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February 23, 2011

The Name Dzulkifli

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – When my son was born, we elected to choose a name reflecting his mixed heritage. By tradition, if the child was a girl, my wife would name him; and if a boy, I had the honors.


Thirty five years ago, I lived in the kampung with a boy a few years younger than I named Dzulkifli. When I returned a few years ago, I contacted him in a round about method and we re-established contact. I was welcomed back in the family and he attended my wedding and I his daughter’s marriage celebrations.


Dzul, as we call him, has become an internationally recognized scholar of biology at the University of Malaysia and works closely with the prime minister on a variety of peace keeping issues. The name I chose for my son was Dzul with Patrick, my middle name, as his as well. On an aside, my daughter said we had to keep the Irish going and I agreed.


But, what of the name Dzulkifli? The spelling is ancient Arabic as written in the al Qu’ran; however, most people now drop the “D.” We elected to keep the “D” in honor of my friend.


I found two references to the name in the al Qu’ran:


The first one, Chapter 21st Al-Anbiyaa’: Verse 85-86.


“And (remember) Ishmael, Idrees and Dzulkifli, all (men) of constancy and patience. We admitted them to our mercy, for they were righteous ones.”


The second one, Chapter 38th Saad: Verse 48


“And commemorate Ishmael, Elisha and Dzulkifli, each of them was of the company of the good.”


I was still puzzled by the name and I contacted a member of my Peace Corps kampung family who was studying in Cairo to become a scholar in the Islamic religion. He sent me the following fable which I would like to share:


“When Elisha grew old, he wanted to appoint a successor (Elisha is the leader of his people). He then gathered people and said that I would appoint the one who would promise to take up three things: to fast during the day, pray during the night and never gets angry. Someone among them stood and said, ‘I do this’. On the second day, he repeated the same speech and the same person stood and said, ‘I do this.’ He therefor appointed him.


“Satan ordered his supporters to accompany him. But later he took over the job himself. He came to him (Dzulkifli) in the form of a poor old man at midday (the only time when he used to take a nap) and knocked at the door.


“When he was asked, ‘Who is there?’ he said, ‘I’m a wronged man.’ He then received him and listened to him till the time passed and he could not sleep.


“He told him. ‘All right, come to me at the court and we shall do justice to you.’ But Satan did not go to the court.


“On the next day, he did the same thing and Dzulkifli again told him to meet him at the court. The old man did not come and went to Dzulkifli at the very same time the following day.


“When he was asked, ‘who are you?’ he said, ‘I’m the same wronged old man.’ Dzulkifli exclaimed: ‘Didn’t I ask you to come to the court?’


The old man said: ‘My opponents are the worst men I’ve ever seen. If they know that you have held a court session, they may say that they will give me back my property. But after the court, they will deny it.’


Dzulkifli said to him: ‘When I go to the court, come and meet me.’ He could not have his usual nap on both occasions.


“He went to the court but the old man didn’t come. When Dzulkifli felt sleepy, he asked his family to close the door and not to let anybody in because he needed to sleep.


“The same old man showed up again at that time, but the guard said to him: ‘Go away.’ The old man said: ‘I came to him yesterday and told him my story.’


“The guard said: ‘I have orders not to let anyone in.’ The old man climbed over a wall, got in and knocked on the door from the inside.


“Dzulkifli got up and said to the guard: ‘Haven’t I give you instructions in this regard?’ The guard said: ‘I am not to be blamed. Look where he came from.


“He looked at the door and found it still locked as it had been while the old man was in his room.


“Dzulkifli recognized him and said: ‘Are you Satan?’ Satan said: ‘Yes, I have done whatever I could in order to infuriate you.’ For this reason, Allah called him Dzulkifli because he ensured that he would assume the responsibility assigned to him.


. . . . . life is good. . . . .


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