Territorial Expansion and Contraction in the Malay Traditional Polity as Reflected in Contemporary Thought and Administration


Iik A. Mansurnoor (University of Brunei Darussalam)

Presented at The International Symposium:
Beyond the Border: A New Framework for Understanding
the Dynamism of Muslim Societies

8-10 October 1999 at the Kyoto International Hall,
Kyoto, Japan


  • It has been argued that traditional polities in Southeast Asia, particularly the Malay world, had no fixed boundaries. The raison dfetat hinged more on the numbers of the population than on the territories. When most traditional polities in maritime Southeast Asia accepted Islam, interestingly they did not pursue the former higher concept of empire. Islamic states in the region, which emerged after the downfall of Baghdad in 1258, generally consisted of smaller territories. The adoption of such institutions as sultan, qadi, and qanun is historically significant.

    This study examines the concept of territorial domain as found in traditional Malay texts, including Sejarah Melayu, Bustan al-Salatin, Silsilah Raja-Raja Brunei (SRB), Hikayat Banjar, Babad tanah Jawi and Tuhfat al-Nafis. Although these cannot be regarded as typical, let alone representative, of Malay text, they, however, present authentic ideas of particular Malay polities. They belong to different periods and come from different areas. I am optimistic that they may shed light into our gmodernh questions of gconcept of territory,h sovereignty and law.

    More specifically, special attention is given to the implementation, or to be more precise the adoption, of the shari`a in particular states. Several genres of glegal digesth emerged in Islamic Southeast Asia. In order to have a more focused view of the interplay between Islamic law and local customs, I shall specifically analyze the Brunei legal digest known as Hukum Qanun Brunei (HQB). It is interesting that HQB has contents that are very similar to other digests found in other Malay states. The fact that these digests include both Islamic and local elements shows that localization of Islam and contraction of gIslamic territoriesh in the forms of smaller states have accounted for the modification and amalgamation of law.

    Indeed, the transformation of Malay society also implies the persistence of older local tradition and institutions.



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    "c hak hukum atas wilayah tak dapat ditetapkan secara tegas dengan batas-batasnya yang tetap, tetapi ditandai oleh ketidakstabilan dan gampang berubahnya batas-batas kerajaan tergantung pada turun naiknya kekuasaan pusat" (Moertono 1985 p.131).



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    Traditional polity generally developed its own personal means of exercising authority over its people and territory. The personal character of relations between the ruler and the ruled then might be based on religion, culture and other forms of ideology. Relevant to the theme of this paper, Islam emerged from its inception as raison dfetre of the community and state (umma). Even Lambton (1981:13) suggests that, g[p]olitical boundaries were unknown to Islam except those that separated the dar-islamc from the dar al-harbc. In its internal aspect it was an assemblage of individuals bound to one another by ties of religion.h Of course the idea of thughur and ribat later developed into military-religious institutions in the frontiers. Yet it remains true that borders or boundaries in Islamic polities within and without continued to be fairly fluid and open. For example, the Umawi caliphs continued to consider and did pursue summer campaigns (sawafi) into the frontiers against the Byzantines. Again, during the 16th century different prominent Muslim rulers in the Middle East fought battles to expand or/and defend their respective territories. Indeed, during this period, control over Iraq did change hands on several occasions. Nevertheless, it is unfair to say that the idea of territory and boundary never developed in Islamic political thought. Despite the development of the idea of umma, smaller and more locally oriented polities emerged. Thus here we may discover the nuclei of borders, general and vague though they may be.

    In Southeast Asia, the geographical locale of this paper, the emergence of state proper was associated with the spread of Indic, and to an extent Sinic, tradition after the beginning of Common Era. Paramount chief gave way to god-king (devaraja). Indeed, a ruler who now accrued divinity was raison dfetat and even the state. The religio-cultural ethos of such a polity led to the centripetal tendency that required no fixed state boundaries. The emergence of other rival polities remained open as each attempted to expand influence by attracting larger followers. Such a multi-centric political constellation has been identified by some scholars as mandala (Wolters 1982; Wheatley 1983; Sandhu 1983). Under such a condition, boundaries and allies changed rapidly and repeatedly. The coming of Islam to Southeast Asia and its adoption as political vehicle by rulers after the end of the 13th century led to the restructuring of a few aspects of government and state. Interestingly, sufistic ideas, including the concept of gPerfect Manh (insan kamil), and the eunorthodoxf idea of gGodfs vicegerenth (khalifat Allah) gshadow of God on earthh (zill Allah fi al-`alam) were closely associated with the development of Muslim polities in Southeast Asia from the relatively early period as can be seen in the existing historical literature. Developing on the basis of these two major underpinnings, Islamic and Southeast Asian, Malay polity, and perhaps any pre-modern one, clearly has an inclination toward identifying state with ruler and increasingly with Islam and less with a particular geographical domain. Thus it will be interesting to investigate whether the continuing Islamization in diverse fields, including politico-cultural and religious dimensions, would have decreased the centrality of the ruler as the Islamic system gained the upper hand.


    Several issues and the use of certain terms need to be clarified in this paper. Since the focus of this study is the Malay world in the broader context, it is important to bear in mind that all our sources and texts belong to Islamic tradition that have grown in the Southeast Asian milieu. Scholars have different opinions concerning the translation of Islam in Southeast Asia. However, it is clear that formal identification of Malay rulers with Islam is public and categorical. Accordingly, the formal texts also reflect such association with Islam. At the same time, the corollary of local customs and state tradition continued to be prominent in these texts. Again, the major sources used in this paper belong to gtraditional literatureh that closely reflect the view of the center and the court. Since this paper is concerned more with intellectual history, this clear bias of the texts should not negate the information of contemporary view about polity, state and territory or border. Put differently, these texts represent a particular view concerning such issues. As far as possible, other non-official views, including external observers, are solicited and consulted.

    My approach to and interpretation of the Malay world during the pre-colonial period has so much to do with contrasting worldview as with similar perception. In the course of my discussion, I maintain that Muslims in the Malay world and their rulers have not articulated such a different view of territory, power and its maintenance from our contemporary one. What distinguishes ours from theirs lies more in our sophistication, if that is a correct word, elaboration through cumulative process and further development/experience. For example, most modern scholars on traditional state in Southeast Asia agree that despite their lack of interest in the details of borders or boundaries of the state, the rulers knew well about their crown land, their capital and even most appanage of his key officials. When reading the works of more senior historians, anthropologists and historical geographers, I have been surprised to find out that they expect the rulers in pre-colonial Southeast Asia to think similar to the way our prime ministers or presidents think. The latter have an access to detailed briefing and descriptions about borders and boundaries of their respective territories. Is it reasonable for us to expect that the traditional rulers must know the details of their territory and realm when they had no means of communicating not even knowing the detailed news about it? As I shall elaborate in the following pages, rulers know well the price of their power and how to perpetuate it, including the means to extract resources and wealth from their respective territories, regardless whether they know them in details or not.


