THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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69 posts categorized "Malay"

13 March 2017

British ‘Islamic’ style seals from the Malay world

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The presence of an inscription in Arabic script is such a defining characteristic of seals used by Muslims that it tends to mask the fact that similar ‘Islamic’-style seals were also used by myriad other groups, including Christians in Ethiopia and Syria, Samaritans in Palestine, Hindu subjects of the Mughal emperor, European scholars of Arabic and Persian, and British officials of the East India Company. Examples from the British Library were featured in a recent blog post on Some British ‘Islamic’ style seals in Persian manuscripts from India by Ursula Sims-Williams, and in an earlier post on Performing Authority: the ‘Islamic’ seals of British colonial officers in the Persian Gulf by Daniel Lowe. In this post I have gathered together a small number of British ‘Islamic’-style seals from Southeast Asia, with inscriptions in Malay in Jawi (Arabic) script.

The earliest known of these British Malay seals is that of Francis Light (1740-1794), who on behalf of the East India Company negotiated with the Sultan of Kedah to establish a trading settlement at Penang in 1786. By that time Light had spent over twenty years as a private or ‘country’ trader in the Malay world, and was on close terms with the sultan. In 1771 he had been granted the title of Kapitan Dewa Raja by Sultan Muhammad Jiwa of Kedah (r. 1710-1778), with the attendant right to a seal, which is found stamped in red ink on his Malay correspondence today held in the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies.

#322
Malay seal of Francis Light, inscribed Laik Kapitan Dewa Raja di negeri dār al-amān 1185, ‘Light, Kapitan Dewa Raja, in the Abode of Security, 1185' (1771/2) (#322), on an undated letter to Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Syah of Kedah. School of Oriental and African Studies, MS 40320/6, f. 60.

Light became the first ‘Superintendant’ of Prince of Wales Island, as Penang was named by the British, and subsequent governors also used seals inscribed in Malay. Official Malay seals were usually engraved in the name of an individual office holder, but the seal shown below, engraved in 1789/90 for the British ‘ruler’ of Penang, appears to have been used by successive incumbents of the office until at least 1805. It was perhaps in that year that a new seal was engraved for Philip Dundas, Governor from 1805 to 1807. In terms of language, calligraphy, shape and medium, the seals used by British officials in Penang represent a continuation of the Kedah Malay tradition, with typically round or petalled lotus-shaped seals stamped in red ink.

#327
Malay seal of the British governor of Penang, inscribed Gurnadur Raja Pulau Pinang 1204, 'The Governor, ruler of Penang island, 1204' (AD 1789/90) (#327), stamped on a record of the sale of a Keling slave named Abdul Rahman by Fakir Sahib to Malim Sahib for 40 rial, 2 Rabiulakhir 1206 (29 November 1791). British Library, IOR: R/9/22/11, f.437  noc

R-9-20-37, f.175
Record of the sale of a female Batak slave named Dima by Nakhoda Licu of Pane to Mr. Peter Clark for $53, witnessed by Syaikh Muhammad and Mualim Kandu and written by Hakim Abdul Taif, 1 Jumadilakhir 1220 (27 August 1805), and signed and sealed the next day by the [acting] Governor W.E. Phillips, with the same seal as used in 1791. British Library, IOR: R/9/22/37, f. 175  noc

 #323
Seal engraved Guburnur Raja Pulau Pinang, ‘The Governor, ruler of Penang island’ (#323), stamped on a letter from Philip Dundas, Governor of Penang, to the sultan of Kedah, 5 Muharam [1221] (25 March 1806). British Library, MSS Eur.D.742/1, f. 9  noc

It was in Penang that Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) began his Southeast Asian career, arriving on the island in September 1805 as Assistant Secretary to the government. In December 1810 Raffles moved to Melaka following his appointment by Lord Minto as ‘Agent of the Governor-General with the Malay States’, his secret mission being to prepare for the British invasion of Java, then held by Napoleonic forces. In his Malay correspondence with neighbouring states, Raffles wrote in the name of Lord Minto, and stamped his letters with the seal of the Governor-General of Bengal. Two such seals are known: the earlier seal, used in 1810 and the first half of 1811, is written in sloping nasta ‘liq script, and may have been brought from Calcutta. The second seal is more typically Malay in its 12-petalled lotus shape and naskh calligraphy, and was probably designed in Raffles’s secretariat in Melaka either by his head scribe, Ibrahim or by Ismail, uncle of the young Munsyi Abdullah, who also worked for Raffles as a junior writer.

Raffles seal
Maharaja Gurnur Jenral Benggala, Maharaja Governor-General of Bengal (#263), seal impressed on a letter addressed to the rulers of Java from T.S. Raffles in Melaka, 22 Zulkaidah 1225 (19 December 1810). British Library, MSS Eur.D.742/1, f. 133v  noc

#99 (2)
Inilah cap Paduka Seri Maharaja Gilbetelet Lard Minto Gurnur Jenral Benggala raja pada sekalian tanah Hindustan atas angin bawah angin adanya, ‘This is the seal of Paduka Seri Maharaja Gilbert Elliot Lord Minto, Governor General of Bengal, ruler of the whole of Hindustan, above the winds [and] below the winds’ (#99), stamped on a proclamation of the British capture of Batavia, issued by Lord Minto and signed by T.S.Raffles, 11 August 1811. British Library, Or. 9484  noc

In later years, with the expansion of British colonial rule across the Malay peninsula, seals with Jawi inscriptions sometimes accompanied by elements in English continued to be used by senior British officials, including Residents of Malay states and the Governor-General of the Straits Settlements.

#2000
al-a‘azz al-‘azīz Gunur dan Komandar in Cif serta Wis Admiral yang memerintah Singapura Pulau Pinang dan Melaka // GOVERNOR / STRAITS SETTLEMENTS, ‘The most powerful of the powerful, Governor and Commander-in-Chief and Vice-Admiral who rules Singapore, Penang and Melaka // Governor / Straits Settlements’ (#2000), stamped on a letter of 1883. Image courtesy of John Klein Nagelvoort.

In contrast to British practice of using Malay seals, Dutch officials in Southeast Asia – whether during the period of VOC rule of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th and 18th centuries, or in the service of the Netherlands East Indies in the 19th century and later – never used ‘Islamic’-style seals.  Only one example has been recorded, found in an album of seals from Palembang,  but without evidence that it was ever actually used on official correspondence.

