Sunday, November 27, 2011


Today Awal Muharram heralds the Muslim New Year. Today too is the First Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the Christian Liturgical Year, 4 Sundays before Christmas Day.

A Blessed co-incidence, allow me to volunteer.

Of late we have experienced events by individuals and groups bent on ensuring that unity amongst Muslim and Christians is a no-no.

I cannot think of anything better to share with readers than this article from Raja Zarith, the consort of the Sultan of Johor.

Sunday January 9, 2011

Season of goodwill


If Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Isa (Jesus), a prophet respected and revered in Islam, is it so wrong to wish a blessed day for those who celebrate it?

DURING the days before Christmas last year, I wished my friends who were celebrating it “Merry Christmas” in much the same way they would wish me “Selamat Hari Raya” or “Happy Eid”.

I find it rather sad that such a simple greeting – one which I grew up with and which I have never regarded as something that would compromise or de-value my own faith – is now regarded as something so religiously incorrect for us Malaysian Muslims.

When I was at boarding school in England, I had to go to church every Sunday because it was part of the rules. My father advised me to consider it as part of my “education” and he had no doubt that the experience would strengthen rather than weaken my own faith.

I was able to see the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam. I learned more than the average Malaysian Muslim would about Christianity. I learnt that just as we Muslims categorise ourselves according to the four different schools of thoughts of the four Imams (Imam Malik, Imam Al Shafi, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Ahmad Abn Hambal) and are either Sunnis or Shias, so Christians too are divided into different sects or churches.

Going to church did not make me less of a Muslim when I was a young girl, and neither does saying “Merry Christmas” make me less of a Muslim now. My faith has not been shaken just because I wished some friends a time of joy with their families. Neither will I suddenly suffer from amnesia and forget what my religion is.

What I do not wish to forget, however, is that there are good, kind people who are not of the same faith as me.

As Harun Yahya, the Turkish writer (he was selected last year as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan) noted: “Islam is a religion of peace, love and tolerance.

Today, however, some circles have been presenting a false image of Islam, as if there were conflict between Islam and the adherents of the two other monotheistic religions. Yet Islam’s view of Jews and Christians, who are named ‘the People of the Book’ in the Quran, is very friendly and tolerant.

“This attitude towards the People of the Book developed during the years of the birth of Islam. At that time, Muslims were a minority, struggling to protect their faith and suffering oppression and torture from the pagans of the city of Mecca. Due to this persecution, some Muslims decided to flee Mecca and shelter in a safe country with a just ruler. The Prophet Muhammad told them to take refuge with King Negus, the Christian king of Ethiopia. The Muslims who followed this advice found a very fair administration that embraced them with love and respect when they went to Ethiopia. King Negus refused the demands of the pagan messengers who asked him to surrender the Muslims to them, and announced that Muslims could live freely in his country.

“Such attitudes of Christian people that are based on the concepts of compassion, mercy, modesty and justice, constitute a fact that God has pointed out in the Quran.”

I do not wish to be a self-centred Muslim who expects friends of other faiths to wish me Selamat Hari Raya or, for those who are not Malaysians and therefore do not know about Hari Raya, a Happy Eid and yet do not return their goodwill when it is Christmas, Chinese New Year, Deepavali or Vesak Day.

Every year, friends who are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs or those without any faith come to our home to celebrate Hari Raya with us. They do so with sincerity and as a mark of respect for one of the most important days in the Muslim calendar. Why should we not reciprocate their kindness, show them the same mark of respect for their religion and wish them the same joy on their holy days of celebration?

An Islamic scholar and lecturer also reminded me that as Muslims we must remember the importance of both the five Pillars of Islam and in the six Pillars of Iman (Faith), which are:

> Belief in Allah;

> Belief in the angels;

> Belief in the revealed Books (which include the Bible, the Torah and the Holy Quran);

> Belief in the Prophets (May Peace be Upon Them);

> Belief in the Resurrection and the events of Kiamah, the Day of Judgement; and

> Belief in the predestination (Qada’ and Qadar) by Allah in all things.

The prophets include not just Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him) as the last prophet and as the Messenger of Islam, but also in the 24 earlier ones who are mentioned in both the Bible and the Quran. Four of them are Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Daud (David), and Isa (Jesus).

So, if Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Isa (Jesus), a prophet respected and revered in Islam, is it so wrong to wish a blessed day for those who celebrate it?

We are now in the second decade of the 21st century. Surely, we should, now more than ever, be far more enlightened at a time when information of any sort and of all kinds are so readily available to us.

What is most important is that we regard one another as fellow citizens and treat each other with respect, regardless of our race or religion.

