The Malaysian council that oversees Islamic law has issued an edict against the practice of yoga by Muslims.
“The National Fatwa Council’s chairman, Abdul Shukor Husin, said many Muslims fail to understand that yoga’s ultimate aim is to be one with a god of a different religion — an explanation disputed by many practitioners who say yoga need not have a religious element.” -excerpted from the MSNBC news report
While fatwas issued by the Council are not legally binding, they do put pressure on people to behave in certain ways.
As a practitioner of yoga, a soon-to-be student in a teacher training program, and an aetheist, I find this very unsettling. From the reading I have done so far, the practice of yoga is highly individual and I have enjoyed reading about how different people have adopted and adapted the practice and spirituality to fit their own needs. Some texts like the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, essentially the Yoga Bible, is obviously more strict within its reverance for the Lord of Yoga and other Hindu deities. And yet, there are a myriad of translations, each with their own sublte variations about the spiritual nature of yoga. Other, more modern texts, show an more inclusive perspective on the spirituality of yoga, like Erich Schiffmann’s book.
These readings have been very eye-opening to me, as I am learning the important lesson of separating the message from the delivery. All the books I have read in preparation for the teacher training, whether they are the more traditional texts, or the radically modern ones, have all had the same essential message. “Do what is good for you, because it is the good and right choice. Do what is good for others, because it is the good and right choice.” Sometimes there is a moral imperative of behaving this way for fear of retribution by a greater deity, sometimes it is simply because it is the good and right choice to make. It all depends on what motivates the individual.
Is this a slippery slope for Malaysian Muslims? Or is this a one-time incident that will not be followed by a majority of Muslim yoga practitioners? What do you think about it?