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Malay history

Terengganu Stone Tablet

A. The Origin

Tracing back the use of pre-classical Malay language[i], there is a need to investigate the existence of ancient inscriptions as well as stone tablets. Almost all stone tablets found in the Malay Archipelago used the Arabic language, not the Malay language. Terengganu Stone Tablet is one of them. It used Malay language, but it was written in Arabic, or amongst the Malay people also known as Jawi script.

Terengganu Stone Tablet was first discovered by an Arab trader named Sayid Husin bin Ghulam al-Bokhari at a steep sloping riverbank of the Teresat River, Terengganu, Malaysia in 1887 A.D. The local inhabitant who did not realize how worth the stone is then brought it to Tok Roshid Mosque, before it was moved to another mosque of Kampung Buluh. In 1902 A.D., a nobleman Pengiran Anum Engku Abdul Kadir bin Engku Besar brought the stone to Sultan Zainal Abidin III.

Terengganu Stone Tablet is dated on Friday, 4 Rajab 702 H, or timed precisely on February 22nd, 1303 A.D. Texts were written on four sides of the stone. There is no certain awareness of language usage on the four sides, indeed; that of the writer`s awareness of using two languages, which have two different scripts as well. The text is the mixture of Malay vocabulary and loanwords from Sanskrit, Javanese, and Arabic scripts.

The significant difference of Terengganu Stone Tablet is on its mixture language; that are, Malay, Javanese, Arabic, and Sanskrit. Other older inscriptions as on the gravestone of Sultan Malik as-Saleh (dated in 1297 A.D.) used both the Arabic language and Arabic script. Other inscription such as Champa Stone (431 H/1039 A.D. and 1025/1035 A.D.), Makhdarah Stone Tablet in Brunei (440 H/1048 A.D.), and Fatimah Stone in Gresik, Indonesia (495 H/1082 A.D.) also used the same pattern as Sultan Malik as-Saleh`s gravestone. They used both the Arabic language and Arabic script.

One almost the same as Terengganu Stone Tablet is Sungai Udang Stone Tablet, dated in 1385 of Hindu calendar or around 1463/1464 A.D. Sungai Udang Stone Tablet used the Malay language, and was written in both Jawi and Kawi scripts. As the other former inscriptions were written in Arabic script, hence Terengganu Stone Tablet is assumed of being the end of pre-classical Malay language. This is also the beginning of a new era of Classical Malay literature.

B. Translation

Source: http://mcp.anu.edu.au/

Text written on Terengganu Stone Tablet of its front side:

  1. Rasul Allah dengan orang yang... (bagi) mereka...
  2. Esa pada Dewata Mulia Raya beri hamba meneguhkan agama Islam
  3. dengan benar bicara derma meraksa bagi sakalian hamba Dewata Mulia raya
  4. di benuaku ini (penentu) agama rasulullah sall`allallahu `alaihi wasallama raja
  5. mandalika yang benar bicara setelah Dewata Mulia raya di dalam
  6. bebumi. Penentua itu fardzu pada sakalian Raja mandalika Islam
  7. menurut sa-titah Dewata Mulia Raya dengan benar
  8. bicara berbajiki benua penentua itu maka titah Seri Paduka
  9. Tuhan mendudukkan tamra ini di benua Terengganu di pertama ada.
  10. Jama`at di bulan Rejab di tahun sarathan di sasanakala.
  11. Baginda Rasul Allah telah lalu tujuh ratus dua.

The English translation of Terengganu Stone Tablet, taken from http://portal.unesco.org/

  1. Behold the Prophet of God and his apostles.
  2. Praise the God Almighty for giving us Islam.
  3. With Islam, truth revealed to all Thy creatures
  4. On this land the religion of the Holy Prophet shall prevail.
  5. The Holy Prophet, the upholder of truth in Thy kingdom.
  6. Hear ye kings, these messages.
  7. Messages from the Almighty, ye doubt not.
  8. Goodwill, with thee fellow men, saith the Almighty.
  9. Be it known, the land of Terengganu, the first to receive message of Islam.
  10. On the noon on Friday in the month of Rejab whilst the sun was in the north by religious reckoning.
  11. Seven hundred and two years after the demise of the Holy Prophet.

