Never have I ever been more interested in my religion until someone inspiring and oh, so logical, explains it the way Nouman Ali Khan explains it. He is the man! Haha. I think that if I had a religious teacher like Nouman Ali Khan growing up, I might be more invested in religion than I did before. And I personally also adore Dr. MAZA. He makes sense. It is important to people like me that our religious teachers and authority figures make sense and they get bonus mark if they are also efficient in their instructions to us.
We like people who make sense. In fact I would go so far as to say that I could love them. Truly, madly, deeply! Hahaha.
Okay, the You Tube video above is quite long. But the most important part (that I am going to talk about in this post) is explained by Nouman Ali Khan from minute 19:30 onwards. So if you are pressed for time, just srcoll until you reach that part…it was sooo enlightening and something I had been struggling with since I was an IB student in KMB when I first heard my naqibah in KMB told me “Kita kena buat semua benda niat kepada Allah. Baru dapat pahala. Kalau tak sia-sia kita buat.”
And all these time I kept thinking “Takkanlah hangpa semua belajar medic, berhempas pulas tak tidoq malam, langgah ayaq kopi bercawan-cawan PURELY for the sake of Allah? Mesti niat hangpa nak pass exam juga kan? I mean….come on! Get real here, please!”
(And knowing me, even though I can fake and pretend as good as the next person, but I am very self-aware about what I really feel and what I really think. Really, I can fake acceptance, liking, enjoyment, extraversion….I have learned how to do it. I just don’t like to do it constantly and consistently and therefore would limit the time I have to spend with people who make me feel like I have to pretend or suppress. And with most religious teachers or authority figures, I have gotten so used to suppressing my inner thoughts because when I voice them out, I feel like an alien. Tapi bila balik bilik sembang dengan kawan-kawan, semua orang pun sebenarnya pikiaq benda yang sama ja dengan aku. Exactly the same thoughts! They just didn’t have the need to point it out to their naqibah as much. But I did…so that was my problem!)
And sometimes the usrah mates will organize a ‘jalan-jalan’ around Australia which they term as ‘Jaulah’. They also told me that we should correct our intention and travel for the sake of Allah. So maybe, if we travel for the sake of Allah, we get pahala. And if we just say ‘kita jalan-jalan’ (instead of saying ‘jaulah’ with the right intention) then we only get the ‘dunya and not the akhirat’.
And deep inside, I was thinking “Aku boleh nak guna term ‘jaulah’ untuk cakap yang aku nak pi jalan-jalan. But really, aku pi jalan-jalan sebab aku memang nak jalan-jalan lah! Susahlah aku nak pi kalih niat aku jadi for the sake of Allah pula. Pening weh!”
I had a friend who told me that when she first met her husband, she fell in love with him for the sake of Allah.
Aku macam skeptikal jugalah. In my mind, I went, “Hang dok whatsapp/message dia malam2 tu for the sake of Allah ke? Macam pelik jer. Hahah.”
When you say you smile to me for the sake of Allah, what do you mean? I don’t smile at people for the sake of Allah. I smile at people because I am genuinely happy to see them.
Does that make me a bad person? Not akhirat-oriented enough, maybe?
Then, I thought, I might be so dunya-oriented that I could not even pretend that I was doing everything for the sake of Allah. I was so conflicted by it that I actually wrote a blog post about it when I was a senior HO, reminiscing on my conflict of interest all my life with regards to my lack of PURE INTENTION. (cognitive dissonance, folks!) The post that I wrote then can be read H.E.R.E.
Reading back the post, I wish that I could have found the YOU TUBE video above sooner to sooth my conflicted confusion and my cognitive dissonance at that time. Really, we should stop making people feel guilty about their real intention. Just listen to the video from the minute 19:30 onwards! It’s such an eye opener that makes so much sense, I wanted to weep with relief. You won’t regret the time spent! That video is a gem!
This brings me to the topic of logic and religion.
I believe that religion should make sense. No, I am not talking about the matter of ‘perkara ghaib’ (jin/ syurga/neraka/israk mikraj/mukjizat).
