Loyal Followers

Friday, October 09, 2009

Give me the Nay - Kahlil Gibran

I have always observed that to most of us, being religious is more important than embracing the spiritual aspect of our faith. Being religious after all only entails ritualistic observance of whatever is decreed by our faith.

And so, the Muslims fast and we pray and we pay zakat. And the Christians would go to the church on Sundays and wear a necklace with a cross pendant. The Hindus would swim in Ganges river and break coconuts in the morning before going to work. And so on and so forth.

What our faith brings us is the least of our concern. What our ritualistic observance turns us into does not matter. As long as we perform the rituals religiously, we are after all, religious. And God asks us to be religious.

Or does He?

I have always related this story to my friends. And I am going to tell it here. And let me preface it with a statement. I am not telling this story to insult or to belittle Christianity or Christians.

I used to live near one of the most active churches - if not THE most active and wealthy - in Kuala Lumpur. I have no qualm with that. That church was very active. They organised speeches and sermons almost every other night. The church goers were known to donate up to 15% of their monthly income to that church. And every time they did that, the place would be full of cars, parked everywhere.

Many drivers of the cars would try and make a 3 point turn in front of my house. That was okay by me. But out of 10, 1 or 2 would invariably knock on my gate. Of course it was unintentional. My gate lock would be bent. I had to repair that lock many times. And then the next week it would happen again.

In all the 6 years I was there, this happened many many times. However, there wasn't a single person who had stopped to ring my bell to say sorry. Nor anyone who left a note to say so. It was a small matter to me. And it was not a big deal to me.

But the thing that bothered me was this. It would appear that all the nightly sermons and speeches and all the monthly donations had done nothing to improve common courtesy among all those who had knocked my gate. And sometimes I pondered have we all ever thought what all this religiosity had done to us? Has it made us any better?

And now, at the current moment in this country, we have people who shout and scream about jihad this and jihad that. About caning a woman. About shutting up people who dare to question. About throwing the Sedition Act against some parties who are just raising awareness. What has happened to all of us? To our faith? Is our faith just about ritualistic observance of some rules and regulations?

Sometime I think we are living in a very unforgiving society. Do we blame teenaged girls for abandoning their babies in a drain at the back of a school? Or even killing their babies? In a moment of lust, they could have succumbed to human temptation and they are pregnant.

What do they do? Tell their pious father and mother about it? What would happen? They would be chased away from home? Or caned? Or even kicked and ridiculed by the whole neighborhood? Nowhere they could go without being talked about or whispered about. Oh she is so immoral! Look at her. That young immoral slut! And what will happen to the baby when he or she is born? Bastard child! Anak haram. That's what he or she is. He or she can't even have his or her father's name on his or her birth certificate. That is how unforgiving all of us are. How cruel we are. How nasty we are.

And what choice is left for the teenaged girl other than to hide the pregnancy and suffer alone. And what could she do to avoid the ignominy of being stamped "immoral and unwanted"? Are we surprised then to see so many babies are abandoned or even killed? Does our faith implore us to be such creatures?

How often do we pray for forgiveness when in fact we are unable to forgive? Why do we seek compassion when we ourselves are unable to be compassionate? Have we ever ever prayed for love? Why would we seek mercy when we are, as human beings, merciless?

Take the Palestinian issue. When the Israelis were bombing Palestine some time ago, there were text messages and e mails going around asking Muslims to pray for the destruction of Israel. And for the Jews be killed. We shed tears when we see a Palestinian mother wailing away holding her dead toddler covered with blood on the face in front of a crumbled house. And then we pray for all Jews to be killed. How about the innocent ones? How about their children? Do we laugh and smirk in satisfaction if we look at a picture of a Jewish mother wailing while holding her dead toddler? Is that okay just because that child is Jewish? Where do we go from here?

Has our faith taught us to be heartless, cruel, cold and vicious? The God that we worship and pray to is the Most Compassionate and Merciful. And yet we, His followers are the exact opposite.

