Friday, July 3, 2020

I Know What You Do Not Know - On Why Mankind Is Made Khalifah On Earth

Prophet Muhammad SAW stated that he was the last brick in the House of Prophethood.   If we imagine each brick represents one prophet, then about 124 thousand bricks were used to make this house. 

Furthermore, if we imagine a house of bricks, then we can see that some bricks may be bigger, more prominent and more shining than the others.  But all bricks are important.  The absence of any of those 124 thousand bricks would make the house incomplete.  Likewise with the prophets.  Some prophets are more shining and more prominent while others are more obscure. 

Of those 124 thousand prophets, 25 of them are very special as they are specifically mentioned by names in the Quran.  And of all the prophets, five are made most prominent.  These are the prophets that Allah singled them out as the Most Resolute Prophets (ulul azmi). 

Some prophets are more prominent than others in their own way.  Prophet Noah (Nabi Nuh) is special for being noted as the Father of Nations.  Prophet Abraham as the Father of Prophets.  Prophet Moses (Nabi Musa) as the Founder of Judaism.  Prophet Solomon (Nabi Sulaiman) as the prophet who can communicate with animals and can command the genies (jinn). 

In this episode, let’s briefly focus on Prophet Adam AS.  Prophet Adam is special because he was the first prophet and also the first man.  He was the father of mankind.  All other prophets, and in fact all human beings, come from him.  He was the first brick in the House of Prophethood.  All other bricks are actually made, fashioned or designed after him.

Unlike all other human beings, he was not born but created.  So those who claim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God because he was born without the father, do not seem to understand that, if such is the criteria to be the Son of God, then Prophet Adam is more qualified.   
Prophet Adam is more qualified not only because he did not have father or mother, but he was specially created by Allah.  Jesus Christ at least had a mother.  And he was born, not created.

When was he created?  Scholars say around 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.  But only God knows best.

In Hebrew (Ibrani), Adam means “human being,” or “man.”  This name is fitting since he is the first mankind.  Prophet Adam is significant in the bricks of prophethood in at least three aspects.

First, the purpose of human creation itself.

Why was mankind created?  Allah says in the Quran to be the khalifah/vicegerent on earth.   Khalifah or vicegerent means someone who acts on behalf of other.  In short, a representative.  So Allah made Adam to be His representative on earth.

But why mankind?  Why not angels.  Angels are lofty creature.  They make no wrong.  Why not genies.  Genies have bigger appetite.  Why not animals.  Animals are stronger.  Why not mountains.  Mountains are bigger.

Because, to fulfill the role as a vicegerent of God, that creature must have some godlike qualities such as free-will, creativity, drive or motivation and the ability to understand and make things.  Angels are lofty creatures, but they have no free will on their own, which means that they would not do anything on their own desire.  Animals have drives and desires and they are stronger, but they are not bestowed with creativity or ability to understand beyond their limited scope.  Genies resemble human beings in terms of intellect and desires, but they are made from fire and do not belong to material world. 
Only human beings, therefore, have the required characteristics.

When Allah communicated His intention to make Adam to angels, they asked why Allah wanted to make a creature that will create mischief on earth.  Allah replied:  I know what you do not know.  To illustrate His point, Allah asked angels to name certain things, but the angels replied that they only know what Allah had told them.  Allah then called Adam and asked him to do the same, and Adam elaborated on those names one by one. 

The significance of this story is that only man is capable of fulfilling the role as Allah’s vicegerent on earth.  Man can fulfill this role because he has some godlike qualities as mentioned above.  For instance, creating is God’s attribute.  Allah creates things.  Man also has some of this creative ability.  The difference is that Allah creates from nothing, while human beings create something new from what Allah had created.

Throughout history, man has harnessed the nature to create things for the betterment of their lives.  For example, man has no wings, but he is able to create a machine that flies; he cannot lift heavy stuff, but he has created tools to move mountains; he cannot run as fast as a leopard, but he has created a machine that run many times faster; he cannot swim like a fish, but he has created a ship and a submarine to swim in the ocean.  Man even creates a machine that enables him to communicate long distance simultaneously. 

No other creature can do what mankind can.  Birds may build nest, but there is no improvement on their nest since the time immemorial.  Yet mankind can make a house from as simple as a hut to a skyscraper. 

In addition, humans also have intellect and soul that enable them to think and “interact” with God like the angels or the genies. Animals have brain but do not think.  They act only on instinct.  In short, only humans have God-like qualities that enable them to be the vicegerents on earth.

Secondly, the story of Adam is important because what angels predicted have come true.  The angels had prophesied that man is the most destructive creature.  The qualities that make man great are also used to create mischief.  Man’s destructive nature shows its ugly head very soon in the history of mankind when Adam’s son, Cain (Qabil), killed his brother Abel (Habil), because of jealousy.

