Muhibbah, Tolerance and Understanding


I got tagged by two fellow bloggers, A Voice and Bigdog on the same topic. No prizes for guessing.

 Muhibbah. Defined by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka as  perasaan persahabatan dan kemesraan (feeling of friendship and camaraderie or closeness).

I have it aplenty, I’d like to think. Looking back at more than three decades of human interaction with people of all shapes, sizes, colour, race, religion and whatever other ways of classifying or segregating the human race…I found that Muhibbah pretty much describes it, but I wasn’t doing it consciously.

It is not easy to co-exist with people who don’t share the superficial sameness that is identifiable. Anyone with some though will tell you that. However, trade, travel, and basically what we today call globalisation but has been happening for millenia, brings us into contact with people who are in many ways different.

A certain level of understanding and tolerance would make interaction easier, and maybe one day head towards wome kind of harmony.

It is a known fact, however, that it is the minority in any of these equations who will try to fit in and learn things that help him assimilate. I was one, and I assimilated. I learnt about this unique plural society I was born into, and it helped that I had a lot of positive experience growing up.

I was born a few years after 1969, and since my family was settled in a rural area, none of the hate reached us anyway. So I’d like to think.

My parents however, must have been privy to race-related hate and God bless them, they kept their cool and NEVER taught us to hate. So here I am today, after 14 years in the city of Kuala Lumpur and still I don’t know how to hate a fellow human being for his colour, race, religion or political beliefs.

Tolerance? Hah! I was raised a Hindu and everywhere I went, saw a lotta beef on the table. No one bats an eyelid when it comes to our sensitivities. Except for a caring Uncle Samad and Aunty Ruby in whose house I stayed for a year in my late teens. Throughout the time I stayed with the Samads, I didn’t see a single beef dish on the table. His daughter Ina was by best friend. I would not have minded so much since I was obviously menumpang, yet not a day went by that I was made to feel anything other than a daughter of the house.

When I went climbing a mountain in my late teens, I had collapsed on reaching the top. When I opened my eyes, I was lying on the lap of a fellow climber while a Chinese girl was offering me a steaming bowl of Maggi. Times like that, the issue of race and religion never crept in. We were just people sharing the same circumstances.

Somehow it struck me though that most of my Muhibbah moments happened way before I came to Kuala Lumpur. And I’ve been here 14 years now.

Why is it that in the cities, things are more clearly drawn along racial, religious or political lines? Maybe social inequality is one reason. But I’m not sure it isn’t the fact that politicians play up these sentiments for their own gain.

I was working in the mainstream media for more than a decade and I did see a measure of racism and a twisted brand of racial agenda protectionism going on. And this is below the surface of the fact that all of them are somehow owned by parties affiliated to the ruling coalition.

I refused to be part of Malaysia Hindu Sangam because when I was a young adult, they were more concerned by ad-hoc measures. I had to learn the Hindu philosophy on my own, and take what part of those ancient teachings that would help me be a better human being.

What worried this group was more the fact that more and more Hindus were embracing Christianity (mostly through the work of evangelists) and Islam. What I feel they should be doing is to teach the young Hindus what their religion and way of life is all about. Religion is a very personal thing, and if a guy finds solace, belief and salvation in a faith, it probably because he didn’t find it in the religion he was born into.

However, personally I am increasingly finding that the more you learn, the more you see what’s going on around you, the more you would be turned off by atrocities wreaked by monsters in the name of religion.

I have a friend who was a staunch Catholic who gave up on his faith because in his opinion, have the evils in this world was done in the name of religion. I have another Christian friend (she adopted the faith a decade or two ago) who said she would actually rejoice if some power was to arrive in Malaysia and wipe out the entire Malay population. I was appalled. See, the same Bible-thumping chick for whom Jesus is salvation, has no problems with genocide. Do the math.

I would like to think there are a lot of people like that here and their conviction is fed further by mindless acts of people in authority. In general though, the people, I think should be educated to see each other as equal, and kids be taught respect in school.

My niece is just seven years old and she goes to a Chinese school in Johor. She told me once, “We must respect and be helpful to everyone.” I asked her who taught her about respect, she said, “We learn it in Moral class.” She really took the lessons to heart too. God bless her teachers.

Reminded me of the time when I was 11 years old and a Malay classmate said, “My father said it doesn’t matter if you are good or bad. Since you are kafir, you and your kind are all going to hell.

I actually asked this Ustaz in school if that were true. I’ll never forget what he said till today. He said, “God decides who goes to heaven and hell. God decides who is a Muslim. God knows who has Iman, not man.”

God bless him. Because of him, I still seek to understand other people’s faiths, and love people regardless of what color, race, whether they are atheist, monotheist or polytheist.

I consider myself lucky.

To keep this discussion going, I’d like to tag two other bloggers. SK Thew of MagEP’s Lab and Shar of OBE. Good luck guys.

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2 thoughts on “Muhibbah, Tolerance and Understanding

  1. Sis,

    Just to add to what the Ustaz said about God deciding where one spends the hereafter.

    In the second chapter of the Koran it is stated: “Those who believe (in the Qur-an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”

    Although only the 3 Abrahamic religions are mentioned, the part about those “working righteousness” not fearing or grieving their fates makes the message universal. No honest, self-respecting person will believe that God is so fearsome and unjust to favor any one particular section of humanity and condemn the rest to purgatory. After all he created all humanity.

    So just as good deeds will be rewarded no matter the religious flavor of the person, likewise, be sure that just because one is of the right religion, being corrupt, stealing, cheating, lying and the whole litany of misdeeds so rampant today will get you off the hook in the final court of justice.

    Believe in God, do good and always remember this: How would you like to spend eternity? Smoking or non-smoking?

  2. I know I had tagged the right person. Remember of our teh tarik at Bangsar. I had to hear your frank opinion before forming a position on an event.

    With regard to your Malay classmate at 11 year old, there is a phrase in the Quran that warned Muslim to be wary of Jew and Chrisitian. Strangely, all over the Quran one find of goodwill and respect of others irrespective of race and religion.

    I finlly understood what it is about in a recent talk by a Muslim eschatology scholar. I posed a question regarding his position years back and it’s inconsistency with the spirit of Muhibbah.

    He denied of taking that view and said he never wrote anything in that manner. He is right, none of his book wrote of it. But what matters more was how he managed to interpret the ayat that caused much prejudice against Muslim and to non Muslim.

    He said he managed to interpret it recently after 15 years. It was meant to be when Jew are together with Christian that they become enemy of Islam. Jew and Christian, are mortal religious rivals and it is a strange occurance when they work together. And it is happening now under the Christian Zionism ideology. It clears an uncertainty of mine and I am happy to say that Islam never took other religion as enemy.

    In fact that has alwasy been the way we are broght up. My parents are Imam and ustazah. Yet we live in a mixed neighbourhood and get along great with our neighbour. Our closest neighbours are not teh Malay or Muslims but the Indians across the road – a Christian spinster cikgu and a Hindu family next to her.

    Actually, if every Malaysians adhere to the fundamental of their religion, Malaysia is a more lovely and peaceful place to live. Although politics or specifically communal politics is seldom blamed as the cause of divisive in our society, I believe it doesn’t have to be so.

    Be it in community, school, workplace, and politics, there is too much me and not enough we these days! Till there is more we at the personal level, it is hard to end communalism.

    The important thing is to be considerate, not to be selfish centred and always forge “muhibbah, tolerance and understanding”.

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