My short article on Yoga: The road to perdition has elicited many strong views. One commentator has even said I don’t know the significance of fatwa. I am also ignorant about halal and haram. Well, I am keen to go into forensic arguments, at a later date.
Fatwa has not stopped people from using their analytical minds. Ijmak ulamak will continue as long as there are ulamaks around. They will continue to flourish as ulamaks gained proficiency in the sciences. Hence the door to ijmak ulamak is never closed.
The fatwa on yoga has already been given out. We are told not to question the issuance of fatwa. Readers have the option to follow this. As for me, I will continue asking questions until my doubts are cleared. My reason for this is simply because I do not believe our modern Malaysian ulamaks are infallible. They are human beings and are therefore subject to the same human imperfections. If a decision is reached in secrecy, it will give the impression, that the edicts are done posthaste. Why must it be shrouded in secrecy and thereafter not open to question? We Muslims have our own star chamber?
Just to open up the debate a little further, I found an article over the internet written by a Muslim scholar on yoga. As it is quite long, and given the objection of many to longish articles, this article will be divided into several parts.
Here is Part 1, below:-
This is not a case of syncretism between two religions (which would be spiritually invalid). Yoga is not a religion. Rather, it is a set of techniques and skills that enhance the practice of any religion. A French author named Jean Déchanet discovered this in regard to his Catholic faith and wrote the book Christian Yoga (New York: Harper, 1960). In my case, I have found that Islamic yoga is a reality. It is possible to employ the skills of yoga to worship Allah better and to be a better Muslim.
Yoga arose from the matrix of the Hindu world, although according to Mircea Eliade it is of pre-Hindu origin and can be traced back to prehistoric shamanism. Like
1. Metaphysical Doctrine.
Since the metaphysic of Advaita Vedanta is in agreement with the tawhîd (doctrine of oneness) of Islam, there is perfect compatibility between Islam and yoga on the highest level. All traditional esoterisms agree that everything in manifestation has its origin in the Supernal. The manifestations on the material plane are derived from the ideational realm of archetypes (known as al-a‘yân al-thâbitah in the metaphysics of Ibn al-‘Arabî). This world, limited as it is, is just an expression of the ultimate Reality, and will ultimately be reabsorbed in its supernal Origin. Advaita Vedanta and Islamic esoteric metaphysics are agreed that God is the only absolutely real, eternal Reality; all else is contingent and therefore transitory. The unitary view of reality in Advaita Vedanta accords well with the tawhîd (divine oneness) of Islam, and the Oneness of Being in the Sufi doctrine of Ibn al-‘Arabî.
It is interesting to compare the symbolism of Prophet Muhammad's nighttime ascent to Heaven, al-Mi‘râj, with the corresponding symbolism in yoga. The Prophet ascended on al-Burâq, a riding beast with the head of a woman, through the seven heavens to the Throne of God. In yoga, the kuNDalinî is a feminine power (shakti) that dwells at the base of the spine and ascends through seven levels (represented by the seven chakras) to the summit of liberation (brahmarandhra).
2. Salât and Âsanas.
One of the most obvious correspondences between Islam and hatha yoga is the resemblance of salât to the physical exercises of yoga âsanas. An Indian Muslim author, Ashraf F. Nizami, noted this in his book Namaz, the Yoga of Islam (Bombay: D.B. Taraporevala, 1977). The root meaning of the word salât is 'to bend the lower back', as in hatha yoga; the Persians translated this concept with the word namâz, from a verbal root meaning 'to bow', etymologically related to the Sanskrit word namaste. The thousands of postures and variations known to hatha yoga can be classified into a few basic types, including standing postures, spinal stretches, inverted postures, seated postures, and spinal twists. The genius of Islamic salât is to incorporate all of these in rudimentary form into a compact, flowing sequence, ensuring a thorough, all-round course of exercises for good health that is easy for everyone to practice.