Isnin, 14 November 2016

Siapa Ulū Baqiyyah?




فَلَوْلَا كَانَ مِنَ الْقُرُونِ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ أُولُو بَقِيَّةٍ يَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْفَسَادِ فِي الْأَرْضِ 
إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِّمَّنْ أَنجَيْنَا مِنْهُمْ ۗ وَاتَّبَعَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مَا أُتْرِفُوا فِيهِ وَكَانُوا مُجْرِمِين 
"Maka sepatutnya ada di antara umat yang telah dibinasakan dahulu daripada kamu itu, orang-orang yang berkelebihan akal fikiran (ulu baqiyyah) yang melarang kaumnya dari perbuatan-perbuatan jahat di muka bumi tetapi sayang! Tidak ada yang melarang melainkan sedikit sahaja, iaitu orang-orang yang Kami telah selamatkan di antara mereka. Dan orang-orang yang tidak melarang itu telah menitik beratkan segala kemewahan yang diberikan kepada mereka dan menjadilah mereka orang-orang yang berdosa."

Menarik sekali ayat ini begitu juga tafsir-nya. Selalu kita dengar ceramah dan slogan "ulu'l-albab" tapi jarang "ulu baqiyyah". 

Ulama' tafsir berbeza menjelaskan makna "baqiyyah". Apa yang berbaki? Apa yang tinggal? Apa yang kekal? Semua pertanyaan ini merujuk kepada medan makna "baqiyyah". 

Ada ulama' menafsir yang kekal dan berbaki ialah kefaham dan aqal tentang kebenaran yang Islam bawa. 

Ada juga ulama' seperti Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi yang menghuraikan makna "baqiyyah" bagi merujuk kepada golongan yang amat-amat sedar dan takut akan ancaman Allah (muraqabah wa khashyah min intiqami'Llah) yang mana terdiri daripada golongan terbaik dalam umatnya yang amat sedikit jumlahnya. 

Dan dalam ayat ini jelas golongan ulul baqiyyah memerangi kerosakan yang dilakukan golongan perosak - jelas mengisyaratkan bahawa golongan berilmu dan bertaqwa berada di hadapan mementang kerosakan dan kezaliman.

Semua tafsiran ini konsisten dengan kisah sirah para Nabi dan Rasul yang ketika melawan kezaliman adalah golongan yang taklut daripada projek pembodohan kaumnya. 

Amat sedikit yang mampu menahan diri daripada diperbodohkan penzalim. 

Kezaliman tidak akan berlaku selagi mana projek pembodohan tidak sempurna. Orang Islam adalah orang yang beraqal dan paling faham situasi semasa. Mereka tidak akan mudah diperbodohkan pemimpin zalim melalui propaganda murahan seperti yang Firaun, Namrud dan ramai lagi yang dikisahkan Allah dalam al-Qur'an. 

Sebab itu Allah berulang kali cakap "illa qalila" (hanya sedikit) saja yang bersama dan istiqamah meneruskan perjuangan. 

Imam al-Razi juga jelaskan bahawa orang yang zalim (pada diri, pada masyarakat) sifatnya cenderung kepada kelazatan shahwat (jawatan, pangkat etc.) maka mereka pasti akan meninggalkan rukun terbesar (rukn ʿazim) dalam arkān al-Dīn (tiang-tiang Agama Islam) iaitu mengajak kepada yang baik dan menegah yang mungkar (yang cegah mungkar ni lebih susah sebab ada retribution daripada penzalim). 

Marilah kita sama-sama hayati ayat ini dan fikirkan dalam konteks kita pada hari ini dan apa yang sedang berlaku ke atas orang Melayu. 

Kezaliman ke atas orang Melayu hanya berlaku bila orang Melayu RELA diperbodohkan. Hanya ILMU dan KEFAHAMAN yang JELAS mampu menjadi perisai dan bahtera penyelamat orang Melayu daripada Firaun, Namrud, dan Neo-Ahzab Munafiqin laknatullahi 'alayhi (may Allah curse them all!). 

Kezaliman (dalam semua bentuk, dari semua pihak) melata dalam masyarakat dan negara kita kerana umat Melayu terus diperbodohkan dan diperbudakkan. 

Benda yang JELAS SALAH dan HARAM kita tipu orang Melayu kata tiada masalah. Jual ayat Allah dan Rasul semata-mata nak berkuasa dan tutup bangkai gajah dengan karpet Iran dan minyak Attar: tetap busuk dan akan timbul. 

Jadi penting untuk kita sensitize dan de-normalize orang Melayu khususnya di luar bandar dan anak muda untuk SEDAR akan projek pembodohan yang sedang berlaku secara overt dan covert. 

Siapa ulu baqiyyah yang "yanhau ʿani'l-fasād" (rejecting the corruptions) dalam menyelamatkan maqasid al-Shari'ah negara?

Isnin, 24 Oktober 2016

Metaphysics and Death: A Reflection


Last Saturday (15/10/16) my beloved Uncle has departed this world to meet our Maker. I was not that close to him but my built closely resembles his.

As usual like in any other funeral, the air is full of grief and solemnness.