#677
Resident Gupernament Nederland fî balad Palembang sanat 1238 // RESIDENT VAN PALEMBANG JAAR 1823, 'Resident of the Dutch Government in the state of Palembang, the year 1238 // Resident of Palembang, the year 1823' (#677). Seal album from Palembang ('Stempels uit de Residentie Palembang'). Leiden University Library, Cod.Or.6663.b

The earlier post on the seals of British orientalists in India also throws light on an unusual seal in a fine Javanese Pawukon divination manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (MS Jav. d. 2). Each of the thirty wuku or weeks of the Javanese calendar is associated with a particular god, tree, bird, foot, house and pennant, which can be used to predict the character and fortune of those born in that week. In the corner of one illustrated page of the Bodleian Pawukon is a small oval seal written in muthanna symmetrical mirror script, previously assumed to be the seal of a Javanese artist or owner of the book. Thanks to Ursula's research, this seal can now be identified as that of William Yule (1764-1839), an East India Company official who had served in Lucknow and Delhi. Yule built up an important collection of Arabic, Persian and Urdu manuscripts which were given to the British Museum by his sons in 1847 and 1850, and some of the manuscripts contain impressions of exactly the same seal, and his related bookplate, in English and Persian, also composed in muthanna script. Although William Yule was never in Southeast Asia, his brother Udny Yule (ca. 1765-1830) served with the British administration in Java and in 1815 was the commanding officer in Banten, and may have acquired the Pawukon for his bibliophile brother. Before entering the Bodleian the book was owned by James Thomson Gibson Craig (1799-1886), renowned for his library in various languages. 

Bodleian Jav.d.2  (5)
Javanese Pawukon manuscript, with the seal of William Yule in the bottom right corner. Bodleian Library, MS Jav. d. 2, f. 56r

#1222 
Seal of William Yule, inscribed with his name (w.l.y.m y.w.l) in symmetrical mirror-image muthanna script and dated 1213 (AD 1798/9).

Further reading:
Abdur-Rahman Mohamed Amin, Koleksi surat-surat Francis Light.
A.T. Gallop, The legacy of the Malay letter.  Warisan warkah Melayu.  With an essay by E. Ulrich Kratz.  London: published by the British Library for the National Archives of Malaysia, 1994.
Ann Kumar, Java and modern Europe: ambiguous encounters. Richmond: Curzon, 1997. [On the Pawukon calendar, see pp. 144-158.]
Marcus Langdon, Penang: the fourth Presidency 1805-1830. Penang: Areca Books, 2013.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

24 February 2017

Arabic manuscripts of al-Ghazālī

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In a recent post I wrote about Malay translations of works of Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (450-505 AH/1058-1111 AD) by ‘Abd al-Samad al-Jawi al-Palimbani, a Malay scholar from Palembang in south Sumatra who spent most of his adult life writing and teaching in the Arabian peninsula in the 18th century. According to Azyumardi Azra (2004: 131), ‘the immense popularity of the Ghazalian taṣawwuf in the [Malay] archipelago can to a great extent be attributed to al-Palimbani’. The British Library holds manuscripts of two of al-Palimbani’s works transmitting Ghazalian thought to the Malay world: Hidāyat al-sālikīn fī sulūk maslak al-muttaqīn, ‘A guide for travellers on the path of those who fear God’ (Or. 16604), completed in 1778, based on al-Ghazālī’s Bidāyat al-hidāya, ‘Beginning of guidance’, and Sayr al-sālikīn ilā ‘ibādat rabb al-‘ālamīn (Or 15646), in four books, completed in 1789, based on Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, ‘The Revival of Religious Sciences’. This short post aims simply  to highlight a few manuscripts of these original sources in the Arabic collection in the British Library. 

Or 4268 (2), f. 20v
Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, title from a 13th c. manuscript. British Library, Or 4268, f. 20v (detail)  noc

The collection of Arabic manuscripts in the British Library numbers some 14,000 volumes containing around 15,000 works, dating from the early 8th to the 19th centuries. It unites two historic collections from the British Museum and the India Office Library, with many of the manuscripts in the latter originating from the Indian subcontinent. There are a number of detailed  catalogues but the only published listing covering the entire collection is the Subject-guide to the Arabic manuscripts in the British Library, compiled by Peter Stocks and published in 2001. According to the Subject-guide, the British Library holds over thirty titles by al-Ghazālī, some in multiple copies, including two manuscripts of Bidāyat al-hidāya and no fewer than 27 manuscripts of Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, listed below in chronological order (Stocks 2001: 62-63):

Manuscripts of Bidāyat al-hidāya in the British Library:
14th c: Add 9517/1 (AH 800/ AD 1397); 17th c: Add 9495/2

Manuscripts of Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn in the British Library:
13th c.: Or 4268, Or 8347; 13th-15th c.: Bij 381; 14th c.: Or 5937, Or 6431, Add 9486 (AH 763/ AD 1362); 15th c: Or 6430, Or 14889, Or 13003 A-E (AH 846/ AD 1442), Add 23479 (AH 890/ AD 1485); 16th c.: Or 4374, Or 14883, Add 16644 (AH 917/ AD 1511), IO Islamic 2021 (AH 952/AD 1545); 17th c.: Bij 377-80, Add 16641-43, Add 18402, IO Islamic 2145 (AH 1098/ AD 1687), IO Islamic 2046 (AH 1111/ AD 1698); 18th c.: IO Islamic 749, Delhi Arabic 1750, 1763, 1764, 1768, 1769, 1798; 19th c: Or 13003 F-G (AH 1296/ AD 1879)

Reproduced below is a selection of these manuscripts, dating from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

Add 9517  (1)
Bidāyat al-hidāya, dated AH 800 (AD 1397). British Library, Add 9517/1, ff. 1v-2r  noc

Or 8347
Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, 13th century.  British Library, Or 8347, ff. 67v-68r  noc

Or 4268 (1)
Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, Book 3, in a Persian hand, 13th century (Rieu 1894, no. 173). The name of the owner (and possibly scribe) is given on f. 89r as Ḍiyā al-Dīn Abu al-Fakhr ‘Abd al-Raḥīm b. Muḥammad al-Karsafi. British Library, Or 4268, ff. 20v-21r  noc

Add 18402  (1)
Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, dated AH 1098 (AD 1687), from the Fort William library. British Library, IO Islamic 2145  noc

Add 18402  (3)
Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, 17th century. This MS formerly belonged to William Yule and bears his bookplate dated 1805. British Library, Add. 18402, ff. 9v-10r  noc

Del Ar 1769  (1)
Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, in poor condition, 18th century. British Library, Delhi Arabic 1769  noc

Further reading:
Subject-guide to the Arabic manuscripts in the British Library, compiled by Peter Stocks, edited by Colin F. Baker. London: The British Library, 2001.
Azyumardi Azra, The origins of Islamic reformism in Southeast Asia: networks of Malay-Indonesian and Middle Eastern 'ulama in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2004.

