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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

YOGA OR NO YOGA

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.

3 comments:

azrinizam said...

salam

teruskan perjuangan membela agama, bangsa dan negara.

ram said...

Salam,

Totally agree with you that the edict by the council should have clearly provided explanations on the reasons why the decision was arrived, but then this is purely an Islamic matter and not for others to debate as it should only affect the Muslims in this country. I have often wondered why in Malaysia there is such hue and cry over the sanctity of religious beliefs, this might be the answer,perhaps....
The reason for this is one of faith, when one's faith is threatened insecure people will look for scapegoats especially if there are popular sub-cultures that provide that threat and seem to be having a large following, and one of that sub-cultures practised by Malaysians is yoga. I believe stating that yoga is banned because of its mantras & Sanskrit words is up to the learned council's interpretation but certainly implying that it will erode the faith of its Islamic subjects is very insulting to both Muslims and others.
I am sure that Muslims would be confident in their own faith in a pluralistic society like ours than be overwhelmed by Sanskrit words and mantras to be able to convince them to change their faith?
I consider religious belief to be - one of faith, it is up to the individual to choose what or whom she or he beliefs in and it is entirely a private process between them and their god.
The religious council has by large neglected to understand that words like 'haram' and the notion that yoga might convince Muslims to lose one's faith are the very reason that this subject is now mired in controversy. It is perhaps regrettable that we do not have the wisdom in being careful with the choice of words an how it might affect the psyche of Malaysians.
How I wish that we could be more sensitive to the idea of living in a pluralistic society rather than one which is more polarised to both race and religion when what we need are mutual respect, fairness & integrity.
The Islamic council by this very edict has lost something called credibility not because it has banned yoga and certainly not because by the edict itself but by its manner of representing the facts before hand and mostly being insensitive to the intelligence and faith of its Malaysian citizens in the 21st century!
I am sure Malaysians can accept the fact that yoga is unsuitable for Muslims and that its practise of mantras and chants is not congruent in the teachings of the Islamic faith but the religious authorities should stop patronising Malaysian with their officialdom and stance and instead be better equipped in the knowledge & understanding of psychology,sociology and theological practices of the religions of the world rather than be sectarian,polarised and nihilistic in their approach.

I leave you with an old and wise leadership statement by Hal Krause..

Leadership does not know rank,nor can it be bought,
it is not symbolised by character nor by its strength,

.........it is simply an elegance of conduct that transcends either.



Thoughts for an old friend,respectfully yours - Ram

aflaw said...

Islam is a progressive and complete religion..it's definitely suitable in whatever time and conditon but the problems mostly due to the officials in religious bodies..No wonder, the westerners always label muslims as extremists.