Sunday, July 24, 2005

Nurture Our Hang Jebats
M. Bakri Musa
[An abridged version appeared in the Sun Weekend, July 23, 2005]

A culture cannot aspire for greatness if it treats its thinkers and intellectuals with callous disregard. In any other culture, a talent like Kassim Ahmad would be amply rewarded, his achievements widely acknowledged. Yet the best that Malaysia could offer her shining star was a high school teaching position. This was at a time when the number of Malays pursuing graduate work was miniscule. Kassim had taught at the School of Oritental and African Studies, London. Worse, he was once detained under the ISA for daring to espouse his political views.

I first came to know of Kassim Ahamd through his writings while in secondary school way back in the 1950s. His novel and radical interpretation of the Malay classic, Hikayat Hang Tuah, shook the way I – and Malays generally – looked at our traditions and culture.

The traditional thinking was that the hero was Hang Tuah, hence the title. He personified the ideals of a Malay hero, someone loyal to the sultan. Even his name portends great things. Tuah means exceptional, a worthy name for a hero. His protagonist, Hang Jebat, was the traitor who dared challenge the sultan. Even his name rhymes with jahat (rascal), an apt name for a purported villain.

Then came Kassim’s Perwatakan Hikayat Hang Tuah. (The Characters in Hang Tuah). It would have remained an obscure academic exercise except for the fact that Dewan Bahasa was desperate to publish works in Malay. It had to resort to publishing student’s theses!

Kassim frontally challenged the orthodox Malay thinking on authority, and royalty in particular. According to Kassim, the real hero is not Hang Tuah, rather the hitherto presumed renegade, Hang Jebat. To Kassim, Tuah is the typical palace sycophant who willingly sells his body and soul to the sultan, a loyalty conveniently reinforced by whatever largesse the sultan could bestow.

Jebat is the rugged individualist, not awed by those who wield power. His loyalty is to institutions, not individuals. To Kassim, Jebat is the true hero, not the prodigal son Tuah.

It is a conflict of commitment to principles and institutions represented by Jebat, versus personal loyalty as presented by Tuah. It is this universal conflict, concretized in the setting of a traditional feudal society, that makes Hikayat Hang Tuah such a powerful and enduring piece of literature.

The impact of Kassim's Perwatakan is such that a generation later, when the journalist Rehman Rashid was interrogated by the police for possible detention under the Internal Security Act, they demanded to know from him who the real hero was, Hang Tuah or Hang Jebat. Rehman shrewdly replied, "HangTuah!" which may have accounted for his release!

Kassim’s Perwatakan is one of my most valued possessions, its frayed edges and yellowed pages notwithstanding. I wish somebody would reissue it using modern spelling and syntax, and then distribute it to schools and libraries. If enough Malays read it, it might very well revolutionize our society.

Recently in a social gathering attended by a number of bright young Malay students studying in Ameirca, I inquired whether they had heard of Kassim Ahmad. None had, although they all had read Hikayat Hang Tuah. When I discussed Kassim’s radical character analysis, they were all stunned. Over half a century later, Kassim is still prying open bright young Malay minds and sparking their intellect.

The account of his incarceration, Universiti Kedua (Second University), makes painful reading. A poignant passage describes the guards, under the guise of friendship, taking away for “safekeeping” Kassim’s painfully written manuscript for a new novel. They then proceeded to destroy it in front of his eyes. Such cruelty! The spite of the guards was exceeded only by their ignorance. At a time when published works in Malay literature were sparse, this was an unbelievable act of utter stupidity, if not a crime against our culture.

When reading Universiti Kedua, I could hardly contain my rage against the authorities for their cruelty to this man. I felt great sorrow for Kassim, but far greater sorrow for my own race. A culture that treats its intellectuals with such cruelty cannot aspire for greatness.

The Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer suffered through the same humiliation while in prison, but he was unfazed. He committed his novel to memory by retelling it repeatedly to his fellow inmates. When freed, he quickly published his Pulau Buru quartet, as well as his memoirs, Nyanyian Sunyi Seorang Bisu (The Mute’s Soliloquy) to international acclaim. Kassim however, never quite recovered, and the world of Malay literature lost forever Zaman Pencaroba (Era of Crisis).

Kassim’s ability to shake the collective Malay psyche remains undiminished. In 1986, he released his Hadis: Satu Penilian Semula (Hadith: A Reevaluation). I asked my parents to get me a copy right away. True to form, before he could get my copy, the authorities banned the book! Fortunately, an English translation soon became readily available.

My parents warned me about Kassim, and his supposed anti-hadith stand. Later on my vist home, I apprised my parents of what Kassim wrote. To my surprise, they agreed with Kassim! I wonder how many Malays (includinghte censors) who accused Kassimof being anti-hadith have actually read his book.

A few brave souls saw fit to honor Kassim. Universiti Kebangsaan conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Letters. A courageous editor praised Kassim as Intellektual Melayu Terakhir (The Last Malay Intellectual), a tribute to him but a sad commentary on Malay society.

Rustam Sani, then Profesor of Sociology at the university, gave a very generous and heartfelt public oration for the occasion. As expected, Rustam did not last long with the university.

Kassim is still writing, the Hang Jebat in him still raging. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, Kassim essays can now be widely distributed (www.kassimahmad.blogspot.com), totally bypassing the Hang Tuahs in the editorial suites.

3 comments:

abangtanjong said...

