Speaker: Dr. Alexander Wain, Associate Fellow, IAIS Malaysia
Commentator: Dr Mohamad Firdaus Bin Mansor Majdin, Assist. Prof. Dep. of History and Civilisation IIUM, KIRKHS
Moderator: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil, Deputy CEO, IAIS Malaysia
The history of Malay civilisation is rich with elements of myth and legend. Most of these mythic stories are written in traditional chronicles, which have been the main reference for Malay history through the ages. For example, one famous Malay story describes how Melaka was founded when its future ruler witnessed a struggle between a kancil (mouse-deer) and a dog under a Melaka tree. Yet another Malay story tells how the third ruler of Melaka, Raja Tengah, converted to Islam after he dreamt of meeting the Prophet Muhammad; a dream which led him to take the syahadah, or declare himself a Muslim and, later, Sultan of Melaka. At that point he changed his name to Muhammad Shah. Yet another Malay story, however, heard by the Portuguese when they first arrived in Melaka, attributes conversion to the second ruler of the city, Iskandar Shah, who supposedly married a Muslim princess from Pasai, Sumatra.
How these stories arose seems to depend on the ‘bricolage’ of ideas, as well as the genealogy of events and who narrated them. That is why, as French philosopher Michel Montesquieu put it, history is a fiction of varying truthfulness, falsity, and plausibility. The phantasmagorical stories in the Malay Annals (or Sejarah Melayu), the principal Malay source detailing Melaka’s history, were constructed as a body of literature to be marvelled at by generations to come, up until today.
For some, however, this leads to a problem. Rather than seeing Sejarah Melayu as a great work of history detailing the past deeds of the Malays, some see it as a confusion of fact and fiction, a crafting of historical verisimilitude and the finding of consolation in myth. This webinar aims to scrutinise the historicity of Sejarah Melayu and, thereby, the issue of myth and fact in the history of Melaka, including how this has impacted on the study of Malay history more generally.
PowerPoint Presentations (in PDF format)
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