Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Malays and Umar Abdul Aziz...

************************** In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. *************************** Reflection ********************* Surat Adh-Dhariyat 55:56 (The Winnowing Winds) Allah SWT says, with the meaning; "I have only created jinn and men, that they may serve Me." *********************** IN the year 100 Hijra (718 CE) the King of Srivijaya named Sri Indravarman sent a letter to the Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz of the Umayyad Caliphate and requested the Caliph to send him a preacher who could explain the Islamic faith to him. ********************** The letter reads: "From the King of kings who is the descendant of a thousand kings, whose wife is also a granddaughter of a thousand kings, whose animal cages are (filled with) a thousand elephants, in whose territory there are two rivers that irrigate the aloe trees, spices, nutmeg and limes such that its fragrant aromas reach out to a distance of 12 miles. *************************** "To the Arab King who does not associate other gods with Allah. I have sent you a gift, which is actually a gift that is not so much, but just a token of friendship. I want you to send me someone who can teach Islam to me and explain to me about its laws." — Letter of Srivijayan King, Sri Indravarman for Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz ******************************* While browsing the internet looking for information on Hazrat Umar Abdul Aziz, (682-719 AD) the celebrated Umayyad Caliph whose empire stretched from the shores of the Atlantic to the highlands of Pamir (India) and now looked upon as excellent example by a number of Pakatan Rakyat leaders such as Lim Guang Eng and Mohamad Sabu, I came across the above statement from Wikipedia. *********************** The short rule of Hazrat Umar Abdul Aziz (717-719 AD) was like an oasis in a vast desert -- a benevolent rain which had fallen on an arid soil. It was the brightest period in the 91-year Caliphate of the Umayyads, which, though short lived, had transformed the outlook of the State and had released such powerful democratic forces that after his death the attempts for the restoration of autocracy under Hishaam failed miserably and ultimately culminated in the fall of the Umayyads at the hands of the Abbasids. *************************** I was amazed with that information; how Umar Abdul Aziz who only ruled for two years and five months could have such an impact and much respected by leaders of the world including from the Malay Archipelago. ************************ Ancient Malay kingdoms such as Srivijaya which during its height occupied almost all areas of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsular, put interest to have close relationship with the Umayyad empire. ******************************* Srivijaya which centered in today's Palembang was said to be associated to the origin of many of the Malay Sultanates; Melaka included. ******************************* The offspring of the Malay king of Palembang then went and explored various parts of the Malay world such as Melaka and Johor-Riau. In ‘Sejarah Melayu’, Singapore (Singapura) was said to be found by Sang Nila Utama, also a prince from Palembang after he had seen sight of a lion. ***************************** From my previous readings, I only knew that the first Palembang king to adopt Islam was Ariodamar who ruled from 1455-1486. After converting to Islam, he used the name of ArioAbdillah or Aridillah. The coming of Islam to Palembang was late compared to other areas in Sumatra such as Pasai and Perlak which were said to accept Islam in the 7th century. *************************** When the great explorer, Marco Polo passed Pasai and Perlak in 1292 during his voyage back to Europe from China, he noted that the kings of Pasai and Perlak such as Malikul Saleh were Muslims. ************************* Even the kings of Palembang had became Muslims, the majority of their people were not Muslims, not until the formation of the state of Palembang Darussalam in 1659 headed by its Sultan, the famous of them was Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II who ruled from 1803 to 1821. ************************** This great Sultan choose not to be cooperative with the Dutch by accepting its adviser (the same status as the British Resident in the Malay states), but he was determined to push out the invader. War broke out, and at last the great city of Palembang fell in the hands of the Dutch. Today Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II had been declared as a national hero. ***************************** Back to the story of Srivijaya, even its king, Sri Indravarman had asked Umar Abdul Aziz to sent a preacher to Palembang (Srivijaya), the kings and people of his kingdom were said to be devout Hindus and Buddhists. ************************ It was noted that Mahayana Buddhism came to Srivijaya around the 7th century. A Chinese-Buddhist pilgrim, I-Tsing, who was going to India, arrived at Sriwijaya University in 671AD, and spent six months studying Sanskrit. He stayed here for four years writing his memoirs and giving a valuable description of the city of Palembang. **************************** The city was traditionally a trade center, and, for about 500 years up to the 13th century, Palembang was one of the principal ports of the world, meaning a central point for the bulk of the Indonesian islands trade. *********************** Palembang was believed to be the predatory power, and was once the capital of Sriwijaya Empire. There were regular ships that laid anchor here and it sent its mercenaries as far as Mesopotamia (land under the control of the Umayyad Caliph including Umar Abdul Aziz). There were many scholars and monks, and perhaps thousands of them, who learned Buddhist teaching and translated Sanskrit texts here. *************************** In Palembang, the earliest Malay/Sanskrit inscription (writing) was traced on the Prasasti Kedukan Bukit (683 AD) and Prasasti Talang Tuwo (684 AD or 608 Saka Year of the Sriwijayan calendar). The writing on the stone, proved the Sriwijayan had a great civilization. The Malay world covers a vast area. At the peak of the Sriwijayan empire, its sailors and travelers went as far as Madagasdar and Polynesia. ***************************** At the end of the 13th century, Sriwijaya had splintered into eight small kingdoms, the largest of which, Malayu, was centered on Jambi and became a strong power. But finally, with the rise of Melaka, in the 14th century, Sriwijaya became a remote backwater ************************** Perhaps from looking at the 'good relationship' of Srivijaya (an old Malay kingdom) and the Umayyad empire especially between Sri Indravarman and Umar Abdul Aziz, we could also think about making a comparison between our contemporary Malay leaders and the pious Caliph. ************************** Umar Abdul Aziz was a fine example of integrity. He was looked upon as a shining example of rulers that put the peoples' matters above their personal needs. In one story he was said to put off the state lamp and lighted his own private one when discussing family matters with his son! ********************** If 'ancient' Malay leaders such as Sri Indravarman of Srivijaya had asked the pious Caliph to sent someone to teach him about Islam, have our leaders 'mastered' the life story of Umar Abdul Aziz and readied themselves to emulate his sincere way of life? ************************* If Umar Abdul Aziz led a very down to earth lifestyle and very, very concerned not to misuse public funds that led to him asking his son to put out a lamp belonging to the state when discussing family matters; then why must be our Prime Minister's Seri Perdana residential complex's electricity bill chalk up to RM2,237,788.13 while the water bill comes to RM311,174.25 for last year? **************************** Even Kompleks Seri Setia, the official residence of the Deputy Prime Minister recorded an electricity bill of RM864,458.56 while its water bill at RM99,264.02. ****************************** Wow, that's a lot of money...unfortunately gathered from public funds; have not we, especially Malay leaders learnt something from Umar Abdul Aziz - please switch off 'government lights' when discussing family/personal matters!

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