    In reviewing the concept of territory and boundaries in traditional polity, it is necessary to consider the local perspectives on land and population. Indeed, the importance of boundaries must be related to the valuation of the political center or ruler toward land or population. If land, and not only population, is crucial to the centerfs economic survival or political-military strategy, the control over it and its protection becomes the utmost concern of the center. Put differently, land has value to the center when it brings value, in the form of agricultural produces, mineral substances or/and manpower. When the state depends on trade, then, understandably, territorial fragmentation and limitation have less import. Itofs study of the relations between Acehfs capital and its granary in the core region shows that close supervision and thus clear division of these territories were carefully undertaken (1984:97-98). I shall elaborate this point below when discussing a comparable phenomenon in Brunei.

    Islam has introduced new elements into the idea of state and ruler in Southeast Asia. The idea that a ruler is gthe shadow of God on earthh and gthe representative of the Propheth has a serious implication in the development of the legal system. As guardian of Islam, a ruler by tradition and within the Islamic environment was expected to lay down a code of law. Thus under Muslim rulers, Southeast Asian states produced or recreated diverse codes of law. M.B. Hooker has suggested that these codes cannot be understood in isolation from historical development that surrounded their writing. More particularly, the codes were born out of a relatively sophisticated legal culture toward the end of the 16th century (Hooker 1984:9). Under Muslim sovereigns, in different degrees and intensity, Islam inspired the development of new codes. Yet it is clear that the new codes, despite their absorption of Islamic idea of personal and public responsibilities, continued to be multi-faceted legal digests. Although Islam introduced some change, it failed to totally transform them. At one extreme we will find only allusion to Islam in a general way, on the other, juxtaposition of several legal references, including the shari`a may predominate.

    In this paper I am not so ambitious as to provide historical explanation for the differences, but, more modestly, it is an attempt to examine whether the writing of certain codes of law under Muslim rulers was related to political centralization and economic stability. Furthermore, I am also interested in examining how the codes of law fared during times of decline.


    Background and Historiographical Review of Sources

    Before launching into further details, it is important to give a brief note on the historiography of our sources. In gathering original materials for this paper I have relied on prominent Malay texts from Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Java, Madura and Borneo. Since the detailed analysis of individual texts will be undertaken below, in this part I shall focus on the general features of the texts. The languages used in the texts include Malay, Javanese, Madurese and some local dialects. Most of these texts have been edited and published, except for two anonymous texts from Riau and Madura. In reading these texts I have read line by line concentrating on themes and topics that are relevant to this paper. Scholars have debated and elaborated the strength and weakness of such texts of historical literature. Generally the traditional historiography has two key aims: to instill the ideology of royal power and to explain the historical vicissitudes in accordance with the normative guides. The ruling class was the state and raison d'etat. Indeed, such historiography envisions a contemporary, thus historical, reflection of the past and at the same time suggests practical guide for the contemporary. Thus in a way traditional historiography is a contemporary product, and sometimes also a critic, of particular culture, since it makes historical aberrance greasonableh to the ideal construct of state, royal power and other related issues. Our texts do not transmit the idea of the past in the spirit of von Rankefs wie es eigentlich gewesen, perhaps they reflect ghistorical attitudes and consciousness of the cultural world that has producedh them (Taufik 1993:48).

    Aceh provides us with a large number of historical literature that are relevant to this paper; however, I have limited my use to only three of them for practical reasons. Since most of the major texts, including Adat Aceh and Bustan al-Salatin Part Two, Chapter 13, have been studied in details by many scholars, my choice of these three will not confine our discussion only to them. Adat Aceh, as discussed by Ito, was written in the present form in the beginning of the 19th century in response to the request of the British authorities in Pulau Pinang. Although the text is more concerned with the legal matters and administrative and government affairs, it also contains some authentic historical information.

    Now, how can we take seriously, for example, the idea of Acehfs territory or claim of borders? Adat Aceh has value in providing administrative guidance. Its author clearly had no direct interest in these local affairs, even if the person may have personal interest in any aristocratic right or even exaggeration of certain territories. The crux of the matter remains, however, that what is passed in the text reflects the real situation or believed to be the pattern and fact. Put differently, Adat Aceh reflects the accepted truth and in many ways the historical experience of the Acehnese.


    Bustan al-Salatin was written by a man of religion who was directly involved in rapid change in Aceh during the second quarter of the seventeenth century. The writer, al-Raniri (d.1658), who enjoyed direct access to the ruler of Aceh, Iskandar Thani (d.1641), wrote this work with several ideas in his mind. First of all, he wanted to provide guidance for the ruler in order to strengthen his government. Al-Raniri also had an interest in projecting the rule of Iskandar Thani as the best example of Aceh tradition and Islamic model. Within these two major perimeters, indeed, Bustan remains an important source of information on how Islamic ideas have been projected, and in some cases materialized, in a particular Malay polity.


    In discussing the idea of government from Islamic perspective in Aceh and the Malay world, it is necessary to refer to Taj al-Salatin. This Furstenspiegel has almost nothing to do with any historical event in Aceh or any other Malay state. Although some scholars argue that the text was fully imported and thus no local idea of state or government was included, it is still important to regard the text as public document that became reference for the elite. In fact, Taufik Abdullah (1993:40-48) insists that the significance of the Taj al-Salatin lies more at its timing of publication in 1603 than at its detailed description of political morality.

    Melaka, which emerged as the model of most later Malay states, may be observed from a number of indigenous texts such as Sulalat al-Salatin, Undang-Undang Melaka and other texts written in the later Malay states that succeeded it in the Peninsula. Melaka inherited the growing tradition of polity in the Western Malay world, especially the straits between the Peninsula and Sumatra. Thus its claim to overarch larger domain may in historical terms contradict reality. However, such claim over wider domain and network facilitated centripetal power and paved the way for later dispersion of political centers. Perhaps it is no exaggeration to suggest that Sulalat al-Salatin's description of territorial domains, as I shall show below, inspired later local rulers and exiled Melakan figures to revive Melakan model, even at the lower, and less grandeur, level.


    The concentration of the elite and merchants in the capital of Melaka from all over the territories provided the writers of Sulalat al-Salatin with the sources of information and repertoire. As these people brought with them tales and demands for more tied organization of the loose realm, for their respective aims and interest, Melakan rulers from time to time responded positively to such encouragement. On the one hand, the metropolitan character of Melaka made the contemporary ghistoriansh more optimistic about the influence that the state or to be more precise the ruler had enjoyed. The presence of various ethnic groups and their representatives at Melakan court further emphasized such an impression. Thus the image of powerful ruler and the reality of bustling capital merged to produce an idea of the Melakan king and his territories. The duality of the expected and the reality concocted the discourse of Sulalat al-Salatin toward centralization. On the other hand, the centrifugal forces that had affected the polities in the region since the intensification of international trade through the Straits of Melaka also left mark on Melaka and its image. Sulalat al-Salatin represents this centrifugal tendency in its depiction of wars launched by Melaka against its dependencies or local leaders.

    The writing of Undang-Undang Melaka and similar legal digests was a response to political centralization and more particularly administrative sophistication. As Liaw shows, the kernel of the Undang-Undang Melaka was in use during the heyday of Melaka in the fifteenth century. Indeed, Sejarah Melayu (1970:92-93) categorically states that the powerful ruler, Sultan Muzaffar Shah gordered the compilation of a code of laws in order that there should henceforward be uniform justice.h The major emphasis of Undang-Undang Melaka and its derivatives on political legitimacy, the concept of order and settlement of dispute, family issues and commercial relations clearly evidences the link between the state formation, its flowering and ideological, cultural and religious change and response.

