Quest for Covenant Community & Pluralist Democracy in an Islamic Context

RELIGIOUS DIALOG AND DEMOCRATIC DELIBERATION

 Dialog does not take place in a vacuum. Recognition of contextual pressures and normative ideals

Excerpt:

J. C Murray once noted that what distinguishes civil society from a mass or a herd is its ability to engage in ongoing rational deliberative dialogue. Taking a quote from Thomas Gilby he wrote, “Civilization is formed by men locked together in argument.” Conversely, without dialog, civility – and with it civil society – dies. The reason is that without a public consensus that is forged through public deliberation, there is no bond of solidarity to command allegiance to common values that hold civil society together.

Continue reading “Quest for Covenant Community & Pluralist Democracy in an Islamic Context”

Meditation: The Path to Wisdom?

Meditation: the Path to Wisdom?

Meditation and altered-state consciousness are certainly not the usual topics one brings up at a cocktail party. But I decided to ask Mr. Lim why he would rather spend so much time alone meditating in his room when all his colleagues are out at the karaoke bar having a great time. He answered in a matter-of-fact tone, “Meditation has not only given me special insight into present reality but it has also enabled me to look into my past incarnation.” Continue reading “Meditation: The Path to Wisdom?”

JESUS CHRIST – ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR (Part 4/4)

The Gospels make clear that Jesus was not only bringing a special message. He personified what God reveals. He was not only an ‘emissary’ but the personality in and through whom God is known. Whereas in Islam the Quran is the very ‘text’ of divine truth, the New Testament is the access to the Christ-expression of God. The Scripture has its being by derivation from the prior and primarily reality of ‘the Word made flesh’

JESUS CHRIST – ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR
A CHRISTIAN PROPOSAL TO MUSLIMS (PART 4/4)

The Gospels make clear that Jesus was not only bringing a special message. He personified what God reveals. He was not only an ‘emissary’ but the personality in and through whom God is known. Whereas in Islam the Quran is the very ‘text’ of divine truth, the New Testament is the access to the Christ-expression of God. The Scripture has its being by derivation from the prior and primarily reality of ‘the Word made flesh’

Indeed, the life of Christ confirms a prophethood that is deepened, if not climaxed, in a one-for-all incarnate revelation of God. Continue reading “JESUS CHRIST – ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR (Part 4/4)”

JESUS CHRIST – ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR (Part 3/4)

Christians buttress evidence for the historical factuality of the cross by appealing to eyewitness-accounts and reports found in non-Christian historical sources (Josephus, Tacitus). Muslim critics therefore grudgingly acknowledge that historically a crucifixion did occur. However, they suggest that someone other than Jesus was crucified. They argue that Christians have misunderstood the significance of the cross because they are victims of an illusion. God, they claim, replaced Jesus with someone that bore his likeness.

JESUS CHRIST – ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR
A CHRISTIAN PROPOSAL TO MUSLIMS (Part 3/4)

The Historical Factuality of the Crucifixion
Christians buttress evidence for the historical factuality of the cross by appealing to eyewitness-accounts and reports found in non-Christian historical sources (Josephus, Tacitus). The Christian witness to the crucifixion is plausible since it is inconceivable why Christians should invent the crucifixion which declares that their founder died an accursed death (under divine judgment) on the cross. As such, an outright denial of the crucifixion would tantamount to a willful blindness to historical reality. Muslim critics therefore grudgingly acknowledge that historically a crucifixion did occur. However, they suggest that someone other than Jesus was crucified. They argue that Christians have misunderstood the significance of the cross because they are victims of an illusion. God, they claim, replaced Jesus with someone that bore his likeness. Continue reading “JESUS CHRIST – ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR (Part 3/4)”

JESUS CHRIST AS ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR (Part 2/3)

How do we adjudicate the difference between Christians and Muslims regarding the prophetic mission and status of Jesus? Obviously, the issue cannot be answered in abstraction. For this reason, it is unfortunate that the controversy revolving around the incarnation of Christ has overshadowed his actual life lived out in history. It is of vital importance that Christians present their doctrine not as an imposition of a philosophical grid on the historical facts. Their proclamation of Jesus as God’s incarnation should be seen as a compelling conclusion based on a respectful handling and faithful interpretation of the historical data. In other words, reading about the life and works of Christ must lead us to ask what manner of man was Jesus: Isn’t he a remarkable man; isn’t he a prophet; isn’t he more than a prophet and what then?

