The National Fatwa Council had issued on Suturday 22rd November 2008 an edict (fatwa) declaring yoga as forbidden (haram) for Muslims . The council claims that the ancient form of Yoga exercise involved “chants and acts of worship in order to be one with the god of another religion”.
The edict on yoga by the National Fatwa council has caused a mix reactions and controversy among some non-muslim and muslim groups.
First of all, let us comprehend the meaning and importance of fatwa among muslim community in a proper perspective. According to the Kamus Dewan Bahasa Dictionary, the word ‘fatwa’ derives from an Arabic word and it means “ keputusan agama yang diberikan oleh alim ulama atau mufti mengenai sesuatu masalah”.
Hence, the term ‘ fatwa’ means ‘ a decision made by the learned religious scholars or by a learned Islamic scholar who is empowered to make an edict on religious matters concerning a problem face by the ummah of the Islamic faith.
Simply. fatwa are theological and legal reasoning given by the mufti or the ulama to enlighten and educate the public so Muslims can arrange their affairs in accordance with Islamic teachings.
Having said this, the fatwa on Yoga is ONLY directed to the Muslims fraternity . The Hindus should not construed it as intented to demean the practice of Hinduism in this country.
Therefore, there is no reason for the Hindus or Indians to be upset with the word haram as the ban is meant only for the Muslims.
Nevertheless, the phrase “haram” on yoga practice has caused some concern and confusion among the Indian community because yoga and meditation are commonly attributed to Hinduism.
With this scenario , it was reported in the vernacular media that Dato’ Seri S.Samy Vellu , President of the Malaysian Indian Congress, wanted to meet the Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi , to clear the confusion over the label ‘haram’ on yoga.
Meanwhile, the Hindu Sangam's president Dato’ A. Vaithilingam, also has displayed his concern and frustration by describing fatwa as 'regrettable' because the Fatwa council forbids Muslims practice yoga due to its Hindu elements. Vaithilingam claims that this edict is tantamount to demean Hinduism.
The concerned prime minister, Dato’ Seri Abdullah Haj Ahmad Badawi has readily cleared the confusion and vouched that the edict was not to interfere the practice of yoga by non-muslims but merely forbidding Muslims from indulging in the practices of other faith. He was quoted elsewhere saying that even the Muslims shall continue to practice yoga as a physical exercise without the Hindu elements in it.
With PM’s glaring clarification, the Hindus who practice yoga have nothing to be alarmed or disgruntled about this edict ( fatwa) because this fatwa has nothing to do with them and their faith. The Hindus are free to practice yoga as usual without any fear or intimidation.
Having said this, let us hope that the Indians and the Hindu community be wise and diligent in handling issues concerning religious sensitivity and avoid debating the relevance of fatwa on yoga . Let us be assured that the edict (fatwa) on yoga has NOT at all demean the dignity and sacredness of Hinduism in this country.