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Takeaway #6 from talk on “Malay Muslim Thinking – Lessons from History” at Masjid Assyafaah Darul Hadith on 16 Feb 2013

Extract from my FB post. Thanks to Ahmad Salik Ahmad Ishak

Takeaway #6 from Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied‘s talk on “Malay Muslim Thinking – Lessons from History” at Masjid Assyafaah Darul Hadith on 16 Feb 2013

Allah says in the Qur’an:

31:22 And whosoever submits himself to Allah with sincere faith while he performs good deeds, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold and to Allah return all matters for decision.

Malays have been Muslims for not more than 500 years. The Malays used to believe in hundreds of Gods but with the advent of Islam, they now believe in only one God. Tauhid (believe in One God) has strengthened and empowered the Malays. When the Malays do not believe in Syirik, Tahyul, superstition and when they are not afraid of ghosts, syaithan, etc, they become a strong community. Tauhid elevated the status of the Malays.

That is why during the 14th to 18th century, Malays in this region were one of the most powerful races in the world until a Portuguese traveler during this time described the Malays in his book as people who were tall with stout bodies, ate little, good in trade, highly intellectual, loved poetry, knowledge and Al-Qur’an.

Malays were so great during this time until part of the Malay world was then known as “Serambi Mekkah” (Mecca’s Verandah). The Arabs used to travel to the Malay world to study Islam. Syeikh Ahmad Khatib who was a Malay became a religious scholar in Mecca and taught the Arabs the Arabic language. There was a community in Mecca called the Javanese community and among them lived many Malay scholars.

The Malays were known for their great civilization, mastery in trade, comprehensive and highly intellectual thinking. There is nothing in the books written in the West about Malays who were ridden with diseases. The Malays before the era of advanced science were fit, lean, strong and healthy. They were hardworking, not lazy, and they were thinkers.

In many villages in Java, a lot of religious scholars were born. The Malays used to have the concept of “surau” – places where Al-Quran was learnt. Al-Quran became the main source of guidance for them until the way of writing the Malay language was changed to Jawi. Today, Malays don’t know how to read Jawi but it used to be a platform for the Malays to learn Al-Quran.

There are a lot of Malay scholars whom Malays today don’t even know. Their names display their places of birth.

Hamzah Fansuri
Syamsudin Sumatrani,
Nuruddin al-Raniri
‘Abd Rauf Singkel
‘Abd al-Shamad al-Palembangi
Ismail al-Minangkabawi
‘Abd al-Wahhab Rokan
Muhammad Nafis al-Banjari
Ahmad Khatib Sambas
Syekh ‘Abdal-Karim
Kiayi Shohibulwafa Tajul ‘arifin
Syekh Muslih ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman
Yusuf al-Makassari

The most difficult Malays to embrace Islam were the Javanese because their affinity to Hinduism was very strong. The Wali Songo made use of Hinduism to explain the meaning of Islam and the Javanese embraced Islam in droves. We always hear magical stories about them but they are all not true. They are ordinary people like us but what differentiates them from us is their thinking. Their love for Islam and Malays was what made it possible for Malays then to embrace Islam. They used “Wayang Kulit” and stories about “Kalimah Sodok” to teach the Malays “Kalimah Syahadah”. After watching the shows, the Malays recited the Kalimah Syahadah and became Muslims. Wali Songo had used the principles of Usul Fiqh i.e. making use of similarities in Hinduism and Islam to attract the Malays to Islam.

The Malays were not just thinkers but they were builders too. The mosques that they built 500 years ago still stand strong until today. They wrote the Al-Quran in a handwriting that displayed their Malay culture.

The Malays were so great back then that after the 14th century, they formed the majority of Muslims in the world. Today, there are 280 million Muslims in Nusantara – the largest in the world. However, the glory of the Malay civilization did not last long. The Malays were colonized and influenced by westernised thinking.

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