Friday, May 06, 2011

Hikayat abdullah : one of the most important Malay literary works.


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Munshi Abdullah Abdul Kadir
Hikayat Abdullah  1849
Courtesy of the National Library Board of Singapore

Hikayat Abdullah
This autobiography of Munshi Abdullah Abdul Kadir was written in the Jawi language between 1840 and 1843, and published in 1849. The author was the interpreter and scribe to Singapore's founder, Sir Stamford Raffles. Therefore this text serves as an important record of Singapore's early history and the most accurate account of Raffles' arrival.
Abdullah was also the first Malay writer to depart from traditional Malay literary style, by writing in colloquial language. Unlike courtly writing, his style was realistic and lively, incorporating many Malay idioms and proverbs. His knowledge of languages and reputation as a teacher earned him the nickname 'Munshi', meaning 'tutor'.
Abdullah wrote about the events of his life as they related to the activities in Singapore, which was slowly changing under British rule from a sleepy fishing village into a major centre of world trade. He describes this transformation and the prominent British personalities of the time, offering observations on political and cultural events. Abdullah remarks on Raffles' study of the history, customs and language of the people he came into contact with, and his efforts to treat all those he met with due respect and proper courtesies. He also described Raffles' arrangements for collecting, preserving and recording books and natural history specimens.
From both the literary and historical perspectives, the Hikayat Abdullah is a milestone in modern Malay literature. This is a first edition, and is very rare. It was produced by the printing technique of lithography, which was widely used by artists in the nineteenth century and is still in use today.

 Excerpt from the book.


