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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My name was Mahadi, says Masidi

KOTA KINABALU - Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun disclosed yesterday that his parents had initially named him Mahadi.

“But I was always sickly and I had siblings who died, so my parents consulted with the Javanese ‘mandor’ who told them that the name was probably too much for me to shoulder, hence the name change to Masidi,” he told reporters after launching a book on the Islamisation of the Ranau Dusun community titled ‘Pengislaman Dalam Kalangan Dusun Ranau (1940-1976)’, here.

He went on to relate how the Ranau folks embraced Islam.

“The Islamisation of Ranau went through a different history compared to the others. The rest of Sabah may have become Muslim via traders from other parts of Asia including Arab, but Ranau is different because we went through Islamisation by a Javanese who was a “mandor” (supervisor) and not a full-time preacher. If you look at the Ranau Muslims, there is a lot of Javanese influence in the way Islam is practised. The Ranau Muslims have evolved into a group of its own – it is not synonymous to Islam in West Malaysia, and the fact that in Ranau, religious affiliation is not an issue. Again, this has created a very tolerant sort of Islam that emphasizes on mutual respect and love. And perhaps that is what the world needs now,” he said.

Masidi said his own family’s Muslim roots started when some villagers would look for extra income by rubber tapping in other districts in Sabah, including the British-owned Lobou rubber estate, some three hours by road away near the State capital.

There, post-Japanese Occupation in the 1940s and under the Javanese estate supervisor, known as “Mandur Syarif” villagers who were pagans or had Dusun ancient beliefs, gradually learnt more about Islam through his “rituals”.

“He was known for his healing powers, and it was a way for villagers to move past witchcraft beliefs. Although Mandur Syarif was not a full time preacher, the villagers bought into the rituals as this was standard beliefs then and was greatly influenced by him and it eventually evolved into its own culture,” he said.

One of the examples he gave was that newborn babies were not allowed to touch the ground for the first nine months, or for a certain time period.

Other rituals practiced by the Dusuns of Ranau, of all religions, was the sacrificing of livestock like chickens, for the spirit of Mount Kinabalu to protect climbers and villagers.

“We may be different due to our approach and the history, but we are grateful that it’s made us very tolerant and graceful, and retained a lot of our culture as well. Our spirit is there, although some may say we are lacking in certain knowledgeable aspects of the religion,” said Masidi. - BP

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