By Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
A book published by a religious department in Malaysia has caused much anguish among my many Christian and Malaysian friends.
The book, in words and tone, has painted a truly negative and antagonistic perception of not only Christians in Malaysia but in the whole world.
That the book was written in Malay may accidentally provide further motivation to religious extremists of this country and others to further their agenda of destroying nations and lives of innocent people.
We have seen atrocious acts of bombing churches, stadiums, night clubs as well as the shooting, stabbing and running down of innocent children, women and men who were simply on an outing to enjoy the day.
Such publications should have been handled in a more diplomatic fashion by engagement with the Church and the many denominations of Christians in this country. They should have been given a chance and an opportunity to answer the accusations and allegations as well as provide suggestions on mitigation and correction within their own communities.
As such, this publication stands as a cleaver between our society of multi-faiths and race and could destroy whatever good intentions the Ministry of Unity had come up with.
Thus, in this article, I wish to contribute the Quranic Ayats and Hadiths that were left out which shows that not all Christians are bad and have ill intentions towards Muslims and Islam.
In the global scenario, we should take example of the cordial relationship between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of UAE in signing 'The Document of Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together'.
There are several Ayats in the Quran that shows whoever has good intentions and are righteous will be taken care of nicely by Allah The Most High;
Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.(Abdullah Yusof Ali, Surah 5, Ayat 69)
Verily, you will find the strongest among men in enmity to the believers (Muslims) the Jews and those who are Al-Mushrikun and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: "We are Christians." That is because among them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.(Mohsin Khan, Surah 5, Ayat 82)
In the following Ayat, Muslims are allowed to marry women from the People of the Book or ahlul Kitab. Why would the Quran allow this if all Christians are evil and bad?
Made lawful to you this day are At-Tayyibat [all kinds of Halal (lawful) foods, which Allah has made lawful (meat of slaughtered eatable animals, milk products, fats, vegetables and fruits)]. The food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals) of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them. (Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before your time when you have given their due Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), desiring chastity (i.e. taking them in legal wedlock) not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as girl-friends.
And whosoever disbelieves in Faith [i.e. in the Oneness of Allah and in all the other Articles of Faith i.e. His (Allah's) Angels, His Holy Books, His Messengers, the Day of Resurrection and Al-Qadar (Divine Preordainments)], then fruitless is his work; and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers. (Mohsin Khan, Surah 5, Ayat 5)
In a clear Ayat, the Quran testify that the message of Muhammad is a continuation of the message to mankind before his birth in its order for Muslims to believe in the Teachings or Books of the past which includes the Jewish Torah and the Christian Injil or Bible.
Say ye: "We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)." (Abdullah Yusof Ali, Surah 2, Ayat 136)
The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His messengers. "We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His messengers." And they say: "We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys." (Abdullah Yusof Ali, Surah 2, Ayat 285)
In the Sirah and hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad, it was recorded by Ibn Ishaq the four important encounters with Christians and Christianity in a positive light. The first encounter was with the Christian monk named Bahirah at a monastery in Syria. The Prophet, in his teens, joined the khafilah or caravan to trade goods in the faraway land with his guardian uncle Abu Talib. When the monk Bahirah had ascertained that he had found the coming Messenger as foretold in the Scripture, he counseled Abu Talib to guard the young child from Jewish zealots who will murder the boy. Thus, it was a Christian who protected the Prophet by giving advice to his uncle. (The Life of Muhammad: A translation of Ibn Ishaq'a Sirat Rasul Allah by A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, first published in 1955, seventh impression 1982, pg 79-81)
The second encounter with Christianity was when the Prophet received the first revelation by the Angel Gabriel and he came home in a great state of anxiety, fear and confusion. Khadija, his wife, brought him to her relative, Waraqah bin Naufal, who was a Christian and it was he who consoled the Prophet that he was selected to be a Messenger of God. (The Life of Muhammad: A translation of Ibn Ishaq'a Sirat Rasul Allah by A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, first published in 1955, seventh impression 1982, pg 107)
The third encounter with Christians was when the Prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to migrate to Abyssinia and seek the guardianship of the Christian King Najashi or Negus. The Sirah Ibn Ishaq recorded how the King protected the women, men and children from being massacred by the Meccan unbelievers. The Sirah also recorded that there was then a revolt by other Christians to kill the King because of his compassion to the Muslims. The King called one of the Muslim migrants and advised him an escape route if he were killed by the revolt. But the revolt was put down and the Muslims stayed safely under the guardianship of the Christian King. (The Life of Muhammad: A translation of Ibn Ishaq'a Sirat Rasul Allah by A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, first published in 1955, seventh impression 1982, pg 146-155)
The fourth encounter with the Christians took place at the Prophet's house in Medinah which doubles also as the mosque for the Muslim community. The Sirah recorded that 60 riders of Christians from Najran came to meet and speak with the Prophet himself. They were allowed to perform their own prayers in the Prophet's mosque and then sat in a discussion forum with him. The 60 riders left safely and unharmed. (The Life of Muhammad: A translation of Ibn Ishaq'a Sirat Rasul Allah by A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, first published in 1955, seventh impression 1982, pg 270-277)
Thus, it is clear then that in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, there were good Christians as well as those in hostility against him. Nowadays too there are good Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Atheist as there are bad ones who are selfishly thinking for their own race and group of adherents.
My PhD student, Petrit Pasha, showed me a book about the Serbian ethnic cleansing. He showed a passage in a book in a language incomprehensible to me, how when the Serbian soldiers searched for Muslims to kill and rape, the Muslims sought refuge in a church.
When the soldiers found them and forced their entry into the church, the priests and nuns said that they would have to kill them first before they murder the Muslims.
My student also related how since the mosques were destroyed in Serbia, the church rang the bells for the Ramadhan Sahur and Iftar.
In Malaysia, we must also look at the contributions of the Christians. The Christians left many missionary schools that became the first infra structure and curriculum for our national education.
I went to St' Marks Primary with Mr. Robert a tall Eurasian as my Headmaster. My wife was educated at Convent Bukit Nanas and my father went to King Edward primary before the Japanese invasion.
Many of us and our parents were taught by Christian teachers who were not from this country and also those born in this country.
I have also written about how Malaysians of all faiths donated generously for the building of the Masjid Negara and the Negeri Sembilan State Mosques in Malaysia. We must honor our Christian heritage and contributions for this country. The DBKL has now extended the lease of Convent Bukit Nanas after a petition of 50,000 Malaysians of all faiths including my wife and my children and Muslim colleagues at UCSI University.
Finally, I have made a list of 12 names for my children to seek help when I am no longer in this world. The list contains Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and even Atheist Malaysians whom I trust with the lives of my children and grandchildren.
The Qur'an is 1,400 years old and contains the engagement of the Prophet with the Christians of elder days. The political wars made by bad Christians and Muslims of the past should not be a platform of mistrusts between us as a nation.
The acts of individual zealots like the IS should not tarnish the image and truth of Islam. Thus, the work of individual Christians who are misguided should not cast a shadow over our relationship with the mainstream communities in the churches of Malaysia.
I hope that in the future, such writing or publication by well-intention authorities should consider a more diplomatic engagement approach, a balanced perspective of writing and a data that should not be easily and simplistically generalized without a critical examination by an independent academia.
The future of our nation critically lies in the trust that we have as a united people under one national spirit and constitution.
(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)