    It is necessary to examine how Sulalat al-Salatin exposes the model of a realm and how it did not impose the imperial concept or strict political centralization. The fact that its successor states tended to fragment more than re-align themselves raises some important questions as to why conglomeration of centralized polities failed to materialize.

    A successor state to Melaka which played an important role in the Straits after the downfall of Melaka in 1511 was the Johor-Riau polity. Its dynamism and achievements are carefully recorded and depicted in various writings, including Tuhfat al-Nafis, Syair Perang Siak and many more texts by anonymous authors. The authors of the Tuhfat were seriously concerned with the rapid and, at times, disturbing change during their time. The emphasis given by the authors, especially Raja `Ali Haji, on the role of Islam and Malay tradition must be located within their general vision and also predicament. Raja `Ali Haji's view of the past was not surprisingly inspired by such worldview. For Taufik (1993:53-54), the Tuhfatfs emphasis on the unity of religious principle and political wisdom in ruling was key to the understanding of Raja Ali Hajifs worldview.


    In Borneo and/or Kalimantan. with its unique pattern of population settlement along the coast, banks of rivers and hilly areas of the forest, two major polities emerged during the period of our discussion. In the southern part of the island, perhaps affected by its geographical location and commercial position in the Java sea, the Banjar polities of our period tended to look southward for models and identity. On the surface Majapahit, Demak or later polities in Java left an obvious mark on the state administration, titles of officials, state customs and marriage ties. For example, the use of such terms as patih, mangkubumi, pangulu, mantri pangiwa, mantri panengen and raden reappears quite often in Hikayat Banjar (Hikayat Banjar 1968:460). More significantly, it quotes the exhortation of several rulers for strict allegiance to Majapahit, Demak or Mataram state customs (Hikayat Banjar 1968:372-74, 442, 470, 482-84). At the same time, the Banjar polities categorically showed dislike of the Bugis interference (Hikayat Banjar 1968:442), undoubtedly this was a response to Bugis expansionism after the late 17th century. The success of the Banjar polities to expel the Bugis intrusion was due partly to their ability to list the support of the fierce Biaju-Dayak fighters. Throughout the text it is evident that the Banjar polities laid territorial claim to the east and west coasts of the island, including Kutei and Pasir in the east as well as Sambas and Sukadana in the west (Hikayat Banjar 1968:440, 478).

    By the early part of the 16th century, Brunei emerged as the strongest state in Borneo proper. As can be seen in Brunei literature of the early period and the prevailing cultural orientation, it is clear that Brunei claimed its close link to the Melaka Straits tradition. This is not to deny that earlier, Chinese and Majapahit influence in the Brunei court was undeniable. Yet, its system of government and concept of territory remain to significant degrees originally Bruneian. For example, in addition to the well-known posts of Bendahara and Temanggung, Brunei created the posts of Pemanca and Di Gadong. Moreover, it developed an elaborate system of territorial and demographic organization based on the idea of centralization and control. The land and to some extent people were categorized into three divisions: the core or crown (kerajaan), the appanage (pegangan, see SRB A:7, 59 or kuripan) and the inherited property or fief (tulin or pesaka, see SRB A:72-73, 28). Since the division required detailed identification of particular territories or people, the center must have a better idea about them, especially those under direct control. Interestingly, the central government did not generally send its own agents from the capital. It is true that by the 19th century Sarawak was put under different leading figures from among the rulerfs family. Perhaps Sarawak was an exception rather than the pattern of the central governmentfs policy toward the peripheries. Indeed, most of the owners of the inherited properties and land (tulin), not to mention the kuripan, resided in the capital. The organization of these territories was usually assigned to local leaders who were usually called by diverse names, including manteri, pengurong and pedang (SRB A:8-9, 12).

    The writing of the major part of Silsilah Raja-Raja Berunai (SRB) by Pehin Datu Imam Ya`qub in the beginning of the 18th century reflects an authentic picture of the time of transition in Brunei. Being himself a man of religion and official in various capacities, including a trade official (penyurat dagang), the Datu Imam had the best opportunity to gather information and witness the light of the heyday of Brunei and the period of transition. Perhaps his writing was an attempt by Brunei to have a solid reference and even guide in facing the time of change. The relevance of SRB to our understanding of the state system and concept of territory and law in Brunei is thus undeniable. The problem remains, however, that being re-worked and amended by several hands, the existing copy of SRB (Text A and B) requires special care and careful treatment to be used as a historical source of ideas that developed in Brunei.

    The more extensive text, Syair Awang Semaun (SAS), gives a different nuance of Brunei tradition. It may have developed out of folklore and stories which may originally have some historical value. Despite the doubt on the historical value of the text, it is clear that SAS has been held dear by the Bruneians as they regarded it as relevant to their idea about great rulers, local heroes, idea of state and past achievement. In this paper, SAS is treated as a general reference in giving the idea of state and concept or description of Brunei territories. Thus, I am less concerned with the wording than with the totality of meaning and inference.

    Reference to Hukum Qanun Brunei (HQB) in this paper is more problematic. The similarity of the contents and structure, despite some differences in expression and other minor emphasis, of HQB to those of Undang-Undang Melaka, and other legal digests in the Malay states, especially of Pahang and Johor and the absence of categorical historical reference raise the question of the actual implementation of HQB in Brunei. One may even question whether the text was solely copied for private collection or circulation without actually being implemented as positive law. However, from circumstantial evidence and historical references as early as 1521, Pengiran Mohammad suggests that HQB had become positive code of law no later than the last quarter of the 16th century (Mohammad 1992:148-53). The period was associated with the emergence of two prominent rulers, Sultan Sayf al-Rijal and Sultan Hassan, who were strict in establishing justice and order. At our present knowledge of legal history in Brunei, it is perhaps helpful to refer to Itofs study of Acehfs legal system. Despite the increasing implementation of Islamic law after the death of Makota Alam in 1636, local judicial practices were dominant and constituted the basis of the administrative law of Aceh Darussalam. More importantly, the ruler continued to exert decisive influence on legal matters (Ito 1984:182, 192). In the light of what has been said, it is not an exaggeration to surmise that during Brunei's heyday, most of legal questions were settled at the local level among religious or traditional leaders. When the parties involved were not satisfied with the decisions made at the local level, the litigants might resort to higher legal authorities such as the higher religious officials (pehin manteri ugama) or even directly to the ruler. In the process, HQB might have been referred for a solution. Given the nature of our historical record of HQB, my approach to it relies on the probable spread of its contents among the religious officials and the elite. Thus, whatever its real use and implementation, HQB must have had some intellectual influence on the Bruneians.


    The emergence of states in Java and Madura after the coming of Islam reinforced the writing of history and statecraft that reflects some Islamic element. Yet political legitimacy of the rulers and thus the raison dfetat were never sought in Islamic symbols or pretexts. Although Islam was endorsed as a way of live, it did not become a normative ruling. Indeed, the Islamic concept of law continued to be expounded in the books of Islamic jurisprudence among the `ulamaf separate from the various codes of law promulgated by diverse royal courts.


