Fatwa Council Bans Yoga: Non-Muslims Told Not to Comment

Comment: There have been strong reactions from some people who feel that  the Fatwa council should address more serious public matters like corruption and abuse of power by the ruling politicians rather than focus so much of their energy on personal practices like yoga.

I am more interested in the warning given by the chairman of the Fatwa Council that non-Muslims should not get involve with this matter. “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.

I disagree with this attempt to preclude comments and criticisms on four counts.

First, I think the chairman is unnecessarily defensive. If indeed, Muslims take pride that their religion is a way of life that offers clear guidance for moral conduct, then they should be confident that Islamic moral policy is able to stand up to public scrutiny. Any religion community that believes it is in possession of God’s truth will  welcome serious questioning. Otherwise, its religion (Islam) will fail to gain confidence from its own believers if its officials are perceived to lack confidence in open discussion.

Second, I think at the very least the Hindus have the moral right to respond to a public declaration concerning their beliefs and practice. They have a right to declare if their religion has been judged accurately and fairly.  Of course, I assume that educated leaders from all religions will maintain decorum when they discuss or even dispute over religious truth claims.

Third, the chairman is wrong to assume that a person has a right to comment on a public policy only if the person is directly affected. Unfortunately, we live in a cosmopolitan world where people of different beliefs mix and mingle daily . We just cannot avoid interacting with one another. In some ways or other, our actions impact other people and open discussion about our beliefs and moral values is imperative if we want to ensure mutual understanding and acceptance between neighbors.

Fourth, it is precisely because shared life is unavoidable in the modern world that every community must be willing to submit to public critique. There can be no privileged immunity from having to be publicly accountable for our moral choices, including our moral choices arising from religious beliefs.

Consider two extreme examples: Every citizen expects public condemnation of any religion or cult that promotes ‘sacred sex in its temples’. Likewise, I assume that any religious sect that practises child sacrifice will not only be vehemently condemned but it will be swiftly outlawed by the authorities. No one says that such religious deviants should be left alone since this is a private religious practice. That is to say, based on common morality and shared citizenship that undergird public life, it is reasonable to expect every religion to submit its beliefs to rational evaluation and indeed public critique.

Of course, we all can agree to disagree so long as any religious practice must ensure that its adherents do not violate public order. Needless to say, this implies that any dispute would be conducted with courtesy and mutual respect.

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Yoga declared ‘haram’ for Muslims
Nov 22, 08 MALAYSIAKINI Link

Yoga – practices that involve physical movements, worshiping and chanting – is officially prohibited (haram) in Islam, the National Fatwa Council declared today.

The decision was expected as the council had previously argued that the ancient practice of yoga contains Hindu ‘religious elements’.

According to the Star, council chairperson Dr Abdul Shukor Husin said although the physical aspect of yoga, excluding worshiping and chanting, might not be wrong in Islam, the exercise should be avoided by Muslims as “doing one thing could lead to another”.

“We discourage Muslims from practising yoga as a form of exercise because it will ultimately lead to religious worshiping 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 reporters in Putrajaya.

He also pointed out that yoga has been practiced by the Hindu community for thousands of years and incorporates physical and religious elements like chants and worshiping, with the aim of “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 incorporates the three elements as haram,” said Shukor.

Shukor further said the decision to ban yoga was made after serious and in-depth discussions by council members who met last month, following growing concerns of whether Muslims who did the exercise were going against the tenets of Islam.

The announcement was made today after it was put off on Nov 7, as Shukor was overseas on official business.

Yoga, a health-related exercise, has been practiced since 3,000BC and is said to help slow down ageing, reduce the risk of diabetes, asthma and heart-related diseases.

Only Muslims have to adhere

Shukor, however, stressed that the fatwa was strictly applicable to Muslims.

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

Shukor said once the edict was gazetted, it would be up to the state governments to plan implementation and enforcement laws.

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

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

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

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Report from STAR Link

Sunday November 23, 2008
Fatwa Council Deems Ancient Form of Exercise from India ‘Haram’ for Muslims
BY MAZWIN NIK ANIS
PUTRAJAYA: The National Fatwa Council has declared that yoga is haram (prohibited) in Islam and Muslims are banned from practising it.

Its chairman Datuk Dr Abdul Shukor Husin said yoga had been practised by the Hindu community for thousands of years and incorporated physical movements, religious elements together with chants and worshipping, with the aim of “being one with God”.

“Because of this, we believe that it is inappropriate for Muslims to do yoga. The council is declaring that practising yoga, when it comes together with the three elements, is haram,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

He noted that while merely doing the physical movements of yoga without the worshipping and chanting might not be against religious beliefs, Muslims should avoid practising it altogether as “doing one part of yoga would lead to another”.

Muslims, he said, were discouraged from practising yoga even as a form of exercise as it would ultimately lead to worshipping and chanting, which is against Islam.
Inappropriate for Muslims?: A yoga practitioner going through the ‘crow’ asana, one of the more advanced postures, at a yoga centre in Kuala Lumpur Saturday. Malaysia’s top Islamic body has ruled that because the physical exercise contained elements of Hinduism, it could corrupt Muslims. — AP

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

Shukor said that once the fatwa was gazetted, it would be up to the state governments to implement and enforce the ruling as religious affairs come under their purview.

“Malaysia is not the only country which prohibits Muslims from doing yoga. Singapore and Egypt have come out with the same edict,” he pointed out.

The council, he said, came up with an edict on yoga as the matter was referred to it following growing concerns whether it would be against the religion if Muslims continued with the exercise.

Recently, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Islamic Studies Centre lecturer Prof Zakaria Stapa 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 in-depth discussions among the council members who met last month.

He said that after studying the matter, including the history and purpose of yoga, 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. The rest were free to practise yoga.

He said Muslims must be careful not to do anything that 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 in, 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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For an update that gives different opinions whether non-Muslims should comment on the fatwa see

Yoga Ban: Let Muslims Deal With It – Malaysiakini 25 Nov 2008 Link

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2 Responses to “Fatwa Council Bans Yoga: Non-Muslims Told Not to Comment”

  1. abrother Says:

    As children of God we may direct our faith in any direction we choose but until the recognition comes that we are all sinners before a Holy God and that “There is but one God and Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son” then our faith is empty!

  2. Sid Says:

    The Muslim faith is afraid of yoga. They rightly are. All the prophets of all religions performed yoga to reach the divine, IMO. They followed a Master who taught them Surat Shabd Yoga, which leads to absorption into the Holy Spirit or Holy God as the above poster mentioned, and then leads to the Lord Himself. But of course Religion these days has lost almost all true teachings of past Prophets, peace be upon them. The Adi Granth Sahib scripture of Sikhs is least manipulated I’d say, words coming from a Hindu. So if a person looks into mantra yoga, they might find out the True Path or similar one, and be “misled” from the rights and rituals of modern day Religious beliefs. Surat Shabd Yoga is mantra chanting eventually, and this can easily bring one to True Religion. Sometimes we’ve got to choose between past Prophets and the Living ones of today.

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