it is wrong then it has to be wrong. And they will use the present time and place and according to how they have been brought up and educated into believing as the criteria.

In the days before the French Revolution, cat burning was a popular form of entertainment. Cats would be rounded up and placed in a cage and then lowered slowly into an open fire. The cats would scream with pain, and as they burned the spectators would clap and squeal with delight. Yes, this was a very popular form of entertainment in France in the days before cable TV, the internet, computer games and the like.

There is of course nothing wrong with that form of entertainment. This is not considered cruelty to animals. Yes, there is nothing wrong and it is not cruel against the backdrop of France 500 years ago. Try doing that in Paris today and see what happens. Therefore, what was right 500 years ago in France is wrong today. And 500 years ago even the ‘primitive’ and ‘backward’ Malays in this country would not burn alive hundreds of cats for entertainment. It was wrong for Malays to subject cats to what today would be regarded as cruelty even 500 years ago when it was fashionable in France and a very popular form of entertainment. Right and wrong therefore depends on who you are, where you are, and at what point of time or when you are considering all this.

Now let us look at religion. Every religion, not only Islam, says it is right and that all the other religions are wrong. But which one is the really right religion? Do you know? Of course you do know. And your answer would be: the right religion is the religion you were born into and which you were brought up in and taught to believe in. All the others are wrong.

But how can you be sure of this? Is it because you have been brainwashed and indoctrinated so? Okay, what if you were born into a Muslim family instead of a Christian family? Would you still say that Jesus was the last Prophet and that Muhammad was a fake? You were taught your entire life that Islam is the true religion and all other religions are false. Your entire family is Muslim and you have been taught to believe that if you do not believe in Islam you will be sent to hell where you will remain forever. How would you not believe this is so?

Right and wrong all depend on how you were born. If you were born in Sweden to a Christian family then your beliefs would be moulded along that society’s value system. And if you were born in Saudi Arabia to a Wahabbi family then your beliefs would be moulded along that society’s value system. In both situations you would believe you are right. And in both situations you could actually be wrong.

How could both be right? One has to be right and the other wrong. But the right and wrong would all depend on which family you were born into. So right could be wrong and wrong could be right according to who you are in terms of time, race and religious beliefs. Therefore, since right and wrong are not static but would change according to which family you were born into and at which point of time, then there cannot be any right and wrong. Right and wrong do not exist. Right and wrong are merely how you perceive things and perceptions — since they are influenced by time, place, upbringing, etc. — are not real.

But mankind will not accept this. No one would declare that the religion they believe in is wrong while the religion they do not believe in is right. Right is always what you believe in and wrong would be all which is opposed to what you believe in. That is the value system you will uphold.

But how do you even know in the first place that there is such a thing called religion and that it came from God? You don’t. You only have faith. And you will allow your faith to decide your beliefs. This is what you have been taught and what those who have taught you have been taught before that. So it is a hand-me-down ‘knowledge’ that cannot be proven but must be believed only because those before you have believed the same.

If I tell you that God listens to my prayers every night you would believe this because you believe the same thing. In fact, billions of people believe this same thing so as long as this belief is shared by the majority then it must be right. But if I tell you that God talks to me through my notebook computer and He leaves me messages on my word processor you would not believe me mainly because no one else believes the same thing. Your beliefs and your perception of right and wrong therefore is based on majority view. As long as the majority thinks the same then this is correct. It is wrong only when it goes against the majority view. Cat burning, if made into an international event, would be right only if many think so, as was so in France 500 years ago. Would you think that boxing is an acceptable sport if 99% of the world condemned it? If boxing is acceptable why not duels with pistols?

You may think this statement is ridiculous. Well, it would not be considered ridiculous during the time of the Romans when gladiators battled to the death in the Coliseum. It may be wrong today but it was very right then. And as recent as 150 years ago witches were burned alive at the stake in ‘modern’ Europe and America. An estimated 20,000-50,000 witches were burned alive over 300 years or so and it was very much right then and sanctioned, in fact encouraged, by the church. It is only wrong to burn witches today.

The throw of a dice

     
Posted by Raja Petra   
Monday, 28 January 2008
Undeniably, our beliefs and prejudices are influenced by the environment we are brought up in. The era we live in also plays a very important part in all this. 250 years ago I would not be running Malaysia Today. Instead, I would be holding a keris in my hand and would be leading an army to oust the government and replace it with a better government.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Image

RPK, I have a simple experiment for you to prove that what we said is a whole bunch of baloney.