What has happened to justice and fairness? Why is it wrong has become right and right has become wrong? Has our faith taught us to forgive some and punish others? Or has our God blinded us because He is tired of our antics?

Perhaps, when Kahlil Gibran wrote "Give me the Nay", he was referring to us in Malaysia now. Perhaps he had a vision of what was going to happen here now. And he wrote:

"With man, religion is a field
Tilled only by those who sow it with selfish
prayers –
whether preachers hoping for eternal happiness
or ignorant men who fear the flames of hell.
Without the penalty of Judgement
Man would not have worshipped any Lord
And without the promise of reward he would
have blasphemed,
as though religion were a business matter
devotion to its cause will bring him gain;
neglect, loss.

In the forest there is no religion,
no hideous blasphemies;
for when the nightingale sings
he is not saying: ‘This is just.’
The religion of man appears
like a shadow, then disappears.
After God and the Messiah
there is no religion on earth.

Give me the nay and sing,
for song is the pearl of prayers;
the laments of the nay will reach
far beyond the fading of Life.

If they heard talk of it, justice on earth would
make the jinn weep;
and if they could see it, the dead would laugh.
For those who commit a misdemeanour are
reserved prison and death;
and those who commit great crimes earn
prosperity and fame.
The man who steals the flower is censured and
while he who robs the fields is a daring and
fearsome hero.
He who murders the body is condemned to
while he who murders the soul remains
unknown to all.

In the forest there is no justice,
nor even punishment.
When the willow’s shade lengthens over the ground,
the cypress does not say: ‘What sacrilege!’
The justice of man is like snow –
once the sun sees it, it melts.

Give me the nay and sing,
For song is the justice of hearts;
the laments of the nay will endure
far beyond the ending of sin."


Raison D'etre said...

Dear Art,

Here I was hoping for some light hearted pre-weekend moments, and you had to go and post something very thought-provoking.

Sigh... Shouldn't have clicked your link. Now I'm all morose.

Nizam Mahmud said...

Excellent article Art.

Had an ex colleague once who in every way try to show his 'piousness', crosses at his desk, bragging how much he contributed to the church and yada yada.

Yet he was hated by everybody. One of his hobbies is to tell bad things about fellow colleague at his back. He is doing that to everyone.

This 'be religious' madness extends to the followers of almost every religion. None is spared.

Anonymous said...

Many of us want to be seen in churches, temples or mosques. It is no surprise to witness a sudden increase of people attending worship during religious festivals. Many people even dress-up like monks, nuns or covered up from head to toe like middle-eastern to exhibit their piousness. Most of us forget that - Religion is more about substance rather than appearance. What we talk is not we walk .... and most so-called religious people are the main culprit

Anonymous said...


Though I'm a christian I have to agree with you that the so-called spiritual fascade of a person does no make any improvement on the person in common decency and courtesy. Faith is not like a hat or tudung that one removes on leaving the religious premises. As one pastor said, if you have not been changed then a baptised sinner is only a cleaner sinner! Shalom.

Anonymous said...

Dear Art,

Human beings are so flawed but they fail to see it. Religion is not the problem. The problems lies with the followers and their ritualistic practices.

sang kancil

plee said...

Thank you! I had almost forgotten how refreshing Khalil Gibran is...Peace!

Anonymous said...

My apology for the wrong committed by these church goers who have damaged your gates, this apology comes from me as a church goer and not a Christian. As a Malaysian, I'm embarrassed by my fellow countrymen short coming in their driving skills. To apologise is what I can offer but if only I could act, to do something to correct this anomaly in our society. Thanks for sharing your thoughts to better this society. Regards

Anonymous said...

In truth Religion is Communism
there is no Rich no poor but Humanity

Anonymous said...

Dear Art

How true. The irony is this.

Those who can see what Art is seeing, really can follow any religion and they will be fine. In fact, these people may not need religion to be a humane human being.

On the other hand, some / many people who just cannot see what Art is seeing, are the ones who hang on to religions and think that they are fine.


Anonymous said...

