Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fatwa Council says yoga with worshipping, chanting is prohibited

The Star
By Mazwin Nik Anis

PUTRAJAYA: The National Fatwa council has declared that the yoga practice which involves three elements of physical movements, worshipping and chanting as haram (prohibited) in Islam.

Its chairman Datuk Dr Abdul Shukor Husin said although merely doing the physical movements of yoga minus the worshipping and chanting might not be wrong in the eyes of the religion, it should be avoided as “doing one would lead to another”.

He said yoga has been practised by the Hindu community for thousands of years and incorporates physical and religious elements and chants and worshipping, with the aim at “being one with God”.

“Because of this, we believe that it is inappropriate for Muslims to do yoga and the council has declared that practising yoga when it comes all together with the three elements as haram.

“We discourage Muslims to do yoga as a form of exercise because it will ultimately lead to religious worshipping and chanting which is against Islam.

“In Islam, one must not do things which can erode one’s aqidah or faith. Doing yoga, even just the physical movements is a step towards an erosion of one’s faith in the religion, hence Muslims should avoid it,” he told a press conference.

He added that the council had come up with an edict on yoga as the matter was brought up to them following growing concerns whether it would be against the religion if Muslims do the exercise.

Recently, a lecturer Prof Zakaria Stapa of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Islamic Studies Centre advised Muslims who had taken up yoga to stop practising it for fear that they could deviate from the teachings of Islam.

Shukor said the declaration of yoga as haram was done after serious and indepth discussions were made by the council members who met last month.

He added after studying the matter, including the history and purpose of yoga where the ultimate aim was to “be one with God”, the council decided that it was inappropriate for Muslims as it could affect one’s faith.

Asked if the decision would draw flak within the Malaysian community, including the non-Muslims, he said the ruling was only meant for Muslims and the rest were free to practise yoga.

“The fatwa (edict) is meant solely for the Muslims to follow. The non-Muslims need not question or debate about this because they are free to do whatever they wish. It is the Muslims who have to adhere to this,” he added.

Shukor said once the edict was gazetted, it would be up to the state governments on how they plan to implement and enforce the ruling as religious affairs come under its purview.

“Malaysia is not the only country which declare yoga as haram in Islam. Singapore and Egypt have come out with the same edict as well,” he said.

He said Muslims must be careful as to not do things which could erode their faith, adding the religion strongly advocates “prevention is better than cure”.

“There are many other forms of exercise that Muslims can partake especially when the religion promotes healthy living and lifestyle. Performing prayers for example is a good form of exercise,” he said.

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