Isnin, 4 Ogos 2008

Malay Concept of Man in History by Hussain Othman

Jurnal Peradaban Melayu, Jilid 5, Tahun 2008

Malay Concept of Man in History

Hussain Othman
University Tun Hussein Onn

Most often the Malay classical historical texts will only recorded the historical events related to the royal families and the noblemen. Why this happened? The most possible answer to this question is that the nature of the writing itself in which the king himself was the person who ordered the history of his kingdom to be recorded for the benefit of his children to come or in another word “…the works were authored under the command of the king”. The humble servant who accepted the command therefore should follow the direction precisely. Another possible answer is that the Malay literature was transformed almost entirely into written form soon after the coming of Islam and the written script is the Jawi script. In this regard, we need to understand that almost all of the early authors of the Malay historical literature who mastered the writing skill in Jawi scripts hailed from the court of the kings. Not only that, they were also appointed as official scribes of the kings, working and living around the court of the kings (Harun Mat Piah, 1993: 52-53). It is from the Malay court, the place from where everything begins, the behest of the king or royal family to compose historical writings felt upon the authors usually led by the Bendahara. The writing process initiated by the king or royal family and engaged by the court officials certainly focuses around the court, the life of the king, his family and the greatness of his kingdom. That is why finally the contents of these texts and including the titles itself carried the meaning of history as sejarah or sulalat, meaning “the genealogical tree of the royal family”.

There are however some misconceptions in looking through at the issue of special treatment on the king, royal family, dignitaries and the kingdom in the classical Malay historical texts with regard to the concept of man in Malay history. Firstly, people tend to draw a simple conclusion that each Malay king is so eager to record their history in a glorious manner so that they will be commemorated as a great man of the universe by their descendants and people to come. If this is the case, there must be at least one great historical book for each of the Malay king and which is not really the case. In actual fact is that their history was indeed recorded posthumously, i.e. only after their death and their reigns were concluded the history was then compiled under the instruction of their descendants, and most often it was executed after some hundred years after their times. Even then, the description of their greatness was not explicitly and constantly exposed. Another important point was that if the king really wanted his lifetime to be recorded in a glorious manner, he should do it instantly and we might during this present time discover that every historical remain will prove the king’s intention. As such Massignon (1959: 109) wrote, “It is true that some religions allude to “great souls”. Hindus call them mahatmas, Arabians abdal, and Christians saints, but they are usually ignored during their lifetime.” Secondly, often people are inclined to see the story of the kings in the classical Malay historical texts as purely based on the concept of the kingship or raja. Not many tend to look at a Malay king as a man, the fact is that each of them is a man and therefore they should be treated as a man. As a man, he should carry on his shoulder certain duties and responsibilities according to his religion.[1] It was true that the history of the Malay kingship is among the major characteristics of the Malay historical texts. But, we must not then focus the concept of man in Malay history based on the concept of Malay kingship. Rather, we must direct our attention to the concept of duties and responsibilities.[2] Having experienced the three great religions of the world namely Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, the Malays had indeed accumulated a number of great ideas and concepts including the concept of man. Fortunately, this aspect of the concept of man was also embodied in the classical texts of the Malay history particularly in the selected texts of this study.

Malay Man in Pre-Islamic Perspectives
Historically, Hinduism was the first proper religion adopted by the Malays and following that this new religion had accordingly introduced a new understanding of the concept of man.[3] The concept of man in Hinduism was essentially based on obligation, duty and righteousness or dharma.[4] This value included sincerity, honesty, non-injury, cleanliness, control of the senses, love, forbearance, and the like (Titus and Smith, 1974: 374). All men without exception are subjected to the dharma and this include the Rajas, noble men and alike. The “Rajaship” or nobleness is true as far as seen from the perspective of their relationship to the kingdom, outside the kerajaan the Raja and noblemen are nothing (Milner, 1985: 25). Moreover, even if the Raja is seen from this perspective, he is still subjected to the dharma. It is through this understanding that the concept of man in Malay history during the period of Hinduism could exactly be understood. From the perspective of Hinduism, man in Malay history is seen as a selected person who has been given the responsibility and the duty to govern this universe.[5] Interestingly, one of the governing theories in Indian perspective is seen from the perspective of a marriage. Coomaraswamy (1942: 1) wrote,
“It may be said that the whole of Indian political theory is implied and subsumed in the words of the marriage formula “I am That, thou art This, I am Sky, thou art Earth,” etc. addressed by the Brahman Priest, the Purohita, to the King in AB. VIII. 27.”

In this marriage, the king is compared to a bride or a wife (the Regnum) and the Purohita, a priest representing the Brahman or religious entity is the bridegroom or the husband (the Sacerdotium). Purohita means “one put in front,” “one who takes precedence,” and he is the King’s Brahman adviser and minister. As a husband, his spiritual authority is preceding the political and temporal power of the king. And as a wife to the divine entity, the king is dutiful to rule by the divine right (Coomaraswamy, 1942: 9). According to Indian concept of divine marriage, “the marriage” between the Purohita and the king was actually following a divine mode (Eliade, 1971: 23), “Marriage rites too have a divine model, and human marriage reproduces the hierogamy, more especially the union of heaven and earth. “I am heaven,” says the husband “thou art earth” (dyaur aham, pritivi tvam; Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, VI, 4, 20),” Because the king is a divine bride or “wife”, who was subjected to the instruction of his “husband”, certainly the main focus during this ceremonial occasion felt on him. The eyes of the guests certainly looking forward to see him, to share his happiness and to offer some blessing words. Malay historians are “the guests” to “the wedding ceremony” of the king and it was their priority to say more about the king and less about the guests and other things. This fact might well explain why their stories were dominantly taking a wider space in the Malay historical writings.

