Sunday, 21 December 2008
If we look at modern Malay history, we would have to concede that the Malay world began to eclipse from the mid 19th century. From 1850’s onwards. By that we mean, the Malay world as characterised by absolute feudal system. The beginning of the end of a Malay world, dominated by life revolving around royal personages or life about the adventures of royalty.
In a sense, I would say, that beginning from the mid 19th century, the Malays were cruelly catapulted into life of the modern world. Arguably, they were ill prepared and to a certain degree, their un-readiness, was the result of centuries of captive mind conditioning and a crippling social system.
The event that ushered in the decline was the introduction of modern economy. It was a case of simply not being able to adjust to the new ways. The social structures under which the Malays lived were not conducive of entrepreneurship. Perhaps, the Malays of old were the earliest to come into contact with the realities of a backward supply curve- that up to a certain point, the Malays were better off not to increase the supply of work, because whatever additional gains as a result of working harder, will be confiscated by the feudal rulers. The social and political mores were constrictive by nature. It imposed a collective lethargy and lassitude over the Malays.
Perhaps the final nail to the coffin was the inability of Malays to leverage Islam as a belief system inducing positive changes. This last observation should at once dispel the reductionist and very over-simplified thesis, that we need only to describe the Malay as being coloured by Islam. The implication of such reductionist explain-everything theory is, we don’t need other value system to seek their salvation. In reality, that’s too simplified and skeletal.
The danger for such an over-simplified social string theory( theory of everything) is chiefly this. It reinforces the collective lethargy of the Malays. Its like sloganeering Islam is everything. That may indeed be true but as any Muslim thinker will say- that slogan needs application. It needs practical translation. Just by saying it, means nothing without converting Islam into practical applications.
My own thinking about this is: Its never sufficient to simply say, Malays do not need any other belief system- Islam is complete. Well, as we have seen through out the ages, just by saying Islam, the lives of Muslims and in
Any thing- topic of discussion, line of thinking do not automatically qualify as being Islamic, just by peppering it/them with Islamic terms. Example: if I were to begin a discussion on pornography, will it qualify as Islamic if I begin by reciting Bismillahirrahmanirrahim? Lesson: uttering Islamic terms, means nothing. Conversely, it will mean, if a subject matter is not explicitly riddled with Islamic terms, does not disqualify it from being included as Islamic.
Lest it be said- that it is I, one who is secularly trained( btw- what the heck is secularly trained?) consider the words of one of the earliest Malay( Muslim thinkers), Zaaba ( zainal Abidin hj Ahmad) on this:-
Why is the Malay poor in a values-system? That the Malays are poor in good habits such as hardworking, frugal, careful with spending, dedicated, respectful, resolute, firm, truthful, punctual, value time, self respect, disposed to applying thinking, independent, self reliant, free spirited, never submit to others, believe in the common good, avoid all the social vices- these indolent values are derived from many reasons- but the most important reason is this:
That first and foremost, the condition of their Islamic religion and the values-system therein, have fallen very far from their exalted prominence.