Will love or faith prevail? | Selangor Times
Issue 118


Will love or faith prevail?
Writer: Sharyn Shufiyan
Published: Fri, 14 Dec 2012

WILL love or faith prevail? That is the premise of “Nadirah”, a play written by Alfian Sa’at and directed by Jo Kukathas staged recently at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.

The play is about Nadirah, who is the product of mixed parentage and her struggle accepting her mother’s decision to marry a non-Muslim.

Nadirah is a devout Muslim who is the vice-president of her university’s Muslim Society and organises inter-faith meetings where students talk about respecting each other’s spaces. Her father is Malaysian Malay while her mother is Singaporean Chinese.

They divorced when Nadirah was young and her mother, after gaining custody, took her back to Singapore where they now reside.

Her conflict began when her mother met another man and decided to re-marry. Nadirah, at first happy for her mother was instantly overcome with anguish when she found out that the man is Christian and had no intention of converting.

Hence began the conflict between her faith and supporting her mother’s wishes.

The play introduces civil marriage – something unimaginable for Muslims in Malaysia but possible in Singapore.

Thus began the sensitive discussion on faith and conversion as opposing views are represented by Nadirah’s senior Farouk who sticks to fideism and her best friend, Maznah who appeals for humanism as she turns to them for advice. A Jungian would read into these two characters as manifestations of Nadirah’s competing consciousness (whether or not it was intended as such).

Even though the play was set in Singapore, it could not be more apt or timely for it to be staged in Malaysia as we grapple with the same questions.

The play represents the growing intellectual divide between fundamentalists and progressive Muslims that are claiming, or re-claiming, our public space.

However, what is interesting in the play was the age old confusion between race and religion (“If you are Malay, surely you are Muslim?”) and the insecurity faced by Malays both in Singapore and Malaysia.

Through these two lines, the play captured the same sentiments felt by the Malay-Muslim community.

In Singapore, Malays are the minority and in order to have a united front against the majority Chinese, they have to stick to what characterises them as such – being Muslims. The religion then becomes the identity marker.  

In Malaysia, however, the insecurity takes a slightly different form.

It is even more confusing for Malay Muslims whose identity is prescribed in the Constitution, further locking race and religion to one group of people.

It is not possible for someone who is born ethnically Malay to subscribe to any other religion or to denounce Islam altogether. Because if one who is Malay is no longer Muslim, then one is no longer Malay, or at least, that is the general sentiment.

And for a country where politics revolve around a “Malay majority”, this becomes a problem.

Nadirah’s conflict is nothing new; to seek a balance between Reason and Revelation and I believe that each one of us also goes through the same process whether internally or as we confide with our peers.

The topic may be civil marriage, but what underlines this is the willingness to talk about it.

To me, this is the strongest message of “Nadirah” – that it is a process but for the process to happen there must be some form of engagement and a space for discussions and arguments to flourish, whether the engagement is in the form of the arts, intellectual sphere or cerita kedai kopi.  

For some people, Maznah’s humanistic approach resonates deeply – either you hate her or you root for her.

For the former, how can anyone expect to take seriously the wisdom from someone who calls herself Malay-Muslim but dressed in minimal clothing and only dons the hijab after meeting a hot Turkish man?

For the latter, regardless of how she is portrayed, her views represent the growing hunger for pluralism and moderation in Malaysia.

Personally, even though I enjoyed Maznah’s feisty character, I did not quite agree with the decision to don her in a hijab at the end of the play just because I’m tired of how much we put emphasis on outward appearance for one’s wisdom to carry weight.

But that is my own bias; I can moan about Maznah’s representation but she does in fact, say what many of us wish to say and represents the views which many us share but may be hindered to voice out.

Maznah’s character is also important as she actively seeks knowledge and asks questions that further challenge Nadirah’s position.

The trade-off scene between Maznah and Nadirah is a most powerful one because it either strengthens your point of view or breaks it into pieces.

So, does love or faith prevails at the end?

For me, this question is redundant, for love is very much part of faith and they were never separated in the first place – they were never two different things.

But we are mostly caught up in the literal.

We emphasise on rules and regulations and disregard basic human qualities – to reason, to think, to love. We are quick to judge and condemn.  

As Maznah appeals to Nadirah’s reason, she asks: “How can you love God if you can’t love another human being?”


 Selangor Times



Also by Sharyn Shufiyan:

It’s all in the lyrics

WHEN you listen to a song, what is it about that song that would hold your attention for four minutes? 

Syncretism of cultural beliefs

WHEN different groups of people exist in the same environment, integration often takes place. 


The end of the world?

Pluralism is not a bad thing!

Last month, my partner and I checked out our friends’ ongoing community arts project, Have a Holy-Day! in Brickfields. Like first class busybodies, we hung around for about an hour or so and snapped some pictures as proof that we were there.

Response to the Responses of Suara Cicit Tunku Abdul Rahman

Sharyn Shufiyan takes a detour from talking about current affairs to talking about her current affair. 

The imaginary boundary

Work takes me to Sabah and Sarawak quite often lately, home to two of the longest rivers in Malaysia. 

The universality of fasting

It’s that time of the year again when Muslims test their patience, refrain from worldly desires, and increase their piety.

Displaced by development

Naked or nude?

What is the difference between being naked and being nude? Do they both mean the same thing, to be without clothes, to let it “all hang loose”?

Branding Politics

Raving about Rave

Rave isn’t really my scene but I will enjoy a good night out anytime.

A Thai in our midst

"It was way back in 1956, at a time when the then Malaya was on the verge of gaining independence that the idea of building a sizable Buddhist temple close to the federal capital of Kuala Lumpur was first conceived. The temple was also to reflect the status of Buddhism as one of the major religions in the country, and also serve as a symbol of the long standing close relationship that existed between Thailand and Malaya.”

Reaching new heights

Walking into the concourse of Batu Caves, one is greeted by majestic structures of Hindu deities, temples and swarms of pigeons flapping just inches above your head. Macaques blend into the landscape amongst worshippers and tourists, making their way up the 272 steps to the Temple Cave.

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Aren’t we all dirty minded?

Taking shelter from the rain, I walked into a Chinese coffee shop occupied by uncles playing mahjong. In small towns like Kuang, an outsider stands out like a sore thumb. At one point while I was on the phone, the uncles stopped playing and stared at me. “They thought you are a police,” said Uncle Chong, who came to sit next to me.

Picking on the right hemisphere

I’m the worst early riser, ever. But on that particular Saturday, I was actually looking forward to it. The plan was for us to gather in front of SK Sentul Utama. Walking up to the school, I could see the field marshals wearing cute tentacles on their heads, checking in other enthusiasts and assigning them into groups.

A play of lights

As we turned the corner, bright lights greeted us from a distance. With the dark of the night in the background, shades of red, blue, green and white burst into view. We were entering a neon forest.

Leaving and arriving: The non-place

A Caucasian couple with a toddler on tow walked out of the arrival hall. As the parents’ attention was focused on a row of men holding up name placards, the toddler, lying face down, dragged himself along the marble floor, as if licking it, then got up and mischievously scurried away.

Making use of the great outdoors

When I first heard of Broga, I thought it was in Spain or Latin America. It didn’t sound local to my ear. Located on the border of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, it is believed that Broga earned its name from Buragas, a mystical beast that lives in the forest.











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