In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful.
“Ketakutan adalah cemeti kepada gembala, harapan adalah parasakti kepada penganjur, kasih sayang adalah arusan kepada pelayar. Si penakut ketika melakukan pekerjaaan yang berat dan susah, tidak menghiraukan kesusahan dan kepayahan dan seterusnya membawa ia bersabar terhadap sebarang dugaan dan pancaroba. Manusia, yang berharap-harap tidak akan menghiraukan susah payah dan harapannya itu membawa ia meneroka segala kepahitan dan menanggung segala kepayahan. Si pencinta pula melipat-gandakan segala usaha dan tenaganya dan mengorbankan segala apa yang terdapat demi untuk sampai kepada orang yang dicintainya.” – Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan Al-Buti
Takut, harap dan cinta.
There’s always two sides of the story. Or in this case, three.
After reading an article where some Malaysians shared their experiences living overseas, it strucked me to share some of mine. Of course, it’s undeniable that living an environment where you’ve been pushed to be critical, question and approach everything from a different and personal perspective has definitely done more than strengthening your belief in your own religion and faith. It’s been almost my 4th year in the UK now and my perspectives of things and non-things have very much changed and, I hope, for the better. Questions that have been asked with regards to my practice of belief such as “why do you where your hijab?” or “why do you really have to pray five times a day?” or “why can’t you wear nail polish and pray?” really brought me thinking of my fundamental reasons of why I’m a muslim on the first place. I remembered hanging out with my best friend from Kazakhstan who is spiritually agnostic. Seems paradoxical huh? She never fail to ask me new questions regarding my acts of faith whenever we spent hours of studying or having lunch at our college’s cafe. I would say she is one of the reason why I believe in what I believe right now. 2 years in my college years in Cambridge have given me ample opportunities to engage with few scholars, muslims and non-muslims in answering those questions about my faith.
Having been brought up in a Malay muslim family in Malaysia where my family paid very much attention on our Islamic education to an extent that they opt out Sekolah Kebangsaan in our local area and sent us to an Islamic school instead, really grounded myself upon my faith. Even after we moved to Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, they never cease to invest their time, effort and money going back and forth from Negeri Sembilan to Shah Alam for the sake of having everyday routine of me kissing their hands asking for their blessings before the start of my lessons at SMI Hira’ Shah Alam. The same routine goes on when I moved to a boarding school in Negeri Sembilan, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Agama Pedas. So I was quite surprised and think that it was quite a radical decision of my parents’ to send me abroad for my A Level studies in the UK when I was 18. Alone. But little did I know, something awaits me.
In my first year I learned about love. The questions that were endowed upon me by my classmates or people around me definitely ignited my own curiosity of the fundamentals of Islam itself. I learn simply not to answer “I pray because that is what my religion told me to” or ” I pray because Allah wants me to” but instead gave a scientific approach or a spiritual reasoning for those questions. I learn to push myself out from the pool of people where they blindly follow popular religions where it was seen as an easy out for people who chose not to think for themselves. Perhaps that is why I was really close with my non-muslims friends. I learn to be more tolerant, discovering that the heart of Islam is love. As cliche as it might sounds like, I felt like coming out of my cocoon, like a mole seeing the light for the first time. I learn how to portray Islam and present it in my class full of non-muslims friends in a weekly personal tutoring sessions. I feel liberated when I explain to my friends that I choose to wear what I wear on my head and why I don’t shake hands with male counterparts. It is universally acknowledged that freedom is at the heart of a Western country like the UK. I went to theatres with my Literature class discussing upon internal, external, political and religious conflicts in the Equus, we engaged on George Herbert’s christian-preaching poem where he uses the term “three-personed god” that implies the concept of trinity. I even went to a local church and attended a talk. And that, never in one second shook my faith.
But there is always another side of the story.
In my second year I learned about fear. I came to learn that love is not enough when you deal with your faith. Faith eventually comes with love and fear. If love alone, it will lead to misinterpretation where we will forget about the concept of heaven and hellfire. Syurga dan neraka. If love alone, we will tend to forgive ourselves immediately under the perception that Allah will forgive us no matter how big our sins are. Once, my friend asked me why did I pray but non of her muslims friends from her country pray. They even sleep around and drink in clubs and pubs. I told her to direct those questions to them. And they simply answered, “oh, Islam is all about love. He will forgive us one day because He loves”. If Islam does come with only love, it will not be a complete religion because faith comes not only with love but fear as well. It is almost the same concept when your mother punishes you when you were a kid. If a mother simply educates her child without punishing you for what you did wrong, you will never learn. “Ketakutan adalah cemeti kepada gembala”. Fear will train us, makes us realize the reality of the Hereafter. Fear will ground us to the concept of rewards of the heaven and the punishments of the hellfire. Not only love will wake us up before Fajr for Qiam, but fear will force hot tears falling down your sajadah asking for forgiveness from Him for the sins we have done. Fear is one of the drive of why we practice Islam as our lifestyle. That is one of the reason why Islamic Law is being implemented. Faith is not only something private in Islam but it is legitimately a matter of state concern. This is more prevalent and relevant where I come from a muslim majority country where in Article 3(1) it is stated that the religion of Federation is Islam. Islam comes with a package for muslims to lead a lifestyle and not just mere act of putting your hands together, pray and declare you’re a muslim. Islam comes with the concept of aqidah, fiqh and syariah. The police of our act of faith by the religious authority or other Islamic scholars does not mean we were under blind scrutiny but it is a matter of responsibilty.
And now I learn about hope.
Recently, our former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had recently claimed that Malaysian Muslims have a legitimate fear of Islam being “attacked” through provocations allegedly by the Christians, over their insistence on using the word “Allah” in reference to the Christian God as being reported in the local news. This is a condemnation not simply towards Christians but those missionaries Christians who fight to use the word “Allah” in printed text with a hidden agenda. This is not a matter of Allah-can-defend-Himself-and-He-doesn’t-need-defending or not a matter of etymology and the translation of the a language God but it is beyond that. The bigger question that should be asked is what are the objectives of such matter? Why disrupt the religious harmony and ignite religious tension instead? We have been living in harmony without religious tension for the past decades and I don’t think we ever need one. Not now, not in the future. Call me a realist but I stand with my principle. It is indisputable that “Westernization” and “Liberalization” is happening not only in the realm of politics and faith, but also economical. Plus, this does not only happen in Malaysia, but other non-Western countries experience it as well. Liberals neglect the diversity, culture and faith embedded within the people. How brutal the condemnation of this kind of principle, I stick to it. Because, at the end of the day, I stand with my faith. I believe for a brighter future, where humanity will be restored where humans around me will cease to worship their desires and ‘freedom’ as they call it now. Because true freedom can only be achieved when you liberate yourself to other being than Him. “Manusia, yang berharap-harap tidak akan menghiraukan susah payah dan harapannya itu membawa ia meneroka segala kepahitan dan menanggung segala kepayahan.”
And yes, faith without responsibility is ignorance with evasion.