Critical Topic: Trapped in “A Secular State”!

Secularism Secularism, how most people understand

Just by reading the title of this article, you might be thinking that this is either about politics or religion. Am I right?

I am not a fan of politics, but I am very careful when discussing my own religion. In fact, I have to be careful when talking about any religion at all. This is because I am not an “Alim” (plural: Ulama) as normally the people call those scholars who have a strong understanding of Islamic religion in my home country Malaysia.

The image of Ulama from the historical context – with traditional robes and turban.

However, as most readers of my writings have said, it is good if I can write something from my heart and experience. Something that I know of, but in philosophy, it is not about the knowledge itself, but rather from the strategic point of view and universal observation about the subject matter.

We are the citizen of this beautiful planet, where we are entitled to speak our minds – but we have to be responsible.

There are many of us who are knowledgeable. Knowledge can be divided into many areas or fields. We are not able to acquire the whole knowledge, therefore – we are only able to know something that we are taught or being told. The actual rightful owner of the knowledge since the beginning of time until forever (or the end) is the Almighty God alone. That is why the angels said “Glory be to you, we have no knowledge except what you have taught us. Verily, it is You, the All-Knower, the All-Wise” (Surah Baqarah; 2:32) when they could not answer the question from Allah s.w.t. as to why Adam a.s. was created.

Allah’s knowledge is unlimited. If we were to write Allah’s knowledge with a pen, and we needed ink to write them down, we cannot write them all down even if we were given the whole “sea water” as ink. And, Allah said that “And if all the trees on earth were pens and the ocean (were ink), with seven oceans behind it to add to its (supply), yet would not the words of Allah be exhausted (in the writing): for Allah is Exalted in Power, full of Wisdom.” (Surah Luqman; 32:27).

It is futile for us to talk about knowledge without remembering Allah s.w.t. as the source of the knowledge itself. We know very little about ourselves because we cannot control a lot of things about ourselves even! I would say that we cannot control everything about ourselves, what more about other people or things! Therefore, it is very important for us to remember Allah s.w.t. at all times, regardless.

Going back to our main topic, the Secular State. What is this all about? What I am going to write here today?

The topic about the Secular State is very well related to the topic of knowledge. Secular state has many definitions, but one of it which I understand (it) the most easily is the separation between the world and hereafter (beliefs) in our life. The idea of secularism has already existed since Adam a.s. time, where one should either believe in both or separate the two, and focus on either one.

A critical mind should think much deeper than that. It is like a matrix in a mathematical algorithm. There should be at least four (4) states of thinking which just one (1) state would not be categorized as secular, while the rest would.

  1. Choose the Worldly Life and leave the Afterlife Matter behind
  2. Choose the Afterlife Matter and leave the Worldly Life behind
  3. Choose both Worldly Life and Afterlife Matter evenly
  4. Choose neither both and let things happen as it may!

Out of all the above thinking states, the majority of us today would either be in the category of one (1) or three (3), but there are very little of us in the category of two (2) and four (4).

As for me, the answer should be the category of three (3) – where both worldly matter and the afterlife should come together and cannot be separated at all times in our life. However, during this era of modernization, borderless world, and fitna, it is difficult for people to balance both at all times. So, there you go, you just cannot believe it when I say that we are already trapped in the category one (1) – where we are focusing too much on the Worldly Life matter and almost leaving behind the Afterlife Matter.

We almost did, but we keep saying that we are not! We are in a self-denial mode.

There are the ones who choose the path of Akhirah (Afterlife Matter) more and leave the Dunya (Worldly Matter) behind, where this should be the best option right, you think?

No! This is also another secularism because you are only choosing one part of the test. I say this because human is not created only to focus on Akhirah (while we should better be prioritizing Aakhirah!), but they have to balance between the two! That is what we call, the middle approach – where were are supposed to be better than the rest of the creation.

Secularism is something that we call – Choose anything but balancing this life with the next!

This looked like very complicated, but actually, it is not at all!

Secularism of Religious Schools
Secularism of Religious Schools – Choosing only religion subjects to be taught at the school.

Here let me give you one very fine example of what I want to tell you about. Let us take education system as an example. How many of us have been to a school where it teaches (its students) both science (or any worldly knowledge) to the students and they also have to learn all the spiritual knowledge such as about the unseen world, the end of the world and the existence of God? How many schools have this function in today’s world? How many in the past?