    Babad Tanah Jawi (BTJ) was written during the reign of Pakubuwana IV (r.1788-1820). The time of its writing was also a period of gIslamic awakeningh in the Surakarta court (see Ricklefs 1974). Yet the Babad remains faithful to the older tradition. When Islam was referred to, it was interestingly given the most difficult task: to make gcrisish an acceptable historical process. The concept of predetermination (taqdir) was endorsed throughout. For example, the defeat of the Mataram forces at the hand of the rebels under Trunajaya in the 1670s and the unavoidable cooperation with the Dutch under Amangkurat III are referred to as gbeing foreseen and preordainedh (BTJ 1975:93, 108, 110, 163, 166).

    Using eclectic and fragmented stories and histories, the author of Babad Tanah Jawi disseminates moral political messages. The unending passages about strife, conflict and wars in it are not without unity of idea and purpose (BTJ 1975:102). Neglect of moral value, conspiracy, fratricide and insistence on personal and narrow interest, including outright rejection of the right to rule by the royal family (119, 162, 183-84, 207) would only lead to self-destruction and the decline of overall realm.

    For Madura, I refer to Babad Songennep. This was collected and reedited in 1914 on the basis of the existing texts and oral tradition concerning the ruling dynasties in Eastern Madura. This text is useful in providing the genealogies of the nobility and aristocracy of Madura, the ruling families, palace rituals, relations with the central powers in Java and wars in the region. Written in the context of a local dynasty, the Babad is categorical in considering Madura as a satellite of Java. Interestingly it discusses little about territories, territorial agents and boundaries. Perhaps this lack of concern is closely related to the nature of land in Madura, which was not fertile. Thus what counted most for the ruler was the population in scattered settlements along the coast and around some water springs.


    Reference and Textual Analysis: The Idea of Territory and Boundaries

    In using the texts as source of information, no claim of typical representativeness is advanced. By analyzing the available texts from particular geographical areas of the western part of maritime Southeast Asia, this paper may illustrate concrete examples of how the general Islamic concept and the eindigenousf tradition met or coalesced. The existing studies of the locale and history of the states in the region and relevant data on the central ideas of eterritory,f eboundaryf and code of law are presented and analyzed to show how they may elucidate some answers to the questions posed in this paper.


    My main arguments for the presence of the idea of territories or even borders and boundaries among Muslims in Southeast Asia refer to a number of widely known texts. In the following paragraphs, the discussion focuses on how the idea of territories and boundaries is reflected in some of these texts.


    Adat Aceh, Taj al-Salatin and Bustan al-Salatin may represent some view of territory and boundary of the state in Aceh. These texts cannot be claimed to be a typical Acehnese view about the subject; however, they clearly show us historical evidence and the concept of territory or state of the 17th and 18th centuries.

    The sultanate of Aceh provides the student of Islamic polity with more numerous and better sources. The existing studies of the Acehnese polities prior to the 19th century show that by the time of Makota `Alam (d.1636), Aceh achieved many characteristics of a centralized polity. Although his polity was categorized as gpatrimonial stateh and even, in Weberian sense, gsultanismh (see Ito 1984:63), his means of centralization also produced administrative institutions, including state officials, local representatives, territorial organization and even religious officials and law courts. In terms of territorial organization, Aceh, especially under Makota `Alam, experienced increasing centralization. The core region that supplied the center with the most lucrative source of income in the form of pepper, and to an extent rice, and also manpower came to be directly controlled by the ruler. Accordingly, the core region as a political entity was well defined and thus guarded. As Ito (ibid., 74-78) shows, using traditional and religious establishments, Makota `Alam succeeded in exercising closer control over his core region. For example, the gsecularizationh of some religious institutions such as mukim and imeum worked favorably for his centralization of the realm.

    Later when Makotafs successors were not strong enough to maintain the centralization of the state, they, at least until the 18th century, continued to exercise significant power over the distribution of land as appanage. The development of the larger system of territorial division known as sagi under the panglima (governors) by the mid-1640s slowly undermined the network of local officials (uleebalang) directly responsible to the ruler. As appanage holders were able to pass their title to their descendants, some kind of local aristocracy developed. Under stronger governors, the sagi became by the beginning of the 18th century a new arena of local autonomy. Accordingly the idea of boundaries, particularly among these sagi entities, emerged stronger than before. Indeed, the Adat Aceh categorically specifies the names or identities of borders (Adat Atjeh 1958:110, 111). However, the continuing expansion and, at times of defeat, contraction created the identification of certain peripheries as dependencies or tributaries. The author of the Bustan al-Salatin curiously identifies the newly conquered territories under Makota `Alam as glarge countries;h they include Deli, Johor, Bintan, and Pahang (Bustan 1966:26-27).

    The relatively concrete implementation of Islamic ideas of government and legal system in Aceh requires no repetition in this paper. It is important, however, to elaborate the main theme of the discussion whether political decline connotes the breakdown, or even oblivion, of the legal system or code of law. It is true that political centralization under Makota `Alam brought stability, order and prosperity to Aceh, especially the capital. The question remains as to how the strong influence of Makota `Alam could have been compensated, if not replaced, after his death, at a time when no comparable person emerged. Ito suggests that it was after the death of the powerful Makota that the bolder implementation of the legal ruling system, particularly the shari`a took place (1984:161, 164). Yet this does not mean that the shari`a predominated over other segments of the legal ruling system. The will of sovereign and administrative practices and precedents, generally categorized as `adat, superceded the shari`a (ibid., 191-92). Whatever the case may be, the legal development in Aceh during the 17th and early 18th centuries shows an important facet of the formation of code of law, its implementation and their timing. Although some of our texts, as can be seen below, suggest that the reign of powerful rulers is associated with the codification of code of law or legal digest and the more serious attempt at its implementation Aceh provides us with a different episode.


    Sulalat al-Salatin or more popularly known as Sejarah Melayu of Melaka provides the model of government, including the idea of territory, for many later Malay states. By looking at this important early document, a better insight into the nuclei of such an idea and also further elaboration and modification as found in later Malay texts.

    As a trading center that emerged by virtue of the ability of the ruler to provide traders with market through the establishment of security and stability, Melaka produced almost none. Accordingly, Melaka was less concerned with territorial control than with access to trade. At times Melaka did launch campaigns to many centers such as Patani, Pahang, Pasai, Deli, Kelantan and Kampar (Sejarah Melayu 1970:119, 138, 149, 158, 176, 219), however, they did not lead to permanent occupation. After military defeat, negotiation and political settlement with local leaders, these territories (jajahan dan takluk) regained their autonomy. Despite its military power and economic strength, Melaka seems to have been less concerned with control over its dependencies and tributaries than with maintaining the flow of trade with them. From the emphasis of Sulalat al-Salatin on the events and achievements in the capital and the palace, as I shall describe below, it is clear that it was the capital city that mattered most to the ruler of Melaka.

