Friday, 18 July 2014

Views of Muslims and Orientalists

Here we have some 'scholarly' opinion about Arabs and their characters. Well, these people might also do generalizations either positive or negative. Everybody could have their own opinion. Now, lets see what these scholars talk about Arabs. Some of our prophets are also Arabs like the prophet Saleh a.s, prophet Hud a.s, and most of all our seal of prophethood Muhammad s.a.w is also counted as an Arab.

In the end, Arabs are just human-being no more no less just like other nations. These are just historians and researchers view about this particular nation. They could be wrong or perhaps right in certain places. I have had heard many ustads and ustadas in schools talked about Arab nations and they do not first mention that Arabs are human being. So, in our country, people sometimes labeling Arabs with negative remarks and sometimes with positive remarks and most of all they mentioned that if not because Muhammad s.a.w, Arabs would be doomed. Sometimes generalizations would be so annoying as I would also think why native Malays left Buddhism for Islam if Muhammad s.a.w is only for the doomed Arabs? What does Divine destiny means for these people for uttering such words?

As for my understanding, Muhammad s.a.w is not only sent for Arabs but for nations or al-Umam as a sign of His Mercy to the universe. Revelation is according to period of time and not according to nationality. And then, āleh and Hud were also Arabs of ancient branch. Muhammad s.a.w is a descent of father Abraham a.s. and father Abraham a.s is an Assyrian. Assyrians are not Arabs but a sister nation to Arabs, nevertheless they are all people who came from the sons of Shem bin Noah.

I learned about Malay Buddhist kingdoms like Srivijaya too. There were also Malay Buddhist figures who were not known to modern Muslim Malays today but Buddhists know about them. For example Svarnadvipi Dharmakirti, Dhammarakshita who taught the method of luminous mind in the 10th century AD Sumatera. Others were from Southern Thailand region. I also listened to people talking about Malays in generalization and I think that many generalizations that people have in their view portrayed how limited our view about this universe is. It just shows that we are imperfect.

I would also love to find 'scholarly' view about French, German, Italian, British, and etc since we only could hear their opinions about people in the East.


He rejected the claimants of some historians who accused Arabs as imbecile who can never accept development. He said that he can see the Arabs could accept development since they can accept new gadgets, modern vehicles like train, machines, and others if they are taught the way to it. Palgrave had been living in Arabian Peninsula and looking at things with his own eyes.


Scholars had all agreed that Arabs are amongst noble people. He said that he was impressed just like other researchers after looking at the preparation of Arabs to accept manner, appreciating dignity, and possessing other noble traits. Perfect mind producing the knowledge to know, degree, wisdom, intelligence, and criticism. These people also have good memory. They predict events and have accurate consideration.

Ibnu Khaldun

Arabs had been familiar with moderate life and they are also familiar with wild environment. They love to snatch others' property and damaging others' property. If they attack other areas, they will damage everything since they were wild. They do not like to be attached to any rules, norms, ethics and regulation. They loved to go for war, scouting, and they opposed any civilization and development.

They do not need any governance and no need for institutions. They do not know the term of difficulties since their life pattern was according to wild environment of desert. They do not need any luxuries, they travel a lot, and usually have no valuable possession. They felt that they do not have to be ruled by others but just need a chief for their tribe. It was difficult to rule them since each tribe would only follow the order of their Amir (Prince) and Sheikh (Elder).

This lead to the spirit which we call as 'Assabiyya. It means racism amongst tribes, groups, associations, organizations, and so on. It also means helping our own group for evil and tyranny. There are actually definitions for 'Assabiya either by the noble prophet Muhammad s.a.w or Imam al-Monawwi. Their Amirs could only be their leaders or chiefs but they could not be hard on members of the tribe. It is different to a kingdom where a king must be strong and firm to his people.


Arabs is an example of a nation who only looks at materials. They had no space for further imagination and they had no mercy to others. They were not really religious people. They only look at things which could bring physical fortune to them or anything which would increase their dignity. That's why they rebelled against any governance upon them. They only had hatred, treason, and envious toward their own chieftain or Sheikh since he was earlier being appointed to lead the tribe. They can stab their own best friends. If others do charity to them, they do not be thankful to others. They will consider it as the sign of weakness and coward.

I wonder, how about Europeans or Caucasians in the US as the legacy of Europe in American continent? The Italian girl who was scouting at our home never say thanks to us for providing her free internet access to bash our religion, culture and faith in her sites in our country. I feel like typing again what I had read in a book written by the late Anwar al-Jundiy when I encounter these kind of people from Europe since they boasted and forced people to be subdued to their values. They only analyze things according to their worldview which is a little inappropriate. Human view is narrow as compared to the Divine view. So, we just forgive those who do not know may they receive mercy and love from the Lord of the universe.

La Mains

Arabs are people who were too democratic. They rebelled at any power that tried to limit their movement or acts though the prevention is good for them. This is why chaotic situation emerged in Arab lands and many betrayal happened in Arabian history. Because of European ignorance on these fact, they had done many errors while ruling this nation until many had died while there was no necessity for everyone to be sacrificed.

Because of their stubborn characteristics and refusing to follow instructions, Arabs could not 'imitate' European development or could not be as advanced as Europeans or Westerners.  They were like fierce lions who were contained in cages if they were ruled by others. Other than that, Arabs were also honest, always holding their words, loyal to ancestors, and appreciating friendship. These are their special traits. Le Mains has the opinion that if Arabs began to open up farm and settled permanently, perhaps their attitude would also change.

These scholars are scholars during imperialism and colonization of Europeans period. Further, these are just their opinions. Let us see comments of the late Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah regarding the statements of the mentioned scholars.

Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah

On first and second figures, they seem to over praising Arabs. They had forgotten that Arabs are human-being and not angels.

Ibnu Khaldun and Oleary said that Arabs were thieves, wild, barbaric, and they had damaged others' states. They were materialistic, cruel, and could not be tied with governmental politics. They had no imagination, and they did not like to receive orders. Both of them had over-generalizing Arabs. This is not in accordance to new findings of anthropology that any nation must possess good and negative traits. Nobody is perfect.

The last opinion by La Mains seems not just. He seems like hating the Arabs and looking other nations as lower than his own nation. Other than that he seems like lack of research. He just say whatever he thinks and not from researches. They should also differentiate Urban and Bedouin Arabs. And then differentiate them according to their Paths and according they were also in Dark Ages.

Ibnu Khaldun statement seems more to bias. He said that Arabs would damage the civilization of the land where they entered in or subdued. We still can see many historical sites in the lands where Arabs had been. How could Arabs damaged others' civilization when they had also transmitted others' culture and civilization to other parts of the world? Arabs also have their own civilization in Yemen.

The opinion about Arabs could not be easily ruled refers more to Bedouins. Arabs had already established strong kingdoms since ancient times. Once upon a time, they had also established civilization, polishing valuable knowledge and sciences, and transmitting them to other parts of the world. I guess Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah also means the Arab civilization beyond 13th C which predates their Dark Ages.

O'leary mentioned that Arabs were materialistic, greedy, and care nothing for religion. In Ancient Arabian History, there are many narrations about the generosity of Arabs and their noble traits. All of these are true narrations. Because we rarely find this, we would right away conclude it as fairy tales. Arabs were confident with their religions and they were loyal to their ancestral customs. O'leary also said that Arabs were imbecile and lack of memory. They had no imagination and no aesthetic expressions. This opinion is not true. Arabs love poems and poetry just like other nations such as Chinese, Indians, and others. They had love, melancholic, philosophical, war, manner, courage, tasawwuf, and other poems. Aleghiori Dante of Italy, Goethe and Schiller both from Germany had also been influenced by Arab poetry styles.
Abdul Malik further said that Arabs could be seen at their shape of body. In general, most of them are tall and thin except for few clans in Yemen whom are short and small. They have long jaw and their skin tone ranging from yellow to fair. Some parts may make their skin turns reddish and brownish. Black eyes, rough hair, high eyebrows, pointed nose, small mouth, small ears. They are actually intelligent and learn everything easily. They are also grumpy. Their dignity is their priority and they would never tolerate people who trying to bring them into shame. When they were embarrassed, they would become grumpy. They would spontaneously grab their sword when they are angry and they never care if their opponents are stronger than them. Battles are just common thing in the Middle East. Arabs had also came as far as South East Asia to buy swords or purchasing fire arms. Arabs love freedom and love for equality of rights. In the same time, they also consider and assume that their tribes, clans, or others as nobler than others.

There are evidence about this in Kedah valley and I had seen the vase to fabricate sword excavated from the historical area placed in our new library for exhibition of ancient civilization. One of my friend was also involved in the effort. He have got some small payment for that, poor guy.

So, this is something for Arabic learners to see. We do not only learn a language, but also the speakers' ways of life, customs, characteristics, history, and etc.  

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