Note: This is an extended version of Kassim Ahmad's interview with the Bosnian magazine. MBM
KASSIM AHMAD'S INTERVIEW WITH FARIS NANIC*
8th May, 2006
1. In the last decade you have been portrayed as an anti-hadith thinker in Malaysia due to your writings on certain aspects of fiqh and shari'a. What was the problem?
A. My book titled «Hadith – A Re-evaluation» (Malay original: Hadis – Satu Penilaian Semula) is self-explanatory. I am critical of the hadith both in terms of its content (Ar. matan) as well as its chain of narrators (Ar. isnad). I did not deny its existence, but I denied its pre-eminent place with the Quran, which is a new doctrine introduced by Imam Shafi'e (d. 820) two hundred years after the Prophet's death. That explains why the official corpus of Hadith (the so-called Six Books of Authentic Hadith of the Sunnis and three collections of the Shi'ah Hadith) did not come into existence until after Shafie introduced this doctrine that the Hadith/Sunnah is compulsory on the Muslims. This was done with his ingenious argument in his book, Al-Risalah, that obedience to the Messenger equals upholding of the Hadith and Sunnah. When we examine all usages of this phrase in the Quran, the meaning is clearly to obey God and to uphold the Quran.
Before this, there were personal notes and collections of hadith, but they were not official. They became official only after Imam Shafi'e introduced his new doctrine .
2. Bosniacs belong to the hanefi madhab and therefore have less problems with hadith role in jurisprudence. Do you think it is a universal muslim problem?
A. In principle, I think it is a universal Muslim problem. Everywhere the majority of Muslims consider the Hadith as on par or almost on par with the Quran. Muslims are taught to believe that without the Hadith, the Quran cannot be understood and without the Hadith the Prophet's role is somehow negated. All this is untrue and unreasonable. God Himself states that the Quran is complete and perfect. In some places in the Quran, the Quran is said to be the «words of an honourable messenger».(Quran, 69:40 & 81:19) Muhammad was entrusted with the Quran precisely because he was morally and intellectually fit to carry and deliver it to the Arabs and to mankind. This, we know, he did.
Of course, Muslims are taught that Prophet Muhammad was an illiterate man to deflect the Christian criticism that He copied the Quran from the Bible. But the Arabic word ummi means «gentile», not «illiterate».
3. You have presented a poetical metaphor describing muslims as those who have entered a shiny palace, lock themselves in and threw the keys out. What do you mean?
A. The teaching of the Quran is complete and perfect in the sense that it is the guidance for a spiritually adult human being, the last completed, perfected and up-dated Book of God. It is like the text for a University student. It does not teach you how to eat and dress or how to pray even, for that matter, because these things one has learnt at the primary level. All the rituals of prayer, fasting and so on were introduced during Prophet Abraham's time and passed on from generation to generation until the time of Prophet Muhammad and until today. (Quran, 2:128) So what we have learnt from the primary and secondary schools, as it were, are no longer taught in the Quran. The Quran is complete and perfect in the sense that all a spiritually adult human being needs to know he can know from a study of the Quran. The perfect system which the majority of Muslims mean is the minutely-regulated so-called Shariah law which regulates everything, even including on what day to cut your finger nails and what prayer to say while entering the toilet! This is their perfect system (the palace of my metaphor) of which they are extremely proud. Unfortunately, this is a prison! It is a prison, because it robs them of their freedom to think and to act.
4. Do you think there is a general lack of knowledge in the West on real muslim contribution to the human civilisation or there exists a deliberate manipulation and decrease of that contibution by the western science historians?
A. It is both. The enemity of the Jews and the Christians towards Islam is nothing new. It did not start with 9/11, as a great many people, including Muslims, tend to think. (Remeber the Crusades?)One form of this enmity is their conspiracy to deny Muslim contributions to many branches of modern knowledge. Read the books The Making Of Humanity by Robert Briffault and, Introduction to the History of Science, by George Sarton Vol. II to realise this. Many Westerners, as with others, simply take over their society's perjudices towards Islam without bothering to make their own investigations. But sooner or later, especially after 9/11 and with Huntington's thesis of the «Clash of Civilizations» between the West and Islam, the European and the American peoples will come to know the true Islam in the teachings of the Quran. The Muslims themselves, although still a minority, after Dr. Rashad Khalifa's brilliant discovery of the mathematical miracle of the Quran and criticism of the Hadith, have re-awakened to the truth of the Quran. Both these forces will combine to bring back the Quran to the Muslims and to the world, precisely at a time when both stand in great need of it.
