MYTH AND REALITY
By: Kassim Ahmad
3 Jun, 2015
I am writing on this topic in response to Prof. Khoo Kay Kim’s belated findings on Hang Tuah and his four comrades of the famed 15th century Malay Malacca Sultanate and my friend Mr. Din Merican’s slighty cynical article, “Hang Tuan dan Hang Apa Lagi” in his blog. The good professor’s findings were that Hang Tuah and his four comrades were not real, but merely myths.
What surprised me is that the story of Hang Tuah (Hikayat Hang Tuah) has been there for more than 300 years, and my two friends just discovered that it was a mythology. Therefore, generation of Malays have been fooled. For a moment we looked stupid.
I said, “For a moment,” on purpose. Because I quickly realized that what we call this real world is also a myth. There have been many myths, and they are as old as the world. Mythologies abound in the ancient world, in Babylon, Mesopotamia, In Egypt, India, China, even in ancient Greece where the rationalism of Socrates and Aristotle first took root.
We are told that all the prophets brought the religion of monotheism at their different phases, culminating with the last Prophet Muhammad. Yet we know that every time, 300 years after each prophet, the strict monotheism of Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and even Muhammad, become soiled by elements of polytheism. The monotheism of Moses became the religion of Judaism, of Jesus the religion of Christianity, and of Muhammad the religions of “the People of the Tradition” (Ahli Sunnah Wal-Jama’ah).
That was during the pre-scientific pre-modern era. With the advent of Muhammad, the human species entered the modern scientific era.
The Malay Malacca Sultanate of the 15th century with its Hang Tuah and his comtades emerged in the modern era. Whether Hang Tuah and his comrades did real exist or not is not really a relevant question to raise. What is relevant and important is to note is that they and their exploits have entered into the lives of generations of Malays in the wider Malay World. This fact is manifested in many forms: road names, names of warships and in many literary and cultural forms. They live in the psyche of the Malay people. This is not a myth. It is a reality.
KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian freelance writer. His website is www.kassimahmad.blogspot.com