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The Coming of Islam

The Ship from Juddah

The ruler of Malacca, either Parameswara the founder, or his own son, was converted to Islam through influence from Pasai. A Pasai princess was given to the Sultan in marriage, and this led to commercial expansion and increased Muslim influence. The first Muslim ruler of Malacca took the fashionable Persian title "Shah", and called himself Iskandar Shah. (Iskandar is the Malay equivalent for Alexander). But the fact that the ruler of Malacca became a Muslim did not mean that the entire royal house of Malacca had been finally won over to Islam, with its inhabitants. His immediate successor, Raja Tengah, took a Hindu title - Sri Maharaja - and the ruler after him, Raja Ibrahim, took the tile Sri Parameswara Dewa Shah.

The Sejarah Melayu, in fact, is quite explicit in stating that Melaka only converted to Islam during the reign of Raja Tengah:

One night the king had a dream. He dreamt that he saw clearly our Prophet Muhammad and he said to Raja Tengah, "Say 'I testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Apostle of God'." And Raja Tengah repeated word for word what the Prophet had told him: whereupon the Prophet said to him, "Your name is Muhammad. To-morrow, when it is the time for the afternoon prayer, there will come hither a ship from Juddah; and from that ship a man will land on this shore of Malaka. See to it that you do whatsoever he tells you." And Raja Tengah answered "Very well", whereupon the Prophet of God disappeared from his sight.

Then day broke and Raja Tengah awoke from sleep; and he saw that he had been circumcised. And he kept continually repeating, "I testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His Prophet" (in Arabic) to the astonishment of all the women-attendants of the palace. And the king's ministers said, "Is this Raja of ours possessed by the devil or is he mad? We had better inform the Bendahara straightaway." ... And the Bendahara came; and he went into the royal apartments where he found the Raja still repeating continually, "I testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is his Prophet."

And the Bendahara said, "What language is this that you are talking, Sire?""" And the Raja answered, "Last night I had a dream and in that dream I clearly saw the Lord Prophet" and he told the Bendahara all that he had dreamt. And the Bendahara said, "If your dream was true, Sire, what is there to prove it?" And the Raja answered, "The fact that 1 am circumcised. That proves the truth of my dream. And the Apostle of God said to me, "This afternoon, at the time of the 'asar prayers, a ship will arrive from Juddah and from that ship a man will land and say prayers on this Malaka shore. Do as he bids you!" Then said the Bendahara, "If a ship does :arrive at the time of the 'asar prayers, then your dream will be true, Sire. If no ship comes, then of a surety it is the devil plaguing you!"

And when it was the hour of 'asar, a ship arrived from Juddah and proceeded to anchor. And from this ship a Makhdum disembarked, Saiyid 'Abdu'l-'Aziz by name, and then prayed on the shore. And all who saw him were astonished at his behaviour and said, "What means this bobbing up and down?" And there was a general scramble to see him, the people crowding together ... and there was such a disturbance that the noise of it came to the ears of the Raja inside the royal apartments of the palace. And straightaway the Raja set forth on his elephant escorted by his chiefs and he perceived that the Makhdum's behaviour in saying his prayers was exactly as in his dream. And he said to the Bendahara and the chiefs, "That is exactly how it happened in my dream!"

And when Makhdum Saiyid 'Abdu'l-'Aziz had finished his prayers, the Raja made his elephant kneel and he mounted the Makhdum on the elephant and took him to the palace. And the Bendahara and the chiefs embraced Islam; and every citizen of Malaka, whether of high or low degree, was commanded by the Raja to do likewise. As for the Raja himself, he received instruction in the Faith from Makhdum Saiyid 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, and he took the title of Sultan Muhammad Shah.

One can speculate that his successor, Sri Parameswara Dewa Shah, taking a Hindu title, represented a traditionalist reaction in Melaka against the new religion. He reigned for only seventeen months, after which he was murdered - some think as a part of a plot hatched by the Muslim Indian Bendahara Tuan Ali. Certainly, the Muslim Tamils were now to play an increasingly bigger role as king-makers in the political scene of Melaka - they were to produce the great line of the Bendahara family for years to come. The murdered ruler was given the posthumous tile Sultan Abu Shahid - the Martyred King - and the Bendahara's nephew was appointed Sultan, taking the title Muzzaffar Shah. Hinduism was crushed forever and the Melaka Sultanate was born.

About the Author

Write to the author: sabrizain@malaya.org.uk

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