No, what we have today is to choose either or, or do not go to school at all! The system today is telling us that, you can be either very good at Akhirah, or very good at Dunya. You do not have to be very good at both, or well – you can be just as ignorant as a newborn baby!

Sekolah Agama
Modern Religious Schools were designed to excel in both Dunya and Akhirah – but at the higher institutions level, this cannot be achieved in a perfectly balanced state. When the students enter the real world, this further cannot be maintained such as choosing the balanced occupation or profession.

In today’s world, someone who has the knowledge of both Worldly Matter and Afterlife Matter would be seen as a guilty person or as a criminal. They would be accused of anything – from a false prophet to a false teacher. They would be left behind and given the ultimatum to choose either path. Their numbers are dwindling rapidly, and there is more and more urgency for the parents to send their kids to either one of the paths, and most of the feared ones (fear that they would lose the Akhirah matter) would choose to send their children to the path of “religion” alone. Which is fine, there is nothing wrong about that at the first glance! Even if we think about it deeper, there is nothing wrong about it at all. Yes, it is true if we just think that religion is about Afterlife. What about the Worldly life? Is not that Islam is the Way of Life?

So what is going on? What is secularism and whether it is true that we are already trapped in this system of secularism?

Secular Children
Our children are taught that they can learn about religion at the religious schools, but then excel in their profession later in life – but, in the end – they are still trapped in the Secular State of mind!

Yes, we are! We are already trapped, and there are very little we can do about it. What we can do is just to help ourselves in balancing our daily routines so that it has to be balanced between the worldly matter and afterlife matter. We have to educate our children so that they would not be drifted to just one side of the matter.

Some of you might as well ask, what is wrong if we would rather choose the Afterlife Matter and leave the Worldly Life matter to the very minimum as possible. As an example, an “Alim” (or Ulama) can still let the professionals or the one who knows more about the worldly matter to help them in case if they needed to lead an organization or a country. Right?!

Well, that is what make the real problem nowadays! This secularism has made the people too confused with the whole concept of life and afterlife altogether!

An Alim would be considered the absolute Alim if he knows both Worldly Matter and Afterlife Matter in a perfectly balanced way. The Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. (although he was illiterate as there were many who were illiterate during his time) was someone who balanced between the two. He was once a trader, who also knew about history, science, and agriculture. His companions have all the criteria of today’s definition of professionals such as accountants, conglomerates, lawyers, sportsmen, businessmen, professors, linguists, and historians. However, they were also the companions of the prophet who are the most pious of all, and some of them were guaranteed places in Paradise!

That was the best example of Wasatiyyah or the balanced life which what Islam is all about. We must never leave any side behind. Priority is given to the Imaan and Ihsaan, or the Akhirah Matter, but the balance is key.

Students in Malaysian national schools are learning about science or “worldly education subjects” could later be accused of ignorant of the afterlife knowledge or Jahil.

However, we cannot be mistaken the Worldly Life with Maksiat which is categorized as sinful acts, whereby if it is done – it would make it categorized as number four (4) – Neither choose both and let things happen as it may! In other words, this category is easily defined as Jahil or Ignorant. The moment sinful acts are done, and Shirk acts are done, then it is almost the same as going in the opposite direction for both Worldly and Afterlife.

The conclusion is that – we are trapped because we are not balancing the two. When we learn, we are focusing only either one of the fields. When we live, we are living our life only to one type of style. We are not making the religion as the way of life at all times. We are not making our knowledge balanced too. We cannot only be focusing on learning Arabic but leaving the knowledge of English or other languages. We cannot be leaving Arabic or Quranic language, but focusing only on learning English and French – as an example.

Islamic Finance
Even Islamic Finance is another myth – showing us how being balanced in life for both dunya and akhirah is not as easy as putting the name “Islamic” at the end of something. It means an organization with the name of Islam does not at all more Islamic than the one that does not. What is more important is how it is done, and whether it is according to the Quran and Sunnah!

There is only one way out from this long predicament of life. We must embrace the two, and never let them both go from our sides. When we need to buy a house, go and buy a great looking house, and try to buy with the Islamic finance. But wait, somebody said that Islamic finance has not yet fully Islamic! Well, it is almost there. Okay, let’s try buying with cash? But wait, it is too expensive. Some even say that cash itself is a form of riba! It is very well using gold or dinar to avoid riba, they say!

Well, that may as well proves that you are trapped in this Secular State of life! Welcome to the reality, my friend!