Friday, 23 September 2011


By: Dato' Prof. Emeritus Dr. Ariffin Suhaimi
Vice President PERKIM

Let it be sincerely said without prejudice and without malice that Muslims will NOT want to have any share in this idea of making all religions appear the same. Hence it has been quite apparent that Muslim groups or organizations are not represented in inter-religious consultative Councils. The occasional presence of a Muslim would be on a capacity as an individual to present the Muslim views to promote inter-religious understanding.

However, there has been a trend (or even some practices) to encourage sharing of religious festivals to promote inter-religious goodwill. Thus non-muslims may join their Muslim friends in the breaking of fast in the month of Ramadhan, while some liberal Muslims would join the non-Muslims in their religious celebrations; and what would these Muslims do when prayers are being offered to their Gods.

In Islam there are ground rules on inter-religious relations, Allah says in the Quran:
"Say: o ye that reject faith, I worship not that which ye worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship, And I will not worship that which ye have been want to worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship, To you be your religion and to me mine"
(Al-Kafirun; 109: 1-6)

The above Quranic injunction establishes some basic principles in inter-religious and interfaith relations. One such principle is the non-interference in the internal affairs of other religions, and thus a reciprocal non-interference in the internal affairs of Muslims. Secondly there are no mutual sharing of religious beliefs and practices between religions. Thus Muslims would not join in worship with other faiths to offer prayers to their Gods, nor would non-Muslims join the Muslims in their worship of Allah and contaminate the purity of Tauhid with their multiple Gods, even if that God be in association with Trinity or Trimurty. Thirdly there must be a mutual respect the religious boundaries between religions.

When referring to inter-religious differences I wish to refer to an act of wisdom by King Negus of Abyssinia at the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) before his emigration from Mecca to Medina. At that time the followers of the Holy Prophet were being persecuted by their enemies in Mecca. The Prophet advised some of them to seek refuge in Abyssinia, which was then a Christian Kingdom. When King Negus was confronted with the Muslim belief about Jesus as a Prophet and also as a servant of Allah, (the same as Muhammad) which are against the Christian belief of Jesus as the son of God, the King drew a line on the floor with his royal staff, and said that the difference between his religion of Christianity and the religion of Muhammad was as thin as that line. Nevertheless he respected that difference and granted the Muslims his protection. This was the wisdom of King Negus which should serve as the principle rule of inter-religious relations in the troubled world today.

Alternatively we may refer to the wisdom of ancient China in their respect for interfaith differences, which had allowed the growth of Islam in certain regions. Thus Muslims, as a minority group, could intergrate into the Chinese cultural landscape and contribute to enrich the cultural heritage of China. In the history of China, Muslims were among the thousands who sacrificed their lives in the construction of the Great Wall, while many prominent Muslims were known to serve the Chinese Emperors. Among the most prominent was the one known to the Malays as Laksamana Cheng Ho (Admiral Zheng He). Throughout history of China had undergone through periods of peace and stress, but national conflicts were not religious in nature. Today China is concerned with the moral integrity of the nation in a rapidly growing material progress, and China has introduced "Regulations on Religious Affairs" that guarantee not only religious freedom for all faiths, but also mutual respect for religious differences to ensure inter-religious peace and harmony and safeguard the integrity of state and public order.

The principle of respect for religious differences has been practiced by Muslims over the centuries when Islam dominated the world civilization from the 7th to 17th centuries. Had the Muslims practiced religious persecutions there would have been complete eradication of Arab Christians and Jews in Muslim lands, like the eradication of Muslims and Jews in Spain when Muslims surrender Andalusia to the Christians in the year 1492 AD. But until today there are Arab Christians and Jews living among Muslims without fear in the Muslim lands of the Middle East.

However, today the world order has changed from a Muslim dominated civilization to the Western civilization, and conflicts have occurred with the invasions of Western powers into Muslim lands, as being witnessed today with western occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Western hegemony in Palestine (Israel). Under such circumstances it would be difficult for Muslims to believe that by erasing religious differences the world can be saved from wars and conflicts.

In Malaysia where Muslims form the majority of the population, religious tolerance has been the practice, giving freedom for all other religions to practice their own faiths without interference. For historical reasons during the struggle for independence in the 1950s, the special position of Islam was clearly provided in the Federal Constitution to preserve Islam as the religion of the Federation while other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony. Islam is to be regarded as a moderating force of Islam within the Malaysian context would depend on the character of the Muslims, the integrity of the system, and the mutual respect for all religious differences. The system has worked for the last fifty years and will continue to work indefinitely unless there are evil forces that try to destroy the delicate social balance in a multiracial and multi-religious country like Malaysia.


It is perhaps pertinent at this juncture to give a very brief exposition about the Muslim article of faith concerning the concept of God, (referred to as the Tauhid), which simply says that "There Is No God, but only Allah". This article of faith is exclusive of all other Gods in whatever form, and is non-compromising. A brief note about Allah would explain this exclusivity of the Tauhid.

"Allah is one and only God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Allah does not multiply himself into many, nor does He give birth or have a son (or children), nor does He fragment His Being into parts, and incarnate or emanate into other existence, nor does He transcend down to enter into union with humans and conferring divinity to men."

