about Qalam

Qalam and Edrus (Ahmad Lutfi)

Edrus, also sometimes known as Ahmad Lutfi, was the founding publisher of Qalam. Edrus was a local-born journalist of Arab origin who, after the Japanese occupation, ventured into journalism in Singapore. In 1950, Edrus began publishing Qalam. It was a monthly magazine on Islam and the Muslim people and culture, written in the Jawi script of Malay. Qalam was widely read among Muslims in the Malay world until it was stopped following the death of Edrus in 1969.

Articles in Qalam provide us with invaluable information on the activities and thoughts of Muslims living in the Malay world in the 1950s and 1960s. The articles are also especially informative with regard to Ikhwan al-Muslimin (the Muslim Brotherhood), which was established in Singapore in 1956. The Jawi articles in Qalam had a distribution beyond the state boundary of Singapore, and which was also read in Malaya, Indonesia, Borneo and southern Thailand, and the articles helped to highlight the existence of an important source for alternatives to the nationalist discourse on the modern history of the Malay world. Examining the concepts of bangsa (nation/ethnicity) and umat (ummah, religious community), which both appear in Qalam, may offer us a picture of the umat-based society that was proposed and promoted by Qalam, as opposed to the bangsa-based society that has been the social basis for Malaysian and Indonesian societies for the past 50 years.