Top 10 Books to Read in November 2022- A Treasure to Be Discovered. Part 4

9. "Readings On Malaysia: Selected Essays" by Shamsul A.B.











"Readings on Malaysia"  is a collection of writings by Distinguished Prof. Datuk Dr. Shamsul Amri Baharuddin on Malaysian Studies that address the issues of national identity, cultural diversity, and ethnic relations.

About the Author


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Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, one of the leading social anthropologists in Southeast Asia, has devoted his research to tackling the problems of Malaysia, a classic example of a multi-ethnic society. The issues he has addressed include reconciliation between different ethnic groups, resolution of religious conflict and poverty mitigation. His achievement in the three fields of academic research, social criticism and education has been outstanding.


Professor Shamsul was born in 1951 in Negeri Sembilan, adjacent to the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and had the very unusual experience of being brought up in a matriarchal society. He studied anthropology and sociology at the University of Malaya, and in 1983 received a doctorate in social anthropology from Monash University in Australia. For his main work, 'From British to Bumiputra Rule' (1986), he conducted field research in the villages of the western Malay peninsula where oil palm and rubber were produced, and revealed, for the first time, the complex reality of Malaysian politics as an interplay between ethnicities, religions, and governmental policies from a grassroots perspective. Professor Shamsul suggests that 'ethnic' (in this case, 'Malay') identity should be reconceived using the three criteria of colonial history, the progress of development politics, and the ordinary life of the people. This book, which combines three distinctive elements - historical research through detailed study of documents kept in the public record offices, policy study tracing the details of rural development after independence, and thorough field work in villages - won international acclaim, and is now regarded as one of the classics of Malaysian Studies.

  Among his many achievements: 
 Laureate, Academic Prize 2008, of the prestigious Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prize, Japan
 Distinguished University Professor, UKM, 15 December 2010 (one of the five appointed to-date by the Ministry of Higher Education


 Inducted as Fellow, Academy of Science Malaysia, 2018
Chair, National Council of Professors, Malaysia 2019
 Awarded UNESCO CHAIR (Communication & Social Cohesion) 2109

 Main Architect of Malaysia’s National Unity Blueprint 2015, National Unity Policy 2020, Blueprint NationalUnity 2020, National Unity Action Plan 2021 & National Unity Index 2.0 2021-2022 endorsed by the Malaysian Cabinet 
 Adviser on Unity, Ministry of National Unity, Malaysia 2020-2021

His international standing is attested by the invitations he has received from universities/research institutes in Denmark, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the U.S. to be a visiting scholar. He is also unmatched as a research organizer and educator. He has raised the standard of research and education in ethnic studies by reviving the Institute of the Malay World and Civilization (ATMA) and founding the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA) at the National University of Malaysia (UKM), as well as by organizing a cross-university curriculum designed to improve understanding between different ethnic groups.

His academic profile, click here,  gives links to 109 of his publications.

He is also a much sought-after analyst on Malaysian current affairs in both local and international mass media (Al-Jazeera, National Geographic,Channel News Asia, BBC, Radio ABC Melbourne & Sydney, etc).


"Readings on Malaysia"  deserves thoughtful reading. 

In the words of Prof. Wang Gungwu:

"Over the years, I have again and again been struck by the way he (Shamsul A.B.) turned his field into a launching pad to examine larger questions of national identity, multiculturalism and ethnic relations. I need hardly say that this is why this book to mark his 70th birthday is so important. Not that he needs further encouragement, but I am sure that the admiration that he receives here will spur him to greater contributions, not merely to Dunia Melayu but to Dunia altogether."


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10. "Muhammad: His Life Based On The Earliest Sources" by Martin Lings ( Abu Bakar Siraj Al-Din ) English Original 














"Muhammad: Riwayat Hidup Berdasarkan Sumber Terawal" Malay Translation











“This work is widely recognized as the most readable account of the life of the Prophet to date.”   Times of London

“Lings provides a wealth of detail on the life of Muhammad, the time and place of many Koranic revelations, and the foundation of Islam, all based exclusively on 8th and 9th century Arabic biographical sources and collections of the sayings attributed to Muhammad. General readers will find a well-written, straight forward chronological narrative; Muslim readers will appreciate the favorable treatment of Muhammad; while specialists will find a faithful and convenient rendering of source material.”   Joseph Gardner, California State Univ. Lib.,
(Northridge Library Journal)

Martin Lings’s biography of Muhammad is an internationally acclaimed, comprehensive, and authoritative account of the life of the Prophet, it contains original English translations of many important passages that reveal the words of men and women who heard Muhammad speak and witnessed the events of his life.

Martin Lings biography of Muhammad is unlike any other, it is based on Arabic sources of the 8h and 9th centuries; of which some important passages are translated here for the very first time. It owes its freshness and directness of approach to the words of the men and women who heard the prophet Muhammad speak and witness the events of his life.

The presidents of Pakistan and Egypt each presented Dr. Lings with an award for the book. 

The Islamic Quarterly called it: 

 " An enthralling story that combines impeccable scholarship with a rare sense of the sacred worth of the subject."

About the Author
















Martin Lings ( his Muslim name: Abu Bakr Siraj  Al-Din) is a widely acclaimed British scholar whose books on Islamic philosophy, mysticism and art reflected his own deep belief in Sufism, the esoteric, purely spiritual dimension of Islam.

Martin Lings was born in Lancashire in 1909. After a classical education he read English at Oxford where he was a pupil and later a close friend of C. S. Lewis. 

In 1935 he went to Lithuania where he lectured on Anglo-Saxon and Middle English and subsequently he went to Egypt and lectured mainly on Shakespeare at Cairo University. 

In 1939, he went to Cairo to visit a close friend who shared his enthusiasm for the philosopher Guénon, who had moved from France to Egypt in 1930. The friend had become Guénon's assistant.

When the friend died in a horseback-riding accident, Dr. Lings took over his responsibilities. He quickly learned Arabic to communicate with Guénon's Egyptian wife. He converted to Islam and became Guénon's spiritual disciple, adopting the philosopher's view that all the great religions share the same eternal wisdom.

Martin Lings in Egypt Image Source



Guenon and Martin Lings (left ) in Egypt  Image Source

Following anti-British protest and bloodshed, he  had to return to England in 1952. He took a degree in Arabic and in 1955 he joined the staff of the British Museum where from 1970-73 he was Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts.

For the following year he held the same post in the newly founded British Library.

In addition to writing many books he is also the author of the chapter 'Mystical Poetry' in Abbasid Belles-Lettres, which is Volume 2 of The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, and the chapter on 'The Nature and Origin of Sufism' in Vol.19 of World Spirituality, as well as articles for Studies in Comparative Religion, Sophia, The New Encyclopaedia of Islam and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

He has written a number of great works:   

A Return to the Spirit : Questions and Answers (2005)

Sufi Poems : A Mediaeval Anthology (2005)

Mecca: From Before Genesis Until Now (2004)

The Eleventh Hour: the Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy (2002)

What is Sufism? (1999)

A Sufi saint of the twentieth century: Shaikh Ahmad al-°Alawi, his spiritual heritage and legacy (1993)

Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (1983)















With his wife Lesley Smalley performing Hajj in 1948 (Photo:

His wife, Lesley Smalley  was his  true spiritual companion and a soulmate. He met her first time when they both were children, he was 8 years old and she was 4.
They kept long distance correspondence for many years.
They married in Cairo in 1944. He was 35 years old. They shared life and spiritual growth and experiences, until his death in 2005, at the age of 96.
Lesley passed away 8 years after him, in 2013.


Martin Lings ( Abu Bakar Siraj Al -Din ) and his books have been transforming lives. 

He was considered by some, including initiates he instructed, to be a Sufi saint.

"Mr. Lings was among the early lights of my life. More than two decades ago, I read his gripping narrative on the life of the Prophet (Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources). I remember reading almost all of it in one sitting. Had it not been for my need to sleep, I would not have stopped. Shortly thereafter, though, I finished, and when I put the book down I finally understood what it meant to "taste the sweetness" in having love of the Prophet and of prophethood in general. It would be but the first book of Mr. Lings that would be transforming. " Ibrahim N. Abusharif, the editor of Starlatch Press. 

Keith Critchlow, co-founder of the Temenos Academy, summarized his thoughts on Dr Lings:

“Dr Lings was the most extraordinary balance and mixture between one of my ideals as an English gentleman and an unfathomable Sufi, a man of faith. His particular contribution was to get twentieth century human beings to rethink what symbolism is and what it means because we’ve reached a stage where the media has reduced language to its lowest possible level.”

"The first thing that comes to mind when I think of him is his gentleness, his kindness. But as a spiritual master he saw in you what you needed most and he gave you that. There was a certain luminance to Shaykh Abu Bakr, especially towards the last years and months of his life and everyone perceived that. There was a kind of special gentleness for his spiritual children and even all human beings.”   Slimane A. from Oxford , one of his disciples. 


Perhaps the most personal account came from Jean and Gerry Kittel, Dr Lings’s next door neighbours of over 20 years. Shortly after Lings died, Jean’s doctor discovered a serious tumour in her body and said she would have to go in for immediate surgery.

“The x rays looked really awful —so awful that the doctor wouldn’t even stick a needle in me because he said it was too invasive. I went to Dr Lings’s grave and said to him, ‘I need some help here!’ I went in to have the operation and when I woke up, the doctor was standing next to me saying, ‘there’s nothing there!’ They really couldn’t understand it. It was pretty amazing. So we have been affected a lot by him. He was a lovely, lovely man, and we miss him.” Source 

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