“More pressing things to think about”: Netizens weigh in on “rest in peace” debacle

NEWS that Muslims have been told not to pray for forgiveness for non-Muslims and are forbidden to say “rest in peace” or RIP for short have no doubt opened a can of worms when it comes to religion and religious sensitivity in the country, leaving netizens divided on the topic.

The statement posted on Federal Territories Mufti’s Office website justified this by citing several hadiths that forbid Muslims from pleading for forgiveness on behalf of those who practise different religions.

“‘Rest in peace’ or ‘RIP’ is a form of prayer by non-Muslims. As such, Muslims are forbidden from uttering it,” it said last week.

This came after questions were raised by certain parties about using the phrases to pray for peace among the dead following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept 9.

The statement further highlighted that there are several hadiths and Quranic verses that say Islam does not accept the forgiveness of those who died as non-Muslims.

“Thus, there is no need to seek forgiveness o their behalf,” it added.

Perplexed netizens have taken to social media to weigh in on this matter, with user @zazulazman noting that the expression is “out of respect” for one another.

“I think we’re missing the point here, aren’t we? What’s wrong with me as a Muslim wishing my fellow human beings a peaceful and restful eternal life whether they be atheist or any of the other religions practised?” he tweeted.

User @soalsegalanya further questioned the necessity of making an issue out of the debacle, asking “Aren’t there any other more pressing issues to think about, dear mufti? [For example] how to curb illegal street motorcycle racing or even the issue of religious teachers molesting teens…there are so many things that can be done to help Muslims.”

User @TechieKitteh pointed out that each time a Malaysian minister utters something “outrageously divisive, inane and ridiculous” she gets curious about “which big, scandalous issue with BN et al is taking place that requires a cover-up or a distraction”.

“So, what is it this time?” she sighed.

An equally mystified @aishaanuar3 said, “Wait, so I can’t hope for someone dear to me who is of a different religion to be at peace after their death?”

Meanwhile on Facebook, user Fauziah Zainal Abidin noted that the expression “RIP” is “Not asking for forgiveness” adding that it is simply a mark of respect for the dead and condolences to those who are grieving.

“There’s no hidden meaning like asking for forgiveness for the dead. The nuances in [the] English language need to be understood. Ni samalah dengan larangan sebutan ‘Merry Christmas’ jugak ni (This is similar to the ban on saying ‘Merry Christmas’),” she stressed.

Echoing Fauziah, user Sofya Yusof pointed out that “As a Muslim, I will send condolences or ‘RIP’ to my non-Muslim family and friends. I would also love for my non-Muslim family and friends to wish ‘Semoga ditempatkan bersama orang-orang yang beriman’ (May they be placed among the faithful) to me when my time comes. Please don’t be so narrow-minded.”

“God’s mercy is not limited to Muslims”

Interestingly, Turkish scholar Mustafa Akyol says Muslims can say “rest in peace” when offering their condolences to deceased non-Muslims, adding that God’s mercy is not limited to Muslims.

According to Akyol, his view, which was shared by other leading theologians, was based on two almost identical Quranic verses – 2:62 and 5:69 – which state that all good people who believe in God will be saved.

These verses explicitly state that “believers (Muslims), Jews, Christians and the Sabians (an extinct religious group)” will be saved in the afterlife, he told FMT.

Verse 2:62 says: “All those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good, will have their rewards with their Lord. No fear for them, nor will they grieve.”

“So, according to the Quran, God’s mercy is not limited to Muslims,” Akyol explained.

“Muslims, therefore, can say ‘rest in peace’ for non-Muslims, and pray for their souls, if they are good people.”

Referring to the federal territories mufti’s statement, Akyol noted that reiterates the common view among Muslims today about the afterlife – that non-Muslims will go to hell, and it is not allowed for Muslims to pray for their souls.

He argued that this view exists because mainstream Islamic tradition – created in an age of religious conflict and supremacism – could not accept a “tolerant, universalist message of the Quran”.

Therefore, the aforementioned verses, he said, were explained in a way that non-Muslims would be saved only if they converted to Islam.

Akyol called on fellow Muslims to ponder on what he calls “religious exclusivism”.

Muslims who insist that all non-Muslims are destined to go to hell, he said, should ask themselves this: Are they driven by an effort to praise God, whose mercy is unlimited, encompassing all human kind? Or, are they driven by a religious tribalism which wants to limit God’s mercy to its own group alone, just to satisfy the egos of the members of that group?

“I believe the latter is the case.” – Sept 20, 2022

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