Monday, March 31, 2014


A RISDEV (Postgraduate Research Mode) student has done ISDEV proud. The Brunei Times published an article written by Shereeza binti Mohamed Saniff in the "Letters to the Editor" column on Monday 31 March, 2014. Below is the full write-up of the said article.

Staying united in face of adversity

Dear Editor,

Monday, March 31, 2014

THE three part series of opinion “We united can fight for our country” by Pehin Orang Kaya Lela Raja Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman Haji Abdul Karim (The Brunei Times, March 19-21, 2014) is truly a welcoming reminder to us all on the importance of staying united in the face of any trials and tribulations that besets a society let alone a country.

It showcased a well read and vast selection of scholarly thoughts and writings that are within the reach of the author. It is a writing that one can sense is from the heart but beautifully guided by absolute facts (verses from the Quran) and credible references. In short it is a writing that must be heeded by all whose love for Malay and Islam are deeply ingrained within the fabric of their being.

As a recent visitor to Brunei Darussalam, one cannot be denied to be in a state of awe, respect and great thankfulness on the clear and distinct stance that Brunei wants to announce to the world.

Brunei is proud to be an Islamic country whose ancestral lines are from the Malay heritage. I can sense that Brunei is also proud to showcase anything related to the strong link that its Malay heritage has with Islam.

Names of shops printed in Jawi, the closure of shops from 12 noon to 2pm on Fridays (upholding Allah’s commandments in Surah Jumaat, 62: 9-11), the enforcement of Syariah Laws and the move towards achieving Negara zikir are strong moves that are intentionally intended (in line with the first 40 Hadith collection by Imam Nawawi that remind us “verily all deeds are with their intentions”) to proclaim to the world that Brunei is proud to be associated with Islam.

However as with all actions that is intended to bring back Islam to its glory, Allah SWT has placed for man the enemies to whosoever strive in Allah SWT cause. The various stories of Prophets sent to convey the message of submission to Allah SWT as told to us in the Quran brings a clear and stark reminder that there is an enemy for each of the Prophets sent. Thus the presence of enemies can be regarded as sunnatullah (the ways of Allah SWT) in any move towards glorifying Islam. Enemies, in striving for Islam, are viewed as akin to mirrors. As mirrors their function is providing the check and balance to ensure that one is on the right path in striving for Islam.

In fact if no enemy is sent then that is the time that one who strives for Allah SWT cause should be worried and deeply troubled.

Once there is a clear step towards realigning back to Islamic roots, definitely the enemy is indeed nearer than a stone’s throw away.

The enemy comes in different form and shapes. There are five types according to Imam Al-Ghazali. Two are internal enemies while the other three are external. The chief to these enemies is Syaitan as repeatedly mentioned in the Quran that Syaitan is a real and clear enemy to the pious (example as can be found in Surah Faatir, 35 verse 6) while next to Syaitan is the other internal enemy, the nafs (desires). It is this nafs that can poison one’s mind and heart and thus turn a fellow human and acquaintance to be one of the external enemies. As to the external enemies there are the infidels (kafir), the munafiq (hypocrites) and those who are jealous with malicious and ill intent (hasad dengki).

Hence, referring back to the opinion “We united can fight for our country” is a timely reminder that in facing challenges to bring further the glory of the Malays with Islam enemies do come in various shapes and forms.

One plausible justification for the surfaces of enemies from within but has no tangible form and figure in the guise of pseudonyms is the result of being indoctrinated by the thoughts and ideas of the dominant development paradigm.

This dominant development paradigm is from an Islamic-exogenous paradigm (Muhammad Syukri Salleh, 2012). The capitalistic system that brings about a liberal secular ideology is destroying the identity of being Malay Muslim. It is feared with the destruction of this Malay-Islam roots, the barakah (an intangible in the realm of the unseen befitting a characteristics of Muslim who believe in the ghaib as stated in Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:2) will also be obliterated. The annihilation of Malay-Islam roots is actually in line with Rostow’s (1962) cultural block hypothesis that advocates for the eradication of tradition and culture as these are the stumbling blocks to development (read progress and modernisation).

Thus those indoctrinated and fascinated by physical achievements brought about by developed countries adopting this capitalistic system, could view Islamic-based roots such as Jawi and the Syariah as hindrances towards achieving success as defined by the capitalistic system.

So how can one fight the known but unseen enemy? As a start, be clear and stand firm of the development paradigm that one is adhering to.

An Islamic-based development paradigm based on an Islamic philosophical underpinning is definitely poles apart and at times antagonistic to the dominant development paradigm.

Thus a sure way to confront these unseen and unknown enemies is to start looking for friends that are of the same mind and heart. It is a call to stay and be united, for those of the like mind and heart (thus work as a Jema’ah).

For those who strongly believe in the sanctity anything that identifies the Malay-Islam roots for example Jawi and the Syariah. Treat minor disagreements minor and focus on the big picture – the sanctity and further strengthening of the Malay-Muslim identity.

The only true way to fight the enemy is to return to Allah SWT as Allah SWT has promised that Allah SWT will safeguard those who strive for his cause (Surah An-Nisa, 4:45). When there is unity and the unity is aimed at achieving the pleasures of Allah SWT than surely the unending barakah as reminded in Islamia on “Counting the Barakah of Syariah” (The Brunei Times, 21 March, 2014) will be sensed and felt. One indicator to sense and feel the receipt of barakah is aptly mentioned in Surah Saba’, 34:15 that brings forth the following meaning:

Indeed, it is for the people of Sabaa, a sign (which proves God’s kindness) found in their home, namely: Two gardens (broad more fertile), located to the right and to the left (their village). (And it is said unto them): Eat of the provision of your Lord and give thanks to Him (state you are) good state (peace and prosperity) and (God you are) God is forgiving.

Wallahu ‘alam.

Shereeza binti Mohamed Saniff,
Centre for Islamic Development Management Studies (ISDEV),
Universiti Sains Malaysia,
Pulau Pinang,

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