Dear Art

And I do agree with what you have written. I am not the pious type, but I do not do any harm to people.

There are times I witness bad things done by people who supposed to be the "religous" type. Makes me wonder, this people whatever religion they are suppose to believe, do they actually really understand their religion. They are in the religion, but does Islam/hindu/buddhism etc is really running in their blood.

People kill due to religion too. At times I wonder again, maybe this world is better off without religion then.

I don't know, sometime just feeling sad seeing the endless fight.


Anonymous said...


There will always be an existence of an opposite in the world. When there is Good there will be Bad and what not... It is up to us to choose which side we want to be...Teachings of any religion is only a guild-line. There is this wise saying "Seek your own faults and not others" If only peoples start looking inwards for solutions towards a problems/issues instate of blaming others and seeking revenge to over come ones rage, until than there will always be such issues as what you rises. Books and materials of religion are written by men through words of mouth from generation to generation along the way they bound to be deviation from its origin.We cannot change or control others(what they think or act) but we can change and control yourself to be what we want to be. We can choose to be Happy or Sad that's the reality of life. Just sharing my thoughts...

Karen said...

If only people would treat others like how they themselves would like to be treated, this world would be a better place.

When praying, how many asked for world peace, enough food for all, and for God's guidance to be a good person?

But having said that, things could be a whole lot worse if not for religion. Some people would have no reason to even pretend to be good. No fear. No deterant.

Here's another article worth pondering (in my opinion) But sensitive people who are easily offended, please don’t even visit the link. Thanks. http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2008/05/10-reasons-you-should-never-have-a-religion/

Anonymous said...

Dear Art,


Just to share a quote from Albert Einstein, the " Mind of God ", He said this,

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us "universe", a part limited in time and space. He experience himself, his thoughts and feelings as something seperated from the rest... A kind of optical delusion of his consciousness, this delusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.

We, human are the most intellectual living creatures in this post modern world that we are continue to build, if we can't overcome our mind set to break that " prison " while we are alive on this earth, how do we claim that we are living spiritually and are extraordinary from many others, and the worst part is, with this going on, we know very well where we are actually heading to......



Singam said...

God did not instruct man to become pious and set up complex rituals of worship. All of His Messengers instructed man to become good people and to love and serve their neighbours.

It is the priests and preachers who established rituals and rules. It is they who, seeking power on earth, made followers their slaves and non-followers their enemies.

Get rid of the priesthood and the religious teachers. Let man discover God on his own. Then, perhaps, we will have peace on earth.

Gan said...

I think generally many people when relating to religion is almost always guilty of being more fixated with the form rather then the substance.

This is when we lose it - the goodness that religion (or, God) wants us to do and live.

Antares said...

Very good indeed, Art. You can't go wrong quoting Kahlil Gibran! Take care, bro, and I hope our orbits intersect again soon :-)

art harun said...

Salam to you Anonymous at 16:14,

Thank you for caring and apologising but really, there is no need to apologise. I do not begrudge them. I related the story just to show several events which made me wonder what religiosity has done to us. That is all.

Anonymous said...

good system never fail but people fail.good organisation never fail but again those guys running that organisation fail.assuming u have 10 kids,u'll realize u'll have 10 types under one roof.bill crosby,once said..'i do not know the secret of success,but i do know the secret of failure,i.e to please one and everybody'.mr art for whatever our line of thinking,unless and until we know Who Allah is (do we really really know!),then and only then we can find solutions to our search.human system has failed and damn proven!!Allah is watching our antics..till the time comes.He sent us the prophet Muhammad pbuh..then do we really really know,love and follow his teaching!do we?the Quran teaches us to respect all human races,colours..but why instead our leaders embarace narrow-hatred-nationalism (umno-style)and we cry for our country is now in deep trouble!whom to blame if not the leaders and the peoples who voted them.we seems to treat God as our servant and not we are the servant.God is taken only when we need.lots have been said and lots will be said.my only suggestion is for you and me to wake up at 3.00am tonight,purify ourselves with a proper wudhu.hope we both could find Him AGAIN!!...btw make sure come every sunday,put something physically big and heavy infront of your gate.that might solve yr problem!

kamarul said...