    The idea of prosperity is depicted in Sulalat al-Salatin (1970:127, 151) in this way. g[T]he city of Melaka steadily increased in prosperity and in population, for Bendahara Sri Maharaja was exceedingly just and humane, clever in his handling of foreigners and skilled in conciliating the good will of the populacec. People journeying had no need to take firing with them, for wherever they stopped on the way there would be a dwelling-housec in the city alone there were a 190,000 people, to say nothing of the inhabitants of the outlying territories and coastal districts.h

    Melaka was known for its several codes of law. As a port city in the 15th century, not surprisingly, Melaka could not fail to have developed intensive contacts with, or even taken advantage of, Muslim traders. The fact that its code of law, Undang-Undang Melaka, includes a significant portion of Islamic law tempts us to suggest that Islam, that is Islamic jurisprudence, had influence in the formation of this code, especially concerning commercial matters and family law. If our knowledge about the link between political power and economic prosperity of Melaka and its development and implementation of extensive legal digests is valid, indeed, Melaka emerges as a model par excellence. Is it congruent with the accepted idea that the Malay gruler is the stateh? Could a powerful ruler tolerate the emergence of another source of power, the impersonal law, including undang-undang and shari`a, that might undermine his sovereignty? Or were such codes created only for the ruled, meaning only some segments of the populace?


    Johor-Riau, a successor of Melaka par excellence, left us diverse important references for the later development of the Malay state, including the concept of statecraft.

    Syair Perang Siak (SPS) suggests an interpretation of the history of the Siak polity at a time when its ruler, Raja Ismail was expelled from his own capital in 1761. Under these difficult circumstances, two ideas developed within his circle in order to regain the dignity and glory. The easiest way was to forget the crown and join others in taking economic advantage. However, the major emphasis and also the argument of SPS focused on using the accepted symbol and authority of the crown to re-establish the state and its proper aura. The recurrent shift of political centers and even dynasties as well as the multiplicity of political centers in the region determined the fluidity of the idea of territory and boundary. Perhaps this explains how the Bendahara of Melaka dared to suggest to Sultan Mahmud, after being expelled from Melaka in 1511, that he was not concerned with territorial domain in order to re-establish Sultan Mahmudfs rule so long as the sultan stood fast to his claim (see Milner 1984). Indeed, SPS does not specifically refer to the core regions, let alone dependencies or tributaries, of Siak. In most cases references are made to the capital. The capital where the ruler resides is what counts; so it appears to me. It follows that the capital also automatically moves when the ruler moves or, worse, is defeated and expelled (SPS 1989:92, 110, 212).

    The Siak polity as reflected in SPS puts Islam as an important element of its raison dfetat. The ruler is depicted as Allahfs vicegerent, dies as a martyr (shahid), is generous and pious (SPS 1989:124). While this Islamic facet is emphasized, the traditional Malay elements of Iskandar Dhu al-Qarnayn and the Mount of Siguntang are not left out (ibid., 126, 136). Religious officials such as imam and qadiî are mentioned as segments of the dignitaries (ibid., 110). Since battles and wars are part and parcel of SPS, the idea of martyr gin the way of Allahh is emphasized (ibid., 118, 144, 179). Even an individual, in this case a religious figure of Arab descent is given the place of a hero for his bravery in defending the capital against the Dutch attacks in 1761 (ibid., 144). Interestingly, in his last bequest during his deathbed, Raja Mahmud (d.1760) insisted on the observation of several religious norms and commands, including the implementation of Allahfs law and the shari`a of the Prophet (perintahkan rakyat dengan hukum Allah, dirikan syariat Rasul Allah, ibid., 118).

    The realm of what is commonly known as Johor-Riau, produced literature that is crucial to our understanding of territory, boundary and code of law. Several scholars, especially Virginia Hooker, have contributed to our understanding of the Johor-Riau polity. The Tuhfat al-Nafis categorically divides the territories into the core, dependency (jajahan) and tributary (takluk). The core regions include Riau, Johor and Pahang. No details of borders or boundaries are given. However, the population, at least those who were informed, during the period must have some clear idea about these regions. The revival of the Johor-Riau polity in the 18th and 19th centuries had its origin in the cooperation between the Malay rulers and Bugis warriors. The relationships between the two experienced ups and downs, and thus several pacts between the two parties were signed and re-signed. The emphasis of these pacts focus on the division of power, the Malay rulers reigned and the Bugis warriors ruled. What was the role of Islam in the cooperation and also rivalry between the Malays and the Bugis? Throughout the Tuhfat the relations between them are depicted as based on mutual interest and political expedience. No reference to formal code of law is raised. Yet by the late 18th century, interest in religious study and association with the religious order (tariqa) intensified. Pilgrimage to Mecca was even undertaken by the ruling class. Indeed, by the time of Raja `Ali Haji (d.1870), reference to religious experts and performance of religious ceremonies and precepts were formally sanctioned by the rulers. Not surprisingly, Sultan Mahmud, who retained his throne in 1793, appealed to the warring Malay and Bugis factions to stop fighting since they were Muslims.


    Babad Tanah Jawi (BTJ) and Babad Songennep represent a variation of historical view and concept of state in the Malay world. Both texts represent an interpretation of the history of Javanese polities and a Madurese one respectively.

    BTJ shows on several occasions a clear idea about a territory. For example (BTJ 1975:72), in suggesting a peaceful solution between the Mataram ruler and the leader of Surabaya, Sunan Giri, a prominent religious leader, offered each to choose either population (isi) or the land (wadah, literally a container). Although the value of the two might be different, the two were also considered complimentary, and thus were a useful means for bargaining a settlement. Moreover, the assignments of particular regions or regencies in many different parts of the pesisir (the north coastal area of Java), the brang wetan and kulon (eastern and western part of Java proper, see BTJ 1975:72, 113, 215) to potential supporters indicates that the central government of Mataram knew well the proximity of their respective boundaries. When distributing favors or trying to win the support of emerging local leaders, in some cases the Mataram ruler was forced to further divide certain regencies (BTJ 1975:162, 199; cf. 206, 210). Not surprisingly, the act of dividing a region required a sufficient knowledge, whatever it was, of where boundaries lay. Indeed, BTJ (1975:199) categorically specifies the boundaries of the two potential leaders in East Java.

    In several occasions, BTJ (1975:110, 111, 166, 168, 191, 206) refers to and invokes the names of Allah and identifies certain religious practices or incantations by Mataram leaders. Interestingly, however, on two occasions, BTJ (1975:111, 214) relates acts of Mataram leaders that paid little respect to religious issues. As has been argued by Hooker (1984:31-2), BTJ does not refer to any religious, including Islamic, symbol for the legitimacy of Mataram rulers. It follows that reference to any Islamic code of law or Islamic text is absent. Indeed, the only reference to a seemingly Islamic text occurs when discussing the use of astrology. In order to defend his profession, an astrologer who felt that his prediction might have disappointed a famous rebel declared his use and reference to a certain Surat al-Nujum (Treatise on Astrology). It is also important to mention that Pangeran Puger regarded the two sources of early Islam in Java, Demak (royal great mosque) and Ngadilangu (tomb of Sunan Kalijaga) as more important than any regalia. Indeed, in 1634 AJ the ruler of Mataram undertook the renovation of the great mosque of Demak (BTJ 1975:186). The ambiguity of the prevailing worldview concerning the political reality and the on-going idea about the Mataram ruler and religion (Islam) can be seen, for example, in the request by the prime minister (patih) to the Dutch commander not to tell of his negotiation with the Dutch to get the latterfs support in fear of being accused of not having trust in Allah and in the king (BTJ 1975:206).

