Sunday, January 20, 2019



I am the fortunate few who had a chance to spend my university life at KOLEJ KEDIAMAN ZAABA the 7TH residential college, Universiti Malaya during the mid-eighties.

We were lucky to have a very outstanding (and I am not overstating here, many of us from the same era will vouch for this) college Master in Prof Dr Omar Farouk who created an environment for performance where young Malaysians could grow, test out our leadership talents and potentials and be at our best. A place where we could transit into good citizens.

At the university level we had the wonderful and very capable Timbalan Naib Chanselor the late Prof Madya Mohd Yunus Mohd. Noor and our very respectable and awesome Vice-Chanselor Royal Prof Ungku Abdul Aziz who not only were willing to defend our college Master’s approach, but went all out to support him.

With these solid support from the university, Dr Omar could provide us with an open environment where diversity and inclusion thrived. Respect for others is the norm. We were encouraged to always work our way to the top, do the best and be the best! Work hard, play hard! Excel in whatever we do!

We were able to run and manage not only national level projects but also international level ones. We were perhaps the most active college not only in the country but likely the world. Our projects were recognized internationally and was even honored in newspaper editorials.

Yet, we were labelled by the group of people who felt that we were too western, too ‘duniawi’. We were told that we are not Islamic enough. Prof Ungku Aziz, Prof Madya Yunus and Dr Omar’s names were ridiculed during Friday prayers. Big groups of people came to ‘tunjuk perasaan’ and ‘bantah’.
Why? Simply because we want to have our ‘dinner and dance’ at hotels. It is not relevant to them that the dinner and dance is to celebrate, reward and award those who have worked hard and did the college proud in projects, sports, social activities, etc.

To them dancing is bad, hotels are ‘haram’ and mixing people of different gender, religious backgrounds and race should be avoided. And, they see it as their right to impose their thoughts on others too.

How far are they willing to go?

Our Master and college members were pelted with rotten eggs. They spoke rudely to a kind and well-mannered elder, Dr Omar, who was ever willing to discuss and listen to their views and agree to disagree. When my team and I were managing a project bringing Kelantanese arts and culture, lives were threatened and we had to deal with bomb hoaxes – simply because they felt that Kelantanese culture is against their religious beliefs.

That was when we were in the eighties. Have we got any better today? Unfortunately, not. Today the problem has gone national. A video clip showing the Chief Justice and Attorney General dancing to the tune of “Lets Twist Again” with the law Minister and members of the Bar is able to send a large segment of our society into conniption. We need to stop, think, reflect and choose where we want this nation to head to. In fact, at certain levels it is not an overstatement to say that we are becoming a society with a sick mentality: where a dance party is now seen and promoted as though it is a sex orgy!

We need to engage with these group of people especially the leaders and influencers and help them pay attention to what is crucial.

Let me use the Zaaba experience to unpack this.

The dance parties represent an extremely small amount of time, energy and focus to those who were at KOLEJ ZAABA. The rest of the time it was hard work, delivering performance, adding value and doing good. But if one pays attention to only that few hours of dancing instead of a whole year of work, that is being myopic, petty and senseless. Ditto the Opening of the Legal Year 2019 dinner.

Inability to pay attention to what is crucial and core is a huge social and human problem that leads to bad results. The militant Muslims for example pay attention to fighting while in reality in his 23 years of his Prophethood, actual fighting was not more than 3 days. That should give an indication about the Quran’s and the Prophet’s position on fighting. Yet, fighting defines the lives of the ‘jihadist’.

We need to choose what we are paying attention to.
If you still do not get it, amongst the products of KOLEJ ZAABA are the current KSN, KSU of Foreign Ministry, The EC Chairman, top surgeons at IJN and countless more.
So please do not focus on the dancing. Pay attention to the hard work and results.

To Royal Prof. Ungku Aziz, Allahyarham Prof. Madya Mohd Yunus and Prof.Dr Omar Farouk, thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for paying attention to what is crucial and gave us the environment to be good Malaysian citizens.

May all of us guide ourselves with love, logic and wisdom. Love, because love makes us fair with our hearts; Logic, because logic makes us fair with our minds; and Wisdom, because wisdom leads us to combine our love and logic in the way of God and for the benefit of Mankind.

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur

Friday, January 18, 2019



Kita yang mahu memimpin kaum Muslim mesti berhati-hati dan buat satu pilihan yang penting. Adakah kita pemimpin Melayu-Muslim yang lemah ataupun gagah? Adakah kita mahu memimpin kaum kita kepada kemenangan ataupun kekalahan?

Jika kita pemimpin yang lemah kita mengajak kaum kita meminta-minta belas kasihan dan simpati mereka yang bukan Melayu dan bukan Muslim supaya lebih sensitif terhadap perasaan kaum kita. Kita memberi gambaran kita ini lemah, tidak ada keyakinan diri dan tidak kuat iman. Emosi kita senang terguris, kita cepat mengeluh. Perbuatan orang lain dengan mudah dapat mengambil alih pemikiran, perasaan and tindakan-tindakan kita.

Kalau kita pilih untuk menjadi pemimpin yang gagah, kita mengajak kaum kita memperkuatkan jatidiri. Tidak mudah terguris. Iman dan keyakinan diri kita kukuh. Binalah salib yang sebesar gunung pun kita tidak tercuit kerana Tuhan kita memberi jaminan bahawa “Allah lebih dekat daripada urat leher kita sendiri”, Quran 50:16.

Pemimpin Melayu-Muslim yang gagah akan mengambil tanggungjawab sekolahkan kaumnya bahawa di zaman Nabi bukan hanya umat Nabi tidak sensitif mengenai saiz salib malahan di suruh mempertahankan gereja-gereja dan biara-biara bila diserang.

(yaitu) orang-orang yang telah diusir dari kampung halaman mereka tanpa alasan yang benar, kecuali karena mereka berkata: “Tuhan kami hanyalah Allah”. Dan sekiranya Allah tiada menolak (keganasan) sebagian manusia dengan sebagian yang lain, tentulah telah dirobohkan biara-biara Nasrani, gereja-gereja, rumah-rumah ibadat orang Yahudi dan masjid-masjid, yang di dalamnya banyak disebut nama Allah. Sesungguhnya Allah pasti menolong orang yang menolong (agama)-Nya. Sesungguhnya Allah benar-benar Maha Kuat lagi Maha Perkasa,...”

  Quran 22:40

Pemimpin kaum Melayu-Muslim mesti buat pilihan yang betul. Kaum Melayu-Muslim juga kena pandai memilih siapa yang harus memimpin. Yang lemah atau yang gagah?

“Janganlah kamu bersikap lemah, dan janganlah (pula) kamu bersedih hati, padahal kamulah orang-orang yang paling tinggi (darjatnya), jika kamu orang-orang yang beriman.”

  Quran 3:139

Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


The Big Picture

Let me start by giving you an overview based on the Quran.

Islam’s goal is to create and enable a peaceful learning community (Quran 96:1-8, 30: 20-27, 51:20-21, 39:18, 8:22, 17:36, 16:69, 30:8, 2:164, 22:46, 13:4, 16:12, 10:100, etc)

A peaceful learning community is one that empowers the learning all its members and continually transforms itself and expand its capacity to create its own future. The journey will never and can never end because by definition a true learning community never stops growing as there is no end to knowledge. The Quran puts it eloquently at 31:27, “And if all the trees on earth were pens, and the sea [were] ink, with seven [morel seas yet added to it, the words of God would not be exhausted: for, verily, God is almighty, wise.”. As such a learning community will continuously add value to its members and make the world better and better in every aspects of human development as we progress and unlock more and more about His treasures (Quran 75:16-19) 

At Quran 65:12, it was specified that the entire purpose or goal of creation is for man to gain knowledge of the entire universe. The story of Adam as representing the first man is about how he was taught by the first teacher, God (Quran 2:31). One of our first bond with God is one of a teacher-student relationship. In this account, the Quran singled out knowledge as man’s clear advantage and privilege over all beings as even the angels cannot learn on their own and exercise continuous learning. Only we humans can!