Please ask your lovely wife Ms. Marina why she converted to Islam?

Then ask her again:

1) If you were a Christian will she convert?

2) If you were a Jew will she convert?

3) If you were Chinese will she convert?

4) If you were an atheist will she convert?

5) Lastly, tell us if you are mama boy and mama said no to Islam will she convert?

If she can give you the same answer every time, then she is a true believer of Islam.

written by Semuaok, January 28, 2008 | 00:11:42 (with editing of grammatical/spelling errors)

————————–

 

Dear Semuaok, I really don’t know what you are going on about and what your five questions have to do with the subject matter, which is Malaysia is a failed state. Anyway, so as to not give you the impression I am at a loss for words, in 1973, my wife Mabel was informed by the Imam Besar of the Masjid Negara that since she is a Catholic she need not convert to Islam just to marry me. She can remain a Catholic and still marry me. Not being a practicing Muslim myself, other than the fact I was merely born a Muslim, I did not insist she convert and was very happy to maintain status quo. After all, I did enjoy escorting her to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas was a family tradition on my mother’s side of the family, though it was never regarded as a religious affair – sort of like New Year’s Eve. (We actually went to church to look at the girls, if you know what I mean).

 

To cut a long story even longer, she wanted to convert on her own free will and later some of her cousins and their entire family, plus her mother (my mother-in-law), converted as well – although I had no plans to marry any of them, so you can’t blame this on marriage. Some of her cousins remained Catholics while her sister and family remained Buddhists. My wife, Mabel, took on the ‘Muslim’ name Marina, which is not quite a Muslim name as such. But then, in that sense, neither is my name Petra a Muslim name as well. The name Marina was suggested by the wife of the then Deputy Chief of the Special Branch, Raja Adnan Raja Abdullah, my brother’s father-in-law.

I really did not live the life of a Muslim so I honestly can’t say that I set a good example for her to follow and that she became ‘attracted’ to Islam because of me. Actually, I could be regarded as a very bad Muslim and it would make sense that my example should have put her off from converting to Islam. Anyway, she wanted to convert on her own free will and without any prompting from me and in spite of the Imam Besar of the Masjid Negara telling her that she need not convert.

They say those who are born Muslims have a very shallow knowledge of Islam while the ‘Orientalists’ and converts seem to study Islam in greater depth and have a better understanding of the religion. After all, when you are born a Muslim you are sent to religious and Quran recital classes at a very tender age and at that age you are just taught to follow, obey and believe without doubts and without question. All you need to do is attend Friday prayers at any mosque and you will hear the imam preach that we must not question, doubt or dispute what the guru tells us as that would go against Islamic teachings. We are also taught that we must always learn religion from a ‘human’ guru and never alone from ‘non-human’ books because if we do then the devil (shaitan) will become our guru.

Invariably, because of this ‘understanding’ of Islam, Muslims shy away from conducting research and would rather sit cross-legged on the floor of the mosque and absorb anything and everything that the religious teachers tell us without debate or question. We assume that the guru knows what he is talking about and to question, dispute or doubt what is being taught would cause us to be led astray.

The so-called ‘Golden Age of Islam’ was actually during the time of Harun Al Rashid. This was the time of innovation and invention. In the era when Europe still believed that headaches are caused by the devil entering our head, the Muslims diagnosed headaches as brain tumours. In the era when Europeans summoned priests to exorcise the devils from our heads, the Muslims performed brain surgery to remove the tumour. Irrigation, clocks, ‘modern’ weapons of war, etc., were invented by the Muslims. The Europeans then had no notion of precise time while the Muslims invented clocks that used water to drive the mechanism which could tell time to the nearest second. Arid desert land were irrigated using mechanical pumps and soon became fertile enough to support agriculture. And so on and so forth.

Of course, not all inventions were from scratch and not all the scientists were Muslims. Some were Jews or Christians living in Muslim lands. The Muslims went to China to learn how to make gunpowder, but while the Chinese used gunpowder for ‘entertainment’ purposes such as in firecrackers and fireworks, the Muslims used gunpowder to make cannons and whacked the shit out of the Crusaders who were merely using swords and bow-and-arrows. Saladin or Sallahuddin was not a brilliant general as much as he was aided by ‘modern’ technology to defeat the Europeans and capture Palestine.

