Monday, January 24, 2011



Praised be to Allah Almighty for His never-ending blessings to us. As we know, in this week, we'll be having our Cultural Night with a theme that I couldn’t fathom. 1920s. Of all the themes under the sun that can be put forth, the Student Council and the Cultural Committee had chosen this theme. It is surely something to ponder upon. Warning: this article is lengthy. 


"The Roaring Twenties" as it is famously known, is an era where there was revolution in fashion, especially among women who adopted a more boyish or androgynous look; the flappers. It is also known as the era of jazz, gangster and invention. Women during this era appeared braver in the choice of color and design. The hemline became shorter; from ankle to just covering the knee. Pastel colors was replaced by more vivid colors and metallic hues. The usage of corsets was changed to a straighter flock and plaited skirt. The sleeves were disappearing.

 Jazz music was condemned as "the music of demon" or "an influence of evil" as quoted by Mrs. Marx E. Oberndorfer, National Music Charman, General Federation of Women’s Clubs at that time. While Mr. Fenton T. Bott, a leading light in the American National Association of Masters of Dancing, noted that jazz dancing was "thinly veiling immoral ideas". And this was actually true if we take You'se a Viper [“Stuff” Smith and his Onyx Club Boys (vocal by Jonah Jones) ] -which clearly alludes to smoking dope and getting high.

Gangsterism, in particular was also 'roaring' during this time. American tolerated criminals at this point of time, especially those involved with bootlegging (smuggling of illegal substances), presumably because of outlaw of alcohol (The Prohibition). Gangsters were involved in bootlegging, prostitution, gambling, organized crime, and racketeering (extracting illegal money from the shopkeeper a.k.a taxing). Al “Scarface “ Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and John Dillinger were the headliners of this era.


Now we go to our own Motherland, Malaysia that was still known as Tanah Melayu in 1920s. At this time, Tanah Melayu suffered from the declining of the price of rubber in the world market. Jobs were scarce and politically, Tanah Melayu wasn’t so stable. However, liberalism was just starting to flourish here with the important figures like Sayid Sheikh Al-Hadi, Ahmad Rashid Talu and few others. They fought through writings i.e. novels and magazines.

Sayid Sheikh Al-Hadi, thru his famous novel "Hikayat Faridah Hanum" tried to show the freedom in expressing love as depicted by the main characters, Faridah Hanum and Shafik Affandi. Both were France-educated, and the story background took place in Egypt. One day, Faridah Hanum wanted to test Shafik Affandi's faith/iman by wearing sexy outfit that revealed her body which prompted Shafik to kiss her. Shafik was pictured as saying, "I couldn’t longer bear the temptation so I ask permission to kiss her hands or forehead but I didn’t dare to go lower."

In the novel "Iakah Salmah" by Ahmad Rashid Talu, he illustrated Salmah as a graduate from Junior Cambridge who never wore head scarves and was freely mobile like a Western lady. These two writers stated that wearing head scarves hindered modernization and Malay ladies should copied from Westerners as their lifestyle.

This statement and opinion, of course, was opposed by other school of thought. Pn. Zainun binti Munshi Sulaiman or Ibu Zain, strongly disagree with the so-called modernization and liberation of Malay ladies as for her, those elements will bring immorality rather than improvement of moral standard. She said, women should be empowered with religious knowledge and bahasa ibu, and keep modestly in clothing and practiced good manner. She was backed up by Abdul Rahim Kajai, a prominent literature figure and reporter. For him, the freedom that Westerners adopted was misleading, particularly in the attires and the too-social interaction (pergaulan bebas?) between opposite genders.


After the World War I, Daulah Uthmaniyyah that sided German-Austria-Hungary had lost to UK-France-Russia-Japan, resulting in the division of the areas under its reign. Middle East was separated and divided among the Principal  Allied Powers according to Treaty of Paris 1920 and San Remo Convention 1920. Under terms agreed to at the Versailles Conference, the British government was given the mandate for Palestine. The conditions of the mandate were to be based on the terms set forth in the Balfour Declaration, with the exception that the Declaration would not apply to the area of Transjordan. The Syrian National Congress declared its complete independence. However, Syria had been promised to the French. The League of Nations officially confirmed the French mandate, and French forces took Damascus by force. They had previously created a separate state out of Lebanon, which had a substantial Christian population.

In 1924; specifically on 3rd March 1924, the last caliphate of Islam, Khalifah Abdul Majid II (1922-1924) was thrown from the throne by Mustafa Kamal Attaturk la'natullah. That is the end of the empire of faith, ruled by khilafah Uthmaniyyah. Turki was later taken over by Republic system, which used President as the country's leader and assisted by a prime minister. This is a great loss to the Muslim World and now, it is our duty to bring Islam back to its rightful tier.

4 years later, in March 1928, another great history was made when Imam Hassan al-Banna founded the Ikhwanul-Muslimin in Ismailia, Egypt. This is the organization that aimed at reinstituting the caliphate and reuniting the dar-el-Islam (Islamic countries) by starting from the most basic unit of a society - the individual to the ustaziatul-alam. It is the world oldest, largest and most influential Islamic movement and still exist till date. Imam Hassan al-Banna restored the usrah system as a mean of da'wah and tarbiyah. May Allah bless him for this great effort.


History isn't something that everyone like. But, as George Santayana correctly said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 1920s wasn't happening in Western only. Life is not just for fun and playing. While we are laughing out loud here, there might be people who are crying their heart out; for any matters possible. We. Never. Know. Or, maybe we never care to know. So sisters, open your eyes (and heart). Wallahua'alam.

"What is the life of this world but play and amusement? But best is the home in the hereafter, for those who are righteous. Will ye not then understand?" - Al-An'am,6:32


Pemikiran Islam di Malaysia: Sejarah dan Aliran. By Abdul Rahman Haji Abdullah.

No comments:

Post a Comment


SISTERS UNITED | Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial License | Dandy Dandilion Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates