Sunday, January 6, 2013

Heaven and Hell Are Not Mine...

On Easter Day 2012. Thanks Jade for hosting us
(Jade Sandbulte's doc.)
I was once asked by a friend, “What do you think about pluralism? Isn’t it against the mission of religions, especially yours, Islam? I mean how does this thing work? On one hand, people keep asking others to follow them because they think they are the best, but on the other hand, at the same time they think that they should embrace others no matter what religion they are.”

Literally, I was so confused. But here is the thing.

Two interpretations
To me, pluralism is a word filled with conflict. Seriously, it has been creating disappointment and even condemnation among religious people, especially among Muslims in my country. One group thinks that it means seeing and thinking all religions are the same. They all are the damn same. That’s where the problem began. They can’t accept this.

But the other group thinks differently. They accept pluralism as it means an understanding that embraces the diversity among human beings. People are created different so having different choices are the aftermath of that creation.

Pluralism is actually not all about religions. Experts say it is the state of society that embraces all kinds of diversity in terms of tribes, groups, races, languages, cultures, traditions, any kind of social group and even thoughts. Experts argue that it’s all created differently, so we should just do nothing but embrace and appreciate it. Isn’t this world like a colorful carpet that all the colors contribute to the beauty of it?

It is even encouraged by the Quran:
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (Surah al-Hujurat: 13)

Meanwhile, religious pluralism is always debatable. This is the center of all recent polemical thought among the majority of Muslims. Lots of people interpret this as a thought that all religions are the same. I highly disagree with this point.

Pluralism I think is the nature of this life. People are created different thus think and choose differently. This is natural. I agree with that, experts say, this is a worldview that says one’s religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth, and thus the acknowledgement that at least some truths and true values exist in other religions (Wikipedia).

So which one is the right one? I’d say Islam, because I am a Muslim. I feel comfortable with all the concepts, traditions, and guidance in this religion. I really enjoy the time when I pray, when I gather on Eid, and when I read the Quran. How much of a fool would I be if I were to say that other religions are perfectly right while I am a Muslim?

Who is going to heaven?
So what do I think about the other religions? I’d say that none of them instructs anyone to engage in any bad behaviors. They all are good and have truths and impressive values. They all teach love and encourage peace. Even though every religion has different rituals, the missions are all the same.

Thus, all religions are the same in terms of their universal values. They all teach humility, patience, humanity, helpfulness, kindness, generosity, and all kinds of good values. Some individuals state that their religion asks them to hit and kill people; I’m afraid they are actually not religious.

Is it not against Islam? Who says that? The prophet Muhammad never ever taught us to condemn those who didn’t believe in him. Didn’t he salute a dead Jew on his way to get buried? Wasn’t it him that kept feeding an old blind Zoroastrian lady who kept yelling at him? The prophet was even the one who guaranteed the safety of all Jews who lived in Medina back then.

Wasn’t it him that kept behaving nicely to Khalid ibn Walid and Amr ibn Ash, who previously killed his uncle Hamzah. Because of the Prophet’s actions, these individuals converted to Islam. Don’t you guys believe that a prostitute would go to heaven because she just saved a life of a dog?

What if somebody asks, are all non-Muslims going to heaven? I surely answer, heaven and hell are Gods. He is the one who has the right to determine. And, I don’t make a big deal out of it. I’d rather do something good for other people, the environment, and humanity, instead of for that freaking heaven-or-hell stuff. I don’t know, but it feels like so selfish if that’s what this life is all about.

What about their Gods? Who knows that who or what they worship is the same as what we Muslims worship, with just different name(s)? We all worship God who is and will always be the only one who guides us. I’d rather think that there is no God but God, no matter what name you call Him.

Can we say that other people are wrong or even lost? The answer is it is God’s business. How can you determine which one is lost or not? Who are you? You feel so close to God and you feel cool about it; I don’t give a damn! Blaming people for the religion they chose is lame. If you do something good to others, regardless of you do it for God or not, that’s worth a damn.

On Thanksgiving Day 2011 at Dannis' house
I also love Jesus
Then why did I choose Islam? I grew up in a Muslim family. I was born as Muslim because my mom and dad are also Muslim. I didn’t pick it. But as time progressed, I myself figured that Islam is the best “ride” to live on this earth. I feel comfortable with all the rituals and the guidance I have received. It teaches me to respect my teachers, my parents, my friends, my neighbors and my surrounding environment. Muhammad then became the best role model in my life.

Why didn’t I pick another religion? Well, to me, religions are like vehicles while going somewhere. Say, I am going to the US and I pick United Airlines. I pick it because I feel okay with it, and all things and services I need are there. Aren’t other people choosing to fly with another airline? So, why won’t they fly? They probably prefer to go for a ship. Or, some might just swim.

It is so personal that I say my religion is the plane. You can say yours is the plane and mine means another form of transportation, like swimming. But I will always argue that my ride is the best because of the comfort and stuff. You can do it as well. My point is that this debate is like a never-ending discussion. Why waste time for it?

All faiths are telling the followers to do good things and that’s what I want us to focus on. Helping people and building this environment without asking any rewards is the stuff this world needs. No strings attached.

That’s why I also love Jesus, Buddha, Sang Hyang Widi, and many other great figures. None of them said, at least, that stealing is good. You may not be religious and just listen to your deepest heart. I second that, because actually, I believe that’s what God left us with to be able to do good things on this earth.

Life’s too short
So, how can you say people who always read their Quran but keep condemning others are good? How can you say people who always go to church but keep saying that the others are meant to go to hell are the best? Are you going to say that those who kneel down everyday in front of a Buddha statue will go to heaven but the people around them are dying?

What’s the point of this life? Racing to heaven? Cursing others for the wrong direction? What direction? How dare you decide where people should go? What’s the point of this life if people can’t get their freedom and live in peace? Life is too short man, why be so selfish by thinking that you are the only one that deserves heaven?

Alright, let me close this piece with a super short story. So, once upon a time, there was a conversation between two men: the first and the second.

“Hey yo, imagine if this all happened at the same time: someone got into a car accident and really needs help, your girlfriend really needs a ride, and the time for Friday prayer has come, which one do you go for?” said the first.

“Oh man, of course I’ll help the one that got into an accident! Are you kidding me?” said the second.

“Hang on! You’re gonna be a sinner, though. Leaving the prayer means leaving God…”

“Shit man! How dare you say that? God is not that old fashioned. God gives a damn if you do good shit.”

This article is translated and edited from the original article which was in Bahasa and with the same title. I do hope this will do something to any interfaith dialogues among us. Or, at least this doesn't support any conflicts caused by any religious reasons. Thanks to my friend for editing and correcting the English.


  1. You have a lot of very good thoughts here. That last story is very similar to something Jesus once said.

    1. Thanks Jade, and I guess that's why even though I am a Muslim, I'm all okay for going to church. And, as a Christian, you're a great guy.

  2. I hope more Indonesians have similar thoughts. A lot of our brother in Indonesia are uneducated, illiterate, which made them easily manipulated and exploited using their believes and religion