Source: http://mcp.anu.edu.au/

Text written on Terengganu Stone Tablet of its rear side

  1. keluarga di benua jauh... kan...ul
  2. (datang) berikan. Keemp (-at derma barang) orang berpi-hutang
  3. jangan mengambil ke... (a)mbil bilangkan emas
  4. kelima derma barang orang... (mer)deka
  5. jangan mengambil (tugal buat) temasnya
  6. jika ia ambil bilangkan emas. Keenam derma barang
  7. orang berbuat balacara laki-laki perempuan sa-(titah)
  8. Dewata Mulia raya jiak merdekabujan palu
  9. sa-ratus rautan. Jika merdeka beristeri
  10. atawa perempuan bersuami ditanam binggan
  11. pinggang di bembalang dengan batu matikan
  12. jika inkar ba(lacara) bembalang jika anak mandalika

The English translation of Terengganu Stone Tablet, taken from http://portal.unesco.org/

  1. Brethren of lands distant.
  2. Cometh hither to tell ye. The Forth Commandment for debtors.
  3. Take ye not, lose ye not, gold in thy hands.
  4. Fifth Commandment give thee alms and pay thy tithes.
  5. Take thee not, gold of others.
  6. If take thee the gold, return it.
  7. Peril be to adulterers.
  8. To repent, the following be done, command the Almighty.
  9. A hundred whips, for free man, a wife hath.
  10. A married woman, to be buried.
  11. To the waist and stoned to death.
  12. Ignore thee not. Be it the daughter of a prophet.

Source: http://mcp.anu.edu.au/

Text written on Terengganu Stone Tablet of its right side:

  1. bujan dandanya sapuluh tengah (tiga) jika ia...
  2. menteru bujan dandanya tujuh tahil sa-pa(ha...
  3. tengah tiga. Jika (tetua) bujan dandanya lima ta)hil...
  4. tujuh tahil sa-paha masuk bendara. Jika o(rang...
  5. merdeka. Ketujuh derma barang perempuan hendak...
  6. tida dapat bersuami jika ia berbuat balacara

The English translation of Terengganu Stone Tablet, taken from http://portal.unesco.org/

  1. Singles, the fine, ten and a half `saga`
  2. A gentry not married, the fine, seven `tahils`……
  3. Two and a half `saga`, the fine for older singles……
  4. Seven `tahils` to the treasury if……
  5. Free man. The Seventh Commandment; dowry for woman should…….
  6. Deny her husband, if she commit adultery.

Sumber: http://mcp.anu.edu.au

Indonesian translation of Terengganu Stone Table on the left side:

  1. ... tida benar dandanya sa-tahil sa-paha. Kesembilan derma.
  2. ... Seri Paduka Tuhan siapa tida... dandanya
  3. ... kesapulih der)ma jika anakku atawa keluarku atawa anak
  4. ... tamra ini segala isi tamra ini barang siapa tida menurut tamra ini laknat Dewata Mulia Raya
  5. ... dijadikan Dewata Mulia Raya bagi yang langgar acara tamra ini.

C. Interpretation

Terengganu Stone Tablet is an evidence of the transition from pre-classical Malay language to classical Malay language. It used the Malay language and was written in the Arabic/Jawi/Kawi script. It also reveals the situation in the Malay Archipelago around the 14th century. It discloses that Islamic Law (sharia) had ever been implied in the Malay Archipelago in the 14 century. The stone summoned the Malay rulers of the time to believe in Islam and to conduct Islamic teachings based on the teachings of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The Jawi/Kawi script alone is the Arabic script that had suffered from slight modifications on its phonemes, phonetic properties based on the Malay language. The stone tablet`s carver had realized that some Malay words could not be written in Arabic script; thus he/she made some modifications by adding five letters into the Arabic script, which consists of 29 letters. The further development of Jawi/Kawi script is the addition of one more letter by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka-DBP (Language and Library Council) in 1986 A.D.

