Saturday, July 30, 2005
DAN YAB PERDANA MENTERI MALAYSIA
Saya mengambil kesempatan untuk menulis Memorandum ini kepada Datuk Seri kerana, selaku seorang rakyat Malaysia yang taat dan prihatin, saya amat bimbang tentang masa depan bangsa kita. Saya bimbang kerana perkara-perkara yang nyata kepada kebanyakan rakyat kita dalam masa dua tiga dekad yang lalu. Dunia kita bertambah canggih, manusia bertambah maju, tetapi moral dan jiwa manusia bertambah merosot. Tidak ada keselamatan dari bahaya dan ancaman perang, termasuk perang nuklier; tidak ada keselamatan dari ancaman bahaya dalam masyarakat kita sendiri; dan tidak ada jaminan bagi masa depan kita dan anak-cucu kita.
Saya tidak memegang apa-apa jawatan besar atau yang berpengaruh dalam negara kita. Hanya kebimbangan saya dan kecintaan saya kepada bangsa dan tanahair, kepada anak-cucu kita dan kepada manusia seluruhnya yang mendorong saya menulis Memorandum ini kepada Datuk Seri moga-moga Datuk Seri dan pimpinan negara kita boleh mengambil tindakan-tindakan yang sesuai untuk menghalang dan mengatasi bencana besar yang menunggu. Sebenarnya, banyak bencana telah menimpa kita dalam masa setengah abad ini, tetapi bencana yang lebih besar mungkin datang. Jika manusia mahu meneruskan kehidupnnya, mereka mesti mengatasi bencana besar ini.
Niat untuk Membuat Perubahan
Dari kata-kata dan ucapan-ucapan Datuk Seri, Datuk Seri mahukan kebaikan yang terbaik untuk negara dan bangsa kita. Ini satu pertanda yang baik. Kita mahukan perubahan dalam sistem hidup kita dari sistem liberal yang bobrok, yang sedang runtuh yang kita warisi dari penjajahan Eropah, kepada sistem “jalan yang lurus” Islam. Ini bukan tugas yang mudah, tetapi kita mesti cari jalan itu sehingga dapat, kerana di situlah terletak kejayaan, yang dijamin oleh Tuhan Sendiri.
Syarat perubahan yang pertama ialah keinginan bangsa kita sendiri untuk berubah. Jentera perubahan kita ialah UMNO. Dengan 3.2 juta anggota, UMNO suatu potensi yang besar. Seperempat dari bilangan itu saja, apalagi semua, boleh memimpin dan menggerakan perubahan nasional yang kita perlukan. Malangnya, semangat perjuangan kebangsaan UMNO hari ini sudah jauh merosost dibanding dengan semangat perjuangan UMNO pada tahun-tahun awal, dekad-dekad 40-an, 50-an dan 60-an. Semangat perjuangan ini mesti dipulihkan balik melalui suatu dasar dan program pemulihan parti (3-5 tahun). UMNO yang dipulihkan seperti itu (tentunya dengan tafsiran ‘kebangsaan’ yang selaras dengan Islam dan selaran dengan internasionalisme) itu akan dapat melaksanakan revolusi mental orang Melayu yang boleh melayakkan mereka hidup berjaya dalam dunia moden abad ke-21 ini. UMNO seperti itu mesti memainkan peranan pimpinan dan pejuang orang Melayu, malah orang Malaysia, dalam semua bidang kehidupan: politik, ekonomi, sosial, intelektual, moral dan spiritual.
Matlamat Perjuangan Bangsa Sekarang
Tidak syak lagi, dalam UMNO sendiri sudah muncul unsur-unsur negatif yang akan menghalang perjuangan kebangsaan yang baru ini. Mereka berselindung di sebalik nama kebangsaan, tetapi sebenarnya mereka oporcunis dan agen kaum imperialis dalam badan politik kita sendiri. Namun demikian, selagi UMNO berpegang teguh kepada falsafah kebangsaan yang progresif-humanis ini, ia akan dapat meminggirkan dan mengatasi golongan-golongan musuh dalam selimut ini.
Sebelum kita mencapai kemerdekaan, matlamat perjuangan UMNO dan orang Melayu ialah kemerdekaan. Setelah itu, matlamat kita ialah mengsisi kemerdekaan itu, atau pembangunan bangsa dari semua segi. Tepai kita harus waspada terhadap istilah ‘pembangunan bangsa’, kerana kita boleh membangunkan 20 orang Melayu atau 20 rakyat Malaysia dan mendakwa kita telah membangunkan bangsa, sedangkan 80 orang lagi rakyat kita tercicir. Matlamat kebangsaan kita mestilah juga membangunkan sebuah ekonomi dan sebuah masyarakat yang adil. Untuk mencapai matlamat ini, kita perlukan sebuah falsafah dan sebuah sistem sosio-ekonomi yang baru, yang boleh menjaminkan pencapaian matlamat ini, yang kita sebut (dengan meminjam istilah Quran) ‘jalan yang lurus’.
Senarai Masalah Besar
Benarkan saya menyenaraikan penyakit-penyakit besar yang sedang kita hadapi dan yang harus kita ubati:- (a) Ketiadaan falsafah hidup “jalan yang lurus” untuk menggantikan liberalisme Inggeris-Belanda yang kita anuti dan yang sedang runtuh, (b) Kemerosotan semangat perjuangan dalam UMNO dan parti-parti lain dalam B.N., (c) korapsi dalam masyarakat, khasnya dalam Kerajaan dan UMNO, (d) keruntuhan moral dalam masyarakat, dan (e) penagihan dadah.
Di antara lima penyakit besar ini, penyakit-penyakit (a) dan (b), kalau dapat kita ubati, penyakit-penyakit lain akan mudah kita ubati. Sebaliknya, jika kita tidak atasi penyakit-penyakit (a) dan (b), sampai bila-bila kita tidak akan boleh mengubati penyakit-penyakit lain. Oleh yang demikian, penting sekali kita tumpu segala tenaga kita kepada masalah-masalah (a) dan (b).
Islam memerintah kita supaya berunding untuk menyelesaikan semua masalah. Kaedah perundingan dalam mentadbirkan parti, kerajaan dan masyarakat amatlah penting kita amalkan. Konsep demokrasi Barat tidaklah demokratik, seperti yang didakwa. Ia memihak kepada suatu golongan elit kecil yang kaya, membawa perpecahan dalam masyarakat: kepada perpecahan Parti Kerajaan dan Parti Pembangkang; dan kepada puak-puak dengan kepentingan masing-masing. Contoh bagaimana media Barat dikuasi oleh segelintir kaum oligarki yang mendakyahkan ideologi mereka serta menguasai pemikiran rakyat sangat baik untuk menjadi pelajaran kepada kita bagaimana demokrasi diperalatkan oleh kaum oligarki. Yang harus kita amalkan bukan demokrasi, tetapi perundingan, kerana perundiangn kaedah yang paling baik untuk menyelesaian semua masalah.
Adakah UMNO dan Kerajaan melaksanakan kaedah perundingan untuk menggubal dan melaksanakan dasar? Perundingan bermakna proses membincang sesuatu masalah secara mendalam dari segala segi di semua peringkat sehingga mencapai muafakat, dan setelah mencapai muafakat dan dijadikan dasar, dilaksanakan dengan tegas. Jika kaedah perundingan ini diamalkan, kita mesti mencapai kejayaan, kerana keputusan itu dibuat oleh rakyat dan pasti akan dilaksanakan oleh rakyat dengan penuh minat dan semangat. Banyak dasar dan program Kerajaan gagal atau kurang berjaya, kerana tidak mengamalkan kaedah perundingan dan tidak dipersetujui oleh rakyat.
Satu kaedah perundingan yang baik ialah melalui perbincangan dan perbahasan dalam media cetak dan elektronik. Kebebasan harus diberi kepada media untuk masyarakat mengadakan perbincangan dan perbahasan yang sihat untuk mencari muafakat dalam semua perkara bagi kebaikan bangsa dan negara.
Falsafah Hidup “Jalan Yang Lurus”
Kita perlukan bimbingan dalam kehidupan kita. Demikian juga kita perlukan bimbingan dalam kehidupan bermasyarakat: kehidupan politik, ekonomi dan sosial. Sebagai orang Islam, kita tahu bimbingan yang terbaik terdapat dalam kita suci Tuhan yang terakhir, iaitu Quran. Dalam abad ke-20 manusia berpandu kepada tiga buah kitab, iaitu (i) kitab Liberal (Eropah Barat dan Amerika Syarikat), (ii) kitab Komunis (Rusia, China dan Eropah Timur) dan (iii) kitab Teologi/Paus/Ulama (Eropah dalam Zaman Pertengahan dan Iran di bawah pimpinan Ulama) Ketiga-tiga sistem pemerintahan ini telah gagal dan runtuh. Ini semua kerana ketiga-tiga sistem ini menyeleweng dari “jalan yang lurus”. Sebab itu sekarang, pada saat dunia berada dalam krisis sistem yang tenat, kita mesti mencarai “jalan yang lurus” ini.
