An Autobiography of a Rebel is the final biographical writing of Kassim Ahmad, completed shortly before his passing in October 2017. Within he tells the story of his transition from a leader of Parti Rakyat Malaysia to a scholar of the Quran and Hadith, and a member of UMNO. Brought up in rural Kedah, Kassim Ahmad became politically aware in the period of Malaya’s independence struggle.
Participating in the University Socialist Club, he would go to make his name with a radical analysis of the figures of Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat in the Hikayat Hang Tuah. Yet by the 1980s he had become both a staunch critic of socialism and an Islamic thinker who set out to challenge orthodoxy and reinterpret dominant interpretations, most notably in his Hadis – Satu Penilaian Semula, before later championing a political system based upon the Charter of Medina.
Through a series of short reflective essays, An Autobiography of a Rebel tells the story of a man whose intellectual journey from socialism to Islam was rooted in his belief that philosophical inquiry was vital to the production of a better governed and more prosperous country. Autobiography of a Rebel forms then not only the final account of Kassim Ahmad’s life but also his final intellectual statement.
In this autobiography, the author chose events that have befallen him or events he has experienced, individually or collectively. Herein is the art. What has to come first? The events themselves? Or the significance behind those events? Or the maturing of the author’s character and thoughts? Should the author mention them all or should he be selective?
All of these are considerations in writing an autobiography. It must be stated that, while writing, the author experienced much pleasure because it is a task for him to unravel. It became an essay on philosophy. He must choose what he thinks is important in his development as an individual, as a caliph, among the billions of other individuals who have received the divine trust to administer and properly change the world (the rise of civilisations). The extent to which the author has contributed to this mighty mission is the extent to which he has given meaning to my life and to world civilisation.
At one end, there are great individuals from all nations. At the other, there are individuals from various nations as well whose lives are devoted to the building of human decency