This aspect of divine marriage had also brought us to view the story of Bath and the chiri in Sejarah Melayu from a totally different perspective. More often than not, the story of Bath was seen from the perspective of mythical and fantasies, and at most this story was taken as an explanation on how and from where the king’s title came from. As such Maxwell (1881: 83) explained about the chiri“… and it is always read when the newly-appointed holder of any one of important offices of the state is invested with his title and honours.” Thus the phrase (Brown, 1952: 25), “And Bath gave to the Raja the title of Sri Tri Buana” was taken literally as the most significant proclamation of the chiri. In fact, the role of chiri is rather much more significant and important than that. The chiri is indeed a marital agreement between the Sacerdotium and the Regnum, the spiritual authority and the temporal power. The Sejarah Melayu recorded the chiri recited by Bath (Winstedt, 1938: 56),

“Aho svasti paduka sri maharaja srimat sri spst suran bum buji bal pekerma sklng krt makt rana muka tri buana prsng sakrit bna tngk derma rana shran ktran besinggasana ran wikerma udt rtt pauik sdir diw did perabu di kal muli malk sri derma raja-raja permaisuri.” Maka raja itu digelar-nya oleh Bath Seri Teri Buana.”[6]

Brown (1952: 25) attempted to translate this chiri,

“Hail to his Highness, the Sri Maharaja, ruler of the whole Suvarna-bhumi, whose diadem is adorned with the happiness of strength and victory…adornment of the three worlds…worlds…law…gone for protection…throne…sunrise of valour jewel…with gods and demons… to the time of the dissolution of the Universe, the coronal wreath of the righteous king, the king, the supreme lord.”

Although the translation seemed incomplete and vague, there were however some important remarks demonstrated the significant aspects of the chiri and how it could further explain its function as a marital bondage between the Sacerdotium and the Regnum. Among other things, it described about the origin of the king who is no more than the creation of God and his position as the Ruler of a particular kingdom. His semi-divine character is not necessarily expressing his higher level personality, instead it expressed the close relationship between God and man especially the one attained through this marriage. Another important thing is that, as a ruler, man is a “wife” to the God’s commandments and because of that he has to be the righteous ruler or “the faithful wife” to God’s commandments. The Brahman’s Priest who acted as a “husband” to the king, had to provide the king a true and correct counsel. If both the counsel and ruler accomplished their duty rightfully then the result is the goodness and prosperity. Once the husband and wife carried out their duty genuinely as Coomaraswamy (1942: 12-13) remarked, “When the Sacerdotium and the Regnum act together, then both posses the counselling power” and “… thus does the will of God on earth.” The kingdom in particular and the universe as a whole will be guarded from any catastrophe (Coomaraswamy, 1942: 46),

“It is precisely this reductio regni ad sacerdotium that is effected in the Rajasuya, in the ritual marriage of the King and the Purohita; and it is only when this marriage has been accomplished that the realm is guarded” (rastram gupitam), i.e. by the Brahma as rastragopa, as a wife is guarded by her husband.”

However, in this divine marriage, the duty of the king is much more important compare to the act of the Brahman’s Priest especially to ensure his kingdom and his people being guarded and prospered, “the king, in other words, is directly responsible for the fertility of the land; the fall of rain in due season depends upon his righteousness or default” (Coomaraswamy, 1942: 65).[7] Thus, “We can understand better now the traditional and world-view doctrine that the very life and fertility of the realm depend upon the King” (Coomaraswamy, 1942: 68). Furthermore, what is more important to be emphasized is the result of the marriage, “…the cosmogonic structure of all these matrimonial rites; it is not merely a question of imitating an exemplary model, the hierogamy between heaven and earth; the principal consideration is the result of that hierogamy, i.e., the cosmic Creation” (Eliade, 1971: 24). The cosmic creation in this marriage is the joyful living condition of the people resulted from the righteous deeds and acts of the virtuous king who followed the commandments from the heaven. The chaos on the other hand, is the result of his misdeeds which is against the Heaven’s desire. Historical texts therefore recorded these creative and chaotic events including the events about the king and his progeny. Genealogical tree of the kings from the first to the last and their descendants which are the results of this divine marriage will also be given its special accounts in the historical texts. Malay historical texts such as Hikayat Raja Pasai, Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa are indeed full with these “results of the hierogamy” between the king (the Regnum, the wife) and the counsellor (the Sacerdotium, the husband) who is representing the Brahman in this world. Whenever the Malay kings acted in the righteous way, the people and the kingdom will be living in the joyous and prosperous, and contrary to that the people will suffer and the kingdom will fall. Other important aspect of the concept of man as illustrated by the story of the kings in the classical Malay historical texts is the quality of self-governing of a king which is closely related to the concept of internal man. Although the king has been given a great kingdom to rule and govern, his very own kingdom, his “City of God” is much more important to look after before he steps forward to put himself as the ruler of the external kingdom,

“In last analysis the man himself is the “City of God” and it can as well be said of him as of any other city that “The city can never otherwise be happy unless it is drawn by those painters who copy a divine original” (Coomaraswamy, 1942: 71).[8]

A good quality of self-governing character must be possessed by the king and he should be able to control his self and not being controlled by his own self. Thus,

“The essence of the traditional politics amounts to this, that “Self-government’ (svaraj) depends upon self-control (atmasamyama), Rule on ruliness. The King is such by Divine Right and Appointment, and by the same token the Executive of a higher than his own will; or if he rules only by might and does his own will, he is Tyrant and must be disciplined” (Coomaraswamy, 1942: 85).