Throughout the event suddenly I felt a rush of recollection of what I’ve learned about Islām and metaphysics at CASIS and others.

Sadness has always been a definitive character of a funeral. But there are other exceptions in the history of Islām.

The Companions (may Allāh be pleased with them all) of our Beloved Prophet (sallalahu ʿalayhi wassalam) were very much eager to face death and rejoin the Beloved Prophet (sallalahu ʿayahi wassalam). Same goes to Imām Al-Ghazālī as recorded in his beautiful poem about death in which he told his families and friends not to be mourned about him leaving this earth.

Why were they behaving that way? Instead of being sad, they were yearning to face death and meet our Creator – God Almighty?

I think the answers could be found in abundant in the Holy Qurʾān. Just open the second chapter, verse number three when Allāh SWT made clear that those who have utmost certainty in the unseen – which of course includes the metaphysics of death and eschatology – would surely attain happiness and success here and in the hereafter (mufliḥūn).

But preceding that verse on assenting on the truth of the unseen (this is ʿAqīdah matter cannot taqlīd[blind imitation]), Allāh SWT mentioned clearly the a very important ontological property of the Holy Qurʾān as a book which does not contained any doubt whatsoever (lā rayba fīhi).

In other words if human were to assent to the truth of lā rayba fīhi, he or she must attain a high degree of certitude (al-yaqīn) with the attributed matter in this case the whole content of Holy Qurʾān.

I was reminded by Dr Syamsuddin Arif’s lecture in our Arabic class at CASIS when we digressed a bit to discuss the real meaning of the verse “waʿbud rabbaka hattā yaʾtiyaka’l-yaqīn” (worship your Lord until you arrived at the level of certainty). Many commentators of the Qurʾān interpret the word “al-yaqīn” here to mean death as we all know death is certain for everyone and any creature except God the Almighty (kullu nafsin dhāiqat’l-mawt).

But Dr Syamsuddin opined that why don’t we just take the word “al-yaqīn” as “al-yaqīn”. Meaning to say, as how I understood back then when we were discussing this in class, when Allāh SWT commanded us to worship him until we arrive at the level of certainty, He really wants us to strive with our utmost mortal ability in progressive manner until we feel so certain of His Existence (I’m referring to the metaphysical attribute as how the Ṣūfī discussed): metaphysically speaking, nothing Exist but Him as we all know our existence is contingent on His Existence.

This is where I believe Prof. Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas very often emphasized the importance of ontological quality of “al-yaqīn” in his metaphysical system. From there he builds his other metaphysical concepts that have bearings on our worldview as Muslīm, notably on the real meaning of Happiness in Islām.

I remember when I occasionally do lunch suḥbah with brother Asham (Jong Kong) where he would disclose to me the firmness and certitude of Prof. Al-Attas’ character in defending his ground on many things especially his intellecto-spiritual work. Prof. Al-Attas once said throughout his life he has bear witness to what he believes without an iota of doubt and he is ready with the Grace of Allāh to bear witness for mankind (as how described in the Qurʾān: litakūnū shuhadāʾ ʿalā’l-nāss) on the truth of Islām like how many great scholars of Islām in the past and present have done so.

That is why the greatest karamah of scholar like Prof. Al-Attas who has attained high degree of certainty as a believer is to be istiqamah. Never waver no matter what. Never simulated and lower his ‘maruah’ as a scholar in front of anyone. We all know that aren’t we? He suffered greatly throughout his career because he refused to kowtow with the political leaders be it UMNO or the Sultan (he once gave nasihah to the late Sultan Johor).

Why can’t we be like Prof. Al-Attas? After all we claim to benefit from his lectures and works? Why we be timid in front of great oppression?

But this character of being certain and happy in embracing death is of course only evident among the elites. Lay people like us we are mere mortals so do not be upset if we were to feel sad with the death of our loved ones.

But why exactly do we feel sad? I recalled how Dr. Zaidi Ismail explained in WISE that the “sakara’l-mawt” is painful not in physical terms rather it is very much depends on the emotional and spiritual state of oneself in facing the pang of death.

The pang is due to the soul of not able to release itself from the surrogated physical and animal body. It yearns to remain in that mortal body and resisting to depart because of how we mere mortals have accustomed to live in this ephemeral dunyā (linguistically dunyā means what is close hence we are close and very much attached to it in contrast to akhirah the ghayb which we always think to be so distant) by forgetting our true home: the hereafter (Prof. Al-Attas once commented the hadith “ḥubb al-waṭan min’l-imān” means actually love of nation is part of faith. The “watan” here refers to hereafter, our eternal abode not so much of this world or country or Malaysia or Khilafah).

When we read surah Ya-Sīn, read tahlīl or talqīn for the deceased of course we do acknowledge the benefits will be received by the arwah (spirits who resided in the barzakh) but we too must know we the living ones are the one should take heed on the messages behind those rituals.

We read Qurʾān to live not read Qurʾān to the dead. Qurʾān is meant to be used, practiced for the living more than the dead! But sadly most often than not we think other way round.

