Not many people know Syed Abdul Kadir Alsagoff .He is not the 'monied' kind of people nor does he has power .He is just ordinary ,just like you and me but it is my intention in my blog's 'personalities section' to delve into interesting personalities like 'Syed Kadiak' ,as he has been known among us classmates from the Malay College ,and others whom Allah has allowed me the priveledge to 'criss cross' into their lives in this short 'sojourn' of mine on this planet earth .I have never met Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin ,the 1st personalty featured in this new column but who does not know Dr Asri .With 10,or 15 more years of 'scholarship' perhaps he can be our next Naguib ! Insyaallah .That would be profoundly better than being just another mufti whose main function is to read the doa at those tedious State functions .
Back to our Syed Kadir .I 1st met him when I joined the Malay College in 1967 as a forth former .A 'budak baru' with all the intricacies of 'ragging' and yearlong internal battle trying to blend in with the 'budak lama' ie those who joined through Form One .Syed Kadir was a 'budak lama' .Looking back ,many of the 'budak baru' were less daunted by the continuos emotional effort needed to blend-in and be accepted with the rest [ no mean task ] and the cultural shock of leaving home and having to live with peers of the same age who were in general already miles ahead in their 'social skills',but rather the shock of having to contend with many super 'bright' boys several scale above the average .That was Malay College to the new comers .Syed Kadir was one of the many 'super bright boys' of Form Four Science 2.
He never seem to put any effort in study and during the limited 'prep time ' was always fooling around but at the end of term exams was either numero uno or just somewhere there .I could remember one of the 'budak baru' [ a doctor now ] cried because he had to burn the midnight candle and still came out last in class while this 'clown' Syed Kadiak never seem to touch his books and yet got 1st !
Come MCE exam ,Syed got the maximum 8 distinctions !Now some students who got 10 straight A's still cry because some jokers got 15 .During my time if you get 4 A's you deserve to paint the town red on your bicycle with ears'enlarged' and a fixed smile on your face for a whole week .The town can accept that you deserve it .
Syed hitched hiked to Kuala Lumpur to see Encik Khir Johari ,the then Minister of Education ,and on his own initiative ,got Lee Foundation along with Tengku Abdul Rahman Foundation to give him a scholarship to do Quantum Physics at an Ivy league university in US ,Cornell .At a kingly sum of 10'000 RM per year scholarship, a huge sum at that time .
All of us that time knew some 15 months prior to exam time Syed suddenly woke up probably from the 'wrong side of his bed' and declared to all and sundry that he from then on was an 'atheist' .A case of too much physics probably ,we thought .No amount of 'cajoling'or debate from friends could make this young man change his mind .Some of us enlisted the help of the late Ustaz Rahman [ just died a couple of years ago ] ,our mentor and student advisor .He tried but failed miserably and shed a lot of tears for his failure .But looking back with hind sight now what can a 'lowly' ustaz do to a genius with an IQ of probably 150 except to further increase the boy's resolve to be more 'different ' .
So Syed Kadir The Atheist went to Cornell to do Quantum Physics in 1970 ,at the height of 'Flower Power' and anti war hysteria following the Vietnam War .Most of us ,his friends , thought he would not come back and be lost to Godless America forever ,work with NASA or something .But Allah knew better .In America he befriended an American lay Islamic preacher and rejoined Islam .Not only just rejoined Islam but took 4 years off his study to wander to Medina ,Saudi Arabia to learn Arabic and obtained a masters degree in Arabic and theology .In his own words "When you study the Quran and understand it in Arabic it is like watching coloured TV ,while in other languages you can still perceive its meaning but it is akin to seeing blake and white" .
Went back to Cornell to do 4 years of Neurobiology to ,in his own words ,"comprehend" and put up a creditable defense against Darwin's Theory of Evolution .
His very short but succinct explanation of the compatibility of Darwin's Evolution Theory and Islam was explained to me just 4 days ago ,over noisy kenduri kahwin music , at our mutual classmate's daughter's wedding in Klang ,the 1st time I got to meet him after almost 40 years !
"Look at it this way ,Nik .Say we are so advanced that we are able to send 2 astronauts ,a female and a male , to a distant planet so far away from Earth .That new planet is like Earth ,and has been actually in existence for millions of years before this two humans landed .There were apes ,lizards and other animals that have evolved earlier .Push forward into the future say over 10,000 years ,the 2 astronauts cohabited and over years and generations multiplide in numbers to become 1 billion humans .One not so bright chap amongst them finally decided to be famous and decided to study fossils and came up with the theory that 'man' actually came from apes because he was able to see some semblance of apes fossils that did not have tails .This bright chap did not want to know about the story of the 'astronauts' anymore but fell in love with his findings .He called it the Darwin's theory of Evolution !"
"The relevant observation now ,from amongst us ,should be that now there are humans who have developed 'new tails' and they are the ones doing massive carnage in far distant lands like Iraq ,Afganistan and in the Gaza Strip !They are the new 'apes' that have strayed from the 'straight' path as defined by that 'Chap' who 1st send the Eve and Adam down to this planet to be the viceroy .Not a question of the apes losing their tails and becoming humans as expounded by Darwin but Man losing their way and behaving like apes !"...'Mereka mereka yang di murkai Allah dan mereka mereka yang sesat ', as I always like to put it
Syed Kadir came back to Malaysia and join UPM's fisheries dept in the 80's and was actively invovled in missionary and tabligh work .Masahallah ,from Islam to atheist to tabligh !
While writing up for his doctoral thesis he found he could ill afford to pay a professional typist to help with the typing as most of his income was tied up with his missionary work ,so he dabbled with the computer .Before long he found himself deep in IT and did finally obtained a PHD from Auburn University ,Alabama delving in computer modelling of integrated agriculture system .
That was and is Dr Syed Kadir AlSagoff , my long lost friend .A scientist par excellence ,a former confirmed atheist ,a genius ,a Muslim missionary of the tabligh school .
At the end of the day it is Allah who "membolak balikkan hati".We
'manusia manusia yang kerdil' can only do our level best and pray for his deliverance .If Allah wants to change John Esposito [the great Western expert on Islam] He could do so but if He does not ,John Esposito will still be 'that guy who has grown a tail' in another 100 years despite all his vast knowledge about Islam ,beyond you and me .
"Say :Oh Allah ! Possessor of the Kingdom ,
You give the Kingdom to whom You will ,and ,
You bestow with honour whom You will ,and ,
You humiliate whom You will .
In Your hand is the good .
Verily ,You are Able to do All things ."
A piece of poignant poetry you may say .Surah Ali Imraan 2 : 26 ,from the Glorious Quran .
Dr Nik Howk
PS :On the local scene ,how else can one explain Sultan Mukriz's ascension back to power yesterday despite all the odds working against him ?
Hanya Dia yang dapat 'membolak balikkan hati'.