> The writer is Royal Fellow, School of Language Studies and Linguistics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), and holds a BA (Honours) degree in Chinese Studies, University of Oxford.


Peace to all men and women of goodwill.


snow said...

How true? Religion is being used and twisted by corrupt people with their own agendas. We should be wise and discerning like Raja Zarith. I applaud her for her stand and courage.

najib manaukau said...

She did not need to have legislations to protect her converted and after having gone to church every sunday she is still a muslim ? A staunch muslim I might add.
This is democracy in the true spirit of the word !

joehancl/PRAY, it works said...

If only, if only dear God, there is more muslims like this writer.

Anonymous said...

U don't have to be a CEO or ministers to have agood live....agree with u

Antares said...

Raja Zarith Idris is one of those rare souls born into the aristocracy who manages to retain a measure of empathy and compassion, and she's intelligent and articulate enough to express her thoughts in writing with a great deal more warmth and subjectivity than somebody like her royal consort is permitted. We can only pray that there are a lot more noble souls in our midst - all prepared to do a Siddhartha and opt for a life of truth and wisdom rather than effete luxury and utter falsity.

Anonymous said...

So what difference did the article by HRH Raja Zarith make? Absolutely nothing because even her husband, HRH Sultan of Johore did not pay any heed to it.

Anonymous said...

There are many Muslims like raja zarith who are secure in their convictions and therefore do not feel threatened by other religious faiths, because they come from stable Muslim families. I, too am lucky that my family is so thoroughly Muslim and so liberal that they send me to convent schools for a good secular education, knowing that our strong faith in Islam will always keep us grounded. But There are also many muslims who have no one to turn to, who are disillusioned with life and who will place their trust in some kind soul. This is what is worrying the authorities and they have good reason to be worried because these incidents of conversion are taking place and they only have themselves to blame, becuse they are not providing the support system that is badly needed

zorro said...

Anon336pm....what exactly did you expect the Sultan to do.
It moved me to do this post.
It moved others to make positive comments on this.
You are the only odd guy who said that the article made no difference.
What did you have in mind? What solutions have you got, if any?
I am surprised you enunciate such negativity on this holy day.

Anonymous said...

Umno is only interested in using mlay unity talk as an agenda to stay in power.

Anonymous said...

Long had I respected this elegant royal lady,who originate from Perak, her wisdom amply revealed by articles in her column in the Sunday Star. But sad to say, souls like hers are a rarity in our country, make fiery by bigoted politician and war- mongering racists.

bruno said...

Raja Zarith Idris was one smart lady who knows how to really make use of her brains.Even when placed in an embarassing situation facing university students,she kept her cool and neutrality.Respect has to be earned,and she is one royalty who has certainly earned it.

Anonymous said...

BUT BUT BUT she has said all schools should have only ONE stream ie malay !
(el zor, i'm expecting your scolding as for anon336pm.)

flyer168 said...

Dear Zorro,

YMM Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah is an intellectual, cultured “Royalty Extroadinaire” including her inner and outer beauty since her younger days in the 70s...

We have always admired her.

Just to share this...

Royalty Extraordinaire -

Written by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee Thursday, 18 November 2010 15:59

With their front page headlines highlighting developments on the massive Sime loss, readers of the country's two main English papers may not have noticed the news report of the speech by Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, the consort of the Sultan of Johor, which was buried in the inner pages.

The occasion of the speech was a conference on 'Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason' held on Nov 16 in Kuala Lumpur...

"Describing her own ancestral background as a mix between Sumatran and Peranakan Chinese, she said it was important to recognise the diversity of Malaysian society, brought about by centuries of interracial and interfaith marriages and communication." (New Straits Times, Nov 17, 2010)

This open and proud acknowledgment of her mixed ancestral background is quite unprecedented.

It puts to shame the way in which many of our leaders who have a similar mixed ancestry either try to hide or suppress the inconvenient truth, or engage in flaunting or agitating a mono-ethnic or religious stance as if this has been part of their, and the country's DNA from time immemorial.

Raja Zarith Sofiah's speech was much more than what was reported in the newspapers. It also covered her personal experience and thinking on religions and the importance for Muslims to learn about other cultures and religions and their heritage.

She spoke from the heart, simply and without the need for any convoluted intellectual argument or high sounding clich├ęs to drive home the importance of cherishing and protecting the country that belongs to all of us -- highly or lowly born; brown, yellow or black; and worshipping one, many or no god...

“Although I am a republican at heart, logic tells me that we may need the type of monarchy she personifies more than ever to hold the country together and to remind us of our common humanity.