Do not worry for the dead. As I attended the tahlīl for Dr Afifi Al-Akiti’s father before, he made a clear remark based on the commentary of Imām al-Nawāwī on the hadith of three types of practices that will continuously benefit the deceased where one of them is “pious children”. The word “children” here says Dr Afifi as commentated by Imām al-Nawāwī does not mean biological children only. It also refers to the whole Muslīm who share our biological and spiritual lineage back to Prophet Adam and all other Prophets especially our beloved Prophet Muḥammad sallalahu ʿalayhi wassalam.

So as long as Muslim continue to pray and seek forgiveness for all mankind from God Almighty, all arwah will obtain the same reward from God Almighty.

As for us who still living, our task is to attain that al-yaqīn which bears the fruit of happiness as explained majestically by Prof. Al-Attas in his monumental metaphysical work “Prolegomena”.

Just a reflection.

Al-Fatihah to my uncle, Haji Jamaluddin Abu Hassan.


God knows best.

Siapa ahli dalam Metafizik



Melihat beberapa komentar daripada pembaca budiman, isteri saya menyarankan saya sekali lagi untuk jelaskan secara santai apa itu metafizik. Ini kerana saya yakin ramai rakan-rakan dan pembaca budiman Facebook saya yang baru berkawan secara maya hanya kenali saya kerana kelantangan saya terhadap 1MDB tapi tidak mengenali sisi saya yang lebih “dalam”.

Rata-rata ramai yang faham metafizik seperti satu genre penulisan yang mirip apa yang terdapat pada rak-rak kedai buku yang tertera padanya “New Age” yakni satu fahaman, kepercayaan yang diluar agama tradisional atau “organized religion” yang berbau mistik seperti Kabbalah, Vedanta dan macam-macam lagi.

Selalunya hal-hal “New Age” ini menyentuh berkenaan “law of attraction”, cara berfikir positif, mencari rahsia diri dan pelbagai lagi. Yang pasti banyak tulisan genre ini amat kabur dalam bab ketuhanan tapi cara diolah perbahasannya menggambarkan sifat-sifat ketuhanan.

Adakah semua itu metafizik? Secara formal-nya tidak tapi tema-tema sedemikian ada kaitan di peringkat cabang.

Selama saya bergelumang dalam dunia falsafah dan pemikiran Islam, saya lupa yang golongan kami ini adalah golongan elit. Kami lupa yang orang awam di luar sana telah dijaja oleh pemegang ilmu palsu dengan menukar takrif dan isi bicara ilmu metafizik menurut hawa nafsu mereka sendiri. Hal ini tidaklah pelik kerana sifat ilmu metafizik itu sendiri yang luhur menyebabkan orang awam yang tiada terlatih jiwa dan aqal-nya yang dibatasi dengan hal-hal mahsusat (sensational) tiada mampu membezakan yang mana intan dan yang mana kaca.

Memang tradisi falsafah adalah elitis dan eksklusif dalam erti kata yang positif kerana disiplin ilmu-nya menuntut kepada banyak pra-syarat seperti yang digariskan oleh Aristotle dalam Organon­-nya – yakni gugusan ilmu-ilmu alat yang mempersiapkan diri insan untuk membicarakan hal-hal yang luhur seperti metafizik.

Contoh, masakan kita mampu memahami metafizik tanpa memahami asas-asas epistemologi dalam karya Aristotle seperti Posterior Analytics atau dalam bahasa moden-nya “falsafah sains”? Macam mana nak berhujah metafizik kalau nak bezakan konsep asas manṭīq apa itu taṣdīq dan taṣawwūr pun tak jelas?

Kita bertuah kerana di Malaysia kita mempunyai seorang ahli metafizik yang masih hidup. Beliau adalah Tan Sri Prof Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas.

Karya agung beliau Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam: an Exposition of the Fundamental Elements of the World View (Muqaddimah kepada Metafizik Islam: satu penjelasan berkenaan unsur-unsur asas yang membentuk Pandangan Alam Islam) adalah satu pembuktian ilmiah yang agung berhubung metafizik Islam.

Saya sempat berguru dengan anak-anak murid beliau kira-kira hampir 8 tahun lamanya secara informal sejak zaman siswa, dan secara formal ketika saya jadi pelajar sarjana di Center for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilization (CASIS), UTM KL.  Malah tesis sarjana saya juga ada kaitan dengan metafizik yang mana diselia oleh Prof Wan Mohd Nor Wan Daud, guru besar CASIS sendiri. Tapi takdir Allah saya tidak dapat selesaikan-nya. Walaubagaimanapun saya amat bersyukur kerana dapat belajar banyak daripada tradisi ilmu yang makmur di CASIS.

Karya metafizik yang ditulis oleh Prof. Al-Attas ini seperti diperkatakan ramai tokoh dan ulama’ adalah yang terbaik pernah ditulis ilmuan Islam abad ke-20.

