Monday, April 4, 2011

Poco-Poco: A Knee-Jerk Reaction

Assalamualaikum wbt

Narrated by Muslim (145), from Abu Hurayrah: The Messenger of Allah SAW said: "Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers."



1. If I were to aptly describe the banning of poco-poco dance as announced by the Perak mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, I with due respect would consider it to be thought-provoking yet unpopular.  

2. It is thought-provoking because everyone seems to be interested in this subject. It is unpopular because  probably no one has ever thought of its prohibition before Harussani and the gang, and even until now  some people seem to disagree that it is haram (forbidden) in Islam.

3. The MAIN purpose of this post is not to either support or reject the proposal of poco-poco's prohibition (though I will present my personal opinion regarding poco-poco before I end this article) but I intend to see this issue from another perspective because I think, poco-poco itself is somehow a relatively small subject, that however is a manifestation of a bigger thing going on in our community.


4. Before going into the main point, let me firstly address these 3 statements with regard to poco-poco dance.

5. If minor is the word used to compare poco-poco in relative to many other profound  and complicated issues, I don't have any problem with it. But if the word minor suggests that the need to discuss poco-poco is negligible, I beg to disagree. Why? From research already made, Tan Sri Harussani argued against poco-poco on the basis that poco-poco originates from a ritual dance often practised in Jamaica and it contains elements of Christianity as well as spirit worship. Does that not ring the bell?

6. When it comes to subject of worship, it falls under the category of faith (Aqeedah) and oneness of Allah (Tawheed). In other words, committing an act of worship, in the sense of associating partner with Allah, is an act as shirk, and this is a huge sin in Islam.

7. Having said that, how could one say that poco-poco is a minor issue when it is against the very first fundamental belief in Islam that Allah is One and Only? This is indeed the first thing that features  in  the 5 pillars of Islam, and it is this subject (Aqeedah and Tawheed) that Rasulullah first brought when he started teaching about Islam.

8. Therefore, I don't see any valid reason why, when poco-poco exposes us to an act of shirk, it should only be regarded as a minor issue.

"Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgives anything else, to whom He pleases; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed."

Surah An-Nisa', (4:48)


9. While it is true that an action shall be judged based on the intention of one who does it, in the case of poco-poco though, it should not be as simple as that. Firstly, intention is a subjective matter. You may speak on your behalf (that you have good intention), but how do you know that someone else always has good intention when they do something? It is because intention is something that cannot be measured, that we have to be careful with what people do physically.

10. Let's take one easy example. If today a Muslim goes to Batu Caves and then bow a few times in front of the statue (Murugan), before declaring that he is actually only exercising, so will we accept that claim? Of course not. Point being is that, something physical, if confirmed haram in Islam, then it is haram, regardless of what he may claim his intention is. Another way of seeing this is that, if we were to judge based on intention alone, all murderers in this world will always escape any punishment, so long as they claim that they have no intention of murder. And this is why, in an investigation, even to test the intention of the murderer, we will always judge based on what we can see and perceive physically.

11. Another principle in Islam is that the end does not justify the means (matlamat tidak menghalalkan cara). A good instance will be like the classical story of Robin Hood. He robs the rich to help the poor. However, no matter how good his intention is, he is committing crime. And Islam does not permit prohibited things, only because one has a noble aim in his doing. Both aim and action should be permissible instead.

12. So then again, in the case of poco-poco, while the intention may be good, which is to practise a healthy lifestyle, one has to firstly consider whether poco-poco has anything that goes against Islam. Poco-poco, if we go back to Harussani's argument, is not prohibited because it is a form of exercise, but because it originates from a tradition that performs the worship of spirit.

13. Again, I have not yet come to a conclusion whether poco-poco is forbidden, but the above is mere an attempt to reject the opinion that poco-poco is permissible so long as the intention is good. Without denying the significance of intention in our actions, I am strictly against total reliance upon intention alone, with regard to permissibility of poco-poco.


14. Sounds familiar? The phrase 'Ignorance is bliss' simply suggests that one will not feel hurt committing sins if he does not even know that it is a sin. So some people argue against knowledge such as in matters regarding morality (permissibility and prohibition). In other words, we shall let people free by not letting them know what is right and what is wrong.

This is however absolutely wrong.

15. Say if one day, a student sits on an examination which has 50 multiple choice questions. He then answers all the questions wrong. All wrong! Then, suppose he meets his lecturer and requests that he should get a full mark because he does not know all the questions, is that then acceptable? Of course not! What is wrong is wrong, no matter even if you do not know about it.

16. The difference is only that when someone do not know that he is committing sins, Allah with His great Mercy and Generosity shall forgive him, insya Allah.

"Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards; to them will Allah turn in mercy: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom."

Surah An-Nisa', (4:17)

17. From above verse, Allah wants us not to live in ignorance, but for the past sins that we committed without knowledge, we shall repent and ask Allah for forgiveness. In a way, Allah stresses the severity of sins, even in ignorance, which is why He asks us to repent for it.

18. Before I reach the end of this article, let me comment on a few things which I believe is the real salt to the injury. I break them down under 2 points.


19. Morality is now in its degradation phase. What makes things worse is when people lost trust in the Islamic authority which is responsible to bring us back to the true morale through the teachings of Islam.

20. To those who might not know, knee-jerk reaction as I put in the title means that we tend to quickly judge, and make random response when a ruling by the authority is made, without realizing that none such a thing will be made public, before thorough investigations and research are made. It is this kind of knee-jerk reaction that I think is a manifestation of how some of us now tend to follow what we think is right, despite not having any proper knowledge in the subject discussed.

21. While no one would deny that people make mistakes, we should always pay people due respect. Things are more complicated in the case of poco-poco, because they are indeed some people in the authority that support poco-poco as a thing that is permissible in Islam. However, my explanation later will discuss further about this.


22. I don't feel comfortable when some people publicly proclaim against prohibition of poco-poco in Perak on a basis that it does not present a good image of Islam. I think that statement alone is a bad image to Islam, in the sense that it shows how even the authorities in Islam can't agree with each other.

23. A Malay saying beautifully describes this as "keluar dari mulut buaya, masuk mulut harimau" which basically means, to escape from a crocodile's mouth just to end up being the victim of a tiger- and this saying sarcastically points towards those who try to fix things only to know that he or she is only making things worse or make no difference at all to solve the problem.

24. I salute those in the authority whom have a clear mind and declare their willingness to study further about the subject. It seems to me however that those whom already reject the opinion of Tan Sri Harussani and the Islamic Authority in Perak, has made a mistake unless they themselves make a research and proper investigations to support their stand.

25. The crux of the matter is that, first, I hope we will be more careful when we make any remarks and comments, especially in public (which is easy now via medium like Facebook). Second, I hope authorities take Allah's blessings as number one criteria in making statements and not just to please the non-Muslims instead. I don't see any reasons why non-Muslims will think badly about the prohibition of poco-poco if we have good reasons for the prohibition, but even if they do, do we worship them or Allah?


26. As a conclucion, I want to request us simply this. Poco-poco is not of Islamic origin, so if one day we were to avoid it, we should avoid it. It baffles me very much that while there are many Islamic teachings that we do not follow, we work hard to defend something that does not even have any Islamic attachment. I mean, not that we can't, but what is the priority?

27. Another thing is that, when there are many other alternatives as a form of exercise, why is it again that we defend poco-poco as if we are dead without it? I think maybe we hardly take lessons from the past. When Prophet Muhammad SAW introduced Islam, the disbelievers lost everything from the prohibition of their worship of idols. Economically, they lost their businesses (selling idols made of rock). Socially, they had to abandon their long-standing ancestral tradition. Politically, they lost positions and had to give way to Prophet SAW to become their leader. In their case, maybe it makes more sense to reject the Prophet's SAW message, though all praise be to Allah that out of those difficulties, some people held tight to the true faith and embraced Islam.

28. What is so difficult that we face without poco-poco today compared to those who lived before us? If we continue to live like this, again, it is a manifestation of how weak we may be to face the great challenges against Islam.

29. Let me now quote one hadith as reported by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Ibn Majah and Darimi that says, "What is halal is clear. And what is haram is also clear. And in between those two is a dubious area (syubhah) in which many people do not know about. So whoever distanced himself from it, he has acquitted himself (from blame). And those who fall into it, he has fallen into a state of haram."

30. Owing to the above hadith, I'd rather agree with Harussani. At the very least, as it may be difficult to really determine the real origin of poco-poco, I would certainly take poco-poco as something that falls under the category of doubt or syubhah now, and because of that, as stated in the hadith, it is better then to distance myself from it where possible.

 31. So again, I am not giving an absolute answer to this, but personally, I'd like to invite all of us to be more careful in our actions and daily routine, and because of that, I will do my best to avoid poco-poco. Let me now end this post by quoting a very powerful Quranic message in verse 116 of  Chapter 6, Surah Al-An'am whereby Allah says, "Were you to follow the common run (majority) of those on earth, they will lead you away from the Way of Allah. They follow nothing but conjecture: they do nothing but lie."

And this verse quoted from the Quran, is in line with the first hadith right on top of this post, about being a stranger.

Wallahua'lam wassalamualaikum wbt.


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