Wednesday, 3 December 2008

In God we trust


THINGS IN COMMON by Syed Akbar Ali (Syed Akbar Ali, 2008, 442 pages)

It was not a surprise to find, somewhere in the middle of this book, that Syed Akbar Ali is a fan of teh tarik. Reading this book is like sharing a long chat session (of the non-virtual kind) over many glasses of the frothy stuff.

The title doesn’t give much away, although the pictures of non-Muslims (in real and doctored photos) dressed in garb that we commonly associate as ‘Islamic’ immediately intrigues. The back cover is similarly non-committal, as it consists solely of the 43 chapter headings. The chapters have names like “Dogs & Lizards” and “Guidance from Village Intellects,” so you would not be wrong in thinking: Well, well, what have we here!

Initially, this book sets out to do something quite specific. The author would take examples of practices that are nowadays, especially in Malaysia, considered to be the epitome of Islamic conduct. Then he would show how this practice has no basis in the Quran.

It was quite a bracing read, and lends credence to his idea that the Quran is probably the ‘most chanted’ but ‘least read’ book in the world. Most Muslims would place the Quran in a high place but not refer to specific verses in their everyday lives. We have seemingly allowed intermediaries, some of whom have vested and even material interests, to interpret the book on our behalf. The results, as Syed Akbar wants to show, is a community that is much more backward, superstitious and plain wrong than it should be.

A specific example would be dogs. Most Malaysian Muslims consider them to be unclean beasts. But the Quran says no such thing. Dogs are mentioned only a few times in the holy book, but always positively. Syed Akbar then hilariously counterpoints the many good canine qualities against those of the relatively useless cats.

There are many more examples where this came from, since the book does have 43 chapters. Before reading this book, I did not know that the longest verse in the Quran deals with the importance of written contracts. Imagine that! The need to be honest and circumspect in business dealings has the honour of getting so much continuous space, while our own religious authorities seem rather more concerned about other matters such as women’s dressing and the type of physical activity that people (whether dressed or otherwise) choose to take part in.

His style is entertaining – especially when he is exasperated about something, which is often – and even eccentric, as seen in the rant about the service at Pizza Hut. Further proof of eccentricity is his decision to provide footnote definitions of certain words, although I interpret this as his sarcastic response to Malaysians’ reportedly declining standards of England, I mean English.

The later chapters lose some of the tight point-counterpoint strategy of the earlier ones, in favour of broader harangues about how Muslms have allowed themselves to become so uncompetitive. I particularly liked the way the NEP is characterised, by age and also demeanour, as the Middle-Aged Economic Policy.

Syed Akbar is a ‘fundamentalist’ in the sense that he wants people to return to the fundamentals. In this, he shares Dr. Mahathir’s ideals that Islam is not only compatible with progress, but that to be a true Muslim is to progress in all fields.

Unlike a politician, even a vocal one, he can be more forthright in pointing out where nations go wrong. The royal mess that Arab states have made of their rich resources, by keeping their populations poor and ignorant, is scary and sobering. Syed Akbar seems to have devoted more to this theme in his previous book Malaysia and the Club of Doom – The Collapse of the Islamic Countries. I have not read that but it’s somewhere near the top of my to-buy list now.

It may not be kosher as a scholarly text (there are far too many Wikipedia citations for that), but his anecdotal style is more valuable in waking people up. And this is by no means a book solely about Islam for Muslims. Its many examples and exhortations are instructive for anyone who wants to see how a community – any community – can allow itself to be dumbed down through the ages. Beware – but don’t abandon hope!

(Malay Mail, 3 December)

7 comments:

faez said...

bro, buku KAMI tu ada lagi ek? kat MPH Shah Alam (kedua-duanya) mcm dah abis.

Anonymous said...

Faez, try kat Times Pavilion KL, Level 6, ada banyak lagi dijual.

Anonymous said...

Oooo~~
Interesting.
I need to get this book.

-chee

Anonymous said...

it's rather strange that the book makes only reference to Quran. None mention about hadith. Is Quran alone enough? We claim ourselves as ahli sunnah wal jamaah. Sunnah refer to Nabi's way of life. So why should be abandon sunnah?

I also found some contradictions in his book i.e.
Chapter 27, tuan ada sebut “Many find this surprising but it’s true. The name Akbar is not part of asmaaul husna. The phrasa Allahu Akbar is not found in the Quran”. He even wrote that Kabir in not even one of the 99 names.

Akbar (lebih besar atau byk org kata Maha Besar) sama macam Afdhal (lebih baik). Ia diguna untuk perbandingan. Dlm konteks di sini, maksudnya Allah lebih besar dari segala yang lain, sebab tu terjemahan yg digunakan ialah Maha besar (paling besar).

Kabir indeed is one of the 99 names. How misleading!

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Patung

Hadis dari Ali r.a.: Malaikat rahmat tidak akan memasuki rumah yang di dalamnya ada gambar (patung) dan yang di dalamnya ada orang berjunub. (Abu Daud, Ahmad, An-nasai, Ibnu Hibban)

Dalam satu hadis lain (diringkaskan melalui kefahaman saya, yg didengar melalui ceramah Ustaz Jusoh nawawi di Radio IKIM) bahawa Aisyah r.a. sarungkan bantal Nabi dgn lukisan burung yang timbul. Nabi sangat marah bila melihatnya dan berkata “pembuat burung ini akan masuk neraka dan akan diminta nyawanya oleh apa yang diukirnya”.

