MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It all started with an allegation

History is an interpretation of events. You can’t change the actual events in history. But you can interpret the events. And everyone would have his/her own interpretation of things. For example, to the British it was ‘The Indian Mutiny’. To the Indians it was a ‘Fight for Independence’. The event never changes. How you perceive it would.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

How many non-Muslims understand the conflict between the Sunnis and the Shiahs? For that matter, how many Muslims understand it? Why have millions of Muslims died at the hands of fellow Muslims since the time of the death of Prophet Muhammad?

Many Muslims are in denial mode and Sunni Muslims, the largest sect in Islam (which most Malaysian-Malays belong to), would rather believe it is because the Shiahs are deviants. And that is why Malays who become Shiahs, or are suspected of following Shiah teachings, are arrested by the Malaysian government -- because they are following ‘deviant’ teachings.

Let me tell you why the Sunnis and Shiahs are ‘at war’ with one another. And to understand this I need to take you back to the time of the Prophet when the schism between Muslims first started -- even before the Prophet could breath his last breathe.

What I want to relate today is the official history of Islam. So it is not really my interpretation of events as such. And the story goes as follows.

Once upon a time the Prophet’s youngest wife, Aishah, was travelling through the desert in a caravan. The caravan stopped for a ‘pit stop’ and Aishah decided to seek a secluded spot to answer the call of nature (they did not have R&R stops in the desert in those days).

Without realising that Aishah was missing, the caravan continued on its journey leaving Aishah behind. When Aishah returned she discovered that the caravan had left so she sat down to wait for them to come back for her.

But they did not realise they had left her behind until they stopped for the night. By then it was too dark to turn back so they decided they would do that the following morning come daybreak.

In the meantime a young, handsome Arab on horseback passed by and he saw Aishah sitting all alone in the desert. Although this Arab had never met Aishah before he immediately recognised her as being one of the Prophet’s wives because all the Prophet’s wives wore tudungs or headscarves.

The young Arab offered to give Aishah a lift and help chase after the caravan. Before they could reach the caravan, night fell, so they had to seek shelter for the night in a cave and continue their journey to look for the caravan the following morning when it was light again.

The following morning the Arab reached the caravan with Aishah riding pillion on the only horse that he possessed. Of course, this triggered talk that Aishah had spent the night alone with a young, handsome Arab. Within a day the whole of Medina was gossiping about this story and in no time at all the Prophet’s enemies were spreading the story about Aishah’s ‘affair’ with a young, handsome Arab.

Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law (the first person after Khatijah, the Prophet’s first wife, to become a Muslim) came to see the Prophet to inform him that the rumours about Aishah’s ‘affair’ were becoming very bad and extremely serious. The Prophet was very troubled with this because Aishah was his favourite wife and also the daughter of his best general, Abu Bakar.

Ali argued that the Prophet cannot afford to be linked to rumours of an unfaithful wife. Ali insisted that the Prophet divorce Aishah.

The Prophet was extremely upset. He refused to divorce Aishah but he did leave her house and did not return for a number of days.

And this was when, according to Islamic beliefs, the Surah An-Nur (below) was revealed by God.

I will not go into details about this Surah but suffice to say that the Muslims believe that God, in response to the Prophet’s dilemma as to what to do about the rumours of Aishah’s ‘affair’, laid down the ‘rules’ on how to handle such rumours.

In the end the Prophet did not divorce Aishah but went back to her house and made her swear that she did not commit adultery with the young, handsome Arab (as guided by Surah An-Nur) -- and Aishah did so.

So that ended the rumours of Aishah’s affair or adultery. The matter was now settled. But that did not settle the matter between Aishah and Ali. Since that day Aishah and Ali became adversaries (this is merely how I interpret this event, though).

And this revealed itself on the Prophet’s death. The Prophet wanted to spend his remaining days in Aishah’s house and he in fact died on Aishah’s lap. Just before he died, though, he summoned Ali and, according to Ali, the Prophet said that when he dies Ali should take over as the successor (caliph, in the Arabic language).

