Wednesday, March 5, 2008
WINGS OF THE WIND
Cultures can die. Dying cultures attest to colonizability of the people they represent. In Palembang on Bukit Siguntang-Mahameru, Pu Aton staked herself as a descendant of Pateh Gajah Mada, the warrior-premier of Majapahit who swore before his Queen he would unite the Malay Archipelago or die encased in eternal disgrace. Pu Aton believed she was eternal and tried to simplify the bewildering wayang (shadow play) someone staged on the benchmark of the region’s history.
We are “appearances”, she said, meaning they had all been epiphanies of the Hindu Gods, the Batara Guru (Siva), Batara Ganesa and Batara Vishnu. They were all the wayang of the One, of consciousness per se, Batara Brahma. He is Existence.
She was Sokiatan Binti Esmorajo, the nyai (old lady) of Bukit Siguntang. Regarding herself as the keeper of Raja Segentar Alam, the Alexander the Great someone “buried” inside what is clearly a Muslim grave, she volunteered to tell me the grave was empty.
That may not be altogether true. There could be a token or relic buried inside the shrine, like the eight strands of the Buddha’s hair that were said to have been enshrined in a pagoda in Burma, probably representing the Eight Auspicious Symbols in Buddhism. Taken as a whole Bukit Siguntang today is possibly an “appearance” of a yantra of shrines, or a sphere of power, a mandala.
Among the shrines on Siguntang was that of Puteri Rambut Selako. It was said she was Parameswara’s wife he left behind in Palembang when he escaped to Temasik.
The other shrines on Siguntang were of the great warriors, Pangeran Batu Api, Panglima Bagus Kuning; Panglima Bagus Garang; and the celestial princess, Puteri Kembang Dadar, who apparently never menstruated all her blessed life. These other shrines occur elsewhere in Palembang, the heartland of one of the largest empires in the medieval world, Srivijaya.
Pu Aton had been to Negeri Sembilan in July 2005 as a guest of Dato’ Klana Petra, Haji Mubarak Bin Haji Dohak, the 10th Undang Luak of Sungai Ujong (Seremban) who was installed in June 2005. She brought with her a handful of soil from Bukit Siguntang for the Undang, a gesture of romance confirming a historical past that is a mish-mash of legends, myths and matters of fact.
Here, in this world made of deeply set beliefs, even Wan Empuk and Wan Malini, the two women who first met the three Alexandrian hypostases on Siguntang were immortalized in Malay mantras. Since they had seen their padi glitter as gold and silver, they in turn were recalled for ages in the padi reaping ceremony for the grace they represented.
Hey Lady ‘Pok, Lady Melani,
Ladies of Peace shouldering the pole!
Whenever you come the harvest is rich,
With gracious gifts of God.† [Skeats. W.W., 1900, p. 615]
Magic comes easy in a world with such a Gracious God. Pu Aton knew her literature well and tried to tell me the Malay mysteries must be cleverly interpreted along stable lines of usages or they would become tawar,i.e. lose their potency. ‘Read them as mithalan (symbols), and interpret them by ta’wil, like interpreting dreams,’ she said.
I had learned to do a little of that. A rain-bearing cloud would mean the queen or reigning princess is pregnant, and a cloud that drifted after relieving itself of its moisture would mean the king or queen is dead.
That is an example of Malay symbolism. That is ta’wil at its simplest. In every culture there’s meaning and there’s the meaning of Meaning. In the Qur’an the Ka’aba is the House of God. That would mean the human ‘heart’. In Malay culture the heart is physiologically sometimes associated with the liver (hati) when it is the seat of discernment and at other times the physical heart (jantung sanubari), which is the centre of emotions.
In the universe this ‘heart’ is the ‘Arash (Throne), and is the centre of all the Names of God. It is the seat of “I AM”, the existential locus of human consciousness. The Footstool (Kursi) is the mind, the threshold of the Throne, encompassing the seven heavens. In the human form the Footstool refers to the Sirr (lit. secret), the inner conscience, locus of the divine commands. But who sits on the Throne of God?
While to the laity it is God the Supreme Judge (Qadi Rabbu’l-Jalil), the elite understood it as the monad, the one indivisible human substance in whom is the nature of the Divine Command (Amru’l-Lah). In the Qur’an He is the Muta’, or the One Obeyed.
Moving now from the interpretation (ta’wil) of the symbols to the determination (ta’rif) in the sensible world, the Raja Segentar Alam (lit. World Shaker) should be easily traced to the Muta’ (the One Obeyed). In the wayang of history He would be jointly and severally the world conquerors like Cyrus, Darius. Alexander, Solomon, Nurshirwan, Rajendra Chola, Kublai Khan, Gajah Mada, and of course, Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, among others.
We may say these are the avatars, or the modified and limited forms of the same Logos, the Muta’.† (Q. 81:21) All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. Some, no doubt, are more special than all the others. Hence, the mithalan (symbols), ta’wil (interpretation) and the ta’rif (determination) must apply for Malay history and historical motifs to be properly construed. The formula is to be found in Hikayat Iskandar Zulkarnain. [see Khalid Husain, 1967, p. 148]
In the culture these rules applied to most of everything that we called information. The Existent is God. Since all are epiphanies of the ‘affairs’ of the same God, they must then be mithalan (symbols) and would need to be strenuously interpreted (ta’wil), and finally determined (ta’rif) as a tasty luncheon of “truth” to be digested and acted upon.
While the masters of the sacred texts limit themselves to interpreting the scriptural symbols, the Malay adept applied it in his everyday life. He is no ‘animist’ bent on turning everything in his experiences into folklore. He lived his life in a reality that is solely advanced from Existence, of which he himself is the Book. Except for failing to produce a Sacred [written] Book, his religion is not any different from the Indo-Aryan or the Semitic.
Existence is the sole reality. When we observe Mr. Mouse, the real subject of our observation is Existence while Mr. Mouse is an accident that determines Existence into the particular thing, or idea, symbol, or name – Mr. Mickey Mouse, the delightful Disney’s rat.
The substance of Mr. Mouse, or of a tree, a tiger, a mountain or human person, is only an accident that modifies Existence into a limited form. In other words, everything observable in the sensible world is a modification and a limited form of Existence, and if you so wish, of God Almighty.
Nizami puts it this way in Layla and Majnun:
“Each grain of sand takes its own length and breath as the measure
of the world; yet beside a mountain range it is as nothing. You are
yourself the grain of sand; you are your own prisoner. Break your
cage, break free from yourself, from humanity; learn that what you
thought was real is not so in reality…then the world, your sovereign
will become your slave.”
The phenomenal world, therefore, is only the “affairs” of Existence, the internal articulations of God (or of absolute consciousness) from the unknowable to become the knowable. This is the shu’un of the Holy Qur’an in the verse ‘His only command when He so desires an affair (sha’an) is to say to it “Be!” and it is.’ [Qur’an 36: 82]
Izutsu wrote, ‘The reality of existence is immediately grasped only when the empirical selfhood is annihilated, when the ego-consciousness is completely dissolved into the consciousness of Reality, or rather, Consciousness which is Reality. [Izutsu, T., 1971, p. 8]
In other words, this reality is available to the greater Self, or the universal self that is more closely aware and identified with Existence (Malay Ada, Ar. Wujud).
These “affairs of Existence” shape themselves into the forms involved in the events of history by a process of ‘appearance’. The ‘appearances’ are epiphanies (Malay terjali; Ar. tajalli), reminding us of the Jelebu Teromba which began with the birth of Batin Terjali , the grandson of the great magician, Mertang, who married his sister, Tuk Etah, and went to Pagar Ruyung. [see Samad Idris, 1994, pp. 4-5]
It is about the monad, the single and indivisible Man who must necessarily marry someone of His own making, a “sister” or a “companion made from His rib”, or a woman that appeared in a clump of bamboo. In Hinduism Brahma married His daughter, Gayatri, who is finally the “Sun” that illumines the sensible world.
The Malay lived his life by this cultivation of a culture of Existence. That entailed giving the world into three realms, the upper realm of the Indo-Aryan Indra, or Kayangan with its spheres (falak). Then there’s the human middle-world he called Alam, using the Arabic word to mean all that he surveyed, such as Alam Melayu (The Malay world), or Alam Manusia (the Human World). The third was the netherworld of the jinn, bunian, poyang-poyang, peri and hantu - the genies, elves, nymphs, fairies and demons.
Symbols must mean differently to each class of society. A rain-bearing cloud would mean the queen is pregnant to those whose lives were immediately affected by the regnant. To farmers it could mean “a blessing” but not necessarily to fishermen. This existential scheme of signs must be read according to who you are. It is finally denominated by knowledge of self and Self, the latter being the Word of God, the Logos.
Who then was this Iskandar Zulkarnain, Raja Segentar Alam? What mithalan would he be and what gems would the ta’wil cast?
We have already ‘determined’ He is a limited and modified form of the Muta’, the One Who Is Obeyed. That’s about one level of interpretation. On another plane He is said to be ‘hidden in the breath’, that is, he was an “appearance” of an aspect of Divinity hidden in the nature of the Breath. He must be invoked to be brought into “appearance” and by strenuous self-cleansing through the scheme of Purgation-Illumination-Perfection, he could be brought into being in your self according to your capacity to accept him.
In Malay religion, said Batin Talib, we must try to make our way to ‘the before of before’ (dahulu daripada dahulu), beyond all beginnings, beyond Adam and even beyond Iblis (Lucifer) who was created thousands of years before Adam.