JESUS CHRIST – ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR
A CHRISTIAN PROPOSAL TO MUSLIMS (Part 2/4)

MORE THAN AN ORDINARY PROPHET
One reason why Muslims reject Jesus’ crucifixion arises from Islamic faith in divine justice. In particular, God cannot abandon his prophet to tragic and unjust fate Indeed, as the Quran testifies, God gives victory to those who seek to further his cause (Surah 22:40; 40:51);
O you who believe!
If you will aid (the cause of) God,
He will aid you, and plant your feet firmly
(Surah 47:7);

Nay, God raised him up unto Himself; and God is Exalted in Power, Wise (Surah 4:158).

Herein lies an ironic twist in the denial of the cross or the Messiahship of Jesus. For the Jews Jesus could not be a prophet sent by God since he was crucified. The Muslims reverse this logic – if Jesus was a prophet sent by God then he could not be crucified. Continue reading “JESUS CHRIST AS ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR (Part 2/3)”

JESUS CHRIST AS ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR(Part 1/4)

Reginald Fuller argues that the category of the eschatological prophet remains the best category for understanding Jesus’ historical mission and “gives a unity to all of Jesus’ historical activity, his proclamation, his teaching with exousia (‘authority’), his healings and exorcisms, his conduct in eating with the outcast, and finally his death in the fulfillment of his prophetic mission. Take the implied self-understanding of his role in terms of the eschatological prophet away, and the whole ministry falls into a series of unrelated, if not meaningless fragments�?

JESUS CHRIST – ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR
A CHRISTIAN PROPOSAL TO MUSLIMS (Part 1/3)

Both Muslims and Christians apply the title ‘prophet’ to Jesus. However, the distinctive Islamic emphasis on prophethood should not be missed. In general the Muslim teaching of prophets includes the following: 1) A messenger/apostle (rasul) is sent with divine Scripture to guide and reform mankind; 2) All God’s prophets were trustworthy, knowledgeable, and most obedient to God. Allah protected them from serious sins and bad diseases; 3) Denying any of the prophets constitutes unbelief (Surah 4: 150-151); 4) Many prophets were mocked and rejected (Surah 15:11; 17:94). Some prophets were delivered by God, e.g. Noah (Surah 21:76; 26:118; 29:15; 37:76), Lot (21:71, 74; 26:170), and Moses (Surah 28:20-22; 26:65). Some of the prophets, however, were killed ‘wrongfully’ (e.g. Abel, Zechariah, and Yahya or John the Baptist), c.f. Surah 2:61, 87, 91; 3:21, 112; 4:155; 5:70. Finally, and most importantly, for Muslims Muhammad is ‘the seal of the prophets’ (Surah 33:40) /1/. Continue reading “JESUS CHRIST AS ESCHATOLOGICAL PROPHET AND INCARNATE SAVIOR(Part 1/4)”

Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 2)

Participants seeking dialog with Islam may well despair when confronted by what seems to be a religion that is fixed and unchangeable. How can dialog be possible if participants are not open to rational discussion? In this regard, it is encouraging to note the emergence of Muslim scholars calling for reformation of Islamic law as a necessity for successful engagement with Modernity. I find the proposal for reformation of Shariah law by Abdullahi An-Na’im, having the most potential for opening new possibilities for dialogue.

Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 2)

Challenges for Muslims

Participants seeking dialog with Islam may well despair when confronted by what seems to be a religion that is fixed and unchangeable. Conservative ulamas (scholars) insist that there can be no fundamental reforms to Shariah since the gate to itjihad (new knowledge and new reforms to Shariah) has already been closed in the 10th century.

Indeed, many Muslims take pride in the claim that all that is necessary for salvation and for the ordering of society has already been revealed. Likewise, Syed H. Nasr emphasizing that it should not be the case of divine law accommodating to changing society; rather, it should be a case of changing society to meet the requirements of God’s immutable law.