"Allah is Lord of the whole universe, thus He is NOT earth centered to reduce Himself into the human dimension of space and time, to be hominiods (or humanized) and become anthropomorphic, to float aimlessly like an animated object or spirit in space, to be revolving with the planets around the sun, or be swept away by the stars in the revolving galaxies of expanding universe, to be without locus, and without focus. Such anthropomorphic God has lost his heavenly abode in the sky, and is lost in spatial relativity of outer space. Such helpless god cannot be Allah."

"Allah is the only absolute, the eternal. His power encompasses the whole universe, and yet He is minutely close to every atom; He is closer to us than we to our own jugular vein. Allah has no equal, nor partner, nor logos, nor mediator. He creates and destroys according to His Will. The whole universe belongs to Him and obeys His command, and none can intercede His authority except by His permission".

Then Allah creates those minutes creatures called Homo sapiens on the tiny planet in the solar system called the "Earth", and then Allah gives these creatures called "humans" some measure of free-will to choose, to decide, and to be responsible for their individual deeds. Allah says in the Al-Quran:
"By the Soul,
And the proportion and order given to it;
And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its rights.
Truly he succeeds that purifies it;

And he fails that corrupts it."
(Surah Al-Shams, 91: 7-10)

Thus the basic principle of salvation is in the purification of the self by doing all good deeds and no evil as an act of worship to the Creator Who is Allah.

But men tend to become proud about their own existence. They project their ego into the outer space and pretend to be like Gods. They associate Allah with their own images and make Allah their equals. These are acts of arrogance by ungrateful men who forget their origins, and such men would not find their destiny with Allah except by Allah's mercy for those who seek his guidance.

Religious experience is a reflective process based on free will; otherwise religion has no meaning without such freedom. There is therefore no compulsion for men to comply with divine commandments. Allah says in the Quran:
"Let there be no compulsion in religion; Truth stands out clear from Error;..."
(Al Baqarah, 2: 256 - part of verse)

The above verse also indicates that Allah has given guidance to all thinking men towards understanding truth, through their inner intelligence to recognize that truth admits no contradictions. Hence, such self contradicting statements as "unity of multiple Gods" cannot be consistent with truth. Secondly truth is always consistent under all circumstances. Thus the message of Tauhid as was first revealed to Prophet Adam (a.s) had always remained the same throughout the ages through all the other prophets including Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (Isa Ibnu Maryam), and the same message was revealed to the last Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). Thirdly truth should be straight and simple, to be easily understood by ordinary men, without high philosophy that needs to be understood only by priests and scholars. Thus the basic truth about Allah is straight and simple as revealed in the Holy Quran in the following verses:
"Say: He is Allah, the one and only;
Allah the eternal, (absolute);
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him".
(Al-Ikhlas 112: 1-4)

It is now quite clear why Muslims would not accept as Allah those concepts of "God Head" who is associated with Jesus in the holy trinity, nor the one God Brahman who is associated with Vishnu and Shiva in the holy Trimurty, nor Lord Buddha in the person of Gautama and several Bodhisatvas as expressed in the concepts of Trikaya of the Mahayana Buddhism. Muslims would neither accept as Allah the mystical divinities in the concept of God incarnate into humans forms or union with God saga, nor associate with Allah any of the mystical divinities of Gods and Goddesses in whatever dogmas or creeds. Allah and humanized Gods are not the same, and never will be. Hence, Muslim would not share in the idea that all religions are the same in forms or substance. There is no desire from Muslims to create religious conflicts, but only a desire for mutual respects on the differences between religious beliefs, and non-interference's in each other's faiths.

"Religious experience is a reflective process based on free will; otherwise religion has no meaning without such freedom."


The position of Muslims in interfaith relations is quite clear; Muslims have no problems in supporting activities to promote world peace and harmony, and share the common values that are naturally present in the conscience of human dignities, but nothing beyond this objective that would lead to interference in their religious beliefs. Muslims would always respect the different beliefs of other religions, and do not wish to interfere with their religious practices, and likewise would expect the reciprocal respect and non-interference from others.

No Muslim organizations anywhere in the world, those that are true to their faith, would support movements that promote the idea of sameness of all religious dogmas and creeds. Such an idea would ignore the reality of doctrinal divides that cannot be dissolved in the name of peace and harmony. Any attempt to impose this issue would result in inter-religious stress with Muslims who would defend the purity of Tauhid at all costs.

When confronted with the above situations the moderate Muslims would simply withdraw, but to the extremist they would call for a jihad (or holy war). This is where the danger lies. Hence for those who would misconstrue that they can simply share religious beliefs and dogmas, assuming that all Gods are the same, there is a need to learn from the wisdom of ancient China to respect the boundaries of religious differences as a foundation for religious peace and harmony, which Muslims would honour with great respect.

For those who are aware of the sensitivities of Muslims when it comes to the defence of their faith in the purity of Tauhid would also be aware that such sensitivities can be exploited by external forces to undermine national security and public order, whereas such energy can be directed for better use in nation building for a prosperous future for everybody.

"No Muslim organizations anywhere in the world, those that are true to their faith, would support movements that promote the idea of sameness of all religious dogmas and creeds. Such an idea would ignore the reality of doctrinal divides that cannot be dissolved in the name of peace and harmony. Any attempt to impose this issue would result in inter-religious stress with Muslims who would defend the purity of Tauhid at all costs."

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