Interestingly, the Sejarah Melayu recorded the covenant or wa’ad between Sri Tri Buana and Demang Lebar Daun, if seen from the perspective of self-governing, it is a clear documented agreement between two parties, who shared the quality of a man to control their own self. This quality of man is not particularly limited to the king who was granted the position of governing. In fact it was the quality that most importantly should be possessed by each individual who ceaselessly seeking to improve himself and not purposely to gain something only for his materialistic pleasure. In this aspect of the quality of man Coomaraswamy (1942: 86) remarked,

“The same applied to the individual who, if only concerned with the good of the work to be done and not with himself, and if he thinks of “himself” only as an instrument governed by his art, is worthy of all honor, but if he asserts and seeks to express himself, worthy of all dishonor and shame.”[9]

Thus, the concept of Malay kingship expressed in the classical Malay historical texts should be understood from a broader perspective, i.e. from the perspective of the relationship between man and God. Instead of expressing the exclusiveness of the Malay kings, the concept of Malay kingship was in fact expressing a comprehensive understanding of the concept of man in Malay history. Looking through from the Indian or Hindu-Buddhist perspective, the Malay kingship is not an Absolute Monarchy and in fact they are the men of duties or in another word, their entire life and death are subjected and bonded to their duties. Thus, Coomaraswamy (1942: 86) was right when he said, “The Kingship envisaged by the Indian and traditional doctrine is thus as far removed as could well be from what we mean when we speak of an “Absolute Monarchy” or of “individualism”.”

Finally, among the most essential aspects of the concept of man in Indian thought is the concept of his life circle. This aspect is related to the question of the future of a man. Hinduism in this respect shared almost identical understanding about the life circle of a man with Buddhism. According to Hinduism (Mahadevan, 1984: 62), “The migration of the soul into a series of bodies is called samsara or bhavacakra (wheel of existence). It goes on till the cycle of karma is broken through and the soul attains release consisting in its realization of God (moks}a).” In Buddhism, man’s worldly life was trapped within the physical body and if he is again to be born in the physical body in the next life he is really living in the wheel of samsara. The only way out from this circle of samsara is by attaining nirvana as Eliade (1959: 176) further explained, “On the mythological plane, the paradigmatic gesture of transcending the world is illustrated by Buddha proclaiming that he has “broken” the cosmic egg, the “shell of ignorance,” and has obtained “the blessed, universal dignity of Buddha.” This aspect of life circle could be traced back to the story of Raja Bersiong and Raja Buloh Betong in Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa and Princess Buloh Betong in Hikayat Raja Pasai. Raja Bersiong escaped from the persecution of his people and vanished into the clump of bamboo (Siti Hawa, 1998: 60), and Raja Buloh Betong after experiencing the severe injuries of his body resulted from a series of battles was finally returned to his origin of bamboo (Siti Hawa, 1998: 120). Puteri Buloh Betong in Hikayat Raja Pasai was suddenly vanished from this world immediately after her husband plucked the golden hair on her head (Jones, 1999: 7). At least two conclusions could be made regarding the stories of these three figures of Malay history and its relation to the concept of man’s life circle. First, Raja Bersiong and Raja Buloh Betong in Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa did not succeed to attain the moks}a or nirvana. They finally returned to their origin and had to face again the samsara in the next life. One might find very easy to accept the position of Raja Buloh Betong in this conclusion since his origin is from the bamboo, but certainly difficult to understand why Raja Bersiong who was born out from a father who was a normal human being and a mother who was a princess of gergasi (goliath) vanished inside the clump of bamboo. This problem could be answered once we have a certain understanding of the symbolic feature of a bamboo tree in the Malay ancient society. In Malay pre-Islamic belief, the bamboo was considered as the origin of everything in this world as mentioned in an oral story from Perak (Maxwell, 1881: 522),

“Now at that time there was a Buluh Zat, which, after a time, burst asunder in the middle, and Pawangs say that it was not until after the Buluh Zat had broken that there were heaven and earth, land, fire, water, and air, and that the world then first took substance. After the breaking of the Buluh Zat the sky was formed and the vault of heaven was set up, and the earth and the mountains of Kaf became solid…”

Because of his misdeeds, murdering and creating the chaos in his state, Raja Bersiong was considered as failed to break from the samsara and unable to reach the moksa or nirvana. Thus, he has to return to the bamboo clump symbolized his returning to the similar life circle of the past. He then has to experience once again the samsara in his circle of worldly life and he might again have an opportunity to free himself from entrapping in this bodily life. In the meantime, Puteri Buloh Betong in Hikayat Raja Pasai could be considered as successfully attained the moksa or nirvana. Though she was unfortunately murdered by her own husband, she was really an innocent wife who has to face the death unwillingly and therefore deserve to attain the moksa or nirvana. To wrap up this discussion on the concept of man contained in the Malay classical historical texts from the perspective of Indian thought or Hinduism-Buddhism, it should be emphasized that most of the concepts of man from Indian perspective were preserved in the form of mythological symbols. These symbols could only be understood through a proper understanding of the symbolic teaching of both Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Islamic influence which made possible for the birth of numerous Malay historical texts was also responsible for the formation of a new perspective on the concept of man. A tremendous transformation of the Malay worldviews in every aspect of living took place since the beginning of the process of the islamization. The transformation was initiated by the conversion of the Malay kings into Islam. It was the most significant event which later influenced the noblemen and the people at large to accept Islam. The conversion of Merah Silau into Islam in Hikayat Raja Pasai brought almost the entire Pasai to become the first state in the Malay Archipelago to accept Islam without force (Jones, 1999: 16), “So they were all willingly professed the profession of faith sincerely and affirmed it with their heart.” Likewise, the conversion of Raja Tengah into Islam had made possible to all the Malaccan people to embrace Islam (Winstedt, 1938: 84), “So, the Bendahara and all of the noblemen embraced the Islamic religion, and all Malaccan people small and big were asked by the king to embrace Islam.” Meanwhile, the account of the islamization of the king and the people in Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa was described in such a way that it happened drastically. The text described how the king and the people rejected their previous beliefs and practices, throwing out every single vase of liquor and burning to ash all the idols (Siti Hawa, 1998: 101-103). In summary, these important events of the islamization of the kings and the people of the Malay world revealed that the transformation of the worldviews took place in a massive scale and had also directly became a major spark to the formation of the new Malay concept of man in history. One may argue that Islam was only a thin crust on pre-Islamic beliefs of animistic, Hinduism and Buddhism. On the contrary, Islam has indeed brought a tremendous transformation on the concept of man which is totally a breakdown from the crust of the pre-Islamic beliefs. It was true to say that the concept of man as demonstrated in the concept of the relationship between man or king (the Regnum) and God (the Sacerdotium) in Hinduism discussed previously might be comparable to the Islamic concept of the relationship between man and God. But one must bear in his mind that the Islamic concept of God is extremely distinguished from the Hindu concept of God. Since Hinduism is not a Semitic religion, a religion based on the concept of the Absolute Unity of God, it was then unable or hardly be able to express its concept of man and Absolute Being further beyond the material and nature’s symbols (Al-Attas, 1990: 28-29). This is the departing point in which the concept of man and the kingship in Islamic perspective was not only extrinsically but also intrinsically different from Hinduism and other Indian thoughts.

