kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,
kheru2006
kheru2006

Kelantan’s iconic leaders and ulama

BEFORE Britain’s phenomenal defeat at the hands of the Japanese in 1941, poverty and political repression in Kelantan led to the formation of a commoner Persatuan Persetiaan Melayu Kelantan (PPMK), which rivalled the earlier Persatuan Melayu Kelantan (PMK), formed by the Kelantan royalty and “orang besar” (dignitaries).

PPMK was formed following the inception of Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM), the radical Malay organisation, led by Ibrahim Yaacob, author of a politically–induced Melihat Tanah Air, which depicted the influx of immigrants and the British colonial government’s overt intent to inundate Malaya with the former.

In 1944, PPMK opposed the appointment of a menteri besar endorsed by PMK to replace Datuk Perdana Menteri Nik Mahmood Ismail, who helmed the state for 23 years (1921-1944), with his son, Tan Sri Nik Ahmad Kamil, deputising for six years (1938-1944).

While the controversy surrounding the state menteri besar’s appointment was not about PPMK’s “revolt of the masses”, it smacked of a peasant discontent led by the Malay educated elite, on account of the commoner organisation’s effort in marshalling forces to voice their vehement protest against the appointment.

Never mind if their candidate for the position was a member of the Kelantan royalty, the affable Tengku Mohammad Hamzah Tengku Zainal Abidin. They carried placards and lined the streets in Kota Baru in defiance of the bureaucracy and the royalty’s support of Nik Ahmad Kamil’s candidacy as the menteri besar in place of his father.

The Kelantan prince, Tengku Mohammad Hamzah, (Tengku Razaleigh’s father), was the state secretary at the time of the imbroglio. He was originally part of a trio, a three-some, dubbed “the gang” by the British colonial authorities in Kelantan before the Japanese invasion.

During their smashing eligible bachelors’ heyday, the “bunch” was a closely-knit comradeship who dominated young men in the state’s capital.

Two others in the group were Tengku Mahmood Mahyidden (nicknamed Harimau Malaya) and Nik Ahmad Kamil. Tengku Mahmood was appointed Kelantan education officer by the British and Nik Ahmad Kamil eventually ascended to become menteri besar after the slot was vacated by his father, Nik Mahmood in 1944.

Nik Ahmad Kamil, who was educated in England, was put through his education by Majlis Agama dan Adat Istiadat Melayu Kelantan (Kelantan state Religious and Malay Customs Council) — inaugurated in 1916 — which was dedicated to Malay students’ education.

The architect of the Majlis school was none other than Nik Mahmood, the menteri besar, who was also among the originators of the iconic Majlis (Religious Council), one of the oldest religious bureaucracies in colonial Malaya.

The PPMK was formed in the late 1930s after the banning of KMM along with its extension, the Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya or Malay National Party (MNP) in 1948.

However, Ibrahim (who led KMM) escaped several British dragnets to Indonesia in 1945, for his part in re-grouping Malays to work for the Japanese intelligence during the war and before the interregnum. In the 1940s, the Kelantan Malays had witnessed enough of British administrative shortcomings and injustices in the state.

Although roads and railway tracks were laid connecting Kelantan with the west coast states, these were not enough to pacify the Malays’ wrath as the infrastructure was not meant for the “sons of the soil’s” convenience; it was instead aimed to facilitate the mobility and convenience of the Chinese labour force and economic progress which benefited the state’s Malay population tangentially and superficially.

In 1939, a well–known Malay National Party’s (MNP’s) nationalist, Abdul Kadir Adabi, wrote a book entitled Jasmine of Kota Baru (Melor Kota Baru), which epitomised, inter alia, the Chinese preponderance in Kelantan and his vitriolic criticism of the state princes’ habit of working hand-in-glove with the Chinese labour force syndicate.

Twenty-four years before the book, a revolt broke out in Pasir Puteh district. In this fateful incident, Tok Janggut Mat Hassan organised an uprising against the British for introducing a tax system which the agrarian community in the state had never been subjected to and experienced.

The British response was swift and brutal. After Tok Janggut’s annihilation, the British dragged down his body in a bullock cart in an apparent show of arrogance and firmness around Pasir Puteh town and Kota Baru before it was hanged head down at Padang Bank (now Padang Merdeka) in Kota Baru. He was laid to rest in Pasir Pekan, across the Sungai Kelantan.

