By: Kassim Ahmad
18 April, 2008
â€œHe bestows wisdom upon whomsoever He chooses, and whoever attains wisdom, has attined a great bounty. Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.â€ â€“ Quran, 2: 269.
â€œSurely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts â€“ anyone who believes in God, and the Last Day, and leads a righteous life â€“ will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.â€ â€“ Quran, 2: 62.
The just-concluded 12th Malaysian General Election has introduced a new reality into the lives of Malaysians of all ethnic groups. For UMNO and the B.N., the have to re-thinks a whole lot of things, from their policy, their outlook to the ordinary people, their governance, and not least their political philosophy. They must do this soon â€“ say, within the next six months. Otherwise, it may be too late for their recovery.
The three Opposition Parties that have now become State Governments in the five states (the Pakatan Rakyat, or the Peopleâ€™s Alliance) also have to clarify their political philosophy, form a cohesive coalition and deliver on their promises for a better governance than the previous B.N. in the next 100 days.
The people at large also have a big task ahead. They have to modify their thinking. They have to make a paradigm shift, no less. First and foremost, they must think of themselves as Malaysians, as patriotic Malaysians. What is a patriotic Malaysian? This is a philosophical problem. Their thinkers must put their heads together and hammer the definition of a patriotic Malaysian into acceptable shape soon.
In this article, we shall delineate the major problems. Firstly, there is the question of race and its emotional and psychological attachments to it. Secondly, it is the question of religion, of whose problems we are only too familiar. Thirdly, there is the question of a just society. These are the three main questions that we must resolve soon. If we can resolve them satisfactorily soon, we can be sure that in 2050 we shall be a very successful Malaysia nation.
Now for the racial question. We were born into this world belonging to various racial groups, Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Muruts, Dayaks, etc. It is natural. God made us this way. At the same time, we are also human beings, Homo sapiens, of one parentage, Adam and Eve. We can also say that God made us this way. Thus, there is no contradiction between being a Malay/Chiness/Indian etc and a Malaysian. There is also no contradiction between being a Malaysian and a member of the World Community.
Of course, Malaysia has a history long before the European colonialists came to intervene in that history. This historical pattern will reform once the colonialists recede from the scene. Of course, history is what we make. Still, history has its own laws, which we flout only to our detriment.
So that is the racial question. It can easily be resolved.
The second religious question is the more intractable. Yet, it is not beyond solution, if we apply reason to it. The Quranic quotation above (2: 62) is a recognition of plurality in religion. The verse in fact mentions all religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and others. What is important is that the verse points to the existence at all times of believers (in God, the Last Day and in doing good) from among the various religious groups. In other words, there are believers from among Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Budhists, and other religious groups, in all historical times, including the present time. Thus, true believers in God are not to be defined by their names or outward behaviour. That verse defines believers in God as those who believe in accountability and in doing good.
The verse implies several things. Firstly, it implies tolerance of other religions, apart from oneâ€™s own. It also implies the dialogues of religions, consciously and peacefully undrertaken, or otherwise, at finding the truth of religions. Thirdly, it implies no force to be used in matters of religion. Verse 256 of Surah 2 of the Quran clearly and absolutely prohibits the use of force. The truth shall prevail by its own force, its reason, its fairness and its beauty.
There is a grave misunderstanding among some Muslims about the so-called Islamic State. They consider it their duty to set up an â€œIslamic stateâ€ whenever they are in the majority. In the Quran, there is no mention whatsoever about the setting up of an â€œIslamic stateâ€. Nor did Prophet Mohammad in his famous Medina Charter, which he drew up himself, mentioned the term. What Muslims are urged to do, when they are in a position to rule, is to rule justly. (see Quran, 4: 8) However, a misreading and a misunderstanding of the verses regarding judging by Godâ€™s laws have made latter-day theorists if â€œIslamic stateâ€ to uphold the so-called â€œFixed Punishmentsâ€, the Hudud Law. Any historian of law knows that punishment for crimes has varied from place to place and from time to time.
The third question is the question of a just society. This is no longer a difficult question. The Human Community has travelled so far in understanding this matter that it only needs a philosophical commitment of the country in question, in this case, Malaysia, to do so. The American Declaration of Independence, the U. N. Declaration of Human Rights, the Five Principles of the Bandung Conference, among the major landmarks of human history, have provided legal documents of the greatest value for setting up a just society. We want to add the Medina Charter and the Quran to these landmark legal documents that must guide present-day societies, including ours, in setting up a just society.
By adding the Quran, we are not being partial to Islam or the Muslims. The Quran, unlike any other sacred book that had been addressed to local communities, is Godâ€™s last message to Mankind. It is explicitly described thus, and it contains the wisdom necessary for Mankind to make the necessary leap into the Higher Life that God has destined for Man. Unfortunately, the Muslims themselves have abandoned the Quran (see Quran, 25: 30-31). But we are certain that it will be restored to the world in the near future.
Kassim Ahmad is a Malaysia author. He can be contacted at