Ho, Ho, Ho! – Reaching Into The Heavens for a Bottle of Wine
Or, Kassim Ahmad And His Autobiography: Mencari Jalan Pulang – Daripada Sosialisme Kepada Islam
It is about reaching for an ending of a normal kind for an extraordinary life that former Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (PSRM) president, Kassim Ahmad, has put into a book, Mencari Jalan Pulang, an autobiography that is a full-bodied jug of inebriating wine.
While it ought to answer the critical questions why he left the PSRM after 18 years at the helm and then joined UMNO, the book answered little of those mysteries of Kassim, the writer, scholar, and mainly a gadfly with a voracious appetite for ideas and an equally powerful enthusiasm to let loose those ideas into a society that has been reluctant to accept them.
Those ideas were often imported along with their masters, forcing Kassim having then to look to them to help him weather the storms he brewed, or explain to society the abstruse philosophies they brought.
After he left PSRM Kassim first launched Dr. Rashad Khalifah and his rejection in toto of the Hadis (Prophetic Traditions). It was meant to demolish a basic structure of Islam, the Hadis being a source of Islamic Law.
Rashad was later killed in his own mosque in
This was a useful move. LaRouche’s movement not only served Kassim with good ideas but LaRouche would later prove useful to Kassim as an American connection who did not appreciate Anwar Ibrahim.
LaRouche was leader of a Quaker political movement which later became a faction of the Democratic Party. His ideas were and are revolutionary; he threads the development of political, economic and scientific ideas carefully from their earlier Greek sources and extrapolating them to the future of humanity.
In the process of these flights to fulfill some emptiness in his life, Kassim lost his friends and lieutenants, something he has difficulty explaining in his book, and perhaps also to himself.
Kassim’s trouble was that he could not be a genuine member of UMNO however much he tried. He was primarily a socialist thinker and leader; he should have remained in PSRM where he felt at home.
For reasons of his own, Kassim left PSRM in 1984, explaining in his book that he had been meeting then UMNO President and Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who, though reluctant at first, was later to agree to consider PSRM joining the Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.
But did PSRM know of his meetings with Mahathir or had Kassim taken matters into his own hands and then expected his party to simply agree to abide by his edicts?
Some PSRM members said, “Kassim stole PSRM’s money and he had to flee,” a metaphorical description that stuck on Kassim like a leach that would not let go. He had leapt away like a frog after leading the party for 18 years, and his party members preferred him dead.
Even if Kassim had tried to explain that he had lost faith in socialism, he cannot erase the image he had built of himself as a socialist for as long as the men and women he had led remained alive. These workers and peasants haunted him. Some spent more time than Kassim in detention, who was incarcerated from 1976 to 1981. Many of his followers broke down in detention; now Kassim has changed his political color and his soul as well.
I was a witness to this distressing abyss in Kassim’s life. He had called me through Dr. Chandra Muzaffar to help with his (Kassim’s) Hadis that he had presented in a series of seminars at the Universiti Kebangsaan
LaRouche predicted this breakdown decades earlier, but he had nothing to say about Islamic financial institutions, instruments and products, which are measures of civilized progress, no less.
My friend Kassim had not provided any additional insights in his autobiography on what caused him reject the major role of hadis; he is in effect blowing apart a basic and accepted structure of Islam.
I disagree with and have argued against Kassim’s blind distaste for Islamic traditionalism. I did this at a time when we Muslims were putting together an Islamic financial institution, an endeavor with which I was a little involved. As mentioned, we derive our guidance and regulations defining these financial institutions and instruments mainly from hadis.
A. Ghani Ismail
Ps. The food advertisement with the picture of Kassim on the cover of his book is appropriate as it shows him fit. Keep writing; he is only 75!
Kassim Ahmad Responds:
A Short Rejoinder to A. Ghani Ismail
By: Kassim Ahmad
I am pleasantly surprised to find my old friend re-surface after more than five years of absence from my circle of regular contacts. It does not matter greatly, for my priorities and importance is different. I thank him for saying that at 75 years I am not old, and that I should be writing! As a matter of fact, I am, in spite of my not very good health launched my autobiography two months earlier, which he reviewed in his blog.
He would certainly be a candidate from whom I would ask a favor to read some of my draft chapters, if not all. By the way, I am currently writing my latest book which I am provisionally titling, “Islam – the Religion of Divine Unity”. I am certain that my publisher would try to give a more catchy title, like “Islam – How It Has Been Corrupted by Its Ulama!”
Talking about giving credit where it is due, Ghani Ismail’s story about my failing to give due credit to him as well as another good friend Dr. Chandra Muzaffar for my Hadith book is his take, no more, no less. He has been a journalist for many decades, and a very good one at that. Hence he is good at making stories! Like me, he has been a writer too. I wished his version was true, so that at least he would have to share the burden of the “anti-Hadith” label with me since 1986. However, I would not be so mean as to want that to happen to him! I mean I really and truly yearn to say, “Thank you” to him, and to others, instead of to God alone!
It is obvious that I could not have asked him to read the drafts. The five articles that were the basis of my hadis book were originally meant as my answers to my critic, whose name I have forgotten, in the then weekly magazine Watan where I had a column, “Berani kerana benar” (“Courage because of the truth”). I gave myself two months to prepare those five articles but because the editor of the magazine would not let me answer my critic through his publication, I resorted to a university seminar to voice my views. This too was also subsequently successfully thwarted by the religious establishment. My last resort thus was to have the five articles published as a book. I had no time, nor did I ask anybody to read the manuscript, with the exception of Dr. Mahathir, who was the then Prime Minister. He congratulated me for having written it. He was a careful reader as he pointed to certain errors on my part in the numbering of the verses of the Quran.
There are other similar “stories” or factual inaccuracies in Ghani Ismail’s review. I would not want to dwell into them. I have learned that it is one of those things that very often happened in life; I take them in stride. Remember, at 75 I am not young, but thank God, I am still writing, and I want to spend my time finishing my book, rather that cross swords with my old friend, whom I rather remember with fondness.