Malaysia Dateline

How should Malaysians understand AMANAH

The dawn of May 9 implies the increased probability of a non Muslim having to face the choice of choosing a parliamentary candidate from AMANAH be it in the rural, urban or even sub rural constituency. Why is this the case ?

To begin with, AMANAH now has a long list of ministers and deputy ministers—-twelve to date—-with one Chief Minister at the helm of Malacca. These positions will encourage AMANAH to place more candidates to challenge PAS and UMNO in future.

In desperate times, PAS and UMNO will naturally resort to desperate measures. Invariably, this would encourage PAS and UMNO to contest in every single seat. It does not matter if it will make sense to be everywhere. But they will be everywhere—–without which they will be nowhere.

Precisely due to this logic alone, AMANAH has to go head-to-head with both parties, which in turn increases the likelihood of AMANAH moving out of its shell.

Besides, it should be added that AMANAH is not an Islamic party per se. Its membership allows AMANAH to accept people of all faiths and beliefs. Within this context, AMANAH has to transcend its own religious or Islamic parameter to be a modernist and democratic political party, including the issue of race, which is often the basis of how a party in Malaysia tends to originate and evolve.

Thus, whether one likes it or not, Malaysians who do not necessarily come under the religious rubric of Islam—–or the racial category of an urban, rural or sub rural Malay—-have to make it a point to be understand all the concepts that drive AMANAH forward.

As Confucius once put it, “all knowledge begins with correct names” or their rectification. One cannot known what one cannot otherwise first be able to name or define. In this sense, Confucianism is a close cousin of the philosophical concepts of Aristotle and Plato.

Both philosophers affirmed nearly 2500 years ago—-about the same time Confucius was around in Shandong, which is northeast of China—–that knowledge is impossible unless one can name things according to their precise properties or essences.

The inner quality of AMANAH is of course based on the Arabic word “Amanah” which means honesty or accountability. But the historiography of the word is derived from the role of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) too. Prior to receiving his divine Revelations at the age of 40, what Muslims refer to as “wahy,” he was known by all tribes as “Al Amin,” the honest one.

This, in itself was not an easy feat, as pre Islamic Arabic in the early part of the 7th century A.D., was constantly at war between one tribe versus the other. The biggest of these tribes was Qurasy. While Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) grew up as an orphan, he was not educated to read nor write. For the lack of better phrase, all tribes including his own had the incentive to dislike him. Yet, they didn’t.

Instead, based on his honest traits they referred to him as the most trust worthy one. A signal moment of this faith in him happened during the tumultuous tussle over which tribe should have the right, indeed, honor, to place the “black rock” that hailed from the time of Prophet Abraham (ie Nabi Ibrahim) into the “kaabah,” where Muslims to this day continue to orientate their daily prayers too.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came up with a unique solution, where the leaders of each tribe, would place the “black rock” on a piece of white cloth spread from end to end.

These tribal leaders would then place it on the center of the fabric while they march gingerly to the center of the “kaabah,” to emplace the asteroid-like rock on the structure. Due to such a solution, no one felt unnecessarily discriminated and prejudiced.

To this day, all Muslims, despite their war like situation in contemporary times, are still driven by the Islamic concept of “adl” or “adil” in Malay. The Arabic-Islamic concept of “adl,” is even more phenomenal. Its root word or meaning is derived from the canvass on the back of a camel.

The canvas, whether it is made of leather upholstery or otherwise, can never be permanently fixed, as the camel saunter forward from left to right.

In fact, anyone who has ever rode on a camel before, would know that before the “ship of the desert” becomes upright, there is considerable forward thrust of the front legs, which makes the whole experience, considerably jerky and unstable.

Thus, the role of the canvass is to hold the rider firmly in place, invariably, to allow him or her to constantly and carefully readjust its position to remain steady and well seated.

“Adl,” or justice, requires perennial adjustment to sway with the sashaying motion of the time. Nothing is ever a dogmatic orthodox. They must be calibrated time and again.

Thus the strength of AMANAH cannot come from honesty and accountability alone but flexible adjustment—–necessary as they are—–but permanent (re)adjustment according to different conditions of the times.

Since democracy, as a rule, allows people to exercise their choice of who should represent them, not unlike how the warring tribes once chose Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to adjudicate on their tribal conflicts, it goes without saying that AMANAH must listen to the voters and the people too.

But before such a process of mutual listening can deepen, and it should deepen without end, barring which good governance cannot take place, all sides must make peace as the central tenet of their belief systems. In other words, all Malaysians must first embrace a conflict free motive to listen and to talk.

The form of adversarial discourse, that specializes in destroying one’s opponents to smithereens, as is practised in combative debates, even within the context of Whitehall parliamentary system, must be finessed into a system of intellectual and intelligent feedbacks.

This can only be achieved when all sides, AMANAH and non AMANAH members in Malaysia, make it a point to read, invariably, to educate themselves on all issues, even polemics.

Not surprisingly, the first word of the Al Quran began with “iqra” which means read or recit, in the name of your Creator, that created one from the smallest of molecules. When all sides put in the efforts to read and understand the origins of another, the next step is to hold each other accountable to what is written down in a contract.

How AMANAH is respected and honored depends on how it seeks to raise the standards of its own constitution, the Constitution of Malaysia, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other such covenants in the United Nations too. Naturally, this is a long journey. Thus AMANAH and Malaysians should work together, rather than at cross purposes—–if the singular goal is to create a stronger, and more peaceful, abode, what is known as Darul Salam, for all.