Bagi saya karya besar ini menghurai secara tuntas kata hikmah Saydina ʿAlī “man ʿarafa nafsahu faqad ʿarafa rabbahu (barangsiapa mengenali diri-nya akan mengenali Tuhan-nya). Tema asas metafizik ini muncul dalam banyak tradisi agama dan ilmu seperti dalam tradisi Yunani kuno “Knew Thyself” oleh Oracle dari Delphi dan juga tradisi dalam Hindu, Buddha dan juga pengajian klasik China dan ianya dikatakan oleh sestengah sarjana sebagai tradisi hikmah yang abadi (perennial wisdom) yang berkongsi wacana walaupun berbeza bahasa dan budaya.

Ianya membicarakan ilmu jiwa berhubung insan – luar dan dalam; ilmu tentang ilmu (epistemologi) yang bahaskan bagaimana kita tahu yang kita tahu?; yang mana semua ini diadunkan secara sistematik agar tertayang pada pandangan batin kita akan hakikat-hakikat kewujudan sesuatu dan tempatnya yang benar (ontologi) yang mana persoalan “what-ness” (mā hiya) dijadikan pembuka wacana. Contoh apa itu kebahagian? Apa itu kemajuan? Apa itu insan? Apa itu Tuhan? Apa itu masa? Apa itu ruang? Apa itu sebab? dan banyak lagi. Ianya melangkaui perbahasan yang selalu kita belajar dalam subjek sains tabi’i (natural science) di sekolah seperti fizik dan kimia

Kalau kita baca dan faham sedikit daripada inti buku ini khusus bab pembukaan-nya, nescaya kita akan insaf bahawa metafizik bukanlah boleh dibatasi dengan kelulusan PhD. Ianya lebih daripada itu dan ianya bersifat pembelajaran sepanjang hayat. Bukan untuk kegunaan duniawi tapi punya kekuatan untuk mempengaruhi banyak hal duniawi (matinya metafizik di universiti telah diganti oleh kegilaan saintisme yang membataskan kekayaan jiwa kita pada satu cara ilmiah yang sempit sehingga menatijahkan krisis jiwa dan alami).

Pada waktu kini, metafizik diserang dari luar oleh saintisme dan dari dalam oleh kejumudan Wahahbi yang menyerang ilmu kalam, falsafah sebagai satu bid’ah.  Sebab itu di dunia Islam amat jarang ketemui tradisi metafizik yang dinamik (kecuali di pengajian tinggi lama seperti Al-Azhar, Zaytuna, Qarawiyyin). Pengecualian kepada ulama’ Syiah yang masih terus-menerus mengajar dan mengembangkan ilmu metafizik Islam dalam tradisi keilmuan mereka.

Bagi yang berminat, silalah hadir ke CASIS, UTM KL untuk berbincang dan belajar dengan guru-guru falsafah Islam di sana. Boleh juga dapatkan buku tersebut di sana.








Rabu, 14 September 2016

Memahami Faham Kebangsaan Johor



oleh Wan Ahmad Fayhsal

Media dan rakyat kembali hangat membangkitkan sentimen "Bangsa Johor" sebagai satu sindiran dan reaksi kepada kemenangan dua Paralympian kita yang berasal dari Perlis.

Kekalutan ini menunjukkan ramai rakyat Malaysia masih tidak faham makna dan semangat Kebangsaan Johor yang sering dilaungkan oleh Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan Ibrahim Ismail ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar dan Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail ibni Sultan Ibrahim Ismail.

Mari baca apa yang saya telah tulis di sini tentang asas-asas yang membentuk Bangsa Johor.

Walaupun saya bukan Bangsa Johor, saya faham benar apa yang dimaksudkan oleh kerabat diraja Johor.

Di mana kesilapan besar rakyat Malaysia yang mencemuh faham kebangsaan Johor?

Kesilapan terbesar kita ialah kita masih tertawan dengan konsep "race" yang ditempa oleh pemikir Barat circa zaman Pencerahan (Enlightenment), satu binaan kemasyarakatan (social construct) yang dipengaruhi semangat saintifik yang rasional lagi sekular. Hal ini dibawa masuk oleh penjajah Barat seperti Stamford Raffles yang menjadikan bidang kaji manusia (antropologi) dan kaji masyarakat (sosiologi) untuk mengkelaskan orang Melayu sebagai satu "bangsa" (race) yang ditakrif melalui acuan Barat.

Hakikatnya ketika zaman keagungan Kesultanan Melayu Melaka sampailah awal abad ke-18, identiti "Bangsa Melayu" itu tidaklah sesuatu yang dipakai umum kerana masyarakat ketika itu lebih cenderung memperkenalkan diri mereka sebagai rakyat kepada satu-satu jajahan Kesultanan (rakyat Melaka, Pahang) atau berdasarkan geografi (orang Hulu, orang Muar).

Faham Kebangsaan Johor atau "Bangsa Johor" adalah bertentangan dengan apa yang kita fahami kini dan apa yang telah ditakrifkan oleh Perlembagaan Persekutuan tentang makna Bangsa Melayu dalam Artikel 153.

"Bangsa Johor" secara hakikatnya (in essence) adalah satu identiti yang dibina di atas faham Kerajaan - satu identiti yang berpusat kepada Raja yang memerintah jajahan.

Malah istilah "negeri" yang kita guna pakai ini sekalipun adalah saduran daripada faham kenegerian/kenegaraan (state) Barat yang langsung tidak sama dengan konsep dan istilah "Dawlah" atau "Dār" (seperti Perak Dar al-Ridzuan, Johor Dar al-Ta'zim) yang tidak ditakrif berdasarkan sempadan yang dilukis di atas peta sebaliknya tergantung kepada keluasan pengaruh kerajaan tersebut dalam satu-satu jajahan.

"Bangsa Johor" adalah identiti yang diwujudkan oleh Sultan Sir Abu Bakar, bapa kerajaan moden Johor, pada hemat saya boleh dilihat sebagai satu senjata pertahanan kepada naratif antropologi dan sosiologi penjajah Barat yang ingin meleburkan sejarah dan identiti "peradaban" Melayu yang bersifat "kerajaan" (kingship).

Semacam di Barat, sebelum wujud negara-bangsa British, Jermah, Perancis, Italy, mereka dikenali dengan hubungan kerakyatan (subject) yang bernaung di bawah contoh, kerajaan (kingdom) seperti Habsburg (kini jadi Austria), Burgundy (yang ada kaitan dengan Perancis, Switzerland, Itali), atau Bourbon (dalam Perancis) atau Saxony (dalam Jerman).

Faham kebangsaan Perancis, Itali, Jerman belum lahir sampailah penyatuan bersifat negara-bangsa berlaku setelah rakyat menjatuhkan keluarga diraja dan bangsawan mereka.

Bangsa Johor tidak ditakrif secara biologi sebaliknya secara "peradaban" dalam acuan kerajaan.

Tapi sebab Perlembagaan Persekutuan dirangka oleh British yang berkiblatkan faham Enlightenment dalam memahami sosio-budaya Melayu, habis kita ditakrif secara sempit sekadar sebagai satu "race" untuk memberi ruang kepada kaum imigran yang datang dari Cina dan India ketika itu, yang mahu diberi kerakyatan.

Bangsa Johor benar-benar unik kerana konsep dan identiti-nya tidak berjaya dileburkan oleh penjajah.

Negeri-negeri Melayu lain, bilamana anak-anak Raja ini disekolahkan di Barat, mereka telah secara tak langsung membawa masuk faham-faham bangsa yang berasaskan Enlightenment ini dan struktur politik Persekutuan Tanah Melayu telah melemahkan identiti kenegerian dan kerajaan yang sebenarnya adalah identiti akar orang-orang Melayu sebelum British.

Selagi mana 'asabiyyah kebangsaan yang berasaskan kerajaan tidak menyalahi Shara', ianya adalah sumber kekuatan bukan liabiliti kepada negara. Lagi pun identiti Bangsa Malaysia itu adalah "fictive" kerana ianya dipaksa menggunakan saluran perundangan iaitu Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Bangsa Malaysia tidak wujud. Warganegara Malaysia wujud.

Bangsa/Rakyat Johor, Bangsa/Rakyat Perak, Bangsa/Rakyat Kedah, Bangsa/Rakyat Pahang dan lain-lain adalah identiti sebenar kita tak kira Melayu, Cina, India dan keturunan lain.

Hargai keunikan ini dan kita harus berterima kasih kepada Bangsa Johor kerana menghidupkan semula sejarah dan identiti asal yang tidak dinodai British yang tangkap muat identiti kita untuk dirasionalkan dalam kerangka rasisme Enlightenment.

Baca artikel lengkap yang telah saya tulis di sini.

Isnin, 12 September 2016

Could BERSATU really replace UMNO?





By Wan Ahmad Fayhsal

I was there last night (10th September 2016) among the sea of rakyat, mostly Malays who came in drove to listen to the political ceramah of the newly approved political party – Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PBBM or better known as Bersatu). It was held in Kampung Gedung Lalang Lama, Ampangan, Negeri Sembilan.

The event was quite historical as it was Bersatu’s truly inaugural official event after the approval granted by the Registrar of Society (ROS). 

The attendees based on my roughly estimate could easily be around 1,000-2,000 people from all walks of life but I could sense those who came were largely from the lower and middle-class Malays or best described as the urban poor. 

From their body languages and side discussions throughout the ceramah, it appears that this group was anxious with the state of our nation. They might not be highly educated but they surely understand the gravity of the matter at hand beyond the simple scandal of RM 2.6 billion ‘donation’.

I could also sense and feel that the crowd was largely consisted of PAS-leaning supporters. Perhaps they were there to seek some insights about current issues, as their own party is playing dumb, numb and deaf about 1MDB. 

What’s missing is still the youth – the most important age group where all political parties are vying to win their votes coming next general election. Why they were not present like any other age group? Perhaps they were busy watching Manchester derby; or perhaps they were simply not interested with Bersatu’s ceramah lineup that consisted of speakers that in one rough glance, are far too distant than their age group.

The numbers of crowd swelled after Isyak prayer.

I observed and asked the crowd. They were not ‘moved’ by the political rhetoric so much especially the one highlighting about 1MDB’s misdemeanour. I believe they have come to terms with the fact that 1MDB and Najib are in fishy business, with lot of things to hide and UMNO as a party is no better for condoning both of them. 

In short the people at large is already in tune to the message that 1MDB, Najib and UMNO have betrayed the “agama, bangsa and negara”. Not hard to convince this group. The campaign led by Tun Mahathir for almost 2 years know has borne its fruits. People believe in him. It was strengthened further by the revelation made by the United States Department of Justice. Done deal.

Despite the monochrome speeches, there were still some notable highlights. For example when the Bersatu’s President, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin mentioned Rosmah’s name – she is of course a native of Rembau – the crowd went wild and heckling her like there’s no tomorrow. The name really touched the raw nerves of many Noghohi people. There is a sense of hatred, brewing and simmering on the ground towards the lady. 

It is no surprise as the Nogoghi people is accustom to a totally opposite leadership figure than what the lady normally exemplified. Nogoghi is proud to have a fatherly-figure in politics in the form of their own Menteri Besar, Dato' Seri Utama Haji Mohamad bin Haji Hasan or best known as Tok Mat. He enjoys massive support from the Malays of Nogoghi. So it is natural for Nogoghi people to compare Tok Mat with Rosmah and we all know between the two which figure is really dear to them. 

Judging from the grass root sentiment of the Malay heartland like in Ampangan, the decision by Tun Mahathir to ‘upgrade’ Deklarasi Rakyat into a full-fledge Malay-Bumiputra centric political party called Bersatu is a real coup de maître: race-based politics is here to stay regardless what the urbanites, and secular-liberal Malays want to believe otherwise.

The Malay grass roots in Ampangan as well as from other Malay heartlands have really lost faith in UMNO. They really want to find a new alternative that is similar to UMNO hence why they are still lukewarm towards PKR, AMANAH or even PAS. The hope is high and the sentiment really is gravitating towards Bersatu. 

Perhaps the encouraging support for Bersatu stems from Tun Mahathir’s aura and political charisma that is still strong among the Malays. At his ripe age, his fighting spirit commands huge respect from the Malays. The greater the vilifications committed by UMNO leaders towards Mahathir, they are being matched by far larger and greater supports pledged by the Malays – and even the non-Malays – for that old man. UMNO’s propaganda has really backfired. Najib should cut the budget (dedak) for the cyber troopers as they failed to ensure the results as promised. 

Yes, many Malays are not stupid and blind about Mahathir’s past. They know he is an autocrat, he did many wrong things during his 22 years reign but these Malays also know too well Mahathir has done a lot and proven his worthiness many times over in building Malaysia as how we see, and most importantly feel today. 

People still herald Tun Mahathir as their hero. Huge crowd waiting in line to greet Mahathir after the ceramah. (Picture courtesy of Yaakob Osman)

Because of this acknowledgement (either willingly or not), it has become a standard benchmark for the Malays to measure Najib’s with Mahathir’s – this of course includes Tun Hasmah’s loyal presence in all Mahathir’s political activities against 1MDB, always careful not to upstage her elderly husband: a powerful symbol of sincerity, perseverance that rubs well with the Malay’s subconscious. 

With this ‘real-time’ background, what is the prospect of Bersatu to replace UMNO?

My gut feeling coupled with phenomenological and empirical measures would say: YES with CAVEATS.

Bersatu should not get overjoyed and buoyed by this warm support. We don’t know what exactly attracts the Malays to Bersatu despite of its being so nascent. We also still don’t know what holds the Malays back especially among the fence-sitters whom I’m pretty sure are tired with these political charades coming from all political parties as at the end of the day they know things will not change! 

To them Malaysian politics is all about elites squabbling for power and wealth; rakyat is just a pawn. This group of people is the real silent majority that no political parties have able to convince them to earn their solid supports and votes – yet. 

From my own humble observation which I managed to extract from the crowd at Ampangan as well as from other medium, here are the caveats and challenges that I believe could derail Bersatu’s chance to be a real game changer in our Malaysian politics; a real substitute to UMNO:


1 – Power Distance 

I noticed the crowd got edgy whenever Tan Sri Muhyiddin made a remark about the unpopular Goods and Tax Services (GST). I could hear many murmurs among the crowd dismissing his criticism on GST as an empty rhetoric because the crowd has not forgotten the fact that Tan Sri Muhyiddin was part of Najib’s cabinet and he too had endorsed GST earlier. 

But whenever Tan Sri Muhyiddin spoke about 1MDB then people would regain their composure and listening attentively. The crowd associates Muhyiddin’s action and decision to challenge Najib and 1MDB as somewhat resonates well with the traditional Malay Hang Jebat-spirit of defiance against corrupted leader. So Muhyiddin with respect to 1MDB is firing all cylinders and scoring full points among the laity. But with respect to GST and other wanton wastages by UMNO, Muhyiddin is seen by the crowd as no better than the rest of UMNO leaders. 

So how do we figure out this? I personally believe there is a power distance problem between some Bersatu figures and the rakyat

People is questioning why now? Why after all these years you have been with UMNO, milking all the benefits at the expense of the rakyat and now all of sudden you are pleading for the rakyat’s support especially among the Opposition sympathizers? 

How sure are we as the rakyat can trust Bersatu not to be another reincarnation of disgruntled UMNO leaders who left the party and formed PKR or another Malay-version of AMANAH that still fail to ditch the image of a party that has fallen out of favour in PAS? 

So there are still people who question this: is Bersatu another parti orang kecewa

The power distance is real. All political parties have this problem: UMNO is, as we all know, feudal; PKR is feudal too based on Anwar’s ring of influence emanating from Istana Segambut; AMANAH is still be seen as IKRAM’s surrogate (so non-IKRAM would feel a bit disenfranchised due to Jemaah dalam Jemaah sentiment) while PAS’ power distance is in a form of religious hegemony over non-religious members (read: the professional). 

So to the laity, it begets this question: is Bersatu another carbon-copy of UMNO? Is Bersatu another form of political game by the elites to harp and take advantage against the rakyat’s pain and suffering without really be-ing with the rakyat?

Does it truly represents the democratic aspiration of the rakyat where money, family lineage would not determine the merit of its member to be leaders of Bersatu? Or Bersatu is still being governed by the spirit of supreme leader is always right hence repeating the same mistake of UMNO under brand Najib? How would Bersatu’s political structure be? Would it still produce the same structure like UMNO where at division level potential warlord like Jamal Sekinchan could resurface within Bersatu? How would Bersatu curb and guarantee the possibility for such unwarranted incident not to recur again? 

The rakyat is still observing from a distance. 


2 – Anti-Najib Overdose

People are tired with anti-Najib rhetoric. They have understood well that Najib is a pariah and UMNO’s blind loyalty is on the verge of self-destruction. Bersatu leaders do not need to work hard to convince the rakyat about this, in fact the rakyat knows better than Bersatu leaders as they suffered on daily basis with all sorts of problems like the rising cost of living, rationalization of subsidies, sequestration of important budget for rakyat (e.g. medicine, scholarship) that ended up at Prime Minister’s Department/Office – all courtesy of Najib Razak and his cabinet’s policies.

Pull the break on vilifying Najib Razak. Spare his and the late Tun Razak’s soul and family pride. Focus on matters that transcend Najib and UMNO especially how to rebuild this country again as that is something the rakyat really looking forward into.

Removing Najib is a consequence of Bersatu ability to gain ultimate trust from the rakyat, and not to forget the Malay Rulers. 

Najib Razak is not a problem; he is just a symptom.

First Bersatu must admit that problem arises due to the corrupted political culture within UMNO. For this very reason Bersatu must disown UMNO’s corrupted culture once and for all; disassociate every negative traits about UMNO’s dilapidated culture that has destroyed the party and weakened the Malays. 

Those who joined Bersatu might have experienced and witnessing these corrupt practices when they were once in UMNO. Corrupted UMNO culture is not just about money politics: it’s about the stupidity, deceits, bare face lies, and utter disregard of Malay and Islamic ideals of maruah.

Bersatu must represent hope, intelligence, and honour (maruah) that the Malays have been yearning for ages from UMNO. Stop treating the rakyat as if we are chickens that need to be constantly fed with dedak – either in forms of money or political patronage. 

Those leaders who are leading Bersatu, I have no doubt they might have joined the party because they are sincere for the cause. They want to help the poor and change the government for a better Malaysia BUT let us not discount the fact that there are people who might want to be in Bersatu because they have gained less benefits in UMNO. They are disappointed with UMNO because of the lack of acknowledgement given to them or simply because of their own inflated ego. 

To these leaders, my sincere reminder to you is this: for whatever reasons you are here in Bersatu, if you really want to bite the bullet, do bite the bullet with good intention. If you joined Bersatu for other than Allāh and His Messenger, it is not too late for you to repent and make it right. Don’t chase for position, seeking patronage as how you might have done in UMNO before. This is the chance given by God for you to redeem two things: (1) your sins in UMNO before and (2) your incompetency in championing Malay and Islamic causes once you were in power in UMNO.

Insha-Allāh (God Willing) let Allāh decides your good intention and deeds from this moment onwards.

3 – Legacies 

Legacy issues are mostly involving Tun Mahathir. Although Tun Mahathir is just a Chairman of Bersatu, his clout is still strong and somehow the perception of his clout differs among the rakyat.

Some among his loyal supporters would reckon Tun Mahathir’s presence in Bersatu as the party’s pillar of strength, far stronger than what Muhyiddin could offer. It is no exaggeration as the Deklarasi Rakyat volunteers – numbering to thousands – are mostly those who are loyal to Tun Mahathir first, and UMNO second. These are the members who put everything on the line for Tun Mahathir – time, money, energy, sweat and tears – and they too will give everything as long as Bersatu duly acknowledged Tun Mahathir’s role as the Chairman of the party.

Opposite to these loyalists are those Malays who have suffered the brunt of Tun Mahathir’s authoritarianism. They know UMNO is corrupt and deep inside harbour great hatred against Najib and UMNO but for personal reasons they cannot accept Tun Mahathir’s role and place in this reformation of Malay politics via Bersatu. So their support to Bersatu is conditional: as long as Tun Mahathir has not admitted his mistakes and extend sincere apologies to those he had oppressed, this group of Malays will withdraw their support for Bersatu.

But if Tun Mahathir able to swallow his pride, then these Malays will close ranks with him and support Bersatu like a breeze. In fact they will be a surprise package in creating political vortex that will suck others from UMNO to Bersatu. 

4 – Lack vision

Thus far Bersatu has yet to articulate its vision for Malaysia. The rakyat do not want to hear empty and cheap promises like how the Opposition parties frequently do; they want Bersatu to demonstrate concrete hopes and dreams that are inclusive for all. The rakyat knows the real merit of Bersatu’s leadership is not about toppling Najib but how far Bersatu can govern the nation.

One of the ways Bersatu could do this is by bringing and attracting real talented future leaders into the ranks: those who possessed good track record in delivering performance-driven results in solving various societal and national problems that besetting us all.  These talented leaders must demonstrate ingenuity in leadership. Not fake leaders who just know how to entertain the masses on pentas ceramah

By having these potential leaders on board, with just one glance, the rakyat could feel and see the genuine conviction of these leaders where Bersatu could pin a solid hope on them in carrying the party's brand further. Even though they could not deliver perfectly, the rakyat will not be angry towards these visionaries as they know these first-time leaders have tried their best. After all Bersatu is still an experiment and an underdog. 

Bersatu must have a solid identity in order to win over the trust and the support of the rakyat. The key values that Bersatu must have are: capability, sincerity and conviction. These three values are very much in contrast to what UMNO leaders currently possessed: incapability, self-serving and pretenders.

The non-Malays won’t mind to see another Malay-based party to dominate the political scene. They just want to be treated fairly by the government of the day. They don’t want Islām and Malay sentiments to be use as a political device to divide and conquer societies. Bersatu must not fall into this same charade like how UMNO has done before. Be magnanimous to the non-Malays and you will earn their respect. 

5 – Not youthful 

This is another major handicap of Bersatu. With growing demographics centred on youth voters, Bersatu is risking to alienate this group of people that could really make or break any political parties coming next general election. 

The youth or Generation Y (Gen Y) has different values than the established voters. They don’t care about history, about Malay rights. They are willing to fight based on merit. They don’t like pretensions, hierarchies and old values that force them to submit beyond any reasonable grounds.

So if they were to criticize Bersatu, don’t take it personally. The Gen Y is known to be very vocal (sometimes borderline nonsense) on many issues. 

The only way to gain trust from this group is to allow more space for them to contribute to Bersatu in whatever creative forms that they might have talents in. 

Bersatu needs to field good quality youth leaders that are visible and command good respect in all segments of society. Bersatu needs to be seen and act as the future of Malaysian politics – like how Tun Mahathir had brought in Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim into UMNO sometime ago. That kind of momentous move needs to be replicated by Bersatu – now! Or risk being called a dinosaur!


6 – Missing coalition 

This is given. For Bersatu to win and become the government of the day, it must be in the form of solid coalition. Tun Mahathir has warned this many times. Without solid coalition like Barisan Nasional, Bersatu and opposition parties are as good as nothing. Just close shop. Don’t waste rakyat’s time and money to support you people. 

Project tentative shadow cabinet consisting Bersatu and Opposition parties. Make clear who will be the Prime Minister and other important cabinet positions. Their selections must be based on merits less we could see disjointed cabinet members like how Noh Omar squabbled with Johari over the housing issue. If such thing happen, the rakyat will lambast Bersatu for failing to organize the coalition. 

Only through this sort of coalition we could really see Bersatu becoming a real challenger to UMNO and Barisan Nasional respectively.

Other political parties must understand that Bersatu must lead the coalition like how UMNO has led Barisan. This is sacrosanct in Malaysian politics. A Malay-Bumiputra based party MUST LEAD THE COALITION. 

Only then the largest group of voters, which is the Malays will give their full support to the coalition. The Malays CANNOT ACCEPT DAP. The Malays could not accept AMANAH that is seen as proxy to DAP. The Malays could not accept PKR as it is too dynastic and still Anwar-centric (despite having Rafizi on board, PKR members hardly realized this). The Malays could not accept PAS as long as its political vision is narrowly penchant for Islamic legalism that devoid of secular vision (ask PAS members how would they prop up our Malaysian economy post-1MDB).  Only Bersatu, like UMNO in the past, could represent a real middle path that is inclusive for all Malays to be affiliated with and palatable to the non-Malays. 

Nutshell

Make no mistake the numbers of people attending Bersatu’s event could not necessarily be translated into votes. The hardcore supporters of Tun Mahathir would definitely count as Bersatu’s votes (that subject to how far they would be loyal to Muhyiddin’s leadership. Remember the Malays are still feudal in nature. Political loyalty does play a big role).

If Bersatu able to deliver and sincerely address what I have mentioned earlier, I have no doubt Bersatu will go far and proven to be the real successor to parti keramat Melayu UMNO. Regardless of the outcome, with Bersatu now on board, one thing for sure Malaysian politics is going to be different in years to come.

Kepada Allāh kita berserah.