We have a right to question and criticise

Astro AWANI's Zan Azlee believes that questioning and criticising is essential for knowledge.

Questioning and criticising is essential for knowledge. | Astro Awani
I am highly critical of things that I see of my country, my people and my religion as I believe that it brings about self-evaluation and self-improvement.

I may not be a politician or government leader, but I see no harm in criticising how the country is being run or how it should move forward. I am after all Malaysian.

I may not be an ustaz or a hafiz of the Quran, but I see no harm in criticising how Islam is practiced and portrayed. I am after all Muslim.

But there are many who disagree.

They think that one has no right to criticize politicians or government leaders because one is not in their position. If one does, then one should leave the country.

They think that one also has no right to criticize how Islam is being practiced because one does not have the right qualifications. If one does, then one should just leave the religion.

The most annoying Malaysian in my eyes, Ridhuan Tee, once said:

“Why do these irresponsible parties not move abroad? Because Malaysia is heaven. Why are they still making insistent demands? Because they want a better heaven.”

He is exactly right! I can’t believe it. Looks like this is going to be the second time that I am agreeing with the most annoying Malaysian, Ridhuan Tee.

I love Malaysia and I think this country is great. But do I think that it can be better? Of course! And so I will continue to criticise and make demands.

But I have to strongly disagree with the ‘irresponsible’ part. It would be irresponsible of me as a Malaysian to see things that can be improved, but to just keep quiet.

It is the same when it comes to religion. I love my religion and I want to see the beauty of it. I will criticise those who choose to ignore that beauty.

Where does it say that an ordinary lay person cannot comment on Islam? Where does it say that only those who are ‘qualified’ can make statements?

Islam created everyone equal. The poorest of man can be an imam and lead prayers and so can the richest king in the world. Everyone is a khalifah in his own right.

So every single Muslim has the right to voice his opinion, ask questions, and yes, to criticise what he sees fit to criticise as well.

This is the only way to learn, understand and progress. The adverse to this is to just accept things blindly and not understand what religion is all about.

And that is exactly what Islam does not want to happen. And how do I know this? I do because reading and education is one of the basic requirements of Islam.

The first word of the Quran to be passed down to Prophet Muhammad was ‘Iqraq’, or ‘read’. And there are so many passages in it that encourages us to gain knowledge.

And how can one learn if one does not question? And how does one learn when one is not criticised. So do you see how important this is now?

It doesn’t mean that to question, one is in disagreement. And it doesn’t mean that to criticise, one is always right. All it means is that a discourse needs to happen.

And this discourse should involve everyone, from the unqualified to the overly qualified, so that knowledge is shared and will be understood by everyone.

Always remember. The concept of blasphemy was never an Islamic concept (neither was it a concept of any other Abrahamic religion).

It was invented by men who were in power who were afraid that the ordinary lay person would question and criticise too much that they would eventually become knowledgable, hence, more powerful.