DR Kassim Ahmad, the renowned Malay intellectual and author, was brave because he believed he had the truth on his side, his widow said.
Shariffah Fawziah Syed Yussoff Alsagoff, 79, said her husband had been called a communist and other names just because others feared his non-mainstream views.
“But he always had the courage to face his critics because the truth was on his side.“He knew what he was doing because he had read, studied, and done his research,” she told The Malaysian Insight.
Kassim, 84, died at 10am today at Kulim Hospital in Kedah near their home at the Kulim Golf and Country Resort after slipping into a coma yesterday.
He was first hospitalised on September 16, Malaysia Day, after he had breathing difficulties.
“My husband had this beautiful, calm expression on his face when he passed.
“He was a good man, a straightforward man. We were married for 57 years,” Shariffah Fawziah said when met at her home.
Shariffah Fawziah remembered how Kassim persevered through life, despite the challenges he faced, including a five-year detention under the Internal Security Act from 1976 to 1981.
Kassim was president of Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia at the time. The party was accused of having socialist and communist elements.
“He was released after Dr Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister. He just let him out without any conditions. They were good friends,” she said.
Shariffah Fawziah said many people had told her that Kassim was a famous man, but to her he was a very loving grandfather to their 11 grandchildren and a husband who wrote about her in his books and poems.
“He mentioned me in his books, praising me as the most hardworking housewife. I used to type his manuscripts,” she said.
Kassim’s niece, Rosni Hashim, 61, said Sharifah Fawziah was holding up well as she was a strong woman who had supported her husband through good and bad times.
“She cried earlier, saying she can’t fight with him anymore,” she said.
Rosni said her uncle went through difficult times just because his thoughts and views were different and many disagreed with him.
She said Kassim, who read and wrote so much about Islam, also held people who fought for unity in high regard.
“He placed high hopes on people who struggle for interfaith harmony,” she said.
Kassim’s son, Ahmad Shauqi Kassim said his father continued working in his home office and library until he fell ill and had to be warded.
“Without fail, he went to work from 2am to 6am everyday while everyone else slept. He was still writing until he had to go to the hospital,” he said.
Kassim eldest grandchild, Shazreena Adnan, 31, said her grandfather managed to finish his autobiography after Hari Raya a few months ago.
“I saw the draft he completed. He finished writing it but he won’t get to see it published.
“He was translating the Quran into Malay when he fell ill,” she said.
When Kassim was not writing or editing, he enjoyed listening to music in the living room or under the front porch, Shazreena said.
“He recently asked me to get him Beethoven and Schubert. I haven’t been able to get them for him,” she said with regret.
Ibrahim Isa, 85, Kassim’s classmate from his Sultan Abdul Hamid College days in Alor Star, regretted not being able to see him when he was hospitalised.
“He called me from the hospital and asked me to visit. But I live in Penang and I didn’t have anybody to drive me at the time.
“I have bad eyesight because of cataract so I can’t drive myself. I last saw him some six months ago,” he said when he visited Kassim’s widow and family earlier today.
In the past, Ibrahim visited Kassim from time to time, and the two would go to the country club for lunch and talk.
“We had good times. I always made him laugh when we talked.
“He told me of his troubles with the religious authorities. He said they tried to pin offences on him, twisting his views.
“But he never gave up the fight. He was small-sized but he had a big heart. He was bold. He was a cili padi,” he said.
Ibrahim said Kassim was brilliant and intelligent even when he was in school.
“He was a serious student. No nonsense when it came to his studies. Even then, he was already a principled person.”
Kassim is survived by his wife, son and two daughters. He is to be buried at the Masjid Al-Huda, Kelang Lama, cemetery in Kulim this evening after Isyak prayers. – October 10, 2017.