Malay Man in Islamic Perspective
There are at least three points that proved the distinctive characteristics of the concept of man from Islamic perspective. First, Hikayat Raja Pasai narrated the story of Merah Silau converted to Islam and he used the title zillu’llahi fi’l-‘alam, the shadow of Allah in this universe (Jones, 1999: 13). Second, in his deathbed, Bendahara Paduka Raja advised his children and family members to obey the righteous king. According to him, the righteous king and the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) are just like the two jewels bonded together in a diamond ring, “raja-raja yang adil itu dengan Nabi Allah umpama dua permata pada sa-bentok chinchin.” And the righteous king he added, was also the representative (al-mutawakkil ‘ala Allahi fi’l-‘alam) of Allah in this world, “lagi pun yang raja itu umpama ganti Allah” (Winstedt, 1938: 144). Finally, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa narrated the story of Raja Phra Ong Mahawangsa who was, after his conversion to Islam, named by Syaikh Abdullah as Sultan Muzalfal Shah. The name of Muzalfal however most probably corrupted during the process of compilation or copying. The correct spelling must be “Muzaffar Shah”, the combination of Arabic and Persian word means “The Victorious King”. This name is not the main concern here, but the change of the title from “Raja” to “Sultan” was very significant. This aspect of the shifting of the title from “Raja” to “Sultan” did not accidentally happened, and the account on this event was specifically narrated in the text (Siti Hawa, 1998: 102-10),

“In what name is our king was referred to?’ Asked Sheikh Abdullah to the Fourth Minister. ‘With the name of Raja Phra Ong Mahawangsa,’ replied the Fourth Minister. ‘If that is the case, let us now change it into Islamic language, so that it will be easy for us to put into the mosque’s weekly sermon during the Friday … say his name is Sultan Muzalfal Shah… anyhow in the Quran, the name of ‘Sultan’ is sacred and the highest name from any other names in the world,’ said Sheikh Abdullah.”

Based on the above three points, with the titles of zillu’llahi fi’l-‘alam, al-mutawakkil ‘ala Allahi fi’l-‘alam and the basic title of “sultan” we can draw a conclusion that the concept of a man in Islamic perspective is distinguished from the Hindu concept of man. Nonetheless, there was also a parallel understanding of both concepts when we look again from the perspective of duties and responsibilities. Islamic concept of man in Malay history also came with the concept of man with the duties and responsibilities, the custodian and the guardian of the universe as comparable to the concept of Hinduism as discussed previously (Nasr, 1997: 19). However, if we look deeper into the esoteric meaning of the above Islamic titles of the Malay king, we would certainly find a great distinction between Islamic and Hindu perspectives.

When a Malay king was given the title of “a shadow of Allah or zillu’llahi, his position is not as superior as the position of Allah Almighty. In contrast he is almost nothing to Allah, his contribution will not make Allah’s Great Possession (milku-Allah) increase, not even as tiny as an atom and his withdrawal will never be able to ruin Allah’s Great Possession. He is all subjected to the Will and the Authority of Allah and basically it is all correct that the shadow is following his master in the form but he himself owned no form unless his master conferred him with the form. The title of zillu’llahi to a king therefore is comparable to the reality of the existence of man and nature, in which Hamzah Fansuri (as quoted by Al-Attas, 1970: 242) said, ““Sungguhpun pada zahirnya ada ia berwujud, tetapi wahmi juga, bukan wujud haqiqi; seperti baying-bayang dalam chermin, rupanya ada hakikatnya tiada - Although outwardly it exists it is nothing but Appearance and not reality; like the image (reflected) in the mirror, though possessing form, does not possess real being.” How then could a king, who did not possess his own real being able to own other things? Thus, the first aspect of the concept of man in Islamic perspective is that we own nothing and everything in this universe did not belong to us including ourselves. Allah is the One, Who owns this universe and all mankind. Therefore, we are subjected to His Will and Authority in every stage of life.

Man according to Islam was purposely created to be a vicegerent of Allah on earth (khalifatul-Allahi fi al-‘alamin), the representative of Allah on this world (al-mutawakkil ‘ala Allahi fi’l-‘alam). The Qur’an (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 30) mentioned (meaning), “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth.” In accordance to his position as a the vicegerent of Allah in this universe, man was created on the best stature (ah}san taqwim) as declared by Allah in Al-Qur’an, chapter at-Tin, verse 4. The term ahsan taqwim according the 9th/15th century Sufi commentator Kamal al-Din Husayn Kashifi meant, “God created man as the most complete and perfect theophany, the most universal and all embracing theatre of divine hierophany, so that he may become the bearer of the divine trust (amanah) and the source of unlimited effusion” (Quoted by Nasr, 1991: 26). Thus, as a vicegerent of Allah on this universe he should not be proud of his position, rather he should carry the weighty burden of trust (amanah) – the trust and responsibility to rule according to the Will of God and His pleasure (Al-Attas, 1990: 4, Schimmel, 1962: 20-21 and Nasr, 1978: 149-150). To carry out his amanah, he must live the righteous life and follow not his own lusts and desires as requested by Allah to the prophet David (Al-Qur’an, Surah Saad, 38: 26) (meaning),

“O David! We did indeed make thee a vicegerent on earth: so judge thou between men in Truth (and justice): nor follow thou the lusts (of thy heart), for they will mislead thee from the Path of Allah: for those who wander astray from the Path of Allah, is a Penalty Grievous, for that they forget the Day of Account.”