No other creature has caused greater bloodshed than man.  Animals also cause bloodshed, but animals only kill for food, or for self-defense, or at most for survival.  But man kills for many reasons, including for fun, for vengeance and for glory. 

Because of this dual nature of man, angelic and satanic, Allah sent His prophets to teach and guide them to the correct way of life.  In Arabic, man is called “insan” which also means forgetful.  It means that man tends to forget who he is.  To make mankind remember again, prophets have to be sent as reminders.

The third and last point about the important of Adam is that, because of their dual nature, good and bad, humans can and will make mistake.  Adam and his wife Eve were allowed to do anything they like in the heaven where they first lived, except to eat fruits from one particular tree.

Then the Devil (Iblis) seduced them to eat the fruit of that tree.  The Devil said it is the tree of life.  The only reason God prohibits them to eat the fruit is so that they will not live forever.  At first Adam and Eve resisted the temptation but at last they succumbed to it.  So they ate it. 

For disobeying God’s command, they were thrown out of heaven and had to live on earth.  Having realized they made great error, they repented and were forgiven.  What Adam showed here is not that we humans make mistakes, but that when we make mistake, we have to ask for forgiveness, and Allah will forgive.

This behavior is different from the behavior of the Devil or Iblis.  When Adam was created, Allah commanded both the angels and the Devil to bow down to Adam.  Angels quickly obeyed, but the Devil refused.  The Devil refused because he thought he was better than Adam, since he was made of fire and Adam was only made of soil.  Because of his refusal to obey Allah’s command and his refusal to admit mistake and repent, the Devil and all their kinds are condemned forever.

Here, the story of Prophet Adam illustrates that we should behave like him.  We will make mistake but we must ask for forgiveness.  We cannot behave like the Devil.  He refused to admit his sin and behaved arrogantly.  If we behave arrogantly like the Devil, then we also would be condemned forever. 

In conclusion, the important of Prophet Adam’s story, or the story of the first brick, is that we are special because mankind is made in the best of fashion.  But we also have bad qualities that can lead us to be the worst of creature.  And the best thing we can do is that when we make mistake, we ask for forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Did Allah Command You To Leave Us Here?

