Aren’t we people of the Book?

  • Nation
  • Monday, 27 Apr 2015

Islam is all about respect and tolerance for believers as well as non-believers. It is not right for us to be judgmental or to infringe on the faith of others.

I SPENT more than 10 of my for­mative years at St Nicholas Con­vent in Alor Setar where Christian nuns such as Sister Philo­mena, Sister Stanislaus and Sister Mary used to be a close confidante for all the students – Muslims, Chris­tians, Bud­dhists and Hindus alike.

Morning assemblies were ritualistic with prayers by the head prefect in various languages and religions. The beautiful thing was that du­ring these prayers, everybody stood silently in line with full respect until the last verse was uttered.

Having said that, off we would walk in single or double files to our classrooms after the morning assembly. We opened our books, looked straight at our teacher in the front of the room. As we shifted our heads up a little, there right on top of the wall, hung a crucifix. It’s the same scene in every classroom.

I had seven sisters before me, five of them were all alumnae of St Nicholas Convent. I can safely say “we all grew up through this motion” year in, year out.

I thought nothing of it. Throughout the 70s, 80s and even early 90s, we could not feel any racial tension or religious sensitivities as nobody spoke about perkauman (racial divide) in the house or at school. My non-Muslim friends cycled over the house and had lunch there and I would sometimes sleep over at a non-Muslim friend’s house to fi­­nish school work. Many of my best friends were non-Muslims too.

Those formative years did not mar my studies of Islam, who I was then, who I have become and the reasons why I have to do good.

Knowledge on the tenets of Islam were drummed inside me by my late mother, Tunku Meriam Tunku Yaacob, who was herself a Convent-educated alumni from Light Street Convent in Penang. This was back in the 1930s when she was a teenager.

In those days, privileged families would send their daughters to seek an English education which was available only in Penang for those in the northern states. My mother was the granddaughter of Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Mukarram Shah (1911), Kedah’s 25th Sultan.

Along with several royalties from Thailand and other neighbouring countries, my mother was sent to become a boarder with the Christian missionaries. She slept with the other boarders in the same dormitory, ate and studied together.

But before she left for the Convent, she was instilled with the know­ledge of the Quran by a Tok Guru specially hired by my grandfather, the late Tunku Yaacob Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid and his wife Tunku Rofeah Tunku Mohd Saad.

My mother could recite the Quran fluently, she learned to decipher the meaning of the Quran. Her religious background was deemed sound enough for her to be sent to a Christian convent to pursue a good education. Reason being, she would remain staunch in her understanding and belief of Islam.

And rightly so, after having left the Convent, she became a teacher and later married my father, the late Tunku Yusoff Tunku Kassim, and had all 10 of us. To each of us, she taught the Quran until we completed all 30 chapters. There was a good balance, as she also taught us Mathematics and Algebra.

To me, she was an exemplary good Muslim. She had a good ba­lance of faith in her own religion as well as an understanding and tolerance of the religions of others.

“You must respect the religions of others, as long as you remain steadfast in your belief that there is one God and that all religions and faiths in this world can only teach us to be good and do good. Furthermore, where Islam and Christianity are concerned, we are the people of the Book,” she used to say.

“What’s the Book .... who is Jesus?” I had badgered her then.

Patiently, she would open up the Quran to point out to me Chapters “Al-Imran” and “Al-Anbiya” where Nabi Isa (Jesus Christ) was mentioned.

“Both religions (Islam and Chris­tianity) are from the same God. Christianity is the religion per God’s revelation of the Bible to Jesus Christ while Islam is a religion per God’s revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.

“Both religions believe in God and his Angels, the second eternal life, the Day of Judgment. Both religions share the main morals and conducts that are for the benefit of humanity and nature. They believe in the same basic morals that are important for people to follow in order to live in peace, harmony, and love in communities of different faiths and cultures,” she added.

Islam is all about respect and tole­rance for believers as well as non-believers. It is not right for us to be judgmental or to infringe on the faith of others.

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Family & Community , Islam , Christianity


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