Understanding Islam from original sources not Arabisation

Masjid Darul Ghufran in Tampines.
Masjid Darul Ghufran in Tampines.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

I am puzzled by the example veteran diplomat Bilahari Kausikan gave to illustrate the Arabisation of Islam among local Muslims (3 forces could challenge social cohesion: Bilahari, July 25).

He referred to local Muslim women who would rather describe their headscarves with the Arabic word "hijab" instead of the Malay word "tudung". This illustration is puzzling to me, a local Malay Muslim.

"Hijab" may be an Arabic word to him, but to us, it is an Islamic term that includes the "tudung", "selendang", "abaya", "niqab", "burqa" and many other culturally unique styles of head coverings.

So, to me, that anecdote illustrates the increased Islamic consciousness among local Malay Muslims, instead of our purported Arabisation.

Besides, I am fairly certain the women he asked would have donned uniquely contemporary Malay styles and designs of head coverings, not to mention their clothing fashion, which is distinctly different from that worn in Arab countries.

An objective observer would have noticed the confidence our local Muslim women are showing in interpreting Islamic injunctions in ways suitable to our climate and tradition as well as the cosmopolitan nature of our country.

With better education, local Muslims are improving our understanding of Islam. With this, we are getting more familiar with the original terms and concepts of Islam as taught by our Prophet.

Inevitably, these terms would be in Arabic. Had the Prophet Muhammad been born French, I am quite sure, they would be in French. It would be unfortunate if the fine line between Arabic words and Islamic terms led to a misreading of the local Muslim community.

In fact, the growing trend of local Muslims learning the Arabic language will soon become apparent as well. My concern is that this, too, could be misunderstood.

We strive to understand the religion from its original sources to better interpret its teachings contextually, not to become Arabised.

Osman Sidek