Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Divine wrath an artful claim or self-healing solace?

Malaysiakini published my letter on 30 Dec 2014 as a Comment article (Thanks MKINI) - I've been somewhat remiss in not posting it here immediately after MKINI had published it:

1:00PM Dec 30, 2014

Divine wrath an artful claim or self-healing solace?

COMMENT  The current deluge in a number of states in peninsula Malaysia, especially in the east coast, has sadly resulted in a number of deaths and the evacuation of hundreds of thousands from their flooded homes.

The devastation has been sufficiently horrendous to bring out comparisons with earlier flood epics and fables of divine wrath.

We are reminded of the biblical Noah and how he and his family survived God’s divinely ordered global flooding to destroy the evil that flourished during that time.
According to calculations based on the Bible by Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh, Ireland, in the 17th century, the biblical great flood occurred in 2349BCE.
Coincidentally in China around that time, an irrigation engineer named Yu, confronted with China’s perennial floods that plagued and ravaged the ancient land, went about controlling the deluge with canals instead of building an ark. Following his success in taming the floods in China he was called Yu the Great and went on to become the founder of the Xia Dynasty.

But that’s not the point. Obviously Yu was blasphemously unmindful of divine wrath and instead of doing what the Sumerian Atrahasis, Mesopatamian Utnapishtim, Greek Deucalion, Indian Manu and the biblical Noah all did, that was, built a boat (ark) to survive God’s great Flood, and subsequently be grateful to the Almighty for sparing their lives, he just had to be different by taming the deluge instead.

Oh, that godless Chinese. That may be why the Chinese aren't much trusted to conform, obey and be grateful.

But thank goodness that’s not so in good old Malaysia, where recently, Pasir Mas MP Nik Mohamad Abduh (right) informed us that the worsening floods in Kelantan was a sign of “Allah’s wrath”, to remind Muslims to return to Allah’s path, and of the necessity to implement hudud in the state. He thus argued the state government must continue with its bid to enforce hudud despite strong opposition from PAS' Pakatan ally, the DAP.

In other words, according Nik Mohd Abduh, his God has been annoyed with Malaysians presumably mainly Muslims, and has thus wrecked His divine punishment by sending the floods, causing several deaths and forcing more than two hundred thousands to evacuate their flooded homes.

I have the uncomfortable suspicion that many of the sufferers might have actually been supporters of PAS’ avowed intention to implement hudud as part of the legislations of Kelantan.

Well, we have been told that on matters of religion, more so with a wrathful Almighty glaring at us, there’s no point in talking about commonsense or logic or even justice.

As a blogger, I have been advised by one of my blog visitors that we must have complete faith in God and let Him do His Will, even if these result in the deaths of thousands and millions and of untold sufferings as in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the Cambodian killing fields, the human holocausts in Europe, Nanjing and Rwanda, among many more.

I noted that most divine wraths have usually been associated with water such as deluges and cyclonic storms. If you recall, in 2005 the USA suffered its worst cyclonic storm when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
At this point, can you remember the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former chief rabbi of Israel, and spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Jewish party Shas? Well, he left us in no doubt that Hurricane Katrina was an act of divine wrath.

Ovadia Yosef pronounced the destruction caused by that cyclone as God’s punishment of America for allowing Ariel Sharon to pull out from Gaza.

You may wonder why, for what Ariel Sharon did in Israel,God went about punishing ordinary Americans living in New Orleans though not in Washington DC, Houston or Pittsburgh, etc. Indeed, why didn’t Ovadia’s God punish the Israelis in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa, etc for what Ariel Sharon did?

A wrathful Almighty

Well, as I have written above, on matters of religion, more so with a wrathful Almighty glaring at us, we cannot talk about commonsense, logic or even justice.

And that’s why Nik Mohamed Abduh said the flooding in Kelantan and consequently the sufferings of innocent Kelantanese was God’s wrath at them.

But some Muslims, perhaps in a fashion like Yu the Great, attributed the unusual flooding to various factors like heedlessness of the environment, ecological vandalism and even, if you would believe it, climatology.

For example, climatologist Professor Datuk Dr Shaharuddin Ahmad from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and climatologist Dr Ramzah Dambul from Universiti Sabah, being spoilsports to the possibility of divine wrath being the prime cause of our current flood disaster, were quoted by a local news media as attributing our calamitous situation to a combination of the north-east monsoon, perigean spring tide and the La Nina phenomenon.

You know something? If only Nik Mohamad Abduh had paid more attention to his classroom lessons on climatology instead of secretly reading comics as I used to do in school, he would have provided us with almost Deucalion-like predictions and advice, to have our little yellow plastic bathing tubs ready as emergency sampans.

But wait, I apologise. Nik Abduh is unlikely not to pay attention in class or to read comics like ragamuffin me, though he being a Kelantanese I would have expected him to at least anticipate Kelantan’s virtually guaranteed annual flooding.

I’m just going to attribute the reason for his lost opportunity to advise us to ready our yellow plastic tubs as yet another failure of our Malaysian education system [grin].

Well, we have discussed one class of people like the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Yang Berhormat Nik Mohamad Abduh who informed us that devastating floods and cyclonic storms had been the result of divine wrath.

But there is another class of people with different ideas on divine wrath. Golgotha, one of my blog visitors, provided a rather erudite observation. He said: “For the powerless and dispossessed, divine retribution is a kind of last hope of justice for believers, especially in cases where the guilty parties are so powerfully entrenched that there is virtually no possibility of obtaining justice in this world.”

“For example, the person or persons who ordered Altantuya’s death will almost certainly not face justice, in this world. Likewise, Teoh Beng Hock's murderer or murderers will not face punishment as long as BN/Umno is in federal power, which is likely the entire lifetime of anyone around today.”

“Yes, the United States and those who made its top decisions will someday face divine retribution for the wrongs they have visited on so many innocent people around the world.”

Golgotha has been correct about the fantasised self-consoling because I was told by my uncle of another great flood in peninsula Malaysia, but way back in December 1969. Then, for more than a month, the rain kept coming down, coming down and coming down, as if there was no end to it. He reckoned three-quarters of the peninsula were flooded. The devastation was horrendous. Even Singapore was not spared.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force worked non-stop to send food and other vital supplies to the affected and marooned areas, as well as evacuated the disaster refugees and those who unfortunately lost their lives in the flooding. Many foreign air forces came to help as well, both with their aircraft and emergency supplies.

Divine justice

But alas, amidst the sufferings, some Chinese still smarting with invincible grievances and hurt from the civil riots of May 13 that same year, attributed the terrible flooding and consequential deaths and suffering to the wrath of the ‘Heavens’ (a term used by Chinese for their gods) as divine justice for the deaths of the unfortunate victims in Selangor during the riots.

They obviously didn't stop to wonder why mainly Chinese Singapore was also flooded. But nonetheless, this has been what Golgotha succinctly narrated, that “for the powerless and dispossessed, divine retribution is a kind of last hope of justice for believers, especially in cases where the guilty parties are so powerfully entrenched that there is virtually no possibility of obtaining justice in this world.”

But what ‘justice’ could we possibly lend to the case of the Pasir Mas parliamentarian who claim the current flooding in Kelantan has been a result of God’s wrath, and which has been why I placed him together in the same group as the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Yes, regretfully I am forced to conclude that it has been nothing more than blasphemous misuse of the great name of Compassionate Allah swt for the politicians’ own political agenda.

1 comment:

  1. Besides God's wrath, illegal logging was to be blamed for the recent flood.
    However, legal and legitimate logging in Sintok near the Thai border was probably the main course for the massive flood which caused extensive damage in Kubang Pasu district, Kedah in 2005 and 2010. A very large area was cleared of its vegetation to make way for Universiti Utara Malaysia and to house staff and students.