I now proceed to the subject of Colonel Farquhar having been stabbed. The origin of the fact was thus:-There was a Syed, a native of Pahang, named Syed Essen, who traded between that place and Singapore, and he had goods on credit from Pangeran Shirrij Omer, a native of Palembang. Now he was in debt to Syed Mahomed Jumid 400 dollars, and to the Pangeran about 1000. And when he came to Singapore the Pangeran asked him for the money, at which he was annoyed.
So a summons was issued, and the claim tried before Colonel Farquhar, who inquired into the matter, when it was decided that the debt amounted to 1400 dollars. So Colonel Farquhar told Syed Essen that he had decided that his debt was as above, and asked him what he had to say in the matter. To this Syed Essen replied, that he had no money at the time, but that he would pay it next year. To this Colonel Farquhar replied, that it did not rest with him, but with the Pangeran, and that if he would put it off it could be done. Then the Pangeran said, 'I cannot do so, as I have to settle accounts with Syed Mahomed Jumid.' Then said Colonel Farquhar to Syed Essen, 'If you can give security I can let you go; if not, I must imprison you.' To this Syed Essen replied, 'Where can I get security, as I am a stranger ?' On this the Pangeran said, 'If he don't find security, then I would ask that he be imprisoned, for I know he has money, only he will not pay me.' So the Pangeran went away.
The magistrate, Mr. Barnard, then carried Syed Essen to prison. This was about two o'clock in the day, and it was not thought of to examine him for weapons--for he had a kris hid under his coat. At about five in the evening, he solicited Mr. Barnard to allow him to see the Pangeran, to try if he could not prevail on him to give him credit. This was granted, a peon who was a Hindoo, following him in charge. It was about evening when they entered the fence of the Pangeran, his determination being to kill him. The Hindoo remained at the outer door, Syed Essen alone entering; and when the Pangeran saw him coming, with an altered face he ran into the inner rooms, locking the door after him and getting out of the back door on the sea-shore, when he made for the house of Colonel Farquhar, telling him of the Syed's rushing at him with a drawn kris. The day was now spent.
So Syed Essen waited a little, to see if the Pangeran would come out again; but seeing he did not, he came out himself, and approaching the peon, he was told to be quick, as night was drawing on. On hearing this he stabbed the peon, who at once fell dead near the outer gate. Syed Essen then returned into the house of the Pangeran, seeking him again to kill him; but the Pangeran at this time was in Colonel Farquhar's house, afraid to return.
This was about seven in the evening. And I just at that time was on my way to teach Mr. John Morgan the Malay language, and as I was in the middle of the road I met Colonel Farquhar with his son, Andrew Farquhar, and son-in-law, Captain Davis, accompanied by four sepoys armed with guns; also one carrying a pole in front The Pangeran was with them. And when Colonel Farquhar saw me he said, 'Where are you going?' I told him I was going to the house of Mr. Morgan. So be said, 'Don't do so; but come along with me, for there is an amoker near the Pangeran's house.'
So I approached him, and went along with him to the Pangeran's house, where we all entered the fence that surrounded it, but found no one. Then said Colonel Farqubar, 'Where is this Syed Essen?' To this the Pangeran replied, that he was here shortly ago, but now no one can see him, yet there is the peon dead at the gate. I went in myself and had come out when Colonel Farquhar also came out into the main road. He thought a little and then went into the house to search again, but came out again. This he did three times without meeting any one.
Now, when Syed Essen saw a number of people coming, he went below the public hall and hid himself there. The public hall was in the centre of the lawn, which was thickly covered with mangostan trees; thus he had not been seen. So Colonel Farquhar came away as far as the bridge, where I followed him, as I wanted to see the end of the affair. Then suddenly a thought struck Colonel Farquhar to go back to the house; so we all returned and entered. Now, when we had got to the centre of the lawn Colonel Farquhar pushed his stick under the public hall or summer-house -- I being near to him -- on which Syed Essen unexpectedly thrust his arm from below the verandah, and with a crouching spring stabbed Colonel Farquhhar in the breast, just over the nipple, the kris passing through the cloth coat and shirt, which were covered with blood. On this Colonel Farquhar cried out that he was wounded. I ran to him and saw his coat covered with blood, and as I approached he fell, so I held him. Now Andrew Farquhar, the son, had a sword in his hand; with this he struck the Syed in the month, cutting face as far back as his ear. After this the sepoys rushed forward and thrust him through with their bayonets; on this they threw down their muskets and ran away. And when Captain Davis saw this he went of to the sepoy lines; but Syed Essen by this time was dead. Colonel Farquhar could not walk from loss of blood, and of the people that remained there was myself, Andrew Farquhar, and the man with the pole, so we supported him till we got to the house of Mr. Guthrie, where we laid him on a sofa.
Now there arose a great consternation, people running hither and thither, when his daughters arrived in great grief and lamentation. With these Doctor Montgomerie came also. He took out a silver needle and probed the wound, when he told the daughters not to cry, as thee wound was not deep, but merely a flesh one, and that he would soon be well; he at the same time put a smelling bottle to his nose. This eased him, his coat was now opened and the blood washed, and medicine placed on it.
The people had now assembled so as to fill the place where Syed Essen lay, and every European (orang putik, or white men) stabbed at and cut the corpse of Syed Essen till it was in shapeless pieces. On this two or three hundred sepoys came in haste, not having time to put on their clothes,--some others without their inner clothes, and some naked,-- all carrying muskets and cartridges either over their shoulders or hips; they also drew behind them twelve cannons, all primed, and surrounded the fence of the Tomungong, placing the guns there in position. There were also men ready with the match to let off the guns, on getting orders to do so. Captain Davis ran alongside of the sepoys here and there. This was the time that there was no moon at nights, so torches, candles, and matches were lighted by the hundreds; so there was a great commotion in all the people of the other side hastening across the river, but there was not a single Malay to be seen, all having been chased away by the sepoys.
At this point Mr. Raffles also made his appearance in great haste. Leaping out of his carriage, he sought Colonel Farquhar, and when he saw that he was not killed, he then went to see the corpse of Syed Essen. At the same moment a person was bringing fire, with the intention of taking it into the Pangeran's court, when be stumbled over the legs of the dead peon which was lying at the front gate; there was on this another hubbub about his death. Now Mr. Bates took a candle to view the corpse of Syed Essen, and he asked of the people assembled, 'Who is this?' But no one knew him. He now came to- me and asked me if I knew who it was. I told him no;- but that I had been acquainted with Syed Essen when he was carrying on his suit with the Pangeran, but his body was so cut up that I could not know it to be his. I perceived that Mr. Raffles at first suspected that the Tomungong's followers had stabbed him (i.e. Colonel Farquhar). Captain Davis now came several times to Mr. Raffles, asking for sanction to fire the cannons, but he was ordered to wait. Mr. Barnard now came running from the other side, and when he saw the peon's body, then he recollected of his having been sent with Syed Essen to see the Pangeran. He then asked to see the corpse of Syed Essen, when he sickened at the fault he had committed. So he went forward to Mr. Raffles, and saluting him, told him that the corpse was that of Syed Essen, adding, 'He a short time ago asked me to allow him to see the Pangeran about his debt, when I consented, the peon being in charge.' And when Mr. Raffles heard this, his eyes flashed fire with rage, and clenching his fist in the face of Mr. Barnard, so as to knock off his hat, he said, 'Have you care, sir; if Farquhar dies, I shall hang you in Singapore.' At this Mr. Barnard bent before him and asked his forgiveness.
Now for the first time did people know that the dead man Syed Essen had stabbed Colonel Farquhar, and not the Tomungong's followers. So Mr. Raffles again went to see Colonel Farquhar, who could now speak a little, the doctor still being in waiting. Mr. Raffles again came down and ordered a blacksmith to be called, and four at once came, when he scored on the sand with his finger a thing like a barred box, about the height of a man, saying, ' Let me have this done by seven to-morrow morning,' -- which they did accordingly.
At length they took Colonel Farquhar to his house, helping him into his carriage, all the people going along with him. Mr. Raffles also ordered Captain Davis to take back the cannons, with the sepoys. After that four convicts came and tied a rope to the feet of Syed Essen, and carried the corpse to the middle of the plain, where there was a guard of sepoys, and they threw it on the ground.
On the morrow Mr. Raffles went to the house of Colonel Farquhar and sat there, when Sultan Hussein Shah and the Tomungong, with all their councilors and chiefs, came; also all the English merchants and the men of all races in thousands. And after they had gathered together, Mr. Raffles seated himself on the bench, asking of the Sultan and Tomungong as to the laws of the Malays regarding a subject drawing the blood of his Raja or Governor. Then theSultan replied, 'Such a crime by a subject is punished by the execution of himself and his wives and children; he is cast out from his people, the pillars of his house are overturned, it is thrown to the ground, and the vestiges are thrown into the sea.
When Mr. Raffles heard this, he dissented to the judgment as being unrighteous, saying, that to him who does wrong should the punishment come; so why should the wives and children be punished, who knew nothing of the offence? Then he said, 'O Sultan, Tomungong, and all ye that are here assembled, hear what is enacted by English law. The murderer according to it shall be hung; and if not alive, the corpse is hung, notwithstanding. And to the wives and children, the East India Company will give allowances, till they have married again, or the children have become old enough to seek for themselves. Such is the custom of the white people.' Then at the same time he ordered the corpse to be brought and put in a buffalo cart, which was thereupon sent round the town to the beat of the gong, informing all the European and native gentlemen to look at this man who had drawn blood from his Raja or Governor; and that the law was that he should not live, but in death even he should be hung. When they had sufficiently published thus, then they carried the corpse to Tanjong Maling, at the Point of Tullo Ayer, where they erected a mast on which they hung it, in an iron basket (i.e. barred box), which I have mentioned before; and there it remained for ten or fifteen days, till the bones only remained. After this the Sultan asked the body from Mr. Raffles, which was granted: Not till then was it washed and buried.

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