Monday, August 11, 2008

178] How to dialogue God

How to dialogue God
Azly Rahman | Aug 11, 08 2:11pm

Must religious dialogue be painful? Must it be greeted with hostility? Or is it a moot question - that the answer lies in our education system’s failure, decades ago?


chinese new year 310108 prayerI have faith that we will one day be ready to appreciate interfaith dialogue. Same too for philosophical discussions and scientific debates. My experience conducting interfaith dialogues every semester in American classrooms gives me the assurance that we will be ready.

It would be good to know that eventually our corridors of academia are filled with passionate discussions on the self, the universe, God, and fate of humanity.

The core of each religious foundation is there for us to explore and to learn from. We need to escape from being trapped in the particular and liberate ourselves into explorers of the universal.

Of course this will take time given the nature of class and caste system we are in; developments that have impacted upon our consciousness. But evolve we must, if we are to see a progressive country emerging out of these ruins of communal politics, immorality of modern capitalism, and persistent religious misunderstandings. Ignorance is the greatest enemy of knowledge, as the sage Socrates once said.

What is interfaith dialogue?

hajj pilgrimage haji pilgrimage 040107 prayerThe aborted Bar Council forum was a good example how we will continue to approach inter-faith dialogue. There is vision in chaos, creation in destruction, and opportunities in threats. Educators of peace and social justice must not give up.

In a country with a Centre for Civilisational Dialogue in Universiti Malaya, and in a country wanting to be known as a "moderate country with a Muslim majority", we are seeing contradictions. It’ll get uglier if we fail to reflect upon the means and methods of religious dialogue.

We do not know much what each one of us believes in and what are the rituals and practices of our neighbours. We do not know what scripture they read, let alone the meaning of the prayers, the doa, zikir, the pujas, and the mantras. We lack the knowledge of the fundamentals. This is understandable - fear governs our consciousness and directs our actions and ultimately reproduces itself inter-generationally. Religion is a "sensitive" issue, they say - which needs desensitisation, I would contend.

Back to the Bar Council forum protests. It is a misrepresentation of what Muslims are and a reflection of how we have approached not only dialogue on religion but also on other "sensitive issues" as well. In this environment and in this regime where exploitation of issues are orchestrated by opportunists at the expense of peaceful dialogue, we will always be at the losing end of education for critical consciousness and for peace.

Humanism and rationalism

We must go back to the drawing board of our approach to teaching religion in terms of curricular design and how to juxtapose or even infuse it with core ideas of humanism and rationalism. This will take another few decades given the complexity of our society and its present evolution of “half-bakedness” of hypermodernity.

Here in the United States, I have just finished teaching two summer classes on 'Religions of the World' and 'Introduction to Religion' in a college where I have also been asked, for the last three years, to teach 'Islamic Scriptures'.

sikh prayer 040108 02I find it liberating to conduct classes after classes in which my students not only are American and foreign-born Muslims but also Jews, Christians, Catholic, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics, and even Pagans. At the end of each semester, they have a different perception of each other - more in-depth understanding of what could have remained antagonistic. We read the Quran and the Hadiths and look at the scriptures from a hermeneutic perspective - situate it in the present and projecting it into the future.

Most often, our discussions on jihad evolved into a reflection on the struggles for the human self to explore suffering, violence, and liberation in all religious traditions. It includes passionate discussions on media representation of the concept.

I often wonder if what I am doing is possible in Malaysia but I certainly have the confidence and hope that given the most peaceful way to approach it, a lot can be gained. Essentially religious dialogue need not be painful.

It ought to help foster deep understanding and dispel misconception of ANY religion. It ought to make us become deeply religious and to learn to explore what others believe, to respect them, to learn from the universal themes of spirituality, and ultimately to contemplate our existence within the context of the struggle between Good and Evil and to evolve as more ethical and rational beings - so that we may participate better as political and social beings..

Major scriptures

mawi concert 1 in kota bharu 041005 woman prayerI believe we need to revamp undergraduate foundation courses in our public and private to include one that teaches the classics of the thoughts of the Eastern and Western tradition and the scriptures of the major religions.

But then again, our university students are not even allowed to be involved in politics and to engage freely in public forum on political matters – how might this be possible with interfaith dialogue then?

We have a long walk to mental freedom and to a philosophical understanding of Islam and other religions. Unfortunately we are now known as people who are good at disrupting dialogues. I hope this perception will change.

But then again, education is about hope, peace, empathy, intelligence, and liberation - these we must use as a basis for a new design once we see major restructuring efforts under way undertaken by perhaps a new political, social, and educational arrangement.

Let us look at possibilities in interfaith dialogue. Let education for peace and justice do that.


Anonymous said...

Tell me, if a religion says that other religions are flawed and their followers will burn in hell, then how is one supposed to open dialogue with that? How do we tell our fellow muslims who believe this distinction of you and us, that everyone has their right to their God, because then it makes nonsensical the heaven and hell system. Like it or not, 'kafir' is a real word in Islam, no matter how we sugar coat it. Can we talk about kafirs in these dialogues? Are we mature enough?