But in matters of general principles and creed and jurisprudence, it MUST make sense. It MUST be fair and just. It MUST be justifiable through logic and dialogue. You MUST be able to reason it out! You MUST! Otherwise, it would create the sort of cognitive dissonance that would turn people away from the religion.
If a concept in the religion does not make sense, then there are usually a few reasons for it:
- Your own maturity and knowledge is lacking to be able to perceive the truth in it
- It was misrepresented by the ustaz/ustazah
- It was a fake hadeeth.
- It was an Isra’illiyyat story that has no basis in Islam.
And truly, religious people like to tell us that we are ‘reason number 1’ when we question them, rather than look at reason number 2, 3, and 4.
When I was in KMB doing my IB studies, another religious 2nd year senior told us the story of “Hassan Al-Basri Dan Wanita Cantik.” in a religious gathering. I am sure we are all familiar with that story. Let me simplify the story to jog your memory.
Hassan Al-Basri ternampak wanita cantik berpurdah berjalan-jalan di pasar. Terpesona dengan mata wanita itu. And keep following her around. Akhirnya wanita itu korek biji mata dia dan hadiahkan kepada Hassan Al-Basri. At last, wanita itu mati. (in other narration, wanita tu tak mati) Kononnya inilah wanita yang sangat warak kerana rasa bersalah kecantikan matanya menyebabkan lelaki tergoda. Lebih kurang macam tulah kisah dia. Pi google kalau nak tau lebih detail dan lanjut. Just type “kisah hassan al basri dan wanita cantik”.
When I heard the story, I squirmed in my seat, feeling sooooo ….angry! Angry that I had to accept this story “because it is religious”. And also feeling guilty that I felt angry about this religious story. I questioned my iman for not accepting that story as religious. I went back to my room and ask my roommate the rational of the woman to korek biji mata dia and at last dia mati (?cause of death ?was it profuse bleeding? Garghh…I don’t know!).
I ranted to my roommate “Hello! Bukan salah dia lelaki tu suka kat mata dia. Dia dah berpurdah. Dia dah cover everything. Mata pun nak kena cover juga ka? Bila pula lelaki tu sendiri nak kena sedar diri nak tundukkan pandangan? Kenapa korbankan deria penglihatan kau…sampai kau mati pula tu…kau just nak prove a point ke apa ni? I just don’t get it! Awat perempuan tu buat macam tu?”
And on and on I went. (My INTP trait was showing. Once we latch on a topic that mystifies us, we just can not stop)
My roommate was well-versed with my habit of ranting out when things don’t make sense or illogical…pasrah ja dia mendengar. Hahaha.
When I went to Australia, I learned from another naqibah that that story is an Israilliyat.
Darn it, I knew it!!
Another story that I struggled with (also in KMB, my goodness! KMB is number one IB school in the world during my time. We were the best! Tapi tengoklah….ada doktrin2 yang pelik2 kat situ)
Perempuan pertama yang masuk syurga sebelum anak kesayangan Nabi S.A.W, Siti Fatimah, ialah seorang isteri bernama Siti Mutiah yang sangat taat kepada suami sehinggakan dia akan sediakan makanan berserta rotan kepada suami dia. Kalau makanan sedap, it’s okay. Kalau makanan tak sedap, rotan itu akan dia serahkan kepada suami dia untuk pukul punggung dia. (Go and google Perempuan pertama yang masuk syurga bersama Siti Fatimah)
I actually struggled with myself SO BADLY about this story, that I wanted to kick something (or, rotan someone) Hahah. And guess what, it is a fake hadeeth. (Tip Religion 101: if things don’t make sense it’s a fake hadeeth or it’s Isra’illiyat. Remember this until your final breath!)
And you know what? That story contradicts with hadis sahih about wanita pertama yang masuk syurga. Tak tersenarai langsung Siti Mutiah! Ada empat wanita pertama masuk syurga: Khadijah Khuwailid, Maryam Binti Imran, Asiyah (isteri Firaun), dan Siti Fatimah.
Mai mana Siti Mutiah??! Come on! Stress aku!
I know I may not look like I am so religiously knowledgeable. My dressing is not so alim kan? haha. But I read a lot! Beyond medic, beyond fiction…I make myself read other things for the sake of a well-rounded knowledge. Benda yang aku tak puas hati, semua aku pi baca balik (when I am interested enough).