Assalamualaikum Pak Kassim.
Semoga berada dalam kandungan sihat walafiat.
Saya kenal Pak Kassim semasa hidup di Pulau Pinang dahulu. Kini berhijrah ke ibunegara memulakan hidup baru.
Saya peminat Sastera dan Sejarah Melayu.
Apa kata Pak Kassim mengabadikan Hikayat Hang Tuah didalam bentuk digital dan kekalkan nya didalam laman web dunia untuk diwarisi oleh anak bangsa Melyu yng semakin lupa dengan khazanah sastera sendiri?
Kita nak kejar dunia tak lama mana pun. Kekadang dah lumrah, seseorang penggiat seni dan sastera seperti tuan hanya akn dikenang setelah tuan tiada lagi dimuka bumi ini dan barulah mereka akan sibuk menghargai segala usaha tuan demi bangsa dan nusa.
Inilah hakikatnya.

eddeved said...

Assalamualikum Pakcik, saya hormati pandangan penulis tentang pakcik, tetapi saya ingin melihat dari satu sudut yang amat berbeza, saya lihat Hang Tuah adalah seorang yang amat kuat keimanannya. Dia adalah satu contoh manusia yang "arif billah". Dia tidak takut dengan tuduhan dan fitnah sebaliknya membenarkan dirinya dihukum bunuh, walaupun demikian, dalam kisah teladan ini kita lihat pertolongan ALLAH berlaku melalui seorang manusia bernama Bendahara Tun Perak (mungkin saya silap, kalau silap mintak maaf).
Saya tidak nafikan kebenaran Jebat sebagai hero...tetapi adakalanya kita perlu menjadi Tuah.

IZHAM NAYAN said...

SIAPA KATA HANG JEBAT MATI DIBUNUH SAUDARANYA HANG TUAH?

Manakan bisa dua saudara pahlawan satria yang telah mengaku saudara, berbunuhan sesama sendiri? Saudara yang sedari kecil melawan lanun-lanun Siam yang mengganas di utara negeri Kedah. Saudara yang menjadi anak angkat Sultan Kedah yang kemudiannya di utuskan membantu Sultan Melaka yang akhirnya dilantik menjadi Laksamana Melaka. Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat Hang Lekir, Hang Lekiu, Hang Kasturi, hangpa semua p tolong raja Melaka. Depa ada masalah penyamun. (“hang” ertinya kamu). Sekarang nama Lekir, Lekiu merupakan nama tempat di Kedah.

Seandainya dua manusia yang saling bermusuhan sekalipun, jika di kurung dalam sebuah rumah selama 7 hari 7 malam akan berbaik2 semula. Inikan pula saudara sesumpah.

Manakan boleh diterima akal mereka bertarung 7 hari 7 malam tanpa henti?

Ketika pertelingkahan, para talibarut dan kroni sultan dan Patih Gajahmada asyik mengendap untuk menyaksikan perlawanan tersebut. Tuah dan Jebat selalu berhenti sebentar untuk mencari akal. Perlawanan tersebut lebih kepada berlatih, maklumlah dah lama mereka tidak melakukannya.

Manakan mungkin Jebat melepaskan Taming Sari yang keramat itu hingga tercacak ke lelangit bumbung? Melainkan ianya secara sengaja.

Akhirnya Jebat mencederakan jari kelingkingnya dengan keris sultan yang dibawa Tuah di dalam gulungan langsir dan Tuah berpura menyerang dengan Taming Sari yang telah bertukar tangan. Taming sari amat berbisa dan tidak wajar Jebat menggunakan keris tersebut untuk melukai jarinya, melainkan ia mesti bertukar tangan dengan Tuah. Jebat memekup perutnya dengan tangan kiri yang berlumuran darah dan mengikat dan merenjiskan darah tersebut di kain itu.

Dengan itu bolehlah jebat mengamuk 7 hari 7 malam membunuh hanya para kroni dan penderhaka kepada Tuah. Manakan wajar setelah ditikam dengan Tamingsari masih boleh mengamuk selama itu? Melainkan bukan tamingsari yang digunakan sebaliknya keris milik sultan Melaka dan luka hanya jari kelinking sahaja bagi menyimbah darah ke perut Jebat. Setelah habis mengamuk Jebat di katakan mati di rumah Tuah.

Namun tidak seorangpun dibenarkan melihat jenazah Jebat. Tuah memandikan dan menyembahyangkannya sendiri. Tuah dan Jebat ghaib selepas itu tinggal bersama guru mereka Adi Putra dan selepas itu merantau hingga ke Petani membuka persantren di sana. Dengan identiti baru mereka berjaya melahirkan ramai pahlawan-pahlawan Melayu yang hebat dan terkenal memerangi penjajah.

Semua ahli keluarga mereka pulang ke Kedah dan tinggal di Pulau Melaka Langkawi. Dikatakan, Mahsuri adalah dari salur galur Hang Tuah. Mereka membawa bersama resepi makanan tradisi dan menamakannya sempena negeri Melaka. Umpamanya cabai melaka kerana orang melaka suka makan pedas, buah melaka, gula melaka dan lain2 lagi.

Air dicincang tidak akan putus. Sesukar mana pun situasi yang dihadapi, pasti ada muslihat bagi menyelesaikannya. Istana mahukan Jebat dibunuh maka, Tuah membunuh nama Jebat. Perkara ini perlu dilakukan agar titah raja tetap keramat. Yang mati adalah nama Jebat, bukan semangatnya. Tuah terkenal dengan kebijaksanaannya dan dia telah berjaya menghadapi ujian paling hebat dalam hidupnya bila dititah membunuh saudaranya sendiri. Jalan penyelesaian yang dilakukan Hang Tuah mencerminkan kehebatan Melayu dalam persada kematangan ilmuan selain kehebatan persilatan. Silat bukan sahaja mementingkan kecerdasan tubuh fizikal malah mementingkan kebijaksanaan akal dan emosi.

“Tidakkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia”

Wallahualam..
IZHAM NAYAN

http://izhamnayan.blog.friendster.com/siapa-kata-hang-jebat-mati-dibunuh-saudaranya-hang-tuah/