Nik Aziz, As We Remember Him (1931 – 2015)

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FRIDAY holds a special place in the Muslim psyche. It is also called Sayiddul Ayyam(translated into Malay as penghulu segala harior leader of all days). To die on a Friday is an indication that one has led a blemish-free life. PAS supreme leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat passed away between the hours of Isya’ prayers of Thursday, Feb 12 and dawn of Friday, Feb 13.

For Muslims, post the hour of the Maghrib prayer (a little after 7pm on Thursday) is considered Friday. The term malam Jumaattherefore carries with it religious connotations indicating divine blessing from the Almighty. In the rough and tumble world of Malaysian politics, not many politicians can be universally said to have wide respect bordering on veneration.

Amongst PAS supporters, Nik Aziz is held in awe and treated with great reverence. They hold him in such an elevated position that whatever he says; many almost considerfatwa(religious edict). On the opposite divide amongst his most intractable detractors; criticisms directed at him are seldom full-blooded; muted if ever.

When news filtered from Kelantan early Thursday that Nik Mohamad Abduh – the eldest son of Nik Aziz – was bringing his father home from the USM Hospital in Kubang Kerian, everyone was steeling themselves for the inevitable news. Nik Aziz had been hospitalised since Jan 19 as his body was ravaged by prostate cancer at age 84.

Everyone, including this TV station, was bracing for the inevitable, to the point of dispatching a team in anticipation of the LIVE coverage in the eventuality of a funeral sometime in January. The team returned after a week on standby mode. But, man proposes. And God disposes.

Following the news that he was being brought home by Nik Abduh, the Astro AWANI news team started preparing for the inevitable. Around 10pm on Thursday the announcement came and we went immediately into Breaking News mode. A team with LIVE broadcast capabilities was dispatched to Kelantan just before midnight last night for the AWANI coverage today.

Upon reaching the Gombak toll plaza, team member Harits Asyraf Hasnan reported there was already a stream of travellers headed for Kota Bharu with similar intentions. They arrived safely just around dawn today and AWANI was able to bring to our viewers the most comprehensive coverage of the funeral, even sharing our visuals with other stations caught unprepared.

Apart from religiosity, Nik Aziz stood out for his ascetic frugality. Some say this is a reflection of a cunning political guile, but how many politicians have stayed in the same kampunghouse in which a brood of 10 kids was raised without any trappings of grandeur?

Politically, he displayed the highest pragmatism in tackling the “Allah” issue. His stance is widely held by many; that the term can be used by everyone on the proviso that they held no ill-intentions. On the issue of cooperation with UMNO, he remains steadfast. While he embraced working and forming alliances with the DAP in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition; being subsumed into any form of pact with UMNO was a no-no.

It remains to be seen if his death would lead to the ascendency of one faction over the other considering the shifting sands of time and expediency of latter day political reality. Regardless of the outcome, his legacy and place in the annals of Malaysian politics is secure.

Al-Fatihah.

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