Friday, March 13, 2015

P.s. Freedom of Religion?

Students had been asking me questions about Islam. I know some general teachings and beliefs about Islam but I don’t know how to answer students if they ask in-depth questions about Islamic theology. I don’t think most Muslims know either (same goes with majority Christians on Biblical theology). I once heard how a Muslim scholar twisted Christian teachings, and how a Christian talked out of his ignorance about Islam. I find telling myself that, I don’t want to do that damage to other religions like that. I don’t want to twist and misinterpret Islam teachings. If I don’t know, I don’t know. If I know, I should give some evidences and study the subject first before giving my response.

So I read some books on Islam by notable scholars and teachers. Local and international. One of the books that I like is Islam Explained by Shaik Kadir (Marshall Cavendish Ltd: Singapore, 2006) – simple and concise. Most popular question students asked me is about the Freedom of Religion, especially in Malaysia. Honestly, in general, Islam teachings about this subject in Malaysia is very confusing (Whenever political-agenda-religious-minded leaders speaks, don’t listen to them). One attitude and ideology stating that Islam is a religion of sword, while majority modest believers says it is a religion of peace. Which one is true? I personally think it’s how people interpret their fundamental beliefs in their religion. What the Al-Quran and Hadith says?

Shaik Kadir, what is your respond? He writes:

“Since the Prophet [Muhammad]’s time, people were and are attracted to Islam because of its uniqueness, beauty, rationality, universality and dynamism.

Another notable characteristics of Islam that makes it attractive to people is the freedom to belief, and this is mentioned in the Quran. God says: “There is no compulsion in the faith,” because “The right way is clearly distinct from error” (2:256). The Quran adds: “If it had been your Lord’s Will, they would have believed – all who are on earth!” (10:99). But God did not make every human being a believer without choice. God made man special, endowing him with superior intelligence.

As man can think and make choices, the Prophet was not allowed by God to compel people to become Muslims (10:99). Instead, God commanded the Prophet to call people to Islam with wisdom and kindness. God says: “(O Muhammad!) Invite (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and reason with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (16:125).

As Islam is a religion established by the Prophet himself (and not one formulated ages after the founder’s death), the Prophet sent letters to rulers of his neighbouring countries inviting them to Islam, but no one was forced to it as he had closed followed the instructions of the Quran not to compel people into it. Therefore, in the course of his 23 years of Apostolic mission, the Prophet did not compel anyone to accept Islam against his own free will, not even his own uncle and guardian, Abu Talib, who was never formally converted to Islam.

God advised the Prophet to tell those with other religions, thus: “You have your faith and I have my faith” (109:6). However, as a comprehensive and completed Religion of God for mankind, Muslims are requested to pass the Message of Islam to others, believers and non-believers, so that they will not hold Islam in contempt. The Islamic method of Islam-sharing is: “Invite (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom” (16:125). This is an invitation taught by God Himself. It is a gracious and intellectual way of inviting people to understand Islam – by wisdom” (page 144-145).

Freedom of religion in Islam – What do you think?
Or freedom of religion in Malaysia – What is your respond?
Have this in mind: I want to understand, not argument. Thanks.

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