The challenge to be a Filipino Muslim and a Bangsa Moro Muslim

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TARIQ Ramadhan was able to conduct an academic study about Islam and the Muslims in Europe. In 1997, he made a study entitled To be a European Muslim: A Study of the Islamic Sources in the light of European Context.

The study pertains to the review of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). These two are important Islamic textual source that defines Shariah and Islam as a way of life. His basic premise was to reread these textual sources in light of the present context.

Many readers, Muslims and non Muslims alike, were surprised and challenged by the approach that Tariq was proposing. Islam for centuries mainly relied on the Schools of Thought or Madh'habs written down by the Companions of the Prophet (SAW) or the Sahaaba. From them, we can have brief categorization of the Muslims as the Sunni and the Shi'i.


Let me define the two terms. A Sunni is person who follows mostly the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as passed down by the teachings of Sahaaba and scholars. A Shi'i is a person who is a devotee of only the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as passed down by AhlulBayt. AhlulBayt are the direct family of the prophet. There are specific differences between the two, but both are Muslims. They also follow the Five Pillars of Islam and the Articles of Faith.

After the death of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the Sunni and Shi'a had political and social differences that divided the Muslim world. By the year 250 Hijrah, the Sunni Madh'habs were popularized and patronized by the Abbasi government, thus spreading in various parts of the world. Some say that it stretched to four or five schools of thought: Ja'fari, as headed by Imam Al-Saadiq; Hanafi, as headed by Abu Hanifa, Al Na'maan; Maaliki, as headed by Malik IbnAnas; and, the Hanbali, as headed by Ahmad Ibn-Hanbal.

Based on the brief discussion, Islamic view has always been through the eyes of the Arabs, the Sahaaba and the AhlulBayt. What about the present context? What about the Southeast Asian or even the Mindanao context?

When we try to contextualize Islam at our local setting, as what Tariq Ramadhan proposes, the questions were usually aimed at: where would it lead in practice? Tariq Ramadhan believes that this was only the first step. He added, "More work would have to follow to formulate the vision of the whole and to apply these reflections in practical terms on the ground".

Muslims in Mindanao come from different ethno-linguistic groups. We cannot limit it to the 13 ethno-linguistic groups because we now have the Balik Islam or Muslim reverts coming from the Luzon and Visayan ethno-linguistic groups. With the formalization and materialization of the Bangsamoro political entity, I believe that more and more young people and intellectuals are looking for ways for peace and development to happen in Mindanao. It is natural for us to maintain our own faith and identity while we participate in the activities of different communities, societies, and sectors within our country. We cannot live in complete isolation. Ours is a dynamic and diverse society.

I now propose the same question that Tariq Ramadhan asked two decades ago. What is it to be a Filipino Muslim or a Bangsa Moro Muslim? For it to remain as true to the teachings of our Prophet (SAW), Filipino Muslim or Bangsa Moro Muslim must remain faithful to the principles of Islam, recognizing the evolution of our statehood, rooted with his indigenous identity, and connects himself with his Southeast Asian beginnings.

Muslims in our country are confronted with three strong influences. These are the globalization, Westernization, and even Arabization. These are phenomena that happen from Africa to Asia. But how do we handle them? They are happening and slowly being embedded in our minds and way of life. To borrow the view of Tariq Ramadhan when it comes to globalization and westernization, "globalization contains the paradox that at the same time that it causes the old traditional points of reference to disappear, it reawakens passionate affirmations of identity that often verge on withdrawal and self-exclusion." Thus, the natural reaction of most Muslims is to counter these phenomena through self-protection, self preservation, and self-definition, thus, it results to the process of "Otherness".

Otherness becomes a natural kind of discourse within our communities. This polarizes our communities and even families. Each one claims to be the holder of the absolute truth and use this polarization to advance their own political interest.

The term Arabization is not in any way an attack to the Arab culture. It is given that the Holy Quran is written in Arabic and most of practices in Islam mirrors the Arab culture. Arabization refers to the cultural practices of the Arabs prior to the coming of Islam that are un-Islamic. We can cite several points on this like for example the right of women and concerns about dominance of men towards them. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in his last Sermon said that, "All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good actions." Thus, if there is westernization, there is also Arabization.

In dealing with these three phenomena, we should reread and relearn Islam for our local setting. Because in Islam, given its definition and universal principles, mandates us to respect the dignity of every human being and uphold their human rights.

In defining Filipino Muslim or Bangsa Moro Muslim, let me conclude this point by citing Surat Al Hujjurat (49th Chapter of the Qu'ran), verse 13: O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted." The challenge to the young Muslim intellectuals is how to contextualize this verse and put them into practice.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 21, 2014.


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