Thursday, June 22, 2017


                                                                By: Kassim Ahmad
                                                                    22June, 2017

   English poet John Keats said, "Beauty is Truth/Truth Beauty/That is all I know/That is all there is to know/.
In my experience, this came several times. In a dialogue organized by ABIM. a Muslim youth organization on my book Hadis - Satu Penilian Semula (translated Hadith - A Re-evaluation).
   When the Malay original came out,in 1986 the Malaysian skies fell on me like a ton of bricks. Our cartoonist Lat depicted this event very well with me carrying a beg with dark skies and  storms brewing on the right.. The book was discussed in the print media for two months, half supporting me and half opposing. After the two months of wide discussions, the reactionary religious authorities banned it. It was a primitive act inherited from the European Middle Ages. Soon it was translated into English and Arabic and read throughout the world, bringing positive consequences in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. In Malaysia six rejoinders soon appeared, repeating their tired old arguments, which I had already demolished in the book in the first place.
   I was not the first to be critical of hadith. Several writers before me had done so. But, without wanting to boat, mine was the first all round and scientific treatment of the matter.
   The book originated from a five-part article that I wrote for my weekly column in a weekly magazine.The editor, fearful of negative repercussions in a fanatically Shafi'e-influenced Malaysia, refused to publish it. I learned later that the matter was discussed in the Cabinet and even raised in the Malay Rulers' Council. The education minister then, Abdullah Badawi, acting for the Cabinet, I guessed, rightly argued for freedom of academic discourse. My friends in the a department of sociology and anthropology in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia was ready to sponsor the seminar I called for. However, it was cancelled by Pusat Islam/Islamic Centre. Lastly, I had to resort to publishing it through my friend-publisher Azran Abd. Rahman, bringing the skied down on my head, as I said.
   My Arab philosopy professor-friend Dr Hassan Hanafi chided me for raising an abstract matter, arguing I should focuss my attention to bread-and-butter issues..I replied that I wanted those things as well, but these can only be had through a philosophical outlook.
   Coming back to my story about the ABIM dialogue: several scholars in attendance yelled at me accusing me of arrogance. In fact one prayer leader denounced me in a Friday prayer sermon when I was in front of him.
After the prayer I looked at the village youths who attended the prayer. They simply smiled! I thought if I were in Pakistan or Bangladesh. I would have been beaten to death!
   Two three years later all of them -- those religious scholars who opposed me -- realized their error and apologized to me. God be praised!
KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian author. His website is  

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