The recent decision by the Indonesian Ulemas Council to issue a fatwah declaring Yoga as incompatible with Islam has been met with disbelief by Indian religious commentators. A fascinating viewpoint outlined in a ‘comment’ piece by Firoz Bakht Amhed, written as a rejoinder to the current debate, argues that Yoga is fully compatible with Islam, and is a powerful tool for interfaith practice as well as dialogue. Stating uncategorically that “yoga is a way of life for the followers of all religions”, Amhed links yoga to the non-dual philosophical system of Advaita, a wonderful example of Indian hierarchical inclusivism, that Louis Dumont has previously labelled ‘encompassment’. This debate is, of course, part of a much wider backdrop of Muslim-Hindu encounter in South and South East Asia, which is again creating headlines – particluarly with the elections in Uttar Pradesh, India that are still embroiled in the 1992 Ayodhya crisis. Click here, here and here to read more.
3HO/Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere: The ‘Forgotten’ New Religious Movement?
By Doris Jakobsh , University of Waterloo
Hindu Fundamentalism in Contemporary India: A Muslim Perspective
By Zafarul-Islam Khan
The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought
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I wonder if they actually tried yoga before coming to this conclusion…
Unfortunately, I think there is frequenty the miesonccption that many practices from the far east are religion based. I can remember attending a conservative christian church many years ago that would not allow a karate class to use the gym because they felt it was in conflict with the church’s theology. Yoga can be very spiritual, but not in a religious worshipful way. It is more in the same way one may have a positive experience and feeling while sitting at the beach watching the waves roll in; sitting under a shady tree listening to the soft melody of wind chimes; enjoying the view from a mountain top; or being hushed by the majesty of the Grand Canyon. Any serene activity can promote spirituality not religious spiritualiy but the my-soul-feels-peaceful kind. I have practiced yoga for years. I find the simple act of letting go of my thoughts to enable me to listen carefully to the instructor and follow her lead into the next pose, is in itself restful. The body is gently challenged to stretch and flex while I focus on nothing more than it. I come out of my yoga practice feeling relaxed and calm, ready for the chaos to begin again. It is good for my spirit !