Three weeks ago, I saw a WhatsApp message from Kee Thuan Chye. The message read: “Prof, can you write something about my book ‘Lim Kit Siang: Malaysian First, Volume 2’?”
There are a few people I respect in Malaysia whom I would never say no to. So I said, “Of course. No problem! Most honored to!”
Then, I sat down and thought to myself..Aiyaaa, how to write? I never even started to read “Lim Kit Siang: Malaysia First Volume 1”!
So I reached for Vol. 1 and began to read. I had received Volume 2 when I was only halfway through Volume 1!
After committing myself to the task, I managed to finish Volume 2 today, November 8.
I am still juggling in my mind to write another book review and a special article on Anwar Ibrahim and the Unity Government for the anniversary of the November 24 tarikh keramat.
I paced myself to write this article before November 15 when I will be called up as a panel in a discussion of the book at Sogo next week.
I have decided to write not in praise of Kit Siang as my friends in civil society have done. I have thought a great deal about what to say, and I want to venture off in a different way.
I have decided to treat the book and talk about it in the Malay and the Islamic construct of Perjuangan, Pengorbanan and Perkongsian.
These are the three values of the Muslim Reformist as well as the Malay warrior or pendekar.
The pendekar is the Malay version of the noble knight in shining armor, although I am more partial to the Black Knight in the classic “Ivanhoe.”
Sorry, millennials. There is no TikTok of Ivanhoe. You just have to go and read the book!
A great tribute must be given to Kee Thuan Chye. If ever I am appointed a university vice chancellor in another life or in a parallel universe, I would confer him an honorary doctorate for such a great and valuable endeavor.
Writing, interviewing and also languishing in prison makes for a nice Hollywood movie and a blessed existence. Malaysians must acknowledge Kee Thuan Chye as the maker of nations with these two volumes of historical narrative.
He set out to write the story of one man, but I think the two volumes are a huge chunk of the soul of a nation called Malaysia.
Perjuangan in Islam is a sacred act of striving for justice for others and not just being selfish to fill in your own basket of prosperity.
Perjuangan is a “jihad,” meaning an intense focus of some effort towards an end and it is higher in spiritual value than prayers, pilgrimages and fasting.
The Muslim forge his soul in perjuangan for all.
The book that Kee wrote is about a man who strived his utmost against injustice of jailing, family challenges and personal grievances towards a better life, a just life for all Malaysians of all race, faith and lifestyle.
This is jihad. Not those people bombing innocent lives with incendiary devices strapped to their bodies.
Perjuangan is focusing your will, clearing your conscience and driving forward and ever forward regardless of election losses, political setbacks and personal harm.
Pengorbanan is the value of striving to achieve victory but refusing the rewards of positions, power and wealth.
Lim Kit Siang refused the call to be chief minister when DAP wrestled power from Gerakan in Penang.
Lim Kit Siang, again, refused any ministerial post when Pakatan Harapan did the impossible and took Putrajaya on May 10, 2018.
Pengorbanan is the acceptance of a life well lived and deeds well done and the wisdom and humility to retire to pave way for the younger ones to savor the fruit of 50 years of strife.
Pengorbanan is the act of contentment to see the strong foundation of a party one built and the birth of young leaders that came from the tree of perseverance, honesty, spiritual strength and a stubborn heart that knows not what defeat looks like.
This is pengorbanan. Pengorbanan is not shouting in a demonstration for a few hours hurling insults at the US embassy.
Pengorbanan is not insulting honest workers and calling for a boycott based on pure sentiment and no sense of strategy or spirituality…just pure anger, hatred and ignorance.
Pengorbanan of Lim Kit Siang was long, hard, bearing the brunt of political machinations of one horrid prime minister and also the gentleman’s way of making inroads for others to complete.
Perkongsian is the humility to admit that others are necessary to achieve victory. It requires the generous heart to file away grievous hurt by others in order to make a pact for the greater good.
With the opportunist Semangat 46, with the pretentious PAS, with the Machiavellian Mahathir and finally with the cruel Umno, Lim Kit Siang buried the hurt and pain caused by a race that always shout of a moral high ground with verses of a sacred book but deep down holds a heart that is the blackest of nights.
I am ashamed to be part of that race when this black heart knows no bound of hatred, mistrust and envy.
Perkongsian is the value of tolerance and inclusiveness to forgive and move forward with new beginnings and possibilities.
Malaysia is a work in progress and perkongsian of ideas, strategies and survivability must be the end game.
I call on the Unity Government to sponsor a summarized Malay version of the two books written in the flowery language of Melayu but phrased in the spirituality of Islam.
The Prophet Muhammad recognized the importance of others in his pengorbanan and perjuangan in the person of the Christian King Negus and his uncle Abu Talib, a non-believer.
The sponsored summarized Malay version in a single volume must be donated to all school libraries, all colleges and universities, all madrasahs and tahfizs, all vernacular schools as well as delivered specifically to all Members of Parliament and ADUNs for all to know what a true idea of building a nation is through perjuangan, pengorbanan and perkongsian.
Our nation is 70 years old. We have had the food of industry and wealth to grow but we need now the sustenance of the soul, and the book “Lim Kit Siang: Malaysian First” certainly qualifies as part of an important nourishment.
As a final word, I would like to say that the wealth of materiality will take care of our body for a while, but the wealth of the soul is for eternity. I thank God that Kee Thuan Chye has part of it as a spiritual menu.
(Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at a local university and his writing reflects his own personal opinion entirely.)