Muslim leaders in Spore say yoga is okay
SINGAPORE, Nov 9 - A Muslim cleric in Malaysia has called on Muslims to stop doing yoga exercises, but some religious experts in Singapore do not share that sentiment.
They are largely of the opinion that yoga is harmless as long as its spiritual aspects are not practised.
Professor Zakaria Stapa, a lecturer at University Kebangsaan Malaysia"s faculty of Islamic studies, said recently that yoga is based on Hindu elements and could affect the faith of Muslims practising it.
That sparked a nationwide debate and the Malaysian National Fatwa Council may issue a fatwa, or decree, on yoga soon.
The country seems to be alone in its concern.
Yoga centres are flourishing in more orthodox Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In Iran, yoga is so popular that there are classes for children.
In Singapore, Mr Mohammad Yusri Yubhi Md Yusoff, 33, executive imam of Al-Falah mosque, said: "Yoga may have its roots in Hinduism. But if you take away the meditation and other spiritual aspects, it becomes just another form of exercise."
Veteran religious expert Pasuni Maulan, 64, agreed. The former registrar of Muslim marriages said spiritual elements in exercises are not exclusive to yoga. Silat, which has its roots in Malay culture, can sometimes involve hailing spirits, a practice not allowed in Islam.
"Those who are not sure about what is allowed may want to do other exercises," he suggested.
As a rule of thumb, avoid the spiritual forms of exercises and embrace only the physical aspects, said religious teacher and counsellor Abdul Manaf Rahmat, 50.
Teacher Hafiza Yahya, 26, who studied yoga through books five years ago, has been doing just that.
"In classes, instructors may ask you to say Hindu incantations. I simply did the exercises without all that," said the mother of two, who shed more than 30kg through yoga after each pregnancy. She now weighs a trim 46kg.