Farewell Pak Lah – may your soul rest in peace (21.11.1929 – 6.3.2010)

Professor Abdullah Darus,

That is how I have always thought of you, my friend and my professor. I know that you never considered yourself as anyone’s teacher and always cautioned me to think for myself.

I knew the inevitable moment will come and it did in the form of your daughter’s sms on 6.3.2010 saying that “Pak Lah meninggal jam 11.05pm”. The only thought that came to my mind at that moment was the fact that I could not bear to see you in the weak state that you were in when I last met you. I am just too used to listening to what you have to say. I always have to listen to every single word that you utter because it was too important for me. I am not used to seeing you silent.

I will always remember you as the true professor who professes faith based on reason and knowledge. Your life long dedication to the study and discussion of Quran has touched many people’s lives. You were the first to convincingly demonstrate to me the practical and applicative nature of the Quran in every sphere and aspect of life.

You have always maintained that a truly God-fearing person is a thinking person and that the devil will always persuade humans to look upon thinking as a burden or an obstacle to faith.

I have learnt so much from you and much more that I wish I could have learnt from you. Your mastery of logic and thought processes baffles me considering the fact that you never went to university. I have met and discussed with many learned academics and as I have told the late Professor Syed Hussein Al-Attas, you are still number one as a thinker. You are proof that formal education is but a myth and academic qualifications are no guarantee of a person’s ability to think deeply. You are a genius Pak Lah and I could never tell you that personally because you told me that praises can be the devil’s workshop.

You have been very generous with your life, meeting many young people, academics, politicians and just about anybody who wants to share your knowledge and you gave it willingly. You shared great knowledge without charging a single cent while I know of many who pretend to teach and yet charge hefty fees. It did not even bother you that many academics took your ideas and did not even acknowledge you. I know Pak Lah, you have taught me that true knowledge belongs to God and it is never for sale. Everyone who is willing can partake of it.

So many things that I have learnt from you rushes through my mind and I just do not know which to focus on at this moment. You so accurately distinguished between the “collectuals” and the intellectuals. One who collects information and the other who thinks. Though it does not matter to you at all, I cannot help but feel sad that society has never bestowed upon you the honour that you truly deserve when lesser mortals are held up in high esteem. We live in a society that only recognises superficialities, paper qualifications and honorary titles.

I have always admired how you use the Malay language so precisely and I will remember that the choice and proper use of words is very important for clarity of thought. You have often pointed out that much of the confusion in people’s minds emanates from the misuse and careless use of words.

I suppose you were a great thinker because you felt it was a divine duty and gift to think and was not trapped by man-made parameters which many academics and people have trapped themselves into. You had no one to serve except God. This I remember Pak Lah and I have been trying hard to emulate. I also learnt from you never to impose our own views on others even though we are passionate about ours. You were a living example of what “redha” means though you never ceased to be active till your last day.

I have always been humbled by your humility and the one other thinker who humbles me with his humility is the Late Prof Syed Hussein Al-Attas. I love both of you very much though I have never expressed it in in the normal way that normal people do. Now, I no longer have the luxury of “harassing” two great thinkers and friends who will oblige me late into the wee hours of the morning. I feel emptiness and I cannot help it. I just do not know with whom I can talk to anymore. In this very mundane, almost predictable and repetitious life, both of you were my strength and source of joyous “entertainment”. I felt alive.

Now I feel I have no one. You have retired from life and I should feel happy for you…but I still feel choked. I would have felt lost if not for your constant reminder that as long as we are alive, that means that our work on earth is not done.

I am eternally grateful to my dear friend, Ramlan for having introduced you to me. That first meeting with you changed my life dramatically. I was stunned by your brilliance, sincerity in pursuit of knowledge and your remarkable clarity of thought.

As you have pointed out, all people die one day but ideas live on. It is your ideas that make me feel that you are still alive. You have lived a path of righteousness and now you have returned to your Maker.

From Allah we come, to Allah we all must surely return.

I bid your farewell and May God bless you, my friend, my professor.

This article first appeared on 8 March 2010 in Rapera.