Jalan yang lurus ini ialah jalan yang paling baik untuk kita mencari kebaikan di dunia dan akhirat. Ia mengajar konsep kesatuan kehidupan. Tidak ada pemisahan mutlak antara kehidupan dunia dan akhirat. Dunia perlu kepada kita sebagai tempat kita mendapat benda dan akhirat perlu kepada kita untuk meningkatkan dunia benda kepada dunia moral dan spiritual. Sebagai khalifah di dunia dan sebagai orang mukmin, kita perlu memerintahkan kebaikan dan melarang kejahatan supaya kita boleh membangunkan sebuah dunia yang lebih adil dan lebih baik dari dunia yang kita warisi dari nenek-moyang kita. Dari Quran kita boleh mendapat petunjuk untuk melaksanakan kehidupan politik, ekonomi dan sosial kita. Sistem Komunis telah gagal kerana ia menafikan kreativiti dan tanggungjawab individu. Sistem Liberal telah gagal kerana ia menafikan tanggungjawab masyarakat terhadap individu. Sistem Teologi pula gagal kerana ia menafikan hak dan tanggungjawab manusia terhadap kehidupannya. Islam, seperti yang diajar dalam Quran, saja yang mengambil-kira pelbagai aspek dalam kehidupan manusia serta menggabungkan aspek-aspek ini dalam satu gabungan yang harmonis untuk membangukan sebuah dunia yang baik.
Kejayaan Islam Yang Awal
Kegagalan umat Islam setelah Zaman Kebangkitannya pada peringkat awal ialah kerana Islam diambil-alih oleh suatu kasta paderi yang mendakwa merekalah penjaga dan pentafsir agama. Dari titik ini Islam bertukar dari sebuah agama yang dinamik dan progresif kepada sebuah agama yang beku dan kolot, terasing dari dunia moden. Oleh sebab itulah timbul gerakan-gerakan islah untuk mengembalikan zaman kegemilangan Islam. Kegagalan gerakan-gerakan ini ialah kerana mereka tidak teguh kembali memegang ajaran Quran.
Falsafah sosial berdasarkan ajaran Quran perlu kita bangunkan untuk memimpin Kerajaan dan masyarakat kita membangunkan sebuah Malaysia yang benar-benar berjaya, yang boleh memberi sumbangan kepada tamadun dunia yang baru yang sedang dibangunkan.
Semangat Perjuangan UMNO Perlu Dipulihkan Semula
Jentera yang memimpin bangsa kita ialah parti, kerana parti dianggotai oleh rakyat secara sukarela untuk memperjuangkan cita-cita bangsa. Anggota parti bukan saja mendukung cita-cita bangsa, tetapi mestilah diajar dan dididik dengan falsafah parti dan falsafah kebangsaan. Tidak harus ada sifat tamak atau kepentingan diri semata-mata pada anggota-anggota parti. Mereka mesti berjuang dengan jiwa-raga mereka untuk membangunkan tamadun Malaysia baru seiring dengan pembangunan tamadun dunia baru dan, dengan demikian, mereka juga membangunkan kehidupan diri dan keluarga mereka masing-masing.
Oleh kerana semangat materislisme sudah menular ke dalam dada anggota-anggota parti dalam masa tiga puluh tahun yang lalu, maka semangat perjuangan bangsa sudah banyak luntur. Keadaan ini harus diubah dengan segera.
Tuhan telah berjanji dalam Quran bahawa sepuluh orang mukmin boleh melawan dua puluh orang kafir, malah, ada kalanya, sepuluh orang mukmin boleh mengalahkan setarus orang kafir. Ini kerana orang mukmin mempunyai semangat perjuangan yang tinggi dan perjuangan mereka berada di jalan kebenaran. Tetapi pada hari ini umat Islam sudah kehilangan pedoman mereka dan ideologi materialis sudah menenggelamkan mereka dalam kancah rasuah dan kelumpuhan.
Membanteras Korapsi dan Rasuah dalam Masyarakat
Perkhidmatan terhadap orang ramai baik dalam perkhidmatan awam mahupun dalam swasta merosost kerana rasuah. Umpamanya, pernah terdengar sungutan orang ramai yang hendak membuat pinjaman bank bahawa lebih mudah mendapat pinjaman dari Along (lintah darat) daripada dari bank! Kita mempunyai sebuah perkhidmatan awam yang besar – 800,000 kakitangan – yang menelan belanja yang besar, tetapi mutu perkhidmatan ini, oleh kerana unsur korapsi dan rasuah, tidak setanding dengan bilangan kakitangan itu.
Mesti ada suatu kaedah untuk kita mewujudkan sebuah perkhidmatan awam yang bersih dan cekap tanpa rasuah. Kaedah ini tidak dapat tidak mesti terdiri dari dua aspek: aspek pemupukan etika kerja yang baik dan aspek pemantauan dan pengawalan terhadapnya oleh masyarakat supaya seorang kakitangan bukan saja menolak rasuah dari segi mentalnya, tetapi ia juga menolak rasuah kerana sistem pemantauan dan pengawalan akan menghukumnya jika ia melakukan rasuah.
Negara kita mempunyai sumber-sumber kekayaan yang banyak dan yang boleh menampung suatu tahap kehidupan yang cukup baik bagi dua puluh empat juga rakyat kita. Tetapi kita mestilah mengembangkan sumber-sumber ini serta menggunakannya dengan cara yang paling baik. Gembelingkan tenaga rakyat kita dan tenaga bijak-pandai kita untuk mencari kebaikan kita di dunia dan akhirat. Walaupun kerja ini berat dan halangan yang kita hadapi banyak, kita mesti melakukan kerja ini. Ini tanggungjawab kita kepada Tuhan, kepada bangsa kita dan kepada anak-cucu kita. Jika kita melakukannya dengan tekun, berani dan jujur, Tuhan pasti menolong kita. Jika kita gagal melakukannnya, kita akan jatuh ke dalam suatu Zaman Gelap yang lama dan dahsyat.
Saya harap Datuk Seri akan memberi pertimbangan yang berat kepada apa yang saya nyatakan dalam Memorandun ini. Saya percaya rakyat dan cerdik-pandai kita yang jujur dan prihatin senantiasa berdoa dan memberi sokongan kuat kepada Datuk Seri dan dan rakan-rakan Datuk Seri dalam pimpinan parti dan Kerajaan untuk membangunkan Malaysia menjadi sebuah negara yang maju, aman, makmur dan bahagia untuk rakyat Malaysia dan untuk masyarakat sedunia.
31 Mac, 2005.
Nota: Memo ini telah diserah dengan tangan kepada beliau pada 7 Mei, 2005 di pejabat beliau di Putrajaya. – K.A.
 Selogan “Kembali kepada Quran” tidak bermakna kita menolak Hadis. Ia bermakna kita menjadikan Quran bimbingan yang utama; ajaran-ajaran lain, termasuk Hadis, ajaran-ajaran kedua yang kita terima selagi mereka tidak bercanggah dengan ajaran Quran.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
THE CHICAGO DECLARATION: TOWARDS A GLOBAL ETHICS
Five hundred years ago, the European colonization of the non-European world started the process of unification and modernization of the entire world. Towards its end, as the independent modern nations are going through the end-phase of that process – now known as globalization – it is appropriate that humanity should think about bringing a universal code of conduct as well as ethic to regulate the behavior of our human family as we step into the Twenty First Century and Third Millennium. In this sense, the Chicago Declaration is welcomed.
Such a code of conduct should draw its inspiration from and be based on the fundamental and universal teachings of the great religions and moral systems. This is acknowledged in the Declaration. The core of these spiritual and moral teachings is the belief in the existence of One Supreme Power upholding Love, Beneficence, Goodness, Harmony, Truth and Justice in man’s affairs throughout the universe. That is the only source of a universal ethics. It is from this source that we derive the principles of universal obedience to this power, and of equality of all humankind. Religion, color, race and nationality do not distinguish us. We differ only in the degree of our obedience and service to God, this power of Love, Beneficence and Goodness. Unfortunately, this first point is missing in the Declaration; it should be included.
As the Declaration states, humankind is going through a great crisis. This crisis covers all aspects of our life: economic, political, ideological and philosophical. However, the Declaration shies away from making a concrete analysis of the causes of this crisis. This is a weakness of the document; it should be rectified.
The crisis is not due to any inherent weakness of humans. The Muslim scripture states that God has created man in the best of moulds. The crisis arises from man’s disobedience to the universal laws created by this Universal Power. Throughout history there was always a group of people, always a very small minority to be sure – the oligarchs – who acted in defiance of God’s laws to serve their selfish interests. They succeeded in influencing the majority to follow them. This created the crisis. Throughout history, without exception, such crises brought about the end of the system or regime, and a new one comes into being. The cave men gave way to the tribal nomadic tribes, later to the agricultural feudal system, and on to the present industrial system. The central planning, communist industrial system had vanished before our eyes. The capitalist industrial system is fast collapsing. A new universal system is arising. To guide and regulate this system, a universal ethic is necessary.
To break the sometime meaningless cycles of rise and fall of one evil regime to be replaced by another equally evil system, the masses must be made aware of and be committed to the truth. To its credit, the Declaration emphasizes this point. This is the basic guarantee for continuous human progress for progress can only be possible only if we adhere to the truth. This is a question of science and the study of the universal laws of truth.
A universal ethic does not mean one law and one culture for every country and nation. The desire of any superpower to impose its laws and way of life on others is nothing more than a manifestation of racism and imperialism. A universal ethic is not contrary to multiplicity of laws and cultures. Indeed multiplicity of laws and cultures can exist side by side within the framework of a universal ethic. This is because each society has its own peculiar history that shapes its laws and culture. It is not just the question of one nation tolerating another. It is the basic matter of respecting each individual culture and society.
The creation of a just economic order, which the Declaration mentions as one of its principles, is very important. It is only in such an environment that each individual, family and nation can live in dignity and freedom, and at the same time can progress and advance. The present widespread starvation, poverty and diseases is precisely due to an oppressive economic system that has for long been imposed on the people by the international oligarchy and its national allies.
Much as we like to live in peace, it is always has to be snatched away from the jaws of war-like tyrants. As long as tyrants (be they individuals or groups) exist, wars cannot be avoided. Indeed, it is the right and duty of individuals and nations to resist tyranny and oppression. True peace is possible only when oppression ceases. It is wrong and unpractical to stipulate, as this Document does, the principle of non-violence. It is the right of the people to resist tyranny and injustice.
