This morning the whole Mudpie family went for subuh prayer at our neighbourhood mosque, Masjid Darul Gufran at Tampines.
The imam was a young man, a graduate from the Natuonal University of Malaysia, and alumni of Madrasah Aljunied here. I know him because he did a stint of internship at my office a few years ago whilst still in university.
He gave the customary kuliah subuh (dawn talk) that mosques have on Sundays, and it was on how he read in the Readers' Digest about the health benefits of rising early, and also about how we should be wary of our words. He quoted Imam al-Gazzali who said that words can be sharper than swords. He cautioned us not to be carried away with speech trends, that just because some young people nowadays are freely using certain expressions today, we must remember that we are in an Asian setting, where language is not merely meant for function, but indicates a person's character as well.
He recounted how when he went to Malaysia, some of his colleagues chided him for using "aku" ("I") and "kau" ("you"), even though these pronouns are commonly used here and now. He was advised that these terms were disrespectful and used to insult the other person.
How interesting. I was always taught not to use those terms as they are rude. I felt some discomfort when I read a short novel in the Malay newspaper which used these terms. I guess their use has become prevalent her nowadays because our people think first in English and translate into Malay, so "I" becomes "aku" and "you" becomes "awak".
Also, I remember when I was a child people always referred to Rasulullah s.a.w. as "Baginda" ("His Majesty") and never as "Rasulullah" or "Nabi". In Malay, certain words are used for royalty only, and these can be used to Rasulullah. Some words are reserved only for Him, such as we are never supposed to use the word "mati" for His death, but "wafat" instead; and not "kata" for "said", but "sabda".
As you must have noticed, I have decided to use a capital letter to start to refer to Him. I guess this is the least I could do.