KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 — Muslim intellectual Kassim Ahmad was a courageous and brave thinker and his passing today is a loss for the nation, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
Dr Mahathir said he was very sad that his 84-year-old "friend" Kassim had passed away this morning in the Kulim hospital in Kedah.
“We lost a brave figure who held on to the principle of his struggle no matter what happened to him,” he said in a statement posted on his blog.
Dr Mahathir also sought to clarify that Kassim was denied the justice due to him and had to fend off allegations of not following hadiths or Islamic teachings ascribed to Prophet Muhammad.
“I am of the opinion that he did not succeed in getting his justice as required by Islam. Because he was accused of allegedly going against the hadiths.
“When he was just like other interpreters of hadith that rejected hadiths that were not valid and which were made without detailed and in-depth study, accepting many hadith and rejecting only hadith that were not valid,” the chairman of the Pakatan Harapan Opposition said.
“His thoughts are very sharp and Malays especially have lost a figure who could think deeply about problems faced by them,” he said.
“Read his writings before judging him,” Dr Mahathir concluded.
Kassim's lawyer, Rosli Dahlan, also wrote a eulogy to honour his late client and defend his Islamic credentials, calling the Kedah native a “great Malay intellectual” who had stood firm on his beliefs.
“Kassim Ahmad was known as a non-conformist thinker who was seen as being highly critical of the religious authorities and more recently of Jabatan Agama Wilayah Persekutuan (“Jawi”). His books were banned and Jawi considered him to be a heretic.
“It is unknown to many that Kassim who was born on 9.9.1933 is the son of an Islamic religious teacher, Ahmad Ishak. His religious knowledge is not skin deep,” he said in a copy of the eulogy made available to Malay Mail Online.
Rosli spoke of Kassim's speech on February 16, 2014 at the Perdana Foundation in Putrajaya on the topic of hadiths, adding that this resulted in a series of “persecution” by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) with a raid and arrest which led to years of legal battles in court.
Shariah prosecutors had in August finally dropped three 2014 Shariah charges against Kassim, after the Court of Appeal and Federal Court had in 2015 and 2016 respectively found Jawi's arrest and prosecution to be illegal and invalid.
“On 7.8.2017, the day when Kassim was finally freed by the Syariah Court, there was no jubilance in him. There was only relief that the long, painful ordeal had ended. He told me and his family that Jawi must pay damages to him not so much because he wanted the money but as a reminder that Jawi did wrong to an 82 year old man whose only sin was that he had exercised his freedom of thought.
“Kassim could not accept that a man’s mind can be caged by any authority. Kassim believed that Man was created to have free will,” he said.
“Today, I mourn the death of Kassim Ahmad whom I had developed a deep respect for his resilience, his intellectual honesty and for his tenacity to his death. Malays and Malaysians have lost one of its greatest thinker,” Rosli concluded.
Kassim is expected to be buried today.