Saturday, September 11, 2010

‘Surau’ issue: Making a mountain out of a molehill

In the name of Allah. the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

A non-Muslim female giving a speech in a ‘surau’ is nothing compared to a Bedouin who urinated in a masjid during Prophet Muhammad’s time, but what was the reaction of the Prophet (peace be upon him, s.a.w.) then?

Among the Prophet’s method of dealing with people’s mistakes was remaining calm. Being too harsh could make matters worse and do more harm than good. We can learn this from looking at how the Prophet (s.a.w.) dealt with the mistake made by the Bedouin who urinated in the masjid, as was reported by Anas ibn Malik (r.a.) who said:

“Whist we were in a masjid with the Messenger of Allah, a Bedouin came and stood urinating in the masjid. The Companions of the Messenger of Allah said, ‘Stop it! Stop it! But the Messenger of Allah said, ‘Do not interrupt him; leave him alone.’ So they left him until he had finished urinating, the Messenger of Allah called him and said to him, ‘In these masjids it is not right to do anything like urinating or defecating; they are only for remembering Allah, praying and reading the Qur’an,’ or words to that effect. Then he commanded a man who was there to bring a bucket of water and throw it over (the urine), and he did so.” (Muslim, hadith no. 285)

The principle which the Prophet (s.a.w.) followed in dealing with this mistake was to treat the man gently, so as not to harsh with him. Bukhari reported from Abu Hurairah (r.a.): “A Bedouin urinated in the masjid, and the people got to stop him out. The Messenger of Allah said to them, ‘Leave him alone, and throw a bucket of water over it. You have been sent to make things easy for people, not to make things hard...” (Fath al-Bari, hadith no. 6128)

The Sahabahs (may Allah be pleased with them all) were very keen to denounce the bad thing they had seen and to keep their masjids clean and pure, as is indicated in the various reports of this hadith, which describe them as shouting at him, getting up to sort him out, rebuking him and hastening to deal with him, or telling him to ‘stop it’.

But the Prophet (s.a.w.) was thinking of the likely consequences of the two options – stopping him or leaving him alone. If they tried to stop him, forcing a man to suppress his urination could do him harm, and if he was unable to stop but moved away because he was afraid of them, the impurity would be spread over a wider area of the masjid and on the man’s body and clothing.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) had the farsightedness to see that leaving the man alone until he had finish urinating was the lesser of the two evils, especially since the man had already started doing it, and it was a problem they would be able to do something about by cleaning afterwards.

So he told his Companions to leave him alone because this was in the better interests of all and ward off a worse evil by putting up with the lesser evil. – The Prophet’s Methods of Correcting People’s Mistakes by Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid (International Islamic Publishing House).

From the above hadiths (traditions of the Prophet), we could conclude that Islam is a very beautiful religion. So why must here we have too many ‘pious’ men and people who ‘ran amok’ when a petite lady, Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching from DAP gives a speech in Surau Al-Huda, Kajang on last 22th August? She was said to make the visit to deliver some money as allocation to mend the surau’s fences.

If a man who urinated in a masjid was treated with kindness and patience by the Prophet (s.a.w.); could there not be a just and professional way to ‘confront’ the ‘mistake’ committed by Teo or to those who invited her, if their actions did not please or were contradictory to the said ‘pious’ men and vested parties' views?

But now look at the damage it has done. Non-Muslims were offended, some may have the thinking that Islam is a very rigid and closed religion; if they could not be amongst Muslims, what more to be inside a masjid or surau, how could they be helped in getting to know or broadening their knowledge in Islam?

Dr Y Mansoor Marican in a flyer by Islamic Outreach-ABIM, notes that sharing the knowledge of Islam with the non-Muslims is a very recommended practice. Among others he suggested Muslims to buy copies of translation of The Qur’an and present them to non-Muslim friends.

He also suggested Muslims to invite one non-Muslim family in our neighbourhood for a meal and use the opportunity to find out what aspects of Islam that they don’t understand. He said if you are unable to explain, find out from others and convey the explanation to them.

If we had not done the simple things suggested as above, then a visit by a non-Muslim to a surau or a mosque would be a great opportunity for Muslims to portray or show the Islamic way of life, but why must Teo’s visit made a mountain out of a molehill?

I am afraid Muslims would loose out, the golden opportunity for the Islamic da’wah was cut short or hijacked by those with inferior motives. In my opinion if those concerned were not happy with Teo’s action or the surau committee members’ decision in allowing her inside the surau, they should emulate the ways shown by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).

In his book, Muhammad Salih notes that in dealing with mistakes, one’s had to be sincerity towards Allah SWT. “When correcting the mistakes of others, it is essential that one’s intention should be to earn the pleasure of Allah, not to demonstrate one’s superiority or to vent one’s anger or to impress others.”

So what was the big fuss about Teo entering a surau? It seemed that the media played it as though it was a big issue, like something concerning national security! It was blown out of proportion; top leaders like Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein had his hands on it.

Teo, the surau committee members or all of us for that matter had or would be making mistakes but it is part of human nature. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said: “Every son of Adam makes mistakes, and the best of those who make mistakes are those who repent.” (At-Tirmidhi, hadith no. 2382)

The problem is why must the so called ‘pious’ men and sides (including the firestone Malay press), jumping over the gun and pulling out their swords (words and so on) to slay the victim, ignoring the Prophet sunnah (methods) in correcting people’s mistakes?

Perhaps this is because we (I included) are not well verse in Islam, especially implying the teachings in our every day life. Muhammad Salih notes: “Dealing with and correcting mistakes (naseehah) is also a part of sincerity in religion, which is duty to all Muslims.

“The connection between this and the concept of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, which is also a duty, is quite obvious {but we should note that the area of mistakes is broader than the area of evil (munkar), so a mistake may or may not be evil as such}.” Selamat Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir Batin.

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