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Scholarly Life

The following is a summary of my talk on “The Geniuses who Gave us Islam -The Spread of Islam in the Malay world and What We can Learn from it.”

Thanks to Sister Nurfariheen bte Mohamad Dawood for contributing the summary. May you be rewarded for your effort. I have edited it and inserted extra points I raised during the talk.

The Geniuses who gave us Islam -the spread of Islam in the Malay world and what we can learn from it.

Presented@Youth Alive discourse (Glorifying our Heritage, Emulating the Legacy – Inspirations from our Islamic Civilisation), 18 May 2013.

Some Clarifications about Ourselves

Melayu doesnt mean ‘layu’ /weak

It useful to begin by correcting mistaken ideas about ourselves. We often think that the word “Melayu” gives evidence that Malays are, in essence, “layu (weak or withered). Actually, the word comes from the word ‘malayu’ to describe a language which the natives in this part of the word spoke for almost a millenium. Malayu is a word that described the beauty of the Malay language which was spoken by a highly cultured group of people. Continue reading “The Geniuses that Changed the Malays” »

Loving The People who Subjugated Us

Colonialism has left us for some time but, here in Singapore, we are still “celebrating” the deeds of the people who impoverished Asia of its Wealth and the Malay World of its Greatness.

Raffles is portrayed today as a Man of Learning when, in reality, the man was an Orientalist par excellence endowed with a Prejudiced Mind unsurpassed by even the most vehement of imperialists in his time.

Nothing is said about his complicity in the killing of the natives of Bencoolen, about his jaundiced views pertaining to religions in Southeast Asia, about his stereotypical depictions of Malays, Chinese, Indians and whatever races he deemed as inferior than the whites. And yes, they also forgot about his role in spreading an imperialist and exploitative variant of Freemansonry in the region; one that ensured that trade in the Malay World was under the thumb of European trading companies.

All these are simply removed from the luxurious exhibits to cover up the flaws of a personality whom even revisionist historians in our midst regard as a Founder of Modern Singapore.

The more things change, the more the love for colonialism remain the same, perhaps even stronger now than ever. Is this what we want our children to learn in schools? That the future generation should smile in awe for having been colonized?

Last Seminar

Last Seminar for my Module, The Religious Life of the Malays. I learnt a lot from the students about how Malays in Singapore, Malaysia and South Thailand practiced and manifest their religiosity. We explored topics such as Everyday Stereotypes, the Ulamas, Religious Reformism, Sacred Sites, Conversion and Reversion, Islamic Education, Muslim Popular Cultures, Women’s Place in Islam and the Impact of the New Media. This is probably one of the best seminar groups I have had all these years.

Not all scholarly ideas are meant for the consumption of the masses just as not all sciences are structured in ways that could be easily explained to the layman.

A starving refugee need not know the details of the science of economics nor should a tribesman living in tents have a working knowledge of the theory of indoor air quality.

But knowledge of both sciences, couched in simple terms, can be beneficial for both the refugee and the tribesman.

Academic theories and ideas, much like philosophical expositions, are useful for scholars to figure out the ways by which complex problems pertaining to life and the world could be addressed.

After having clarified these problems in high-sounding language, scholars then have the duty to explain the complexities of their sciences in simple terms to the masses.

But we must agree to disagree that some scholars are just not able to simplify the ideas they seek to promote for the benefit of mankind. The people around them therefore must take on the responsibility to clarify certain issues that remain obscure or that are seemingly vague and difficult to follow.

This explains the Culture of Commentaries that exist in the scholarly world, particularly so, in the Muslim Civilizations, then and now. One scholar’s work would be commented upon by his/her students to arrive at a better understanding of what has been said.

Because of the tireless efforts of Scholars and their Disciples, what we have today is a legacy of Commentaries that has enabled us to better appreciate the Great Sages who have pushed us forward in history.

Ilmu yang Bermanfaat

Ilmu yang Bermanfaat,

Bagaikan Pokok yang Subur,

Dimana Buahnya memberi kepada yang menimbanya Cetusan Harapan,

Dahan Dedaunnya menjadi Pelindung bagi sesiapa sahaja yang diselubungi Kegentingan,

Bunganya melahirkan Kelegaan di dalam diri hamba yang dilanda Kebimbangan,

Dan Akarnya memberi Keteguhan di dalam lubuk hati yang lelah di Pintu Kerintangan.