The Malay kings were the selected persons granted by Allah the amanah; the responsibilities, duties and obligations to rule their kingdom. Again the word “Sultan” which particularly referred to the concept of the authority granted by Allah to the selected person was purposely given in order to assist His servants conducting their jobs as khalifatul-Allahi fi al-‘alamin. As such Allah has given the authority to the prophet Moses and Aaron so that they could be able to perform their duties to Allah (Al-Qur’an, Surah Al-Qasas, 28: 35) (meaning),

“He said: "We will certainly strengthen thy arm through thy brother, and invest you both with authority (sultan), so they shall not be able to touch you: with Our Signs shall ye triumph, you two as well as those who follow you.”
Thus, the Malay kings who were granted the title of “Sultan” must realize their duties and responsibilities or amanah in this world. The aspect of “wasiyyah” or “wasiat” of the kings, especially the “deathbed will” was an important aspect of the Malay classical texts that could possibly prove this point. At time when Sultan Malikul Saleh is about to depart this world, he left the wasiat to his grandchildren, Malikul Mahmud and Malikul Mansur. The phrase in his wasiat which mentioned (Jones, 1999: 25), “Adapun peninggalku ini baik-baik kamu kedua memeliharakan pekerjaan al-amr bi’l-ma’ruf wa’l-nahy ‘an-ilmunkar - When I was departed, both of you must take care of the duty to call for the goodness and to prohibit from the evil,” can be clearly seen as the conscience of the Malay kings to their duties, responsibilities and obligations or amanah. Thus, the title of “Sultan” is to be taken as the authority granted by Allah to perform the goodness and righteous deeds and prohibit the evil and wrong doings.[10] A “Sultan” then must call for an assistance from Allah to ensure the amanah been carried out completely, “Say: "O my Lord! let my entry be by the Gate of Truth and Honour, and likewise my exit by the Gate of Truth and Honour; and grant me from Thy Presence an authority (Sultan) to aid (me)” (Al-Qur’an, Surah Al-Isra’, 17: 80). This concept of Sultan as a man of duties, responsibilities and obligated was also true to all Malay Muslims, whether as rulers they are or as peasants they are.[11] Every Muslim is a caretaker or “ra‘in” to his own kingdom. They were individually burdened with the amanah or trust. According to Al-Attas, the trust implies responsibility to rule with justice, and the ‘rule’ means not simply ruling in the socio-political sense, nor in the controlling of nature in the scientific sense, but more fundamentally in its encompassing of the meaning of nature (al-tabi‘ah), it means the ruling, governing, controlling and maintaining of man by his self or his rational soul (Al-Attas, 1990: 4). There was a sound hadith mentioned this aspect of individual as a “ra‘in” in a comprehensive manner,
“Ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with them, reported: The Prophet (may peace be upon him) said: every one of you is a caretaker, and is responsible for his consignment. The ruler is a caretaker of people, and is responsible for his subjects. A man is a caretaker of his family, and is responsible for them. A woman is a caretaker of her husband's house and children, and is responsible for them. A slave is a caretaker of his master's property, and is responsible for it. All of you are caretakers, and all of you are responsible for their consignment.” Narrated by Al-Bukhari in the book of Al-Jumu‘ah, hadith no. 844. Muslim in al-‘Imarah, hadith no. 3408. Tirmizi in al-Jihad, hadith no. 1627. Abu Dawud in al-Kharraj wa al-‘Imarah wa al-Fai, hadith no. 2539 and Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, Vol. 2, pp.5, 15, 54, 108, 111 and 121.

This hadith therefore has broaden our understanding upon the concept of man. This broader concept was also embedded in the Malay classical historical texts as mentioned in Sejarah Melayu. Lying weak on his deathbed, Sultan Alauddin Ri’ayat Syah advised his son Sultan Mahmud Syah and reciting the above hadith he said (Winstedt, 1938: 150), “Segala raja-raja akan ditanyai Allah daripada segala kebelaannya daripada segala rakyatnya; sebab demikianlah harus engkau berbuat adil dan saksama - All kings will be asked by Allah upon all of their subjects; therefore you must be fair and do just.” The advice of Bendahara Paduka Raja to Seri Nara Diraja, Seri Maharaja Tun Mutahir also worth to be considered. Sejarah Melayu recorded (Winstedt, 1938: 144),

““Sa-telah itu, maka Bendahara memandang pula pada Seri Nara Diraja: Maka kata Bendahara pada Seri Nara Diraja, Seri Maharaja Tun Mutahir, “Mutahir! Engkaulah kelak menjadi orang besar, daripada aku pun lebeh kebesaranmu, tetapi jangan pada bicharamu engkau bapa saudara Raja. Jikalau melintas pada hatimu engkau bapa saudara Raja, engkaulah dibunoh orang - Soon afterward, looking at Seri Nara Diraja, the Bendahara said to Seri Nara Diraja Seri Maharaja Tun Mutahir, ‘Mutahir! You will be a great man, to my greatness you are greater, but don’t think that because of you are the uncle to the Raja. Even if it cross in your mind that you are the uncle of the Raja, you will be murdered by the people.”