Thank you for a good article. What I see is that many people do not read and discover religion themselves. They depend on other people to define religion for them and at the end they follow a wrong religion definition. People need to stop listening to radio / TV and start to open books to discover religion. Newspaper..may be but no Utusan

A true Malaysian said...


Thank you for sharing this excellent article. The points are simplistic, logical and easy to understand, yet, how many of us have the same WISDOM like you?

That is the reason why I personally don't like the ritualistic side of religions. Try to ask people around us, how many of them can appreciate why this and that rituals must be or have to be performed? I can safely say, 10 out of 10 reply, because a pastor says so, an Ulama says so, my father says so,and etc, etc. So, many people do not know why they do so, and they do it obligedly.

At the end of the day, most people forgets the essence of the real teachings of one's religion. Are there any good to have religions in the first instance?

I found a quote here which I find it very true,

"Plenty of kind, decent, caring people have no religious beliefs, and they act out of the goodness of their hearts. Conversely, plenty of people who profess to be religious, even those who worship regularly, show no particular interest in the world beyond themselves. -John Danforth, priest, ambassador, senator (b. 1936) "

You can read further here in my friend's blog http://blackandwhite999.blogspot.com/2009/10/are-you-like-that.html?showComment=1255100743194

Thanks again, Art for sharing. How I wish we can cross paths one of the days. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

My Kahlil Gibran poem book was confiscated by our Malaysian Kastam at the airport many years ago. Shackled minds leads to shackled existence.

Fi-sha said...

Dear Art

What a coincidence that you shared with us the excellent piece from Khalil Gibran.

And you hit bull's eye, sir.

Thanks for enlightening article. It feels good to know that some people out there see things like i do. I'm not that weird after all, kan?

philip said...

Dear Art
Enjoyed your article, hope you dont mind if i share your thoughts with my friends.
- keep on writing

Anonymous said...

Dear Art

I sincerely apologise on behalf of the church of the shameful behaviour of us the Christians.

Sigh... truth in the matter is thou that yes, I too sometimes forget to behave the way i ought to.

Nevertheless, no excuses. Oh, and thank you for bringing this up so that we can ALL be reminded of who we REALLY are. :)


Anna Koh

LAT said...


One does not have to be religious to practise such basic mannerism by saying the magic words like "Sorry, please & TQ" but many a time people chose not to say "sorry" to the party they are wronged because of their "pride & arrogance" and thus they chose to either just keep quiet or walk away to absolve them from any liabiity.
Christians are thought to be humble, tender-hearted and determine to learn to ackonwledge and admit their wrongs and ask for forgiveness. But being a Christian by itself does not accord one with an automatic change of good character and behaviour unless he/she has decided to discard his/her old evil & selfish-self and become a new creation by leading a new life that would reflect Christ-like manners and thus make him/her to be different from the rest of the world.
If a Christian does not even practise a basic mannerism & good behaviour, it brings not only a disrepute to Christ but he/she is even worst than any non-believer.
In fact, the society at large would expect a Christian to be someone of higher moral standard than the rest of the world. Hence, a Christian should not only be identified as one by the ritualistic life(form)that he/she leads but most importantly it is the "inner beauty"(substance) that should be so shine before men that the world may not only feel but see it !

Thanks for sharing your thoughts to better this society. God's mercy and divine teaching never fail us but it is human evil and selfish nature that distorted His divine teaching and bring disrepute to the Almighty !

PRAY,IT WORKS. joe's blog said...

In truth we have lost our conscience, the God given reasoning power. Without it religion is no use. Even the pope goes to hell without a good conscience and I dare say the prophet Mohammed too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Art,

Log onto www.evolutionarymystic.wordpress.com

You can view more videoclips on Khalil Gibran's recitations of 'The Prophet' by Richard Harris as well as Rumi's poems by Deepak Chopra.

Besides, there are also other spiritual articles and videoclips.