When the Prophet died the council met to debate who should be the new successor and Ali told them that the Prophet had already anointed him as the successor and that Aishah was a witness to this.

The council summoned Aishah to testify but she said she did not hear the Prophet say this. Because Aishah could not confirm what Ali said, Abu Bakar, Aishah’s father, was appointed the successor instead.

It was not until Abu Bakar and the two caliphs after him, Omar and Othman, died did Ali get his turn to become caliph (the fourth caliph after the Prophet).

But soon after Ali took office, Aishah, who was then living in Mekah, led an army of Meccan Muslims to invade Medina with a view to oust Ali. And this was when the famous (or infamous) ‘War of the Camel’ took place.

It is called the War of the Camel because Aisiah was riding a camel and Ali instructed his archers to not harm her (who was, after all, his step-mother) but to aim for the camel. The camel was brought down with a well-aimed arrow and Aishah fell to the ground.

Ali then approached Aisiah, helped her to her feet, and told her to return to Mekah. Thus ended the rebellion.

The Medinan Muslims, however, were angry with Ali. Rebellion was considered a serious crime and rebels must be sentenced to death, their property confiscated, and their family sold into slavery. But all Ali did was to help Aishah to her feet and allow her to return to Mekah unpunished.

Many people turned against Ali and declared him a bad Muslim for not upholding the law. Aishah may be the Prophet’s widow and Ali’s stepmother. But the law is the law and Ali had violated the law. So they turned on him and soon after that Ali was assassinated.

Okay, that is the event in history. I can’t change that particular event, which is well-documented. But I would like to interpret that event the way I see it.

It was most unfortunate that Aishah needed to answer the call of nature and doubly unfortunate that she did not inform anyone in the caravan and they left without realising she was missing.

It was also unfortunate that a young, handsome Arab, a Good Samaritan, passed by and he was riding alone. If he had been in a group rather than alone then the story of Aishah’s affair and adultery would not have been possible.

But what happened, happened and the bad blood between Aishah and Ali resulted in the Sunni-Shiah conflict that is still going on until today.

You see, when they assassinated Ali, his followers formed ‘the Party of Ali’ or Shiatul Ali (now know as Shiah for short) to seek revenge for Ali’s death at the hands of fellow Muslims. And the Shiahs are still seeking revenge until today (man, do these Shiahs have long memories).

But what I want to stress here is not so much the Sunni-Shiah conflict but how rumours of sexual misconduct can have serious repercussions. In the Aishah-Ali case millions died because of it, Muslims at the hands of Muslims.

Ali’s solution to this was that Prophet Muhammad must divorce Aishah to protect the image and reputation of the Prophet. A Prophet can’t afford to have these rumours of an unfaithful wife hanging over his head. A Prophet and his family must be seen to be above sin and transgression.

As they say: it is a matter of perception.

Of course, these rumours were being spread by the Prophet’s enemies. That is natural. Who else but your enemies would do this?

But the Prophet’s enemies were able to spread these rumours only because the event did happen (meaning: Aishah spent the night alone in the desert with a young, handsome Arab). If the event had not happened then they would not have been able to spread any rumours.

Those who supported the Prophet and/or Aishah naturally did not believe the rumours. Ali did not say be believed it as well. What Ali said was the Prophet has to divorce Aishah to protect/insulate the Prophet (and Islam, of course) from these rumours.

I interpret this as the saddest episode in Islamic history. How something so innocent can be twisted into something so devious that has now split Islam beyond repair is sad. But it happened.

Okay, now relate all this to present day Malaysia. How would you interpret Malaysia’s ongoing crisis of confidence for both the government and the opposition in the context of the story of the Sunni-Shiah conflict?

Yes, that is certainly something to ponder on. But I shall stop here and allow you to ponder this on your own. Those who can see it will see it. Those who can’t…well, what more can I say about Malaysia’s education system that breeds dungus and lamebrains?

And what is my point? If you can’t get it then I will not waste my time with you any longer.

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