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Let's support Jawi for the sake of our nation

Mujahid Yusof Rawa

Published
Modified 5 Aug 2019, 11:49 pm

MP SPEAKS | My generation was a victim of Jawi illiterate (buta Jawi) during the primary years when the subject was not taught anymore in classrooms. But, I was fortunate enough. My mother Kalsom Ali Raja Kemala took the task of teaching me Jawi at home.

My father Yusof Rawa Abdullah Nordeen al Rawi had a publishing house, printing and a bookstore loaded with buku Jawi (Jawi books) in several disciplines, especially Islamic religious books.

I had the chance not just learning Jawi from my mother but enjoyed reading all sorts of materials in Jawi writing at Kedai Kitab Abdullah Nordeen Ar Rawi established in 1906 at 55 Lebuh Acheh, Georgetown Penang. The area is currently under the world heritage zone of the United Nations.

I even had reading lessons from my mother every evening after asar prayer at home from a book titled "Perukunan Sembahyang" (The Pillars of Solat) written in the classical Jawi. It is a convenient book for beginners to learn the ethics of solat and all its requirement for a perfect solat

My mother made a point to make sure I recited (hafal) some paragraphs because of its importance. Thanks, to Jawi and my mom.

I came across magazines, buku pantun and even novels written in Jawi and enjoyed reading it during my pastime at my father's bookstore.

Back then, the bookstore was the centre of all Jawi books, including "Kitab Kuning" (it's called kitab kuning because of the yellowish colour of the paper, and its cover), used at sekolah pondok all over the country.

In fact, the row of Islamic bookstores along Lebuh Acheh was a haven for Jawi books. I used to help my uncle and other shop assistants to wrap up huge boxes of these books to be sent to our agents and sekolah pondok all over the country, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. 

We were the centre of Jawi books, preserving the best of our tradition of a long historical journey where Bahasa Malaysia began. I must admit, I have a personal attachment to the Jawi script and am proud of it.

It was in the 80s that Jawi started to decline. In the early 70s, the government did not encourage much on Jawi.

Most people in my generation are Jawi illiterate. Although some do read the Quran, they are clueless to even read simple Jawi or even write their names in Jawi - forget about writing a short essay.

I was lucky as I furthered my degree course in Arabic Literature at Al Azhar , Cairo, I finally got to know the original source of Jawi script, ie Arabic. 

As my love grew fonder of Arabic in my seven years of studies in Al Azhar, my attachment to Jawi became stronger. I began to love the Arabic/Jawi calligraphy and doing my own practice of khat (calligraphy) in my own sweet time. Even today, I am still terrible at it.

For every Malaysian, to learn Jawi is an honour because we are preserving the history of Malay literature where it all began. 

Malay rulers who wrote letters to the British and the agreements made were written in Jawi script. Jawi was at the core of our communication to the rest of the world. 

We should cherish Jawi together. It should not be exclusive for the Malays but for the rakyat Malaysia as we aspire to be known as one United Bangsa Malaysia.

As the Jawi controversy takes the centre stage in our national interest, let us not be confined in our small world within this bigger world of Bangsa Malaysia.

After all, what is learning khat Jawi if by learning it, we learn our culture, our heritage, our history and our pride as Malaysians? 

Even for this national intent, Jawi will not be imposed for exam assessment. Jawi is a subject whereby the beauty of its artistic stroke connects our generation to the long history of our proud Malaysia. 

Let us support Jawi for the sake of our nation.


MUJAHID YUSOF RAWA is the Minister in Prime Minister's Department, Parit Buntar MP and Amanah vice-president. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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