And I learn through multiple repeated experience, that religious concept MUST make sense. When it doesn’t make sense, something is fishy somewhere and you better find out before letting yourself be sucked into the delusion.
So aku sangat tak suka kisah-kisah yang konon ‘ada nilai-nilai murni’ tapi hangpa reka sampai orang boleh misinterpret and menyebabkan fitnah kepada agama. Can you imagine if the two stupid stories above were told to non-muslims? Wouldn’t our religion look bad in their eyes? And that is the reason why Nabi Muhammad S.A.W said very clearly:
“Siapa yang berdusta di atas namaku, hendaklah dia menyiapkan tempatnya di neraka”.
So, most people would just shrug their shoulders and said “Ala, ni kisah untuk pengajaran. Tak payahlah hang nak ambil pot sangat. No need to be so intense. Yang baik kita ambil. Yang buruk, kita tak payah ambil”.
Hahha. Inilah orang-orang yang akan menyebabkan aku lagi meluat. Personality clash habis! Aku pula yang kau kata intense? Kau yang tak sensitif dengan penipuan menggunakan nama Nabi. Tempat kat neraka tu, tak payah nak intense ka? Aku bengang kot kena tipu macam tu! Macam mana kalau aku ni jenis lemah iman and terus question the authenticity of my religion because of these stories? Think about it! Do you think nabi saja-saja habaq yang berdusta atas nama dia masuk neraka? The impact of such stories is HUGE!
So really, I am not intense! You are the one who do not posses critical thinking and too blunted! Or maybe, you just don’t care enough to feel anything, anyway. Kan?
You only bother to be intense about things that affect you directly; like your cheating husband, your naughty drug-addicted sons, your annoying parents and siblings. Your world revolves around them only, you are like a katak bawah tempurung who cannot venture beyond what you deal with daily…and you feel nothing about higher concept like truth, justice, fairness …well, until untruth, injustice and unfairness happen to you. Waktu tu baru you nak intense la kan? Because it affects you directly. When it doesn’t affect you, you just don’t care.
(And I really cannot stand this sort of shallowness in others. I can’t. This sort of people remain my acquaintance and can never be upgraded to close friends. Because we care about different things. And I guess, that’s okay, too. I mean, not everyone is the same. Some people are the diplomats of the society, some are the warriors of the society, some are the thinkers of the society, some are the feelers and empathizers of the society. And everyone is equally important. It’s just that, due to those differences, some people can never be ‘your people’. They are not meant to have a seat in your table. And you should just wave them along in their own journey and you continue with ‘your people’.)
I do believe that the best presenter is someone who imagine himself/herself presenting to a hostile audience. Imagine me as your audience. Imagine the loudest, the most critical, the most intense person questioning you after your presentation.
And prepare your talk exactly for such audience. (Of course when it comes to religion, people like me have learned to suppress our logical thoughts from you. Takut kena label. But we do go back home and debate it out among friends, you know. At least, among my set of friends, we do that a lot.)
Have you ever watched a debate?
You have to prepare your talk with evidence and convincing arguments as though your audience will debate you out. Prepare your religious talk as though you are presenting it to a non-Muslim who does not have any obligation to sooth the tone of his/her skepticism about this religion! Only then, you would be able to know that your talk may not be up to snuff! At least, not to educated, professional people.
(I am not saying yang aku ni educated sangat, terer habis. No! But with the two stories above, it doesn’t take an educated people to feel uncomfortable about it. Not educated pun boleh fikir. Budak-budak pun boleh fikir yang this is weird. Talk to the kids who have such pure conscience and have not yet learned to suppress their thoughts for the sake of political correctness. They would say “Tapi mama, kenapa dia korek mata dia? Lepas tu dia mati lah, mama? Kesiannya dia…” So it’s not about your level of education yang menyebabkan kau boleh detect kepelikan dalam cerita macam ni. Just listen to your own conscience! Listen to it! Listen to your fitrah. Cumanya, orang yang educated lebih berasa ‘the urge’ untuk tanya kau balik. sebab diorang lebih konfiden. Kalau kau untung, dia mungkin tak malukan kau depan audience and ask you privately.)
