Friday, December 31, 2010

Women are inferior to Men ?

Very often we hear that women are actually inferior to men in many ways. They are the "weaker sex", they are impure to the extent that they cause men to "fall from grace" and their rightful task is to be a homemaker.

Today women are oppressed in almost every way - as a human being, as a worker, as a sexual object and so on. Many put this phenomenon down to the assumed "fact" that even in primitive times, women were oppressed. Is this really so?

If you are interested in the issue of whether "womens' inferiority is a myth or a fact, you may want to read further here.

Peace !

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Technologically Advanced Primitive Man - Part 1

Image thanks to here.

I liked to visit second-hand book shops when I was a teenager. There were lots of them in Penang along Jalan Macalister.  There were plenty of books of diverse interests and they were cheap. You may also rent them. (Come to think of it, probably people read more books or more quality books back then!) When I was in Form Four, I chanced upon a book titled “Future Shock”. It was a book of about 512 pages thick. I skimmed though the book and recall being both mesmerized and shocked.  I had to have the book but I just brought enough money to rent it. I had to buy it and lucky for me the mamak seller knew me and trusted me to pay him the balance the following week.

I started reading the book at the bus stand while waiting for the bus. I was reading it while standing in the bus and was reading it while walking back to my house. It was for me a book that I cannot put down. It was full of shocking information for the future.  I was simply amazed how the author, Alvin Toffler was able to predict it so logically. Many of the things that he forecasted were of course unforeseeable then in Malaysia. Malaysia did not even have the clues present but I seemed to be taken in by his logic and force of arguments.
I still remember his argument that the most undeveloped aspect of human civilization is communication skills. In his view, this is a very young skill that human beings have acquired. I am afraid, even to this day, he is right. We have yet to develop and let alone understand the mechanics, art, and importance of communication between human beings. Probably, I am inclined to believe that that the other species have relatively better communicative skills and ethics than human beings do. 

In 1976, about the time I bought the book, there was only A&W in Penang and I do not think there was a KFC or a McDonalds then, even in Kuala Lumpur. Hence, Alvin Toffler’s explanation of the “impending society or culture of impermanence” was quite difficult to understand (not impossible for those who do not mind thinking). He proposed the thesis that society is moving towards a society of transience ie that everything in our life is going to be deliberately temporary. Everything here includes not only consumables like houses, disposable items like spoon, cups, etc but also relationships. Friendships will be deliberately short he argued and all this due to the economic philosophy that we will come to embrace (which we now breathe it like it is normal!).  It is amazing how a serious and passionate social scientist can draw accurate conclusions from disposal items. 

He also introduced for the first time in the world (I believe) the concept he called “death of permanence” and that this “shelf life” attitude will become an accepted culture.  This is so true today – youth today define two months as a long period to be in a relationship! Relationships or so-called “friendships” are defined in terms of need rather than attraction due to “chemistry” or sharing of values. Today, you hear everyone who has been in a business relationship or politics introducing the other as a “good friend” so much so the entire basis of friendship has altered under our very noses.

Due to its need based relationships, the relationship itself becomes superficial and hence communication itself becomes superficial and confined to economic needs. This phenomenon is further accelerated by the pressures of living in the current economic and political model which is largely capitalistic – leaves very little time for substantial development of relationships.

Slowly but surely, each and everyone one of us became an economic tool serving an economic function in the capitalist economy.  Hence, we want to “share” business opportunities, want to build a “network of friends” for economic purposes, and so on. Words and concepts that were once reserved for genuine human relationships have now mutated to play prominent roles in the marketplace. Since, business and commerce does not allow for deep reflections on human nature, our communication opportunities are largely confined to the role of surviving in the capitalistic economy. We lose a large part of our communicative potential and in the long run, we lose our sense of human being.

The primitive man is seen as being loyal to his tribe and fearful of other tribes. He lacks the knowledge of science, in particular the biology of the human being. Thus, he may be forgiven if he is tribalistic in his world view.  However, in this so-called technologically advanced society with so-called opportunities for education, information and knowledge, we have greater tribalistic culture and attitudes.  Like the primitive cavemen, we  have no compunctions being cruel to anyone else who does not look like or behave like the members of our tribe. Unlike the cavemen, we use the modern technology to advance primitive ideas and behaviours. Is I  opined earlier, while the physical world may have developed technologically, we as human beings are regressing for many reasons including the fact that we have never focused on developing the "inner" human being. Even our education system is geared towards primarily turning us into income producing tools and loyal servants of the system.  In other words, most of us have become technologically advanced primitive human beings. We still have a herd mentality because of our system that discourages thinking.

