Among the most important source of information on the workings of traditional Malay states are decrees and commands issued at various levels of the administration.  Unfortunately, compared to the thousands of Malay diplomatic and royal epistles found in archives today, very few official Malay documents are known to survive.  It is because of the rarity of such documents that two early 19th-century Malay documents from Cabau, Melaka have recently been published (with full transliterations and English translations), even though these are not known from original manuscripts, but only from transcriptions made by C.O. Blagden in 1894 or shortly thereafter. 

C.O. Blagden, the first lecturer in Malay at SOAS, University of London.  Source: Wikipedia.

Charles Otto Blagden (1864-1949) served in the civil service in the Straits Settlements from 1888 until 1897, when he returned to England.  When the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) was founded at London University in 1916, Blagden was appointed as the first Lecturer in Malay in 1917, and stayed at SOAS until his retirement in 1935.  Held in SOAS Library today are several volumes of manuscript notebooks by Blagden containing copies of Malay texts, and notes on Malay matters.  In one of these volumes (MS 297495, Vol. II, ff. 31v-33r) are copies of two early 19th-century Malay documents, described by Blagden as follows:

Two chops belonging to the Penghulu of Chabau

These two chops were copied at the house of Penghulu Sulong Arin of Chabau, to whose ancestors they had been granted by the Dato’ Temenggong of Muar who at that period claimed and in fact exercised jurisdiction in a part of what is now Malacca Territory.  It will be noticed that the chops make no reference to any duties except that of keeping up the worship of the Mosque.

Today, Cabau is a small village in the state of Melaka, situated on the upper reaches of the Kesang river. In  the early 18th century, the valley between the Kesang and Muar rivers was granted by Sultan Abdul Jalil Syah of Johor (r. 1699-1717) to a Johor noble, whose heirs bore the title of Temenggung Paduka Tuan of Muar.  The two documents from Cabau discussed here date from 1820 and 1821/2, and were issued by the then Temenggungs of Muar to the Pengulu (headman) of Cabau, commanding him to ensure that communal prayers (sembahyang berjemaah) were held regularly (on Fridays and feast days), and stating the fines to be imposed for non-compliance. 

The two documents, written in Malay in Jawi script, have been copied very carefully by Blagden, who noted that he had preserved all anomalies in spelling that he encountered, and who also presented Romanised versions.  The first document is a copy of a sealed commission (cab) issued by Sayid Engku Temenggung Paduka Tuan to the Pengulu of Cabau, dated 3 Jumadilakhir 1235 (18 March 1820), instructing the Pengulu to uphold communal prayers.  The Temenggung warns that transgressors will be regarded as having perpetrated treason against God and the Prophet, while aristocrats (segala raja-raja Islam) are specifically warned that if they do not join in the communal prayers, then religious officials will not hold prayers on their death, or at the nuptials of their kin, or at births or family events.  The second document, which was clearly in poor condition when Blagden saw it, with losses of text, is a sealed commission (surat ecap) issued by Datuk Engku Alna, Temenggung Paduka Tuan of Muar to Datuk Dalim of Cabauh, 1237 (1821/2), with similar contents. 

On the right-hand page, a Jawi copy made by C.O. Blagden of the sealed commission (cab) issued by Sayid Engku Temenggung Paduka Tuan to the Pengulu of Cabau, 3 Jumadilakhir 1235 (18 March 1820), with Blagden’s Romanised transliteration on the left-hand page.  SOAS MS 297495, Vol. II, ff. 31v-32r
Jawi copy made by C.O. Blagden of a document (surat ecap) issued by Datuk Engku Temenggung Paduka Tuan to Datuk Dalim of Cabauh, 1237 (1821/2), with a copy of the seal, and with a Romanised transliteration on the left-hand page.  SOAS MS 297495, Vol. II, ff. 32v-33r

Despite not being original manuscripts, the careful copies made by Blagden of two early 19th-century Malay documents from Cabau are able to yield considerable information on aspects of daily life in the region under the jurisdiction of the Temenggung of Muar.  These documents show that the enforcement of Islamic law was regarded as a core responsibility of the royal Malay courts and their provincial representatives, yet also serve to highlight areas of concern, such as a lax attitude to communal prayers in Muar-Kesang.  The Cabau documents thus play a valuable role in confirming the centrality of the regulating of Islamic practice in traditional Malay governance on the west coast of the peninsula, in a period just before the era of high colonialism.

References:

Annabel Teh Gallop, Two early 19th-century Malay documents from CabauPendeta, 2021, 12 (1): 22-34.

M.C.Ricklefs, P.Voorhoeve and Annabel Teh Gallop, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia, 2014. 

R.O. Winstedt, The Temenggongs of Muar.  Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1932, 10.1 (113): 30-31.

By Annabel Teh Gallop (British Library, London). Contact annabel.gallopATbl.uk