Book Review: ‘Falsafah Hidup’ by Hamka

This is my first post on a book review. I write a review every time after I finish reading a book. 

For those who don’t know, Hamka is the most prominent Nusantara philosopher and novelist of it’s time- the 20th century. Lived under the Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia until it’s independence, his thoughts become an inspiration and reference that are still relevant now.

His book titled ‘Falsafah Hidup‘, which means ‘Philosophy of life’, mainly talks about the purpose of life, in accordance to human’s capability to reason (akal) and the fact that we live in a society, not as individuals. With the humans capability to reason, one should be able to judge between what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s rewarding and what will inflict a loss. Hence, for a greater good, one must sacrifice. That, in reality, is what is wanted by everybody. He then elaborates it more and into bigger aspects like social and politics.

It’s a great philosophy. Hamka’s thoughts can advance one’s mind greatly. It’s like your mind is so old after reading it but your body is still young and pretty. According to my experience, you really need to delve into his point of view to fully grasp what he is talking about. The way he arranges his words and ideas makes it easy to understand him.

People with freedom of the mind are not influenced by others but by what he or she thinks as the truth, and he has the courage to speak it up and defend it despite being hated by others.

There are many interesting wise insights in this book that everyone would wish they have known earlier. One remarkable thought from him is that he claims that freedom of the mind is the highest degree of the mind’s advancement. Which is… true. So many people these days are influenced by either culture, the people around them or the norms that make them unable to have a clear reasoning on things. People with freedom of the mind are not influenced by others but by what he or she thinks as the truth, and he has the courage to speak it up and defend it despite being hated by others.

A politician with the freedom of mind would not lean towards mere popularity but governs his country with truth and objectivity. A scholar with a free mind would not subject it’s teachings to fit in with the norm, but so that the norm can fit into his teachings. Anyone with a free mind would not be fooled by instant gratification to only find out he will suffer in the end. He therefore chooses delayed gratification by sacrificing at first, and with a bigger and glorious return in the end.

What creates courage? Truth. -Hamka

Chapter 1- Explains generally about life, reason.
Chapter 2- Further elaboration about reason with the intervention of knowledge. Explains the responsibility of humans in using their reasoning skills.
Chapter 3- Talks about the natural law. Humans obey the natural law by using their reason. Failure to obey will cause unwanted effect.
Chapter 4- Those who reason are courteous. This chapter explains about courtesy, not only humans with humans, but also humans with God.
Chapter 5- Talks about simplicity, i.e not too much, not too little in life.
Chapter 6- Explains about courage, nobility, and belief in in one’s self.
Chapter 7- Explains about justice, freedom, and revolves his thoughts into a more political aspect.
Chapter 8- Talks about friendship. The correct idea of friendship. Friends are suppose to help each other improve by pointing out each other’s weakness.
Chapter 9- Explains Islam as a way of life.
Conclusion- The life wanted by God and genuine happiness.

Remember! Your true wealth is your independence and freedom. No one can buy it even with gold as big as mountain. –  Hamka

The down side of this book is Hamka’s notion about women. He somehow states that women are egoistic. To me, he is being a stereotype about women. He is not entirely sexist, he does say some good things about women too. Besides, there are some places where he gives politics a bad name. Politics to me is an integral part of human nature. Lastly, throughout the book, one can easily get the notion that the current state of the world is okay. The world is not okay. The Sharia is still not enforced and humanity is not even half to good. Other then that, this man really did a great job.

Unfortunately, there is not an English translation of the book at the moment. It only comes in the Indonesian version. It would be nice if someone makes an English translation of this book.  I strongly recommend this book to those who understand the language. Exceptional content.

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