Human progress depends on science and technology. There is a reactive trend of blaming science and technology for the evils of the 20th century. This is erroneous. Without being drawn into the controversy between the subjective and objective in epistemology, science and technology are both knowledge and techniques to bring nature and the universe to man’s purpose. There is no contradiction between religion and science or between religion and philosophy. During the Middle Ages the two had warred against each other, but the present trend is for the two to synchronize with one another. The Declaration does not mention science and technology as important components of human life now and in the future. This weakness needs correction. A truly universal ethic should rightly accommodate science and technology.
The last point is the influence of the post-industrial ideology of environmentalism in this Document. The Muslim scripture tells us that the whole universe was created to serve humankind. To build a civilization, we must cut down forests and “destroy” some parts of the natural environment. We do that to build cities, towns, factories, universities and parliaments. This is inevitable, though we must be concerned with esthetics. This is a matter of planning, but to make an ideology of not “destroying” the environment is to carry the matter to ridiculous extremes. That would only serve the purposes of the neo-colonial oligarchy that conspires to stop the development of the Third World and the progress of humankind.
25 November, 1997.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
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.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Part III: The Way Ahead
(Last of Three Parts)
I shall now consider the last question, the areas of contemporary ijtihad. Let me break it into two principal categories: the theoretical and the practical. In spite of al-Ghazzali’s famous refutation of philosophy in the 12th century, the Muslim world, in spite of going through a period of decadence after the fall of Baghdad, did not lack for philosophers and thinkers in the rationalist tradition of the Mu’tazilites. We had the 14th century Arab historical philosopher Ibn Khaldun with his incomparable Muqaddimah, ironically made known to us only recently by a European scholar. Then there was the profound works of the 17th century Iranian philosopher, Mulla Sadra, the 18th century highly modern Indian thinker, Shah Waliullah, the widely-traveled modern political thinker, Jamaluddin al-Afghani, that of his equally famous Egyptian disciple and social reformer Muhammad Abduh, and the important works of the Indian poet-philosopher, Muhammad Iqbal. Then there are the contemporary invigorating lectures of the Iranian thinker, Ali Shari`ati, to mention one prominent name.
Their works definitely compare with their Western counterparts. The question is why they are not studied in the Muslim world itself. I do not know how many universities in the Muslim world teach philosophy, in particular Muslim philosophy. In Malaysia, after forty-four years of independence, no university has a full-fledged philosophy department. Yet the teaching of philosophy is extremely important for the development and growth of the mind. Our educational system is too utility-orientated. It must be reformed to bring in knowledge for the sake of truth, since truth is the ground rule of this lawful universe.
Are Muslims clear about the right Islamic attitude towards the various Western ideologies? We are divided. Some adopt Western liberal democracy; others socialism; and yet others, even communism. Almost all the Muslim philosophers and writers I mentioned earlier had ably criticized Western philosophies and ideologies, but since their works have not been read and studied by the Muslim elite in recent times, their ideas remain buried and dormant in the libraries!
In this respect, Muslim traditions and backward ideologies have played an important role in suppressing the rationalist tradition in Muslim thought, and preventing it from spreading and growing. Why should al-Ghazzali, Ibn Taymiyah, Sayyed Qutub, Maududi and Yusuf Khardawi be more read in our country than Ibn Sina, al-Farabi, Ibn Khaldun, Shah Waliullah and Ali Shariati?
Muslim societies must be honest and brave enough to admit that they have not afforded intellectual freedom for their inquisitive and thoughtful citizens. In recent times, some of the best Muslim intellects, including the Pakistani Nobel laureate, the physicist Abdus Salam and the able Pakistani scholar Fazlur Rahman, had to migrate to Europe and the United States to pursue their work.
Muslim societies do not lack philosophical minds. What we must resolve to do is give those minds their requisite freedom. We should not fear error because, being believers in truth, error will be weeded out in a free, open, scientific debate. On the other hand, piling error upon error in the absence of free debate has led us to nowhere except doom and destruction. Muslim societies must remedy this situation quickly. Critical philosophical thinking must be encouraged and supported, as it is the basis for the development of true knowledge, the only sure way to progress.
The practical category means the political economy and government. Between communism (which has now failed) and capitalism (whose failure, though certain, is perhaps not yet clear), what is the Islamic concept of development? Does Islam teach a particular form of government, or does it leave the form free, within the limits of certain principles? Many Muslim writers have tried to answer these questions, especially during the last three decades. There seems to be consensus that Muslim political economy and government are neither of the Eastern Marxist type nor the Western liberal capitalist variety. Muslims should aim to achieve justice and general welfare for the population. The Muslim experiments of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran however, have not produced the results expected from an Islamic system. On the other hand, modern Turkey is an example of the dangers of wholesale Westernization.
To solve this problem, we have to resort to the standards of the teachings of the Quran and the example of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. The Quran advocates three basic changes: ideological, moral, and material. The Meccan revelations of the Quran sought to change the ideological outlook of the people, from one of disbelief to belief in One God and one universal law. They were also to change the moral outlook of bestial life of the Jahilliah period to one consistent with human dignity, equality and brotherhood, with man’s God-given role as master of the Universe. The latter Medina revelations of the Quran laid down the general laws and principles of governance.
Once he was in control of Medina, Muhammad promulgated the city’s famous compact, known as the Medina Charter. Some writers claim that to be the first written constitution in the world, five hundred years before the English Magna Carta of 1215. That Charter provides for a consultative government, with the prophet s.a.w. as the head, and a federal power structure with security, economy and justice under central control, and religious rites and customs under the various clans or religious community’s jurisdiction. The Charter provided a common citizenship to all who owed loyalty to the state, and to whom the state in turn gave protection. One could call the Medina Charter as Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.’s ijtihad based on the teachings of the Quran. That is what we should also emulate, with scientific aids to help, not block, us as had happened in the past.
This consultative form of government initiated by Muhammad s.a.w. continued in one form or another by his four successors, the so-called righteous caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar Ibn Khattab (by whose time the lighting moves of the Arab-Islamic armies had established a Muslim empire), Uthman Ibn Affan, and Ali Abi Talib. Muawiyyah who wrested power from Ali began the Muawiyyah Dynasty, putting an end to Muhammad’s s.a.w. legacy of consultative government.
The Muawiyyah Dynasty was succeeded by the intellectually illustrious Abbasiyyah Dynasty, during which luminaries whose names we have mentioned flourished in Baghdad. It was during the Abbasiyyah Dynasty that Baghdad fell under the Mongol hordes in 1258 A.D. Even before that, decline and decay had set in the dynasty, ending the Arab-Islamic Renaissance. The ensuing European Renaissance owed much debt to this earlier Arabic enlightenment.
We must ask why the so-called Islamic experiments in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran have failed. The commonality is that while they don the garb of Islam, in actuality it is the Islam defined by the traditional clergy, both Sunni and Shiah. These were the classes that have always, directly or indirectly, collaborated with the imperialists. That is the reason for their failure. Islam is a revolutionary ideology and ethic. It can never compromise with imperialism; compromising with imperialism means compromising with error.
Let us examine two specific cases: Iraq, the seat of Islamic civilization, and Malaysia, a non-Arab country on the periphery of the Islamic heartland.
After the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and its division among the European powers, Iraq was a monarchy aligned to British imperialism. The anti-feudal revolution of July 1958 put an end to the old regime and further the Ba’ath revolution of July 1968. That in turn put the revolutionary Republican Party in power. Ba’ath ideology ably combined Arabism, socialism and Islam. Under its leadership, Iraq nationalized the British oil company and developed Iraq, within twenty years, into a modern, strong, progressive Arab country, capable of uniting the Arabs and of challenging the Zionist state of Israel. After Iraq’s victory in the imperialist-instigated Iran-Iraq War of 1981-88, Anglo-American imperialism immediately recognized Iraq’s danger to imperial interests. This was the real reason for the Anglo-American imperialist-manipulated U.N-sanctioned Gulf War against Iraq.
Although its constitution states that Islam is the state religion, Iraq is secular in the sense that it separates religion (defined in the narrow sense) from state policy. Contrary to popular opinion, this is quite in line with the teachings of the Quran (see Quran, 22:67 and 2:62) and with the formulation of Muhammad’s s.a.w. Medina Charter. Its revolutionary philosophy is entirely in accord with the teachings of Islam. This is precisely why Anglo-American imperialism wishes to destroy Iraq.
An Islamic-orientated government can take many forms, depending on the history and culture of its people. As long as the government satisfies the basic conditions that it governs justly, is based on consultation with the people, and is led by morally upright and professionally competent people, it can be described as Islamic. Iraq’s population consists mainly of Muslims, with some Christians and Jews. The Muslims are equally divided into Sunni and Shiah, yet they live and work in perfect harmony. Mr. Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, for example, is a Christian. This co-operation and harmony among the various religious sects in Iraq is unique. Such peace and harmony between religions is the essence of Islamic teachings. Yet many Muslims do not see Iraq as an Islamic state. This is in part due to the intrigues of imperialism and to the great influence of the Muslim clergy.
Like Iraq, the Malaysian constitution also stipulates Islam as the official religion while allowing other religions to be practiced freely. Is Malaysia secular? No, not when Muslims are not free to renounce their religion even though the Quran clearly gives them that freedom. The Muslim clergy represented by the political party (PAS) now rules two states. PAS ulamas have made known their intention to implement what they call Muslim law. What they call Muslim law is simply what classical Muslim jurists stipulated to be so a thousand years ago!