It is important for the primitive man to have a leader who can lead the rest of his tribe. The leader is usually one who has most brawn than brain. In a complete primitive tribe, apart from the medicine man, you also have the witch doctor who can spurn 'godly' stories and "protect" the tribe from the "supernatural forces". Such powerful witch doctors are revered because of the ignorance of the tribe members and the superstitions that the tribe as a whole have come to accept. Any one thinking member of the tribe who dares to invite any other member to evaluate or rethink the superstition is quickly dealt with and sometimes with the death penalty. How much of such primitive behaviour has our technologically advanced and "educated" society shed? I see that the technologies are actually being used to further enhance primitiveness.

The physical world around us may have advanced technologically for example, the Ipad, the “latest” technologically advanced phone, the “latest” computer processor, the “latest” car and so on….the human nature however has regressed towards primitiveness. Why do I say so?

Taking from what Alvin Toffler wrote way back in 1976, this deliberate attitude of the capitalists to make sure that all products have a pre-determined shelf life, it seems to have affected our world view without us realizing it. While we allow ourselves to be trapped by the capitalists’ game of being subsumed with things “latest”, we never pause to think that we are being hypnotised to buy things which are not the best.  This is because, the very idea of an engineered shelf life will not allow the best to be produced and marketed! In other words, what is produced is always something of sub-standard so that it can, within a few months, be replaced by something else called the “latest”!  

Commercially of course it makes good profit sense since you literally compel the consumer to forever keep up with the “new products or technology” that has been engineered to be “obsolete” later. The entire motivation is capitalistic – to continue making profits by forcing consumers to keep replacing their products. How does this affect the human psyche anyway you may ask? This and many other factors spurned by our capitalistic fish tank that we live in makes us increasingly superficial human beings.  This ingrains in us the idea of never being satisfied with the physical things that we have. This also develops our ego to be bigger than our brains and makes our self-esteem incumbent upon the “latest thing that we possess”. We start defining ourselves by the things we have OUTSIDE ourselves instead of WITHIN. Superficial appearances become important such that superficiality (in various “new” words) becomes a dominant culture in our lives. Superficiality necessarily means that we tend to regress as human beings back to primitiveness.

Our world view seems to be largely and subtlety shaped by dangerous capitalistic values and demands.  Take the “latest” craze in the corporate world called “branding”. Our political leaders get into the game very quickly welcoming it as the “latest” and sophisticated thinking that can “sell” ideas.  Knowing the shelf life solution mentality of our political leaders, this is not surprising. They have always been unable to think beyond the short term if they can think at all. Coming back to branding, what is it fundamentally? 

Granted that branding allows people to identify and recognize a product. Granted that it has its advantages. Granted that branding does help to sell an idea or a product quickly sometimes.  However, there is a major danger with branding that those few who know are not telling. IN the context of human development, branding simplifies things to an extent that thinking is dispensed with. The very idea of branding is to excite the emotions, the sentiments rather that to provoke the intellect. Branding encourages the notion of generalizations to the point that relevant details become irrelevant. Branding has the capacity and is intended to hide the faults and highlight the merits. IN short, with the kind of excitement people have with this new tool called “branding”, more and more people get dragged into the culture of superficiality. Superficiality sells.  However, it is these kinds of superficial developments that make us regress to primitiveness. 

The cumulative effect of our capitalistic living has actually made us regress into a state of primitiveness. With the so-called technological advances around us, most of us have actually begun to lose the ability to think and think wholesomely.  With the so-called advancements, we have also allowed ourselves to be duped into primitiveness by “new” buzz words that camouflage primitive behaviours.

TO be continued …Part 2

Peace !

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Non-Muslims as Syariah Lawyers???

Dear Webmaster,

1.       1. I wish to comment on this issue to fulfill my academic responsibility and the duty of being transparent with the true facts that are within my personal knowledge. It is not intended to be subjudice but rather an explanation of academic facts and circumstances of which I was a part.