Discussing the origins of “Jawi,” R.J. Wilkinson (Musa, 2006:8) argues that the word “jawi,” in the Malay language, refers to everything relating to “jawi-jawi” or “jejawi” and likewise “”jawi rice.” The above assumption, of course, cannot be used to underpin the opinion of the origins of “jawi” as language. Those definitions have no relation with script as well as writing matters.

Osmar Awang (Loc.cit:9) suggests another opinion on the origins of “jawi.” He believes that the word “jawi” is derived from an Arabic term “al-Jawah` that were mostly written on the Arabic notes dated in the 14th century. Therefore, the word “jawi” is a name given by the Arab people to a kind of script that was used by the Sumatran people, especially the inhabitants of al-Jawah, or Muslim community who spoke Malay language.

Raffles (Ibid) also proposes another opinion about “jawi.” Raffles remarks that “jawi” refers to “Jawi Peranakan” or “kacukan.” “Jawi Peranakan” or “kacukan,” in the Malay society, refers to a child from a marriage of Keling descent and Malay descent. He concluded that the Jawi language is the Malay language written in the Arabic script.

Further, the word “jawi” is often correlated to the Malay language. Many say “mana jawikannya?” to replace “where is the Malay translation for this?” Consequently, “jawi” is not Arabic script. The term “jawi” is the opposite of the term “Arabic/Persian;” hence, the Jawi script is not Arabic/Persian script. The Jawi language is the opposite of Arabic language, and Jawi nation is not Arab, or Persia (Iran), or Turkey.

The unique feature of the Jawi script dated prior to the 17th century is its standardized grammar and style. All areas in the Malay Archipelago used the same grammar and style in the writing of Jawi language. Two factors play roles as the reason.

First, only certain people owned scriptwriting skill. They were trained strictly, so that the style and grammar of Jawi language standardized. Even more, most the texts of the time were in the form of religious and royal documents that of course, only skilful scriptwriters who might carry out such duties.

Second, there is a strict rule of spelling in the Jawi language. Consequently, scriptwriters of the time were forced willy-nilly to obey and adapt to such rules. The strict rule is the Arabic`s orthographic system, which was modified into Jawi`s orthographic system later on.

Terengganu Stone Tablet, indeed, signs the new era of the dissemination of Islam in the Malay Archipelago. With such a systemic writing, there was a shifting in the method of introducing Islamic teachings in the Malay Archipelago since the 17th century. The former way of disseminating Islam was one-way communication, that of from Islamic scholars to their students, or audiences if in a congregation. Following the writing culture signed by the making of Terengganu Stone Tablet, the former way was considered ineffective.

Likewise, there was a worry about the authentic and accurate Islamic teachings delivered through oral communication. Therefore, Terengganu Stone Tablet is also an effort to document the authentic and accurate Islamic teachings so that the coming generation would be able to study their early generation. Such a writing tradition, later on, gives birth to the Islamic calligraphy-making tradition, sure with patterns typical to the Malay cultural civilization.

An Ismanto (sej/03/05-09)

Translated by Irfan Nugroho (ter/122/06-09)

Photo: http://cheadilah.blogspot.com/


  • Hashim Musa, 2006. Sejarah Perkembangan Tulisan Jawi Second Edition. Selangor Darul Ehsan: Siri Lestari Bahasa
  • Mohd. Taib Osman (ed.), 1997. Islamic Civilization in the Malay World. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka
  • Noriah Mohamed, 1999. Sejarah Sosiolinguistik Bahasa Melayu Lama. Pulau Pinang: University of Sains Malaysia for Pusat Pengkajian Ilmu Kemanusiaan Pulau Pinang

 [i] Pre-classical Malay language in the development of Malay language began in the 11th century and ended around the 14th century following the discovery of Terengganu Stone Tablet. The period is also called the shifting period; the shifting from Indian influences to Arab influences. For that reason, the nature of pre-classical Malay language is the mixture of languages that was still able to show its archaic nature like loanwords from Sanskrit. The script used in the period still in Arabic with some modifications, especially on its phonemes (Mohamed, 1999:66).
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