Loyal Followers

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lament for the Fall of Saville - an analysis of UMNO’s undoing


I am writing this because I have not forsaken my friends, some of whom are within the inner circle of power in UMNO. I shall not name them. They know who they are. We have known each other before their UMNO days. To me, they are human beings first and politicians second. We are all subjects of a set of higher moral law, which, unlike the man made laws, cannot be changed or altered. Which, unlike the man made laws, reside somewhere within the recesses of our mind and will not go away, no matter how hard we try to ignore them, no matter how many times we have walked away from them. Although to a certain extent we cannot deny that we are what we are because of UMNO, I would prefer to say that I am what I am in spite of UMNO. This post is dedicated to them.

The fall from grace

“Everything declines after reaching perfection, therefore let no man be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life...........

.........Where is Cordoba, the home of the sciences, and many a scholar whose rank was once lofty in it?

Where is Seville and the pleasures it contains, as well as its sweet river overflowing and brimming full?

[They are] capitals which were the pillars of the land, yet when the pillars are gone, it may no longer endure!

The tap of the white ablution fount weeps in despair, like a passionate lover weeping at the departure of the beloved,

Over dwellings emptied of Islam that were first vacated and are now inhabited by unbelief;

In which the mosques have become churches wherein only bells and crosses may be found.

Even the mihrabs weep though they are solid; even the pulpits mourn though they are wooden!

0 you who remain heedless though you have a warning in Fate: if you are asleep, Fate is always awake!.....”

For half a millennium after the passing of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Islamic history was a story of military, political and cultural dominance. The first four Caliphs worked towards the unity of the “ummah” (the Muslim community) and later embarked on expansionism programs which were then deemed necessary to consolidate the position of Islam (although the expansionism moves were necessitated more by political rather than religious reasons). The later Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates continued in the same vein. At the peak of the Islamic expansionism programs, the Abbasid ruled part of North Africa, stretching its rule to the East, over Damascus, the Arabian Peninsula, Persia and Khurasan in the Near East. At the same time, the remnant of the Umayyad Caliphate continued to rule Spain (the Muslim Andalus region), with Cordoba as the centre of its rule.

By the end of the 11th century however, the Abbasid Caliphate in the Near East and the Umayyad’s rule in Spain slowly descended into decay and chaos. While the various clashes between the Muslims and the Byzantine armies were only to be expected, though did nothing to weaken the Muslim rules, the fighting between and among the Muslims themselves did much to weaken the Muslim rules and did in fact precipitate the demise of the Muslim rules. With each passing century, the animosity between the Shi’ite Fatimid empire in Egypt and the Sunni majority of the near east worsen. The Fatimid forged an alliance with the North African tribe and swept across Tunisia and into power in Egypt. Its leader proclaimed himself as the Caliph, resulting in no less than the Muslim world having at least 3 Caliphs at the same time! Hakim, the Fatimid caliph of the 11th century even proclaimed himself as the messiah and persecuted those who did not treat him as such. Later, the Muslims also saw the rise of the Turkish Seljuk dynasty in the near east giving rose to more infighting. Unity, which was the bedrock of the Muslim’s expansionism success, became a thing of the past.

With all these divisiveness, it was only a matter of time that the Muslim rules were to be decimated and almost obliterated. It started in 1095 with Pope Urban’s call for a crusade. In 1099, Jerusalem fell to the Christian. The Muslim rules and what was then known as the Muslim world would never ever be the same again. Though the rise of Salah-ad-Din ensured the return of Jerusalem to the Muslims in 1187 and managed to restore a semblance of normalcy to the Muslim reign, a reprieve from the Christian’s assault was only temporary. The end of Muslim dominance was written on the wall. However, nothing, except for some small measures of unity achieved during the reign of Sala-ad-Din, was accomplished by the Muslims to permanently repel the Christian’s assault and restore the former glory of Islamic rule.

The disintegration of the Muslim rules was finally completed with the fall of Muslim Spain in the 13th century. This coincided with the rise of the Christian kings of Castille, Aragon and Portugal. By 1236, King Fernando III had taken over Cordoba, the administrative centre of the Muslim’s Andalus rule. Valencia, which earlier saw the Muslims and Christians fighting together in an army, fell in 1238. In November 1248, Seville fell. That left the small enclave of Granada to be the one and only Muslim state left in the Andalus. Two hundred years later and after the completion of the Alhambra, Granada too was taken by Christian rule. The Muslim rule over Persia and Khurasan was, by then, also diminishing. Finally, the Mongolians walked into Khurasan and Persia and chipped away Muslim rule over the two vast near east states. Further to the west Tamerlane wreaked havoc with his conquest. Muslim dominance, by this time, was consigned to mere memories, finding its way into vast archives as historical facts and nothing more. Why, the Muslim world can’t even deal with a belligerent little dot on the world map called Israel now!

The above is an excerpt from a poem, Lament for the Fall of Saville, written by Abu al-Baqa' al-Rundi in 1267, after the fall of Cordoba, Valencia and Saville, in the hope of gaining help from Muslims in North Africa as several cities were surrendered to Alfonso X.

“Everything declines after reaching perfection, therefore let no man be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life”

If we let ourselves be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life after what we perceive as perfection, declines would of course set in. With the sweetness of a pleasant life, we lose all perspective. Our initial aims and motivations are forgotten. Complacency sets in. With that we become arrogant. We drown in our pride thinking only of our achievements and strengths. Our surrounding has become irrelevant. We however need to maintain what we have achieved. And so we set out to obtain more, without giving more. We would perfect the art of maximising our takings with the minimum of giving. We then become greedy. And our methodology of taking more than we give would result in corruption. Material corruption is one thing. But corruption of the mind is more insidious and long lasting. It leaves marks everywhere within our soul. With that, we would slowly decay into oblivion.

If 1957 could be regarded as UMNO’s greatest victory and the beginning of a great political dynasty in Malaysia, March 8 2008 must have been UMNO’s version of the fall of Jerusalem to the motley crew of crusaders in 1099. If UMNO was the Abbasid of Malaysia for 50 years since independence, then in 2008 the majority of Malaysians were the Frankish knights who rose to claim what they believed belonged and were owed to them. And that was democracy, the right to be heard, to be treated as equals, to ask question and to be provided answers, to demand accountability and responsibility. Last but not least, the right to be treated as a part of a civilised society where the government’s sole purpose was to serve the society for its betterment as a whole and not in part and parcel as deemed fit by the government. In March 2008, the Malaysian crusaders laid siege at UMNO’s wall of perceived perfection and rendered blow after blow of democratic assaults, tearing it apart and bringing it down. The Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu by-elections were the destruction of the remnant of that wall. The three by-elections in Bukit Selambau, Bukit Gantang and Batang Ai later would, in the normal course of history, be the fall of some isolated enclaves of rebels and splinter groups. The Cordoba, Valencia and Saville of UMNO would soon come. That if UMNO does not change. And change fast.

Within UMNO, the Lament for the Fall of UMNO has been composed and recited by many. Mahathir Mohammad himself has lamented. Muhyiddin Yassin said UMNO has to change. Najib Razak agreed too. But the true poetic Lament for the Fall of UMNO has been written by Zaid Ibrahim and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. They are UMNO’s version of Abu al-Baqa’ al-Rundi. They lamented. They coaxed. They appealed. But to no avail. Nobody listened. Nobody seemed to care.

UMNO has in fact been drowned in self-importance and perceived perfection. Its leaders then got carried away. They let themselves to be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life. Slowly but surely they were more concerned with the preservation of all that was sweet. They forgot what they were there for. In their pursuit of a pleasant life, they decayed into corruption and greed.

Change is the only option. Because, "0 you who remain heedless though you have a warning in Fate: if you are asleep, Fate is always awake!."


Anonymous said...

So well written - great reading.

Richiee said...

Extremely well written! Simple for the layman, unfortunate complex for UMNO who are drown in their perceived perfection of life.

Nostalgic for the old UMNO said...

UMNO can only go downwards. The only man who can effect change in the party, and let it survive a little longer is Tengku Razaleigh. But he is an old man, and systemic corruption within the party -- whether it be monetary or psychological -- will ensure that Razaleigh will not lead the party. That a party which came into being with high ideals in the 40s and 50s to have descended so low, is truly sad.

christine said...

LOVELY; if only it wasn't written about a subject which is bringing despair, anger and fear to Malaysians.

Anonymous said...

Do UMNO leaders believe in God and in the hear after?
I doubt so.

Anonymous said...

A very good article. Wish there were more people like yourself amongst us.

Anonymous said...