Eventually, a conflict arose between the ruling elite, who were seen as not Islamic enough, and the members of the cloth. The conflict was finally settled with an agreement that religion would come under the jurisdiction of the ulamak while the ruling elite would just run the state. The ulamak decided on the laws and on what would be regarded as right and wrong. That, basically, was how the Shariah came into being although the Islamists would dispute this opinion and would insist that the Shariah existed since the time of Prophet Muhammad.

The ulamak eventually prohibited innovation and called it bidaah and that was the beginning of the end for Muslim technology. If I can be so bold as to say at the risk of my head getting separated from my shoulders that the ulamak ‘killed’ Islam. The Europeans mastered Arabic and went to Muslim Spain to learn from the Muslims. They then went back to Europe and translated all the Arabic books into western languages. While the Muslims slid backwards because of the prohibition on innovation (bidaah), the Europeans innovated even further and propelled forwards. Today, Muslim countries can’t even make a plastic cup and all are in the category of failed states.

Anyway, to cut a long story even longer, my wife, now called Marina, learned how to recite the Quran from Tok Guru Haji Abbas Khatib Muhammad, a man most would know if they hail from Kuala Ibai, home of the famous ‘floating’ mosque south of Kuala Terengganu. She also read Hadith Sahih Bukhari and Kitab Imam Ghazzali, basically recommended reading for those who want to become ‘proper’ Muslims.

But there was one problem in all this though. In spite of the ten or so trips she made to Mekah and the various readings and religious classes she attended, my wife had been brought up to think, unlike the ‘born’ Muslims who have been taught to accept and believe without question, dispute or debate. So she read more. And she researched. And we both sat for long hours with dozens of books spread out across the bed to refer and cross-refer the various and different opinions on what Islam really teaches and what Islam is all about.

My wife pointed out to me the verse in the Quran that says do not accept anything without verification. She also pointed out the verse that asked do we want to merely follow the majority belief and justify this with the excuse that we just followed what our ancestors believed before us whereas our ancestors were wrong? She then read books written by both Muslims as well as ‘Orientalists’ (who sometimes do better research and know more about Islam than even Muslims themselves) to get a wider and more balanced view on Islam. She and I would spend hours at the bookshops scouring the bookshelves in search of books that would satisfy our lust for more knowledge.

One book she read, which is in fact a very popular book, related how one day the Prophet’s wife got accidentally left in the desert when she went to answer the call of nature and the caravan went off without realising she was not around. This book was trying to explain how the animosity between the Prophet’s son-in-law cum cousin, Ali, and the Prophet’s youngest wife, Aishah, came about. A young, handsome Arab happened to pass by and saw the frantic Aishah marooned in the desert and he immediately recognised her as one of the Prophet’s wives although he had never met her before. He recognised her as one of the Prophet’s wives because she wore a tudung and only the Prophet’s wives wore tudungs.

The young, handsome Arab came to Aishah’s rescue and the following day she was reunited with the caravan which by then had realised she was missing and had stopped, wondering what they should do. Aishah was missing for one whole night and when she rode up the next morning with this young, handsome Arab this started tongues wagging. Eventually, the whole of Medina was gossiping about the ‘affair’ Aishah had with the young, handsome Arab and Ali pressured the Prophet to divorce her to protect his reputation. Muhammad was a Prophet and he could not afford people gossiping about his ‘unfaithful’ wife. Invariably, this was how the animosity between Ali and Aishah started and later, when Ali became the Fourth Caliph, Aishah led an army from Mekah to attack Ali in Medina. The tragedy to this whole thing is that this animosity still exists even after 1,400 years. And this is one of the reasons for the conflict between the Shiahs and the Sunnis that has taken millions of lives in the many Muslim versus Muslim wars since the time of Ali-Aishah.

This was not a story about whether Muslim women should wear tudungs. It was a story about what led to the War of the Camel fought between Ali and Aishah. But my wife did not miss that part about the young, handsome Arab man immediately recognising Aishah as one of the Prophet’s wives because of the tudung she wore and that only the Prophet’s wives wore tudungs. My wife then read what the Quran said about women having to wear tudungs and the verses in the Quran she came across spoke about covering your bosom and that when you talk to any of the Prophet’s wives you must ‘screen’ yourself and not gaze into their eyes.