This advice was so essential not only from the emotional perspective and not because of its feature which contained a prediction that soon became true, but more importantly because of the conceptual understanding of the Bendahara upon the concept of man. The greatness of a man according to him is not because of his position and relationship to the great people, instead it was because of his righteous deeds and responsibilities accomplished by him and his sole submission to Allah. Hence, the man of duty or trust in Islamic perspective as seen from these classical Malay historical texts is the righteous man who submitted his self only to Allah and to no one else. This is the great distinction as in comparison with the Hindu perspective which explained the relationship between the man and God in a vaguely manner. There was no concept of submission to God in Hindu perspective especially with regard to the concept the Absolute Unity of God. The concept of marriage as previously explained had not been able to determine the proper position of God within the relationship of both man and God. In most of the instances, God seemed to be seen in a passive manner and man is the ultimate force that decided everything. Coomaraswamy (1940: 65, 68) said, “the king, in other words, is directly responsible for the fertility of the land; the fall of rain in due season depends upon his righteousness or default.” Thus,

“We can understand better now the traditional and world-view doctrine that the very life and fertility of the realm depend upon the King, to whom accordingly it is said: “For our bread (urjé) art thou, for rain unto us art thou, for our paternity of offspring (prajanam… adhhipatyaya; pati here as in ‘Prajapati’), … for all this have we aspersed (abhyásicamahi) thee”. For unless the King fulfils his primary function as Patron of the Sacrifice (yajamana) the circulation of the “Shower of Wealth (vásor dhara), the limitless, inexhaustible food of the God” that falls from the Sky as Rain and is returned from the Earth to the Sky in the smoke of the burnt-offering will be interrupted. ”

This concept of the king as all pervading and sole power in this universe comparable to the homocentric worldview of Arab Jahiliyyah in which according to Izutsu (2000: 77), “Man was the sole conceptual pole to which no other basic pole stood in fundamental opposition.” In Islamic perspective, the Malay king is not granted with the Divine power to do such thing as making sure the falling of the rain and to be in command of other natural phenomenal. In this, the Quranic concept of man which explained the principle of the opposition between man and God should be observed carefully. This principle is well described by Diagram 1. The oval circle with two principal points of reference upon it, opposed to each other, one from above, the other from below. In this circle, the position of Malay kings are equal to the other Malay people and they are basically al-insan or al-nas who stand opposite to God.

According to Izutsu (2000: 77-78), there are at least four distinguished characters of the concept of man in Islamic perspective in relation to God. First, ontological relation: between God as the ultimate source of human existence and man as the representative of the world of being which owes its very existence to God. In more theological terms, the Creator-creature relation between God and man. Second, communicative relation: here, God and man are brought into close relation with each other – God, of course, taking the initiative through mutual communication and from God side, the Revelation or wahy and the signs (ayat). While from human side, the du‘a or prayer and other ritual and worship activities. Third, Lord-servant relation: God is the Lord (Rabb) who has a majesty, sovereignty and absolute power, and man is His servant (‘abd) a whole set of concepts humbleness, modesty, absolute obedience, and other properties that demanded of a servant. Fourth, Ethical relation: In God there are the infinite goodness, mercy, forgiveness and benevolence on one hand, and on the other are the wrath, severe, strict and unrelenting justice. On human side, the basic contrast between thankfulness (shukr) on the one hand, and the God fearing attitude (taqwa), on the other. All these four characteristics of the relation between God and man are obviously lacking in the Hindu perspective since their concept of the Absolute Unity of God is hindered and ambiguous. In the meantime, there was another ontological conception of man contained in the classical Malay historical texts understood from the Sufi’s perspective.[12] This ontological perspective was a progression from Izutsu’s explanation above. Through this perspective, man was seen as an image of God in this universe. He is like a bubble, the universe is the wave and God is the ocean. Fansuri said (quoted by Al-Attas, 1970:, 319), “God created Adam in the Image of the Merciful, for the Merciful is like the ocean and Adam a bubble (in its waves).” This understanding of the concept of man was in line with the title of zillu’llahi fil ‘alam or “the shadow of Allah in this universe” carried by the Malay kings.[13] Fansuri explained this concept of the shadow of Allah, “Although outwardly it exists it is nothing but Appearance and not reality; like the image (reflected) in the mirror, though possessing form, does not possess real being.”
Man in Islamic concept carried a potential of deficiencies, the potential that exhibited in his very own name “insan”, forgetfulness as mentioned by Al-Attas (1990: 2-3)“But man is also “composed of forgetfulness (nisyan) – and he is called insan basically precisely because, having testified to himself the truth of the covenant he sealed with God, which entails obedience of His commands and prohibitions, he forgot (nasiya) to fulfill his duty and his purpose.” As a human being, a Sultan was also subjected to this deficiencies and there was a time when they fallen into the misdeeds. The classical Malay historical texts evidently described these aspects of the deficiencies of the Sultans , the descriptions however not only took into account their misdeeds but also their repentance. Hikayat Raja Pasai narrated the story of Sultan Malikul Mahmud, who breached the wasiat of his grandfather by harming his brother Sultan Malikul Mansur and his Chief Minister. Realizing his misdeed and repented he said (Jones, 1999: 32), “Wah terlalu sekali ahmak budiku! Karna perempuan seorang, saudaraku kuturunkan dari atas kerajaannya dan menterinya pun kubunuh. Maka baginda pun menyesallah, lalu ia menangis - Alas, what a fool I have been, all because of a woman I drove my brother from his kingdom, and his chief minister I put to death. Conscience-stricken he burst into tears.” Sejarah Melayu recorded the misdeeds of Sultan Mahmud Syah who wrongfully put the Bendahara Seri Maharaja and his family members to death. Soon he realized his fault and said (Winstedt, 1938: 187), “Maka dilihat oleh Sultan Mahmud Shah saperti berita orang itu tiada sunggoh; maka baginda pun terlalu mashghul dan menyesal oleh membunoh Bendahara Seri Maharaja tiada dengan pereksa - He was prostrated with grief and repented bitterly that he had put Bendahara Sri Maharaja to death without due inquiry.” His grief and repentance was not only momentarily but proved through his action in which he abdicated himself from the throne and took up his abode at Kayu Ara (Winstedt, 1938: 189). Man in his nature composed a quality of forgetful and because of that he is prone to fall into sinful and misdeed. On the other hand, man was also composed of the quality of repentance and therefore once realized his sinful he will sooner or later seek repentance and forgiveness from God. This idea of forgetfulness, sinfulness and repentance was also prevailed in the classical Malay historical texts as seen from the stories of Sultan Malikul Mahmud of Pasai and Sultan Mahmud of Malacca. However, the question arose regarding these stories, what is the conceptual understanding of man embedded in stories? Now and then, the act of repentance in Malay Islamic community is common among the sinful men regardless of their social and economic status. But what is the significance of the acts of repentance recorded in the classical Malay historical texts? This is among the most important aspects that need to be discussed thoroughly in order to get a proper understanding of the Islamic concept of man in Malay history. Understanding the Malay viewpoint on the origin of man, the purpose of his worldly life and his final destination is the most important thing that will guide us to understand the concept of man in Malay history. In this respect the essential concept that should be in the major attention here is the concept of fitrah or the spiritual nature of human being. Yasien Mohamed (1998: 6) wrote,

