In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. All praise is due to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, for He has showered us with a bountiful of His blessings. Peace be upon our beloved Holy Prophet, Sayyiduna Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam; and towards his noble family and exalted companions.
One of the biggest pleasures that one can possibly attain in this world is to meet and be with an ‘ulama (a scholar). On Sunday (13 December 2009), with the blessings and will of Allah, an event which we have been contemplating for since last year became a reality. Four years since his last appearance in public in Malaysia, Prof. Dr. Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas finally took the stage and delivered his pearls of wisdom to a crowd of about 500 eager listeners. For several years, most of us – young and old alike – could only ‘enlighten’ ourselves by reading Prof. Al-Attas’ “Risalah Untuk Kaum Muslimin”, “Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam”, “Islam and Secularisme”, his work on the ‘Aqa’id of Al-Nasafi and many more. As such, to finally meet the man himself on Sunday and listen to his speech was an opportunity too great to be missed. Even Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Higher Education, cancelled all his programs for the whole day just so that he could attend Prof. Al-Attas’ talk.
Prof. Al-Attas’ speech felt so short (since we’ve been craving to hear him talk in person) yet it was filled with strong messages. One which I don’t think I’ll ever forget, Prof. Al-Attas’ underlined that in order for us to understand the worldview of Islam and become close to Islam, we must first start with the Holy Prophet – to understand and know the haqiqah (reality) of the Holy Prophet, so that we may follow his examples and teachings. Prof. Al-Attas stressed that no other civilizations (or religions, or beliefs, or worldviews for that matter) have a perfect and complete example like the Holy Prophet, Sayyiduna Muhammd sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. He talked about how people today have misunderstood who the Holy Prophet really is, which is very true. There now exists within the ummah certain groups of people who claim that the Holy Prophet is just a normal human being just like any of us – in a way degrading the Holy Prophet to a level of parity with us (the ummah of the Holy Prophet), which entails loss of adab (discipline) towards the Holy Prophet.
Prof. Al-Attas quoted several hadiths which is sound proof of the greatness of the Holy Prophet. Among them, Prof. Al-Attas cited a Hadith Qudsi in which Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala gave the Holy Prophet as the reason for Him creating all other creations. Then there was the hadith about the creation of the nur (light) – which refers to the Holy Prophet – as the first creation. Prof. Al-Attas explained that while those people who disrespect the Holy Prophet (by not acknowledging the Holy Prophet for who he truly is) uses a verse from the Holy Qur’an which means “Say (O Muhammad), verily I am a human being like you...” – as their basis to claim that the Holy Prophet is nothing more that a human being selected as a prophet – they have failed to understand, though explicitly underlined in that same Qur’anic verse, that the Holy Prophet was given the wahyu (divine revelation). Prof. Al-Attas followed with another verse of the Holy Qur’an, as just another proof on the greatness of the Holy Prophet. He quoted the verse from Surah Al-Hasyr, in which Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala gave the parable of how the mountain would crumble and shatter should the Qur’an be revealed upon it. Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala uses the mountain as an example because ancient civilizations usually places their gods on top of mountains – therefore it is as a symbolization of how strong the words of Allah is, signifying that there is none greater than Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. Another reason, according to Prof. Al-Attas, is that when we stand at the foot of a mountain and looking at the gigantic and enormous structure of the mountain, we will feel comparatively small and insignificant. That gigantic and enormous creation, big and strong as it seem, would crumble and shatter if the Qur’an was revealed to it. Yet, our Holy Prophet – a human being – accepted the revelation from Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. Thus, it shows how great the Holy Prophet is, to be able to receive a revelation so burdening that not even a mountain would be able to carry.
Therefore, to a person who understands and accepts the worldview of Islam, the Holy Prophet is a person whose qualities surpass any other human being, thus he must be understood and treated as such. This, of course, does not ever mean that Muslims must understand and treat the Holy Prophet as if he was god. Never! Understanding and treating the Holy Prophet as an exalted human being – praising him excessively, and treating him unlike no other man has been treated – does not ever mean that we are equating him with god. Prof. Al-Attas mentioned that there is a significant number of hadiths which show how the companions (may Allah bless them all!) interacted and treated the Holy Prophet; and, being the closest generation to the Holy Prophet, the closest generation to the truth, the companions understood very well – better than any of us today – not to equate the Holy Prophet with god. The hadiths relate to us how a companion collected the perspiration of the Holy Prophet while he was sleeping to add as fragrance, for the sweat of the Holy Prophet smells nicer than any other fragrant in the world; and then there are hadiths which relate to us how the companions would rush to collect the hair of the Holy Prophet when he was having a haircut, to take the barakah from the hair – to the extent that some even ate the hair! These hadiths show that the companions understood very well that by treating the Holy Prophet as such, it does not in any way mean that they equate him with god.
Hence, the person who does not recognize and acknowledge the Holy Prophet in his real sense (haqiqah) does not really understand the worldview of Islam. These kind of people, Prof. Al-Attas said, are the ‘modernists’ nowadays who attack the history of Islam; they attack and condemn people like Al-Ghazali, As-Syafi’e and others. Prof. Al-Attas mentioned that the people who attack the history of Islam (in the sense of attacking the tradition and traditional scholars of Islam) are the people who cut themselves from their roots. People who cut their roots will fail to achieve their purpose in life; for, a tree that do not have strong roots will not grow big. Prof. Al-Attas talked about how Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala gave the parable of the tree in the Holy Qur’an; Allah gave an example of a strong tree with strong roots, the tree grow high, it’s branches expands well, and it’s leaves bloom and fruits grow.
The night with Prof. Al-Attas was an experience not to be forgotten; a sumptuous treat of knowledge. He is one of the few pearls of the ummah. His overthrowing from the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) – which he founded and groomed to every bit of detail – is a really sad and bleak history. One which Prof. Al-Attas still finds very throbbing, as evident in his sad expressions and words when talking about his previous works. Nonetheless, Prof. Al-Attas’ return to the public stage on 13 December 2009 which was met with a packed hall at the Malaysian Integrity Insitute (IIM) proves that people still adore him and want to learn from him. All praise to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, for it is with His will that the Himpunan Keilmuan Muda (HAKIM) and Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia (PKPIM) was able to organize the one-day historical event, the “Seminar Sehari Pengukuhan Pandangan Alam Islam dan Syarahan Perdana Prof. Dr. Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas”. A standing ovation for the committee members – all of whom are university students – who made the event possible.
My sincere thanks and gratitude goes to the committee members, especially Hilmi, Mujahed, Aemy Elyani, Fazril, Syafa, Faridah, Naheed, Islinda, Syed Putra, Anuar Manap, and others who I may not be able to list here (my appologies); their commitment ensured the event was successful. Also, congratulations to Dr. Farid Shahran who spearheaded the initiative to bring Prof. Al-Attas to the public – especially to the students – once again. May Allah bless us all.