Thursday, January 16, 2014


Religionists believe what they believe.
If you may have noticed, I normally do not use the term theists, those who believe in God — as opposed to atheists who do not believe in God, or polytheists who believe in many gods. And the reason I use the term religionists and not theists is because religionists are more focused on religion than in God in their beliefs.
Anyway, as I said, religionists believe what they believe. And this opening statement may sound strange because certainly people would believe what they believe.

Actually, if you ponder on that statement a bit deeper, you can see that what I actually mean is you have a belief and you think that this belief is correct. You believe you are right about your beliefs. Hence you believe what you believe.
But are you absolutely sure that what you believe is correct even if you may believe so? You believe that what you believe is right. But how do you know that you are not wrong about what you believe?
You don’t, really, because what you believe is what you have been told and there is no way of knowing that what you have been told is the truth.
Some Muslims believe that you must never touch the Qur’an unless you first take your ablution (wuduk). It is haram to touch a Quran when you have not been purified by your ablution (some call it prayer water orair sembahyang). Ask ten Malay-Muslims and probably nine will say that this is true. This is what they have been taught and surely their ustaz (religious teacher) is not wrong.
(I have personally seen Qur’ans with ‘warning notices’ printed on the inside cover that you must have ablution before touching a Qur’an).
Invariably, this means, therefore, that non-Muslims cannot touch a Qur’an. It is taboo for them to touch a Qur’an since they are not Muslims and, therefore, would not be purified with ablution.
Again, nine out of ten Malay-Muslims you ask will say this is true because that is what they have been taught.
I remember, about 16 years ago, when we wanted to place the English translation of the Qur’an in hotel rooms all over Malaysia (like they do with the Gideons Bible) the government would not allow it. They were worried that non-Muslims may pick up the Qur’an, and without prayer water, too, on top of that.
But that was the whole purpose, we told the government. We want non-Muslims to pick up the Qur’an and read it. That is why we want to place a million copies in hotel rooms all over Malaysia. And we are going to give them to the hotels free-of-charge.
The hotels then asked us what if the room guests put these Qur’ans in their bags and take them home?
Even better. We want them to take it home and, hopefully, read it, not so much expecting them to convert to Islam but more in the hope that after reading the Qur’an they would get a better understanding of Islam.
But, no, the government would not give us permission and some of the hotels (many Muslim or GLC owned hotels included) did not want them. Surprisingly, the first hotel to say yes was a Japanese hotel, but only if we can give them a letter from the government saying that it is okay for them to do so.
For more than a year we quarrelled with the government but they would not budge. Finally, exasperated, I marched into the Deputy Prime Minister’s office and demanded to meet Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar took one look at me and asked what contract am I there to lobby for.
Sheesh, do only businessmen who want contracts go to see Anwar? I then handed Anwar a letter that explained why I was there. To Anwar’s credit, or maybe he felt guilty for being suspicious of why I wanted to see him, in a matter of days the matter was resolved and we obtained the permission that we sought.
In short, I had to ‘abuse’ my relationship with Anwar and request him to ‘abuse’ his power to ride roughshod over the religious authorities. Those people in the religious authority may be speaking on behalf of God but I managed to get the Deputy Prime Minister to overrule God (nah, I am just being cheeky here).
Those in the religious authority believed what they believed. And they believed that non-Muslims must never be allowed to touch a Qur’an, or even Muslims who do not have ablution.
I asked the religious authorities where these Qur’ans are printed? They did not know. Are all those who work at the printers Muslims? They did not know. And if they are Muslims do they take their ablution before they switch on the printing machine? They did not know. And when they pack these Qur’ans after printing are all those workers Muslims and Muslims who have taken their ablution? Again, they did not know.
Then, for all you know, the workers at the printers could be non-Muslims who just had bak kut teh for breakfast. I saw the officers squirm in their seats and at a loss for words.
Who was the first to convert to Islam after the revelation came down to Muhammad? (Some say Ali and some say Khatijah). How and why did they convert? Muhammad ‘gave’ them the Qur’an and because of the beauty of the verses of the Qur’an they converted.
So they were not yet Muslims, right? Right. And Muhammad ‘gave’ them the Qur’an, right? Right. So they did not have ablution yet, right? Right.
And if that is how Muhammad attracted converts — by giving the Qur’an to non-Muslims and people that did not have ablution — are we not then doing exactly what Muhammad did?
That was when they ended the meeting and which forced me to march to the Deputy Prime Minister’s office to get him to overrule what the officers told me is what God decreed.
So, yes, 16 years ago in 1998, Anwar did overrule the religious authorities and because of that we managed to get hundreds of thousands of Qur’ans distributed to many hotels all over Malaysia.
And that brings us to the issue of non-Muslims using the Allah word…

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