Okay, I have dragged this long story far enough and will now address your questions, Semuaok. I really do not know whether my wife would have converted to Islam had I been born a Christian, Jew, Chinese, Indian, Atheist, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. Maybe she would or maybe she wouldn’t have. Who can say? But I do know she is a better-read Muslim than many ‘born’ Muslims. Furthermore, many have converted to Islam not because of marriage but for other reasons such as because they have studied many religions and finally decided that Islam is the best choice. How did they come to that decision that Islam is the best choice whereas others feel that Islam is in fact the worst choice (probably you included)?

These people are not farmers or fishermen but are in fact very intelligent and well-educated people. Surely they are able to think. And with that super-brain they still chose Islam? How do we explain this? Can we say that these people are not really that clever after all or that Islam is really the better religion and these people know it? How do we answer this question? A religious person would argue that God moved their hearts and a Muslim would say that God showed them the correct path. But if you are not religious or not a Muslim you would not accept this argument as valid.

I can’t speak for my wife, Semuaok, but I can certainly testify that had I been born in Sweden to a Christian family I would most definitely not be born a Muslim. Pure common sense can tell you that and you need not go to a religious school to understand this. And had I been born in Saudi Arabia or Iran then I would most likely be a Wahhabi Muslim or a Shiah Muslim respectively. However, had I been born in Sweden or China or Tibet or wherever, and whether I would later leave the religion of my parents and convert to Islam is a question no one, if they are honest with themselves, can answer.

Undeniably, our beliefs and prejudices are influenced by the environment we are brought up in. The era we live in also plays a very important part in all this. 250 years ago I would not be running Malaysia Today. Instead, I would be holding a keris in my hand and would be leading an army to oust the government and replace it with a better government. That was how my ancestors lived their lives and I have no reason to suspect I would be any different. I have a terrible temper, as did all my ancestors before me, so, just like my ancestors, I will not take any crap from anyone. The Internal Security Act did not come into law until 1960 but 15 years before that one of my grandfathers, Raja Musa (Moses), was exiled to the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean for opposing the government. Even earlier than that another of my ancestors, Raja Haji, died fighting the Dutch in Melaka. The Dutch honoured him with the title Raja Api (Prince of Fire) in spite of him being ‘the enemy’. And many of his great-grandfathers and grandfathers before that died fighting the Siamese and the other superpowers of that era.

Of course, that was then, when fighting governments and superpowers was a noble and manly thing to do. And plundering the Dutch and British ships was an honourable profession and women would swoon over you and fall over each other to become one of your twenty wives. Today, they would hang me by the neck until I die or lock me away in Kamunting and throw away the key. Anyway, I don’t think I want to die plundering British ships in the Straits of Melaka.

I have said this before in one of my previous articles and I will say it again: when and where you were born will determine what you become. As I also said, I would like to be more than just a Blogger. I would like to be at the head of an army that topples this government. But that does not work any more. Today, we have elections and democratically-elected governments. So that is how we shall have to change the government in spite of the elections being heavily rigged in favour of the ruling party. And as to whether my wife would today be a Muslim if not for the fact that she met me and later we got married, hey, I don’t even know whether you would be asking me that question had you been born in Java and came to this country in a boat to look for work in one of the construction sites. Some things in life will have to remain a mystery. Maybe someone, somewhere, threw a dice so now we are what we are. Who knows?

3 Responses

  1. pl change the theme of the blog as most of the writings are unreadable !

    Dear Dr Prabhat Tandon,
    TQ for reading and for the good advise. It will take some time for me to change the theme now as all the colours I used for the text are faint and pale in other themes. Please just kindlyhighlight my articles, all will be visible in black and white clearly. Sorry for the inconveniences.

    TQ again

  2. Dear Dr Prabhat,

    The person I love whom I’ve known for a 1 1/2 yrs he’s my best friend… we hardly argue we are almost like soul mates except for our religions… He’s a Iraqi Muslim and I’m a Buddhist who believes in humanity . Recently he asked me why I wouldn’t convert to Islam and then he said “even my friends say that I made a biggest mistake , and I’m not even suppose to eat food made by a buddhist” … it really hurt me so much … this person who knows me so well is blindly saying things like this. …

    I just need to know if the Quran really says something like that, because I respect all religions so I really don’t believe the quran says this.

    If there’s a false interpretation that they have made could you tell me what the correct interpretation is please?

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