Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Wife and I have been attending a course on sickness, deaths and funerary issues for the last several weeks at a somewhat far away mosque, and I must say I enjoy it tremendously. The class is well attended, and the teacher was eloquent, clear and attractive. He uses Sabil ul Muhtadeen by Syeikh al-Banjari, an ancient book that nobody uses anymore nowadays. In fact I was so impressed by it that I went on a queest to look for the book (the course only provided a few photocopied pages) around Singapore. It was not available in Latin script, so I bought the Jawi version. It is really old style Jawi that does not follow the present spelling conventions, and the words do not have spaces between them, so a sentence is like a very long word. Like how the Quran is written. Gave me a headache. Of course one door opens another in matters of religion, so when I discovered Syeikh al-Banjari, I also discovered about al-Batani and the more colourful (read controversial) al-Fansuri. I then bought and read Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World by Riddell, and discovered a host of other great ulama whom I now realise that I have neglected - such as the late great Hamka. I of course went out and bought Hamka's Di-Bawah LIndungan Kaabah (which to my surprise is different from the movie of the same name) and Tasawuf Moderen. Leafing briefly through the latter book, it struck me how all the Muslims in the Malay world are indebted to him, because he singlehandedly dragged the oldfashioned and superstitious Sufism, that was in danger of being discarded by the more educated post independence generation, into the 20th century, while at the same time demolishing the then ascending modernist movements sweeping through South East Asia. If every century produces a mujadid, he certainly was ours. May Allah bless his soul, Rahimahullah.

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