With her and other royalty who care for the country in the way she does, there is greater hope that the nation can overcome the racial and religious demons that torment us…”

You can read more… Raja Zarith Sofia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -

A true “Royalty Extraordinaire” in this troubled times in Bolehland.

You be the judge.


Anonymous said...

The time will come soonnn...

bumi-non-malay said...

hmmm... I am back...

Links to Sultan of Perak brings back terrible memories..... Like Raja Nazrin DNA links......

Then again we need to give everyone a chance until they disappoint us again.....Is this all Lifes about? Waiting to hear something to encourage us but does Nothing to change the underlying foundation built on Selective Discrimination??

Remember the Arab spring is about people tired of the same SCAM.....Perhaps we need to ask Her of her 6 Children, how many in private school studying in English??.....there lies the answer of the Sultan of Perak DNA links.....terrible memories! We were morally tricked there for 45 years.....I will be tricked No more! We need to ASK the hard Question and Not be ashame of the Taboo of their(melayu) interpretation of Biadap, Hina.....etc. It is no insult to demand is their Children and Sultan's children in private School medium of Instruction in English? If yes the Muhiddin and Najib and UMNO - BN must be Charged for treason and insult to Agong or vice versa!...Think about it!!

Anonymous said...

Uncle Zorro,

I am just stating the obvious and no negativity was intended. Let me illustrate:
There used to be a certain Malaysian Chief Judge who was wise, learned and highly respected who upheld the law and Constitution while in service as the country's Chief Judge. Then he became a Sultan and the years of integrity and credibility earned as the Chief Judge came crumbling down like a pack of cards.

His equally learned son then became the next beacon of hope for many of us who were moved with his well articulated speeches such as "Every Malaysian has his/her place under the Malaysian sun" and other well written and moving speeches. But what actually happened after all these beautiful and moving speeches were made? Nothing, zilch. Why? Simply because these very same people making such moving speeches do not practice what they preach.

You are moved by such wonderful speeches. I was but no more. These speeches are no more than what what we hear daily coming from the saliva filled mouths of the likes of Najib, Muhyiddin, et al all professing that they and their party have reformed and transformed. They are leaders for all Malaysians. But they are afraid to even declare they are Malaysians first and hid behind their ketuanan skins. Yes, they have all transformed to be worse than what they had originally started with. And you expect me to be moved by such beautiful sounding speeches??

Anon @ Nov.27, 3.36pm

Jong said...

Remember once upon a time we were all charmed by this Nazrin of Perak and what happened after a few good speeches and the claps? He let us down terribly when we needed him most!

I won't be too sure about her, won't raise much hopes least I get terribly disappointed. They have afterall about the same DNA. Just stay curious.

zorro said...

Anon336pm, I am sorry if I reacted negatively to your comment.

Yes indeed Azlan Shah was the only one who attained the country's top positions - not one but two...Lord President and Agong and he reneged on his own words from his book on the constitution.

His son talked about all of us under the same Malaysian sun and it spooked me to ask in an earlier blog whether a royal could be a PM. Yet he did not even volunteer a squeak when his Pa sold Perak!

These two shared the same bloodline...but not Raja Zarith IDRIS!

Father and son made pronouncements. The media "uses" the good tidings and we all enjoy an erection.

Raja Zarith has a column. No columnists (unless employed by the media) worth their salt will allow their piece to be dissected or embellished to comply with editorial policies. Until now she is TRUE to her writings.

However, I watch cautiously since her husband ascended the Johor throne!

Thank you for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Good on her. Strong in her faith and true to her conviction. I only wish the rest of the royals have her class. The sultan of Johore and Johoreans should be proud of her.

Anonymous said...

i was an ID10T wen i thot nazrin could make a good pm !

Anonymous said...

I think we have to blame the Mamak, the most famous one is Mahatir. He needed the greased UMNO members to endorse him a Malay then he played on the fears of the Malay minds to keep himself in power and rob them blind.
Remember "Bersih, Cekap, Amanah"? How would the Syriah court handle such a liar?
There are more in the pipeline now including a recent R Tee, a Chinese convert. He tries to ape the Mamak and tries to score some brownie points to his name. Watch out for such kind of people.
The Royal write-up is really fresh air after such a long stale period existed in our country. I hope she will take up politics and she will do well to bring Malaysia forwards in this new dimension. No corruption and treat everybody fairly. Leave it to the people and they will excel in their own ways when leave unimpeded.

wandererAUS said...

It is definitely a rare commodity to see a combination of beauty and grace from HRH. She earned her respect for her deep understanding on others, who do not share her race and religion yet, she gracefully offered her respect and acknowledgement...accepting, we are of a same human race and nothing wrong, in differing in our beliefs and ways.