The concept of time in Islam


BRUNEI DARUSSALAM has been seen by many as the land of black gold, though apart from that, she is a Malay Islamic Sultanate who is rich with her heritage, her customs, her culture and her good and hardworking people.

She is also rich with poetry which we need as much as we need oil in our material modern age and which is (suara batiniah yang dalam / mencetuskan akal budi / yang tidak dapat dinilaikan / dengan emas atau ringgit) as Bruneian poet Zairis MS says in his poem "Wadah Madah Di Tanah Indah" in his anthology entitled Harga Waktu.

This poet himself is one of those talented poets who are valuable national wealth in this peaceful and dynamic Islamic country, and who offer their poetic creation as (juadah / santapan manis peribumi / untuk generasi) to enrich, inspire and guide Bruneian generation in their life.

Pengiran Mohammad

Zairis MS, the author of Harga Waktu, is the pen name of Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Bin Pengiran Hj Abd Rahman, Deputy Minister of Education cum Interim Rector of Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University, Brunei Darussalam. He spent many years of his life studying Arabic, history and religion in several countries and earned his doctorate for his dissertation "Kemasukan dan Perkembangan Islam di Borneo British Dengan Tumpuan Khas Ke Atas Brunei Darussalam (1774-1984)" from Universiti Malaya in 1992.

He, however, is better known among literature men inside and outside the country as Zairis MS since the middle of 1960. He is one of the poets who follow veteran Bruneian poets such as Yura Halim, Wijaya, Shukri Zain, Adi Rumi, Yahya MS and Badaruddin HO. All these Bruneian poets are actually fruits of the encouragement of the inspiring poet and Monarch, Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien, and the patronage and support of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, the Sultan dan Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam who wisely patrons literary, scientific and religious affairs as well as the progress and welfare of his Bruneian people.

Harga Waktu

Harga Waktu is a unique Malay book of poems, published by Brunei's Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in 1993.

It contains 65 poems written by Pengiran Mohammad in Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Egypt. It deals with five themes, ie religion, society, homeland, politics and history.

I will come back to this point later on, but I would like to attract the reader's attention here to the fact that Harga Waktu is not the sole work of this gifted poet as he published three more anthologies, namely Madah Remaja which he wrote for teenagers when he was 13 and 17 years old; Salam Takwa, both anthologies were printed in Brunei in 2006; and Rinduku, published in Malaysia in 1985 while the poet was pursuing his masters degree at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Harga Waktu, which the poet and I have just rendered into Arabic, has a special significance among Pengiran Mohammad's poetic work as it is distinguished with its superb artistic qualities which are reflected in its free tendency in terms of rhymes and stanzas.

Those artistic qualities can be clearly noticed when you compare the poems in Harga Waktu which were written between 1963 and 1991 with the poems in Rinduku which were written between 1965 and 1985.

Besides, Harga Waktu had been associated with special circumstances as it was submitted to a poetry contest held by the DBP in 1983 one year before Brunei achieved her independence.

The book, which in the English equivalent was named Homeland, received the second prize. Later on, several poems written until 1989 were added to the book. Therefore the title was changed into Harga Waktu after the name of one of the poems. In fact, in the book, there is another poem entitled "Demi Waktu" which was entirely inspired from the Quranic Surah Al-'Asr.

The concept of time

In Harga Waktu, the poet looks at time from a pure Islamic perspective and perceives it as a beneficial power which helps mankind to colonise and populate the existence, and provide people with both knowledge and experience, and a bridge that carries the human beings from a temporary life to a better and everlasting one, which will never perish, or as the poet himself says:

ia sekadar persinggahan / dari suatu perjalanan / ke pelabuhan abadi.

The poet included such Islamic perceptions of time and others, in all his poems in his anthology from the first verse of "Berteduh Di Sini Sebelum Terlewat" to the last one "Daulat Dirgahayu" though there are some poems in which time is remarkably projected such as "Harga Waktu", "Angin Malam", "Kekosongan", "Jambatan" and "Sebelum Berakhir Senja Ini".

The poet acquired his perceptions of time basically from the holy Quran as it appears either indirectly as in "Bumi Warisan" (Maka berjanjilah angkatan / bahawa demi zaman / di sini dilahirkan / di sini disemadikan / di sini menetas / di sinilah bernafas), or directly as in "Demi Waktu" which is, as I said earlier, fully inspired from surah Al-Asr and at its beginning the poet says:

Demi Waktu / mereka yang dimabukkan / oleh anggur manis duniawi / atau / mereka yang melupakan / hakikat kejadian / hakikat kehidupan / anugerah azali kepada alam / anugerah azali kepada insan.

Waktu in Pengiran Mohammad's conception is a synonym of time and an equivalent of zaman, tarikh and hayat, though he refers to it either in words indicates waktu such as season, moment, period, day, yesterday, tomorrow, now, month, year, sunset, morning and evening, or in words relating to time such as story, travel and memory.

To our poet, waktu is the present, past and future altogether. It is neither independent nor stands in a vacuum. It is attached to both space and human beings.

On one hand, waktu is connected to the places where the poet has lived such as Brunei, his country "Bumi Warisan", and the countries he studied in like Singapore "Oh Kotak Kota Peribadimu Di Mata Dunia", Malaysia "Pagi Yang Mengembang", and Egypt "Buruh".

Waktu on the other hand, is related to the people whom the poet knows and loves such as his father "Balada Warisan", his mother "Rindu Ibu Si Burung Terbang", his leader "Perginya Seorang Patriot", his king "Bunga Kasih Dirgahayu", the Prophet (peace be upon him) "Junjungan" and even to Allah (Subhanahu Wata'ala) "Istarahtku Dalam Salatku".

In addition, Waktu is related to the hardworking average people "Buruh", Muslims "Rahsia Umat", the rising generation "Generasi" and to philosophical thoughts and ideas "Pentas Ghairah".

The mixture of Waktu with space and people, however, is not reflected only in the texts of the poems but it also can be noticed in the titles of these poems themselves as we can see in "Senja Di Pelabuhan" and "Israk Junjungan".


Harga Waktu, as I mentioned earlier, does not deal solely with the theme "Islam" as it deals with four other themes society, homeland, politics and history.

But in spite of this fact, this book of poems is a genuine Islamic anthology as it, firstly, reflects its writer's deep Islamic culture with its rich knowledge ranging from tauhid (theology), jurisprudence, Quranic sciences, Hadith sciences, Arabic language sciences, prophet's traditions' terminology, mantiq and usul al-fiqh.

The anthology, secondly, as I said, concentrates on a religious notion of time and its ideas are inspired primarily from surah Al-Asr. Not only this, but many of its ideas are acquired from the holy Quran as we can see in "Bunga Kasih Dirgahayu", "Suatu Wabak Bersama Aids", "Kehadiran", "Kepada Penyair Muslim", "Bumi Warisan", "Patriot" and "Keseorangan".

Several other ideas are also acquired from the tradition of the Prophet as we notice in "Keseorangan", "Derita Anjing Menggonggong" and "Nikmat".

Thirdly, the anthology includes 25 poems or 38 per cent of its total number, which deals with religious topics such as Israk and Mikraj, hidayat, divine love, tawakal (trust in Allah), Hijrah, prayer, Kaabah, Arafah, Prophet's love, the Muslim Ummah and so on.

Fourthly, the social, patriotic, political and historical themes in Harga Waktu are presented from a clear Islamic perspective.

Life, as the poet paints it, is a true and realistic struggle and there is no fancy about it. Man has to bring up his children and infix the religious sense in them. By putting their trust in Allah, people should ketuklah pintu kehidupan / yang murni dan permai ini / satu-satu ketuklah / sampai terlambah.

Love between the subjects and their ruler is kasih sayang demi jiwa / kasih sayang demi hati / berpaut di dahan takwa iaitu / suatu kekuatan tanpa sirnanya.

Sultan's eulogy is doa to the Allah Al-Mighty in order to protect the beloved ruler: Selamat Dirgahayu, Tuanku / sepanjang hayat selamat / siapakah lagi yang bakal menyelamatkan / selain pemilik segala rahmat / Maha Agung ia di atas 'Arasy. Like the captain of a ship, Sultan is riding a ship similar to Noah ark and holding ditangannya Kitabbullah / dan sunnah rasul / yang menerangi sepanjang perjalanan / sepanjang zaman / demi kemuliaan yang abadi.

The return to homeland, as well as the reunion with the beloved ones, should be celebrated and the creator should be thanked for giving us such blessed opportunities: sekarang apakah yang dibimbangkan / bulan dalam tangan / dan kepada Tuhan / restu dipohonkan.


The poet's concern for his homeland, as we will see shortly, in addition to his enthusiastic religious feeling, directs him to pay keen attention to social issues, even to those which are universal in type such as modern epidemics like Aids "Suatu Wabak Bernama Aids", youth problems "Generasi", danger of westernisation and globalisation "Pentas Ghairah", fishermen and workers "Buruh".

As usual, the poet treats these topics in a clear religious way as we can see in "Suatu Wabak Bernama Aids":

(Mereka tenggelam / di laut asyik / kelazatan yang melanggar / hukum rabbani / hukum alam dan / fitrah insaniah. / Maka berulanglah / peristiwa berkurun lalu / kaum yang dimusnahkan / oleh keinginan yang tak terbendung / homoseks).

In these lines, the poet states that these patients are afflicted by the disease through their sodomy which runs against Allah's commands, nature and inmate character. He connects these patients to "kaum yang dimusnahkan oleh keinginan yang tak terbendung", namely Lut's folk who committed the same sin and hence Allah had rained them with His severe but fair punishment as the incident is related in several surahs in the holy Quran.


To Pengiran Mohammad, homeland (tanah air) and waktu are synonyms, hence, when publishing this book, he replaced the first by the latter.

Homeland means the most to our poet. He devotes his life for his country and depicts it beautifully:

tiadalah lebih menguntum / punya watan yang harum / di taman nusantara / buahnya anggur takwa.

To him, it is always mixed with religion "Patriot". He never thinks of it apart from Islam as they are always blended together "Daulat Dirgahayu". Patriotic themes are reflected in "Generasi", "Rindu Peribumi", "Tanahair", "Bumi Warisan" and "Rumpun".

As a matter of fact, nationalism is noticeable in the veteran Islamic poets of Brunei Darussalam and particularly in works of Shukri Zain, Adi Rumi, Badaruddin HO, Yahya MS and others.

It, however, can be clearly felt and enjoyed in Pengiran Mohammad's work. His strong and heartfelt patriotic sentiments can be crystallised in three distinctive topics namely, the late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and Brunei Darussalam.

On the late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, he says in "Perginya Seorang Patriot":

Patriot / Pencinta Waris / Pencinta Tuhan / tiadalah akan hanyut / bersama air pasang surut / tiadalah akan reput / oleh hujan panas / tiadalah akan hilang / berlalu zaman.

On Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, he says in "Daulat Dirgahayu":

Cintamu bagai arus / tiada pernah putus / melimpahi rantau pesisir teluk / menyuburkan bumi / berdenyut nadi peribumi / lalu jadilah kami generasi / bangkit dari tidur / menjunjung kasihmu / menjunjung anugerah / rela dan setia / dalam kemelut waktu / dalam syahdu / kamilah perisaimu / kamilah bunga bangsa / harum wangi di tengah persada.

And on Brunei Darussalam he says in "Tanahair": Darussalam / kuberikan kepadamu seketul daging / iaitu hati dan fikirku / impian ghairah generasi / engkau sebuah bumi / yang berisikan harga diri / budi dan peribadi.

This poem, in my opinion, is not only the best poem in Harga Waktu, but it is also one of the most beautiful poems on homeland ever.


As an Islamic poet, like Iqbal, Pengiran Mohammad cannot help dealing with politics in his poems such as "Dunia Di Ganggang Api", "Pembunuh Umat", "Kepada Penyair", "Hidup Yang Retak" and "Keruntuhan".

He deals with topics pertaining to his country, Southeast Asia, the Arab world, the Middle East, Muslim countries and world community.

The political topics range from war and peace, to military occupation, to freedom, to unity and international relations.

In "Dunia Di Ganggang Api", the poet talks about peace: Oh, dengan doa semogalah pulih semula / kerana hati lebih mesra berkasih sayang / tidak merasa ditekan dari depan dari belakang / berjabat salamlah di bulan mengembang.

In "Titisan", he refers to the Israeli's defilement of Palestine (jangan biarkan / siapa pun melumpuri / rumah kudus Ilahi / kerana ia milik Muslimin / yang meniupkan / nafiri sunah) while in "Rumpun", he touches on the unity among the Malays (Kekuatan / di bawah satu bendera / jatuh bangun milik bersama).

In "Hidup Yang Retak", he indicates the cold war between the US and Russia (tiap hari ada wajah keras menekan / oh dewata sakti, bebaslah kami lari / ke awan tinggi) while in "Keruntuhan", he pleads to politicians to replace hatred by love: kini sedarlah o, para wali lantang suara / biarlah manusia berkasih sayang merangkul jiwa / semoga tenang sekerat hati dimamah bimbang / jauh dari racun hidup menikam ke nadi jantung.

Catch the second part of the critique tomorrow. The Brunei Times

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