In the Kelantan Main Peteri mantra ‘the before of before’ was described as
‘…before the Pen was sharpened, before the Ink
was made, before the Tablet was written, before the First
was emplaced and when the Last was not yet created, before
the world was spread and the sky became concave….in the dark
of darkness and in chaos…’. That was when ‘the before was before’.
[see Gimlette, John. D., 1915, p. 275]
This path is called Beringin Songsang,† the Inverted Fig Tree, going back into creation to ‘revive the dead’.† The word beringin is literally ‘to aspire’ and songsang is upside down or inside out. It is the same as Nizami’s Break your cage, break free from yourself, from humanity; learn that what you thought was real is not so in reality…then the world, your sovereign will become your slave. Beringin Songsang is metaphysical revolution. [see Skeats p. 634]
The world was changing. New powers jostled to control the Straits of Malacca and the Sunda Straits, Islam swiftly becoming dominant in the Archipelago. Either the Malays find the means to culturally survive or it would be the end of their cultural identity and historical mission.
They modified the Semitic Creation story. In it God Almighty made Adam from clay and then He sneezed. The image of Adam broke to pieces at the impact of that Almighty Atchooohah! A Sneeze it was. Azrael, the Archangel entrusted with the task of modeling Adam, returned to remake the image of Man.
‘Then God commanded Azrael to take the steel of Khorasan (Besi Khersani)† and drive it down Adam’s back so that it became the 33 bones (Dilantakkan di belakang, menjadi 33 tulang), the harder steel at the top and the softer below it. The harder steel shot up heavenwards, and the softer steel penetrated the earth. Thus the image of Adam came to life, and dwelt in Paradise…’ [Skeats, W.W., 1900, p. 585]
The Malay had obviously learned from his experiences and learned his lessons well. Breaking away from the alien captivities was essential, but to choose the right brand of Islam was equally critical. We need to remember on the 10th of Muharram at Kerbala (now in Iraq), Yazid ibn Muawiyah, the Umayyad emperor, had his troops surround the Prophet’s grandchildren and their children and decimated all but one of the males in the family. Islam could never be the same after that. The religion split into two halves and a significant number of the surviving members of Muhammad’s descendants turned to the Shi’ahs of Persia and of Yemen. That was one choice the Malay could make. He took it but failed to come through cleanly.
The Malay had his own exegesis of Existence. He had his own monad. Gayomart (Kayumurs), who was first a son of Adam the Farsi had turned into the first Man. Adam had been usurped.
That story the Pahlavans told in this way:
He said: “That customs of the throne and crown,
First Kayumurs when he was king laid down,
To the Ram’s constellation when the sun
Entered, the earth with brilliant splendor shone.
From the Ram’s constellation he gave light,
So that the earth became young and bright,
When Kayumurs was master of the land,
In the hill country first he took his stand,
His throne and fortune overtopped the hill.
- [Alexander Rogers, trs. Shah Namah of Firdusi, 1907, p. 6]
Here then is a clear indication of the Malay Iskandar Zulkarnain. He was Kayumurs (Gayomart), now the Persian Adam, King of the Mountain, Sailaraja in Sanskrit or Sailendra, Kaudinya’s dynasty of Funan. Funan is the Chinese rendering of kurung bnam, ‘King of the Mountain’ - ‘His throne and fortune overtopped the hill’. Gayomart came through Aries, the Ram, the Possessor of Two Horns. It is the Sun that enters Aries during the vernal equinox to begin the zodiacal year. Gayomart is the Sun. In the Hindu it was Gayatri (Savitri). The Farsi made her Gayomart.
‘We were originally Farsi,’ Batin Talib said, ‘from Iskandar Zulkarnain. He would use ‘Turki’ (Turkic) and ‘Farsi’ interchangeably. When “Rum” was suggested he agreed, begitulah (that is so), he would say.
The Malay believed himself to be a descendant of Gayomart. He was ‘from the land of the East’.† He had simplified for himself his own route into his Self. What was left was to see if he could be stable in this genesis or he would crumple before the Lord of the Flies and himself father grubs.
To him Man is primarily a construct of several basic aspects of the conscious self, the first being Seri Alam, which is that element of the ‘common sense’ that determines our universal sense-experience, which is the World of Man.
Seri Segentar Alam is the second of these basic aspects of the human being and it is about his inner breath, the inner inspiration and expiration of the God-conscious personality that has gone beyond ‘the before of before’. This is the creative-breath, possibly the same as the Hindu prana and the chi of the Taoist, the tanafasa of the Qur’an. (Qur’an, 81:18). This ‘Breath’ is light, and Alam is now the body.
The creations of the Seri Alam in the external world are projected to our sense perception by the inner breath and thus the inner breath can ‘shake the world’ (gentar alam). Hence, the Raja Segentar Alam is the King of that creative energy, which is easily recognized as the monad, the single and indivisible Spirit of Man.
This was the Malay Iskandar Zulkarnain, the dynamo behind human existential nature who determined that human civilization must first be about protecting and enhancing life, knowledge, equity, justice and culture. Among the worst of sins in that framework was to lie, since that would ultimately be affronting the human communis , the human existential unity.
Zulkarnain literally means Possessor of Two Horns, the simplest symbol which would take us towards the integration of East and West. Here then is the Universal Man.
The erudite must apply his knowledge to his heart (hati) the seat of discernment. The heart also contains his biological forces. It encompasses all the worlds and the spheres making it possible for him to gain insights and intuition beyond the reach of ordinary mental faculties. By his heart, King Solomon, it was believed, could communicate with the jinns, animals, birds and insects. This was called Seri Putaran Alam.
The final basic aspect of the human being is his soul. In his pursuit for illumination and perfection he must make the attempt to become himself a Word, a Kalimat.
Reaching that height made him an ‘appearance’ of Bentera Alam,† a servant of God. He is at all times merely a modified and limited form of the Real, Existence.
That Bentara Alam is Iskandar Zulkarnain, the phenomenal appearance(s) of Gayomart, the monad. He was enshrined on Siguntang as the hallmark of Malay religion and culture, his intimacy with the world of variety and of extremes he wants to unite, to moderate and to integrate into a Federation of Man, into kuyup damai – an immersion of Peace, such as John’s baptism by immersion into the waters of the Jordan.
He was to be a special “Malay Man” (Orang Melayu), having his own “power-grid” like it is with the Chinese ‘meridians’ running through the human body modern science has yet to discover.
As an individual he is a particle of that Breath of Segentar Alam and hence, to him ‘Wind’ (Angin ) is an especially important creative substance. .
Be careful of the Wind regulating the physical desdires (Shariat)
affecting the hairs and the skin.
The Wind carrying the reality of Life (Hakikat), affecting the flesh and blood.
The Wind of the movement of emotions (Tarekat) affecting
the arteries and the bones.
The Wind regulating the encounter with the Self (Ma’rifat) affecting
life and seed.† [Gimlette, John D., 1915, p.279]
The Malay Angin is the same as the Arabic Ruh, which means breath and wind. [See Gibbs, H.A.R and Kramers, J. H., 1961, art. Nafs, p. 433] It is the Breath of Life [Qur’an, 15:29] and hence, in Malay medicine, most complaints issue from this Wind, or these Winds.
This part of the Malay is now already a discarded culture, surviving mainly as a barren body of superstition. That’s the price that must be paid for being colonized. It is the cost of subjugation. Malay religion is now wholly Arab religion, the residual Malay culture regarded mainly as an unwelcome guest, a deviant intruder.
Upon Siguntang came later the Alexandrian triad that became the starting point of Malay history in Palembang, as it was narrated by Tun Seri Lanang in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) and in some other Malay “fables”. In Batin Talib’s narration one segment of the same Malay history began with Kenaton, Koreh and Tuen in Pagar Ruyung, the chronological absurdity notwithstanding. What mattered was the meaning that could and would be derived from the mithalan (symbols), ta’wil (interpretation) and ta’rif (determination) of the mythological saga.
The Malay saw his self and Self as given to Diri Yang Terdiri, which is his physical person, Diri Yang Terperi, which is the subtle body conceived as being the body he experiences in his dreams or in the dream-states, Diri Terjali, the epiphany, and finally Diri Yang Berdiri Sendiri, which is Existence, the “I AM” or God. We will return to this later.
Now we need to ask, since he is insisting on a fundamentally legalistic Islam, what will the Malay become in the near future? When China becomes the world’s largest economy by 2025, with India close behind, and the geopolitical exigencies would once again change drastically, would he become an Arabic speaking descendant of Mickey Mouse or could he possibly become the Sun? --- © a. ghani ismail, 6 March, 2008
† Hei Dang ‘Pok, Dang Melani,
Dang selamat menyandang galah!
Bertapok bertimbun dayang kemari,
Selamat rezki iberinya Allah.
Dengan berkat ……….
† Muta’ (Q. 81:21) – word from ati’u – ati’ullah wa ati’ur-rausl…(obey God and obey the Messenger. Muta’ is the obeyed one, by whose command the spheres are moved. According to Karim al-Jili in his Insanu’l-Kamil (Perfect Man), the Muta’ is one of the names of the Divine Spirit, the Spirit of Muhammad (Ruhu’l-Muhammadi), of which Muhammad is the perfect manifestation, or ‘appearance’. Muhammad was reported to have said, He who has seen me has seen Allah’. He is the Amr Allah, the Logos. Others say the Muta’ refers to the Pole (Qutb), who moves the world. [See Nicholson, R.A., 1964, pp. 63-64]
† Puteh boleh menjadi hitam,
Hitam boleh menjadi puteh, Sri Jaya sifatnya aku,
Sri Allah, Sri Muhammad!
Aku jadi di Beringin Songsang,
Kabul berkat do’a memakai do’a Langgudi Hitam,
Sudah mati hidup samula,
Berkat La ilaha…. – p. 634 - Skeats
† From the land of the East. In the Old Testament Abraham sent his sons from Keturah, his third wife, ‘to the land of the east.’ The Malays could choose the better of two worlds. [See Te NIV Study Bible, Gen. 25:6
† see Skeats pp. 581-583
† Besi Kurasani occurs in the following Malay Mantra:
Hei urat segala urat
Urat Kurasani selilit pinggang
Besi berdiri tulang belakang
Ah! Jaga urat Kurasani selilit pinggang
Tulang bergantung kepada daging
Daging bergantung kepada urat Urat bergantung kepada kulit
Naga berjuang di dalam laut
Kalau tidak jaga
Derhaka engkau kepada Allah
Dengan berkat La illaha ila’l-Lah …..
[Haron Daud, 2004, Ulit Mayang – Kumpulan Mantera Melayu, Selangor, 2004]
† The four basic aspects of the monad occur in the Kitab Pawang as ‘Empat Kudrat Pawang’. See Skeats, 1900, pp.582-583
† The Winds - Jaga sekali Angin Shareat, roma dengan kulit,
Angin Hatekat, daging dengan darah,
Angin Tarekat, urat dengan tulang,
Angin Marifat, nyawa dengan benih. [Gimlette, J.D., 1915, p.279]
1. A.Samad Idris et al., Luak Jelebu, Muzium Negeri dan Kerajaan Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus, 1994
2. Gibbs, H.A.R and Kramers, J. H., Shorter Encyclopaedia Of Islam, London, 1961
3. Gimlette, John. D., Malay Poisons and Charm Cures, O.U.P., Singapore, 1915, 5th imp. 1991
4. Haron Daud, 2004, Ulit Mayang – Kumpulan Mantera Melayu, Selangor, 2004
5. Izutsu, Toshihko, The Concept and Reality of Existence, The Keo Institute of Cultural and Linguistic Studies, (?), 1971, p. 5 ]
6. Khalid Hussain, Hikayat Iskandar Zulkarnain, Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, 1967
7. Rogers, Alexander, trs., The Shah-Namah Of Firdusi, Chapman & Hall, London, 1907, reprint Heritage Publishers, Delhi, 1973
8. Skeats, Walter William, Malay Magic, MBRAS No. 24, 1900 (reprint 2005)
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
LIVING IN THE FORESTS OF THE SUN –
THE STORY OF AN OPPRESSED MALAY MINORITY
Itak could be quickly gripped by his feelings. His tribal history is to him sacred, but he knew of it no more than the basic established belief that his people, the Orang Asli, had come from Pagar Ruyung, the heart of the Minangkabau Malay. ‘We were the elder brother (abang) and the Melayu (Malays) the younger (adik).’
He is Malay. ‘But there was disagreement from the days we were in Pagar Ruyung. As a result our ancestors decided to live by the forests in the hills, while the rest lived along rivers and the coasts, becoming farmers and traders.
‘My father told me this. But I was a small boy when my father died. I cannot remember the names of our ancestors (moyang) at Pagar Ruyung.’
He was a Temuan, living with his sons and a son-in-law on a perch along the road from Hulu Langat to Kuala Klawang, the jungle slipping into a deep valley before it rises once again into the other side of the Malayan Main Range, Banjaran Titiwangsa.
It is likely the Aslis have altogether forgotten the legends of their genesis. But there was an exception inside the Jerantut forests in Pahang 36 years ago. He was Batin Talib of Sungai Kiol, himself not merely a story-teller but a “weaver”, a creative soul that was undeterred by the failure of the tribal collective memory to retain its legends and myths.
I met him in 1972 and recorded on a Grundig tape for the Malaysian National Archives his story of the Jah-Het and Jakun in a shortened version, the whole story requiring seven nights to be told from beginning to end. His story in the subsequent parts of this writing is based on what was taped and on the notes I took when asking him to explain or elucidate his narrative. I kept in touch with him for many years after.
My arrival at his village was inopportune. I ran right into an invasion of his environ. A timber company had been licensed to assault with impunity the sanctified reaches of his forest in the sun. He was distraught and incensed.
‘Why do you wake up every morning from your sleep?’ he asked, looking at me expectantly in the hope I shared his beliefs and his worldview to state the desired answer clearly, as an Asli would. I wasn’t as daring then as I am now to audaciously attempt crushing the unknown and so I surrendered the question back to him.
If he had been disappointed he carefully kept it to himself. ‘To see the sun once again,’ said he, ‘and seek from Her forests the joys of another day of life (bahagia nyawa untuk sehari lagi).’
He knew I was taken. I was stunned and could not hide it. He had become a heliotrope. Life to him was finally Existence, Consciousness/Knowledge, and Joy or Bliss, in such a context that was all his own. He was to the forest what the forest was to him, a symbiosis between Keeper and Sustainer of Life (Nyawa). The forest had been to him the richest and most manifest Life Form, sustaining other living forms that were countless, like the stars.
Talib would later speak of Ebrahil and Peruman the way his father had done in his declaration of the creation myth. [see Ratos, Anthony, 1960] It was about a contest between Ebrahil and Peruman in which Ebrahil would win hands down every round, attesting to the coming of Islam as it overtook the earlier Hindu-Buddhist beliefs in the Malay world. (see Ratos, Anthony, 1960, passim.] The Ebrahil, or Raja Brahil, was quite clearly the Archangel Jibrail (Gabriel), a common acceptance among Malays and Jakuns. [see Skeats, 1900, p.630]†
In Hikayat Raja Pasai a yogi insisted Sultan Malikul Mahmud should be called Sultan Ahmad Perumudal Perumal, whereupon the sultan vowed to free Pasai from India. He had earlier driven off a Siamese invasion. [Jones, Russell, 1999, p.35-36] Islam evidently first established itself in the Malay Archipelago in Samudera-Pasai, in the 11th century.
The passage to the dominance of Islam had not been easy. Harder still was the blow that thundered upon the Aslis in the interchange. They were to find being Muslims wasn’t enough. Islam clapped them in an iron-grip of a senselessly suppressive legalism that the choice they had to make was simply between being psychological captives or living freely as Sakai Pangan. His life trapped in that metaphysical and legal confrontations, Batin Talib culled himself from his own wisdom a manner of living in joy, cusped in words that could not have been neater to express the reality of an intermediary between the forests and the “Sun”. We wake up from our sleep each morning to see the “Sun” once again and seek from Her forests the joys of another day of life (bahagia nyawa untuk sehari lagi).’
Talib knew the story of Brahil and Peruman well, of course, but this was not a time of creation. He was facing the forces of destruction (construction and development?), directly assaulting his sacred environment by the money-culture he knew would one day claim the right to tyrannize the whole of his collective being, and his total sense and purpose of existence.
Even if he had tried his best to fight the monstrosity, his community was being immediately impoverished and the enfeeblement it caused was final.
Less than a couple of decades away a swath of his tribal forest would be completely removed and the undulating space would be turned into a full-scale international golf course ‘with circles of tiny green grasses seeking to secure a hole in which was a thing that looked like a very hard bird’s egg you cannot eat.’
No creation myth could include that kind of a transformation of the forest. It was metaphysically absurd. Who would be playing golf in Jerantut District anyway? The nearest airport was more than 120 kilometers away and the closest decent hotel was in Termeloh, some 50 or 60 kilometers to the south.
Batin Talib was a Jah-Het chief. He hailed from Temuan country in Triang on the Negeri Sembilan side. The Jah-Het and Temuan are Jakun clans. His family was displaced by the Rawa War, from Hulu Triang.
Hulu Triang was founded by the son of Maharaja Alif, one of the two earliest personalities mentioned in the Teromba (Legend) of Jelebu’s beginning. He was Shah Alam Raja Sahari. In one version of the Teromba, he was a son of Alexander The Great. [see Wilkinson, R. J., 1971, pp. 368-69]
It was this Shah Alam Raja Sahari who acted as Regent after the demise of a Yam Tuan (the Sovereign) in Sri Menanti and he installs the new Sovereign.
The other was Batin Terjali, the grandson of Mertang, the Great Magician who married his own sister, begot a daughter, Tok Etah, and went to Pagar Ruyung. Tok Etah begot Batin Terjali in Pagar Ruyung and returned to Jelebu. This was long before Moyang Salleh became the first Muslim Undang of Jelebu a sniff sooner than Jelebu’s breakaway from Johor in 1757. [ A. Samad Idris, 1994, pp. 4-5; 11]
It was a story in Time that had its warps, when the bygone could be transmuted into tomorrow and the early years were merely a memory away.
The earliest settlers of Jelebu were several clans of the Jakun and other Asli communities. The Asli founded Johol, Jelebu, Sungai Ujong and Kelang. [A. Samad Idris, 1994, p.8]. We may add to that list Rembau. [see Buyers,Christopher, http://4dw.net/royalark/Malaysia/rembau.htm]
That’s Batin Talib’s heritage. His ancestors founded the better parts of Negeri Sembilan, and Naning which is now in Malacca. Apart from the Negritos who were Melanesian, most of the other Orang Asli tribes were Malays. But the Negritos had been a part of the Malay community from the earliest period of Malay history, in Funan. K’ang T’ai, who wrote the first extant recorded account of Funan between 245 and 250 AD described the people of the kingdom as black and frizzy-haired. [see Hall, D.G.E., 1955, p. 25] Parameswara’s wife in Palembang was believed to have been Puteri Rambut Selako, a Negrito.