Find Arabic manuscripts in the British Library

ghazali.org: a virtual online library

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

06 February 2017

Abdul Samad of Palembang, Malay guide to the writings of al-Ghazālī

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Abdul Samad (ca. 1704-1791) from Palembang in south Sumatra (‘Abd al-Ṣamad al-Falimbānī) was  the most prominent and influential Malay religious scholar of the 18th century, who spent most of his life studying, teaching and writing in the Arabian peninsula. From references in his own works we know he was living in Mecca and Taif between 1764 and 1789. According to al-Nafas al-Yamānī by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Sulaymān al-Ahda, in AH 1206 (AD 1791) Abdul Samad arrived in Zabid, Yemen, to teach. This is the last firm date that we have in his biography, and he probably died in the Hijaz without ever returning to Sumatra. Abdul Samad wrote in Malay and Arabic on the Sammaniyya Sufi brotherhood and on jihād or holy war, but his most important contribution is undoubtedly his Malay translations of the great 12th-century theologian, Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (ca. 1058-1111), who was born in Tus in Khorasan, Iran. Al-Ghazālī earned from his contemporaries the sobriquet Hujjat al-Islam, ‘Proof of Islam’, and is credited for reconciling in his writings both legal and mystical aspects of Islam. 

Abdulsamad
‘Abd al-Ṣamad al-Jāwī al-Falimbānī, ‘Abdul Samad, the Jawi [i.e. Muslim from Southeast Asia], from Palembang’: the name of the author as given in a manuscript of his work Hidāyat al-sālikīn . British Library, Or. 16604, f. 2r (detail)  noc

In 1778 Abdul Samad completed Hidāyat al-sālikīn fī sulūk maslak al-muttaqīn, ‘A guide for travellers on the path of those who fear God’, a Malay adaptation of al-Ghazālī’s Bidāyat al-hidāya, ‘Beginning of guidance’, which deals with a number of subjects pertaining to dogmatics, sharī‘a and other matters in a somewhat mystical way. According to the colophon the work was completed in Mecca on  5 Muharram 1192  (3 February 1778).  This work was extremely popular throughout the Malay world: over 82 manuscripts have been documented from published catalogues alone, held in Leiden, Paris, Jakarta, Palembang, Aceh and Malaysia, including 50 in the National Library of Malaysia. Hidāyat al-sālikīn was one of the first Malay works to be published in the 19th century in Cairo, Mecca, Bombay and Singapore, and it is still in print in Malaysia and Indonesia today.

MNA 07-0002
Hidāyat al-sālikīn, a copy from Aceh, 19th c. Museum Negeri Aceh, 07-0002. Source of image: Portal Naskah Nusantara

The British Library holds one manuscript of Hidāyat al-sālikīn from Aceh which appears to be the earliest dated copy known (Or. 16604). According to the colophon, the manuscript belonged to Teungku Busangan who had married the daughter of Teungku Abdul Rahman, who was of Ottoman extraction (saudara bani ‘Uthmaniyyah), and it was copied by Teungku Haji Hasyim ibn Abdul Rahman Patani in negeri l.m.s.y.n (Lamsayun in Aceh?), on 4 Rabiulawal 1197 (9 February 1783). The manuscript thus dates from just five years after the composition of the work, at a time when Abdul Samad was still actively writing. Another manuscript – one of ten copies of this text now held in the famous Islamic madrasah at Tanoh Abee in Aceh – is dated just a few months later, as it was copied in Mecca by Lebai Malim from Lam Bait in Aceh on 19 Jumadilakhir 1197 (22 May 1783) (Fathurahman 2010: 196). The presence of two manuscripts of this work copied thousands of miles apart, within five years of the work’s composition, illustrates well the impact of Abdul Samad’s writings within his own lifetime.

BL Or.16604, ff.1v-2r
Initial pages of Hidāyat al-sālikīn by Abdul Samad of Palembang, a translation of Bidāyat al-hidāya by al-Ghazālī. British Library, Or. 16604, ff. 1v-2r  noc

BL Or.16604, ff.147v-148r (1)
Final pages with colophon of Abdul Samad al-Palembani’s Hidāyat al-sālikīn, copied in Aceh in 1783. British Library, Or. 16604, ff. 147v-148r  noc

A year after completing Hidāyat al-sālikīn, Abdul Samad started on his final and most ambitious project, a rendering into Malay of an abbreviated version of the most influential of al-Ghazālī's works, Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, ‘The Revival of Religious Sciences’.  The Iḥyāʾ is presented in four sections, each containing ten chapters. 'Acts of worship' (Rub‘ al-‘ibadāt), deals with knowledge and the requirements of faith; 'Norms of daily life' (Rub‘ al-‘adat), concentrates on people and society; 'The ways to perdition' (Rub‘  al-muhlikāt) discusses vices to be overcome, while the final book, 'The Ways to Salvation' (Rub‘  al-munjiyāt), focusses on the virtues to be strived for.

Abdul Samad’s Malay work, entitled Sayr al-sālikīn ilā ‘ibādat rabb al-‘ālamīn, was likewise presented in four parts (bahagi), each comprising ten chapters (bab). The first, Pada menyatakan ilmu usuluddin, on prescriptions for ritual purity, prayer, charity, fasting, pilgrimage, recitation of the Qur’an, and so forth, was started in 1779 and completed in Mecca in 1780. The second, Pada menyatakan adat, on manners related to eating, marriage, earning a living, friendship and other societal matters, was finished in Taif in Ramadan 1195 (August-September 1781). The third book, Pada menyatakan muhlikat yakni yang membinasakan, discusses the destructive impact of vices, and was completed in Mecca on 19  Safar 1197 (24 January 1783). The fourth and final book, Pada menyatakan munjiyat yakni yang melepaskan dari pada yang membinasakan akan agama ini, focusses on virtues which overcome threats to faith, and was completed on 20 Ramadhan 1203 (14 June 1789). Sayr al-sālikīn was also extremely popular throughout Southeast Asia, with over 60 manuscripts known today (often containing just one part), including 14 manuscripts in Dayah Tanoh Abee and 36 in the National Library of Malaysia, with the majority originating from Aceh.

MSS 2399
A beautifully written and decorated copy of the third book of Sayr al-sālikīn, a copy from Aceh, probably 19th c. National Library of Malaysia, MSS 2399, ff. 2v-3r.

The British Library holds a manuscript which contains only the final two-thirds of the third book of Sayr al-sālikīn , in two stitched bundles of quires, enclosed in a loose leather wrapper (Or. 15646). The text begins in the middle of the third chapter, on crushing the two desires, of the stomach and the genitals (pada menyatakan memecahkan syahwat), with the section on curbing the appetite for food (pasal pada menyatakan bersalah-salahan hukum lapar). The manuscript continues through the chapters on defects of the tongue (kebinasaan lidah), and condemnations (kecelaan) of anger (marah), worldly mores (dunia), love of wealth (orang yang kasih akan arta), ostentation (kasih kemegahan), pride and conceit (kejahilan) and self-delusion (orang yang terpedaya).  According to a note on the leather wrapper, this manuscript was owned by Muhammad Yusuf from Tanoh Abee in Aceh.

 Or.15646-col
Colophon to the third part of Abdul Samad's Sayr al-sālikīn, composed in Mecca in 1783; this undated manuscript was probably copied in the 19th century in Aceh. British Library, Or. 15646, ff. 136v-137r  noc

Public institutions in the UK hold some of the most important Malay literary and historical manuscripts extant, in line with the interests and preoccupations of their mainly 19th-century British collectors, but these collections are equally characterised by a marked absence of works reflecting Islamic thought and practice in Southeast Asia. It is remarkable that these two manuscripts in the British Library of works by Abdul Samad of Palembang, found in such large numbers throughout Southeast Asia, are the only known copies in British collections. Both have now been fully digitised, and can be read through the hyperlinks or on the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts website.

Further reading:
Azyumardi Azra, The origins of Islamic reformism in Southeast Asia: networks of Malay-Indonesian and Middle Eastern 'ulama in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2004. [See pp. 112-117, 130-136.]
G.W.J. Drewes, Directions for travellers on the mystic path. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977. [See pp. 222-224.]
Oman Fathurahman, Katalog naskah Dayah Tanoh Abee Aceh Besar: Aceh manuscripts, Dayah Tanoh Abee collection. Jakarta: Komunitas Bambu, 2010.
R. Michael Feener, ‘Abd al-Samad in Arabia: the Yemeni years of a Shaykh from Sumatra.  Southeast Asian Studies, 4(2), 2015.
Sair as-salikin
. Banda Aceh: Museum Negeri Aceh, 1985/1986. [Transliteration of MS no. 923 in the MNA by A. Muin Umar, with a biographical note by Henri Chambert-Loir, ‘Abdussamad al-Falimbani sebagai ulama Jawi’.]
Hidayatus salikin: Syeikh Abdus Shamad al-Falimbani, ed. Hj. Wan Mohd. Shaghir Abdullah. Kuala Lumpur: Khazanah Fathaniyah, 1997-2000. 3 vols.

ghazali.org: a virtual online library on al-Ghazali, including a page in Malay

This blog was updated on 11 February 2017 to incorporate new biographical information from Feener 2015.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

23 January 2017

The Seal of Prophethood: Malay prayers for protection

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Malay manuscripts are generally written in conventional ‘book’ form, but a few scrolls are also encountered. Malay manuscript scrolls are primarily associated with sermons, to be read in the congregational mosque at the Friday prayers, but occasionally small scrolls are found containing prayers and amulets which appear to have been compiled by individuals for their own personal use and protection. The British Library holds one such Malay scroll (Or. 16875), which contains a variety of prayers and talismanic symbols in Arabic, with explanations in Malay about their efficacy and directions for use. The scroll, which measures nearly three metres long when unrolled, is very finely written in black and purple ink. The manuscript has been fully digitised and can be read by clicking on the hyperlinks below the images.

Or_16875_f001jr-crop
Decorative presentation of the shahadah, ‘There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God’, from a Malay prayer scroll. British Library, Or. 16875  noc

The main contents of the scroll is a series of depictions of the ‘Seal of Prophethood’ (in Persian muhr-i nubuvvat, in Arabic khātam al-nubuwwah, and in Malay mohor nubuat). The Seal refers to a special mark borne by Muhammad described by all who knew him as a type of mole or fleshy protruberance located between his shoulder blades (Savage-Smith 1997: 1.106). All over the Islamic world, manuscripts are known depicting the Seal of Prophethood, usually in the form of circular diagrams containing prayers or letters and numbers believed to have magical significance, which acted as talismans whose protective power could be activated by gazing upon them.

The Malay prayer scroll Or. 16875 contains seven diagrams of the ‘Seal of Prophethood’, each said to be found on a different part of Muhammad’s body, and each carrying different protective powers if viewed morning and evening, or written on a piece of paper and carried around. Gazing on the Seal on the Prophet's forehead (dahi) will ensure such success in business that it will feel like entering heaven (pelaris segala jualan seperti masuk syurga); that on his face (muka) will bring happiness (kesukaan); that on his left side (lambung kiri) will bring honour and long life; gazing at that on his right [side] (kanan) is a service (khidmat) to the Prophet and will be rewarded with God's safekeeping; and carrying an amulet (azimat) of the Seal on his mouth (mulut) will ensure that kings and great men will grant the bearer's request. Show below is the Seal of Prophethood said to found on Muhammad’s cheek: ‘This is the Seal of Prophethood on the cheek of the messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, according to ‘Abd al-Raḥman, may God be pleased with him, whoever looks upon this [mark of] Prophethood, his sins will be forgiven by God the Glorious and Exalted, or whoever writes it down and takes it to war will be safe wherever he goes, and whatever he wishes for will be granted by God, it will not be denied to him through the grace of God the Glorious and Exalted’ (Ini mohor al-nubuat pada pipi rasul Allāh ṣallā Allāh ‘alayhi wa-sallam, cetera daripada ‘Abd al-Raḥman raḍī Allāh ‘anhu, barang siapa melihat dia nubuat ini diampun Allāh subḥānahu wa-ta‘ālā sekalian dosanya atau disurat bawa berperang barang ke mana perginya selamat dengan barang hajatnya dikabulkan Allāh tiada tertolak orang itu dengan berkat kurnia Allāh subḥānahu wa-ta‘ālā akan dia).

Or_16875_f001e~r-crop pipi
The circular diagram depicts the Seal of Prophethood said to be on the cheek of the prophet. In the centre is the name of God, and in the border are the names of the four first Caliphs of Islam. British Library, Or. 16875  noc

The scroll also contains a series of repeated esoteric letters and formulae said to be associated with early figures of Islam, including the Prophet, his grandsons Hasan and Husayn, his uncle Hamzah, Husayn’s son Zayn al-‘Abidin, and the prophets Sulayman, Yaqub and Adam. Each sequence is introduced by the phrase bab ini pakaian, ‘these are the letters used by’, followed by the appropriate name.

Or_16875_f001i~r-crop
The letters associated with the Prophet Sulaymān (Solomon). British Library, Or. 16875  noc

The scroll also contains a few magical symbols which are often encountered in Malay manuscripts. These include the five-pointed star, the pentagram, which can be ‘strengthened’ further by the addition of loops or 'lunettes' to its tips, and the angka sangga Siti Fatimah (seen below), which in another Malay manuscript in believed to have the power to make a thief return an item he had stolen to the rightful owner (Farouk 2016: 198).

