In an effort to revive the pursuit, practice and enjoyment of high culture in the Malay world, there is a need to look at the Islamic civilisation of yesteryears which must encompass the Nusantara (the Malay region), says former cabinet minister Tan Sri Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim.
Rais said Malay Muslims who reject or are ignorant of history, will not be enlightened, as “we are interrelated with history”.
He was speaking at the first Global Premier Lecture Series organised by the International Institute of Islamic Civilisation and Malay World (Istac).
“Muslims must float and survive as innovative, creative and inventive peoples of the faith. On the contrary, if Muslims are easily seen and fitted into the stereotype image of being rough, shoddy, shallow and lacking in high culture, the negative labels would then be more easily pasted on our foreheads. This is not desired. Hence, we must collectively change the image. To do this, we must appreciate history and the evolution of mankind."
He said the Malay Muslims of today are not rising above their existence into the world out there because they do not engage in comparative studies of other religions and Islam
“The Malay World is an ancient world with impressive historical and cultural milestones, some of which thanks to recent findings of accountable narrative and collated data, predate even the awesome pyramids of Egypt,” said Rais.
Rais, who is the President of the International Islamic University of Malaysia and the socio-cultural advisor to the government said that there is a pervasive tendency that the acquisition of knowledge of ancient history, archaeology or anthropology was superfluous and unnecessary.
Known as an uncompromising advocate and proponent of Bahasa Melayu in its most organic form, Rais further lamented the intrusion of western culture and influences that has compromised the sanctity of the Malay language. He said that this was mainly due to Malays not being interested to study their own history and how it played a large role in the Islamic civilisation milleniums ago.
“What about history? What about socio-religious value system? What about trade and economy? What about innovation and inventiveness among us? When was the last time a great Muslim invented a utensil, an apparatus or a thought that would enliven society at large? Why must the world think only of Edison, when you see the "nur" - the light? Why must you say only about things that protrude to the fame of the West, when we have done a lot in the past?
“Islam is in cognition of the past. Islam recognises history, Islam recognises civilisational development, but do we honour pre-history as well? Questions like that bring me to the issue of how much of the Injil (Bible) are we looking at? How much of the Torah are we understanding?” asked Rais.
He said the Malay Muslims of today are not rising above their existence into the world out there because they do not engage in comparative studies of other religions and Islam.
He opines that if Islam could once boast of great figures such as astronomer Al-Khwarizimi, doctor Ibn Sinna and traveller Ibn Batuta – which the West once looked up to - then the Malays of today should wake up from their slumber and revive the glory days of Islamic achievements.
“Coffee was first popularised in Egypt but they don’t even blink about that when they are in the Starbucks coffee houses of the world,” said Rais.
He said that Muslims of today are preoccupied with polemics and conflicts.
“We have left out many of life’s values and universal goodness under the guise of being outwardly more Islamic than someone else. We make our minds up based on outward superficiality, while inside, we are riddled with corruption,” Rais lamented.