Wednesday, May 18, 2011

There Is No Compulsion In Religion, the Carpet Salesman said... in 1300 A.D.

Sometime in 1300 AD (or earlier perhaps), a group of Muslim traders travelled to the Malay Archipelago. These men brought incense, carpets, spices, jewelleries, trinkets, dates, other dried fruits, as well as their belief in one God. It was no plain sailing. To get here they had to resort to desperate measures... especially when there is a storm at sea and a sail is lost. Fortunately they always had one fat Sufi and his baggy pants. So I dreamt, and this was what I drew some years back...

I have no doubt that the travellers were a motley bunch. Some were young and impetuous, others elderly and learned. There were undoubtedly also a smattering of no-gooders, conmen and sinners amongst the crew and traders. On the whole, these intrepid guys found the natives - my ancestors, very charming and not terribly savage. To put it succinctly as one Englishman who came much later observed, 'The people are nature's gentlemen' (kinda vague, I know... but it sounds like a compliment).

The newcomers didn't hardsell their religion which they called Islam. They didn't stand on a barrell and started admonishing and scolding my ancestors for drinking... for pirating... for having almost no sense of punctuality... for dressing less modestly... Well, generally for being themselves. After all, according to these Muslim merchants, there is no compulsion in religion. These Muslims were tolerant and understanding, you see. They are not the judgmental busybodies we have now maligning our society. In Fonzie's term, these guys are what he would call "Cool".

But slowly and surely, they started to become familiar to the natives until finally, they were accepted as a part of the community. Things were coasting along fine this way, until one fateful day, a village elder, chieftan or Raja must have approached the smarter looking of the traders and asked, "Now... Tell me about your religion."
And the rest, as they say, is history.

This is my posting of appreciation to these galant merchants, these lovable rogues and learned saints that sailed into this region and brought with them the Love of the Prophet and the Light of God. They are not like some Muslims these days who cannot even stand the sight of an uncovered woman in the compound of the mosque. For these people, these saints... the world is a mosque, so how can you choose who to prohibit from entering a divine commune with God? They remember and live by the ethos of Muhammad, who was once heard to say...

“This (whole) world was given unto me as a mosque, holy and pure.”

Have a beautiful day, sunshine, and thank you for dropping by my little almanac.

Pax Taufiqa.

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