Archive for March 4th, 2009




Behold , as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of the truth – God will not forgive them, nor will he guide them in any way. Announce thou to such hypocrites that grievous suffering awaits them.

And as for those who take the deniers of the truth for their allies in preference to the believers – do they hope to be honoured by them when, behold, all honour belongs to God [alone]?

AN-NISA (137-139)


The reigning ruler was considered to possess the mystique of sovereignty. Sovereignty was related to spiritual concepts and traditional beliefs regarding treason. The two were intertwined. Whoever disobeyed a royal command or order was considered disloyal to the ruler. He would be cursed by the mystique sovereignty. Sovereignty was also connected with the belief in the ill-fortune that awaited those who go against their ruler (i.e. tulah). The Hikayat Malim Dagang mentioned that this ill-fortune took the form of being afflicted by the force of bisa kawi. There ia a Malay saying which goes: ‘The Malays are forbidden to show disloyalty to their ruler’. Treason appeared to have taken various guises. The Hukum Kanun Melaka stated that treasonable acts included slaying the bearer of the royal command, defying such a command, taking the law into one’s own hands and attempting to oppose the actions of the ruler. The punishment for such an offence was either death by the keris or implement (in this circumstance members of the offender’s family were usually executed along with him), or left ultimately to face the ill-fate which was believed to befall those who opposed the ruler, and spend his entire life in misery. The Sejarah Melayu stated that Sang Rajuna Tapa , the former Penghulu Bendahara of Raja Iskandar in Singapore, incurred the curse and punishment of sovereignty when he was turned into stone for having conspired with the men of Majapahit to attack the city. However, this information was acquired through oral sources and remained a belief amongst the Malays.

Theoretically, although sovereignty and the spiritual as well as physical relationship between ruler and subject was believed to have been absolute and beyond question, they were in fact frequently questioned in Malacca. Hang Kasturi, who took matters into his own hands, was considered by Hang Tuah to be ‘…a traitor’. Another clear example was the execution of Tun Hussein, one of Sultan Mahmud’s officials. He was put to death on a charge of attempted treason, even though he acted on the grounds of human and individual rights to avenge the death of his father. In fact the deeds of both these historical figures challenged the sovereignty of the Malacca ruler. In the case of Hang Kasturi, he was probably aware that his actions went against the norms, traditions of sovereignty and the dictates of customs, and yet he still resolutely opposed the ruler. Here, a conflict arose between the rights of the individual and traditional, hereditary practice. Therefore, the author of Hikayat Hang Tuah , a symbolic historical romance, tried to manifest the act of treason while simultaneously attempting to defend justice and human rights. In Sejarah Melayu, the term ‘treason’ is usually used to denote a tendency to oppose the ruler. Those who were staunch supporters of this tradition and who opposed treason were invariably the Malacca officials themselves, especially the Bendahara. The belief in the existence of the mystique of sovereignty and the condemnation of treason formed the essence of power and absolute authority of the sultan as ruler in his relations with the members of the society that he ruled.

THE MALAY SULTANATE OF MALACCA (Muhammad Yusoff Hashim, 1992  pp212-213)

March 2009