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theSun | TUESDAY NOVEMBER 25 2008 13

speak up!

A matter of space
Scene: Citron Café, Bangsar. amulets found in Mesopotamia
and the Indus Valley cities of
CHONG: Sorry Azman, Mohenjodaro and Harappa of
no more yoga for you. You 5,000 years ago were those with
have always been boasting drawings of figures sitting in
about your erect posture and yoga positions. Small statues of
attributing it to your yoga figures in those positions were
exercise. So what are you also found.
going to do now to maintain Chong: Yes, I too read
your posture. somewhere that those positions
Azman: Yoga. were adopted by certain people
Chong: But the National WhatTheySay in ancient Middle East when
Fatwa Council has already by Zainon Ahmad
they meditated. Some of the
ruled that yoga is haram to ancient breathing exercises are
Muslims. Surely you know still practised there. That form
that it is a sin to do something that is of exercises and meditation were also
prohibited in Islam. practised in Tibet, China and Korea. So
Azman: I’ll risk it. yoga is not exclusively a Hindu practice.
Mohan: You’ll burn in hell. Maybe the name is Hindu.
Azman: I may or I may not. I leave Azman: Unfortunately yoga is now
it to God. I think He is kinder than those fatwa-ed away from Muslims. Many
who are trying to speak on His behalf. My Muslims were doing it for years until it
conscience is clear that I am not doing was pointed out by an academic from
anything that will eventually erode my Universiti Kebangsaan that practising it
faith. As far as I am concerned the form of may undermine the aqidah or faith of the
yoga I practise is only a physical exercise. followers of Islam. Only then the fatwa
Mohan: And many of the yoga classes council ruled.
taught at certain gyms and boutiques Zain: Actually there are a lot of Malay
are that kind of exercises. Purged of all customary practices that originate from
elements of religion. Hindu practices. After all Malaysia
Azman: Yoga has evolved into many was part of Indianised Southeast Asia.
forms, many of which are only remotely Most notable is the bersanding or
maintaining the form of the original. wedding ceremony. Also I remember my
Am I right Cikgu? You see guys our dear grandmother used to exclaim “Ah, what
old Cikgu did a few courses under the a lovely smell of heaven” when kissing
Indian studies department when he was a a newborn baby. Unconsciously she was
student. still part of the culture where every soul
Zain: You are right, of course. But to transmigrated through several births and
me the haram ruling may be a bit hasty. finally heaven before being born again.
Once you say it is haram it is final. It is I suppose we need a lot more fatwas
haram, prohibited. That’s the end of the before the Malay Muslims are thoroughly
matter. It needn’t have to be that way at cleansed.
all. Azman: Anyway over the years
Mohan: How could it be then? fatwa rulings have already been made
Zain: Well, they could just warn against a number of other things like
Muslims that some of the yoga exercises tomboyishness, the wearing of male attire
they are doing are related to Hinduism. by women and so on.
Or the council could discourage Muslims Zain: Thus, bit by bit the free space
from practising yoga. Unfortunately, there for Muslims in this country – only in
is no escaping this and other fatwas – for this country – is gradually fatwa-ed
as long you are in this country. away. At this rate we Muslims have less
Mohan: Is there no way of appealing freedom than the non-Muslims. Those
against the fatwa? little liberties not legislated away by our
Zain: As one learned ulama said: “Can Parliament, state assemblies and local
we appeal to God to change the rules councils are ruled away or fatwa-ed away
according to our whims and desires?” by the fatwa council.
Chong: Wow! What a powerful Chong: Yes, we know that, don’t we
answer. Mohan? We certainly are better off.
Mohan: Some Hindus are apparently Zain: And we have less religious
unhappy with the use of the word haram. freedom than you have. Do you know that?
Yoga is haram. A Hindu practice is haram. Mohan: Of course we do, don’t we
Like eating pork is haram. Chong?
Zain: I don’t know about that. But Zain: And like retired judge Datuk
I read somewhere or was told to me Faiza Tamby Chik said a week ago a
by one of my lecturers in the Indian Malay Muslim under the Malaysian
studies department that yoga pre-dates Constitution has no choice but to remain
the Hinduism that we know today. “in the Islamic faith until his or her dying
For instance among the clay seals or days.” He is not free to change his religion.

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Is it really a ban?
IT IS puzzling why fatwas (edicts) issued by mantra and “being one with God” are clearly
Islamic religious authorities in Malaysia, are forbidden and haram in Islam.
getting so much attention and criticisms from The fatwa also states that, as the yoga
non-Muslims and Muslims alike. exercises may be the first step towards that
First, fatwas are issued by learned Islamic practice, their advice is for Muslims to avoid it
scholars as guidelines for Muslims only, thus why altogether.
the intervention by non-Muslim groups? If, however, there are Muslims who refuse to
Second, fatwas in Malaysia are usually issued accept this fatwa and feel that yoga is nothing
for matters which have not been clearly spelt more than a form of exercise, then it is a matter
out in the Holy Quran and Hadith. One Muslim between them, their faith (iman & akidah) and
scholar or fatwa council, may or may not agree God. There is no need for public condemnation
with the fatwa of another. and criticism of the National Fatwa Council,
For example, a fatwa had been issued declar- especially by non-Muslims.
ing that smoking is haram, however, there are Even the consumption of alcohol, which is
some who disagree and many more continue to clearly haram as stated in the Holy Quran, contin-
smoke. Nevertheless, cigarettes continue to be ues to be allowed and openly done in Malaysia,
sold and smoked in Malaysia and other Muslim even by Muslims.
countries, and by Muslims nonetheless.
For Muslims, this fatwa on yoga, reminds us Adri Hemy Abdul Ghani
that the practices of yoga that include chanting, Jeddah