It has been an interesting couple of days on this yoga issue. The edict by the National Fatwa Council has got many talking about it. Many who did not know anything or saw nothing wrong with yoga were caught by surprise. Many more who actually practised yoga thought nothing of it before this until the edict was issued.
Now, I have to admit. I am one of the ignorant ones who knows next to nothing about yoga. Yes, I know it is a lot of posturing, positions, stretching and meditation, but I have to admit I have practically zero knowledge about it. So, I was one of them totally surprised when the National Fatwa Council came up with an edict banning yoga for Muslims. I was more surprised when I heard yoga was also banned by the Fatwa Councils of Egypt and Singapore along with some churches in the UK.
I respect the views and opinions of the learned scholars who debated on this issue resulting on the issuance of the edict. It was after all decided only after much deliberation and I assume research. And these are by people whom are elected to sit in the council because of their in depth knowledge in the religion. From what I have read also, the banning of yoga for Muslims is because it has certain connotations to Hinduism – the chanting, meditation and so on.
But yoga is divided into two, the physical element and the spiritual element. Many would argue that the physical stretching, posturing and so on without the chants or meditation in yoga are alright. Many yoga enthusiasts argue that they practise yoga for health and do not in any way undertake the spiritual side. My friends and I were also discussing last evening and one correctly pointed out that our Malay and Malaysian culture have been infused by bits and pieces of Hinduism practice minus the religious elements. Take bersanding in a wedding for example, I am told that this practice originated from India and practised by the Indians. A lot of Malay weddings do it also, but it does not mean we practice or are any closer to Hinduism.
What I would like to see is for the National Fatwa Council to explain its decision. I want the council to elaborate and clarify in detail the various reasons to ban yoga. The Council must make the public, especially the Muslim public understand its decision, how and why the members arrived to it. The Council cannot expect the public to just accept whatever they decide without any justification and clarification. This lack of explanation by the Council is exactly the reason why certain states will adopt the edict whilst others won’t. This lack of justification is why some people can accept the edict without any questions whilst others are not able to accept it. At the end of the whole debate, what we will get is nothing more but total and utter confusion.
Furthermore, as far as I am concerned, practising yoga is good for health ( don’t forget I know nuts about yoga!!). An explanation would definitely help me undertand the edict. More so, I am sure not all of yoga is no good. I would like to suggest for the Council to re-analyse yoga from all angles. Allow and adopt the positive elements but ban the negative parts. And explain it to the public.
I am willing to give the National Fatwa Council the benefit of the doubt. But they should and must explain their thought process in arriving to the edict of banning yoga and explore the idea to adopt the positive parts and ban the negative elements of yoga.