Message to Perak’s Mullah Harussani Zakaria

May 27, 2016

Message to Mullah Harussani Zakaria–Islam is not about exclusivity

by Azrul Mohd Khalib

Perak’s Mullah Harussani Zakaria with his political patron, Najib Razak

Warning: If this column starts to sound like you have read it before and you think that you are having a déjà vu moment, you are probably right. It sometimes feels like a broken record dealing with and responding to our recalcitrant and wayward religious authorities.

We have just been told that it is a crime to publish, and to read the Quran in non-Arabic languages without accompanying Arabic text.

Stop the press! All printing of the Quran in Chinese, Spanish, Afrikaans, Russian, Chechen, Indonesian and English around the world must cease! After all, if it is supposedly a wrong practise here, it must be wrong elsewhere too. After all, Islam is a global religion.

The recent warning from Harussani Zakaria, chairman of the Home Ministry’s Al-Quran Printing, Control and Licensing Board, is representative of what’s gone wrong with the practice and teaching of Islam in this country.

While Muslims in other countries are busy making their religion increasingly accessible, friendly and inclusive to those not of the Islamic faith, our religious authorities are moving in the exact opposite direction.

Far from sounding enlightened, progressive and welcoming, individuals such as Harussani are making Islam in Malaysia sound and appear to others as arrogant, irrational, suspicious and disdainful of other religions.

Maybe Harussani is more knowledgeable than I am in this matter, but I am almost certain that this kind of paternalistic approach is neither in accordance with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad nor adhering to the principles of Islam. But what do I know? I don’t write or understand Arabic so Harussani can perhaps provide some enlightenment.

I am tired of our religious authorities treating Islam like it is some exclusive club and they alone determine who gets to join and the conduct of those who are members. Historically, we have seen this behaviour before where the clergy of an institutionalised religion attempts to impose a monopoly on faith and its teachings under the guise of “only the learned and knowledgeable” (i.e themselves) can communicate with God and not be led astray.

The reality has less to do with God but more to do with the very earthly pursuit of power and control over others. Over the years, the ever-expanding sphere of influence of Islamic institutions in Malaysia have gone increasingly unchecked and it can be argued that through their actions, have repeatedly violated Constitutional limitations and even expressed disdain for those limits. Yet, very few have dared to challenge them and even fewer have stood to defend those who have done so. Just ask Rosli Dahlan.

I have travelled to many places in the world where Islam has taken root and flourished. Based on my own understanding, Islam is not and has never been about exclusivity and superiority of faith.

It is arguably a violation of Islamic teachings to insist on exclusivity as touted by Harussani as it prevents others from acquiring knowledge, learning and understanding Muslims and Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself, through his own documented practises and teachings, practised inclusivity, humility, and believed in the importance of knowledge and most importantly, sharing it with others.

Exclusivity results in misunderstanding, ignorance, conflict, bigotry and irrational fear. It breeds contempt for others and arrogance.

One of the most common complaints and gripes by the Islamic authorities and clergy in this country is that they are frequently misunderstood and that others must seek understand and learn about Islam.

Fair argument, until you make important texts like the Quran inaccessible. Read the notice from the Kementerian Dalam Negeri again and you will realise that what it is actually saying is that reading the Quran is off limits to non-Muslims (need to take Islamic ritual ablutions to touch and read the Quran) and to those not proficient in the Arabic language.

Speaking of reading, I have struggled to explain to those who are non-Muslims how it is possible for a person to be able to read the Arabic in the Quran yet not understand a single word of it.

Because that is how the Quran is often taught (can a person be taught when the language of the lesson itself is not understood?) here in this country.

Harussani’s statement itself affirms that you can read without understanding and it is okay. I really don’t understand that and never have. Wouldn’t it be meaningless without understanding the words of what you are reading? Maybe it’s just me but that is my individual cross to bear.

Oh, final question for the mandarins of the Kementerian Dalam Negeri: is it also a crime to download digital versions of the Quran such as eBooks or apps in other languages? Are we allowed to think for ourselves or do we need to ask for your permission?

Those who demand for exclusivity and impose such restrictions and monopolies of knowledge convey a lack of depth in their awareness and understanding of how Islam is practised elsewhere around the globe and of its co-existence with other world religions.

Get a grip.

4 thoughts on “Message to Perak’s Mullah Harussani Zakaria

  1. Isn’t he a mufti from a state that has a Harvard PhD as the head of religion (and before that a former Chief Justice) and what does it say when considering the context in which the mufti is empowered and enabled to be where he is today? You and I are just worthless unrespected rakyats who are told when to clap and when to “angguk” when such leaders speak!! Didn’t the same ruler was the one who gives Utusan Malaysia a thumb’s up? Enough said.

  2. Yes, but why is always so these mediocrity rise so high if the religion and “the deen” is so great? How can it be ” great”?? It looks more like train wreck coming..

  3. Quote:- “Harussani’s statement itself affirms that you can read without understanding and it is okay. I really don’t understand that and never have. Wouldn’t it be meaningless without understanding the words of what you are reading?”

    I was told by a Muslim friend that you don’t need to understand what the Arabic words mean. The very act of just reciting the words alone has Holiness and Power in itself because the words were the carefully chosen Words of the Almighty who has an intelligence way beyond the understanding of any human.

    It’s like the Quran is actually a gigantic Book of magical Spells imbuing or even hypnotizing the reciter and the hearer with divine qualities and attributes. And yet for those who understand the words, there is also a meaningful message as well.

    Thus the Quran accomplices two things. The words have ordinary meanings and yet at the same time the act of sounding the words loudly, though not understandable, creates vibratory resonances which are magically divine and heard by God.

    The word “Quran” literally means “the recitation” You do not just read the Quran mentally, like a novel, you must recite it out loud to obtain and acquire its full inherent power.

    Thus the argument that Islam is the only religion that is truly true and truly divine because it has such a Book which no human could have written or thought out, certainly not a semi-illiterate camel trader.

    So I suppose that any translation in any language, however good, could only be read and not recited out loud, thus defeating the functionality of God’s intention in giving such an incredible Book to mankind.

    It’s like “abracadabra” or “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, the latter a song from the 1964 Disney musical film Mary Poppins.

    You need not know what these words mean, but just hearing them evokes a variety of emotional responses depending on your personal disposition at certain moments in your life.

    “However, the roots of the word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” have been defined as follows: super- “above”, cali- “beauty”, fragilistic- “delicate”, expiali- “to atone”, and -docious “educable”, with the sum of these parts signifying roughly “Atoning for educability through delicate beauty.” According to the film, in which the word gained its popularity, it is defined as “something to say when you have nothing to say”. However, it is commonly defined as “extraordinarily good” or “wonderful” as all references to the word in the film can be perceived as positive”

    —- Wikipaedia

  4. I have avoided to say anything in regard to this Mufti. He should not use the name which he is having now. My friends in Indonesian Banjarmasin capital of Kalimantan Selantan said he is our people also a Banjar. They told me he
    not a known Muslim learned leader he should be
    called a Mufti huru hara sana sini. I must agree with them.

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