Pada pendapat saya yang kurang ilmu ini, zaman Sulaiman dan zaman Nabi Muhammad berbeza. Mungkin di zaman Nabi Sulaiman, orang2 tidak sembah berhala tapi sembah matahari, sbb itu patung2 tidak menjadi isu. Di zaman Nabi, patung2 berhala terlalu banyak dijadikan bahan pemujaan, sebab itu ia diharamkan kerana takut timbul pemujaan - begitu lah kata Ustaz Jusoh Nawawi.
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Anjing

Ustaz Jusoh juga ada sebut hadis (sekali dgn hadis patung di atas) bahawa malaikat rahmat takkan masuk rumah yang ada anjing. Walaubagaimanapun diharuskan bela anjing utk tujuan tertentu i.e. berburu pengembalaan, tapi bukan untuk dibuat main2, dibelai2, peluk cium.
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Punishment for Adultery

Perempuan yang berzina dan lelaki yang berzina, hendaklah kamu sebat tiap-tiap seorang dari keduanya seratus kali sebat, dan janganlah kamu dipengaruhi oleh perasaan belas kasihan terhadap keduanya dalam menjalankan hukum Allah, jika benar kamu beriman kepada Allah dan hari akhirat, dan hendaklah disaksikan hukum siksa yang dikena kepada mereka itu oleh sekumpulan dari orang-orang yang beriman*. - Surah An-Nur: 2

Hadis Rasulullah saw yang diriwayatkan daripada Abi Hurairah katanya:-
Seorang lelaki (Ma'iz Al-Islami) datang mengadapRasulullah saw yang sedang berada di Masjid maka ia memanggil baginda lalu berkata: Wahai Rasulullah! sesungguhnya aku telah berzina, maka baginda berpaling daripadanya sehingga lelaki itu mengulangi pengakuannya sebanyak empat kali. Kemudian apabila lelaki tadi membawa empat saksi ke atas dirinya, maka Rasulullah saw bertanya lagi. Adakah engkau telah muhsan, lalu Rasulullah saw bersabda: Pergilah kamu semua dan rejamlah dia. - Riwayat Muslim.
iii) Hadis Rasulullah saw yang diriwayatkan daripada 'Ubadah b Al-Somit daripada Nabi saw sabdanya:-
Ambillah oleh kamu peraturan daripadaku. Ambillah oleh kamu peraturan daripadaku. Sesungguhnya Allah telah memberikan jalan untuk mereka. Perawan dan jejaka (yang melakukan perzinaan), hukumannya disebat sebanyak seratus kali sebat dan dibuang negeri selama setahun. Dan janda sama janda (berzina) hukumannya sebat sebanyak seratus kali sebat dan direjam. - Riwayat Muslim dan Abu Daud.


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Sesungguhnya Imam2 yang membuat tafsir quran, meriwayatkan hadith membuat hukum dan fatwa teutamanya imam2 di zaman sahabat dan tabi’in adalah orang yg dekat dgn Nabi dan mempunyai kelebihan bergaul dgn orang2 yang pernah bergaul dengan Nabi. Mereka bukan cakap ikut sedap rasa dan perasaan. Mereka beristikharah, dan beribadat sesungguhnya minta ilham dari Allah maka bukanlah hak kita untuk mengatakan sewenangnya kepada mereka.
Taraf iman ulama zaman awal juga lebih tinggi kerana itu mereka buat hukum dan fatwa dgn hati2 dan kita rasa (remeh temeh) sdgkan ada orang2 yang kata Islam itu mudah, kenapa nak susah2kan benda2 kecil?. Bahawa ulama zaman dulu mempunyai taqwa lebih tinggi pada Allah dan takut tersilap dan pada pendapat saya bak kata orang sekarang “play safe”. Bukan macam kita zaman sekarang main ikut rasa aja. Harap kita tak menjadi golongan yang menyesal di akhirat nanti. Amin.

Whoever read the book should not rely heavily on the book. Do your study, refer to alim ulama' and read related books.

Amir said...

But if a hadith contradicts the Quran, shouldn't the hadith be considered false?

And is Islam really meant to have a powerful clerical (ulama) class that interprets everything on our behalf? Or is out relationship with the Creator a more direct thing than that?

Wallahu-alam!

Anonymous said...

Are we good enough in bahasa arab? that's why we have to rely on those arabs and those who learn arabic.

Yes, our relationship with God is direct i.e in solat, no need a perantara.

What do you mean hadis considered false? hadis maudhu'? Hadis dhaif?
hadis maudhu' (false) we do have to reject. Those were created by munaafiqun and kaafirun.

Do you know how hadis were classified? Sahih (like sahih Bukhari and Muslim), hasan, dhaif, maudhu'? If not, better go and learn. Dont just reject them blindly.

Amir said...

Nobody's rejecting any hadith blindly. Read the first paragraph of my comment again :-)