HALIM used to join his friends once, and when possible, twice a week to practise his yoga. This was usually done early morning before he starts work in a Government office. He enjoyed what he was doing, and he made new friends along the way.
But after the practice of yoga in its purest and comprehensive form has been ruled haram by the National Fatwa Council over the weekend, Halim may stop doing the exercise altogether. His yoga mat may gather dust or he might just give it to someone else.
Generally, Muslims will follow that ruling. But Halim and many others like him would tell you that he wasn't into the mantra-chanting which accompanies pure yoga like those practised by Hindu yoga masters.
Th ruling has been widely reported by the media. But what is not adequately highlighted is the fact that Muslims who may want to keep exercising yoga may do so minus the mantras and chantings.
Halim may not have come to the stage where he could do headstand. With this fatwa, Halim may stop practising altogether. I'm sure Halim, like other Muslims who's into yoga, must be asking many questions after the council issued the fatwa.
From my personal observation, Muslims would generally adhere to the fatwa. They may not be doing any of the chanting or reciting the mantras when they were practicing. But the fact that a fatwa on this has been issued, people like Halim would just stop and move on to other forms of exercise.
But what about those who's been into yoga and have become yoga masters themselves? Would they have to "repent" if indeed their 'aqidah' (belief) have been affected? Would there be a dialogue with the council where Muslim yoga practitioners can ask questions and have their fears soothed or confirmed?
In a situation like this, I'm sure many would have preferred the council to accompany its ruling with some specific examples of the YES and NO of yoga. When there's none, the ruling would be subjected to interpretations which may lead to confusion and misunderstanding.
The easiest would be to stop altogether. But some die-hard students may want to continue, and they want to have a fuller understanding of what they can and cannot do, lest they run foul of the fatwa and find themselves emotionally and mentally troubled.
More than that, they may come to the conclusion that Islam is so restrictive and narrow. This, in the larger context of the faith as a way of life, may be unattractive and deters others from joining the faith.