Anonymous said...

Love your casual and real comments. Perhaps you can shed the light by leading the path through



How do the major religions view the concept of "heaven and hell", "reward and punishment" or even "good and evil"?

perhaps the answer to those above may move the dialogue in the right direction.

any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

When the leaders have a mind set that say "my prayers today were to forgive my sins yesterday", what future does the nation has?

Dialogues to change mindset first

jahaberdeen said...

Dr Azly,

I have been following your writings for a long time. In fact I used to participate when you were writing in Malaysia-today. I have included your link in my blog at

Hopefully, we will all learn that to be human is to think and emphatise.

Anonymous said...

I am deeply aware of two types of people, the ones that are open-minded and don't mind other people's Gods being valid as opposed to the other one, for whom it is clear that only their God is the true God. For the latter, they interpret things literally (but who can blame them, it's pretty clear with Islam that if you are non-believer you will not be admitted into paradise). How do we dialogue this unless the muftis and uztazes themselves see things from an inclusive point of view?

I would be interested in your ideas on how we can move forward? A liberal's interpetation will always be seen as a liberal's sesat-ness.


Nostradamus said...

Q14. Freedom of religions and beliefs is a right of all Malaysians. (True or False)
Kebebasan ugama dan kepercayaan adalah hak semua rakyat Malaysia (Betul atau Salah)

Q15. Liberty is a right of all Malaysians. (True or False)
Kebebasan diri adalah hak semua rakyat Malaysia. (Betul atau Salah)
Q7. Religious superiority is needed to rule Malaysians. (Fact or Fiction)
Ketuanan ugama diperlukan untuk memerintah Negara. (Fakta atau Rekaan)

Q13. Free speech is a right of all Malaysians. (True or False)
Kebebasan bersuara adalah hak semua rakyat Malaysia. (Betul atau Salah)

Q16. All Malaysians and the world can be converted to a single culture, religion, race in future. (Fact or Fiction)
Semua rakyat Malaysia dan sedunia boleh diubahkan kepada suatu kebudayaan, ugama dan bangsa pada masa hadapan. (Fakta atau Rekaan)

Q48. Freedom can only exist in the mind, not in real life. (True or False)
Kebebasan Cuma didapati dalam minda, tidak di dunia nyata. (Betul atau Salah)

Q49. Race and Religious supremacy are preached by satans. (True or False)
Ketuanan bangsa dan ugama adalah dikutbah oleh syaitan. (Betul atau Salah)

Q50. Malaysian politicians are typical Jeyklls and Hydes. (True or False)
Ahli politik Malaysia melambangkan personality Jeyklls dan Hydes. (Betul atau Salah)

Answers at
Jawapan di

Nostradamus said...

Nostrdamus Predictions on Possibilities In Malaysia.
Ramalan Nostradamus atas Kemungkinan-kemungkinan di Malaysia.

1. Is it possible that DSAI wins the Permatang Pauh elections and become the next Chief Minister of Penang as a stepping stone to becoming Prime Minister?
Adakah mungkinnya DSAI memenangi pilihan raya Permatang Pauh dan menjadi Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang sebelum menjadi Perdana Menteri?

2. Is it possible that DSAB resign as PM of Malaysia after the Permatang Pauh elections and handover to DSNTR earlier than expected?
Adakah mungkinnya DSAB meletak jawatan sebagai PM Malaysia selepas pilihan raya Permatang Pauh dan menyerahkannya kepada DSNTR lebih awal dari jangkaan?

3. Is it possible that UMNO and PKR will combine to form a new party?
Adakah mungkinnya UMNO dan PKR akan bergabung untuk membentuk sebuah parti baru?

4. Is it possible that all other component parties of BN without UMNO will combine with PKR to form a new party?
Adakah mungkinnya parti-parti komponen BN lain kecuali UMNO akan bergabung dengan PKR untuk membentuk sebuah parti baru?

5. Is it possible that PKR and PAS will combine to form a new party?
Adakah mungkinnya PKR dan PAS akan bergabung untuk membentuk sebuah parti baru?

6. Is it possible that PKR, DAP and HINDRAF will combine to form a new party?
Adakah mungkinnya PKR,DAP dan HINDRAF akan bergabung untuk membentuk sebuah parti baru.

7. Is it possible that TDM and all other Little Napoleons knows of these possibilities and are preparing to migrate?
Adakah mungkinnya TDM dan semua “Little Napoleons” mengetahui kemungkinan-kemungkinan ini dan sedang bersedia untuk berhijrah?

To be continued…….
Akan disambung……

taubah said...

Islam is Islam.. No God Except ALLAH.. Period.

Anonymous said...

Chunlah kau taubah....memang ornag macam kau yang dicari cari demi keamanan dunia..

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