Thursday, February 9, 2012

Emulate the Prophet, not Hang Tuah…

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.


The Declining Day (Al-'Asr)
1. By the declining day,
2. Lo! Man is in a state of loss,
3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort
one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance.

SINCE I started working as a journalist in 1985 with my first posting in Melaka, I had written several articles about Hang Tuah and the village he was said to be brought up – Kampung Duyong or Sungai Duyong which is situated some six kilometers from Melaka city.

Nowadays ‘Hang Tuah has surfaced again’ and become the subject of heated arguments among academicians, writers and politicians with historian Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim claiming that there is no written record of the legendary Malay warrior and his four very close friends - Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu - and the stories that have made it into the history books are myths.

But Khoo’s suggestion was challenged by other intellectuals such as Prof Emeritus Dr Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman, President of Malaysian Archeologists Society who among others said: “I believe that he (Hang Tuah) existed but I am not sure in which era...”

One of my earliest writing on Hang Tuah and artifacts claimed to have connection to him was an article entitled ‘Hang Tuah’s well or is it really?’ which was published in the New Sunday Times dated 23 November 1986. In that article; I questioned the belief that the well had any connection with the Malay legendary hero

In the article, I wrote: “The Hang Tuah Well in Kampung Duyong Melaka is believed to have been originated from the print of Hang Tuah’s foot sole left on a stone but many elders in the kampung have a different version of the story.

The elders said the Hang Tuah Well did not exist before the 20th century. According to them, even though Hang Tuah was said to be raised in Kampung Sungai Duyong according to the Hikayat Hang Tuah, he did not leave any mark in the kampung.

The elders said about 100 years ago, a child named Mat Segel went with a friend to fetch firewood near the site which is now known as the Hang Tuah Well Complex.

At that time, the Hang Tuah Well was not in existence. The area was swampy and was covered with sago plants. At the site he saw an unused well and a few puddles of water.

When Mat Segel returned home, he told his father Mat Koyan, what he had seen. Later, his father stated boasting that his son had found the Hang Tuah Well which was actually the unused well.

The villagers believed him and soon the news spread far and wide that Hang Tuah’s well was discovered.

They were even further convinced when a sick boy was cured of his illness after drinking some water from the well.

The Hang Tuah Well looked like an ordinary well until early in the 70s when a Chinese woman known by the kampung folk as Nyonya Lilin of Melaka (she was a sinseh), built a shelter for the well.

The State Government then recognized the well as the Hang Tuah Well and a modern complex with stalls, toilets and a ‘gelanggang silat’ (silat court) was built to attract tourists to the kampung where Hang Tuah was believed to have been brought up.”

In my opinion, Hang Tuah did exist. True he was a ‘laksamana’ (admiral) in the Melaka court, but his ability and achievement was too exaggerated; he was made the Malay folk hero. I had read old books such as ‘Sejarah Melayu’ (Malay Annals) and Hikayat Hang Tuah (unfortunately I have lost the copy), and I was in the opinion that Hang Tuah (if he really existed) was not a good example of a good Muslim.

For example, he was said to have kidnapped Tun Teja of Pahang who was already engaged to be married; charmed her by using magic portion and brought her to Melaka to be the Sultan’s consort. And almost everyone knows the story of his duel and how he ‘finished off’ his best friend, Hang Kasturi (according to Sejarah Melayu) or Hang Jebat (according to Hikayat Hang Tuah).

Based on Hang Tuah's ‘bad image’, I was surprised why the authority renamed Masjid Jamek Kampung Duyong to ‘Masjid Laksamana Hang Tuah recently. Perhaps today’s ‘history’ glorifies Hang Tuah but tomorrow who knows; don’t forget Prof Khoo had mentioned Hang Tuah did not exist!

In my opinion rather than ‘idolizing’ Hang Tuah, Malay Muslims should emulate Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him, s.a.w.) in all aspects of life so that we would live a righteous and blessed life in the world in in the Hereafter.

Prophet Muhammad occupies a unique position in the chain of prophets. Being the last of a long line of Messengers, he was sent by God as a messenger for the whole universe.

His personality, therefore, combined all that was best in morals and manners and he was the very embodiment of all that was preached and enjoyed in the Holy Qur’an.

The Holy Book affirms: “Certainly there is for you in the Messenger of Allah and excellent example.” (XXXIII-21); “And you stand on an exalted standard of character.” (LXVIII-4)

When the Holy Qur’an affirms that the Prophet was the very embodiment of all that was best in life and he was the perfect model to be followed, it was not mere idle talk but was a practical demonstration of it.

To judge its truth, let us have a glance at his life. Taking for instance the injunctions laid down by the Qur’an for believers in respect of prayer, fasting and alms-giving, we noticed that while Muslims were directed to pray five times a day, the Prophet himself, prayed eight times, superimposing on himself three extra prayers, twice after morning prayer and the third beginning at midnight and sometimes extending right up to dawn thereby causing swelling in his feet.

As regards fasting his followers were directed to fast during the month of Ramadan, but for himself he never allowed the other eleven months to pass without fasting and sometimes the fast would continue for two or three days without taking any food or drink in between.

He helped the needy and the poor, and no beggar ever left his door disappointed, while he himself live the life of a poor man even after becoming the overlord of a big country. His generosity was so great that he proclaimed that if any Muslim died leaving debts, the responsibility for payment was his, while at the time of his death his own coat of mail was pledged for a debt.

Muslims had conquered the whole of Arabia and money was pouring in from all sides. He treated it as trust property and distributed it that very day, but he denied himself and his family members a share in it. His family was prohibited by him from receiving ‘zakat’ lest people, out of love for him, might bestow the choicest favours on them.

The condition of his house was such that for days together nor fire was lit, and no day passed without missing a meal. Worldly things, riches and comforts had no attraction for him. His dress was patched; his house was petty, and built of mud bricks; and his furniture a crude bedstead.

This was the living condition of the greatest spiritual and temporal leader and monarch who looked upon this world as a passing phase and a temporary abode. – Pearls of the Prophet (ABIM)

Were Hang Tuah’s deeds and actions in line with the Prophets teaching? If Hang Tuah lived as a ‘laksamana’, Prophet Muhammad too captained Muslims in several wars. Conquerors including admirals had simply wrought destruction and devastation in every country they had their foot upon and had left nothing constructive, but it was the personality of Muhammad s.a.w. had proved it wrong.

It is remarkable that the Prophet career covered all possible spheres of life such as that of a preacher in a masjid, as a worldly man amongst family and friends, as a man of piety, as a leader, as a soldier, a reformer, a politician, a statesman, and administrator and finally as a ruler of a vast kingdom.

So, to Malay Muslims; emulate Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and not Hang Tuah.

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