    Despite the subordinate position of ideological Islam in Mataram polity (Soemarsaid 1968; Anderson 1972), Islam remained the most important emerging force in the realm. The ruler of Mataram formally appointed religious officials such as pengulu (imam-cum-Islamic jurisconsult), kadi (religious judge, see BTJ 1975:111), pandita (Muslim astronomer, ibid., 168), khatib (sermon reader and mosque functionary) and modin (lower religious official, ibid., 191). The outward impact of the Islamic idea of kingship can also be seen in the use of Islamic titles among the Mataram rulers. For example, BTJ refers to the customary title of `Abd al-Rahman al-Sayyid Panatagama (ibid., 95, 112, 158, 168) which is a combination between Arabo-Islamic name and title and Javanese term for greligious leader.h Moreover, the ruler enjoyed legitimacy by virtue of his being gAllahfs representative on earthh (ibid., 162). Interestingly this statement was put in the mouth of a prominent contender to the throne, Pangeran Puger. The symbolic expression of Islam in the court can also be seen is the role of the religious leaders in officiating ceremonies, including the crowning ceremony for a new ruler (ibid., 168). Yet, the most vociferous opposition to and even armed rebellion against Mataram rule came from among the religious leaders of Giri, Tembayat and Kajoran. The strength of these Islamic centers and their leaders provided a crucial balance for the growing Muslim community vis-_-vis the state. They offered socio-religious refuge, education, moral guidance, legal advice and settlement and, not rarely, political leadership.

    In elucidating the idea of territory as developed in Mataram, it is interesting to examine a smaller polity in East Madura, that is Sumenep and Pamekasan, which, as far as Mataram was concerned, was considered a part of its own territories. In order to understand its view of territory, boundary and legal system, I refer to Babad Songennep (BS). BS develops a synthesis approach to the question of local interest and external relations. The foundation of state is linked to the coming of officials sent by the major power in Java, from Singasari to Demak. Yet, these officials are presented in a way that they adapted to and fought for Madura, either through marriage, cooperation or a pact. The rulers of East Madura were aware of their territories and were vehement in defending them against external threats. Internally, however, from time to time, ambitious leaders emerged aiming to rule the whole island. They generally remained transient figures. In East Madura, the two principalities of Sumenep and Pamekasan were ruled from two centers, yet the two were also linked by dynastic, marital and political ties. Thus despite recurrent unification between the two (BS 1971:94, 100), each maintained a fairly definite idea of territories and population.

    References to Islam, not to mention the shari`a, in BS are generally indirect. The rule of Kanduruwan, a Muslim official from gJapan-Demak,h is considered just and prosperous (BS 1971:70). The famous ruler of the late 17th century, Radin Bugan, spent several years in Cirebon studying Islam (ibid., 94-95). Earlier in the beginning of the 17th century, Pangeran Ellor is depicted as pious and just. His leadership during the defense of Sumenep from Balinese threats gave him fame as a martyr and respect as a wali. In this context, he is considered as indigenous builder of the new Muslim dynasty of Sumenep (ibid., 76, 95). Unlike Islamic centers in Java, the one in Sumenep led by Pangeran Katandur is known for its autonomy and at the same time close link with the palace. He emerged as key figure for the spread of Islamic teaching, study of religious books, and symbol of personal piety (BS 1971:114). BS tells us some elements of custom that deal with administration, public work, taxation, corvee, tribute, land-taxes, crop taxes and village organization (1971:133-39). However, they make no explicit reference to Islamic law.

    In Borneo two major intellectual traditions concerning the idea of state and the ruling class emerged in southern and northwestern parts of the island. This can be seen in the Brunei and Banjar historical literature.

    In Brunei the ties that bound the ruler and his officials remained primarily patrimonial and thus personal. The categories for the appointment relied on trust; SRB and HQB provide us with categorical criteria for promoting a person to higher positions assisting the king. The organization of the state and its territories thus were based on such personal ties. The division of territories and people into the three categories shows the relatively better knowledge and interest of the center on its peripheries. If Anderson (1972) argued that the assignment of state land to higher officials as appanages, not fiefs, by the Mataram rulers failed to create autonomous gentry, in Brunei the assignment of some land as gfiefsh (tulin) also failed to produce autonomy expected by Anderson. Perhaps in the case of Brunei, the reason is rather straightforward, most owners of the tulin continued to reside in the capital. More specifically, SRB clearly shows the details of correspondence with and tribute required from and sent by different locations and towns under Brunei. Interestingly, the tributes or gifts sent from them were specified. Some were to submit rice; others gold, others cotton and clothes and still others boat (SRB 1968A:24-26). Since most correspondence and communications between the center and its peripheries were undertaken by water transportation, what mattered most for the center was the control of access to all its territories by river and sea. Thus despite the far-flung territorial claim, in reality it was more focused and limited. Indeed, in terms of mounting some degree of supervision and control, the prevailing water-oriented life was more manageable.

    The regular appearances of locally based-officials (manteri, bendahari, pengurong, pedang and others, see SRB 1968 A:8-9, 24, 31) in the capital played a role in the accumulation of information on various territories. The knowledge of the central government over its territories and the local response to it is evidenced by the protection provided for royal fugitives who took refuge in these localities. For example, when the capital of Brunei was occupied by the Spanish forces under de Sande in 1578, the sultan led his family and others to move to the interior then to the western part of the country as far as the Melanau area in Sarawak (SRB 1968 A:71-72, B:7; Blair and Robertson 1903-1909,4:198-200). Moreover, the major dependence of Brunei on trade led to the development of the distribution and mobilization system of goods. In this respect, SRB tells us that the major element of burgeoning trade in Brunei lay in the care taken by the ruler toward foreign traders and his interest in distributing commercial goods to all parts of the country (kepada segala isi negeri, SRB A:58-60). Interestingly, SRB (1968 B:29) gives us categorical terms and examples for the idea of boundary in Brunei. In referring to the assignment of territories for his descendants in the western parts of the kingdom, during the later part of third quarter of the 17th century, SRB mentions an episode when Sultan Muhyiddin awarded his two grandchildren separate territories. gRadin Bilam was commanded to return to Sambas to rule the country of Sambas (negeri Sambas). Sultan Muhyi al-Din specified that [the area of] his country lay between the boundaries (sempadan) of Tanjung Datu and those of Batu Belat. These are the territories (perhinggaan tanah) of Sambas. [Land] beyond that [to the south] belonged to the territories of the country of Matan.h

    Reference to Islam and the canon law or the shari`a figures prominently in our sources. In addition to the explicit formulation of the code of law in the Hukum Qanun Brunei (HQB), SRB also contains massive information on state customs. Indeed, out of 76 pages of version A, no less than 70 pages discuss topics and issues related to customs, rules and codes of law. SRB gives us implicit indications about the implementation of the code of law and less on its formulation. If the first sultan, Muhammad Shah, was given a role of introducing Islam as formal religion of the state and Sultan Sharif `Ali, the third ruler, of spreading more elaborate teaching of Islam, it was Sultan Hassan, the ninth ruler, who ruled strictly according to the law. He was compared favorably with Sultan Makota `Alam of Aceh in his leadership and insistence on justice (SRB A:3, 16). Based on this information and indirect references by foreign observers during the 16th and 17th centuries, it has been suggested that by the time of Sultan Hassan, when Brunei enjoyed the peak of prosperity and peace, the code of law was formally formulated and carefully implemented. Generally our sources give an impression that prominent rulers had a hand in the establishment of justice and formulation of the code of law and customs.