The relative peaceful political scenario immediately after the war gave rise to the preponderant Umno under Datuk Onn Jaafar, which saw Malay leaders in Kelantan taking up the cause in pursuit of Malay unity.

This included those in KMM and PKMM, who re-grouped under Umno’s banner and battlecry in response to Onn’s call for the cohesion of the Malay race in anticipation of independence. Meanwhile, Chinese political forces, too, marshalled their efforts under “Bintang Tiga” (the Chinese guerillas of the Communist Party of Malaya) that launched their “revolution” late in 1945 following the Japanese abdication.

In the 1950s, after its inception, Kelantan Pas ulama activists were branded and loathed as heretics by Umno as the former filled the “pondok” (religious schools) in the periphery to recruit teachers and young and feeble-minded religious cadres in the rural areas to their cause. When the party, which won two states — Kelantan and Terengganu — in the 1959 general election, its fomentation of clericalism gathered steam under Dr Burhanuddin Al-Helmy’s national leadership. After his death, the ascendancy of the likes of Tan Sri Mohd Asri Muda, Datuk Lofti Umar, Yusoff Rawa, Datuk Fadzil Noor, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and Abdul Hadi Awang began in earnest.

Asri, Ishak Lotfi and Nik Aziz rose in Kelantan to become Pas menteri besar. Asri was also Pas national president after Burhanuddin but in 1982 he “abandoned ship” to form Hamim and subsequently ended up as a Umno member. In the 20-year period of Pas’ rise (1960s-1980s), there were still insufficient Pas ulama to raise the flag of Islamic resurgence to rally members of the party to their cause. Kota Baru, the capital, has always embodied twin political and religious impulses.

From time immemorial, it has been a fertile ground to Kelantan’s most powerful ulama, commanding hundreds, perhaps thousands of followers, who hailed not only from inside the state but from without as well, notably the Muslim-dominated provinces in southern Thailand. They preached Islamic tenets laced with politics.

More often than not, these Pas politically-inclined ulama conducted their Islamic classes in religious schools or “pondok” provided and facilitated by the propagators of Islam.

Many, too, from the ranks of the state’s religious propagation movement, however, provided instructions in their respective residences. Wan Mohamad Salleh Wan Musa, was one such ulama but he was a maverick who did not attach himself to any political party. His father, Wan Musa, was a great scholar and former Kelantan mufti, also a notable maverick who left his religious bureaucratic position in a crisis which pitted him against the state’s bureaucracy.

He protested the bureaucracy’s decision to use the proceeds of the state’s zakat (tithes) collection for the building of a prime mosque, Masjid Muhammadi, in the heart of the state’s capital.

He argued that the tithes’ collection was to be used only for the poor who had no means of solace and salvation for economic livelihood.

This episode reminds Muslims of a similar religious outburst which took place in Kota Baru involving a religious edict (fatwa) that hinged upon a dog’s saliva. In this 1938 debate between ulama from Kelantan and Singapore the stage was set for secular-religious political controversy between Umno and Pas in 1950s and 1960s.

One of the notable protagonists in the debate was Dr Burhanuddin, who later rose to helm Pas. It is to be noted that Kelantan has thrived on Islamic institutions for centuries. Kota Baru and its surroundings used to be littered with numerous “pondok”, later to be the mainstay of Pas ulama.

The centre of activity was Masjid Muhammadi, built in the year of Tok Janggut’s rebellion. It was engineered by Nik Mahmood, who together with Tok Kenali, another famous and iconic ulama as well as propagator of Islam of the state, were instrumental in the setting up of Majlis Agama Islam dan Adat Istiadat Melayu Kelantan.

Nik Mahmood was a scion of Atas Banggol, a famous locality in Kota Baru, where most state leaders and members of the nobility hailed from before the war.

He was the state menteri besar before and during the war years. Kelantan has no dearth of good political protagonists as seen from the long line of their existence beginning with Tengku Indera Putera (son of Sultan Ibrahim and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s mentor), Nik Ahmad Kamil, Tengku Hamzah, Tengku Razaleigh, Tengku Noraisiah, Tengku Ahmad, Tengku Zaid, Tengku Ahmad Rezauddin, Tan Sri Mohd Asri Muda and Tan Sri Mohamad Yacob.

The list is endless. The state is also inundated with lawyers and bureaucrats, businessmen and ulama of material.

Dr Alias Mohamed NST Home News Opinion 9 OCTOBER 2015 @ 11:00 AM
Tags: leaders, pemimpin, tokoh
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