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Late Night Ramblin' In Turbans

I just thought of saying a few words, I ain't got much time nowadays, but I sometimes feel compelled to write. I haven't expressed myself very articulately lately other than the incessant banal blurbs of Facebook or Twitter.

So, today I just want to comment on the "kepimpinan ulama'" because since elections are close, many people have been piping about that on Facebook, I'm not sure if it's because my friends and I have already reached that age when you're suddenly bold about your political views or something, but my news feed seems to be awash with an impressive wave of political battle cries for ulama' leadership.

Imma come clean and say I ain't got no fancy holy book excerpts or quotes from authoritative figures, it's merely my opinion of what I think about this.

"Ulama'" comes from the word "ilm", so you kinda get a rough idea that these people are people with privileged knowledge about the religion. There might be other definitions of ulama', but I'm going to stick with the context of how people treat the word "ulama'" in Malaysia. i.e. imagine Nik Aziz. Not saying that he's the one I'm referring to, but just to give you a picture.

Some people vouch for the ulama' to be the ideal leader, mainly because they know their stuff, they're virtuous, and if they know all the ways of the religion and because religion pervades all aspects of life, including politics, then they must know the right way to do it. Ideally speaking, yes.

However, what we live in is a reality, not an ideal. They may know their stuff, but that does not guarantee that they'd be good leaders. I'm not belittling their expertise in any way, nor am I suggesting that there is a division between politics and religion (or maybe I am ?)

If they are specifically trained in only religion, they have devoted their life only to study religion, having spent exorbitant effort and time on memorizing and interpreting scriptures, that does not necessarily guarantee with only the knowledge of the scriptures, you can perform open heart surgery on a patient, for instance.

There are many people in this world, (duh, marah cikgu English buat ayat macam ni), and they play different roles, they have specializations in their respective fields. While the ulama's are experts in their field, there must also be other experts in the applications of these fields, and what makes it work, is good communication and collaboration between the two. You can't expect one person to be everything in its entirety, unless if you're super talented with your God-given multi-talent prowess, and not to say that there aren't any multi-talented ulama's out there.

The ulama's can be the guide to ensure that the economist/scientist/doctor/lawyer/engineer/philosopher/political leader/etc act within the bounds of what's permissible within the religion as well as ensuring they act on the principles and values of the religion, but the ulama' cannot necessarily tell the economist/doctor/lawyer/engineer/philosopher/political leader/etc how to do their job.

I know there are gems like Nik Aziz (this guy again) who's not only an ulama' but also a good leader, but he's been in the field for so long, and he's Kelantanese (har, har, har).

But (okay, cikgu English for sure marah start ayat macam ni #lawakhambar) the problem with having the ulama' as both the ulama' and a political leader is that alluva sudden, this ulama' becomes the axis for everything, and from there, all the people are fixated on him. Where do you go for religious consultation ? That guy. Who's in charge for policy-making ? That guy. With the added status of a political leader atop the status as the ulama', this guy will be idolized, and he will be seen as faultless. "How could this policy be wrong ? He knows his stuff straight from the book, so, you'll be assured it's legit."

Ulama's are human beings, they are not maksum nabi's. I'm not saying they should be belittled, I do respect the knowledge that they have, but bear in mind that they too, are human beings.

For those who say them ulama's are pewaris nabi, yes, they are, in terms of the immense stuff they dedicated their lives to learn, but that does not make them directly nabi's themselves. They have their roles to make use of their knowledge and I'm pretty sure some other person out there who is trained specifically in the ways of politics and is gifted with the charisma of a leader will also do his job as a leader, and if the two communicate well, it'll be an awesome combo.

Here in Canada, since muslims are the minority, there's no concern or talk much about kepimpinan ulama. Especially with the Western muslims. They acknowledge they're muslim, but they also acknowledge that this is the leadership that they get because they're part of this country. There is no gripe about "my leader is non-muslim, or eats pork and this country is damned because we don't have an ulama' as a leader."

I guess in Malaysia because it's a majority muslim country, people have no qualms about saying it aloud, I want an ulama' as my leader. Imagine if someone were to say I want the Pope as the leader of the government. These same people would be incensed. (No offense to any Popes).

For me, if so the ulama' is fit to lead, he knows his way around, he does a good job of it and everybody's happy with the way he does things in the country and is just, I'm cool. I wouldn't want him merely because he knows his stuff, unless if it's for a mufti position, but even in that case, you'd want a just person, not just a knowledgeable one.

Some people want an ulama' leadership because they want the hudud (in it's most superficial sense, imagine all the gory punishments, but do take note, for people who really do know their stuff about hudud, feel free to share and comment, I know I definitely am no expert in that, but I do know, it's definitely gotta be more than that) to be implemented. Yo, I gotta tell ya. Ruling a country and policy-making isn't as easy as "I want it that way so that's the way it will be". You gotta consider the societal dynamics and you know it's not easy to please everyone.

Then, they'd counter with something like, but it's all good during Rasulullah's time, we gotta get back to those good old days. So, we need ulama' leadership in order to do that.

I don't know much, but I challenge you people who wants hudud, tell me how many times does Rasulullah actually do stuff like stone adulterers to death and cut the arms of the thieves and require exactly quatro witnesses to an adultery taking place ? (ermahgerd can it get more cliched than that ?)

Yes, I believe leadership and governance must be based on Islamic principles and values, but at the same time, those principles and values are also universal, and the implementation of government policy is not fixed to what they had during Rasulullah's time. Yes, our prophet is supposed to be a good example sent from God and we're supposed to follow in his footsteps, but are we following the exact shape of that footstep or are we following where his footsteps went ?

So, yeah, I'll leave it here for now. Gotta get some shut eye for some more Engineering tomorrow. Good night.


Nur Ryssa said…

1) Can we have another piece from you, say, entitled; 'Kepimpinan Bukan Ulama' ?

2) Is there any nas saying that hudud is optional? There are at least a couple of verses in the Qur'an mentioning on hudud,

3) What are the characters and attributes of an ideal leader, in your opinion?


Nur Ryssa Dhamya

Nana said…
I’d just like you to know, this article isn’t baseless, although I did mention it is purely my opinion, however, this opinion is shaped by readings as well as speeches from muslim intellectuals that I have attended while I am here. (my apologies I forgot to include respective links on the original article). I’ve been reading Tariq Ramadan’s Quest for Meaning, and I’ve watched this video among others some time ago. Tariq Ramadan, cucu Hassan Al-Bana (ooh name dropping) and John Esposito “Muslims Today and Radical Reform”: Watch the whole thing, 11 parts all together. Also jemput tonton video Habib Ali Al-Jifri dio oyak gapo. Ulama’ keturunan Rasulullah tu sendiri hok kecek, if who the presenter is really the only thing that matters to you more than anything else, from this link: not sure if you can listen to it clearly. Otherwise, you can check out his other videos. Here, in Canada, people acknowledge there are many ways to go about living the ad-deen. Even Shiites and sunnis pray side by side and we have no qualms about it because we respect our different points of view in religion. We do not call each other names like “sesat”, “jahil”, “murtad”, “kafir”, not even to those Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists here, even when we speak of them amongst fellow muslims, let alone do we use such terms to call our fellow muslims who have different opinions than us. There is no prevalent hate or polarity amongst muslims just because one has different opinions from the other. Is not being good to others and upholding peace and tolerance living up to the religious principles and values of Islam? Is that not ad-deen itself? The whole point of my article is that even in the absence of a “caliphate” figure in a society, you can still be a community that upholds Islamic values and principles, as long as you practice it, of course, which I think is the first and foremost question that you should answer for yourself first (oh wow. Repetitive sentence) instead of being obsessed on only the question of who’s going to be our next leader?

^Copy-pasted my comment from elsewhere, but it explains how I conceptualized my thoughts.

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