Man, and only man has the ability to name or define all of God’s creation and have the capacity to think conceptually and create our own reality, our own destiny (Quran 2:32-33). It is because Adam’s capacity to seek knowledge that God directed the angels to prostrate to Adam (Quran 2:34, 7:11, 38:71-72).

The Quran declares that while at birth we know nothing, we are provided the capacity to seek knowledge and that is one of the reasons to be grateful (Quran 16:78). Throughout human history, messengers and apostles were sent to guide mankind towards knowledge (Quran 57:25) and the Quran declared that only those who has knowledge can comprehend God’s creation of the universe and understand society in its diversity and inclusiveness (Quran 30:22). 

The more knowledge we acquire the closer we get to God (Quran 58:11) and we are to call upon Him to increase our knowledge (Quran 20:114). With knowledge we have insight and with insight we will take God’s word with the needed seriousness (Quran 38:39).

The First Revelation – The Call to READ

Why Read?

The first message of the Quran, in fact the first word of the Quranic revelation according to traditions is to, “READ”. The word ‘READ’ was repeated twice within the first five verses delivered to the Prophet. 

Here are the five verses: -

READ in the name of thy Sustainer, who has-
created man out of a germ-cell,
Read - for thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One,
who has taught [man] the use of the pen –
taught man what he did not know!    
Quran 96:1-5

One may want to ponder, why read? Why did He not choose the stress on prayer, fasting, dressing, pilgrimage or the usual rituals in His first revelation to The Prophet? Why specifically about seeking knowledge?

Let us unpack the power of reading and seeking knowledge and its impact on humanity the last 1400 years since the advent of the Quran.

Reading is not natural. You must learn the skill. You must make a CHOICE to read.

While language is native to our species where a child can learn to talk without instructions, reading and writing are unnatural acts. They are not innate talents in humans. Reading and writing are made possible only through the deliberate shaping of the mind. Reading and writing require practice. Reading and writing require schooling. Reading and writing requires a conscious act to change. Reading and writing necessitate transformation of an individual and its extension, the society.

Reading is a choice. We must choose to read. When we make a choice, we use man’s unique position in creation using our free volition that was not given to any other creation. Not even the angels (Quran 2:30-34). It is our ability to seek knowledge that made us the cream of all creation outstripping even the angels because we excel in knowledge.

To Read!

To read, our minds need to be taught and trained how to translate symbolic characters into the language we can understand. That is why neurological studies have shown that the brains of a literate differ from the brain of the illiterate in many ways. The way they reason. The way they form memories. The way they process signals and how they interpret the world around them. In short, the way we experience reality.

Learning to read and write, rewire our brain in an immense way. Verse 96:1-5 was the first call to rewire the brain of the modern man. To slowly and surely prepare us towards the ability to absorb the gamut of information that flow through our senses today. 


Basically, the Quran moved and transformed the Arabs and later those who were part and subjects of the Muslim empire from a society that was based on oral culture to a literary one. This change marked the start of one of the most far-reaching revolutions of human behavior and thoughts. 

Knowledge is exchanged more and more through writing instead of speaking. While oral culture is limited by the capacity of the human memory, literary culture freed them. Knowledge, human thoughts and information can be stored, shared and retrieved from books and libraries (and today hard drives and in the clouds). 

Furthermore, while oral culture limits the method of learning to only face to face interaction, literary culture freed us to learn on our own through books. Knowledge became more accessible, independent and democratic. While the oral culture needs a physical teacher to disseminate knowledge, literary culture allows us to seek knowledge from books as the Quran puts it, “who has taught [man] the use of the pen –
taught man what he did not know! "

The development of science, technology, economics, philosophy, cultural work and even history cannot have advanced without this change. A cursory audit of the extent of fields of knowledge like philosophy, medicine, alchemy, engineering, architecture, physics, mathematics, astrology, geography, cartography, zoology, astronomy, mathematics, literature, optics, etc. found at the House of Wisdom (public academy, library and intellectual center) of Baghdad within just a few centuries after The Prophet attest to this. An amazing human revolution.

For the first time in history the collection of knowledge and books from all the known world like India, Persia, Greece and China centered at one place.  The House of Wisdom contained so many books that the Tigris River turned black from the ink when a big portion of the collection were destroyed by the Mongols when Baghdad was sieged. This is not counting the number that was burnt and the 400 000 manuscripts that was saved. 

The Quran made the Arabs and early Muslims the first mass producers, collectors and users of books in history.

From an animal like brain to one that can focus.

How did reading set this motion going? Why and how did the illiterate Arabs and those who came under their wings became avid readers and seekers? How did the Quran or Reading (the Quran calls itself The Reading) changed our brains?

The natural state of the human brain is one of distractedness or non-linear as our senses are naturally attuned to change – fast paced shifting to reflex. This is important for survival and reduce the odds of being eaten up by predators or simply overlooking a source for dinner. To read a book demands an unbroken sustained attention to one single static object – an unnatural process of thinking for humans for the most part of history. 

When we read, the brain has to practice ignoring everything else going on around it. To resist the natural sensory cues – the non-linear as our senses are naturally attuned to change – fast paced shifting to reflex as explained earlier. Meaning, we began to be able to focus on a single task over a long period of time. This is one of the biggest changes in the history of human psychological development. Likely the biggest impact to modern man’s brain.

What happen when we can ignore distractions and be focus?

In the silence of deep reading, humans take trips in their own minds, draw ideas, inferences, analogies, play around with possibilities, visualize and dream – in short, we journey where the usual mind never has been before. Of mathematical formulas, economic models, scientific possibilities, astronomical expedition, fictional journeys and artistic beauty. We became a species that can focus with excellence and as such are able to deal with extremely complex problems and opportunities unleashing innovations, creativity, modern processes and systems and create the world that we live in today.

Reading is also meditative. It calms the distracted mind. But while meditation seek to empty the mind, reading filled it up. Replenishing it with new ideas, new energy, new spirit. Deep reading becomes a form of prayer that connects one to himself, to his world and to his Creator. 

Reading created the modern man.

Reading, knowledge, books and World Power

Allow me to simplify history. There are a lot more that had happened that cannot be explained in an article as this. For example, reading as a human activity could not have spread like wild fire within the Muslim empire if the Arab Muslims did not learn how to make paper from the Chinese in 751 AD. No paper, no books. No books, no reading - as the other alternatives like papyrus and animal skin is simply ineffective, too costly and inefficient. The Chinese have one of the best kept secret for 700 years. 

Paper was invented by Tsai Lun in the first century AD. And the West never knew the art of paper making until the 12 century AD when they learnt the art from the Arabs. In the fourteenth hundred Johann Gutenberg of Germany innovated the modern printing machine which led to a complete process of mass production of books and printed materials. Soon after, the west outpaced the Muslims in the production and practice of making full use of reading books. They began to accumulate knowledge through books at a far greater speed and efficiency as compared to the rest of the world. History suggests the Islamic Golden Age traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 13th century. Western Europe domination of the world started right after Gutenberg’s printing technology in the fifteenth century. The rest is history.* 

Can you see the connection?

Conclusion: Reading created the modern man.

Reading made us who we are today. Reading is the catalyst of modern history. You and I, we are here today with all that is around us because of the human capacity to read. We are here because God chose to send us a clear message to Read and Write as his first call to his last Prophet. And thank God, the earlier Muslims took heed.

But today, reading is no longer central to Muslims. A quick survey today on Muslim practice and what we pay attention to will show the sad truth that reading is not top of mind. Ask the majority of Muslims to list the top ten of what is most central as a Muslim, we will be lucky if reading is ever even listed. The Quran followed the first five verses with a caution.

“Nay, verily, man becomes grossly overweening –
whenever he believes himself to be self-sufficient:
for, behold, unto thy Sustainer all must return.”
Quran 96:6-8

Perhaps the Muslim scholars today, can make a bold move and call for an international Fatwa and make reading one of the central pillars in Islam. Would they? 

Or we ordinary Muslims rise up and relaunch ourselves and make reading central to our lives. Can we? Will we?

“So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: 
For ye must gain mastery, if ye are true in Faith.”
Quran 3:139


Anas Zubedy
Kuala Lumpur

* Additional note : When I wrote this, I wondered why the Muslims did not just copy Gutenberg's printing processes or buy the machines. 

A recent video by Hassan Nisar shocked me when I found out there was a short-sighted Fatwa by a Muslim Cleric and uphold by others that bans the printing press for 250 years at the center of Muslim civilization - Turkey. Muslim fell behind. How sad!!! 

Here's the interview -

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


To do good with $ many Muslims wrongly perceived that the first thing to do is to donate to or build a mosque yet the Quran tells us at 2:177 ...

" Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and GIVES WEALTH, IN SPITE OF LOVE FOR IT, TO RELATIVES, ORPHANS, THE NEEDY, THE TRAVELLER, THOSE WHO ASK [for help], AND FREEING SLAVES; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous."

NOTE: Notice that the verse did not say only give help to Muslims.

Somehow the message of the Quran have not reached the Muslim even here Malaysia which  Islam have taken roots for hundreds of years. 


Saturday, January 5, 2019


WHY ONE-STREAM SCHOOL IS A BETTER WAY FORWARD Note: This article was written about 10 years ago and is chapter 12 in my book The Middle Path What do you mean by one-stream schools? We now have national schools and vernacular schools - schools that use Mandarin and Tamil as their medium of teaching. We also have Agama schools as well as International private schools. However I suggest that we work towards forming one- stream schools where all our children can learn together. For this to happen, there needs to be a change in our schooling system. We need to come up with a two-session structure perhaps where all students go to school together in the morning session, then learn the vernacular languages and other important skills in the afternoon. This way, Mandarin will not just be limited to the Chinese students, or Tamil to the Indian students - our children can learn all four major languages including Arabic if they are interested. Why have one-stream schools? Because Unity is our most important goal.
As children go through their socialisation process, it is crucial that they do it in an environment that is truly representative of the Malaysian society. Beyond what they learn in school lessons, the actual process of socialisation, mixing around with others around them, is the most influential learning process our children will go through. We must ensure that they get to know each other from a young age – that they interact with each other, learn to get used to each others languages, cultures, practices, smells, behaviours … and if they have to quarrel because of differences, it should all be part of the socialisation process from when they are young. Whatever it is, we are a multicultural society – we cannot allow our children to grow up separately. This is one of the greatest recipes for disunity. If children grow up surrounded only by their own race, they will be ill-prepared to deal with the reality of Malaysian society. They may become maladjusted people when they enter the workforce. This is why I suggest that we encourage more multiracial neighbourhoods so children can grow up together at home (as I have explained in the previous chapter). In the same way, we need to work towards one-stream schools so that they can grow up together in schools and practice supporting one another as they learn together. Are you saying that those who go to vernacular and private schools are not capable of Unity? No, it is not a generalisation that applies to all who go to vernacular or private schools - there are many who still have a healthy sense of Unity. In any situation, there are always some who are able to rise above the circumstances. But I am suggesting that having separate school systems does not prepare a conducive environment for most of our children to grow up knowing each other as one. How can we work towards schools that are conducive for our children to study together? We need to deal with the quality of our national schools; the system, approach, and the teachers. Many send their children to Chinese schools not simply because of language, but more so because of the quality of education. When we work towards setting up one-stream schools, we need to carefully look into the quality of the school system and the quality of teachers. Maybe we can even learn from the Chinese school system, transfer technology of how they mold hardworking and effective students. The leaders and technocrats from the Chinese schools should play an important role in revising the structure of national schools. We need to study how to organise the school system to allow students to learn history, mathematics, science, languages, arts, drama, sports, culture… all the important aspects of development. As far as possible it would be best if we have teachers from all races. The school environment must be a microcosm of the diversity in Malaysian society for children to go through a healthy socialisation process that will prepare them to know, appreciate and love our various cultures. anas zubedy