Monday, August 29, 2016


By: Kassim Ahmad
29 August, 2016

            Almost a month ago, I was admitted to Kulim Hospital because of complications of my left lung. Unbeknown to me and perhaps my friends in Kuala Lumpur wanted to present a fiat accomplice to me, they  arranged an evening of poetry recital for me. Due to pressure of my friends, I appealed to my doctors to allow me two days off. They relented after extracting from me a promise to return to the hospital.
            My son spirited me in his powerful car to the promised avenue to reach sharp at 2.30 on that Sunday 7th August. There were present about 60 people, including some friends, in the small hall. Without much ado, the Chairman introduced me, and then after a gentleman sitting on my right spoke his stuff, he passed the microphone to me to start reciting my poem “Sidang Ruh” (= Human Souls in Session).
            I called for music.There was none. So, deliberately, slowly, in a sombre  voice, I recited:- [1]


                        perlu satu-satu diperhitungkan kembali
                        hari ini kita dewasa
                        tanpa tuhan tanpa impian
                        kerana besok mungkin terlalu lewat
                        bagi kiamat yang telah ditangguhkan.

                        bukan aku sinis
                        jangan kau mengateis
                        beritaku dari mereka yang lupa bagaimana untuk hidup
                        maka demikian perlu kata-kata
                        supaya maut kita jangan kerana bisu.

                        kalau kau percaya kepada manusia sejahtera
                        jangan kau bergembira menurut hukum
                        (kerana kemenangan)
                        kalau kau percaya kepada manusia bebas
                        jangan kau berkata menurut hukum
                        (kerana taat-setia)
                        kerana tidak ada hukum yang akan berlaku
                        (namun digubal dalam pi bi bi)
                        yang tidak berperlembagaan di hati.


                        sudah datang berita yang paling kejam
                        bagi mereka yang lagi hidup kerana bisa berharap
                        dunia ini penjara
                        nasi kita akan cukup di syurga.

                        di atas belakang Dajjal
                        telah diperdagangkan hidup
                        gelak dan hilai bukan kerana bahagia
                        gelak dan hilai kerana papa.

                        akan bersidang segala roh
                        anakmu hari ini makan apa
                        nasi atau beer
                        ketawanya palsu tangisnya tanpa suara.


                        nanti akan padamlah dengan sendirinya
                        lampu dari menara tinggi
                        kerana di bawahnya orang kian mabuk
                        dan Tuhan sudah mati.


            I heard my voice booming across the room. The audience applauded me when I finished the recital. I asked them if they wanted me to explain it stanza by stanza. They replied, “Yes.” So I did. Again they applauded me. I stood up to acknowledge their applause.
          Then came questions and answers. One asked me a question I did not expect -- what I thought of religious scholars. For some reason, I shot out a cryptic answer, “Cari makan,” meaning they were  merely earning a livelihood. To my surprise, none asked me to explain what I meant. Back at home, I thought I should have been fairer. Then I would have to tell them that most of them were as ignorant as the next man! And I would enumerate their errors: the second syahadah annulled in the Quran (63: 1), on the so-called Hudud punishments, the once-a-year practice of the pilgrimage to Mecca, cramming two million people into the small place, causing over-crowing and at times many deaths, when the Quran stipulates that the hajj can be performed in anyone of the four sacred months. Not only that. Only those who are healthy and financially able should  perform the hajj, once in a life-time. The rural folk especially would rake their life-time savings to do the hajj. A woman’s hair is not her ‘aurat or nakedness that needs to be covered. Their religious scholars – where are they?  Why do they not tell them the truth from the Quran? 
          At the end, many came forward to ask me to autograph my books in their possession and to take photographs  with me..
          I must say I enjoyed every minute of the evening.

KASSIM AHMAD  is a Malaysian author. His website is    

[1] This poem was written in August, 1960 and published in Utusan Zaman.

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