Book review: The Malay Annals , translated by Dr John Leyden

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Published by Silverfish Malaysian Classic

Translated by: Dr John Leyden

(Originally published in 1821, from the original version published in 1612 commissioned by the Regent of Johor, edited by Tun Sri Lanang)

I bought this book in a seminar on Malay Numismatic , at first i was torn between reading it in Malay or the English version.

But somehow my heart were more inclined to read the english version and see what the western writes about our history.

And it was easier for me to read since I am not used to the old Malay writings, it would be quite hard to understand compared to english that have been rewritten so that it can be understood by the english reader. But I will read the Malay version some time later to compare both version.

Since someone ask me to write a review on it, well here it is. When you read the book, note that you are reading the edited version,so not all history manage to be translated – so by the time you read the chapters, its already the shorter version. I’m sure the original version are much more longer with the flowery malay language. So take it as a light reading (well..for a history lover, this is quite ‘light reading’ already, its only 200 page hahaha)

I’m not going to review all chapters, just a few fave one that i find interesting and probably sum a lil bit of everything. The chapters on Hang Tuah was only mentioned once, and not much emphasized on it. But what I find interesting was the Hang Nadim chapter, on how he manage to bring back Tun Teja. At this point, the Sultan was angry at Hang Nadim over a failed task to bring back some chintz (a flowery fabric) from Keling (India maybe?).There was some obstacle along the way so he can only bring back a few after escaping from Raja Silan who wanted him to stay for Hang Nadim is very skilled in limning (skilled drawer), it was Hang Nadim after all who showed to the Keling how to draw the desired pattern that the Sultan of Malacca after all the skilled Keling man showed their drawing to him.

Okay, coming back to Tun Teja story, the Malacca Sultan at that time do not have a Queen, so the Malacca Sultan heard of the Pahang Bendahara daughter, Tun Teja will be married to the Pahang Sultan. And so the Sultan announce that whoever can bring Tun Teja to be made Queen, he will forgive his mistakes and reward them. So Hang Nadim set out to bring back Tun Teja for the Sultan  in hope that his mistake will be forgiven. Now this is where it gets interesting, Hang Nadim got to know one of the perfume seller who frequented to Tun Teja house and ask her a favor to relay his message. The film version that we hear seem to portray that it is the ointment (minyak senyonyong/guna-guna) that captivated Tun Teja, instead, it is actually the well composed words of Hang Nadim that made Tun Teja change her mind.

The perfume seller told Tun Teja that,rather than marrying the Pahang Sultan as the second wife, it is better to marry the Malacca Sultan and become a Queen herself for Pahang is under Malacca’s protection. And so Tun Teja became the Queen of Malacca until her last breath, she gave birth to a daughter , named Arama Devi.. At one time after Tun Teja (then the Queen) told the Sultan that Hang Nadim treats her so honourably that he did not even look at her and hold her hand using a cloth when she was about to board the Perahu (boat). This give us a different perspective on both side, Hang Nadim may seem to ‘steal away’ Tun Teja, but it is actually Tun Teja own willing that she would rather be a Queen herself than a second wife.

Now this lead to the famous Puteri Gunung Ledang story, because before Tun Teja , there was another Queen who passed away, the Sultan was in such grief that none could make him happy, the Nobat was not played for 40 days and would probably continued until one day the Sultan ask what to do for Malacca no longer have a Queen, so the  Mentri’s (ministers) ask who shall they ask for hand in marriage to be made Queen. And so the Sultan ask for Puteri Gunung Ledang whom no other Prince manage to marry. So Sang Satia, Hang Tuah & Tun Mamat went to seek for Puteri Gunung Ledang, I particularly prefer this version, for the Sultan did not  try to kill his son to fulfill the wish of Puteri Gunung Ledang.For if i am not mistaken, Raja Ahmad succeeded him afterwards. Of cause it seems like he was a desirous man, but the Sultan did what any other Sultan would do, marry the finest women in their Kingdom to strengthen their power so that they may not be a slave to another Kingdom.

And then there was a chapter on one of the Malacca Sultan who sent a boat full of Sagu-grain to the Emperor of China in exchange to the needles that the Emperor claims to be used for every house in his kingdom. And so when the Emperor ask how it was made and its significance, the ambassador told him that you have to break the Ruyung to get the Sagu, and that every Sagu grain represents the number of people under Malacca’s Kingdom. Such wisdom can be seen here for this protects Malacca from being attacked by China, and treated as equals instead.

In another chapter wrote on how the Malacca’s Sultan mother peered from behind the door and point out to Malacca Sultan of which Bendahara to choose from the candidates that was presented to him. She whispered and told the Sultan to choose Tun Mutaher. That reflects a lot on who is actually in power. Lol!

It is from here, lead to the sad tragedy of the killing of Tun Fatimah’s family, the daughter of Tun Mutaher. Because of one man fitna lead to another, the whole family was killed except Tun Fatimah. It was said that a Kelinger, Kitul, owed a Cati (Kati) of gold to Raja Mudeliar (Mendeliar) To clear his debt, he made up stories that some rich merchant gave a certain amount of gold to the Bendahara, to kill Raja Mudeliar , grateful to this information, Raja Mudeliar cleared off his debt to him and went to the Laksamana  and made up another story that the Bendahara was going to overthrow the Sultan. Without further hesistation, the Laksamana told the Sultan who then put to death the whole family except Tun Fatimah. It was much later that they found out the truth, and justice was restored, especially Kitul who had the worst, where even his house was thrown to the sea like Hang Kasturi (who is actually the betrayed ‘Jebat’ )

There were some specific chapter that showed how the Malacca Sultan treated their captives, even if he was a Prince, he will be treated as if he was never captured and celebrated according to his status. That by the time he was supposed to go back, he felt so welcomed that he did not felt like a prisoner at all.The way the letters was presented to the Malacca Sultan were also treated as if the person who wrote the letter were there, so there will be Nobat played and a warm welcome according to the status and the Messenger who brought the letter. Sultans were well known to give fine cloth to his subjects, and so the Messengers were also given fine cloth according to their status and it is a custom for those who receive such gifts from the Sultan to change into the cloth they were given right after he was given the gifts. And when it comes to gifts, the Sultan was so rich that there was a lot of gold objects given to one of the noblemen, and even a country under His Majesty Kingdom!

How true is the history we don’t know for sure, but it certainly a way to remind the Sultan and the future Sultan to be careful in making decision and being just to the rakyat. It also reflects on how rich were the culture of the Malay’s and their wisdom in dealing with a lot of diplomatic ties for Malacca was once the centre of the trading world. The Malay Sultanate was blessed by a lot of very fine character of noblemen but it doesn’t mean they don’t have a few bad one’s . so it is up to the wisdom of the Sultan to ensure the sovereignty and peacefulness of their Kingdom.

May Allah swt protect our country from any harm either from within or from outside , may Allah swt protect the Sultanates , and may our country continue to be in good hand and blessed by Him. Amin.

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