Laws evolve, and Muslim laws too should, to suit prevailing circumstances. What do not change are the basic principles of the law. The Quran clearly states two basic principles, that of justice and mercy. Some forms of punishments mentioned in the Quran, like amputating the hand of thieves, reflect the principle of justice of a certain specific era. In England in the 19th century, one of the punishments for theft was death! Such punishments are not applicable to all times and all places. Earlier I alluded to the weakness of historical thinking among Muslims.
Unlike Iraq, Malaysia took over the political and economic systems of its erstwhile colonial ruler, Britain. Of course, changes were made over the years to suit the requirements of the Malaysian people. One was the New Economic Policy to help the disadvantaged Malay community. Liberal capitalism that Malaysia embraces suffers from the weaknesses of philosophical liberalism that led to the unfettered freedom of individuals to make money and own property. This in turn leads to the elite controlling the economic and political power. The famous “money politics” that still bedevils UMNO is one ugly consequence. That is why the Islamic Party is challenging the liberal UMNO-led ruling coalition, the National Front. Will UMNO now try to outdo PAS in its Islamization drive? Such a path cannot solve the problems of modernizing the Muslim society of Malaysia.
The way ahead is to modify the present system to bring it closer to the Islamic politico-economic principles of justice; a government of consultation and led by upright and competent leaders who care for the general welfare. As for law, we should apply the principles of justice and mercy that are the essence of Islam. Women must be treated as equal to men. Historically, women depended on men. This explains the historically-bound laws in some passages of the Quran. As for rites of worship, they are pluralistic and particular, and should be under autonomous jurisdiction of each religious community.
The religious reactions posed by PAS can only be fought by thoroughly exposing its false ideology and through building a just society.
Contemporary ijtihad in Muslim society should be based on the universal principles taught in the Quran. Other sources may help, but not hinder, this necessary work. This ijtihad will lead to practical solutions. We must find a way to quickly release Muslim society from the clutches of hide-bound traditions that have weighed it down for so long.
Islam will triumph, for this is God’s promise in the Quran. (See 9:33 repeated three times.) Muslims and other believers must strive hard to bring it about quicker, as God bids us to do.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Part Two: Certain Methodological Inadequacies
[Note: Part One: Is the Door Open or Closed was posted on July 12, 2005;
Part Three: The Way Ahead will be posted on July 19, 2005]
There is no stopping the flow of history and life. This is, as the Quran puts it, God’s system. In secular language, it is natural law. Only the morally fit human society will survive the 21st century and the next millennium. Morally fit also means intellectually fit. Muslim leaders and intellectuals must resolve to overcome our society’s stagnation and decadence. Early Muslim jurists, especially Imam Shafi`e who laid the basis of Muslim classical jurisprudence, wanted unity to overcome what he saw was the prevailing chaos. He raised the status of precedents, the so-called Hadith/Sunnah, to equal or even rival the Quran. He may be right in his objective of wanting unity, but the method is surely wrong. Even if he was right, his methods and formulations cannot necessarily be for all times for Muslims. There must be periodic critical re-evaluation by every generation. Even Shafi`e said as much. Certain vested interests saw to it that this critical reexamination did not occur. This state of affairs, and the consequent stagnation and decay, has lasted for a thousand years!
To break out of this vicious trap, we have to revert to the Quranic refrain, one that Muslims have always used to nurture and develop our society, that is, “command good, and prevent evil” (3:104). The Quran describes Muslims as the best nation because “they command the right, prevent the evil, and believe in God” (3:110). A simple precept, yet difficult to achieve! Why? Because our theologians (a veritable priesthood, in spite of their denial) have made religion difficult and mystifying for us.
Consider the inconsistency and folly of the theologians’ propositions. On the one hand they urge us to recite the Quran because we will get the blessings from God from such recitals even though we may not understand a word of what we recite. Onth eother, they tell us not read the Quran, because it is beyond our comprehension. What a neat way of putting God’s teachings away from Muslims!
If we are to have a true Islamic reformation, the first prerequisite is the proper reading and studying of the Quran. It must be taught during as well outside of schools. The Quran is a guide to life; it must be understood in a comprehensive manner, covering all aspects and not just the so-called religious duties. It is the only divinely-protected scripture, claiming itself to offer the perfect and comprehensive teachings for all mankind and at all times. The Quran has proved to be a potent and successful guide and example for our Prophet Muhammad. He is the only spiritual teacher who achieved success in his lifetime. His immediate successors and companions were inspired by the lofty teachings of the Quran that he brought to them. He led his people back to life and beyond, to the peak of the then civilization.
The liberating teachings of the Quran were once the source of Muslim creativity. Once those teachings are renewed, then the creative flow will automatically resume. The classical jurists were restrictive on who could interpret the Quran, they claim that tobe their exclusive preserve. They were stingy about allowing others to formulate Muslim thought, in other words, to carry out ijtihad. They placed all manner of conditions and restrictions that had the effect of stifling creative intellectual activity. God teaches us in the Quran to obey only two sources: God and His Messenger, meaning, the Quran and our rightful (and just) leaders. (See Quran, 4:59 and 4:58)
The elite, always the active and the thinking part of the community, should rightfully do the intellectual formulations. We should also include the intelligentsia and others who are knowledgeable and able to think. They should study and analyze data, and formulates ideas and thoughts that are then discussed and debated openly before being adopted by the authorities. That is how it should be, and that was how it was with Islam in the beginning. To insist on arbitrary and even academic qualifications is irrelevant. Academic qualifications do not equal serious thought or concern for society.
Consider the following qualifications laid down by classical jurisprudence for anyone contemplating doing ijtihad. He must be a Muslim, conversant in Arabic and knowledgeable of the Quran and of the rules of classical exegesis. He must not only know the science of Hadith but also believe in Hadith as well. Then he must be familiar with the methodology of Qias (analogical deductions). Most of all, he must know what has been agreed upon by the classical theologians and agree not re-open discussions on what had been agreed upon by them.
Some of these requirements are obvious; there is no need to stipulate them, such as being a Muslim, conversant in the Arabic language, and knowledgeable in the related sciences. To insist on uncritical acceptance of the Hadith and all the interpretations and explanations that had been handed down for a thousand years is unreasonable.
Let free scientific debate weed out the false ideas. No authority can legislate the truth. Muslim society must dare to think freely (of course within the wide confines of Islam) and allow its ummah to think through the basic teachings of the faith. Muslims must be allowed to formulate new ideas and thoughts to enable us to cope with the problems of the modern world and win our rightful place in it.
One factor that contributed towards Muslim backwardness is our bifurcation of life into the worldly and the hereafter. The theologians look down upon the first and aim for the second. They misinterpret verses from the Quran and quote traditions to justify this false worldview. To my mind this is the greatest single cause for our present backwardness. We must overcome this quickly if we wish to survive in the 21st century.
Our religion of tauhid, or belief in One God, necessarily implies one life and one world with one law. There is no afterlife without this life. Islam teaches us to think in terms of the unity of life. Ijtihad must cover all aspects of life, not just the religious aspects. In the past, our theologians and jurists emphasized only the rituals of worship and certain aspects of the law. They left the so-called secular area (government, politics, commerce, economics and science) to the secular authorities. That spelt doom for Muslims.
Secularism is another bane in present-day Muslim thought. If we accept the unity of life, then we should not arbitrarily separate the secular from the sacred. The Quranic teachings as well as the example of the prophet Muhammad’s Medinah Charter point to a very important but little observed fact in Islam. That is, it is both a philosophy (or world-view and a code of life) as well as a method of worship. The philosophy is all embracing and universal. It is for all mankind. It stands for the principle of one sovereign, lawful and loving power legislating over the whole universe, with Man simultaneously a servant of the Lord and master of the Universe. Further, there are absolute values of goodness, unity, justice, peace, truth and mercy. The code is historically bound and therefore pluralistic, but linked to the absolute values. The method of worship is also historically bound, particular and pluralistic. Thus, if we adopt this correct perspective of Islamic teachings, many of our current problems we can better clarify the problems we currently face.
Last, we should not forget the intellectual and political environment in which many of our leaders and intellectuals were born and bred in. I am referring to Western colonialism and imperialism. As the Algerian thinker Malik Bennabi has pointed out, one of the lasting effects of Western colonialism is the colonizing of the Muslim mind. It has not only cut us away from our Islamic heritage and draw us to adopt Western ideologies, but also to make us feel inferior to the West. We know more of Adam Smith, Descartes, Bertrand Russell, Newton and Einstein than al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, al-Khawarizmi, Ibn Khaldun, Mulla Sadra, Shah Waliullah and even Muhammad Iqbal.
The first independence is the independence of the mind. That is the basic meaning of tauhid, that we are free and equal to all other human beings and that we bow down to no one but God. We have to seek and follow the Right Path in this world taught to us by God. This is the first condition of Muslim revival.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
PART ONE: IS THE DOOR OPEN OR CLOSED?
(Parts Two and Three to follow)
(First published in The New Straits Times in three parts: Jan 26, Feb2, and Feb 9, 2002)
I. Is the Door Open or Closed?
The question of contemporary ijtihad (the formulation of ideas and views consistent with the basic teachings of Islam to solve the problems of contemporary society), although very pressing, is still largely unsolved. There must be a reason for this. I shall discuss this and some of the more important related matters in these articles in the hope that they can be a basis for further discussions and, if agreed upon, actions. With this format of writing, I am unable to credit specific authors, but I draw heavily upon modern writers like Fazlur Rahman, Muhammad Iqbal, Ali Shariati, Hassan Hanafi, Muhammad Abduh, Malik Bennabi and many others, including those from our own country.
In 1994 Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka published a book in Malay edited by Mahmood Zuhdi of Akademi Islam, Universiti Malaya. He brought together several local scholars and writers including Mahfodz Mohamad, S. Othman Kelantan, A. Ghani Ismail and myself to write on this topic. It is clear from the volume that there is an unbridgeable gulf between the traditionalist and modernist schools. The former dogmatically adheres to Imam Shafi`e’s classical formulation of the bases of Muslim law, while the latter seeks a freer and more flexible approach. The major area of disagreement relates to the role of the so-called Prophetic traditions or Hadith/Sunnah. Although the book fails to bring the two groups closer, its publication is important in the sense that it brings two differing views in one place, thus enabling scholars and writers to weigh them and continue the debate.
Let us ask the question why Muslim thought has been frozen and stagnant since the end of the tenth century, only three hundred years after the death of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. In Muslim juristic literature, this is referred to as the “closing of the door of ijtihad. Although some dogmatic Muslims would deny this and blindly assert the contrary, there is no question that Muslim thought has been frozen after flourishing brilliantly for three centuries earlier. In its heyday, Islam produced such world-class scientists and philosophers as al-Khawarizmi (mathematician), al-Jahiz (zoologist), Jabbir ibni Hayyan (chemist), al-Battani (astronomer), al-Biruni (physicist), Ibni Sina, (philosopher, physician, musician) al-Farabi, al-Kindi (philosophers), al-Mas`udi, al-Tabari (historians) and many others.
The European Renaissance not only took off from there, it owed much to this Arab-Islamic renaissance. In referring to this period of Islamic history, the historian Phillip K. Hitti wrote:
If someone in the first third of the seventh Christian century had had the audacity to prophesy that within a decade some unheralded, unforseen power from the hitherto barbarous and little-known land of Arabia were to make its appearance, hurl itself against the only two world powers of the age, fall heir to the one? The Sasanid? And strip the other, the Byzantine, of its fairest provinces, he would undoubtedly have been declared a lunatic. Yet that was exactly what happened. After the death of the Prophet, sterile Arabia seems to have been converted as if by magic into a nursery of heroes the like of whom both in number and quality is hard to find anywhere ....”
The English social historian and philosopher, Robert Briffault, in his brilliant and profound book, The Making of Humanity, records the extreme debt modern European civilization owes to Islamic civilization. Quoting him:
…It is highly probable that but for the Arabs,” he wrote, “modern European civilization would never have arisen at all; it is absolutely certain that but for them, it would not have assumed the character which has enabled it to transcend all previous phases of evolution. For although there is not a single aspect of European growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the paramount distinctive force of the modern world and the supreme source of its victory, natural science and the scientific spirit.”
In an unusually honest tribute to Muslim science, famous science historian George Sarton said, “The main task of mankind was accomplished by Muslims. The greatest philosopher, al-Farabi, was a Muslim; the greatest mathematicians, Abu Kamil and Ibrahim ibn Sinan, were Muslims; the greatest geographer and encylopedist al-Mas`udi, was Muslim; the greatest historian, al-Tabari, was still a Muslim.”
Just as what happened earlier in Europe where the priestly class of the Catholic Church from the Pope down dominated the politics of the European Middle Ages, so three hundred years after the Prophet’s death, Muslim theologians surreptitiously took over the affairs of Islam and the afterlife of Muslims. The consequence of their teachings, Muslims neatly compartmentalized their life. One is the worldly life of generally miserable living, and the other, the imagined promised afterlife of Paradise that we hope to achieve through our barely comprehensible rituals. However, in the Islamic conception, religion is a way of life (comprehensive, dynamic and changing). These theologians made Islam static and fossilized, not amenable to change.
Europe broke from under its religious yoke with the Reformation of the 16th century, and the scientific revolutions that followed. The Muslim world tried to have its own religious reformation and legal reforms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This resulted in some changes, especially in personal and family law, but not deep and comprehensive enough to render the Muslim mind capable of facing up to the challenges of 21st century.
It is now obvious that the two major Western ideologies – Capitalist Liberalism and Marxist Communism – that have reigned supreme in the world for the last five decades have failed. It is not clear that another religious orientated ideology, a theocracy of the Iranian type, will succeed. As a result the world is now acutely feeling the necessity of a new ideology to replace the two, or rather three, failed ideologies. It is in this context of profound ideological and philosophical crisis of our time that our young Muslims are flocking to the banner of Islam. This “Islam” is being exclusively defined by the theological class, the ulama.
Life is evolutionary. It is enough for us to reflect on the development of a human being from the embryo in the mother’s womb all the way to old age and death. First is the newborn baby, born into a lighted world and knowing next to nothing. Then it slowly grows into a child, youth, and later, a mature human being capable of improving or destroying society and the world. With time comes old age and death.
It took several centuries for this historical evolutionary perspective to take root in Europe. In Muslim society, the absolutist, anti-historical, anti-evolutionary outlook is still the major impediment towards reopening the gates of ijtihad that remained wide open during the early centuries of Islam. Current critics of the anti-historical and evolutionary outlook of present-day Muslim society do not necessarily embrace a relativist worldview. The teachings of the Quran point to a unified world outlook wherein relativism exists as a pair to absolutism.
To break this impasse posed by static absolutism, Muslim leaders and intellectuals must re-open the debate on all problems of society. To put it in Kant’s phrase, they must dare to think. The fear that this debate may lead to confusion and chaos is baseless. There is more than enough confusion and chaos already! All these came about not because of free debate, but because of wrong policies and methods. We must return to the basic hypothesis that man is a rational creature, able to act rationally given favorable conditions. As the Quran has beautifully put it, “No one can believe except with God’s permission. However, He blocks those who do not use their reason.” (10:100) In other words, true faith and reason are not contradictions.
The orthodox or traditionalist school must defend its position in a free open debate. It is no longer acceptable to argue that such matters have been debated and settled. Every generation, because of its vital interests in contemporary culture and civilization, must review its heritage in order to retain and advance the good and discard the bad. This is how civilization and culture develops and progresses.
Part II: Certain Methodological Inadequacies
Part III: The Way Ahead
Sunday, July 10, 2005
The New Straits Times Interview with Kassim Ahmad
NST: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. To start the discussion, might we ask whether you are currently working to publish another work? If so, what is it about?
KA: Thank you for giving me this rare opportunity to speak my mind on my work. Currently I am working on several things. Two are major. One is a translation of the Quran into Malay. I know enough Arabic and other ancillary disciplines to enable me to do this, but most important of all, I have the deep and compelling interest to undertake this difficult task.
I am doing this for two reasons. I am not satisfied with the existing translations from the literary point of view. The Quran is a great literary composition and I want to do justice to that in Malay. The other is that existing translations put much extraneous matters (the opinions of the translators) into the text. This confuses and covers up its real meanings. The Quran contains flashes of deep insight into the nature of God, Man and the Universe that are mostly not understood and therefore not shown in the translations. I hope to remedy these shortcomings, even if a little!
NST: This translation of yours sounds like it is going to attract some attention – more controversy from Kassim Ahmad? Do you see dark angry clouds looming ahead on the JAKIM [Religious Authority] horizon?
KA: I do what I think I should do, not how others would react to it. Anyway, I think in the years to come, the tempo of change will be very rapid. Religious authorities, and not only religious authorities, indeed all of us will have to adapt to these changes. Otherwise we shall become extinct! Anyway I hope by then many of my present critics will have made peace with me! So you see what an incorrigible optimist I am!
I am also working on my autobiography. Both, God-willing, should be completed before 2005.
NST: This is definitely something many will look forward to (or dread!). Is there a need for this autobiography – a need to explain certain chapters of your life?
KA: Yes, there is a need to explain certain public things, such as my leaving the party that I led for 18 years and my support for
NST: Your collection of poetry and short stories Kemarau Di Lembah (Drought in the Valley) is still talked about until today. Back then some said you were an atheist by virtue of some of the lines in your poems like Sidang Ruh (Conversations of the Soul). It caused quite a stir when it appeared. Looking back from your own viewpoint, what was the reaction from the public like back then?
KA: The reaction was altogether to be expected, given the emotional and psychological make-up of the general Malay-Muslim population. What was disappointing was the continuing exploitation by my political opponents then, even after my clarification.
It should be noted that the poem, “Sidang Ruh,” is quite clear taken in its entirety. I was far from being an atheist in that poem. I was only criticizing the hypocrisy and gullibility of many people. Of course, there were still the rationalists among us who appreciated that poem. That made life somewhat tolerable, even enjoyable and inspiring!
NST: What do you mean by “given the emotional and psychological make-up of the general Malay-Muslim population?” I know they can be quite close-minded, conservative bores.
KA: Muslims, Malays included, are known for their strong attachment to their religion of Islam. This is in fact good. The problem is that most of them do not read the Quran in the language that they can understand, and so they do not understand the true teachings of Islam. Muslims depend on the clergy, who are no better than the Christian priesthood of the European Middle Ages for the knowledge of their religion. Muslims must go back to the Quran. Only the Quran can resolve this Muslim dilemma.
NST: That last verse in Sidang Ruh, “nanti akan padamlah dengan sendirinya/lampu dari menara tinggi/karena dibawahnya orang kian mabuk/dan Tuhan sudah mati…” Was that an attempt at shooting down Nietzschean thought?
KA: I simply use the metaphor to characterize the precarious morality of the present age. It was not aimed at Nietzsche, except if you take it as a double irony.
NST: Are there any particular poems of yours that you hold in higher regard than others. If so, why?
KA: In that collection, I like many of the poems, especially Sidang Ruh, Jalan Ke Parlimen (Road to Parliament), Penyairmu (Your Poet), Iman (Faith), Mimpi (Dreams), Pidato (Speeches) and Dua Catatan (Two Notations). I like them because of their expressions and their insistent immediacy.
NST: It has been a long time since Kemarau Di Lembah. You are not planning to come out with a new collection?
KA: Yes, I am, the few and far between verses that I have written since then. Once a friend asked me about this, and I jokingly replied that I have since written footnotes to my poems.
NST: Would you care to confirm that your being nominated as Penyair Gapena [Malaysian Literary Prize] some years back faced some criticism? Many disagreed with your receiving the award? If so, your comments, please!
KA: Isn’t it nice that in spite of everything, there are still some people courageous enough to speak the truth and to do what is right? I remember what a beautiful speech Baha made at the presentation. Similarly, I remember with fondness Rustam’s academic oration when I was awarded the honorary title of Doctor of Letters by the UKM. This is what makes life meaningful. Praise be to God! I even know from my friends that they proposed me some years ago for the Anugerah Sasterawan Negara [National Literary Award] award. That never came about. I take it philosophically. I believe that one must do one’s duty regardless of the material rewards. Not that I reject material rewards, but I do not do things just for them.
NST: It is clear that from your student years you were very much into politics and religion. On a more personal note, what experiences that really pulled you into politics and religion?
KA: I came from a poor family in a neighborhood in northern Kedah. My father was religious teacher who doubled as a small-time padi (rice) farmer. My mother made kuih pau (cakes) in the dead of night to supplement the family income and helped my father in the field. I have therefore great sympathy for the poor and I vowed to myself when I was very young that I would fight for them. That drew me into politics and socialism. My stubbornness I inherit from my father; the gentler part of me from my mother.
As for religion, I have a great passion for truth and it is my understanding that Islam has always been a religion of truth. As my life testifies, I have tried to live a life of truth and justice, as I see it. God be praised for that!
NST: Art, Politics and Religion: Would you care to give your thoughts on the relationship between the three.
KA: I approach them at the level of unity. All three, to me, must serve the cause of humanity, the cause of God, in religious language. I am happy that current world leaders are of this mental mould. That is why I am optimistic in spite of the current universal chaos.
NST: On your personal political beliefs, you were more known as a socialist then, but no longer so these days. Is that view entirely right? And if you consider yourself totally refuting socialism now, what brought about this change?
KA: Socialism was the ideology of the oppressed in those days. I came to realize in the 1970s that it was dated and had some serious philosophical flaws. In fact I wrote an essay around that time critical of Marxism (Dewan Bahasa, December, 1975). My commitment to social justice is however, unchanged, which I incorporate into my present Islamic humanism. I also wrote a book (Teori Sosial Moden Islam, 1984) and a long essay “Bermaknanya Kehidupan” [Meaning of Life], published in Pemikir [Thought] (December, 1997) to expound this.
NST: You were once detained under the ISA and later described your harrowing experiences during detention in a book. How has the experience affected you down the years?
KA: Man has to learn through trial and error. Was it wrong for me to have joined the socialist party? Yes and no! I do not think that I would have learnt what I did learn if I did not join the party. Yet I lost many years then, many years that I could put to better use perhaps. I do not know, but I am glad and grateful that I was able to distil the essential meaning of life from those experiences.
NST: Your thoughts on the need for the ISA?
KA: Believe it or not, I re-read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and found in its last articles (29 & 30) that those individual rights are deemed not absolute. They have to be taken in the context in the rights of the community. But what made me change was what I found in the Quran in the experiences of Moses when he asked to follow and learn from a spiritual teacher in Egypt. (See Quran, 18: 60-82) This account proves that a greater good must prevail over a smaller good, if the two were to collide.
NST: But the argument is that such powers are abused for political advantages.
KA: Of course, they have been abused. They should not be. One must distinguish between the necessity of a law and its abuses by the executive.
NST: Going back to the topic of Islam, this is an issue that has generated some controversy between you and the religious authorities. You deny the accusation of being anti-hadith, and have even answered such accusations. Why do you think some parties are still labeling you as such? May I quote a 1995 published news report regarding some statements made by the Director of the Islamic Affairs Division in the Prime Minister’s Department, Brig-Jen (R) Datuk Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin: On Kassims position that he was not anti-hadith as alleged, Abdul Hamid said it was expected of Kassim to deny it. “The problem with him is that he says something and does something else. This is not an issue between Kassim and company versus the Islamic Center, but Kassim and company versus the whole ummah,” Abdul Hamid said. Your comments please!
KA Of course what the good Abdul Hamid says is not true. This is not a game I am playing. It is a very serious matter. I am answerable to God for what I wrote in that book.
I think, firstly, they misread my book. It was polemical and written in strong language. But had they read it carefully and taken the book as a whole, as they should have done, they would have understood my point. My point was very simple. Put the Quran on the top of every teaching, including the Hadith. The hadith that matches the Quran are acceptable; what gets stuck must obviously to be rejected.
Secondly, the religious authorities are scared to death of having to overhaul some of the teachings dear to them that they have inherited over many generations. Remember the Pope decreeing in 1661 how the heavens should behave and outlawing Copernicanism, which stated that the planets orbited around the sun, and not vice-versa! Do these ulama want a repeat of European history in Islam?
They are of course afraid of losing their credibility and their jobs. At least that is what they imagine the danger to be! But they should realize that by holding on to obsolete medieval teachings, they are endangering the very structure of collective Muslim life. In a real sense, this has been destroyed already. Can’t they see that? We are actually collecting the scattered pieces to rebuild anew!
NST Your request for a dialogue has also been denied on several grounds. Care to elaborate your thoughts on the refusal of the religious authorities to meet you for a discussion?
KA: Apart from religious prejudices, there were powerful political forces that were against such a dialogue for the reasons stated above. However, I am happy to say that JAKIM has agreed to meet and dialogue with us. The dialogue, the first of which was held on 13 March this year, is in progress. On my part as well as my organization’s, we want to make this dialogue fruitful and a success, and we have a plan to achieve that. I hope the religious authorities would cooperate and bear with us.
NST That is certainly quite heartening to know that our religious guardians are slowly engaging in discussion. There is of course the question of sincerity on the part of the Islamic authorities. No truth or good can be derived if there is little sincerity in such dialogues.
KA Enough of our intelligentsia must stand up to voice the truth and expose falsehood as well as take an active part in the movement for Muslim regeneration. Although I think quite a number has done so, many more should. We should realize that it is everyone’s fight. Otherwise the lot of Muslims will not improve and we will continue to suffer. Look at the mess and the helplessness the Muslim world is in now.
NST After the expulsion of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from UMNO, you wrote an article on him which appeared in the NST. You said that he was influencing decisions to ban your book, Hadis: Satu Penilaian Semula (Hadith: A Re-Evaluation). You also accused him of other things. What do you believe really transpired behind the events of the time? Would you care to share with us some of your experiences with Anwar?
KA Anwar is an extremely unfortunate episode in our political history. He was a man who promised much at the beginning, but who had not the moral and intellectual stamina to fulfill that promise. He therefore fell on the way. If I were in Dr. Mahathir’s shoes, I would have removed him long ago. I wrote not one but three articles on him. I know too much about him, but let me reserve some for my forthcoming book!
NST How do you feel about scholarly pursuits in Islam when you lack academic credentials in Islamic Studies. Your critics have been using this to debunk your theories. Also as a writer – writers handle a variety of subjects and areas in their work – it is always contentious about what makes them an authority to talk about matters in which they have no qualifications. So, what is the greatest virtue here for the scholar and writer?
KA Only pedants insist on academic qualifications and strings of degrees! Of what use are these if you are not committed to truth and justice? I am not altogether ignorant of Arabic grammar, and I have studied (on my own) Islamic history, theology, jurisprudence, philosophy, and Quranic exegeses. Apart from that, I make it my business to study political science and political economy. So what does that make me compared to my critics? I am far above them, am I not?
NST Finally, which authors, books and work of art influence you greatly?
KA Many individuals, authors and books have had great influence on me. On the literary level, Wordsworth, Keats, Shakespeare, Thomas Mann, Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, Yeats, T.S. Elliot, Keris Mas, Tongkat Warrant, Chairil Anwar and Pramudia. On the philosophical-intellectual level, Prophet Muhammad’s life, the writings and thoughts of of Mulla Sadra, Iqbal, Ali Shariati, Ibni Sina, Plato, Hamka, Abdullah Munshi, Malek Bennabi, Hassan Hanafi, Robert Briffault (who wrote the The Making of Humanity, a profound book), Rashad Khalifa, Saddam Hussein, our own Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, and the American philosopher, economist and writer, Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. Above all, the Quran has had a great continuing influence in the development of my thinking. I am a voracious reader. I want to read and re-read more books, but now I haven’t the time.
NST Rashad Khalifa? Why him? This is my being unnecessarily picky, but I thought his theories on the Quranic numerical code was said to be a fraud? Correct me if I am wrong.
KA Rashad’s translation of the Quran and his writings clarify for me many things that were not clear to me before. His call for Muslims to return to the Quran is essentially correct. I do not agree with him all the way, but tell me which scholar or leader is perfect? We should be grateful for a scholar or leader who has given us something good. Of his or her errors, we should be forgiving enough to overlook them.
NST By the way Dr. Kassim, I am going to get a lot of flak from people by doing this interview. Based on the fact that you are still tenacious in your search despite the numerous obstacles you had faced, I am thinking of grandly labeling you as “Intelektual Melayu Terakhir” [The Last Malay Intellect] – well at least where 20th century Malaysia is concerned. What do you say to that?
KA Please don’t. Do not draw unnecessary antagonism towards yourself. You have done enough to ask those question that you have asked me to enlighten interested readers. Very many people misunderstand me simply because they prefer the easy way out. They do not bother to read what I write; they prefer to listen to coffee-shop talk. But sooner or later, they will know the truth. In my case, I go to great trouble before I form a definite view on scholars and leaders, as in the case of the late Dr. Rashad Khalifa, President Saddam Hussein and Lyndon H. LaRouche. I read their biographies and their major works before I form my views.
I am not too concerned with what people think of me. I am concerned about God’s judgment. If I were concerned with what people think of me, I would not have done many of the things that I have done. I am satisfied with what I have done, God be praised for that! As soon as I finish what I am doing, I am ready to meet my Creator. I should say I am ready even now!
Let me end by quoting from W. S. Landor: “I strove with none, for none was worth my strife/ Nature I love and, next to Nature, Art:/ I warm'd both hands before the fire of life;/ It sinks, and I am ready to depart.”
Thursday, July 07, 2005
SEKULARISME DARI SUDUT ISLAM
Bagi pihak Forum Iqra’, saya mengalu-alukan kedatangan saudari-saudari ke majlis forum kami yang tidak seperti ini pada malam ini. Saya mengucapkan ribuan terima kasih kepada ahli-ahli panel kita, Dr. Ismail Ibrahim, bekas Ketua Pengarah Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia, sekarang Pengerusi Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan dan Dr. Fadzlullah Jamil, seorang ahli sejarah kita dan bekas pensyarah sejarah di USM, yang sudi mengmabil bahagian dalam forum ini. Kedua-dua mereka ialah sarjana-sarjana kita yang terkenal. Dua orang lagi, Dato’ Haji Ahmad Nakha’ie, Yang Dipertua YADIM dan Dr. Ahmad Atory, seorang sarjana sains politik, Dekan Sekolah Pembangunan UUM, malangnya, pada saat akhir, memohon maaf menyatakan tidak dapat hadir. Kata pepatah, tiada rotan akar pun jadi. Oleh itu, terpaksalah saya mengisi tempat mereka.
Kami telah memilih tajuk ini untuk dibahaskan oleh ahli-ahli panel pada malam ini kerana konsep sekularisme menjadi satu punca kekeliruan dalam masyarakat Islam. Baru-bari ini sebuah parti politik mendakwa mereka kalah dalam pilihanraya umum yang lalu kerana kebanyakan orang Melayu telah menjadi “sekular”. Malah beberapa orang cerdik-pandai kita yang berpengaruh telah mengecam dan menolak “sekularisme” dalam tulisan-tulisan mereka. Seterusnya, pemodenan masyarakt Islam itu sendiri – yakni pengindustrian, penggunaan sains dan teknologi dan penggunaan kaedah saintifik – dianggap “sekular” oleh puak ini. Yang menjadi masalah kepada kita ialah umat Islam perlu bangkit semula dari tidur mereka yang lama untuk membangunkan sebuah tamadun Islam yang baru (dengan menggunakan segala kaedah dan peralatan yang berguna yang telah dihasilkan oleh tamadun Barat dalam masa tiga ratus tahun yang lalu), tetapi suatu puak dari umat Islam menentang usaha ini dengan melabelkan usaha ini sebagai “sekular”. Oleh yang demikian, kami fikir masalah ini patut kita kaji dengan lebih teliti. Kami harap perbahasan kita pada malam ini boleh menolong kita memahami masalah ini dengan lebih jelas.
Tidak syak lagi, kebangkitan orang Eropah dan tamadun moden Barat sejak abad-abad ke-15 dan ke-16 suatu peristiwa yang amat penting bagi dunia. Dari banyak segi, mereka mewarisi tamadun Islam yang memuncak dalam abad-abad ke-13 hingga ke-15. Tamadun ini telah membangkitakan semula umat Islam dari tidur mereka yang lama. Selama seratus tahun lebih, umat Islam menghadapi masalah, “Apakah sikap mereka terhadap tamadun Barat?” Sikap mereka terbahagi kepada tiga golongan: yang menolak secara keseluruhan, yang menerima secara keseluruhan, dan yang kritikal, yakni menerima dan menolak mengikut kesesuaian tamadun itu dengan ajaran Islam.
Sekularisme satu daripada aspek tamadun Barat yang penting. Perkataan ‘sekular’ berasal dari perkataan Latin, bermakna ‘sekarang’ dan ‘di sini’ atau ‘dunia ini’, yang boleh diterjemahkan ke dalam bahasa Melayu sebagai ‘keduniaan’, atau ‘kehidupan duniawi’. Pada satu masa dulu, sebelum zaman moden, kehidupan manusia dipengaruhi oleh unsur-unsur magik dan keajaiban. Alam ditadbirkan oleh suatu kuasa-kuasa magik dan ghaib yang tidak menentu sifatnya, dan manusia perlu menyemah atau mengambil hati kuasa-kuasa ghaib ini dengan pelbagai cara. Dalam dunia seperti ini, kemanusiaan ditengelam atau dipinggirkan dan patung-patung atau tuhan-tuhan palsu berkuasa. Dunia magik dan ajaib ini mulai hapus dengan munculnya pandangan hidup saintifik (yang sebenarnya datang dengan ayat “Iqra’” dengan wahyu yang dibawa oleh Nabi Muhammad) dan yang kemudian disibarkan ke seluruh dunia oleh tamadun Barat.
Soalnya: Adakah sekularisme yang dibawa oleh Barat ditolak oleh Islam? Jika ya, apakah makna sekurlarisme dalam Islam. (Nyata Islam tidak menolak kehidupan dunia, seperti yang terbukti dalam beberapa ayat Quran. Lihat 2:201 & 28:77) Inilah antara beberapa perkara yang saya minta ahli-ahli panel kita bahas.
Namun demikian, Quran juga mengecam kehidupan duniawi sebagai permainan dan kebanggaan kosong yang tidak bernilai. seperti yang terbukti dari ayat-ayat ini. (Lihat Quran, 29:64 & 87:16-17) Jadi, apakah terdapat kontradiksi dalam ajaran Quran? Tentu tidak. Oleh yang demikian, kita harus menghuraikan kedua-dua kumpulan ayat ini (yang mengiakan kehidupan duniawi dan yang menidakkannya) dengan cara yang betul dengan memberi makna yang betul kepada konsep-konsep kehidupan duniawi dan kehidupan ukrawi dalam Quran.
Tidak syak lagi, Alam Semesta yang Tuhan ciptakan terdiri dari banyak alam (Rabbul ‘Alamin= Tuan sekalian alam), tetapi wujud dalam satu kesatuan. Dunia dan akhirat tidak boleh dipisahkan secara mutlak. Demikian juga kehidupan agama dan kehidupan politik wujud dalam satu kesatuan, tetapi secara relatif, boleh dipisahkan. Ayat suci Surah 22, Ayat 67 dan Piagam Madinah menunjuk kepada perpisahan antara agama (dalam ertika ibadah-ibadah agama yang khusus kepada masing-masing kumpulan agama) dengan dasar negara (yang berlaku kepada seluruh warganegara). Sekularisme, pada pendapat saya, dibenarkan dalam Islam, dalam ertikata politik dipisahkan dari ritual agama, tetapi politik tidak boleh dipisahkan daripada moraliti atau ukuran baik dan jahat. Umpamanya, membeli undi dan ekonomi yang berdasarkan riba, yang dibenarkan dalam sistem liberal Barat, tidak dibenarkan dalam sistem yang diperintahkan oleh moraliti, seperti dalam sistem Islam.
Seperkara lagi yang harus kita perhatikan ialah tamadun Barat itu bukan homogen atau seragam. Sistem politik-ekonomi kaum liberal atau oligarki yang dipelopori oleh Adam Smith, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes dan lain-lain dan yang diamalkan dalam pemerintahan George W.Bush dan Tony Blair tidak boleh disamakan dengan sistem kaum humanis dan republikan yang dipelopori oleh Gottfried Leibniz, Benjamin Fraklin, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Carey dan lain-lain dan yang diamalkan oleh pemimpin-pemimpin Amerika Syarikat seperti Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy dan yang sekarang diwakili oleh aktivis dan pemikir politik Lyndon H. LaRouche.
Sebagai Presiden Forum Iqra’, saya ingin mengucapkan berbanyak terima kasih kepada pekerja-pekerja kami yang telah bekerja keras untuk mengatur dan menjayakan forum ini.
Sekian dulu sedikit pendahuluan tentang forum ini dari saya. Mudah-mudahan kita mendapat taufik dan hidayah daripada Tuhan.
4 September, 2004.
Nota ayat-ayat Quran
1. “Tuan kami, berilah kepada kami kebaikan di dunia dan kebaikan di akirat dan lindungilah kami daripada siksaan Neraka!” (2: 201)
2. “Jangan bangga; Tuhan tidak suka mereka yang bangga. Tetapi carilah dari apa yang Tuhan berikan kamu Kediaaman Akhirat, dan jangan lupa bahagianmu di dunia. Buatlah baik sepertimana Tuhan telah buat baik kepadamu, dan jangan buat kerosakan di dunia. Tuhan tidak suka kepada perosak.” (28:77)
3. Kehidupan dunia ini tidak lain daripada suatu kealpaan dan keseronokan. Kediaman Akhirat itulah kehidupan yang sebenarnya, jika mereka tahu. (29:64)
4. Tidak, tetapi kamu memilih kehidupan sekarang, sedangkan dunia akan datang lebih baik dan kekal. (87:16-17)
5. Bagi tiap-tiap umat, Kami wujudkan uapacara ibadah yang mereka lakukan. Jangan kamu diajak bertengkar tentang perkata itu. Serulah kepada Tuanmu. Kamu di atas jalan yang benar. (22:67)
Sunday, July 03, 2005
DAN MASA DEPAN BANGSA
Oleh: Kassim Ahmad
[A translated English version follows]
Setelah bertahan selama 59 tahun, setelah melalui beberapa krisis besar, UMNO hari ini masih wujud dan relevan dan boleh dikatakan masih kuat. Dalam masa tiga tahun ini, UMNO telah memperbaharui dirinya dengan pengenalan dua kelompok organisasi muda, Puteri dan Putera UMNO. “Beri aku 10 Pemuda dan aku akan mengoncang dunia!” Kata-kata ransangan Sukarno ini satu metafora bagi idealisme pemuda. Namun demikian, masa akan mentua dan melesukan pemuda dan mungkin akan melupuskan idealismenya.
