“It is clear he was a prince of Malayu and that he was a Malay.” These were excerpts from Historical Fact and Fiction by acclaimed scholar Tan Sri Professor Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, launched yesterday by Sultan of Johor’s consort Raja Zarith Sofia Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).The book aimed to shed new light on written events dismissed as fiction by European historians, and attempted to provide a new interpretation of the primary sources from over 1,000 years ago The main contention of the book was to investigate the true chronological framework of how Islam was introduced to the Malay Peninsula and the surrounding regions.
The scholar said it has been widely accepted that Islam was first propagated in the Malay Archipelago no earlier than the 13th century.
(From left) Historical Fact and Fiction author Syed Muhammad Naquib Al Attas, UTM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Zaini Ujang, Sultan of Johor’s consort Raja Zarith Sofia Sultan Idris Shah and Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin at the book launch in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. — NST picture by Nur Elliana Zakaria
Also, many had been led to believe that the spread of Islam in the Malay Peninsula had begun with the conversion of the Malaccan sultanates by Indian and Persian traders.
Meanwhile, European scholars contended that Islam had arrived in the 1600s along with the coming of the Portuguese during the conquest of Malacca.
All these “facts” were what Syed Muhammad Naquib intended to challenge in his book.
He explained in his book how the first Muslim ruler in the Malay Archipelago was converted by missionaries from Mecca circa 8th or 9th century, based on previously untapped evidences.
“My interpretation differs fundamentally from that generally accepted by historians of the Malay world. It is perhaps the first time that such an interpretation has ever been attempted,” he said in his speech during the book launch.
“I may be wrong on some details interpreted by others, but at least on some other details that have never been clarified, I think I am right.” He said it was important that society at large do not accept established historical information as they were, and urged scholars in particular to look into the matter.
“Our history syllabus taught in schools should be re-examined because it might contain factual errors.” Also present at the book launch were Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin and UTM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Zaini Ujang.
Khaled said the book raised pertinent questions about our history.
“Our country’s history had not been manipulated, it was just that there had not been enough historical input to bolster its accuracy.” “Now Syed Muhammad Naquib has opened the possibilities for us to further develop our understanding of our culture’s origins.
“I urge scholars and thinkers alike to use the opportunity to challenge what we thought we already know.” He said the book would be considered for use in the school syllabuses.
The hardcover 170-page Historical Fact and Fiction was published by UTM Press and is currently available for RM180.
By Roy See Wei Zhi and Aisyah Sulaiman firstname.lastname@example.org 2011/09/10
Source: NST Home Local Book sheds new light on history