When I was preparing for my departmental audit competition, I remember that my supervisor told me that I was over-thinking my points. “Afiza ni pikiaq banyak!”
I thought and re-thought my standard criteria over and over again like an obsessive freak. Why? Because I imagined a hostile jury and a hostile audience who would question my audit! Of course I did! It was a competition and I wanted to win. I prepared my audit report with hostile juries in mind. Lucky me that my supervisor was so patient and able to tolerate my neuroticism even though sometimes I was too argumentative with him and… yeah, intense. Hahaha.
And Alhamdulillah, we won the first place for that competition. They said that my report was complete and they had nothing much to ask and only wanted to clarify a few points. When I entered the HSA competition, again we won the first place.
So, prepare your work with a hostile audience in mind! This is especially important to religious leaders. We do not want to misrepresent our religion, do we?
On a lighter note, someone told me “You marah sangat dengan cerita tu sebab you takut you kena rotan selalu ke setiap kali sediakan makanan?”
ROFL. Yeah, such a funny person!
I am not exactly a Masterchef. Really.
But I do cook at home. I just never bothered to tell people that I cook. Seriously, mana ada orang grad oversea tak pandai masak. Makanan halal mahal kot nak beli hari-hari. At least basic cooking tu pass lah. Hahah.
But I don’t feel the need to impress anyone with my cooking. The best I have to offer to others (future husband included) are my thoughts and my intellect (limited as it is) and my style of conversation which not many people with different wavelengths can adapt to. That’s the best I have about me. If you are not gonna be impressed about that, then nothing else about me will impress you (certainly not any of my womanly talents like cooking, haha) and I have too much pride to even try to adjust myself for anyone.
(You see, I believe in adapting to life circumstances. I do! One day, I might even cook consistently. Who knows? But most of the time, I adapt by making other people adapt to me. Yeah…I am resistant to change. I adapt to work commitments, environments, schedules, responsibilities…. but not to people’s habits and thoughts that I find illogical or senseless.)
I know what I want in a friend and in a partner and in a conversationalist. Someone who thinks like I do and has values and principles similar to mine is what I want. Otherwise, you are just not ‘my people’. So, why bother to talk about cooking (unless you are the one doing it) when I am more interested about thinking (yours and mine)? My cooking is a bonus only. Not my duty! The task should be negotiable (or scheduled. Hahah)
When people ask me, do you cook? I said, no! I only eat. Haha.
A cook is not the noun for me. (Kalau kena rotan sebab masak tak sedap, mungkin hari-hari lah aku kena rotan).
A doctor is my noun in partial only.
A reader and a knowledge-seeker. Those are my nouns in full.
I have to be thankful for all those ‘perasaan tak puas hati’ that I felt towards so many religious figures in my life. They made me want to seek better and then I found more than I could ever know to dream of. I may not be a perfect Muslim but really, Islam is the best thing I have in my life when I know it in depth.
Every misconception I had about the religion appeared into my life for a reason. It made me wonder and dig deeper through all the dirts and ended up finding the real gems in the ummah. Those like Nouman Ali Khan, Mufti Menk, Sheikh Eesa Niamatullah, Omar Suleiman, Yusha Evans, Abdul Rahim Green, Hamza Tzortzis and Dr. MAZA…they are the precious glittering gems people like me need. You would notice that most of them are not local. I just think that International speakers speak more or less the same thing as the locals but with better logic and better analogy. Dr. MAZA is one of the few local religious leaders I really respect.
Ironically, I found my better self when I was in Australia where Muslims were the minority. The culture of knowledge there is so so vastly different than in Malaysia. There is no problem for you to question your lecturer there. There is no question too radical to put forward, in religious matters or secular matters.
In Malaysia, kau argue dengan lecturer or boss, kau memang saja menempah maut secara percuma. (So, tu pasal aku anti-authority and avoid them. My life becomes a heck of a lot easier.)
I leave my dear readers with a quote by Yasmin Mogahed which I always follow on Facebook. This lady has a way with words that speaks directly into my heart, and I hope yours as well.