Tua tidak semestinya bermakna kehilangan idealisme, atau s
emangat perjuangan untuk mewujudkan sebuah dunia yang adil. Namun demikian, pimpinan UMNO sekarang mesti akui hal yang nyata kepada semua rakyat bahawa UMNO menghadapi bahaya kehilangan semangat dan matlamat perjuangannya. Berapa peratus anggota UMNO sekarang, termasuk pimpinannya, yang mahu mencari sesuatu yang tinggi dan mulia dalam perjuangan, seperti yang diungkapkan dalam puisi Presidennya, walaupun kita terpaksa menyatakan Imam Shafie dan Imam Ghazali bukanlah contoh-contoh intelek yang paling agung dalam dunia intelek Islam?
Presiden UMNO mahu UMNO terus diperkasakan, kerana UMNO-lah pejuang bangsa. Tetapi, bagaimana? Adakah semata-mata dengan memberi ucapan-ucaoan yang berapi-api, menggesa, memberi nasihat, merayu dan malah menangis dalam Perhimpunan Agung UMNO? Bagaimana hendak menghapuskan “politik wang” atau rasuah yang telah melanda UMNO dalam masa 20-30 yang lalu? Inilah ibu segala masalah dalam negara kita sekarang.
Tiga puluh tahun dulu, orang berkata: “Jangan ambil atau beri rasuah!” Sekarang nasihat yang baik itu telah bertukar menjadi: “Jangan jadi bodoh. Kalau kau tak ambil, orang lain akan ambil. Lebih baik, kau ambil!” Demikianlah falsafah rasuah telah berkembang dan subur dalam masyarakat kita hingga hari ini negara kita boleh hancur kerana rasuah.
Orang-orang di kampung dituduh malas dan tidak mahu berusaha, tetapi apabila ada seseorang belia yang hendak berusaha, kita bunuh semangatnya dengan menafikan dia peluang untuk berusaha. Dalam seratus kes, mungkin hanya sepuluh
berjaya (kerana mereka bernasib baik ada hubungan dengan orang-orang yang berpengaruh di kampung) dan lapan puluh lagi gagal (kerana mereka tidak ada hubungan itu).
Di manakah belia seperti itu akan mengadu? Pelajarannya kurang; ibu-bapanya orang kampung biasa. Mereka tidak ada tempat hendak mengadu. Kumpulkan belia-belia ini, ibu-bapa mereka dan adik-beradik mereka dalam masa tiga puluh tahun, ia menjadi suatu gerakan penentang yang kuat. Ini telah pun berlaku dan akan terus berlaku sehingga kita musnahkan bangsa kita sendiri. Kecuali kita melakukan sesuatu yang segera untuk mengubah keadaan ini.
Kita tidak boleh mengubah dengan ucapan-ucapan muluk-muluk saja, atau khutbah atau doa. Kita mesti buat suatu perancangan yang baik. Perancangan itu mesti berdasarkan suatu panduan atau contoh yang bagus dan kita mesti gubal satu dasar dan kaedah untuk melaksanakan perubuhan itu. Sudahkah kita buat perancangan untuk perubahan itu?
UMNO perlu dibersihkan dan diperbaharui, bukan dengan kata-kata, tetapi dengan tindakan-tindakan yang berterusan. Yang boleh beri petunjuk atau panduan kepada kita ialah kitab suci kita, iaitu Quran. Yang boleh kita tauladani ialah zaman-zaman kebangkitan Islam awal – zaman Nabi Muhammad dan beberapa generasi selepas beliau. Juga zaman-zaman kebangkitan Eropah, Jepun dan China, dan lain-lain. Dua ciri yang sama dapat kita lihat dalam contoh-contoh kebangkitan ini: falsafah yang optimis tentang kehidupan manusia dan sains atau ilmu.
Dalam kebangkitan Arab yang pertama, tiga perkataan melonjakkan mereka naik ke atas mengambil tempat pertama dalam dunia zaman itu. Tiga perkataan itu ialah: pegangan tauhid, ilmu yang terbit dari selogan “iqra’” dan perbuatan, yang terbit dari pegangan tauhid dan ilmu -- dengan lain perkatan: tauhid, ilmu dan kerja. Jika kita lihat kebangkitan bangsa-bangsa lain pun, demikianlah kejadiannya. Jadi, perlulah pemimpin-pemimpin UMNO dan tiga juta anggotanya, malah cerdik-pandai dan orang Melayu, beri perhatian berat kepada perkara ini.
Ambil contoh percubaan UMNO untuk mengubah orang Melayu dalam masa empat puluh tahun ini: gerakan-gerakan “revolusi mental”, “Melayu Baru”, “Islamisasi” dan “nilai-nilai murni”. Sudahkah kita membuat penilaian sejauh mana kita telah berjaya dengan gerakan-gerakan perubahan ini? Kalau kejayaan kita kurang dari 51 %, kita sudah gagal. Adakah pemimpin-pemimpin UMNO atau pemimpin-pemimpin Melayu sanggup duduk selama dua hari dan memikirkan secara jujur kegagalan ini? Daripada mereka menghabiskan masa berucap kosong di sana-sini, mengadakan seminar demi seminar untuk mengulang perkara-perkara yang sama yang kemudian tidak dipedulikan, apa lagi dengan suatu puak menyalahkan puak lain, bukankah lebih baik kita meluangkan masa dua tiga hari, malah dua tiga bulan pun, untuk mencari penyelesaian secara jujur tentang mada depan bangsa kita?
Pemimin-pemimpin UMNO, malah semua pemimpin dan cerdik-pandai kita, harus sedar akan bahaya yang kita hadapi dan buat dan laksanakan rancangan untuk mengatasinya.
UMNO’s Fifty-Ninth Anniversary
And The Future of Our Nation
(Translated by M. Bakri Musa)
Fifty-nine years later, and having survived many critical crises, UMNO is still here, relevant and strong as ever. For the past three years, UMNO has undergone a renewal of sorts, with the introduction of two new wings – Puteri and Putera – targeting specifically the younger set.
“Give me ten youths,” roared Sukarno, “and I will shake the world!” His was the metaphor for the idealism of youth. Time and age however, have a way of tempering and weakening that youthful idealism.
This does not necessarily have to be. Neither time nor age should diminish one's struggle to create a just world. Nonetheless, UMNO's leaders must admit to what is obvious to all, that the organization risks losing its vigor and purpose. There are some, leaders as well as followers, who still aspire to the lofty and noble goals articulated through the poetry of their President, Abdullah Badawi. He exhorted them to emulate past intellectual giants of Islam, men like Imam Shafie and Imam Ghazali, although I must say that names like Shafi’e and Al-Ghazali are not exactly associated with my idea of progressive thought!
Abdullah wants UMNO to re-invigorate its struggle for the Malay race. The question is how. Merely delivering fiery speeches and endless exhortations would not do it. Nor would ceaseless counseling and endless appeals would do it! Neither would the sobbing pleas by its leaders during the General Assembly have an impact! Similar difficulties await the eradication of the twin scourges of “money politics” and corruption that have been plaguing UMNO and indeed the entire nation for the past two or three decades.
Thirty years ago the stern advice was simply, “Do not take or give bribes!” Now with corruption entrenched in our culture, it is, “Don’t be stupid! If you do not grab the loot yourself, others will! It might as well be you!” Today corruption threatens the very survival of our society and nation.
We deride our village folks for being lazy and lacking initiative, but when our youths try to better themselves, we destroy their spirit by denying them the opportunities. Of those who tried, only a few succeeded; the lucky few with the right connections. The rest will fail precisely for lack of this “special” relationship.
Our youths have nowhere to turn. They are poorly educated, and their parents being simple village folks do not know how to seek help. The number of these disenfranchised youths, their parents, and siblings continues has been growing for the past thirty years. They pose a formidable threat to social stability. They could destroy our society unless something is done urgently to change the situation.
The remedy lies less with endless speechifying, sermonizing or supplication, rather through effective planning. We must provide them with effective guidance and exemplary models in order to effect such changes. Have we even started that process?
We must cleanse and reform UMNO through deeds and actions, not words. We are not without a model or guidance. We can seek inspiration from the Holy Quran and through the exemplary successes of the early years of Islam, during the era of our prophet s.a.w. and the generations immediately following. We can also learn from the emancipation of the great civilizations of Europe, Japan and China. The commonality to all those successes is the citizens’ abiding faith in the human condition, and their reverence for knowledge and science. What propelled the Arabs to be the leading nation in their era was the trinity of faith, knowledge and effort. Those too are the secrets of other successful civilizations. UMNO’s leaders and its three million members, as well as our intellectuals and ordinary citizens, ought to heed this.
Let us review the efforts of UMNO to change the state of affairs of Malays for the past forty years. We have had “Mental Revolution,” “The New Malay,” Islamization, and the nurturing of “glorious values.” We have yet to assess their effectiveness. If we have been even marginally successful, that would be reward enough. Are Malay leaders, specifically UMNO leaders, willing to sit down for a few days to analyze thoroughly those failures? Instead of wasting their time in idle talk, organizing endless seminars or worse, resorting to the old familiar blame game, it would be far better for them to devote a few days or even months to seek diligently solutions to the pressing issues threatening the future of our race. Too often, the preoccupation at those endless seminars is merely to rake over the same old issues that are then quickly forgotten.
UMNO leaders – indeed all leaders – and our intellectuals must surely be aware of the dangers confronting us. They must plan and execute a strategy to overcome them.