This blogspot is a medium to share my thoughts and adventures apart from promoting my books. Below are the books which have been written or authored and published by myself.
"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Mencari Diri dan Erti".
ISBN 983-42031-0-1, Jun 2006
"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Membela Syiar yang Asal"
ISBN 983-42031-1-x, May 2007
"Berpetualang ke Aceh: Sirih Pulang ke Gagang?"
ISBN 978-983-42031-2-2, November 2007
It is interesting to note that while these books were written in Malay it has gained enough attention to merit being part of the collections of the American Library of Congress and National Library of Australia. Look here and here.
While the first three books were published by my own company, the fourth titled "Rumah Azan" was published in April 2009 by a company called Karnadya with the help of the Malaysian national literary body Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. It features beautiful pictures along with stories behind selected mosques which could be related to the history of Islam and the Malays alongside the formation of the Malaysian nation. Look at the article A collaboration of old collegemates - the book "Rumah Azan".
My fifth book "Ahlul Bait (Family) of Rasulullah SAW and Malay Sultanates", an English translation and adaptation of the Malay book "Ahlul Bait (Keluarga) Rasulullah SAW dan Kesultanan Melayu" authored by Hj Muzaffar Mohamad and Tun Suzana Othman was published early 2010. Look here... My 5th book is out! Ahlul Bait (Family) of Rasulullah SAW and the Malay Sultanates... . For more information check out my Malay blogspot CATATAN SI MERAH SILU.
Like my fourth book "Rumah Azan", the sixth book "Kereta Api Menuju Destinasi" is also a coffee-table book which is published by the company Karnadya with the cooperation of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (the main Malay literary body in Malaysia). Coming out January 2011 it features pictures and stories on the adventure travelling by train to all of Peninsular Malaysia along with the interesting places which could be reached this way.
My seventh book "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah" in turn is a coffee-table book which is written, editted, designed and has pictures taken by me. Coming out of the factory October 2011, this book which combines family history with history of places such as Singapura, Johor, Batu Pahat, Muar and in fact the history of the island of Java and England has been reviewed with me interviewed live in the program Selamat Pagi Malaysia at RTM1. Look at the article Siaran langsung ulasan buku "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah" dan temu ramah di Selamat Pagi Malaysia. Some selected contents have been featured in Sneak peek "Jejak keluarga Yakin : Satu sketsa sejarah".
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Page Number :
Straddling rural and modern life
By Radzi Sapiee
DEEP in the haze-free hills of the Perak jungle are the Temiars, who make up the main portion of the State's Orang Asli. Clustered in small kampungs throughout the jungle, they live a
precarious existence, balancing between the demands of the modern world and a rustic jungle life.
My first encounter with these shy but friendly people was at Kampung Tonggang, a few kilometres from Tanjung Rambutan. I was part of a 50 four-wheel-drive convoy for the recent National 4x4 Challenge. From Ipoh, we drove past Hospital Bahagia before turning right into a
riverside logging track, twisting and turning into an uphill route before arriving at the kampung, which was on top of a hill.
We were greeted by smiling kampung folks, young and old, already gathered at the open area in front of the main gate, clearly excited at having so many visitors, including Perak Menteri Besar Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib, who was with our convoy. A festive mood was in the air as the Temiars, sporting their best clothes, simple and rural by city standards, and garlands on their head ushered us into the biggest hut there, the community hall where traditional dishes - petai, ikan bakar and umbut bayas - awaited.
The visit was capped by the sewang, a traditional dance accompanied by traditional percussion, a set of bamboo sticks hammered in a rap-like beat on a log, and a song in their language, which managed to get some of the visitors, including Ramli, to dance on the bamboo floor.
However, the brief visit did not give me a chance to get to know them better. As it was also an official visit by the Menteri Besar, they were understandably showing their best form, which was perhaps not reflective of their daily lives.
Still, from their clothing - the men in simple baju Melayu and women in batik and T-shirt - and Ramli's pledge that he would introduce more amenities such as public telephones into the kampung, one can gather that they were eager to embrace civilisation as we know it, although preferring to stay near the jungle.
I had to wait for the next day to get a better insight into the Orang Asli attitude towards modernity, this time at another settlement in Pos Poi, some 50km from the nearest town of Sungei Siput. Sitting on the banks of nearby Sungei Piah, some friends and me were enjoying a smoke when a group of six young Temiars in school uniform appeared at the opposite side before stepping into the water.
Keeping their clothes above water level - the boys' blue trousers folded up to their knees while the girls' long skirts held at the tips - they waded across the stream, avoiding the deep end.
Their books held on their head or tucked under the arms, they soon put on their socks and shoes and made their way to Sekolah Kebangsaan Pos Poi, where the rest of the National 4x4 Challenge members had camped for the night.
It was not long before a boy was seen walking half-naked through the stream with only his white shirt on, his face puzzled by the onlookers, including the TV3 camera crew who quickly switched on its camera to get the rare footage of a teenager raring to go to school despite the watery
obstacle. Upon reaching the sandy banks, he got into his trousers and shoes and
coolly walked to the nearby school.
But not everyone is as eager to go to school as these youngsters. A teacher, who wants to be known as Cikgu Ahmad, said out of the 126 pupils registered there, slightly more than half attend classes regularly.
"Some question the virtue of education, saying it did not provide them with any tangible means of getting food," he said.
Instead, they preferred to join their parents to hunt monkeys, birds and other small animals, abundant in the jungle that is their home, following the footsteps of their grandparents and those before them.
However, they were not totally immune from the trappings of the outside world as shown by the T-shirts, bearing pictures of popular Western rock groups, worn by some of the youngsters.
According to village elder Abus Yong, 60, many teenagers work for timber companies operating in the surrounding forest or find menial jobs in small towns such as Sungei Siput to get enough money to sample city life.
"It's kind of a balance. We sometimes go and join the mainstream public. At times, we go hunting in the jungle," he said, exhaling smoke from his kretek cigarette.
While students of Pos Poi had to wade to school, those at Kampung Sungei Dala need only cross the two hanging bridges that connect the different parts of the Orang Asli resettlement area, about 60km from Grik.
The area, which was opened in 1983 to accommodate the Temiars along Sungei Perak, especially those affected by the opening of the Kendering Dam, is home to some 600 people in four kampungs, each with its own headman.
Orang Asli Affairs Department officer Azhar Yahya said the Kampung Sungei Dala resettlement scheme, which has the best facilities within that part of the Perak jungle, was also set up to modernise the Orang Asli.
"So far the results have been encouraging. Here they can mix better with the outside world while maintaining their identity at the same time."
Directly under the department's supervision, the area has amenities ranging from a surau, a small administration complex and a primary school. It also receives a twice-monthly medical visit from Grik Hospital staff.
The National 4x4 Challenge members who spent two nights at the settlement also joined the Temiars for what was the highlight of their normal weekends, the weekly film show by the Information Department. Set on a field, also the venue for most community activities, the Ahmad Albab movie, featuring the late P. Ramlee, had everyone, even toddlers cuddled by mums, in stitches until the end.
While the facilities and services offered for the Temiars were lacking and rudimentary compared to modern rural villages, all the signs point to progress for the community.
Like the Malay kampungs of the '60s which also received periodical film shows and medical visits before graduating to better things, the settlement area and perhaps all other Orang Asli settlements will eventually pick up, taking its citizens into the fold of modern Malaysia
and its vision of a developed nation.
Monday, November 20, 2006
KINGDOM OF PERLAK: THE STORY UNFOLDS
Long before the kingdom of Melaka appeared on the scene, an Islamic Sultanate called Perlak already exist within the confines of present-day Aceh. In fact, while the forefathers of the Sultans or Kings of Melaka was just learning what sort of an animal a lion is when first arriving in Temasek (old name of Singapura or Singapore), Perlak was already a regional superpower well-respected in the Malay Archipelago.
Oh… For information, a lion is called “singa” in Malay and “pura” is an ancient Malay term for a city. Thus according to the legends, a Malay prince saw a lion while exploring Temasek thus he decided to build a kingdom there and call it Singapura. The last king of Singapore is also the founder of Melaka.
As for Perlak, most historian tend to consider it as an Islamic Syiah Sultanate opposed to the Sunni or Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah sect. Because some believe the Syiahs contradict basic articles of faith, thus Perlak is not considered as the oldest Islamic state in the Malay Archipelago, unlike the kingdom of Samudera-Pasai which is said to embrace the Shafiee sect, one of the four sects under the Sunni banner. This is quite unfortunate as Perlak was already a flourishing Sultanate 400 years before Samudera Pasai came into prominence and 600 years before Melaka made its mark. Thus the kingdom of Perlak was not given due attention except by those who are willing to search deeper to find its significance in the scheme of things.
Rasyid shifts through some paragraphs in his work about Aceh and relevant matters which he is compiling into a book.
“Hmm… That should do,” he whispered to himself, pleased. “Let everyone know that once upon a time, there exist a major Islamic kingdom in this part of the world. Let them realise this and stop talking only about Melaka, Melaka, Melaka… Or if referring to earlier kingdoms, its always about the Buddhist state of Sriwijaya or the supposedly Hindu Majapahit… So tiring!”
The guy started making research on the ancient history of Perlak after learning of the existence of an old tomb in Perak, said to be some 1,000 years old belonging to a saintly character who originated from the kingdom. Before that, Rasyid had only heard the name Perlak from the old Malay legend of Badang, the strong-man of ancient Singapura. It mentioned of a warrior named Benderang who came from Perlak to challenge Badang in duels of strength... As far as Rasyid was concerned, that was all he needed to know about Perlak. But since knowing the identity of the person buried in the old tomb situated somewhere secluded in the town of Teluk Intan, his perspective on the matter was totally changed and the avid researcher never looked back.
Rasyid is willing to spend long odd hours denying sleep and rest to go to and fro libraries or Internet Cafes where-ever he happens to be to look for answers. It just happens that the guy has a habit of just zipping to some part of the country at whim and fancy, so there… And now he wants the whole world to know what he has managed to discover and uncover.
It is said in the annals of history, early in 9 century AD, came a group of 100 Islamic missionaries from the Middle East who set sail and stopped at the harbour of Perlak. Lead by someone known as Nakhoda Khalifah (The Caliph Captain), they were said to be fugitives on the run after failing to overthrow the Caliphate of Bani Abbasiyah in Baghdad.
The group is said to comprise some descendants of the Prophet Muhammad SAW. The Prophet had plenty of descendants through his daughter Fatimah Az-Zahrah who married Saidina Ali (Saidina ia a title of respect given to people prominent in Islamic history). Some descendants of the Sahabah (close friends of the Prophet) were also believed to be among the group. Among the prominent personalities in the group is Ali bin Muhammad bin Jaafar Al-Sadiq… “Bin” here means, the son of, as in Ali, son of Muhammad.
During that time, Perlak was ruled by a king of Persian descent. The king and his people were attracted by the group’s humility and fine character and thus submitted to Islam. The group were well-accepted and Ali was married off to the king’s sister whose name was Makhdum Tansyuri.
Now, there are sources which said Ali’s actual name is Ali Muktabar Muhammad bin Ad Diba’ie bin Ja’afar As Sadiq. But Rasyid is more prone to believe the earlier version, that Ali is the son of Muhammad who is in turn the son of Ja’afar As Sadiq.
Anyway, Merah Syahir Nuwi died around 840 AD… And so the son of Ali and Makhdum Tansyuri were coronated as the new King of Perlak, Sultan Alaiddin Sayyid Maulana Abdul Aziz Syah. That is the start of the Sultanate of Perlak which would cover a span of 400 years!
Ali is known as a descendant of Imam Ja’afar Al-Sadiq, a learned and pious Muslic scholar and community leader (hence the calling Imam which also applies to the leader of a congregation in prayer). In turn, Imam Ja’afar is a descendant of Saidina Hussein who is Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. In fact this scholar is practically deified by the Syiah sect as one of their Maksum (faultless) Imams. So we know where Ali came from… What about Merah Syahir Nuwi, the former king of Perlak? More important, who is Nakhoda Khalifah who leads the group of 100 missionaries there?
There are ancient writings saying Merah Syair Nuwi is a descendant of a Persian noble known simply as Salman who came to Aceh earlier. Meanwhile, the city of Perlak became known as Bandar Khalifah (The City of the Caliph) after the arrival of the group of 100 Islamic missionaries, in memory of their leader Nakhoda Khalifah. But before we try to uncover who is Nakhoda Khalifah, let us find out who is this Salman that gave rise to Merah Syahir Nuwi.
Rasyid had spent more than 3 months studying all available resources on Perlak but was not able to find official records to clarify the matter. However, after going through some old tales, he has no doubt the Salman in question is Saidina Salman Al-Farisi, a Sahabah (close companian) of the Prophet Muhammad who introduced the war technique of building a ditch around a city to ancient Arabia. The technique is well-known is his native Persia but not in Arabia. Salman suggested it in the battle of Khandaq, to protect the city of Madinah against the unbeliever Quraish tribe and their allies. And so a ditch was built to surround the city which is the base of Islam after the Prophet was forced out of his native city Mekah… And the believers survived the attack and triumphed.
According to one story, Salman was promoted as an Ahlul Bait, a member of the Prophet’s holy family. This man is known to be an avid traveller before embracing Islam at the hands of the Prophet in Madinah. Salman is also well-known as a Persian of noble descent but how many realise he is actually among the heirs of the throne of Persia, one of the two biggest kingdom on the globe during that time, the other one being the Empire of Rome?
“That’s why there are ancient Malay text which address Saidina Salman Al-Farisi as Prince or King Salman,” Rasyid said, explaining the history of Perlak to some interested friends. “It’s just that Salman who is a descendant of King Nurshirwan the Just, also known in old texts as the King of the East and West, was not interested in riches, power or fame.”
As a royal-blooded personality, Salman was more interested in acquiring knowledge about the ultimate truth and the meaning of life. So he was willing to leave everything, riches, power and fame not withstanding to travel and look for answers. In one account, the Persian noble is said to have embraced the Zoroastrian faith, the main faith in his native Persia. The religion used to be Monotheistic in its believe in the Unity of things but in time become corrupted with elements of fire-worship. Salman then became a Nasrani (an old term for followers of Christianity)… The Muslims believe, this faith is derived from the teachings of the Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ) but was corrupted too in time.
Sometime later, Salman learned from some hermits of the existence of an old Monotheistic faith known as the religion of Hanifiyah (the straight ones) which is actually the faith of the Prophet Abraham… Or to put it correctly, Islam (in higher understanding, all Monotheistic religions is actually Islamic, referring to the meaning of the word which implies peace in submission to the will of the Creator), but slightly different to the Islam known now as it was practiced under the Syariat (rules) of Ibrahim to fit the times. However, Salman was also told the Hanifiyah religion is practically extinct in Persia. If he really wants to learn it, he has to find a certain someone in Arabia. That was the method of religion practiced by Prophet Muhammad before he received the revelations to spread the final method of practice or the Syariat towards the end-times. And so, after ages of searching, travelling, studying and practicing all sort of faiths, Saidina Salman Al-Farisi finally found the truth, after meeting the Khatamul Anbiya, the closure for all the Prophets, Muhammad… May God blesses the holy Prophet.
Rasyid is not sure when did Salman arrived in Perlak… Is it before of after meeting the Prophet? Based on the accounts mentioned in history books, there is the possibility he arrived in Perlak prior to meeting the Prophet as his descendant Merah Syahir Nuwi was known as an unbeliever who only embraced Islam after the group lead by Nakhoda Khalifah came. But there is also the possibility Salman came to Perlak after that, specifically after the demise of Saidina Ali which saw the founder of the Ummaiyad Chalipate, Muawiyah bin Abu Suffian grabbing the leadership of the Islamic community through unsavoury means. Maybe that’s why Salman left the Middle East? Because he couldn’t bear all the evils and misdoings during the time of Muawiyah, thus he went far away and arrived in Perlak? God knows best…
Hmm… I think this should be enough for the moment… Hope you, my dear readers find this beneficial… Please leave some comments so that I can make improvement along the way OK… Cheers!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Have a look... Click SENI LAMA MELAYU (MALAY OLDEN ART) ... The same link is also available at the side-bar. Shoot! Go on...