2.       2. I attended the 92nd National Fatwa Council in Melaka recently.  It was clear to me that not all the members had agreed to state definitively that non-Muslims be prevented from practicing as syarie lawyers. Hence, the announcement that the National Fatwa Council had reached a unanimous decision in this matter is untrue.  What transpired was that some of the Council members, including myself, wanted the matter to be studied in detail in accordance with the injunctions in the Al-Quran and Al-Sunnah. It was a premature decision. I had also wanted the paper to be studied at the State Fatwa levels. The paper that was prepared by the JAKIM’s Syariah Research Panel was found to be wanting and lacking in relevant support from the al-Quran dan al-Sunnah. The support or Quranic evidence that was cited in the paper is not directly relevant to the issues under discussion.

3.       3. JAKIM Panel’s paper merely focused on verses that relate to walayah (leadership) that prohibits a Muslim from appointing a non-Muslim as their guardian or helper in their affairs while some of the members and myself are of the view that the matter relates to wakalah (representative), not walayah (leadership). 

4.       4. If the walayah (leadership) verses are used in this instance, then there will chaos in the administration of the Nation in Malaysia. Such Talibanistic and extremist thinking should never be allowed to develop in Malaysia. It will give rise to challenging the validity of appointments such as the Minister, the Chief Secretary of Ministries, the various Department Directors who manage Muslims. Surely chaos will ensue.  It is critical to understand that such chaos will start from “small matters” such as the issue of wakalah (representation) of Non Muslims to be the lawyers for Muslims.

5.       5. In fact, according to the Al-Shafie school (which is the official school of thought in Malaysia), in Kitab Mughni al-Muhtaj, al-Imam al-Sharbini, the renowned ulama who is a constant source of reference, is of the view that a male Muslim can be represented by  a Non-Muslim to handle the divorce of his Muslim wife.  Such views are also held by other ulamas such as al-Dasuqi from the Maliki school and Ibnu Qudamah from the Hanbali school. The Hanafi ulamas are more liberal in this matter. This is the true views of the “jumhur ulama” (majority) in this matter. Only the Shia school does not permit such representation.

6.       6. The issue of legal representation is a worldy matter between human beings. Islamic views on wordly matters between humans is wider and open because it does not concern matters of faith and worship. Hence, Ibnu Qudamah in the al-Mughni is of the view that ‘Ammah Ahli al-‘Ilm (all the ulamas) say that Non-Muslims can represent Muslims on matters between human beings except in certain matters that concern wasiat and wakaf. Such matter should be scrutinized. 

7.       7. The laws of Egypt permit Non-Muslim lawyers to represent Muslims in their Courts. Certainly, the ulamas in Egypt have considered the views of the ulamas earlier mentioned in the interest of peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Non-Muslims.  

8.       8. At one time, Malaysia was rocked with the unfortunate tussle over the deceased bodies of persons whose “Islamic status” was in dispute in the civil and the Shariah Courts. AT that time, there were voices that permitted non-Muslims who claim that their deceased relatives belonged to their original religion to seek redress in the Shariah Courts. It was a sigh of relief to note the openness that allowed the Non-Muslim to seek justice in the Shariah Courts. Such openness should be encouraged..

9.       9. Islamic shariah offers justice to everyone. It is the beauty of Islam that it offers mercy to everyone which is not the monopoly of any particular group. Did the Prophet Muhammad not mortgage his shield to a Jew? Didn’t Ali Bin ABi Talib argue his case in the Court against a Jew on the matter of his shield? The Jew was allowed to argue his case in the Islamic Court where Ali Bin Abi Talib lost his case. Is this not a from of legal process and defence in the Islamic Courts that recognizes everyone’s rights? 

10   10. Hence, there is not a single clear authority that prohibits a non-Muslim lawyer from advocating the rights of a Muslim or a non-Muslim in an Islamic Court. All the conjectures and assumptions that there will be adverse effects is a result of prejudice and the attitude of oppressing non- Muslims. 

  11. The assumption that action cannot be taken against the non-muslim syarie lawyer in the event of contempt of court is a technical matter that can be easily resolved by legislation or by making it as a pre-condition of the practicing licence or the contempt proceedings may be transferred to a civil court. 

1   12. If an existing system denies justice, then one should refer to true Islam which offers justice to all. Islam is never wrong! The error lies in the human interpretation that does not want to understand or share Allah’s mercy of justice for all human beings.

Dr Juanda Jaya
20 Disember 2010
Kuching, Sarawak.

1.       Dr Juanda Jaya is the Mufti of Perlis, a member of the National Fatwa Council  and was a visiting fellow at  Oxford University.