“Within his spiritual nature lies the deep, universal moral intuition that human beings are creatures of God to be respected. A return to his soul or his spiritual nature will require of him to return to its sources of nourishment. He will then rediscover the origin of his moral intuitions which is his innate spiritual nature or fitrah. By so doing he will come to know his Creator, for “he who knows his self, knows his Lord.”

Truly, the conceptual understanding of fitrah in Islamic perspective is related to the origin of man as a spiritual person who came from Allah and he will then return to Him. Syaikh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (1993: 14) said, “Then there is the spiritual being of man, or the spiritual man, who is called the pure man. His goal is total closeness to Allah. The only way to this end is the knowledge of truth (haqiqa).” One important aspect of a spiritual man is called soul or self (nafs) which governs his bodily form.[14] It is through the improvement of nafs that the self of a man could be transformed into “the Self”. The term “Self” Corbin (1969: 95) explained,

“…as we shall employ it here, implies neither the one nor the other acceptance. It refers neither to the impersonal Self, to the pure act of existing attainable through efforts comparable to the techniques of yoga, nor to the Self of the psychologists. The word will be employed here solely in the sense given it by Ibn ‘Arabi and numerous other Sufi theosophists when they repeated the famous sentence: He who knows himself knows hisLord. Knowing one’s self, to know one’s God; knowing one’s Lord, to know one’s self.”

In order to transform one self into “the Self” the nafs should have to go through certain stages of spiritual journey. The nafs of a forgetful man is called al-nafs al-ammarah (the soul which inspires evil). One who controlled and improved his self through certain spiritual exercises will be able to transform his al-nafs al-ammarah into nafs al-lawwamah (the blaming soul) gaining greater awareness of its own nature (fitrah). Further on he could also be able to improve his nafs into nafs al-mutmainnah (the soul at peace) and finally into the highest transmutation of nafs called nafs al-radiyah (the satisfied soul) (Nasr, 1993: 18-19). The spiritual exercises practised by a man involve the purification of his heart or al-Qalb the place where the intuitive illumination was received in order to guide his soul or nafs moving upward from al-nafs al-ammarah to the nafs al-radiyah (Lings, 1975: 45-62). The most important practice of purification is tawbah or repentance as Syaikh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (1993: 31) said, “Certain levels and stages in man’s spiritual evolution have been mentioned: let it be known that each of these levels is obtained primarily through repentance…True and total repentance is the first step.” Finally we come to the conclusion regarding the concept of man in Malay history understood from the story of the forgetful, the sinful and the repented man. Sultan Malikul Salih of Pasai, Sultan Mahmud of Malacca and Raja Phra Ong Mahawangsa or Sultan Muzalfal Syah of Kedah are among the Malay man who experienced this cycle of life from fitrah to the world of form and then back to the fitrah, from the Self to self and then to the Self again. Rather than physical and bodily men, they were in fact the spiritual men. Thus, the concept of man in Malay history went further beyond any other concept of man in modern history. Whereas the modern concept of man in history viewed man only from the bodily perspective and neglecting the spiritual perspective, the Malay concept of man in history viewed man more from the spiritual perspective.

Concluding Comments
Who is the Malay man in history? It was not very easy to answer this question unless we go back to the root of the Malay historical thought and learn intimately their extrinsic and intrinsic meaning. Based on the above discussion, we have reached the conclusion that a Malay man is a religious man whose personal and social lives represented by the close relationship between him and God and the duties to all humankind and the universe. Obviously, the Malays began to develop their own perspectives on the concept of man based on religious understanding since the arrival of Hinduism and Buddhism to the Malay world. The understanding about the reality of man and his relation with others was then transformed accordingly. The influence of Hinduism and Buddhism however has its limitation. The exclusiveness of the Indian religious thoughts had brought some people to see the nature of man from the perspective of certain exceptional people, i.e. the royal families and the noblemen (Al-Attas, 1969: 16 and Coomaraswamy, 1985: 198). The islamization however has perfected and widening the framework of the concept of man in Malay history. The concept of man is no more based on the concept of the Malay kingship, rather it was based on the concept of the duties and responsibilities. Based on this concept all men are equally responsible for the betterment of this worldly life and his fate in the next life.


