SEPT 30 — To practise a religion, one must understand that religion. And to understand the religion, one needs to know the religion.
But is it even possible to know and understand a religion completely so one can actually practise that religion properly?
Or would you really not be considered a true believer and practitioner if you don’t totally understand the religion?
I, for one, have to admit that I do not totally understand the religion I practise (Islam, in case you were wondering).
What does that make me? An infidel? A kafir? A non-believer? Or maybe just a plain old bad and sinful Muslim?
What I have been told by other Muslims (to my face even!) is that if you don’t understand the religion, just keep quiet and do as you’re told.
Now isn’t that wonderful? Just shut up and do what other people tell you, and everything will be all right. I guess ignorance is bliss.
But lucky for me, something happened recently to pluck me out of the disillusionment I had of my fellow Muslims.
My future sister-in-law, an "infidel", recently converted to Islam (hence infidel no more!), and I was there to be a witness.
She had decided to go to Jawi (the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department) to do her conversion and the whole gang (her family and mine) tagged along.
We all entered a small room and were greeted by a young officer whom we all just called "Ustaz" (his name escapes me at this point in time).
Ustaz talked about Islam and some basic information like the Pillars of Islam (Rukun Islam) and the Pillars of Faith (Rukun Iman).
Then the conversion happened. Ustaz asked my future sister-in-law to recite the Syahadah and that was it. She was no longer an infidel.
What Ustaz said next was the thing that really stuck to me. He asked my future sister-in-law several questions to test her knowledge on Islam.
“Do you know how to pray?” asked Ustaz,
“Not really but I’m learning,” said my future sister-in-law.
“That’s okay. I was going to say that you can actually pray any way you want right now since you don’t really know how.”
“Yes. You can even go to a mosque and just pray however you want. And if anyone asks you why you’re praying that way, just tell them you just converted and are learning.”
“But, of course, you need to start studying the proper ways of Islam. Then just go through everything slowly and naturally as you learn. It’ll take time and you’ve got a long way to go. God will understand.”
“Thank you, Ustaz.”
I like the idea that Islam allows one to just practise the religion the best way one knows how and to take one’s time to learn and understand it better.
I also like the nice, patient and polite way the Ustaz explained everything to my future sister-in-law (and all of us there too).
At the end of the session, Ustaz asked my future sister-in-law for her bank account because Jawi allocates a bit of financial assistance for new converts.
“Why do you do that, Ustaz?” I asked.
“Sometimes, converts are disowned by their families or face certain hardships. The money we provide is just to help them out a little bit. But your case today is what we like. Everyone is supportive and open-minded,” replied Ustaz.
We all nodded in agreement. But right before we started walking out of the room, my future sister-in-law’s two brothers motioned towards Ustaz.
“Ustaz, how much do you actually give out?” they both asked mischievously.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.