    Now, when Brunei experienced decline in the 19th century, what happened to the code? SRB, despite its provision of elaborate information on customs and regulations does not give us a clear indication about the historical categories of such diverse items. Although it is reasonable to argue that the period of prosperity and peace might have brought about the code of law, it is also possible that during the period of decline that state customs and, to an extent, code of law, were being elaborated and refined. What remains clear is that the implementation of law during the time of political decline must have suffered some setback. Yet, during its political nadir in the late 19th century, Brunei was congratulated for its suppression of crimes through the implementation of strict rules of punishment. The events that involved the use of capital punishment and the cutting of hands were reported by a British official, W.H. Treacher, in 1889 (see Iik 1995a). The case of Brunei as seen through its literature does not clearly show that the formulation and elaboration of the code of law and customs only took place during the age of prosperity, power and peace.


    The Banjar polity in the southern part of the island of Borneo provides us with further data. As can be seen in the Hikayat Banjar, the Banjar polity was organized mainly in accordance with the Javanese statecraft. Yet, it also enjoyed ties with other polities along the coast of Borneo. Even many of those that enjoyed close links with Brunei like Sambas and Matan were some time had been absorbed by Banjar. In defining the territories of state, the Hikayat Banjar commonly refers to river centers and their two major divisions, the up- and down-river areas. This lack of detailed boundaries might have been related to the prevailing geographical knowledge about these territories mainly based on water or river navigation. Thus identification of certain areas by the names of rivers could have developed common and public knowledge of the identity and definition of the river area. Curiously, the Hikayat Banjar (Hikayat Banjar 1968:434) specified the importance of the quantity of population for the ruler. Indeed, state and its land can be meaningful if population grew in larger numbers. This is noted in connection with the argument about the importance of involving people in major wars. If more people are killed in the fighting, the ruler has difficulty developing the country.


    The organization of the state and its dependencies or tributaries was based on the building of reliable representatives. In most cases the key and core territories in the south coast such as Kotawaringin, Sampit, and the major centers around the capital were assigned to the trusted relatives (Hikayat Banjar 1968:488). The major dependencies such as Sukadana, Sambas, Kutei and Pasir were given autonomy as local dynasties continued to rule (Hikayat Banjar 1968:474, 476). Their allegiance was guaranteed by the annual tribute and envoys as well as prompt response to any request from the king. Externally the Banjar polities were open. They encouraged the coming of foreign traders, even though the population was warned not to imitate foreign customs. Political and military links with the leading Javanese polities were regarded as crucial; thus their southward outlook for finding a model.


    The development of legal system or code of law in Banjar is given some emphasis in the Hikayat Banjar. During the pre-Islamic period, Banjar polity developed a legal digest or code of law called Kutara Masaalah Tahta Nagri (Hikayat Banjar 1968:370). The code continued to be referred after the adoption of Islam in conjunction with the shari'a (ibid., 440, 444). Despite its conservatism with regard to custom and religion, the Banjar polity supported openness, fair treatment and protection for foreign traders. Indeed, the emergence of Pangeran Sumudra as a new ruler who adopted Islam and his move to build a new capital down river shows, among other things, the response of the new ruler to the growing trade and the new orientation of the Banjar polity. The idea that Banjar had close relations and established cooperation with the gDemakh leadership means that links with Java experienced a major shift to being Islamic. In referring to Islamic law, the Hikayat Banjar uses the term dalil hadith as a pair and partner of the Kutara. It may be surmised that the reference to Islamic law could have been made to the standard fiqh books of the Shafi`i school, commonly used among early Southeast Asian Muslims (see Hooker 1984).


    Moreover, the systemization of Muslim judiciary in Banjar took place after the return of a local `alim, Muhammad Arshad (d.1812), from Mecca in 1774. Through his writings, scripturalization was intensified in Banjar. Indeed, his grandson was appointed to the post of mufti. Under such a conducive atmosphere, in 1837 Sultan Adam (r. 1825-57) announced the formation of a new enactment called, Undang-Undang Sultan Adam. The mufti, according to this enactment, was given the authority to supervise all forms of judiciary and to review appeal cases. However, the sultan remained the paramount authority in legal matter; the mufti was his subordinate. The Islamization of legal system in the Banjar polity took place at a time when two forces played a more positive role in Banjar. The coming of more well-trained Muslim scholars to the capital of Banjar brought further Islamization, including the legal system. Interestingly, the Banjar rulers were supportive toward such a trend, despite their insistence on maintaining their own authority, even in religion. Next, the coming of Europeans to Kalimantan also had direct impact on the Banjar polity. By the 19th century, the Dutch increasingly won more concession from the Banjar rulers, and thus dependencies fell into the hand of the Dutch. Put in a general note, the contraction of Banjar territories ironically brought further Islamization in its legal system.


    Legal Concept and Political Change

    The implementation of the shari`a and even the practice of Islam in Southeast Asia have attracted the attention of many scholars. The major debates on the issue focus on two major differences. On the one hand, Islam is considered to be mainly a new layer over well-established edifices of religious tradition among Muslims in the region. On the other hand, Islam is also viewed as catalyst for socio-religious and cultural change. Despite the continuity of earlier tradition, Islam clearly forms the most dominant feature of religiosity among the population. Lately some scholars (Taufik 1990; Iik 1995a; Ricklefs 1998) have suggested the pendulum swing tendency of religiosity. For Southeast Asian Muslims this means that there was never any unilineal process of religiosity. Identification with Islam weakened and intensified due to particular historical factors and change.


    In his observation of Southeast Asian, or to be more precise eMalay,f polities under Muslim rulers, A. Johns raised a question whether these polities are more Islamic or more Indic? His suggestion perhaps surprises nobody: no uniformity ever developed in them (Reid 1993). His remark needs to be considered seriously when cases and examples are taken from among these polities as this paper does.

    Relevant to our topic, it is interesting to examine what historical factors directed the introduction of particular legal system in particular polities. I am curious to know whether the contraction or expansion of territories had anything to do with the intensification of Islamization in the legal system.