Umno is corrupt to the core, in this there is no doubt. One hopes it will go the way of the buffalo, swiftly in order that the repair and mending may start quickly. I say this because I find the ineffectiveness of our civil service is quite an alarming thing. The divisive culture bred into our malaysian life has polarized much of our society. We must join hands across all divides and move forward, as one nation.

Anonymous said...


Another well written and researched posting.

Passion like other things that you like to do!!!

Don't know whether you come across this ...

Look forward to another installment.


SV said...

There are surely many within UMNO who ache when they see what is happening to their beloved party. They have to understand that the cancer that has inflicted itself upon UMNO cannot be removed easily. Only major surgery can heal UMNO.

Practically the entire leadership of UMNO is infected. The only cure for UMNO is to purge itself of the current crop of leaders and rebuild the party.

So long as UMNO is engaged in battle with PR, there will be no chance of any healing taking place. UMNO members can best serve UMNO by allowing the PR to rule the country while UMNO takes the time to do some hard housekeeping and rebuild the party. Otherwise, it is finished.

Call for Abdullah to remain as the PM of an interim unity government. And, while PR members learn how to govern, work on cleaning up your party. Restore full democracy to your party.

If in the next General Elections, the BN loses federal rule, never mind. There are more important things to be accomplished. Think of the future of the party and the people. Build for the future.

Are there enough people in UMNO who care?

Cruzeiro said...

“Everything declines after reaching perfection, therefore let no man be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life”

Very nice, Art - beautifully written!
However, they aren't "beguiled by perceived perfections" - on the contrary, they are well aware of their shortcomings. In fact, they go far enough to demonstrate that they can perpetuate it with impunity!!

Be very sure of one thing though - they'll defend these very "shortcoming" tooth and nail, for they are gone too far down the road to turn back. And if necessary, they will unleash an episode of bloodletting like we've never seen before, before they lose it. Even if this doesn't happen, there are enough proponents to this idea with was mooted by a party stalwart on TV some time back - they see no wrong or sin in bloodletting, as long as it is apparently in the name of the 3Rs - "race, religion and royalty" - while they pocket the fruits of blood & sweat of the proletariat.

Who then are the biggest victims, you might ask. It is none other than the Malays they claim to "defend". After all, to back them (Umno) up, they have the instruments of state and the Malay public whom they have "beguiled and corrupted".

Indeed, the Umno-ites are "blinded" by the "seven deadly sins", to the moral and spiritual corruption that it represents today - and the sins feels too good.

Yes Zaid did "lament" and failed- and so he quit. However, did Razaleigh really, actually do so?

If so, allow me then to pose a question to you - that which I posed to KuLi (and replied to the presumed answer) as well on his preaching blog as follows-

"Dear KuLi,
What do we call a man who jumps into a barrel of nightsoil to clean it from within, and hope to come out smelling like roses?

Yes, you got it right, Ku Li …."

Antares said...

The original Umno died in February 1988 when it was declared an illegal party by Justice Harun Hashim. Mahathir's Umno Baru has become a Frankenstein's monster gone berserk with a meaningless and irrelevant dogma of Ketuanan Umno. Best that we let Umno die, so that it can be reborn as the United MALAYSIAN Nationalist Organization. Even so, the name itself has become so repugnant and reviled, it will take massive work to restore its credibility as a political force.

artic turban said...

How true art thou ART “UMNO has in fact been drowned in self-importance and by perceived perfection. Its leaders have got carried away. They let themselves be beguiled by the sweetness of a pleasant life. Slowly but surely they are more concerned with the preservation of all that is sweet. They forget what they were there for. In their pursuit of a pleasant life, they decayed, and are filled with corruption and greed.” Umno has started to believe its own propoganda, its been beguiled by its “BIRO TATA NEGARA”, Let history teach Umno a lesson, “all dynasties fall either from corruption, greed, insecurities, stupidity, failure to heed its citizens, self importance, conquered by stronger nations’ -artic turban

LAT, Ipoh. said...

Brand New World
The GOD who loves us enough to redeem this fallen world will one day express the greatness of His Love by creating a "Brand New World" for His children who have been oppressed.

S.M. Woo said...

Many empires have fallen, not just Islamic ones and all because of complacency and arrogance. Environment also played a big part, namely the Aztec and Incan.

Cautionary tales that wise people should heed but they are so mired in their own arrogance they fail to see.
So be it.

Kris said...

So well written Art...

I echo Anatares sentiment here. There can be no hope for an organisation that has fallen so far from it's ideals. It can never retrace it's steps to begin with....