 Or_16875_f001c~r-crop
Magical signs include the pentagram, with looped tips or 'lunettes', and in the lower right corner the angka sangga Siti Fatimah. British Library, Or. 16875  noc

In the writing of Islamic talismans, it is believed that letters will exert a greater power if they are written in certain ways. Thus diacritical dots are often missing, in emulation of the antique angular script. A particularly notable feature is a preference for the stretched-out form of the letter kaf, as can be seen to very striking effect in the amulet below.

Or_16875_f001hr-crop
Horizontally elongated kaf, believe to enhance efficacy of this prayer. British Library, Or. 16875  noc

The scroll ends with a Qur’anic verse (Q. 61:13) very often found in amulets, ‘Help from God and a speedy victory, so give the Glad Tidings to the Believers.’

Or_16875_f001jr-crop 2
Qur’anic quotation from Sura 61, al-Saff, v.13, at the end of the scroll. British Library, Or. 16875  noc

The Malay language is used in all parts of maritime Southeast Asia, and as there is no information on the scribe, date or place of writing of this scroll, or any evident linguistic localisms, it is very difficult to ascertain where it comes from. A very cautious guess, based partly on the use of purple ink, suggests a possible origin from the Malay peninsula in the late 19th or early 20th century.

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The manuscript was photographed in the British Library by senior photographer Elizabeth Hunter, who in addition to detailed images of each section, also managed to capture the entire scroll – measuring 2850 x 80 mm, made up of five piece of paper glued together – in a single shot. British Library, Or. 16875  noc

Further reading:
Farouk Yahya, Magic and divination in Malay illustrated manuscripts. Leiden: Brill, 2016. (Arts and archaeology of the Islamic world; Vol. 6).
Francesca Leoni, Power and protection: Islamic art and the supernatural. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2016.
Emilie Savage-Smith, Science, tools & magic. Part One. Body and spirit, mapping the universe, Francis Maddison and Emilie Savage-Smith. Part Two. Mundane worlds, Emilie Savage-Smith, with contributions from Francis Maddison, Ralph Pinder-Wilson and Tim Stanley. London: Nour Foundation, 1997. (The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art; Vol.12).

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

09 January 2017

Malay literary manuscripts in the John Leyden collection

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The collection of Malay manuscripts formed by the Scottish poet and scholar of Oriental languages John Leyden (1775-1811), now held in the British Library, is an exceptionally important resource for Malay literature. Leyden spent four months in Penang from late 1805 to early 1806, staying in the house of Thomas Stamford Raffles, initiating a deep friendship which lasted until Leyden’s early death in Batavia in 1811. The 25 volumes of Malay manuscripts in the Leyden collection contain 33 literary works, comprising 28 hikayat in prose and five syair in narrative verse, with some titles existing in multiple copies. Nearly all the manuscripts come from the environs of Kedah, Perlis and Penang and were collected by Leyden or Raffles, while a few were copied in Melaka, where Raffles was stationed in 1811 and where Leyden spent some weeks en route to Batavia. 24 of the works are dated to between 1802 and 1808, and over ten names of scribes are found in the colophons. The collection thus affords a remarkable snapshot of literary activity along the northwest coast of the Malay peninsula in the first decade of the 19th century.

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John Leyden, by an unknown artist. Ink on paper. Bequeathed by W.F. Watson, 1886. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, PG 1686

Some of the Malay works in Leyden’s collection are found in multiple copies and versions all over the Malay archipelago.  For example, manuscripts of the Hikayat Pelanduk Jenaka date back to the 17th century, and there are three copies in Leyden's own collection. Hikayat Dewa Mandu is known from at least 14 other Malay manuscripts from the peninsula, Sumatra and Java, and is also found in Cham regions in present-day Cambodia and Vietnam, where it is known as Akayet Deva Mano. Other texts are less familiar: Leyden’s copies of Hikayat Raja Dewa Maharupa and Hikayat Ular Nangkawang are the only manuscripts known of these works, while his copy of Hikayat Silindung Dalima is the only prose copy known of this work usually encountered as a syair.

MSS Malay D 1, ff.1v-2r
Hikayat Raja Dewa Maharupa, copied in a fine neat hand, completed on 22 Zulkaidah 1216 (26 March 1802) in Penang.  The manuscript shows clear signs of having been read, with smudges and small red crosses in the margin. British Library, MSS Malay D 2, ff. 1v-2r  noc

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Hikayat Ular Nangkawang, early 19th c. British Library, MSS Malay A 1, ff. 1v-2r  noc

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Colophon of the Hikayat Silindung Dalima, copied in Melaka on 5 Muharam 1223 (3 March 1808). The name of the scribe is given as Tuan Haji Mahmud from Bintan or Banten (b.n.t.n), but this may be the name of the scribe of the original MS from which this copy was made. British Library, MSS Malay C 6, f. 65v  noc

Five of the manuscripts in the John Leyden collection are copies commissioned by Raffles, as stated clearly in the colophon, but most of the others appear to be ‘working’ manuscripts created for a Malay audience and used within that community, as can be gauged by well-thumbed and smudged pages, and reading marks throughout the text. Paper was clearly a valuable commodity: in most of the manuscripts the text is written densely across the full surface of the page, with no extraneous embellishment. On two pages of Hikayat Dewa Mandu, the scribe has taken the decision that ink scribbles should not hinder the continued usage of the paper, and he has annotated the top of the page: ini surat dipakai tiada salah, 'this page has been used, there is essentially nothing wrong with it' (MSS Malay D.1, ff. 37r, 39r).

Isma yatim
Part of a page of Hikayat Isma Yatim, early 19th c., with an 'x' in the margin probably indicating the place reached by a reader.  The two '//' marks at the end of the third line have been used by the scribe as a 'filler' to ensure a neat right-hand edge to the text block. British Library, MSS Malay C 4, f. 17r (detail)  noc

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Page from Hikayat Dewa Mandu, copied in 1808, which the scribe decided to use despite the ink scribbles on the paper, writing at the top ini surat dipakai tiada salah. British Library, MSS Malay D 1, f. 37r (detail)  noc

 On the initial page of Hikayat Ular Nangkawang, the scribe has practised writing out the basmala and the heading for the opening of the Qur'an, with the words Sūrat al-Fātiḥah al-Kitāb sab‘ah āyāt, ‘The Chapter of the Opening of the Book, six verses’.  Recent research by Ali Akbar (2015: 317) has shown that the headings Sūrat al-Fātiḥah al-Kitāb or Sūrat Fātiḥah al-Kitāb for the first chapter of the Qur'an are strongly associated with Ottoman Qur'an manuscripts, and in Southeast Asia are only encountered in Qur'an manuscripts from the east coast of the Malay peninsula, in the Terengganu-Patani cultural zone. In Qur'ans from all other parts of the Malay world, such as Aceh, Java and Sulawesi, the chapter heading is presented simply as Sūrat al-Fātiḥah.  This suggests that the scribe of Hikayat Ular Nangkawang was familiar with this Ottoman practice, perhaps through its manifestation in Qur'an manuscripts from the east coast of peninsula, which were exported to many other parts of the Malay world.

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Heading for Surat al-Fatihah, from the beginning of Hikayat Ular Nangkawang, early 19th c. British Library, MSS Malay A 1, f. 1r   noc

All the Malay literary manuscripts in the John Leyden collection have now been fully digitised and are accessible through the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts website or via the Malay Manuscripts project page, or directly from the hyperlinks below:

Prose works (hikayat)
Hikayat Bayan Budiman, MSS Malay B.7 & MSS Malay B.8
Hikayat Budak Miskin, MSS Malay D.6
Hikayat Cekel Waneng Pati, MSS Malay C.1 & MSS Malay C.2
Hikayat Dewa Mandu, MSS Malay D.1
Hikayat Hang Tuah, MSS Malay B.1
Hikayat Isma Yatim, MSS Malay C.4 & MSS Malay C.5
Hikayat Lima Fasal, comprising five short works: (1) Hikayat fakir; (2) Hikayat orang miskin yang bernama Ishak; (3) Hikayat Raja Jumjumah dengan anak isteri baginda; (4) Hikayat anak saudagar bersahabat dengan orang kaya dan miskin; (5) Hikayat anak saudagar menjadi raja, MSS Malay B.10
Hikayat Maharaja Boma, MSS Malay C.8
Hikayat Mesa Tandraman, MSS Malay C.3
Hikayat Mi’raj Nabi Muhammad, MSS Malay B.3
Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah, MSS Malay B.6 & MSS Malay D.5
Hikayat Nabi Yusuf, Perlis, MSS Malay D.4
Hikayat Nabi Muhammad berperang dengan Raja Khaibar, MSS Malay D.5
Hikayat Pandawa Jaya
, MSS Malay B.4
Hikayat Pelanduk Jenaka, MSS Malay B.2, MSS Malay D.5 & MSS Malay B.10
Hikayat Parang Puting, MSS Malay D.3
Hikayat Perang Pandawa Jaya, MSS Malay B.12
Hikayat Putera Jaya Pati, MSS Malay B.5
Hikayat Raja Dewa Maharupa, MSS Malay D.2
Hikayat Silindung Dalima, MSS Malay C.6
Hikayat Syahi Mardan, MSS Malay D.5
Hikayat Ular Nangkawang, MSS Malay A.1

Poetical works (syair)
Syair orang berbuat amal, MSS Malay B.3
Syair Silambari, MSS Malay B.3
Syair surat kirim kepada perempuan, MSS Malay B.3
Syair Jaran Tamasa, MSS Malay D.6 & MSS Malay B.9

Further reading:
Ali Akbar, ‘The influence of Ottoman Qur'ans in Southeast Asia through the ages’, in From Anatolia to Aceh: Ottomans, Turks and Southeast Asia, eds A.C.S. Peacock and Annabel Teh Gallop; pp.311-334.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. (Proceedings of the British Academy; 200).
John Bastin, John Leyden and Thomas Stamford Raffles.  Eastbourne: printed for the author, 2003.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

05 December 2016

A Malay work on Islamic law from Aceh: Mirat al-tullab

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In the 16th century the sultanate of Aceh on the north coast of Sumatra grew to become the most powerful Muslim kingdom in Southeast Asia and a great centre for the study and teaching of Islam.  One of the most famous scholars and writers from Aceh was Abdul Rauf (‘Abd al-Ra’ūf ibn ‘Alī al-Jāwī al-Fanṣurī al-Sinkīlī), who was born at Singkel on the west coast of Sumatra in around 1615. Like many intellectuals from the Malay world, Abdul Rauf undertook the hajj pilgrimage and spent several years en route studying with a succession of teachers, first in Yemen and then in Jeddah, Mecca and Medina in the Arabian peninsula.  After nineteen years in the Middle East, in 1661 Abdul Rauf returned to Aceh during the reign of the first queen, Sultanah Tajul Alam Safiatuddin Syah (r.1641-1675), daughter of Aceh’s most famous ruler, Iskandar Muda (r.1607-1636).

Abdul Rauf composed numerous works in Malay and Arabic, including the first Malay interpretation of the Qur’an, Tarjumān al-mustafīd, based on the Tafsīr al-Jalālayn.  At the behest of Sultanah Safiatuddin Syah in 1663, he also wrote a work on jurisprudence (fiqh), comprising a guide to religious obligations in all aspects of life in accordance with Islamic law, entitled Mir’āt al-ṭullāb fī tashīl ma‘rifat al-aḥkām al-shar‘iya lil-mālik al-wahhāb, 'Mirror of the seekers of knowledge of the law of God'. Written to complement Nuruddin al-Raniri’s Ṣirāṭ al-mustaqīm, another popular Malay work on fiqh composed in Aceh in 1644 which focused solely on religious obligations, the Mir’āt al-ṭullāb covers a much broader range of topics affecting social, political and economic life, arranged in sections on commercial, matrimonial and criminal law.

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Start of the manuscript of the Mir’āt al-ṭullāb. This is the second page of the original book, as there would originally have been a first page opening to the right, with an illuminated frame mirroring the decoration on the surviving page. The illumination is typically Acehnese in style, with a palette of red, black, yellow and reserved white.  British Library, Or. 16035, f. 1r.  noc

Although composed in Aceh, Mir’āt al-ṭullāb was influential throughout the Malay archipelago, including areas as far eastwards as Gorontalo in north Sulawesi and Mindanao.  27 manuscript copies of Mir’āt al-ṭullāb are known so far, held in libraries in Jakarta, Aceh, Kuala Lumpur, Berlin, Leiden and London (for a full list see Jelani 2015: 132-134).  The London manuscript, which is held in the British Library as Or. 16035, has now been fully digitised and can be read here. According to the colophon it was copied on 14 Muharam 1178 (14 July 1764), and from the illumination and other codicological features was clearly written in Aceh.

Traditional Malay manuscripts do not use punctuation, paragraphing, or page numbering.  Apart from rubrication – the highlighting in red ink of significant words – there are few visual aids to differentiate between the different parts of the text, and it is difficult to envisage exactly how early readers managed to navigage their way around long books.  Uniquely in some manuscripts from Aceh, though, we do find a developed system of marginalia, flagging up visually to readers the start of a new subject within the text. 

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Mir’āt al-ṭullāb by Abdul Rauf of Singkel, with a calligraphic marginal subject indicator.  British Library, Or. 16035, ff. 74v-75r.  noc

The British Library manuscript of Mir’āt al-ṭullāb contains some of the finest and most elaborate examples known of these calligraphic marginal subject indicators.  All commence with the Arabic words maṭlab baḥth, ‘section discussing […]’, written in a stylish boat-shaped flourish, orientated at an angle to the text, some of which are further decorated with typically Acehnese ornamental foliate flourishes. There are a total of 31 such maṭlab baḥth markers in this manuscript, some simply inscribed maṭlab baḥth but others include explanations in Malay on the particular type of law being discussed, as in the example shown above on f.74v: maṭlab baḥth yang seyogyanya diketahui yang qāḍī itu hukum sharikat , ‘section discussing what should be understood by judges on the law of association’.  At the start of the manuscript, from f. 8r onwards, the markers are relatively simple inscriptions.  From f. 32r onwards, they become more elaborate, and in some examples are enhanced with the use of red ink, dots and even glittery inks. 

Shown below are several examples of calligraphic maṭlab baḥth subject markers from the manuscript of Mir’āt al-ṭullāb, offering us a glimpse into one of the few artistic outlets available for a Malay manuscript scribe in Aceh in the 18th century.  In the illustrations below the markers have been rotated to facilitate reading, but the hyperlinks below the images will link to the actual page of the manuscript containing the marker.

BL Or
Simple subject marker at the start of the manuscript of Mir’āt al-ṭullāb  inscribed maṭlab baḥth hukum riyāh, ‘section on the law of dissemblance’.  British Library, Or.16035, f. 8r.  noc

BL Or.16035 (20)
Elaborate marginal inscription reading maṭlab baḥth [in black ink] yang seyogyanya diketahui yang qāḍī itu hukum sharikat [in red ink], ‘section on that which should be understood by judges on the law of association’. British Library, Or.16035, f.74v.  noc

BL Or
Marginal subject marker inscribed maṭlab baḥth [in red ink] yang seyogyanya diketahui setengah daripada hakim hukum ṣālaḥ [in black ink], ‘section on what should be known by the judges on the laws of prayer’.  British Library, Or.16035, f. 66r.  noc

BL Or
Subject marker inscribed maṭlab baḥth pada menyatakan hukum farā’iḍ, ‘section on the laws of inheritance’  British Library, Or.16035, f. 119v.  noc

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Monochrome marker inscribed maṭlab baḥth pada menyatakan waṣiyyat, ‘section regarding wills'. British Library, Or. 16035, f. 135r.  noc

Or_16035_f70r
An example of a marginal marker inscribed simply maṭlab baḥth, without any further explanation of the content of the new section. British Library, Or. 16035, f. 70r.  noc

A full list of all the decorative marginal maṭlab baḥth indicators in the manuscript of Mir’āt al-ṭullāb, Or. 16035, with hyperlinks, is given below:
f. 8r, f. 10v, f. 15r, f. 17v, f. 24v, f. 28v, f. 30ar, f. 32r, f. 33v, f. 35r, f. 36v, f. 41r, f. 56r, f. 62r, f. 65r, f. 66r, f. 70r, f. 74v, f. 98r, f. 107v, f. 112r, f. 118r, f. 119v, f. 123r, f. 124r, f. 125v, f. 129v, f. 135r, f. 139v, f. 183v

References:

Azyumardi Azra, The origins of Islamic reformism in Southeast Asia: networks of Malay-Indonesian and Middle Eastern 'ulama in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2004.  [See pp. 70-86.]
Jelani Harun, Mir'at al-tullab by Syeikh Abdul Rauf Singkel: a preliminary study of manuscripts kept in the Special Collections, Leiden University LibraryMalay literature, 2015, 26(2): 119-138.
Annabel Teh Gallop,  An Acehnese style of manuscript illuminationArchipel, 2004, 68: 193-240.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

31 August 2016

Merdeka: Malaysian independence day

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31 August is celebrated each year in Malaysia as Hari Merdeka, ‘Independence Day’.  It marks the momentous occasion that took place on 31 August 1957, when at a great ceremony at the national stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed the independence of the Federation of Malaya, after a long period of British colonial rule. In 1963 the expanded nation of Malaysia was formed from the Federation of Malaya, the Borneo states of Sarawak and Sabah, and Singapore, although two years later in 1965 Singapore left Malaysia to become independent.  

Merdeka for Malaya
The only known copy of a rare publication on Malayan independence published in Colombo by Francis Cooray, a Sri Lankan journalist who had lived in Malaya for 29 years, for 21 years as Special Correspondent for the Financial Times. Francis Cooray, Merdeka for Malaya (Maharagama: Saman Press, 1957).  British Library, 8025.c.96

In 1511, the Portuguese captured Melaka, the ‘Venice of the East’, the greatest Malay sultanate and port-city in Southeast Asia. Over the next three hundred years, Melaka was tossed about like a ping-pong ball by rival European powers: in 1641 it was wrestled from the Portuguese by the Dutch, and in the early 19th century passed into British hands. Entering the era of ‘high colonialism’, following the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 a British Resident was appointed to the state of Perak, and by the early 20th century, the whole of the Malay peninsula was under British control. The proclamation of Merdeka in 1957 thus marked the end of over four centuries of the presence of European power-bases in the Malay peninsula.

In 2007, to mark the 50th anniversary of Merdeka, the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur requested help from the British Library to compile an album of images from souvenir publications in its collection commemorating Malaysian independence, for presentation to the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.  Some of the most interesting pictures are reproduced below to mark today, the 59th anniversary of Merdeka.

The first featured guide is Merdeka Celebrations Guide 31st August 1957 (10059.d.13), published in Penang just before Independence Day itself, to publicise the celebrations prepared for Merdeka.

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Merdeka Celebrations Guide 31st August 1957: showing programmes of Penang, Province Wellesley & Kuala Lumpur. Penang: G.K.M. Dean, 1957. British Library, 10059.d.13

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Timetable of Merdeka celebrations planned for Georgetown, Penang. Merdeka Celebrations Guide 31st August 1957: showing programmes of Penang, Province Wellesley & Kuala Lumpur. Penang: G.K.M. Dean, 1957. British Library, 10059.d.13

The other three souvenir booklets shown here were published after the event and include photographs of the Merdeka celebrations. The Merdeka Anniversary Souvenir 31st August 1958 (Cup.25.e.50) was published to mark the first anniversary of independence.

Cup25e50, fc
Merdeka Anniversary Souvenir 31st August 1958 / Sambutan Ulangtahun Merdeka yang pertama Persekutuan Tanah Melayu 31 August 1958. Kuala Lumpur: Lai Than Fong, 1958. British Library, Cup.25.e.50, front cover

Cup25e50, 41
Merdeka Anniversary Souvenir 31st August 1958 / Sambutan Ulangtahun Merdeka yang pertama Persekutuan Tanah Melayu 31 August 1958. Kuala Lumpur: Lai Than Fong, 1958. British Library, Cup.25.e.50, p. 41

Malaya Merdeka Souvenir (X.702/1766) was published in Ipoh, Perak by O.S. Pada, and includes a pictorial record of the process of political negotiations leading up to independence, as well as of the great day itself.

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Malaya Merdeka Souvenir, 31st Aug., 1957. Ipoh: O.S. Pada, Pada Advertising Agency, 1957. British Library, X.702/1766

X702-1766, p.43

Malaya Merdeka Souvenir, 31st Aug., 1957. Ipoh: O.S. Pada, Pada Advertising Agency, 1957. British Library, X.702/1766, p.43

The fourth and final commemorative booklet, Kulim Merdeka Souvenir Magazine (X.700/13428) is particularly interesting in presenting a record of the Merdeka celebrations not in the federal capital, but in Kulim, a small town in Kedah. It features on its front cover the famous Kulim Merdeka Clock Tower, unveiled by Sultan Badlishah of Kedah on 15 September 1957 to mark the declaration of independence.

Kulim Merdeka souvenir
Kulim Merdeka Souvenir Magazine, 31st August 1957. Kulim: Chan Khuan Ooh, 1957. British Library, X.700/13428

X700-13428, p.21
A record of Merdeka celebrations in Kulim, including the unveiling of the Clock Tower, a parade of UMNO youths and Kaum Ibu, and a Boria performance. Kulim Merdeka Souvenir Magazine, 31st August 1957. Kulim: Chan Khuan Ooh, 1957. British Library, X.700/13428

X700-13428, p.18
The Merdeka arch in Baling, a small town in Kedah near the border with Thailand best known as the site of abortive negotiations in 1955 between Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Communist leader Chin Peng to end the Malayan Emergency. Kulim Merdeka Souvenir Magazine, 31st August 1957. Kulim: Chan Khuan Ooh, 1957. British Library, X.700/13428

Merdeka album - fc
The album of images from British Library publications presented by the British High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, 2007.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

02 May 2016

Malaysia and Football

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A few days ago I was invited by Raja Noorma Raja Othman, head of the London branch of the Malaysian bank CIMB, to a special screening of a new Malaysian film on football. Ola Bola is a feel-good movie about the multiracial Malaysian national football team which qualified for the Moscow Olympics in 1980, only to miss out on the Games when Malaysia joined the international boycott in protest at the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Watching the film reminded me of a what a long history there is of interest in football in the Malay world, as reflected in the collection of Malay printed books in the British Library. Just three decades after the founding of the Football Association in England in 1863, a Malay version of the Rules was printed in Singapore in 1895, entitled Risalat peraturan bola sepak yang dinamai Inggeris fut bul, ‘A guide to the rules of the ball game called in English football’. Translated by Mahmud bin Sayid Abdul Kadir al-Hindi, the booklet was published by the Committee of the Ethical Association (Lembaga Keadilan Persekutuan Dar al-Adab) and printed at the American Mission Press, and sold for 25 cents a copy. It included a fold-out plan of a football field showing the position of the players, as shown below.

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‘A plan of the field where Football is played, and directions for the players’ positions’ (Peta padang bermain Futbul dan peraturan mengatur pemain), drawn by Syed Mahmoed. Risalat peraturan bola sepak yang dinamai Inggeris fut bul, Singapore, 1895. British Library, 14628.b.2  noc

The Library’s Malay collection contains other gems of Malaysian football history, including a souvenir programme for the Gold Cup of 1947, Chendera Mata Piala Mas 1947, compiled by Md. Said bin A. Rahman and Rahmat bin Jais. The post-war formation of the first peninsular Malay football team (pasukan bola Melayu Semenanjong yang pertama diadakan) represented both a revival of and development on from the earlier Sultans’ Gold Cup, sponsored by the rulers of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang, which had last been held in 1938. In the programme, the compilers also sought to shine the spotlight on earlier Malay football heroes, including Taib bin Haji Ishak, 'Backbone of Selangor' from 1935-1941; the dashing centre-forward Syed Alwi bin Syed Md. Alsagoff, who captained the Sultan Sulaiman Club from 1921-1924 and represented Selangor in the Malaya Cup; Md. Said bin Othman, head of the Negeri Sembilan squad; and Dool bin Budin, a former N.S. player and renowned referee. But the man who was named the 'King of Malay Football' in the pre-war years was Abdul Fattah bin Abdullah, known popularly as Dolfattah (d.1945).  When the Singapore Malay team toured to Sumatra, they were met by banners: 'DOLFATTAH - MALAY FOOTBALL KING - WE'VE SEEN HIS PICTURE - WE'VE READ THE NEWS - NOW THE MAN HIMSELF IS HERE.' In one match, when Dolfattah was unable to play due to an injury, the crowd started to shout 'Give us our money back! No point in watching if Dolfattah's not playing!'. In the end Dolfattah was forced to appear on the pitch and show his face, before the audience was appeased. Dolfattah later moved to Medan as a coach, and was said to be able to play all over the field - even when he was in goal.

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Gold Cup souvenir  programme of 1947, with a list of the Malay Peninsula team members. Md. Said bin A. Rahman & Rahmat bin Jais, Chendera Mata Piala Mas 1947 (Kuala Lumpur: Nanyang Press, 1947). British Library, 14654.m.29

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A gallery of early Malay football stars, featured in Chendera Mata Piala Mas 1947. British Library, 14654.m.29

Publications on football have grown in popularity ever since. A new Malay translation of the Football Association Rules, Undang2 dan panduan bola sepak, by a former player and referee, H.A.B. Mansor was published in Penang in 1961 and sold widely. Countless magazines and newspapers were published to feed the appetite for news of the sport. 
 
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H.A.B. Mansor, Undang2 dan panduan bola sepak (Penang: Sinaran, 1961). British Library, 14654.w.241

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The inaugural issues of Suasana film dan sports (Singapore, 1963). British Library, Or.Mic.12061

Football is the most popular sport in Malaysia today, with the attention of fans often focussed on the birthplace of the game, and two British Championship teams have Malaysian owners: Cardiff City (Vincent Tan) and Queens Park Rangers (Tony Fernandes). But in today's hyper-professionalised game with its expensive and ever-changing kit, it is nice to read about one of the old Malay 'Greats'. In the 1920s the Selangor player Mohd. Yusoff bin Tahir was nicknamed Kaki Besi, ‘Iron Foot’, because he eschewed fancy 'modern' football garb and even refused to wear boots, but with his bare feet could still kick the ball as hard as a horse.

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Mohd. Yusoff of Selangor, known as 'Iron Foot'. Chendera Mata Piala Mas 1947, p.20. British Library, 14654.m.29

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork