(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=void 0!=f?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(void 0==f)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=0=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; 0=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&0=b&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Living Surah Al Fatihah: Last of Eight Parts: Those Who Have Incurred His Wrath

 Living Surah Al Fatihah During Ramadan 


M. Bakri Musa


April 21, 2022:  Last of Eight Parts:  Those Who Have Incurred His Wrath


Al Fatihah’s last ayat exhorts us to avoid the path of those who have earned His wrath. That may be obvious but remember even demons like Pol Pot had their admirers and wannabes. Prime Minister Najib Razak stole billions from the rakyat. Despite that, he still has many loyal, exuberant “Malu Apa Boss Ku” (What’s there to be ashamed of my boss?) followers.


I make no apologies for mentioning Najib in the same paragraph with Pol Pot. The difference between him and that Cambodian cretin is one of magnitude, not kind. The gruesome killing of the innocent Pakistani banker and Mongolian model may not be on the same scale as Pol Pot’s genocide, but then think of the thousands of Malaysians who succumbed to Covid-19. Had the billions not been siphoned from 1MDB, and Malaysia not been burdened by its subsequent humongous debt, the nation would have had more than ample funds to secure an adequate supply of Covid-19 vaccines early on. As for the banker and model victims, the Qur’an reminds us (5:32) that if you kill one person, it is as if you have killed all mankind.


            Leaders have an extra special and heavy burden. They must go beyond doing good; they must also prevent evil. Najib failed at both. Worse, he perverted the pristine values of our faith, as with his financing Hajj pilgrimages from his pilfered funds. He mocked the sanctity of our hallowed rituals with his cynical attempt at “sanitizing” his loot. He degraded our faith.


Najib hoodwinked Malaysians by claiming that the billions secretly deposited into his account were but gifts from a Saudi prince. Najib exploited the religious sentiments of Malays. To us, anything from the land of the Arabs is halal, rezki (bounty) from Heaven. Even Meccan flies are halal!


It may be harsh to condemn Najib during Ramadan, a season to be forgiving. However, he has yet to admit his wrongdoings. On the contrary, to Najib he did something exemplary, worthy of praise not censure.


Najib should be condemned lest he be emulated by others. When society honors its corrupt, then it has a serious problem. The most obscene picture I have come across this Ramadan is of Najib Razak, a convicted criminal, being invited to the palace iftar. That speaks volumes not of Najib but the man who invited him, the Agung.


More offensive, however difficult that would be to imagine, Najib posted that picture, as well as one of him with the Agung, both gleefully grinning, on social media. The only thing more jarring at that royal iftar would be if the Chief Justice were also to be there, what with Najib’s final appeal coming up.


Back to Al Fatihah, if that surah is the essence of the Qur’an, could there be a comparable ayat that is the Qur’an’s kernel? That question was posed to Malaysian undergraduates at a meeting organized by the UMNO Club of New York and New Jersey in 2011. Their responses touched and taught me much about our Glorious Qur’an.


One student recalled his fajar prayer at the Grand Canyon National Park one late summer. Engulfed in the cool, high desert morning air, he could just glimpse the northern rim through the soft ray of the emerging sunshine. Deep below was the shimmering ribbon of water flowing at its leisure, guarded by sheer magnificent cliffs on both sides. Those contain many secrets of the past, while the river supports the multitude of life forms all the way to the Gulf of California. Above, the vast expanse of the cloudless sky with no pillars supporting it. It was as if Allah had revealed to this student “All His Splendor,” as per Surah Al Qaf (50:6).


Visitors to the Grand Canyon cannot but be struck by the spirituality of the place. Even if one were not religious, one would be constrained from blemishing it. To scratch graffiti or litter with your plastic bottles would be blasphemous. Indeed to Native Americans, the Grand Canyon is sacred; it should also be to every visitor.


Another student recalled her experience at a New York City event. She was struck by the diversity of the attendees, their stark differences in skin color, facial features, languages spoken, and of course their food and attire. It brought to life for her Surah Al Hujurat (49:13):  Allah could have made us all of one tribe but chose not to so we could learn from each other.


Yet another recalled her classmate’s ordeal fleeing her native land. What made that classmate endure it all was recalling the Prophet’s own migration to Medinah. While she was hounded by other than her own kind, and thus understandable though not excusable, the Prophet, s.a.w., fled from his kin and fellow tribesmen. The pain must have been exponentially more unbearable. She found comfort in Surah An Nisa (4:97) that admonished those who partake in sin in their homeland using the excuse of local conditions. Is Allah’s earth not vast enough for one to escape (migrate), that ayat rhetorically asked.


That exercise prompted me to ponder the Qur’anic ayat most meaningful to me. Earlier I discussed Surah Al Fatihah’s fifth ayat, “Keep us along the straight path.” Parallel to and carrying the same pristine principle would be:  


                        الأمر بالمَعْرُوف والنَهي عن المُنْكَر

(al-amr bi-l-maʿrūf; wa-n-nahy ʿani-l-munkar)


Command good, and forbid evil. Stunning in its brevity, clarity, and verity. That phrase is repeated in a few other places. To me that is the Qur’an’s essence, its golden rule; the rest are but commentaries. The Qur’an gives many ready examples of “doing good” (be kind to orphans and wayfarers for example) as well of the meaning of evil deeds (killing, adultery, etc.). If you rob, kill, or destroy then it matters not how many times you pray or go for Hajj. If you build your community, keep your rivers clean, and nurture the environment, then whether you don a hijab or how exhilarating your zikir is trivial by comparison.


As for contemporary discussions on Surah Al Fatihah, I find the arrogant certitude of some preachers intolerable. They remind me of the all-knowing imperious physicians of yore, their utterances and prescriptions unchallenged. They were, well, God-like. I am glad not to be of that generation or persuasion.


We also trivialize this great surah if we were to reduce it to a Genie-in-a-bottle. Rub or recite it, and miracles would magically happen. Likewise, we would not be expressing our syukor, the al hamdu of the beginning of Al Fatihah, if we dismiss Allah’s most precious gift to us – our life and this wonderful world – as being but a mere mirage and that our “real” existence and universe await us in the Hereafter.


The American scholar Ebraheem Moosa, then at Stanford, summed it best for me during a talk he gave to our small Muslim community here in Morgan Hill one Ramadan many years ago. The day you think you have fully understood the Qur’an is the day you die. Ameen to that!


Post a Comment

<< Home