Promoting religious interaction

For two-and-a-half decades, Ikim has focused on creating inter-religious understanding and good relations among Malaysia’s multi-cultural society.

TODAY, we live in a world where plurality shapes the very essence of societies. Cultural, religious and also ethnic diversities call for us to learn more about each other and understand the sensitivities that exist within these various social groups.

In dealing with diversities, differences in views and practices are also considered a normalcy but must be managed carefully. The element of respect must be the leading principle in engaging with these differen­ces of opinion that exist in a multi-racial and multi-religious society. Islam stresses sincere and whole­hearted submission to God and not one which is a result of compulsion.

Therefore, we must accept the principles of diversity as acknow­ledged by Islam. The State of Medina during the time of the Prophet Muhammad is an excellent example of how Islam promotes peace, accepts diversity among mankind and upholds the importance of humanity.

Under the leadership of the Prophet in Medina, Islam grew as a respected religion because of its moderate and balanced approach towards all communities living in a society which included all faiths and cultures, living together in a single nation.

The rule of law was intact and duly observed. Local customary laws of all tribes and religions living in the society were also respected. Islam also guarantees protection of human rights, women’s rights, socio-cultural rights, religious freedom and rights of minorities living in the state.

Taking heed from the historical evidences of the Prophet’s leadership in Medina, it is therefore important to realise that Islam upholds values of mutual respect, sincerity and ‘Adl (justice) as the guiding principles practised by the Prophet to unify the various tribes and communities in Medina. Therefore, these qualities should be emulated especially by Muslim leaders in finding solutions to the problems that the world is currently facing today.

Thus, in the context of creating inter-religious understanding and good relations among the multi-cultural society in Malaysia, Ikim, together with its research partners from other agencies and academic institutions, has taken the initiative to carry out research on the approach called fiqh al-ta’amul which focuses on the manners of interaction among people of different religions and cultures. The aim of this research is to produce relevant guidelines that can help to enhance and empower relations among religious adherents in Malaysia.

Al-Ta’amul literally refers to interactions promoting the principles of compassion, peace, justice and the belief in God Almighty as the foundation for dealing with differences and diversities among mankind.

These principles reject injustices, inhumane treatments of others and conflicts which occur as a result of the inability to accept differences in opinions and also the failure to establish peaceful co-existence within society. The concept of al-ta’amul is also able to eradicate and curb elements of extremism and fundamentalism among religious followers who often use religion as an excuse for their violence and actions of terror against others.

As an institution of thought based on research, Ikim continuously strives to provide the right understanding of Islam to the masses. This includes organising national and international programmes on topics and issues relating to Islam that are pertinent and relevant to all segments of society. Ikim employs this as an avenue to educate and inform the general public on the Islamic approach and understanding with regard to issues that are of grave concern to humanity and world civi­lisations.

In this context, Ikim carries out numerous research activities and publications on Islam that can serve as a source of information and knowledge for the public which are the result of input from the religious and professional spheres. The researchers in Ikim are engaged in numerous research projects and writings which highlight the universal values and principles of Islam, including principles regarding engagements with people of different faiths that are all-encompassing and relevant to mankind.

As Ikim celebrates its silver jubilee this year, Ikim is still committed to do what it does best – that is, to disseminate true knowledge and understanding of Islam by engaging directly with the relevant stakeholders in areas that include the socio-cultural, economic, political, legal, the environment, science and technology as well as harmonious relations between people of different religious groups.

As Ikim charts new chapters in the years to come, it hopes to conti­nue contributing to society and the country through its institutional inspiration of “Understand Islam, Build Civilisation”.

Enizahura Abdul Aziz is a Fellow with Ikim’s Centre for The Study of Syariah, Law and Politics. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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