Obviously the Malay had not been bothered by skin color or natural hairstyle. It was from such a heritage that the family of Batin Talib was displaced by the Rawa War.
He had meant the Rawa War of 1848 when the troubles that brewed in Sungai Ujong (now Seremban) between the Dato’ Klana and the Mendailing had involved the Rawa and Mendailing from as far as Pahang and Sumatra, the war raging until 1863 when it then burst into the Pahang Civil War and into the disturbances in Selangor until the British intervened and established the Residential System in the 1870s.
It had been several generations since, and several stops before he found himself succeeding his father as Batin (headman) of the community in Sungai Kiol.
The traditional Asli Batin wasn’t merely leader and magistrate of his community. He was also shaman. In the case of Batin Talib, his clan, the Jah-Het, belonged to the exclusive family of Muntah Lembu (lit. Bull’s Vomit), which made him a herald, giving him the right to retain, to “recover”, or even to determine the personality and character of his tribe by deciding on the Adat.
Muntah Lembu! The Bull’s Vomit was yet another matrix from which the celestial rose through Nature in a human form. Malay princes and princesses had emerged from the Buluh Betong (a specie of bamboo). The royal household of Champa had begun from a boy found inside a bunch of areca-nuts. It was about notifying the people to respect the special space distancing the royal and priestly from the common, even more imaginative than using a spacecraft from Krypton from where Superman had come to planet Earth. The blood of Malay royalty was white. It must have been awesome. The Adat needed that intervention of the supernatural to root.
The Adat is defined by Wilkinson as ‘“right procedure. In all matters there is a right way of doing and a wrong way of doing things” Adat is the right way…Adat includes the laws of nature, the convention of society, the rules of etiquette and even the doctrines of common sense. Adat is right action in matters of everyday life as well as in obedience of the laws of the land…Law lies at the very heart of Adat but is not coextensive with it.’ [Wilkinson, R.J.,1971, p. 392]
Batin Talib was from Bat of the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals). He was a descendant of the herald who was born of the foamy vomit of the White Bull ridden by the three hypostases from the Alexandrian cosmic custody to Bukit Siguntang in Palembang, to become the Malay rulers.
This is about epiphanies (terjali), as we are told in the Teromba of the Minangkabau. An earlier Alexandrian triad who landed on the peak of Gunung Merapi in Sumatra had become the rulers of the Malay world, of Persia-Ionia (Rum) and of China. The White Bull was the Bull of Gayomart, the Persian Adam. Sultan Idris of Perak had told Wilkinson he was a descendant of that Gayomart. [see Wilkinson, R.J., 1971, p.368]
Minangkabau was a part of Srivijaya and Srivijaya was a Buddhist centre of learning. The Hindu element had come when Srivijaya was conquered by Rajendra Chola in the 11th century and then when Majapahit became Palembang’s suzerain in the 14th century. The Buddhism was of the Sailendra, the dynasty that founded Funan. It was the Sailendra that built the grand and enchanting Borobudur.
Bat and his descendants, said the Sejarah Melayu, were the origins of those who retained the memory of the Malay genesis and culture. On them depended the fineries and niceties of the Malay Court [Adapun Bat itulah daripada anak cucunya asal orang yang membaca ciri dahulukala;† Shellabear, W.G., 1981, p.18; also see p. 58]
Had he been in Melaka during the Sultanate, Talib could have been the Seri Bija Diraja, of whom it was said he was ‘a Malay from the beginning, Tun Hamzah was his name, his origin the [clan] of Muntah Lembu (Bull’s Vomit); he was known as Datuk Bungkuk…’ [Shellabear, W.G., 1981, p.71]
The menhirs found in the Minangkabau territory of Negeri Sembilan and Naning are known to the elders till today as Moyang Bungkuk. The Muntah Lembu families presided over the installation ceremony of the Malay kings, and still do in Perak [see Raja Iskandar, http://themalaynobat.blogspot.com/]
The same musical instruments as those that are used in the installation of Malay Rajas are to be found in the Orang Asli Museum at Gombak. There is the nafiri (trumpet), the serunai (reed shawm), the gendang (drums) and the nengkara (kettledrum), making a complete ensemble.
Talib was a Malay of Minangkabau. Some would say he was “proto-Malay”, meaning the Malay before he became Buddhist, Hindu-Buddhist or Muslim. Talib had a different view. He believed his people, the Orang Asli, would have remained Muslims if Islam could be friendlier and not amuse the power-appetite with the violence of the religious laws. ‘We uphold the laws of Abraham and as we were told, it has only seven things that are forbidden. We strictly forbid adultery, theft, lying, being unjust, to oppress, breaking promises and to favor one’s relatives or cronies.’
The Sejarah Melayu referred to the law of Abraham, but did not elucidate. [see Shellabear,W.G., 1981, p.5] The laws of Batin Talib were strongly suggestive of the Persian Sassanian. More likely they were republican Kamboj or Saka of Central Asia, or the Jati number which was a mix of the Parthians and Scythians, or maybe of the Palas and Kamboj of Bengal.
The basic nature of Adat Perpatih had long baffled scholars because of its republican persuasion. The Yam Tuan (Sovereign) had no land nor had he any power beyond being the appellate. He had hardly a civil list. [see Wilkinson, J.R., 1971, p. 371]
Minangkabau was given into two distinct Adat. The Perpatih did not apply Islamic criminal and family laws. Those laws were gradually incorporated into the Adat Temenggong which governed the coastal cities, whereas the Adat Perpatih governed the people of the hills and forests. [see Harun Mat Piah, 1989, pp. 430-31; also see Wilkinson, J.R., 1971, p. 392-395].
It is easier to simply accept the Aslis as Malays but no longer, because in the Malaysian Constitution the Malay must be a Muslim. In other words, the Orang Aslis are non-Muslim Malays, but that is something which is constitutionally a nonentity in Malaysia. They were legally made “Non-Existent Malays”, a new metaphysical category of the existential and consequently of a unit of reality – ‘a non-existent reality’! But it is law in Malaysia. Should they embrace Islam they would reacquire normalcy, and once again become ‘Melayu’ (Malay), an ‘existent reality'.
Batin Talib’s ancestors could have belonged to the first wave of Minangkabaus that arrived in the Malay peninsular in 1338 (A.H. 773) according to legend. [Cave, Jonathan, 1996, p. 44]. That would be about the historical time when the curtain was raised for Adityawarman to make his debut in Malayu (Jambi). This Tantric Hindu-Buddhist from Majapahit-Jambi parentage founded Pagar Ruyung. He ruled to around 1375. In Indonesia he is more commonly recalled as a Tantrayana Buddhist rather than a Hindu or Hindu-Buddhist.
Most Minangkabaus and other Malays were not Muslims even after Melaka had fallen to the Portuguese in 1511. Tome Pires wrote, ‘The Kings of Menamcabo are three. The chief one is called Raja Cungo [Sungai] Teras, the second Raja Bandar who was the brother of the king, and the third Raja Bonco [Bongsu]. The first was Muhammadan for almost 15 years, the other two heathens. [Cave, Jonathan, 1996, p. 18] Pires noted Sultan Mansur Shah married his sister to the Minangkabau king and converted him to Islam.
Tome Pires also wrote to say Mansur Shah “was a Moor with a hundred of his men, but the others are still heathens to this day”. [Cave Jonathan, 1996, p. 18].
In the Sejarah Melayu the Bendahara of Raja Kecil Besar (later Sultan Muhammad Shah) knew nothing of Islam at the time of the conversion of the raja. [Shellabear, 1981, pp. 55-7]
Islam as we know it today in Malaysia is a new phenomenon. There’s little that was Arab-Islamic in the Malacca Laws (Undang-Undang Melaka). There’s hardly anything that was Arab-Islamic in the 99 Laws of Pahang.
It had been a soft and tolerant sort of Islam that finally rooted in Melaka, an Islam that looked much deeper for existential reality than the offering of the fundamentalists. Sultan Mansur, for instance, had sent to Pasai a delegation to ask the scholars there two simple questions: Would the souls in paradise remain in it forever? Would the damned stay in hell eternally?
Pasai answered positive on both counts but quickly withdrew and altered the answers to the satisfaction of Melaka. [see Shellabear, W. G., 1981, pp.117 -8]. We are all from God, says the Holy Qur’an, and our final place of repose is in Him.
I revisited the Sungai Kiol village in 2004. Batin Talib who had left the world a long time ago was still fondly remembered by the elderly. The small two-classroom wooden school in 1972 had given way to a much larger concrete Primary School and then a larger-than-life school complex was being built in 2004. That is certainly modernization and development.
The path that led to the village was partially covered with bitumen. The Balai Adat where he held council or would talk with me into the wee hours of the morning appeared still the same. But there was now a small sundry shop-cum-house attesting to the fact that the change that had hit the village after the golf extravaganza was built had been inconsequential. There was already a contractor among the Jah-Het of Sungai Kiol in 1972 and by 1975 he was driving a Fiat 1200, no less.
Change had been perceptible from the 1950s, during the Emergency. Some members of the community had joined the Senoi Praak (regimental contingent) and they would have to prepare to earn a living in the money-economy or vegetate after retirement. A few became businessmen, some as contractors. The Kiol Valley, alas, hasn’t yet housed a single manufacturing industry. But it has a golf course, yahoo! –a. ghani ismail, 21 Feb. 2008
Allah ‘kan payung-ku!
Nabi Muhammad Mimbarku!
Raja Brahil di kananku!
Serafil di kiriku!
Rasulullah di hadapanku!
Turun mala’ikat yang berempat,
Terkunci terkancing pintu bahayaku. [Skeats, W.W.1900, p. 630]
†Telah orang bergelar itu datang ke dalam, maka dihentikan di luar. Maka cirri yang amat indah-indahbunyinya dibaca orang di hadapan raja. Daripada anak cucu Bat itulah yang membaca ciri itu. Adapun yang menyambut cirri itu daripada kaum keluarga orang bergekar it juga… [Shellabear, 1981, p.58]
1. A. Samad Idris et al., Luak Jelebu, Muzium Negeri dan Kerajaan Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus, 1994
2.Buyers, Christopher, Rembau, http://4dw.net/royalark/Malaysia/rembau.htm , 2007
3.Cave, Jonathan, Naning in Melaka, monograph No. 16, JMBRAS, 2nd impression, ed. Dr. Mubin Sheppard, 1996
4.Harun Mat Piah, 1989, Puisi Melayu Tradisional: Satu Perbicaraan Genre dan
Fungsi, Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur
5. Jones, Russell, Hikayat Raja Pasai, Yayasan Karyawan dan Fajar Bakti, Kuala Lumpur, 1999
6. Raja Iskandar, http://themalaynobat.blogspot.com/
7. Ratos, Anthony, Origins of The World According to the Jah Hut (as narrated by
Batin Hitam), Kuala Lumpur, Private Circulation, 1960]
8. Shellabear, W.G., Sejarah Melayu, Fajar Bakti, ed. 3, Kuala Lumpur, 1981
9. Wilkinson, R. J. ed.,Papers On Malay Subjects, OUP, London, 1907-1916, reprint
Part Two of a series on the Origin of the Malays
OUT OF THE DARK INTO THE
FOREST OF THE NIGHT
The Jakun was a well-organized tribe of Malays – a community based on shared genesis, a single destiny and the same set of values. To Itak all the Orang Asli in Malaysia belonged to a single tribe, even if some like the Jehai and the Temiar were Melanesian, Negritos with the natural curly Afro hairstyle. Itak’s perception reflected the new nationalism of the Orang Asli in Malaysia, a shared sentiment rising from the neglect, positive discrimination and the fact they were and are managed by the same government department, the JHEOA (pronounced Jehova). It is time for an Orang Asli to head the department.
But the Aslis, though they were tribally differentiated, they were deemed to have been equally members of the Malay nation. In Palembang where I was in 2007 seeking for clues to enrich this story of the Malays, many believed the warrior-princess, Puteri Rambut Selako (Princess Curly Hair), enshrined on Bukit Siguntang, was Parameswara’s wife he left behind when he fled Palembang on his way to Temasik (Singapore). The beautiful warrior-princess was a Negrito.
Batin Talib would have agreed the Aslis of Malaysia were all Malays. The Orang Asli have been fighting together in the Senoi Praak, the regimental contingent set up during the Emergency to help quell the Communist Insurrection that raged from 1948 to 1960 and then again in the 1980s. The Aslis have come to terms with pluralism in a new guise, a nationalism that is slowly being mobilized and leading towards self-realization with a clear political motive.
Batin Talib’s narrative began from after Adityawarman who became the king of Malayu (now Jambi) in 1339 and subsequently founded Pagar Ruyung. He extended his empire inland. He ruled over Minangkabau and much of Sumatra, leaving around Pagar Ruyung eight of his stone inscriptions. [see Hall, D.G.E., 1955, p. 79]
It was Jambi that was the capital city of southeastern Sumatra since the 11th century, after Srivijaya was sacked by Rajendra Chola, and it was black pepper, not gold, which was Jambi’s mainstay, the spice going mainly to China, India and Arabia. It was highly valued as an aphrodisiac. In the 15th century Chinese soldiers were partially paid in black pepper. [see Andaya, Barbara Watson, 1993, p. 44]
Adityawarman was from Majapahit. His mother, Dara Jingga, was from Jambi. He was a tantric Hindu-Buddhist, deified as a bhairawa†, immortalized in a statue now in the Jakarta Museum. [see Rusli Amran, 1981, pp.22-3] But the beginning of Jambi was believed to have been Persian connected.
In the legends of Jambi the first queen, Puteri Pinang Masak, had taken for her spouse a Turkic prince, Raja Berhala. The Kubu tribe of Jambi believed they were the issues of the sword-bearer of Alexander the Great. (see Andaya, Barbara Watson, 1993, p.9] The beginning of Jambi was hence cast under the same shade as Funan where Kaudinya, the Brahmin of Turkic extraction, married the queen, Soma, and became a Sailendra king of Funan centered in Kampucea, clinching the Persian connection through the Turkic tribes in Khorasan and Central Asia. [see Khalid Hussain 1967, p. xxvi]
Jakuns had their own Teromba (Legends). Batin Talib’s account of the Jah-Het legend was based on one version of those.
Batin Talib’s story began with the unresolved mystery of what happened after Adityawarman. Did his heir become a Muslim?
We know of Adityawarman from the numerous inscriptions he left, the last mentioning his son, Ananggavarman, dated 1374. He was the crown prince. [see Soewardi Idris, 2004, p. 192]. Adityawarman was assumed dead the following year and the dynasty appeared to have died with him. Did his son embrace Islam and ushered in a new period of history, ending the old in an abrupt cliff-drop?
History in a world of legends is at best a fleeting shadow in time and like an elemental, the same primitive substance can take many shapes. Here, in Batin Talib’s story, the elemental popped out in a surprise, like a jack-in-the-box.
His narrative began with this: ‘Long after Sang Sapurba had killed the great snake, Saktimuna†, when he was the Raja of Minangkabau, the Maharaja Diraja of Pagar Ruyung embraced Islam.’
Sang Sapurba signaled the last dynasty of Srivijaya. According to Tun Sri Lanang, this dynasty, or epoch, ended when it was ‘razed’ with the palace of Sultan Mansur of Malacca, admitting to the sinful extravagance of the final few sultans of Malacca. ‘And all the king’s treasures in the palace were saved. Not much was destroyed in the blaze. But the sovereignty derived from Sang Nila Utama was burnt along with the palace.’† [Shellabear, W.G., 1981, p.103]
Tun Sri Lanang had begun his narrative of the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) with Raja Suran (Rajendra Chola) who conquered Srivijaya in the 11th century. Sang Nila Utama and his two brothers were the “sons” of this Raja Suran, becoming the new Alexandrian triad that appeared on Bukit Siguntang-Mahameru in Palembang to rule over the Malay world. [Shellabear, W.G., 1981, pp.16-19]
Batin Talib continued. ‘The Maharaja Diraja had three sons, the eldest was Kenaton, the middle, Koreh, and the youngest, Tuen. Kenaton was born with the water-bag intact. He was born invulnerable and could not be circumcised. After his brothers had been circumcised and they had learned the basic rites of Islam, Kenaton could fulfill all but this one rite of passage. However he tried, nothing could damage any part of him.’
It would seem like Pagar Ruyung had been moved from the Hindu Lingam (Phallus) to the Muslim Zakar (Mickey Mouse). Kenaton was clearly trapped in that great movement of history that brought Islam to stay and exert the most powerful influence in the Malay Archipelago. He would lose the kingship this time, and the next.
‘He would have been a great Maharaja Diraja (Emperor) if Islam had not arrived in Andalas (Sumatra). But no matter the knowledge he had acquired, ‘the Ketika (the Pleiades) were to be seen above the Bull’s Horn’ (the Horns of Taurus). His life had been set for a long stretch of despair.
‘From the time he was a little boy he would sleep leaning against the Tiang Jelatang in Pagar Ruyung. Nobody who was not divinely ordained a raja of Minangkabau could do that.’
The Jelatang is the large nettle. It contained silica in the cells of its hairs and once the skin is pierced by these the silica crystals would act on the nerve heads causing lasting and dreadful itch. Pagar Ruyung used the Jelatang to test whether or not a claimant to the throne was divinely ordained. All three children of the Maharaja Diraja passed this test.
‘Tears would trickle down the cheeks of the Bunda Kandung, the Matriarch, when she would see Kenaton sleeping against the Tiang Jelatang. He was well-built, handsome, and a sagacious leader better than all she knew. She also knew it would be the youngest of the trio who she would finally crown. Tuen would be king of Minangkabau, in Pagar Ruyung.
‘The times have changed and it was opportune for the Malay World (Alam Melayu) to ally itself with the Muslims, and especially the Muslims in Rum.’ Rum was centered in Constantinople.
‘The Raja of Rum had been the eldest of the three sons of Iskandar Zulkarnain who had come. They arrived with their retinue at Gunung Merapi and from there they split, the eldest returning to Rum to rule as the emperor, the younger riding a golden Pegasus to China and become ruler there, while the youngest became the ruler of the Malays.’
In one version the Maharaja Diraja of Rum arrived with his retainers when the great volcano, Gunung Merapi, was the size of an egg. [see Soewardi Idris, 2004, p. 92]
The motif is familiar. It would be Tuen, the youngest of the Jakun trio, who would become Maharaja Diraja of Minangkabau, a way that had been established from when the world began. It was a means for the reigning queen to continue ruling as the dowager.
‘Kenaton knew he had to leave Pagar Ruyung and shape his destiny himself. He would cherish the Bunda Kandung all his life. She taught him all he needed to know to be king. She appointed as his tutors the Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa, who was the greatest warrior in Minangkabau, Pendita Sulong, the senior scholar, and Cati Bilang Pandai, the wisest man and master of statecraft to become vizier. He was given a Pawang Handal, a great shaman, and to serve him in his later years, a Tukang Pandai, a skilled craftsman. She also gave him a beautiful handwritten copy of the Holy Qur’an.
‘But alas, the hunched matron (Moyang Bungkuk) failed to stand by Kenaton. Nothing disqualified Kenaton from being selected but the matter of his uncircumcised member. The Adat would not have at all bothered about that. All he required to become king was to be married to the Puti Reno, the daughter of the Bunda Kandung. Her spouse would be king.’
It was a matrilineal set-up. The Puti Reno was heir to the throne and would be Queen. Her husband would be as king only her shadow.
‘Kenaton would have to leave Pagar Ruyung and found his own kingdom. She had it all planned. It would be across the Straits, in the neighborhood of Johor where his uncle was the Yam Tuan.’
Still he was a very special son of the nation, an extraordinary man. In a final bid to qualify him for the kingship at Pagar Ruyung an axe was used to cut the prepuce so he would fulfill the Sunnah (tradition). It was to no avail. Not even an axe could alter his member. But as the eldest, he resigned himself to his fate and refused to play the game of intrigue. Intrigue secured the spaces between Koreh and Tuen as the kingship hung between them.
Kenaton, who had gathered around him a large group, must be appeased. A daughter of the Cati Bilang Pandai had stood out of the crowded corridors of Pagar Ruyung. She was a fair-skinned beauty, well-endowed, and skilled in the art of war. She was an Amazon. Her father also trained her in statecraft. In short, the perfect match was selected for Kenaton. She was Saheena.
‘We were Muslims. The problem was with Kenaton’s natural condition. He could become a Muslim but not become king. It was about wishing for a Raja who must be physically perfect according to Islam as it was understood among the Malays.’
But what could the word Cati mean? Some suggested it meant Satria (Kshatriya), the caste of warrior-statesmen and kings of the Indian varnasrama, the caste system. [see Soewardi Idris, 2004, pp. 49-53]
To Batin Talib Cati Bilang Pandai was ‘a fair-skinned person from a distant land in the land of Rum. He was to be Kenaton’s vizier (Perdana Menteri)’.
In other Minangkabau Teromba he was variously the person who resolved the most critical problems the state or the king had had to face. It was the Cati Bilang Pandai who gave his sword of gold to be used to make a replica of the crown that was lost in the sea. It was Cati Bilang Pandai who resolved disputes between the Datuk Tamanggunan and Datuk Perpatih Nan Sebatang, the founders of the two schools of Adat, viz. Adat Temenggong for the town-folks and Adat Perpatih for the rural- and jungle-dwellers. It was also the Cati Bilang Pandai who planned to use a suckling calf in the buffalo contest with Majapahit and the small suckling fellow won the uneven contest.† He was certainly the perfect vizier, a preserver and guide of the nation, which would make him an avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism.
Cati was probably the Tamil for the Sanskrit Jati, here meaning belonging to and expressing the nature of the community, Minangkabau that is. He represented the Minangkabauness, the soul of the nation. In a Teromba Adityawarman married Puti Endah Juliah and when he died she married the Cati Bilang Pandai. [Dt. Sangguno Dirajo, 1988, p. 53] Was he a Muslim?
We were not told if he was indeed a Muslim, but we were told Kenaton had been a Muslim and was meant to found a strong kingdom on the Malay Peninsula between Pagar Ruyung and Siam. When his father the Maharaja Diraja lay dying, the Bunda Kandung took aside him and his brother, Koreh, to tell. The time had come. They must leave before their father breathed his last.
It was Tuen who had been chosen to be king in Pagar Ruyung. Koreh she directed to Bentan, in Riau. For Kenaton there would be no place she could specify. The Muslims would spread in the Malay world like a wildfire and he would have to use his wits and his learning to secure for himself his own kingdom, and he must defend the borders of Minangkabau.
Kenaton accepted his fate. But the younger brother had other things in his mind. There was no reason for his disqualification. He had done nothing wrong. What did Tuen do right that he did not do as well? ‘Where is the sense of Justice (Keadilan) to be found if we have no part in deciding our own destinies?’ he argued. Koreh persuaded Kenaton to leave with him for Bentan, with the king’s crown.
†1. Bhairawa is a manifestation of Siva as “the terrible”
2. Saktimuna, a great snake that destroyed the crops of the Minangkabau; see Shellabear W.G., Sejarah Melayu, Fajar Bakti, ed. 3, Kuala Lumpur, 1981, p. 26
3. Maka segala harta raja di dalam mahligai itupun habis lepas, tiada berapa yang tinggal terbakar, tetapi kerajaan daripada Sang Nila Utama itu terbakar. Maka mahligai itupun habislah hangus. – Shellabear, W.G., Sejarah Melayu, Fajar Bakti, ed. 3, Kuala Lumpur, 1981, p. 103
4. Constantinople. The term also referred to Sassanian Persia, which included Ionia and the Indus Valley
5. Minangkabau is from menang kerbau, which means winning the buffalo contest. The Javanese kingdom of Majapahit had planned to invade Minangkabau after she had successfully taken Pasai. Minangkabau would have stood no chance against the Javanese might. But for sport the Majapahit king offered to settle the matter by pitching buffaloes instead, on the understanding the stake would be all of Minangkabau territory. He had a huge prize-bull. The Cati Bilang Pandai of the time planned using a small suckling buffalo, with a sharp knife mounted above its nose. This young buffalo he starved for a couple of days and when the buffaloes were pitched, the little fellow rushed towards the mighty bull “udders”, wishing to suckle. The mighty one, not feeling threatened, let it go in between his hind legs and the knife mounted on the nose of the little chap did the rest. Hence, Minangkabau.
1.A. Samad Idris et al., Luak Jelebu, Muzium Negeri dan Kerajaan Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus, 1994
2.Burkill, I.H., A Dictionary of the Ecnomic Products of the Malay Peninsula, Vol.II, Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Kuala Lumpur, 1966
3.Buyers, Christopher, Rembau, http://4dw.net/royalark/Malaysia/rembau.htm , 2007
4.Cave, Jonathan, Naning in Melaka, monograph No. 16, JMBRAS, 2nd impression, ed. Dr. Mubin Sheppard, 1996
5. Dt. Sangguno Dirajo, Mustika Adat Alam Minangkabau, C.V. Pustaka Indonesia, Bukittinggi, 1988
6. Harun Mat Piah, 1989, Puisi Melayu Tradisional: Satu Perbicaraan Genre dan
Fungsi, Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur
7. Khalid Hussain, ed., Hikayat Iskandar Zulkarnain, Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, 1967
8. Raja Iskandar, http://themalaynobat.blogspot.com/
9. Ratos, Anthony, Origins of The World According to the Jah Hut (as narrated by
Batin Hitam), Kuala Lumpur, Private Circulation, 1960]
10. Rusli Amran, Sumatra Barat hingga Plakat Panjang, Jakarta, 1981
11. Shellabear, W.G., Sejarah Melayu, Fajar Bakti, ed. 3, Kuala Lumpur, 1981
12. Soewardi Idris (Dt. Bandaro Panjang), Sekitar Adat Minangkabau, Pustaka Dian Jakarta, 2004
13. UU. Hamidy, Dukun Melayu Rantau Kuantan, Riau, Departmen Pendidikan Dan Kebudayaan R.I., Pekanbaru, 1985
14. Wilkinson, R. J. ed.,Papers On Malay Subjects, OUP, London, 1907-1916, reprint,1971
15. Wolters, Q.W., The Fall of Srivijaya in Malay History, London, 1970
BY THE GLOW OF THE FOREST IN THE NIGHT
Kings die. In the Minangkabau matrilineal culture, the queen would decide which of her daughters would be her heir. The man who married her became king.†
Koreh decided to disrupt that process. It was an act of treason for which he would have to die if subdued. He took the crown of Iskandar Zulkarnain. To make it a job well done he took the queen’s daughter as well. She was the sole heir of the Bunda Kandung. If all had gone well, the Bunda Kandung would be the Queen’s Mother and would be called Permaisuri Iskandar Shah, a legendary recall of Roxana (Roxane), the daughter of Oxyartes, or Kida Hindi in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals). According to legend she was spirited to Andalas (Sumatra) soon after the struggle for power ensued following Alexander’s death.
Koreh had taken Puti Reno Sari. That meant war. The path he had chosen led him and Kenaton into the forests of the night, into a stretch of darkness they could find neither sun nor moon to illumine, only fire. In the Parsi-Malay legend Iskandar had fought to conquer the world for the love of God and for peace, ‘to protect your life and your wife.’ [Khalid Husain, 1967, p.81] The duo had grown with the same good intentions. It was their culture, their inheritance from Iskandar Zulkarnain.
Iskandar had sent a letter to the ruler of Andalas (Sumatra) when he was poised to conquer the island. The ruler, Raja Ni’mat the son of Raja Basrah, quickly replied to tell him they belonged to the same religion, the monotheism of Abraham. An alliance was struck and Raja Ni’mat in his travels with Iskandar to the East and the West, saw for himself the fantastic scientific and technological achievements of the community of Yafat (Japeth), son of Noah. The community, it seemed, had already invented at that time precision robots capable of hundreds of movements. One of these could fly as a bird and as it flew it sprayed perfume on the king as he conferred in council. [see Khalid Husain, 1967, pp. 140-142]. That was neat!
The choice of civilization for Andalas was easy to make. Dutchmen in the colonies of Minangkabau were to report the use of machines to tap gold veins in the shafts dug in Limun, Batang Asai and Pengkalan Jambi. “Every man,” wrote William Marsden, “carries a small scale about him, and purchases are made with it [as low] as the weight of a grain or two of padi.” [Marsden, W. History of Sumatra, p. 171, quoted by Andaya, Barbara Watson, 1993, p. 152]
The rule of the game for that route of modernization and development was to maintain a stable centrality that would secure life and property against internal indiscipline and external enemies. But democratic and minority rights must be meticulously observed. Pagar Ruyung was about a democratic federation, not an authoritarian power resting on its haunches to feudally debauch itself with surplus wealth, on women or on boys, and on gigantic palaces and mausoleums.
The trouble now was Islam. It had come when it already had two faces, a Janus with one face cruelly distorted. That moral excellence of the prophetic period had long been moribund, issuing a contradiction that some found it hard to reconcile even till today. Fact is, the period from the Abbasid decline from the 10th century was characterized by lewd indulgences in the harem. One Caliph, al-Muqtadir (908-32), kept 11,000 Greek and Sudanese eunuchs. The Caliph al-Mutawakkil, was reported to have 4,000 concubines. [See Hitti, Philip K., 1970, p. 342]
But the references in Abbasid and Persian poetry to “beardless youths” Philip Hitti had taken to mean solely a wholesale inclination for pederasty† ought to be read as a popular Sufi metaphor too:
‘O thou who doth advise me, deny me not
Comely youths! The ‘metaphor” is the splendor
Of the sunlight of Truth! [Fuzuli, 1970, p. 25]
The idealism of the prophetic period of Islam in Arabia was no more than a popular romance by the time the religion had become a fashion with the Malay rulers. Ibn Khaldun made it clear we are not to expect anyone to compare with the prophets who were of a very special quality. By God’s Grace they conversed with the Angels and had special influences over the creatures of the Almighty. [see Ibn Khaldun, 1993, p.693] Solomon could harness the forces of the Jinn and he subjugated them. He could talk to birds and ants. [Qur’an: 27: 16-18]
After the onset of Islam in Sumatra both Palembang and Jambi soon became the lair of extraordinary opulence and greed about whom a Banjar ruler wrote,
‘The people in this country should not grow pepper as is done in Jambi and Palembang. They grow pepper for the money, to become wealthy. No doubt that in the end these countries will go to ruin. There will be rivalries and food will become expensive. The vapor of pepper is hot. The government will be thrown into disorder because the rural population (orang sakai) will not think highly of the townsfolk (orang kota). The functionaries from the capital will not be respected by the people in the rural areas who grow pepper. Let [the rural people] plant some ten or twenty plants only, just enough for private consumption.† [Hikayat Banjar, 1968, p. 264; see also Andaya, Barbara Watson, 1993, p. 91]
The richer they became the higher were the exactions they made on the Sakais. Rebellion was the natural reaction against the greed and the injustice.
Koreh and Kenaton absconded from the centrality of Minangkabau and must now contest for power. They had fled into the mountains with the crown, lugging a rich harvest of gold they took for the war-chest. The weight of that gold slowed them down. ‘The gold would fill seven perahu (boats) to the brim,’ said Batin Talib.
Equatorial mountains are predators. Under the canopy of the rainforest is a sublime wilderness, a scripted quiet enclosing defeat and death of unlicensed intruders. Jungle-clad mountains have such a variety of means and ways to defeat intruders it is indeed a marvel to observe, and ruthlessly insane to defy. They were ill-equipped to enter the rainforest over the mountains with the luggage. It was gold, no doubt, but it was glitteringly mad.
Taking that much of gold raised the risks to such a dimension and immensity the venture must bring in a high cost on resources they could ill-afford to deplete. They had with them only 200 able-bodied warriors, including Saheena and Puti Reno Sari who were accomplished archers.
The elephants would be too slow going uphill with that weight. Soon Pagar Ruyung would cut off all the rivers to Palembang, to Jambi or to the west coast. ‘Bury the gold,’ Saheena insisted. ‘Bury the gold and let Mira retrieve it.’ Mira was Kenaton’s cousin, the ruler of Palembang. He would later become the Father of the Semai, an Asli clan in Malaysia.
The gold was buried, but the lost time could not be redeemed. It was Koreh who robbed the treasury of the gold. He took all, an act of the dreadful brashness of youth, the total confidence of a self-discovering sensuality which dismissed the environment as ineffectual simply and purely because of the feeling of becoming completely a man. He must have all that he could possibly take. Koreh had taken Puti Reno Sari, but she was willing, and desired him as much. That led him into the wondrous self-possessed conviction that the world of Minangkabau was his birth-right. He was cock-sure.
Now, deep in the rainforest of Bukit Barisan with most of the gold buried in the pattern of a Buddhist yantra, he dismissed the fear that he saw etched on the faces of his compatriots and retainers. The Pawang knew the terrain. He would have the Pawang draw a map for Mira. The gold would easily be recovered. Koreh was in the capture of a splendorous nuptial in the depth of the rainforest. After that rapture everything became to him surmountable.
The dreadful struck the youth in his waking dreams. In the encounters that ensued Saheena was to be darted in the neck as she stood with 20 men to secure the route for the others to escape.
The arm of Pagar Ruyung had reached them. The throne had to secure itself at any cost. The objective was to rescue Puti Reno Sari and recover the crown. The others were dispensable. They had chosen to war against the State. Without the Puti Reno, the queen could not become Bunda Kandung and continue her rule as the dowager.
Batin Talib raised his voice in the excitement. ‘Get to the river! Get to the river!’ he called out, gesticulating like he was there in the forest on Bukit Barisan in the midst of battle. In the cold of the night at Sungei Kiol the Batin’s excitement was infectious. Young or old the others would perk up, eyes bright, the sleepiness banished by the simple gesture of their Batin. ‘The river was their only chance. They were outnumbered more than a hundred to one,’ he declared.
A small pilot group had been sent to prepare for them the perahu (boats) they needed to get to the confluence with the Musi, and thence to Palembang. The distance wasn’t a couple of breaths away. Palembang was more than 180 kilometers downriver. Hope lay in Mira sensing the danger and reaching upstream into the hills with a force large enough to deter the troopers of Pagar Ruyung.
Primary rainforests have thick canopies beneath which only the hardy saplings grow. But as they approached the river the undergrowth became thicker. The perahus were there. Once they were by the river they set the bushes (belukar) ablaze, the smoke becoming their best defense. It gave them the space they needed to move downstream. But they waited for nightfall while two teams set aflame the belukar on both banks downriver.
Shadows of the forest hide the poisonous dart of the sumpit (blowpipe). Even the trained can hardly see it in its flight before it plunged into Saheena’s neck while she stayed behind to secure the passage to the river. The poison swiftly paralyzed her nerves. She fell, wildly convulsing like she was demented. The antidote the Pawang applied was of little use. The dart hit her jugular. The poison seized her heart and soon she was still. The jungle warfare was ready for the miraculous passion of the oppressed, burnished by the will for vengeance.
Kenaton kissed his beloved wife and gently placed her on the ground. As the dusk began to settle inside the forest, deadly shadows moved swiftly and silently to deal in the thirst of Malay vengeance. The forest was aglow with the burning bushes. The war had become an earnest surrealism of red fluids flashing in the hues reflected by the crackling fires. One by one they stalked the enemy and mercilessly killed them by patent passion of youths driven into a final detestation of oppression. When the night finally fell sullen Kenaton, Koreh and Puti Reno Sari were drenched in blood.
‘More than a thousand of the enemy lay dead. They were all our relatives,’ said Batin Talib.
The forest of Minangkabau shall dine. She had been served a banquet of blood and bodies. She could expect more. It was a war caused by a tradition of power that had willed to lease itself to a superior geopolitical force for continued survival, at the expense of its sons and daughters. The Bunda Kandung had said she would rather kill her children than let the tradition die (Biar mati anak, jangan mati Adat). But what was the will to conserve about? What was the tradition for?
The time for metaphysical rebellion had come. Retaining the freedom of conscience was imperative. ---© a. ghani ismail – 4 march 2008
† Legend said the matrilineal tradition was derived from Alexander’s daughter by Roxana (Roxane) of Bactria. She was heir to her mother and became the ruler of Bactria and her dependencies. History does not have a record of that. This was a legendary account.
† Hitti had written, “Poets like abu-Nuwas did not disdain to give public expression to their perverted passions and to address the amorous pieces of their composition to “beardless young boys.” The prevalence of the sexual abuses in the palaces and among the ruling elite are not contested, but in Sufi poetry it is the metaphor of the youth that is here impressed. Abu Nuwas was an esteemed philosopher, mathematician and a Sufi as well.
† Dan djangan nagri kita ini bertanam sahang dagangan nagri, mantjari harta, saparti nagri Palembang dan nagri Djambi itu. Manakala nagri itu mendjadikan sahang, barang huabnja sahang itu panas. Maka adalah datang itu pitanah nagri itu dan parentrah pun huru-hara. Orang sakai pun banjak barani pada orang kota lamun s ahang didjadikan akan dagang mantjari harta. Adapun bertanam sahang itu kira-kira ampat lima rapun saorang-saorang itu, maka ada tjagar dimakan sadja…[Hikajat Banjar, 1968, p. 264]
1. Andaya, Barbara Watson, To Live As Brothers, South Sumatra in the Seventeenth And Eighteenth Centuries. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1993
2. Fuzuli, Leyla And Majnun, trs Sofi Nuri, George & Unwin, London, 1970
3. Hitti, Philip K., A. History of the Arabs, 10th ed., Macmilan, London,1970
4. Ibn Khaldun, Mukadimah, trs. Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, 1993
5. J.J. Ras, Hikajat Banjar, Bibliotheca Indonesia, Koninklijk Instituut, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1968.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I am for Barack Obama to become President of the United States of America. The presidential election, which is less than one year away, is somewhat unfair to me since it denies me the vote because I am not an American citizen. Even if we may be able to live without America soon, what happens to America now, and especially in the selection of her President, happens to the rest of the world.
Barack Hussein Obama, 46, realizes that. He has consistently shown he knows about us and he cares as well. That is more than what we can hope to gain from an American presidential candidate. He is not my man because his name has a Hussein in the middle (his father was a Kenyan Muslim who finally espoused atheism or agnosticism). Nor am I for him for the fact he spent several of his very early years in Jakarta, and hence, he is an Afro-Asian American.
I confess that does strike a romantic note in my heart. But it is a minor factor in my assessment of the man and his will to do right forAmericans and for the world. In economics and finance I am a layman, but I can see Barack Obama's inclination towards Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. To my mind, it is about the best approach to the economic and financial difficulties we are now facing.
People everywhere fear another Great Depression. The USD has lost 20 percent
against the Euro in record time and is expected to lose more. With the price of oil
edging onto the 100 dollar mark. In this free-wheeeling financial absurdity we began practicing after ending the Bretton Woods system in 1971, countries will simply print money to make ends meet and stay afloat in a regime of high inflation. That is what America is reported to be doing following the sub-premium financial crisis.
I do not know whether or not Obama means to resurrect the BrettonWoods System, or a New Bretton Woods, but I think he is pointing in that direction and I am certainly for it. Barack Hussein Obama is the only American leader I have read who has a clear understanding of the flourish of "terrorism" Islam has been equated with by many others. The world can sometimes be very nasty, as we have found out. Obama tells Mr. Bush to go directly for the Al-Qaeda if he (Mr. Bush) really means business.
It is exactly the big question we have ourselves been asking. How come the Americans have failed thus far to nail Osama Ben Laden and cripple the Al-Qaeda? We cannot even believe Osama could have been behind 911. It is simply preposterous!
Obama empathizes with us, and I do not mean empathize with only the Muslims. He
understands Afro-Asia. He definitely understands our hemisphere in Hungtington's Clash of Civilization. Nail the Al-Qaeda and be done.
Barack Obama has a clear and apparently effective means of approach to the problem - cut the purse strings first and gain the confidence and cooperation of the people, then ferret. That was the major part of how we in Malaysia successfully battled against the Communist Terrorists. We won by doing the same thing Barack Obama is saying he would do. He has also a better approach to American Home Defence.The man is our man as much as he is yours. And if Iwere a sage and you ought to be listening to me, I would tell you to vote for him if you are American. Alas, I am not a sage! But all the same, vote for him.
Many things about Obama are agreeable to us. I cannot find a single thing he has
said that is not agreeable. I may not agree with his suggestion for hot pursuit into Pakistan and Waziristan but I agree if it is done with the full agreement and cooperation of the Pakistan government and people. The way I understood him, Obama did not say chase and shoot them down. He has shown profound respect for the sovereignty of all countries, big and small. He qualified himself many times that he stood for negotiated peace deals first and the firepower is the last resort.
Since this is getting to become almost an advertisement for Barack Obama, I have to stop. I do not apologize for my enthusiasm. I am advocating a serious re-evaluation of American foreign policy in view of Barack Obama's presidential bid. It is worth our while to spur him on and to add our prayers to the prayers of the Americans who support him for his success.
The very best of luck to you Barack Hussein Obama. Our prayers are with you. ----a. ghani ismail --27 Dec.2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Using the ISA on the five Hindraf leaders is decidedly excessive. We do not have an armed Indian rebellion on our hands to warrant detention without trial. To believe it would happen should the five remain free is stretching our imagination into the sort of fantasy Hindraf had depended on to gain attention.
What is Hindraf in popular perception? It is a political rival of both the MIC and the Barisan Nasional (BN), seasoned to waste Umno that it deems illegitimately dominant. It is the seasoning that is sometimes verging on melodrama, not any of its actions thus far. In other words, it can be dealt with by diplomacy, counter-espionage, and in the court of law.
The Prime Minister was observed by his predecessor, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, to have been too quick to use the police to intimidate. Talking to the Press of the meeting between them at Seri Perdana last year, the former Prime Minister said he made it plain to Pak Lah that he found the police was used to intimidate his friends wherever he was scheduled to speak. This is the same complaint many have voiced in the past several months. Pak Lah has taken us into a veritable Police State.
Now that the deed is done, while the lawyers find the means to get the five out of Kamunting, it should be useful to be reminded of the spiritual force that was borne as a political complement when Anwar Ibrahim was summarily arrested and clobbered in police custody.
Everywhere people prayed and among the Muslims the prayers (sembahyang hajat) were done daily for many months, for Anwar to be freed and for justice to be laced with mercy.
Now that he is a certain beneficiary of the extensive prayers, perhaps Anwar may wish to initiate the same movement of prayers for the five Hindraf leaders as was done for him by the Pas spiritual leader, Nik Aziz Nik Mat.
I hope there is still a place for God in all of us. I also hope we have the faith to stand up against all manners of oppression. The ISA is oppressive.
Dec. 14, 2007
Ps. I read in Malaysiakini a moment ago the families of the detainees are praying and a special prayer will be held nationwide to relieve them from the unnecessary tribulation. I feel deeply humbled by this truly Malaysian tribute to a shared spirituality and let us together believe God Almighty will answer our prayers. Let this be the end of the ISA and of all other draconian and suppressive laws.
Dec. 15, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
BROTHERS IN FAITH, BROTHERS IN KIND
Scholars suggest the Mahabharata began as a great epic but soon inclined toward the didactic. In it the Pandavas were married to one women – all five of them to Draupadi, by an error of maternal pronouncement. We have no evidence of any Malay group of warriors, such as Hang Tuah and his four comrades, sharing one woman to symbolize the unicity of their existentialism. But the eldest of the Pandavas (Malay – Pandawa Lima), Yudhi-shthira, when he was made king of Indra-prastha, gambled his kingdom and lost his all, twice!
Many Malay raja-raja (kings) followed this example. In the Hikayat Seri Kelantan one sultan of Terengganu staked his whole kingdom for seven Bugis perahu (boats) full of gold and silver in a cock-fight. He won in that game of chance the Bugis had forced him to play. They threatened to run amuck and ransack his kingdom if he refused.
Later two dignitaries of Trengganu gambled everything they had in the cockfights of Riau-Lingga and after they lost they sought permission from the Yam Tuan (the Regent) to pirate for quick and easy cash.
Kingdoms were won and lost in cock-fights in the Malay world, issuing from an outlook on life and of the state that were derived from the Mahabharata. The part of Kelantan we know as Besut was lost to Terengganu in a cockfight between the princes.
Yudhi-shthira may have left his mark on the Malay raja-raja but it is doubtful he indulged in cock-fights. Training the birds could have been a special Malay skill. But the cardinal point in the story is not about that. It is about what would be the meaning of negeri (country or state) when it could be staked in a cockfight or a throw of the dice.
When the ideological change finally came it brought with it two basic books that became the bases of a more coherent idea of country/state and statecraft. The first, Bustanu'l-Salatin (Garden of the Sultans) by Nuru'd-Din ar-Raniri, is a 17th century work written of and for Sultan Iskandar Muda of Aceh and his successors. This is less available than the second. Taju's-Salatin (Crown of the Sultans) by Jauhari Bukhari of whom little is known. This is the better known of the two.
Statecraft became denominated by a certain code of conduct with the introduction of the books and that caused a critical conflict of values between the Malay royalties and the Ulama (religious scholars). The Malay kings were no longer deities who could do as they pleased. The Occident arrived just in time to witness and exploit this conflict.
Islam of that time was not the rigid and fossilized set of rituals, ceremonies, laws and rudimentary corpus that is observed by many today. Until the Muslims were subjugated by alien forces, Islam remained a living, pulsating and growing organism, and not the dharma of the dead that is often mistaken for Islam today.
To furnish you an example of the living tissue I chose the letter of Caliph Ali (656 – 661 AD) to Malik al-Ashtar he appointed Governor of Egypt. This translation by Rasheed Turabi is taken from http://www.amaana.org/ismaili/html
It is here very, very mildly edited. In it you will find Ali instructing Malik al-Ashtar to be sure his subjects are either his brothers in faith or they are his brothers in kind.
As you read the foregoing, please keep an open mind and enjoy the epistle:
The Richest Treasure
‘Be it known to you, O, Malik, that I am sending you as Governor to a country which in the past has experienced both just and unjust rule. Men will observe your actions in the same manner you observed the actions of those before you. They will speak of you as you would speak of them. The fact is that the public speak well only of those who do good. They are the ones who perceive the value of your actions. Hence, the richest treasure that you may covet would be the treasure of good deeds.
‘Keep your desires under control and deny yourself that which you have been prohibited from. Abstinence alone will make you able to distinguish between what is good to them and what is not.
‘Love your people and let it be the source of your kindness to them. You should be as a blessing to them. Do not behave like a barbarian towards them, and do not take what belongs to them.
‘Remember that the citizens of the state are of two categories. They are either your
brethrens in religion or your brethrens in kind. They would have weaknesses and are liable to commit mistakes. Some indeed do commit mistakes. But forgive them even as you would like God to forgive you.
‘Bear in mind that you are placed over them, even as I am placed over you. And then there is God even above him who has appointed you a Governor in order that you may look after those under you and to be sufficient unto them. And you will be judged by what you do for them. [To be Continued]