Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan: “‘Wasatiyyah’ (moderation) is an important part of Islamic identity that has been forgotten”

A NEW breed of leaders is needed to reconstruct a civilisation based on wasatiyyah or moderation, a Malaysian scholar said yesterday.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan, eminent visiting professor of the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies, said new leaders are those who possess moral excellence and technological brilliance.

In his public lecture “Malay-Islamic Civilisation: Its Birth, Development and Wasatiyyah Identity” at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, he said wasatiyyah is an important part of Islamic identity that has been forgotten.

“But now Alhamdulilah, people are coming back to the term wasatiyyah,” he said.

Wasatiyyah means a sense of justice, excellence and balance between extremes, he said.

The source of the term wasatiyyah is derived from Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 143: “And thus we have made you a justly balanced community that you will be witnesses over the people and the messenger will be a witness over you”.

There are three pillars of Al-Wasatiyyah, he said. First is justice — which includes strength, power and dignity — followed by goodness and excellence, and third, balance/moderation.

He said all three are connected, not separated, and that Muslims are supposed to represent these qualities. Religious identities of Muslims that uphold justice, moral excellence and upholding the principle of balance and moderation in certain aspects, he added.

In his lecture, he talked about major civilisational transformation and intellectual revolution of Malay culture brought about by the worldview of Islam.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

“The worldview of Islam consists of mainly three parts: aqidah (belief system), syariah and akhlak (character). The worldview of Islam represented by aqidah of tauhid (Oneness of Allah SWT), syariah and the morals of Islam brought about cultural and intellectual revolution with a new tradition of learning, learning by the book and not learning on the basis of myth, superstition and wrong beliefs,” he said.

With this change in the culture of the Malays, we have the development of what we called the tradition of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah, he added.

The whole of South East Asia came under the influence of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (people who followed the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) and the practices of Muslims who are the companions and followers of the Prophet (PBUH).

This tradition of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah also brought together three major branches of knowledge known as Ilmu Tauhid (Oneness of Allah), Ilmu Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Ilmu Tasawwuf (focuses on the spiritual development of the Muslim), he added.

He said the Malay world, which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Muslims of Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, still preserve this integration of these three branches of knowledge.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal is presently a professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, International Islamic University Malaysia.

The Brunei Times

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Islamic, Malay arts not the same

IT HAS become common for members of the public to misinterpret the Islamic arts and Malay arts as the same, a visiting Malaysian professor said.

Professor Dato Dr Othman Yatim, a visiting professor at Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s (UBD) Academy of Brunei Studies, said it is important to understand differences between the Islamic and Malay arts as it may affect the identities of Muslims and Malays.

“The Malay arts is not all Islamic, they are not the same, it focuses on daily activities of Malay culture but there are similarities,” he said during the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies (SOASCIS) Graduate Seminar Series at UBD.

Professor Dato Dr Othman said misconception of the two arts could distort the Malay community and Islamic community’s identity, resulting in confusion between the two.

He explained that the Malay arts focuses on flora and fauna, and showcase local knowledge through associations with nature and traditional architecture.

In contrast, the Islamic arts aim to emphasise the beauty and ethical values of Allah SWT through visual art –such as mosques and zikir, he said.

“The Malay arts uses arts and crafts (objects of daily use) to emphasise Malay culture, while the Islamic arts uses calligraphy, cosmology and geometry to glorify and devote oneself to Allah SWT,” he added.

Prof Dato Dr Othman Yatim

Prof Dato Dr Othman Yatim

The professor said the public must understand and be aware of the differences, in which he plans to educate the public through seminars and workshops.

“The youth is the target because they will continue practising our culture and identity for future generations, so they must know the differences at an early age,” he said.

Professor Dato Dr Othman also encouraged schools to educate students to ensure they understand the differences between the two cultures.

“We, as Malays and Muslims, have to know and preserve our identity by being aware because having the wrong perception is dangerous as it plays a major role in the unity of all Muslims in the world,” he added.

During the seminar, over 30 people attended to further their knowledge of the Islamic and Malay arts.

The Brunei Times

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Malay population the most unhealthy group in Singapore

malay-villageSalma Khalik
Senior Health Correspondent

The Malay population is the unhealthiest in Singapore.

Latest statistics from the national disease registry reveal that a disproportionate number of diabetics and patients with kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes come from this group.

Although Malays account for 13.5 per cent of the population, they make up 24.4 per cent of people on dialysis. Once diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, patients need either a transplant or dialysis for the rest of their lives.

The proportion of Malays who have had kidney transplants rose from 8.5 per cent in 2003 to 10.1 per cent last year.

Malays – both men and woman – are also at significantly higher risk of suffering a stroke than people of other races. Malay men are 1.5 times more likely to suffer one compared to Chinese men for instance.

Age-standardised stroke rates for every 100,000 men last year was 296 for Malays, 199 for Indians and 184 for Chinese. For women, it was 195 for Malays, 131 for Indians and 105 for Chinese. Age-standardisation removes the influence of age distribution in each group and allows for a fair comparison.

Malays are also more likely to suffer heart attacks. Since 2010, they have surged past Indians as the ethnic group with the highest rate of heart attacks.

The report said: “The higher incidence of acute myocardial infarction among Malays is likely to be due to their higher proportions of hypertension and high cholesterol compared to the other ethnic groups.”

It added that most Malays are unaware of their conditions compared to people of other races.

malay_stat_demon-cratic-singapore-malay-populationThe only major illness which the Malay population is not the most likely to get is cancer. This is most prominent among the Chinese.

Former storekeeper Mohamad Raihan Yaakub, 68, suffers from diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. He rarely exercises but has cut down from one pack of cigarettes a day to one every three days.

The unemployed man started dialysis four years ago and lost his older brother to kidney failure.

He had a blocked artery and had a stent inserted more than a decade ago. His children have no major health problems, but his son has taken up smoking too.

“I tell him not to smoke, but he doesn’t listen,” he said.

In Singapore, smokers make up almost a quarter of heart attack and stroke sufferers.

Mr Sukandar Kastam, 49, was diagnosed with diabetes when he was only 25 years old. He has been on dialysis for the past six years.

He used to weigh 120kg but has since lost 50kg. He too is unemployed and says he has been turned down time and again for jobs because of his need for dialysis three times a week.

He admits that he does not exercise “because lazy lah”. Although he lives fairly near the National Kidney Foundation’s dialysis centre in Kim Keat Road, he would ride his motorbike there rather than walk.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob said community groups and mosques have been organising health-related activities for the Malay community, but a more concerted effort is needed.

“A lot of the pushing will have to be done at the community level and we should partner health-care providers like the hospitals and polyclinics for this effort,” she said.

“Also, we should catch them young when habits are not yet formed on eating, exercising and prevention. Taking care of our health is our own responsibility.”

The Straits Times
Sunday, 21December 2014

malay spor

‘Tajussalatin’, Crown of the Sultans

kitab tajussalatinHM Subarkah

But unlike Machiavelli, at almost the same era, ie 1603 AD, in the Kingdom of Aceh Darussalam, a Malay -language book questioning authority, ‘Tajussalatin’ (Crown of the Sultans), was written by Bukhari al-Jauhari. And not the same as the period of Machiavelli who wrote his book when Italy was in the period of the ‘great depression’, Tajussalatin was written when the kingdom of Aceh was in the peak of fame. Aceh became the center of international trade and Malay culture. Ruler of the kingdom when the book was written was in the hands of Sultan Sayyid al-Mukamil (1590-1604 AD), who was the grandfather of Sultan Iskandar Muda (1607-1636 AD).

machiaThe book has a message that a leader, however, should uphold the glory attitude. Not only it’s compliant with the law, he should honor morality or ethics. The purpose of power by justifying any means, accumulating wealth, luxury living spree is not allowed at all. Most importantly, a leader must be able to distinguish good and bad for him, people, and humanity .

Well, now the prospective rulers who are now busy campaigning just choose Machiavelli or al-Jauhari way? Hopefully the people who choose it also does not provide itself to be deceived. Welcome, the Ruler!

Mon, 24 Maret 2014

Abdullah Munsyi and the Missionaries

Jan van der PuttenJan van der Putten


Father of Modern Malay Literature is an epithet often ascribed to Abdullah bin abdul Kadir Munsyi, a Malay author who lived in Melaka and Singapore during the first half of the nineteenth century.1 two of his works, Hikayat Abdullah (tale of abdullah) and Kisah pelayaran Abdullah ke Kelantan (account of Abdullah’s voyage to Kelantan) are the stories most often singled out as those that form the bridge between traditional and modern Malay writing.

Characteristics of these writings viewed by critics as modern elements are the foregrounding of the authorial self through the use of the first-person pronoun, realistic descriptions of historical events and persons, and harsh criticism of the culture, socio-political structure, and practices of the Malay community (Milner 1995). This conventional wisdom defines traditional literature, in contrast, as anonymous, writers preferring to relate events and persons set in a mythical past of a never-never land, written down and performed for the benefit of a certain ruler. I am not concerned here with whether these views about traditional literature are accurate or whether Abdullah Munsyi’s writings can be viewed as part of what has been termed ‘transitional’ literature (Skinner 1978). Suffice it to say that some of Abdullah Munsyi’s colleagues wrote in a similar vein as the champion of Malay modernity, and traditional Malay writing is a little more complex than may be encompassed in a topos of anonymity and mythical past.

Abdullah Munsyi

Abdullah Munsyi

Abdullah Munsyi is a controversial figure in the history of Malay writing, and opinions about him have varied through time from the extremes this article is the result of merging two papers I presented in Singapore in 2003 and 2005.

I am grateful to the participants of the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) and Casting Faiths conferences for their comments, and also to the two anonymous referees. Most indebted I am to Ian Proudfoot, and especially Amin Sweeney, for painstakingly going through my text. any errors are of course mine.

Jan van der Putten is assistant professor in Malay Literature at the department of Malay Studies, national university of Singapore. He holds a PHD from Leiden university. His research interests are Malay writing and history. He is the author of His word is the truth; Haji Ibrahim’s letters and other writings, Leiden: research School of Asian, African and Amerindian Studies, 2001 and (with Hans Straver and Chris van Fraassen), Historie van Hitu; Een Ambonese geschiedenis uit de zeventiende eeuw, utrecht: LSeM, 2004. Jan van der Putten may be contacted at

abd munsyi

Old Malay manuscripts still in foreign lands

nask mal
Darul Aqsha

SOTHEBY’S finally auctioned off a rare Bruneian Al-Quran manuscript dated 1660 for £97,250 (B$204,225) last Tuesday. Of interest is that the old manuscript was written by Hashim ibn Muhammad al-Brunawi in Kota Batu, the old capital of the Brunei Malay sultanate and was dedicated to “our lord the Sultan”.

An "Important and rare Al-Quran manuscript" dated 1660 dedicated to the Sultan of Brunei then, was sold for £97,250 ($201,871), more than its estimated value. The manuscript was valued at £60,000 to £80,000, according to the website of auction house, Sotheby's.

An “Important and rare Al-Quran manuscript” dated 1660 dedicated to the Sultan of Brunei then, was sold for £97,250 ($201,871), more than its estimated value. The manuscript was valued at £60,000 to £80,000, according to the website of auction house, Sotheby’s.

But, who was “our lord the Sultan”? In its website, Sotheby’s mentioned that the reigning Sultan of Brunei in the year 1660 was Sultan Muhyidin. But according to the Brunei History Centre, the reigning sultan at that year was Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali (1660-1661) who replaced Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar (1659-1660). Sultan Muhyidin himself was the 14th Sultan who reigned from 1673 to 1690. He replaced Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin (1661-1673).

Historians say that the recently auctioned Bruneian manuscript is but one of the many thousands of old manuscripts from the Malay Archipelago which are spread all over the globe.

nask mal minangkabauSome historians say that as many as 10,000 Malay and Islamic manuscripts, including Jawi manuscripts, are scattered in 28 countries, including the Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and even the US.

The westerners did not only colonialise the states in the archipelago, but they also took away its natural, historical and cultural resources such as manuscripts and artefacts. The forced removal of important manuscripts to Europe had been conducted since the 16th century, aiming at perpetuating colonialism and scientific studies.

Many students and researchers, including those who come from the Malay Archipelago (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia) had to study the Islamic and Jawi manuscripts in those western countries. His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, initiated the move to build a gallery to conserve old and rare manuscripts. The gallery was also expected to be a rich source for students and researchers to study the legacy of Malay and Islamic cultures.

nask islamic-tourism-001

nask mal1 sulThe gallery was named “The Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Islamic Exhibition Gallery”, which was opened on August 18, 2001, in conjunction with the First International Islamic Expo.

The gallery is located at Darulifta Brunei Darussalam Complex, State Mufti’s Office, some 2km from Bandar Seri Begawan.

According to Penjana Tamaddun Islam (“Revitalising Islamic Gallery”), a book published by the State Mufti’s Office to commemorate the establishment of the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Islamic Exhibition Gallery (2006), there are 708 Islamic manuscripts listed in the gallery.

It should also be noted that there are some 117 Jawi manuscripts in the Sultanate, 40 of them are presently kept at the gallery.

Some 300 mushafs (handwritten Al-Quran in various forms) from various countries such as North Africa, Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia are also exhibited at the gallery. His Majesty’s other old manuscript collections of Al-Quran can also be found in the Brunei National Museum in Kota Batu.

The old manuscripts at the gallery contain various themes. They include Islamic knowledge on religion, language, biography, encyclopaedia, medicine, history, physics, mathematics, tasawuf, logics, romantic poetry, Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), hadith, commentary of Al-Quran (tafsir), literary and dictionary, among others.

nask mal3 acehThe manuscripts played significant roles in the community, especially in the spread of Islam and the development of Malay literature in the archipelago.

One of the old manuscripts which had a strong influence in urging the Malay people to rise against the European powers was the Kitab Dala’il Khairaat.

Written by Syaikh Muhammad ibn Sulaiman al-Jazuli, the kitab is also better known as the Dalail al-Khairat wa Syawariq al-Anwar fi Dzikr al-Shalat ‘ala al-Nabiy al-Mukhtar (15th century).

This kitab was widely known as the book which was used by Malay sultans to fight against European powers. Raja Haji of the Johor-Riau Sultanate and his troops, for an example, read the manuscript before their major offensive against Dutch troops at the battle of Linggi in 1783.

While from Indonesia, one of Abdul Samad al-Falimbani’s works also encouraged local freedom fighters to fight against the Dutch in Palembang, Sumatra.

Other influential manuscripts were Kitab Shirat al-Mustaqim by Syeikh Nuruddin ar-Raniri (Aceh) and Kitab Sabil al-Muhtadin li’l-Tafaqquh bi Amr al-Din by Syeikh Muhammad Arsyad al-Banjari (Banjarmasin).

Other notable Muslim scholars of the archipelago include Hamzah al-Fansuri, Syamsuddin al-Sumatrani, Abdul Ra’uf ibn Ali al-Fansuri of Aceh, Indonesia (16th-17th centuries), Daud ibn Abdullah al-Fatani of Patani, Thailand (19th century), Abd al-Samad Pulai Condong al-Kalantani of Kelantan, Malaysia, (18th) and Muhammad Idris al-Marbawi of Perak, Malaysia, as well as Syeikh Ahmad Khatib al-Minangkabawi of Minangkabau, Indonesia (19th-20th).

The Brunei Times
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A preservation effort of old Malay manscript in SOAS, the UK.

A preservation effort of old Malay manscript in SOAS, the UK.



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