How can dialog be possible if participants are not open to rational discussion? Continue reading “Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 2)”

Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 1)

Some Christians avoid dialogue because of their own misconceptions. It is therefore appropriate for us to analyze how the meaning and goals of true dialogue could realistically be set in Malaysia. In the first place Christians should enter into the national debate about what common society we should work towards. The absence of a Christian voice results in a de facto surrendering of the public sphere to the dominant majority. Surely, this is an irresponsible act and an unconditional surrender to the hegemonic majority. Our failure to respond vigorously has resulted in a continual erosion of our Constitutional rights by many undebated legislations.

Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 1)

Challenges for Christians
Some Christians avoid dialogue because of their own misconceptions. It is therefore appropriate for us to analyze how the meaning and goals of true dialogue could realistically be set in Malaysia. In the first place Christians should enter into the national debate about what common society we should work towards. The absence of a Christian voice results in a de facto surrendering of the public sphere to the dominant majority. Surely, this is an irresponsible act and an unconditional surrender to the hegemonic majority. Our failure to respond vigorously has resulted in a continual erosion of our Constitutional rights by many undebated legislations. Continue reading “Christian-Muslim Dialog in Malaysia: Terms of Engagement (Part 1)”

Debunking Multiculturalism and Secularism – A Rejoinder

I have been honored to receive two replies to my article “Multiculturalism – How Can it be Wrong?�? published in the STAR (25/08/2006), which was in fact a response to an an earlier article “Debunking Multiculturalism” written by Md Asham Ahmad from IKIM (STAR 22/08/06).

Due to the constraint of time, I shall presently only give a brief response to a few issues raised by Md Asham Ahmad and Marzuki Mohamad in their responses to my article.

Debunking Multiculturalism and Secularism – A Rejoinder
By Ng Kam Weng

I have been honored to receive two replies to my article “Multiculturalism – How Can it be Wrong?” published in the STAR (25/08/2006), which was in fact a response to an an earlier article “Debunking Multiculturalism” written by Md Asham Ahmad from IKIM (STAR 22/08/06).

Due to the constraint of time, I shall presently only give a brief response to a few issues raised by Md Asham Ahmad and Marzuki Mohamad in their responses to my article. However, in the long term I think it is more fruitful to offer in-depth reflections of the issues related to multiculturalism and politics of recognition. Hence, I shall in due time, post papers such as: Imagined communities and invention of politics in Malaysia; Islamic institutions in British Malaya; Modern social contract theories and consent in politics; Myths and realities of secularization and Christianity; multi-cultural citizenship; the social-legal contract of 1957 and 1963 with excerpts from original documents, etc.

Let me now address some of the issues raised by Mazuki Mohamad and Md Asham Ahmad respectively. Continue reading “Debunking Multiculturalism and Secularism – A Rejoinder”

Multi-Culturalism – How Can it be Wrong?

These must be worrying times for Malaysian citizens if an official from IKIM, a government think-tank dedicated to the task of disseminating Islam as a tolerant religion, can come out with an article entitled “Debunking Multiculturalism�? that appeared in the STAR (22/08/06).

This article is written in response to an article published in the STAR on Tuesday 22 August 2006. See “Debunking Multiculturalism” by Md Asham Ahmad from IKIM (Institute of Islamic Understanding). The article is also available in the official website of IKIM

HOW CAN MULTICULTURALISM BE WRONG?

These must be worrying times for Malaysian citizens if an official from IKIM, a government think-tank dedicated to the task of disseminating Islam as a tolerant religion, can come out with an article entitled “Debunking Multiculturalism” that appeared in the STAR (22/08/06).

Credit must be given to the writer, Md Asham Ahmad, for his forthrightness in arguing that Islam – rather than multiculturalism – be the framework for social policy in Malaysia. Nevertheless, it is evident that the writer’s forthrightness is not accompanied by accurate facts, given his skewed reading of Christian history. Continue reading “Multi-Culturalism – How Can it be Wrong?”