Wednesday, November 26, 2008

FATWA ON YOGA - Find out more before commenting

As a Muslim I am disturbed and deeply offended to read that yoga has been declared by the Fatwa Council as haram (forbidden) and that practicing it will erode my aqidah.

Is Jakim suggesting that yoga enthusiasts are so weak and mentally feeble that doing yoga will make them deviate from the teachings of Islam ?

Are they implying that doing some balancing acts will sway them into forgetting Allah ? To claim that practicing yoga is a step towards erosion of one’s faith is a huge insult to my intelligence and my conviction in God !”

Of late, comments and criticisms like above are commonly read in our local newspapers, written by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In fact, comments like these are nothing new.

I remember just a couple of years back, a fatwa (edict) was issued by our National Fatwa Council declaring that smoking is haram (forbidden). However there are some who disagree, and we can see even many more continue to smoke.

Then there’s another fatwa declaring it haram for women to dress like men or pengkids (tomboys). And the latest just out of the oven, a fatwa declaring yoga as haram, as practicing it may erode one’s aqidah.

For us Muslims, this fatwa on yoga reminds us that the practices that includes chanting, mantra and “being one with God” is clearly forbidden and haram in Islam. The fatwa also states that, as the yoga exercises may be the first step towards that, their advice is for Muslims to avoid it altogether.

If however, there are Muslims who refuse to accept this fatwa and feel that yoga is nothing more than just a simple form of exercise, then it is a matter between them, their faith and God.

For instance, I personally feel that the exercise routine (excluding the meditation and mantra chanting) of yoga could be tolerated. But if the clerics decide that it should be banned, then I'll abide by the decision. There is no need for public condemnation and criticisms of the National Fatwa Council. They are just doing their job. If they believe it is wrong, then it is wrong. All of us will have to answer to Allah in the hereafter.

One may ask : what is a fatwa ? First and foremost, fatwas are not issued by just any Tom, Dick and Harry. It is issued by learned Islamic scholars (ulamak) as a guideline for Muslims only. Thus my question: why the intervention by the non-Muslim groups ?

Secondly, fatwas are usually issued for matters which have not been clearly spelt out in the Holy Quran and Hadiths. One Muslim scholar or fatwa council, may or may not agree with the fatwa of another.

Having known their heavy responsibility, I am most certain the fatwa council members have done their research and discussion very thoroughly before deciding to issue any fatwa.

To all my Muslim brothers and sisters, especially to those who cannot accept the fatwa, all I ask is that you read and find out more on this matter before you accept or reject the fatwa.

Make yourself fully knowledgeable and understand the full fundamentals of this subject before you say or do anything that may one day make you regret, by which time it will already be too late. After you have a full knowledge of what the fatwa is all about, then you’ll be at better position to decide whether you are for or against it.

Whichever way you look at it after that, will be your own decision and you’ll have to live with it for the rest of your lives. One thing I would like to stress here is that whatever fatwa the council has come up with is always for the good of all Muslims.

And to the non-Muslims, I’m sorry to say this : please don’t interfere in our affairs ! I just can't see why they should feel insulted by the fatwa. It's like saying Muslims should not eat pork - it is not an insult to the Chinese.

It is the same when the fatwa says Muslims cannot do yoga, it is not because they are insulting the Hindus. It's just that they should not do it. Like all other things forbidden among Muslims, it is not an insult to others. People should not make it into a religious issue. Wallahu a'lam.

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