Join Date: Mar 2017
Re: To bow or not to bow
Dear fellow Aikidokas,
Sorry for reviving this old post since i'm facing a close situation now,
one of my colleagues wants to join our Dojo, and he's somewhat a religious guy, (PS we are both muslims but each one has his own views, i consider my self more like a liberal muslim, with my own understandings, interpretations and points of view)
He has both issues, bowing, and practicing with girls, i explained to him what is the bow and prostration that we do in our dojo, and that it's just a japanese greeting and a respect, so it's not a big issue, and that we practice with girls and treat them just like any other boy, we're not there to harass or whatsoever, it's just pure practice with another fellow human being.
now to explain a little bit, i've been like him before i got involved into more searching and reconsidering few years ago so i understand his point of view, and i would like to share it with you all somehow.
bowing and prostration in islam are both basic parts of the daily prayer, muslims (well not most of them, but large numbers at least) pray five times these prayers consist of reading parts of the holy book (quran), bowing and saying few praising words to God, then prostrating and saying another set of praising words to God (we call him Allah which is equivalent to the God, in signification that he is the only one).
so basically those two acts are restricted to prayers, so the majority of the scholars consider that it is not allowed to bow or prostrate to any creature, and restrict it to God.
thus i understand the reaction of any muslim considering this issue, because apparently it contradicts his basic dogma.
considering the gender issues, why some muslim men refuse to practice with women, it's not refusing them totally, but they avoid the touching part, so their presence is not an issue (some religious sects do refuse their presence, in order to avoid any contact between the two genders, in order to avoid any unnecessary outcome, this issue is a great debate between sects, schools, scholars and face serious arguments that defy this understanding and consider it a wrong interpretation), so the issue is the physical contact between the two genders, and it's not a matter of discrimination or degeneration to women, but it is based on ( what i also consider a misinterpretation) one of the prophet's sayings which says that it's better for a man to be stabbed in the head, rather than touching a woman that is not his wife, so some scholars understood that this should cut any physical contact between women and men, while what i understand is a call to chastity, and loyalty between married men and women in it's core, so shaking hands or practicing as physical acts depend on the intentions, a compliment could become a harassment if the intention is bad as far as i know.
Anyhow, few years ago I was working in Saudi Arabia,and our Dojo was run by muslim senseis from the Philippines which where affiliated with Aikikai, and they were allowed from the main organisation to spare the bow and prostration, even when they went to Japan to attend some major seminars, they stick to their beliefs.
on the other hand our sensei was very strict considering the respect issues, he insisted that we greet each other and give respect from our hearts to our fellows, we used to exchange hand shakes or hugs and say a sincere thank you, which he considered a true core of the Aikido and islamic teachings which don't contradict.
So the basic issue here (which we face as liberal muslims also considering our own religious issues)
is do we stick to the apparent teaching? or do we dig deep into the core and understand the purpose of it?
PS: my Sensei said that he would tolerate him not bowing and he understands that it's a religious commitment, but he can at least nod and take a half bow with us so we could all meet at the middle somewhere.