Prophet Muhammad SAW was born in Makkah around the year 570 or 571 the Christian Era (CE). Makkah was a thriving town at that time. Most of the Makkans engaged in trades and tended livestock. As Makkah was barren, and basically nothing could grow there, they did not engage in agriculture.
Makkah was the most important religious center in the Peninsular Arabia at that time. This is because it has a cube-like structure called Kaabah. It is considered as the House of God, where the Arabs came to do pilgrimage, either the major one known as Hajj, or the lesser one known as Umrah.
So Makkah was both the trading center as well as religious center for the Arabs.
About 2,500 years before that, however, Makkah was just a barren land. No one lived there, as the place had no source of water. So how did Makkah get populated?
The story started with the Prophet Abraham (Nabi Ibrahim). He lived around 4,000 years ago, or about 2,500 years before the Prophet Muhammad was born.
When Abraham was born, no one worshipped the one true God. The Tawhid, that is the belief in one true God, as was taught by the first man and the first Prophet, Adam AS, had been lost. People at that time worshipped idols, that is, the images they made to represent the gods they worship. These images could be the sun, stars, moon, trees, human beings, animals, spirits, or anything that they consider as gods. Even Aazar or also known as Terah, the father of Prophet Abraham, was an idol maker.
Allah had chosen Abraham to revive the true belief, namely tawhid. But after the long struggle, instead of believing in him, they threw him into inferno. He had no choice but to leave his people and travel to other regions with the hope that some people would believe in him. In the journey, he brought his wife, Sarah, and his nephew, Lot, who believed in him.
His nephew, Lot (Nabi Lot), was to become another prophet. Years later, when Abraham decided to part ways, he told his nephew to go to the region called Sodom and Gomorrah. People in this region, however, indulged in homosexuality. The men prefer men to be their sexual partners. That is why homosexuality is called sodomy. The name sodomy is taken to represent the towns of Sodom that Allah destroyed.
Back to the story of Abraham, among the places he visited with his wife was Egypt. The king of Egypt was someone who cannot see beautiful woman, and Sarah was very beautiful. So the king took Sarah to be among his concubines. But whenever he wanted to take Sarah to bed, he became inflicted with some kind of paralyzing disease. In short, he cannot lay his hand on Sarah. He became normal again the moment he left Sarah alone.
After trying for three nights and the same thing happened, the king realized that this was a special woman. So instead of trying for the fourth time, the king presented Sarah with one of his slave girls name Hagar to be the bondmaid. Some said Hagar was the daughter of the king of Egypt himself. Others said she was the daughter of the King of Maghreb, that is the country west to Egypt, but was captured during the war with Egypt, and was made the slave by the King of Egypt. Allah knows best.
After many years of traveling here and there, Abraham finally decided to stay at the region called Canaan. The place is now in Israel.
Abraham mission was not very successful in terms of getting the believers. Not many people believed in him. And after many years of marriage, he did not get any offspring. He was worried that if he did not have any children, the message he brought will be lost again. So he prayed continuously to God to give him children. By then, both Abraham and his wife Sarah were already old.
Sarah knew that her husband wanted very much to have children. However, she was not only barren, but already beyond the age of conception. So she told her husband to take her bondmaid Hagar to be his second wife.
After Abraham slept with Hagar, they got a son. They named the son, Ishmael. All three were happy. But not for long. Because the woman’s jealousy quickly interfered. Sarah could not bear to see Abraham paid too much attention to the boy and the boy’s mother who used to be her bondmaid.
Sarah then told her husband to put away Hagar and the boy so that she didn’t have to see them again. That way, she would not be overwhelmed by jealousy. But, instead of bringing Hagar and the infant Ishmael to the next village, Abraham sent them thousand miles away from home. He brought them to Makkah, a barren valley he never visited before.
After staying with them for a while, he left. Being left in a valley where nothing grew and no source of water, we can imagine how desperate Hagar had become. It meant that they cannot survive for long, as there was only a little food and water left. So she repeatedly called for her husband who was already leaving. But Abraham did not say anything. He did not even turn around looking at his desperate wife and young infant.
Hagar, however, was a good believer. She knew her husband would not have left her and her infant boy in that deserted area, not only because he was a good man, but also because he loved both of them. Furthermore, Abraham had been wanting to have a child. When Ishmael was born, he was overjoyed. Thus, it did not make sense that he would leave the mother and the infant son like that, unless he received order from the Higher Up. So she asked: “Did Allah command you to leave us here?”
Abraham turned his head around and said: “Yes.”
Then Hagar said: "We are not going to be lost, since Allah, Who has commanded you, is with us."
A few days later, the food and water ran out. Hagar went looking for water. She thought she saw water at the mount Safa. When she reached there, there was no water. Then she thought she saw water at the mount Marwah. She walked briskly there. No water also. This walking back and forth took place seven times. But no water found. Nevertheless, it was from this event of walking back and forth, known as sa’i, that we take as part of our ritual of umrah or hajj.
After completing the seven round of walking back and forth between these two hills, Hagar saw her infant boy was playing with water. Apparently while she went looking for water between the hills of Safa and Marwah, the angel came to the infant boy and dug a fountain of water there. That fountain of water, known as zam-zam, remains until these days.
At that time, there was a tribe coming from Yemen camping outside of Makkah valley. The tribe is called Jurhum. They saw birds flying above the barren valley of Makkah. The flying birds circling the area indicated that the area has water. They sent scouts to go and check. When they saw a woman with young infant boy and a source of water, they asked for Hagar’s permission to live there.
Hagar agreed because she also needed other people around. It was dangerous to live only with her infant boy. The Jurhum were the Arabs. Hagar was an Egyptian, while her husband was a Hebrew, so she and her infant boy Ishmael learned to speak the language spoken by the Jurhum. When Ishmael grew up to be a man, he married a woman from this tribe of Jurhum.
Like Prophet Lot, the nephew of Abraham, God also appointed Ishmael the son of Abraham to be the prophet as well. We know him as Prophet Ishmael (Nabi Ismail). He had 12 sons, and through them his descendants multiplied and spread all over Arabia. They were known as Ishmaelite Arabs. About 2,500 years later, one of his descendants was born. He was named Muhammad. He was none other than our Prophet. It is said that there were 60 generations between Ishmael and Muhammad.
So Hagar, the great-great-great-great grandmother of the Prophet, was right. Allah did not abandon her when her husband was commanded to leave her in Makkah. Those who have no faith would say that Abraham was very cruel to have left his younger wife and an infant boy like that. But we the people of faith understand that Allah has a greater plan. The plan was to create a great nation giving birth to the great and last prophet, that is, to prepare the way for the coming of the last brick in the house of propethood.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Humble Beginning

When the Prophet SAW died at the age of 63, he left behind more than 100,000 companions.  For more than half of his mission as a prophet, however, he had only a handful of followers.  Most of the time, they were being persecuted.

The Prophet started his mission at the age of forty, when he received the first revelation in the cave of Hira.  A man suddenly appeared to him and asked him to read verses written on a piece of cloth the man was holding.

As Muhammad was unlettered and said he cannot read, the man embraced him so hard he was choking for breath.  This happened three times and finally the man himself read the verses to him and these verses were imprinted in his heart.

Muhammad  was bewildered and very confused with the event.  He ran home as soon as the man suddenly disappeared.  He thought he had been possessed by the demon.  His wife comforted him, saying that Allah will not put a good man like him under the spell of the Devil.  Then she took him to see her cousin, Waraqah, the Christian scholar in Makkah at the time.

After listening to his story, Waraqah declared that the one who visited him was also the one who visited Prophet Moses.  Then Waraqah said if he is still alive the day Muhammad is being persecuted, Waraqah would stand behind him.

Muhammad became more confused and anxious, and asked Waraqah why would people want to do horrible things to him.  Because all along people always like him and even called him al-Amin, the trusted one.  Waraqah said that such is the nature of the job as a prophet and the mission he carries.

Details about this story can be found in the tafsir  of surah al-Alaq (Quran: 96).  Or any seerah book.

Because the Prophet was so bewildered and confused, and because he did not want people to call him a madman, he thought that death would be better.  So he went to the hill nearby with the idea of throwing himself down.  When he was at the top of the hill, the same being who visited him the first time appeared again.  But this time not as a man. Rather, as an angel. 

The angel, whose name is Gabriel, appeared on the sky in his own form.  He was so gigantic that he covered the whole horizon.  No matter where Muhammad turned his face, he saw the Angel Gabriel.  By then he knew the matter was not his choice.  It is decreed that he shall be the last prophet, or the last brick in the house of prophethood.

His wife, Khadijah, readily believed in him.  Then he talked to his bosom friend, Abu Bakar, a man about two and half year younger than him.  Abu Bakar also readily believed in him.  His slave whom he adopted as his son, Zayd, who about 25 years old, also readily believed in him. 

He didn't talk about his experience with Ali, because Ali was just a boy of 10 years old at the time.  But Ali, who lived with him, saw the Prophet and Khadijah were praying.  Upon inquiry, Muhammad told Ali about his appointment as a prophet to revive the true religion. 

Ali also readily believed in him, but thought that since he was a minor, he must get permission from his father first, Abu Talib.  Half way to his father’s house, the young but wise boy thought that his father never asked permission from God for Ali to be born.  Why should he now ask his father’s permission to believe in one true God.  He came back and declared his faith.

Through his wife, a few women entered Islam.  Through Abu Bakar, many young man of noble birth entered Islam.  Through Zayd, many men of slave or servant status entered Islam. 

Several months later, about 40 people became Muslims.  The Prophet taught Islam to them secretly.  After three years had passed, Allah commanded the Prophet to spread the message of Islam openly.  Then the persecution started.  The torture and persecution were so severe that a few of his followers died.  The Prophet then told his followers to find safer place to live and practiced Islam.  About 100 of his followers then migrated to Abyssinia in two successions.  Only a handful were left behind in Mekah.

The situation was getting worse by the day.  The leaders of Makkah, frustrated that Abu Talib, the uncle and protector of the Prophet, refused to hand Muhammad for them to kill, boycotted the whole clan of the Prophet, known as the clan of Bani Hashim.  No one shall have any relationship with Bani Hashim, although the majority of Bani Hashim were not yet believers at that time.  If they refuse to hand over Muhammad so that they can kill him, then the whole clan shall die of starvation.

Abu Talib, as the leader of the clan, brought the whole clan to camp at the valley outside of the Makkah city, living secluded from people.  The boycott lasted three years.  Many died of sickness and malnutrition.  Many times they went without food and had to survive even on leaves and grass.

Soon after the boycott was lifted, his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadijah died.  The severity of the boycott had taken toll on their health.  The  Prophet had lost his protector (uncle) and his comforter (wife).  This took place on the tenth year of his mission.

He went seeking help at the nearby town called Taif.  Instead of helping him, the leaders of Thaqif, as the people of Taif is called, chased him out, telling the kids to throw stones at him.  He fled, bleeding.

There was nothing more he can do with the Makkans, his hometown people, known as Quraish.  Those who believed him have believed.  The majority of them followed their leaders, who considered Muhammad the enemy number one.  So the Prophet went for other tribes who came to Makkah during hajj season to spread the mission. 

His task was made difficult because the leaders of Makkah kept following him telling the people not to listen to him, accusing him as a madman who bring nothing but trouble to the people.  One of these leaders was his own uncle Abu Lahab, who sided with the enemies.

When things appeared bleak and his mission met dead end, Allah sent help in the form of six men from the town in the north known as Yathrib.  These people belonged to Khazraj clan of Yathrib.  They believed in him and spread the message in their town.  The message was well accepted.  Next two years, they came back to Makkah with 72 delegates to pledge their obedience to him and invited him to migrate to their town. 

The Prophet then sent his followers to Yathrib, including those who came back from Abyssinia.  Soon the Prophet also migrated to Yathrib and change the name of the town to Madinatul Rasul, meaning the City of the Messenger.  The town is called Madinah for short until this day.  He migrated to Madinah three years after the death of his uncle and his wife.

For the first five years in Madinah, the city was continually under attacks not only from outside including from Makkah and other tribes who wanted to destroy Islam, but the Muslims had to contest with the enemies from inside the city, the Jews and the hypocrites.  After that, the Muslims were stronger and by the eight year of his migration to Madinah, the Prophet brought 10,000 armies to conquer Makkah without bloodshed.

By the time he died three years later, he subdued the whole of Arabian Peninsula.   About five years after his death, the Muslims defeated the world superpowers at that time, the Persian and Roman empires. 

The final brick at last perfected Allah grand design.  The house that Allah built through His prophets since the prophet Adam was not a single house that we imagine, but the world itself.  From a humble beginning, the universal and timeless message that the Prophet brought reached the whole world.

Monday, May 18, 2020

I Am The Brick That Completes The House.

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me, is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say: 'Would that this brick be put in its place!' So I am that brick, and I am the last of the Prophets."

In this hadith, the Prophet SAW likens prophethood to a beautiful house made of bricks. Each brick represents one prophet, from Adam to Jesus. The house is missing one brick. Prophet Muhammad is the last brick that completes the house. As the house is already completed, there is no more need for any new brick. Likewise, as prophethood is already completed, there is no more need for any new prophet after him.

This would be the literal interpretation of the above hadith.

It would be more useful, however, to imagine that the teaching of our Prophet Muhammad SAW is the amalgamation of the teachings of all prophets. In other words, Allah combines and refines all teachings from all prophets and put everything into one nice package.

That one nice package is the Quran.

That is why Quran is a complete guidance for our lives. It guides all affairs in our lives, whether it is about faith, act of worship, economy or how to make a living, relationship with others, family life, the do and don't, everything.

Maybe some of us will say: I read Quran but don't really understand. In what way, therefore, Quran is said as a complete guidance?

The answer is that, like other guidebook, we often need teacher to help explain. Imagine we are not used to cooking. Then one day we try cooking using the recipe book. Definitely we will not be successful. The food that we cook will not be tasty.

Likewise with Quran. It needs the teacher who shows us the way. And the first teacher is the Prophet himself. As the teacher, the Prophet leads his life exactly as Quran wants. That is why the Prophet is called the walking Quran. In other words, we have two forms of Quran. First in the form of book. Second in the form of living person.

Although the Prophet had already died as a person, he is actually still living among us. This is because his life has been fully captured. It is what we call sunnah. We will find his sunnah in the book of hadith, seerah, or any book that talks about his life and teaching.

That is why the Prophet said whoever follows the Quran and my sunnah, he will be rightly guided.

After the Prophet died, the next teachers who help explain the guidance in the Quran were his companions. After them, the teachers are the scholars.

To summarize, we have with us the basic teachings of all prophets nicely packaged in one book called Quran. Together with Quran, we have the Prophet’s sunnah in the book of hadith, seerah, etc. To help us understand these guidances, we have scholars who explain to us what we do not understand.

Since Islam is based on Quran, and since the teachings in the Quran combine the teachings of all prophets, that is why no issue, no problem and no question that Islam cannot answer. If we don't know the answer, then we must ask those who know. Those who know are what we call scholars or ulama.

And this is the more practical way to understand the meaning of the hadith quoted at the beginning of this article.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Not Even Mahathir Can Bring Najib Down If He Refuses To Step Down

I have heard since the middle last year (2014) that Malaysia will have the new prime minister before the year end, or the latest, by early 2015.  

That was a year and a half ago.  Today, mid December 2015, Najib appears to be stronger than ever before.  Wrapping up the UMNO Annual General Meeting 2015 on Saturday afternoon a few days ago, he not only appeared confident, but managed to stage a dramatic closing, making many delegates and visitors wet in tears.

The picture was not a meek, uncomfortable man like he was a year ago, while delivering new year message, on the eve of January 1, 2015.  In all likelihood, this upcoming new year message, to be delivered in two weeks time, will be made by the same person, but not the same man.  Of course the person will still be Najib, and the man would also carry the same name.  But it will not be the meek and uncomfortable man bearing similar name a year ago.  It would be a man filled with confident and sure about himself.

Najib's resilience surprised everybody.  The one most surprised is probably his former mentor, now his number one nemesis, Dr Mahathir, former prime minister of Malaysia for 22 years, and the one who picked Najib to be his successor in waiting.  Successor in waiting because Mahathir did not give the seat straight to Najib, but to Abdullah Badawi, with the gentlemanly agreement, it was alleged by Mahathir himself, that Abdullah, affectionately called Pak Lah, would give the seat to Najib after a few years.

The transition from Pak Lah to Najib was not as smooth as Mahathir or Najib had wanted.  All the while under Mahathir's shadow, Pak Lah suddenly became his own man after assuming the prime ministership.  Mahathir was incensed that Pak Lah did not continue with the policy and programs he devised before stepping down.  Instead, he reversed many of these and devised programs and policies of his own. So Mahathir used all his power and influence to bring Pak Lah down.  There was bitter fight, but before long, Pak Lah did step down, leaving the mantle of leadership to Mahathir chosen's successor, Najib.

To begin with, Najib was the one Mahathir intended to be his successor, after his falling out with Anwar, the then prime minister in waiting, but is now residing in jail for his alleged sodomy excursion.  And Mahathir did publicly praise Najib during the first year of his prime ministership for his competence, as opposed to Pak Lah's incompetence.  Yet it was not long before the two fell out with one another.  The reasons had to do with the National Coalition's worst performance in the General Election, held in 2013, along with numerous alleged scandals, especially 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion "donation," plus the first lady alleged wasteful expenses using state money.

Like what he did to Pak Lah, Mahathir did the same to Najib.  He demanded Najib to resign.  When Najib refused, Mahathir publicly attacked Najib.  With the kind of scandals Najib are implicated, and knowing the kind of man Mahathir is, many predicted that Najib won't last before the year end.  That was last year.

Any observer could see that Najib was threading the worst period of his political life.  He appeared extremely uncomfortable giving speeches, no matter how hard he tried to keep his cool.  With his "soft" disposition, many thought that he would fall as easily as his predecessor.

But one and a half year later, it is his attacker, Dr. Mahathir, who appears to be on the losing side.  The story is still being written, but if the current trend continues, then this will be the first time Mahathir fails to bring down the PM of the day.  Already 90 years old, this will be his last as well.

Of course the only apparent PM he brought down was Pak Lah, his successor, but the fall of the first PM of Malaysia, Tunku, had to do, to some extent at least, with his Open Letter and his book the Malay Dilemma, along with his many other speeches and criticisms against the Father of Malaysia.  Mahathir was thrown out of UMNO for his attack on Tunku, but Tunku's political career did not last that long either after that.

Mahathir's predecessor, Hussein, resigned on health reason, but many know that the real reason was due to the "overwhelming presence" of his deputy.  Mahathir did not oust him, of course, but health reason could not have been the only factor.  The only PM that escaped Mahathir's involvement in the termination of his career was Abdul Razak, the father of Najib.  He died prematurely while still in office.  And supposed he lived longer, Mahathir would probably not force him out, for he was the one rescuing Mahathir from his political wilderness.

When he was the PM, Mahathir too was not free from attempts to oust him.  First by the group led by Finance Minister and  ex Deputy PM.  Second by his protege turned enemy, Anwar Ibrahim.  In both occasions he refused to budge and utilized the incumbent advantage, helping himself with the state apparatus to ensure that he continued to be in power.  He ended his prime ministership on his own accord after 22 years in office, in 2003, during the period whereby there was no threat to his throne.

Mahathir and Najib seem worlds apart.  The former is confrontative, the latter is evasive.  The former has no qualm about making enemies, the latter prefers to conciliate and accommodate all and sundry.

But one thing they seem to have in common.  Both know and will not mind using whatever apparatus and means available to them as the men in power in order to remain in power.

Learning from his former mentor and current nemesis, Najib seems to know that no one can force the PM of Malaysia to step down if he does not want to.  Mahathir had proven that during his time.  Najib seems to want to prove the same.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Polygamy: One Golden Umbrella Please

Among the Malay society, it is said that when a wife allows her husband to marry another woman, her abode in Paradise would be guaranteed.  On top of that, she will be given a golden umbrella.

Strangely, not many Malay women are thrilled with the prospect of a guaranteed Paradise.  As one Malay woman (a religious teacher no less) puts it, “I have no problem with polygamy, as long as it is not my husband who practices it.”  

As for the prospect of having a golden umbrella, not many among them are thrilled with it either.  Perhaps the umbrella made of gold would be too heavy to carry.  A tightly woven nylon or polyester, the stuff a normal umbrella is made of, would have been more practical.  Or perhaps it is the thought of having a rival which leaves the idea with a bad taste.  In any case, they would rather choose other route to Paradise.

But the Malay men seem to cherish the idea.  We need not waste out time speculating why it is so.

I was told that these are the sayings of the Prophet, but my search for authentic traditions on these has been fruitless.  Perhaps I have not been thorough in this research.

During my younger days, those who wanted to practice polygamy only justified it on the ground of following the Sunna of the Prophet.  Muhammad the Prophet married multiple women; therefore it is Sunna to do likewise, so they said.  But of course their female counterparts would be quick to retort and question as to why their husbands are so eager to follow this particular Sunna, while at the same time appear to be sluggish on following other Sunnas.

I also heard that it is more meritorious to practice polygamy instead of monogamy; that men with more than one wives would receive more rewards than others who have only one.  Perhaps the headache that comes with having multiple wives, and this headache can often be stronger than an acute migraine, makes them more forbearing, hence more meritorious.

As confessed to me in private, all my close friends who practice polygamy, however, do not seem to think that marrying more than one woman is such a meritorious thing to do.  I was even told by a friend that one particular polygamist would have turned back the time to a period when he was a monogamist, if only he could. 

To put the matter into perspective, the merit of allowing polygamy is not difficult to fathom.  Polygamy can be a practical solution to a practical problem.  After the war, for instance, when many women are widowed and many children are orphaned, polygamy is not only a sensible thing to do, but would appear to be highly recommended.  Or even if there is no war, but when the number of women exceeds the men, it is also a sensible approach to take.  Or when it is feared that the men can fall into adultery for one reason or another, polygamy could provide the answer, because Islam strictly forbid sexual relation outside of marriage.

But when it is entered mostly for the pleasure of having another woman to share one’s bed with, then the cost it entails is generally not commensurate with whatever benefit it may accrue.

Being a practical religion, Islam discourages celibacy.  Even if one is poor, one should still get married.  The Prophet also admonished his overly pious companions who refused to get married, fearing that women, and later on children, would disrupt their devotion to God. 

Men and women are meant for each other, but in most cases, two is already one too many.  What more if three or four.
Leading scholars such as al Qaradawi and Ibnu Taymiyyah, as well as countless others, say that polygamy is not something recommended, but something permissible.  There are certain conditions to be fulfilled for those who want to practice it. 

If truly polygamy is more meritorious than monogamy, then the Prophet would not have stopped his son in law, Ali, to marry another wife, when the idea was strongly objected by Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter and Ali’s wife. 

Arguments are often made that the reason Fatimah objected to the idea was because her prospective rival was the daughter of the Prophet’s archenemy, Abu Jahal.  But the daughter of Abu Jahal, whose name was Khataba, was already a Muslim at that time, and the sin of the father is not inherited to his children in Islam.  The Prophet himself married Umm Habibah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan, another archenemy of the Prophet.  The reason the Prophet cautioned Ali against the idea, therefore, must have been elsewhere.  Regardless of the real reason, the Prophet would not have stopped Ali from taking another wife if truly it is a meritorious thing to do.

Furthermore, if truly polygamy is more meritorious than monogamy in all circumstances, then the prenuptial agreement allowing the prospective bride to stipulate her agreement to marriage proposal on the ground that her would be husband would not take another wife once they are married, would not be valid in Islam.  But such is not the case.  Woman is allowed to stipulate such a clause, although many do not seem to know about it.

Marriage is a Sunna.  There is no doubt about it.  But having multiple wives is only permissible in Islam; it is not a recommended thing, except in exceptional circumstances.  One who wants to enter into polygamy must fulfill the required conditions and must know what it takes.  A polygamist is not more meritorious than a monogamist on account of having more wives.  On the contrary, he is facing higher risk of condemnation both in this world and the next world. 

The idea that polygamy is more meritorious than monogamy seems to come from an incidence between Ibnu Abbas and a group of some overly pious men who did not like the idea of getting married, fearing that marriage would disrupt their devotion to God.  To these people, Ibnu Abbas retorted: “The best man of this nation is the one with the most wives.”

Based on this saying, some conclude that polygamy is better than monogamy.  If one looks at the incidence more carefully, however, one would know that Ibnu Abbas did not suggest that such was the case.  He was admonishing a group of young devotees who had mistakenly believed that celibacy would bring them closer to God.  Ibnu Abbas told them that the best of this Ummah was the Prophet, and he had the most wives, since the restriction of having not more than four wives was not applicable to him.  The Prophet died leaving nine widows who were still alive.  In effect, Ibnu Abbas merely told them to get married, not to practice polygamy.

This matter should be presented as it is, not as one fancies it to be.  Those who suggest that polygamy should be abolished on account that it brings more harms than benefits—such as the disharmony in the married life, etc.—are taking the matter too far.  God would not have allowed polygamy if there is no merit in it.  But when the Quran (4:3) says that if you fear injustice, then marry only one, then one who is honest with himself would know where the matter lies.  Saying that polygamy is “more Sunna” than monogamy is self-serving, especially when one is looking for a young and beautiful maiden rather than a single mother with children to care for.

In any case, a woman who allows her husband to take another wife is truly an honorable woman.  Such woman deserves Paradise, especially if she does it out of goodness of her heart.  But to trick the womenfolk by saying that Paradise and Golden Umbrella are guaranteed for them if they allow their husbands to take another wives is an act of dishonesty. 

Anyone cares for a golden umbrella?

Related Articles:

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Celibate and the Amorous Prophets

Muhammad the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, is often depicted as a sex maniac who used his power to enjoy women at will.  Having multiple women as his wives was not enough for him.  On top of that, he had to have a child as his wife as well.

It would be of no use to point out to these people that Muhammad actually married a widow 15 years his senior, Khadija, who had been married twice before; that he did not take any other wife as long as she was alive thereafter, living together with her for 25 years; and that when she died, Muhammad was not looking for a young beautiful maiden to replace her, but an old widow of his age to take care of his household. 

Neither would it be useful to tell them that when Muhammad did marry multiple women thereafter, it was not for lust, but for practical (if not altogether for noble) reasons: that his marriages with Aisha and Hafsa were to cement relationship with his two close companions; with Juwairiya to honor the tribe he conquered; with Umm Habibah to honor the daughter of his archenemy who had been abandoned by her husband; with Zaynab his cousin to nullify the prevailing practice regarding the status of adopted son.  And so on and so forth.

It would be a waste of time because these people would be quick to point out that Muhammad remained a one woman’s man because he had no power when Khadija was alive; that he was grateful to her for uplifting the shackle of poverty from his back.  But as soon as he migrated to Madinah, and assumed the role as the absolute and undisputed leader, he began to accumulate women in his harem one by one.  All those practical reasons are therefore mere excuses.  He did not marry all those women for noble reasons.  He married them because he was an amorous man.

These are typical views that the Christians had about Muhammad's private life in the Middle Age, a period when they had a very strict view on sex and marriage.  One would think that since their perspective on sex and marriage has changed 360 degrees since then, as we have seen in the last episode, one would no longer find those views to be prevalent among the Christians. 

Such, however, is not the case.  Browse the Internet, and you surely will encounter such views.

Among these views, the favorite one is the charge the Muhammad was a pedophile.  Simply put, he preferred a girl instead of a grown up woman for sex.  Because of this attack, some well-meaning Muslims theorize that Aisha was 18 when she was married to the Prophet, not nine as generally believed.   

But the Muslims need not be apologetic about the Prophet having many wives, or that one of them was only “a child.”  Islamic worldview is not similar to other religions’ worldview.  Islam came as a complete package as other religions were not.  Islam came with a written scripture, that is the Quran, and a “living scripture,” namely Muhammad the Prophet himself.  It also came with complete and practical accessories, namely the Companions.  Muslims’ lives are to be molded based on these written scripture, living scripture and practical accessories.

Other religions do not have such luxuries. 

Hinduism does not have practical human examples to be followed.  It has scriptures, but the founder of this religion is not known, much less the examples he left behind.  The founder of Buddhism is known, but the life he left behind was not practical.  One has to be a monk to follow his footstep.

As for Christianity, its founder is considered a God.  Too little about Jesus Christ is known; too few examples left by him to be followed.  We do not know about his married life because he was said to live a celibate life.  We do not know how he ruled the country because he never managed to form a government.  All we know about him is that he was born miraculously without a father, and that towards the end of his life, he lived like a wandering teacher.

The only examples for the Christians to follow would be the Jewish prophets, because they accept Jewish Scripture to be part of their Bible.  But the Old Testament (Jewish Scripture) is replete with stories about men having multiple wives.  King David had 100 wives; Solomon had one thousand (700 wives and 300 concubines). 

Islam came to limit the number of wives one may have, unlike the Old Testament which put no limit to it.  When the verse limiting the number of wives was revealed, a number of companions who had married more than four had divorced some of their wives, to comply with the rules.  But the wives of the Prophet automatically became the Mothers of Believers.  Once married to the Prophet, they were no longer lawful for others to marry them, should the Prophet decide to divorce them.  Special provision was therefore granted to the Prophet, in that the limit was not applicable to him.  

Muhammad the Prophet had led a complete and practical life with more than adequate practical examples to be followed.  There is no example that a Muslim finds missing in him, including the matter regarding sex, marriage and parenthood. 

Had the Prophet led a celibate life, like his counterpart Jesus, he would have left a grim example to be followed. 

Had polygamy was not allowed at all, many widows would be left unprotected during his time and many other times thereafter. 

If he did not marry the young Aisha, then we would not know that women are eligible for marriage once they reach puberty. 

After all, it was from Aisha that we know about his bed manners, not from Khadija.

Related Articles: