I had a hard time in the last few months searching for The Sejarah Melayu or the Malay Annals. O Yes at last I found them in Dewan Bahasa bookshop.. the luxury version will cost me a bomb, what with leather bound et all, and the cheaper version are from the STPM series. Even then there are claims that the cheaper version may have differences in facts. So what is so special about the Sejarah Melayu?
Sejarah Melayu(Malay Annals) is clearly the most famous, distinctive and best classical Malay prose to be ever produced, sharing in the great literary tradition other Malay works such as the Hikayat Hang Tuah, Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai and the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa. It chronicles the establishment of the Malaccan sultanate, charting a course of more than 600 years in a solid compact book filled with intricate details regarding royal protocol, royal lineages, weaving in various historical, mythical and legendary figures and episodes in a compendium that still captivates its audiences three centuries later.
The Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals are unique in that they constitute the only available account of the history of the Malay Sultanate in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century. They are in the nature of what may be termed as historical literature conveying a historical narration on the origins, evolution and demise of a great Malay maritime empire, with its unique system of government, administration and politics. The Annals have universal appeal as they relate to a major transformation in the lives of the people of the Malay Archipelago from a Hindu-Malay matrix to an Islamic – Malay culture. Being an entrepot port, Melaka made rapid progress on account of its cosmopolitan population comprising merchants from India, China, Arabia, Portugal and various other nations of the world. They contributed to the social, economic and political evolution of the Malay Kingdom.
The main theme of this work was to laud the greatness and superiority of the Malaccan state, which had been founded about 1400. Although the Sejarah Melayu mentions only one date, events described in it can be verified by other historical sources. The Sejarah Melayu consists of a collection of stories, not historically connected, focusing on the activities of the Malaccan sultans, their courts, and government officials. In addition, foreign rulers were also described, as were Malacca's foreign relations and its importance as a regional trading centre. A noteworthy omission was the absence of any mention of peasant life. The Sejarah Melayu is significant for its well-written narrative and characterization of personalities, and it is also an important historical source about Malacca and the Malay world prior to Malacca's defeat by the Portuguese in 1511.
Attributed to Tun Seri Lanang as its first editor, the work was commissioned by Sultan 'Ala'u-d-din Ri'ayat Shah of Johor. It was claimed to have been begun in on Sunday May 13, 1612, in Pasai, Sumatra, where the Sultan was being held captive Mahkota Alam of Acheh. However, some scholars think that the original text was written prior to 1536 and underwent changes in 1612.
The main aim of this work was, undoubtedly, to laud the spleandour, greatness and superiority of the Melaka Sultanate - and it was written at a time when the Johor court, successors of the Melaka sultans, were being attacked by Portuguese and Achinese, their capital sacked many times and having to be moved from one part of the Straits to another. The court was frequently on the run from marauding invaders, their territories being overrun. The Sejarah Melayu was probably an attempt by the Johor court to overcome its sense of lost fortunes by regaining the past glories of a mythical golden age that was less than a generation past. It still serves to inspire the Malay of today - and to remind them of the heights that they can be, and have been, capable of reaching.