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[1] The concept of man should be viewed from the perspective of his relation to his God and the universe. It is through this perspective that a definition of man can clearly be seen. From Islamic perspective for instance, a man seen from the perspective of his relation to God and universe is a vicegerent or khalifah in this universe. As a vicegerent he is dutiful to obey the command of Allah and to carry out his responsibilities on the universe. See further Annemarie Schimmel, Spiritual Aspects of Islam, (Venice: Istituto Per La Collaborazione Culturale, 1962), 20-21.
[2] As such the living condition of the peasants was also seen from this point of view. Thus people in the kingdom were usually referred as the slaves of Raja who normally referred themselves as patik in front of the Raja. The fact is that they were also human being and sharing some responsibilities equal to the Raja. See further A.C. Milner, “Islam and Malay Kingship”, in Readings on Islam in Southeast Asia, edited by Ahmad Ibrahim (et. al.), (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1985), 25.
[3] The Malays during this early period of Hinduism were in fact continued to maintain their prior animistic beliefs. Hinduism and Buddhism were adopted and practised only and mostly by the highest ranking people or the royal families. Even at that stage the practice was not purely Indian in origin and in the case of the Javanese the practice was synthesized and blended with the local belief. See further H.M. Darori Amin, Islam dan Kebudayaan Jawa, (Yogyakarta: Gama Media, 2000), 3-23. Compare to Al-Attas, Islam Dalam Sejarah dan Kebudayaan Melayu, 12-16.
[4] Basically there are four main values in Hinduism, Artha (wealth), Kama (pleasure), Dharma (duty or obligation) and Mokhsa (enlightentment or release from finitude and imperfection). See further Harold H. Titus and Marilyn S. Smith, Living Issues in Philosophy, (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1974), 374. See also Mahadevan, Outlines of Hinduism, 54-55.
[5] In fact, the presence of a ruler in each kingdom and in one particular period of time is seems to be compulsory according to Hinduism. According to this belief, within fourteen ages of the earth or manvantaras, each having an original ruler called a Manu. Dimmitt and van Buitenen suggest that there may have been a connection with actual human rulers, the Manu acting as the legitimating source of kingship. See further Jacqueline Suthren Hirst, “Hinduism,” 84. In terms of the standard of morality, the Code of Manu is invoked to the people who are immature and cannot think for themselves. This is an aspect of the duties and responsibilities of the righteous man who was given the right to govern this world. See further Mahadevan, Outlines of Hinduism, 64-65.
[6] The romanization of this chiri is rather confused not only as done by Winstedt but also as attempted by Maxwell. Compare between the above Winstedt’s romanization with Maxwell here, “Aho susanta (or suwasta) paduka sri maharaja sara’at (or sari’at) sri sifat buana surana bumi buji bala pakrama nagalang (or sakalang) krana (or karta) magat rana (or ratna) muka tri buana paralarasang (or parasang) sakarita bana tongka daramuna besaran (or darma rana sharana) katarana singgha sana wan (or rana) wikrama wan (or wadat) ranab (or ratna runei) palawa dika (or palawika) sadila dewa dida prawadi (or prabudi) kala mula mulai (or kala mulai) malik sri darma raja aldi raja (or raja-raja) paramisuri.” See further Maxwell, “An Account of the Malay Chiri: A Sanskrit Formula,” 89. To translate is even more problematic as shown by the incomplete translation of Brown, Sejarah Melayu, 25.
[7] The concept of man in Hinduism which explains “the concept of man of duty” and based on the idea of marriage is basically a part of the interpretation on the stages of life. There is a stage called grhastha or “the stage of householder”, one of the four stages in asrama-dharma or “duties pertaining to the stages of life”. During this stage of grhastha, man should live in the righteous living so that through his marriage and as a householder he could benefit other people in another three stages of asrama-dharma namely brahmacarya (the period of studentship), vanaprastha (the stage of forest-dweller) and sannyasa (the life of renunciation). See further Mahadevan, Outlines of Hinduism, 75-77.
[8] Another excellent symbolic allegorical of man as the city can be found in the treatise of Ikhwan al-Safa. According to Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa, “the body of man was constructed by the Creator like a city…three tribes occupy it…the angels, men and jinns”. If the angelic activities triumphed over the activities of jinns and men the city became “the city of God”. See further Seyyed Hossein Nasr, An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, 99-100.
[9] Another important point that needs to be emphasized here is that man and his becoming in Hindu perspective is comparable to other concepts of mystical life such as Christian Mysticism and Islamic Sufism. Perfect man who purified his internal life could possibly return to his absolute source in which the words are spoken into his ear, tat tvam asi or “Thou art That”, meaning thou art the Absolute. See further Martin Lings, “Rene Guenon,” a lecture delivered at the Prince of Wales Institute, London, autumn 1994, 10. See also Joseph Campbell, The Mask of God Creative Mythology, 78-79.
[10] In this concept of man according to the classical Malay historical texts, the burden of amanah is more important compare to the title of “Sultan”. Hamzah Fansuri said, “adapun rupamu itu rupa bayang-bayang jua dan namamu itu gelar-gelaran jua. Daripada ghaflatmu kau sangka engkau bernama dan berupa.” Translation, “Your form is but the form of shadow, and your name is but an appellation. Because of your unawareness you imagine that you possess name and form.” Hamzah Fansuri, Asraru-l-‘Arifin, in Al-Attas, The Mysticism of Hamzah Fansuri, 282.
[11] See Diagram 1 for illustrative understanding of this concept of the relationship between man and God, regardless the ruler or the peasant he is.
[12] In this regard, A.H. Johns strongly believed that Sufism has left clear evidence in Malay Indonesian letters between the 13th and 18th century. Based on our surveys conducted on Sejarah Melayu, Hikayat Raja Pasai and Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, it was evidently proved that the cosmological and ontological ideas in these works are mostly Sufi’s in nature. See further A.H. Johns, “Sufism as A Category in Indonesian Literature and History,” Journal of Southeast Asian History, vol. 2, (1961): 13-17.
[13] Merah Silu or Sultan Malikul Salleh, the first Muslim ruler of Pasai is claimed to be the first Malay ruler to use this title. The title was then found to be used by other Malay rulers as recorded in hikayats including Hikayat Patani and Sejarah Melayu. See further A.C. Milner, “Islam and Malay Kingship,” in Readings on Islam in Southeast Asia, compiled by Ahmad Ibrahim (, 27.
[14] There is however various terms referred to the spiritual substance of man. When it is involved in intellection and apprehension it is called “intellect or ‘aql”; when it is engaged in receiving intuitive illumination it is called “heart or qalb”, when it reverts to its own world of abstract entities it is called “spirit or ruh” and finally when it governs the body it is called “soul or self or nafs”. See further Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, The Meaning and Experience of Happiness in Islam, (Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), 1993), 4.

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