5. If we agree that in approximately three centuries there has not been any muslim paticipation in revolutionary breakthroughs in scinece and philosophy, what is your opinion on the roots of such state of affairs?
A. The Muslim creative spirit, fired by the revolutionary teachings of the Quran, has been killed. That is the root cause. Note that the teachings of Muhammad (the Quran) came to free the then world of their burdens (of superstitions and false teachings). Who has killed this spirit? As usual, the enemies of truth and justice come in many garbs, including the Muslims. The Muslims themselves, like the Christians and the Jews, have created their own priesthood without realizing it. It is this priesthood that had created the Hadith and the so-called Sharia, both of which are not sactioned by the Quran.
6. In the light of actual unipolarism in the world and so far Malaysian principal stance for multipolarism and dialogue instead of conflict of civilisations, what do you think what should be general muslim position on dialogue amnog cultures and civilisations?
A. It is obligatory on Muslims everywhere to seek peace, but not peace at any price. It is obligatory on them to fight those who make war on them. The dialogue of cultures and civilizations is an important way to world peace, but not the only way. What do you do to a group that does not sincerely want a dialogue, but only wants to dominate you?
7. Some observers think that Malaysia, in the post-Mahathir era is not playing a significant role any more, outside regional considerations, namely ASEAN. Do you agree?
A. Yes, I do. Malaysia worships pragmatism and avoid philosophy like the plague. Even Tun Dr. Mahathir. So it is wise and good politics to be in the good books of Uncle Sam! But Tun Dr. Mahathir was slightly different. He was anti-colonial and anti-feudal from the very beginning.
8. Prime minister Badawi recently expressed dissatisfaction with certain tendencies in the Malaysian society and challenged civil servants to leave their posts if uncompetent to fulfill their tasks and duties. What is behind these statements?
A. The Malaysian bureaucracy is huge and costly, but productivity-wise it is declining. And people are complaining. That is the reason.
9. Energy and energy independence is one of the crucial factors of a country's independence and sovereignty. How do you envisage Malaysia's energy future and what do you think should be Malaysian standpoint on nuclear technology for energy production?
A. I think Malaysia, as all sovereign countries, should go to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Can we imagine what will happen to the deserts of Africa once we can turn them into gardens of green and feed the world population cheaply? That is what nuclear technology can do! Why don't we do it then? Because it does not benefit the oligarchy, which lives and prospers on peoples' miseries.
10. Malaysian government recently floated ringgit against major currencies. Is this because it feels the danger from 1998/99 Asian flu is over or because it has built enough measures to counter another speculative attack on its currency? What happened with other 1999 Mahathir's government mesures?
A. The entire world financial system is in danger of imminent collapse. It is usury-ridden and bankrupt. «The Great Disorder under Heaven» (Mao Tse-tung's phrase) that is now reigning in the world is due to this. The sooner we correct this, the better. But most leaders of the world belong to an elitist club that does not want to rock the boat. So they do almost nothing even though the Titanic is sinking! The real peoples' leaders are now few and far between. Where are the Sukarnos, the Chou En-lies, the Nehru's, the Nassers, the Ben Bellas and the Titos of today?
11. Proporodov Journal is a Croatian Bosniac Muslim minority magazine. Our readers are very interested in Malaysia's particular experience with various minority aspects. Therefore, two questions emerge. First, what is Malaysian goverment doing, bilaterally and multilaterally, to help Malay national minority in neighboring countries, especially Thailand? Second, what is the level of intregration of Chinese, Hindu, Tamil, Sikh and other minorities intoMalaysian society, especially in public sector like politics, military, diplomacy and alike?
A. Given the present situation of Anglo-American imperialist world hegemony and a divided Muslim world, nothing much can be done, although we should help the poor and the down-trodden in all countries. The answer to the second part of the question is that more can be done, because so far the integration of the various communities into a just Malaysian society is quite superficial. It can be upset by a major crisis. But I think such a policy would need a new humanist political philosophy. It cannot be achieved under a so-called liberal democratic system of the Western capitalist mould.
* Mr Faris Nanic is editor of Propordov Journal, a Croatian Bosniac Muslim magazine.