Sunday, 24 August 2008

Reformasi Revisited

All eyes are focussed on Permatang Pauh. In less than 48 hours, the people of this small district in Penang will participate in an election process that carries a significance greater than any other previous by-election in this country's history. Never before has there been a more genuine talk of change of government. Some welcome the change, while some others are worried.

I've just stumbled across something I wrote ten years ago. What I wrote was within the context of the political scenario at the time but the situation today is certainly not that different. Although I may no longer speak and write with the same sense of idealism (and syntax errors), my thoughts and views in general remains constant.


What does reformation aims for…

The Islamic term for reformation is Islah, which literally means change towards the better. This is the overall general principle. The ultimate aim is to create a society par excellence based upon the concept of Pax Islamica (al Faruqi, 1992).

A true Islamic society is an ideological society. It is a society which upholds the Islamic ideology transcending race, territory and socio-economic background (Maududi, 1983). In this society, Allah’s will is the primary source of law. Human reasoning and logical thinking are confined only to matters that are not explicitly stated in the Quran and the Sunnah (al-Qaradawi, 1995). Hence, Allah is the ultimate legislator, judge and prosecutor, not some long-serving heads of government, megalomaniac politicians or whomsoever. Therefore, it is incumbent that reformation shall promote the Syariah as the law of the nation.

A Muslim society should be a group of Atqakum, or God-fearing citizens.

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge, and is well acquainted (with all things). (Al-Hujurat[49]:13)

Atqakum is derived from the word taqwa, which is “the fear of Allah which springs from the heart and expresses itself in righteous deeds” (Musleduddin, 1988). Fear in this sense is out of love and reverence for Allah. By acquiring this feeling, one shall protect him or herself from wrongful deeds and ill-will. Such is due to one’s awareness that one is accountable for his or her actions. Simultaneously, one shall remain at all times empathetic of others. When a society is saturated with such individuals, even ‘peace and harmony’ may sound like an understated description. But this is what Islam promotes and promises, hence this is what reformation hopes to achieve.

Unfortunately, what we have now is something to the contrary. Instead of fearing Allah, we fear man-made threats and draconian laws above everything else. Worldly fears are completely unfounded and unacceptable. Reformation is inevitable and only Allah can sanction against it.

Say: “Shall I seek for (my) Cherisher other than Allah, when He is the Cherisher of all things (that exist)? (Al-An’am[6]:164)

Another important agenda is freedom. Islam does not impose any shackles except for those stated in the divine guidance. The Islamic Syariah or concept of life is based upon the law of duties where man is encourage to exercise his human rights thus contributing to the maintenance of a civic society. Islam believes that “all humans are entitled to know the truth…to inquire, to search, to learn and to teach one another…and to provide to the ruler advice as well as correction where needed (al Faruqi & al Faruqi, 1986).

Abu Said reported that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) said: “The best jihad is that a person speaks the truth before the tyrant ruler” (Abu Dawud) (qtd in Siddique, 1983). It is clear then that Islam does not completely prohibit dissent. Dissenting comments are encouraged but should be forwarded in a polite manner through proper channels. Thus, proper channels should exist, not ceased to exist. Reformation is adamant in providing that.

India’s Mahatma Gandhi once said, “the world is enough for everyone’s need, but it is not enough for everyone’s greed”. Man’s greed is a universal disease effecting almost all societies. Greed has inspired people to corrupt, to fabricate lies, to organise deceit, to destroy the career of a political rival, and many other heinous crimes. Reformation aims to put to an end to all of this once and for all, for these are endeavours that should not be tolerated absolutely. They are against both Islamic and moral ethical values, and results to nothing but destruction, if not in this world in the hereafter.

To stifle the growth of greed, the country’s wealth should be fairly distributed. No preferential decisions favouring family members, cronies or any selected few should be allowed to take place. The country belongs to the people, not to the ruling elites, the royal families or any other groups whatsoever.

Give full measure when ye measure, and weigh with a balance that is straight: That is the most fitting and the most advantageous in the final determination. (Al-Isra’[17]:35)

Reformation should not hope to succeed without first overcoming some major obstacles. To enjoin good is to face extreme struggle. Imam Razi describes it as “the most arduous duty”, while for Ibn Taymiyyah, it is “the test of one’s faith” (qtd in Ansar, 1990). At this age, the emergence of dictators, oppressors and Firaun’s soul-survivors seem to provide the biggest threat. True, they are the most dangerous and cruelest of all people. But still, in a democratic country, the power to rule is vested on the people. Changes can be pursued peacefully through the ballot box. And this is where reformation ought to take place.

Malaysia is a multi-racial country. Somehow, this fact is seen detrimental to reformation. The current ratio of 59% Muslims and 41% non-Muslims seems to add support to this claim (Crystal, 1995). However, since Islam is the official religion and Muslims are the majority, even though the majority is considerably small, Islamization must be allowed to prevail. Reformation is inevitable since it is a direct command from Allah.

O ye who believe! Guard your own souls: If ye follow (right) guidance, no hurt can come to you from those who stray. The goal of you all is to Allah: it is He that will show you the truth of all that ye do. (Al-Maidah[5]:105)

Nonetheless, the Islamic way is to act with wisdom. Thus, changes should take place gradually. The needs and feelings of the non-Muslims should always be taken into consideration. Speedy radical changes will create unrest and provoke unnecessary violence. Therefore, one of the best approaches would be in accordance with fiqh al-awlawiyyat, the understanding of priorities. Coincidentally, the prime advocator of this approach in Malaysia was former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. In his book The Asian Renaissance, Anwar wrote:

"Muslims need to address urgent social and economic issues such as the eradication of poverty and illiteracy, the provision of employment, decent housing and other social amenities. These are preconditions before certain specific Shariah injunctions can be translated into legislation." (p.118)

Only recently, this very same person has led the call for reformation. To support or not to support, that seems to be the question. And that is something only we ourselves can decide. Whether his call is pure and sincere, Allahu'alam, only Allah knows best.

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