    Legal institutions, either religious or secular, derive their raison dfetre from the primary institutions of political process. However, it is common to assume that law tabula rasa and by its own entity enjoys power. In my reading of some related materials on the legal digests and judicial system in the Malay polities, it is clear that any code of law was closely associated with the ruler. Since the state was very much the ruler, any law as such was also heavily dependent on the ruler for implementation. In the case of Aceh, Ito (1984:191-92) suggests that the Islamic legal system had strong influence on the life of Acehnese; however, formally Islamic law formed only a part, not the central one, of the judicial system in Aceh. The will of the sovereign was the premier proponent, followed by the royal codes (`adat). This ambiguity perhaps is also a reflection of how our view of Aceh has developed. Perhaps it will be fair to suggest that the role of Islamic law in Aceh was not uniform. In certain fields such as family, inheritance and commerce Islamic law was given preference and in administrative, criminal and political fields other legal systems were more predominant. Moreover, in Melaka Islamic law was included in the state code; however, as Haron (1989:224) suggests on the basis of his cultural study of Sejarah Melayu, even this code was not to be universally applied. The ruler and his ruling class were exempted from the sanction of the code. The reason as in the case of Aceh refers to the paradigm of prevailing legal system: the will of the sovereign must prevail. The personal nature of rule, thus might have encouraged the full implementation of law. For example, when just and committed rulers emerged justice was implemented. In case of Brunei, Sultan Hassan was credited with his commitment to the rule of law and justice. Indeed, SRB (1968 A:16-17) tells us that he ordered the execution of several members of his family for serious crimes.


    Law very much depends on conditions of political power and authority, and in the process diverse social, economic and cultural forces determine the fate of such conditions. Under such changing conditions law has no alternative but to change, gsometimes explicitly but at the very least implicitlyh (Lev 1972:2). Our texts show two general tendencies in the context of political power and law. On the one hand, it is claimed that great rulers created order and stability and thus justice was served. Accordingly the lawlessness during the political and economic decline is addressed to the weak rule and the non-commitment to the code of law. On the other hand, some studies have shown that it is under the weaker rulers that the code of law or some system of justice was promulgated and implemented.

    Despite the relative conservatism and underdevelopment of legal scholarship in Southeast Asia, Islamic legal concepts contributed significantly to the emergence of a vision of an archipelagic-wide Malay Muslim world, long before the coming of the Europeans. Islam did not automatically unite diverse ethnic groups; however, it offered some unifying principles that encouraged supralocal orientation as found in the newly introduced references of the umma and the shari`a (a divinely inspired law). As Islam put a special emphasis on the juridical aspect, legal concepts emerged as a part of its earlier and major contributions to the Southeast Asian Muslims, despite the persistence and continuity, at different degrees, of older legal and religious tradition and political or administrative principles. Thus Islamic institutions were not rarely adopted but galways under the aegis of mixed myths of authority in which Islam represented only one ingredienth (Lev 1972:5). This accordingly limited the implementation of Islamic legal institutions. Yet, their presence and survival clearly showed their utilitarian perspectives. Islamic law has a clear influence over commercial relations, family affairs, matrimony and to some extent inheritance. Even here adaptation to the existing organizational values and needs remained unavoidable.

    Located within the political framework, the diplomatic endorsement of religious symbols, including Islamic judiciary, served the rulers well by keeping the loyalty of many Muslim subjects, and at the same time, protecting a harmonious coexistence of religious orientations. This could survive as along as gpeople did not suddenly regard their piece of the continuum as exclusively genuineh (Lev 1972:6). In other words, exclusive claim, let alone imposition of the purely Islamic doctrine or judiciary may create a painful tug of war between contending principles of authority and also antagonistic political groups. The cases of Nur al-Din al-Raniri of Aceh, the Padri leaders of West Sumatra and Raja `Ali Haji of Riau provide us with relevant examples of Islamization and its threat to traditional authority. Although al-Raniri is commonly associated with a purge of unorthodox views after the death of Makota `Alam in 1636, his stronger view about Islamic law must have contributed to the increasing trend toward the implementation of the shari`a under Makotafs successors. Again, the Padri movement toward the end of the 18th century shows the internal dynamism of Mingkabauan society in the face of increasing scripturalization. Although it is no longer valid to claim that the movement represents a conflict between the Islamic and `adat proponents, it remains true that further Islamization, or to be fairer scripturalization, undermined the role of the `adat proponents. Riau around the mid-19th century saw the emergence of two major challenges, scripturalization and Europeanization. As the latter had increasingly become a matter-of-fact, it needed to be put in the perspective of Islam. Thus scripturalization as presented by Raja `Ali Haji in Tufhat al-Nafis was considered a means to live Islamically within the context of new Riau that lived under the umbrella of Europe. In the previous two cases, emphasis on Islamization led to some conflict; however, in Riau Islamization was undertaken more smoothly and evolutionary.

    Our sources also show that Islam invariably became an important element of the raison dfetat of Malay polity, yet, the earlier concept of kingship continued to form the dominant factor of state. Accordingly, Islamization in the sense of further scripturalization followed the terms and rhythm that were considered congruent to the continuity of kingship.

    In studying the translation of Islam in Southeast Asia, it is important to look at the contemporary Islamic tradition that was transferred to the region. The accepted concept of state and law, for example, experienced systematization and development during a few decades and even centuries of early Islamc history. When Islam was endorsed as religion of particular polities in Southeast Asia toward the end of the 13th century, the great caliphate had already collapsed. Under this condition, Muslim rulers in the region had to look for some other less grand models, including imara and saltana.

    The geographical and socio-cultural conditions in Southeast Asia seem to have favored a middle-rank, or even smaller, arrangement of polity. Emerging in the wake of the downfall of earlier Indic kingdoms in maritime Southeast Asia, new Muslim polities had an inclination to pursue different, more manageable entities.


    At the utilitarian level, the appointment of religious officials by the ruler from among reliable segments of the population worked to buttress his authority. At the same time they were dependent on him. This dependency and the perceived power of Islam as represented by the religious scholars can be seen in the localization, if not indigenization, of Islamic law more clearly in the context of trade and family matters. At the state, political and administrative issues, Islamic dicta emerge as alternatives (see Liaw 1976:31-2; Ito 1984:182, 190-92).

    The centralization of state and the economic growth led to the formation of more permanent and specialized bureaucracy and the implementation of a defined legal system. The attribution of the composition and implementation of many codes of law to the prominent rulers in Southeast Asia, albeit debatable historically, indicates the prevalence of general view, or perhaps cultural paradigm, that strong rulers connote security and order, even at the expense of individual or other parochial interests.

    The fact that many of these codes were composed in the royal court demonstrates that whatever their claim to universality, they remained palace-oriented documents par excellence. As the codes were primarily written for the general population, the ruling class remained external to the purview of their legal claim. Yet, by their being patronized by the royal court they perpetuated the rulerfs political superiority and even enhanced it.


    Now, what happened to these codes of law when the state declined or weakened, especially vis-a-vis the aggressive European trading companies and governors-general? Were these codes simply ignored? Did the local and religious leaders take the legal matters into their own hands? Is it true that the declining states also experienced the contraction of territories and power as well as the loosening screw of their legal system?

    Generalization may be useful for particular design or policy formation, yet it can be misleading when referring to actual historical episodes. The case of Aceh in this issue is worthwhile mentioning. Despite the claim that political and economic centralization was achieved during the reign of Makota Alam (d.1636), the central nerve of the state was not an impersonal institution like the legal system but rather his person as strong ruler. Implementation of impersonal law took place more significantly, or rather increasingly, under his less imposing successors, Iskandar Thani and the fours lady rulers who ruled until the last decade of the 17th century (see Reid 1975; Ito 1984).




    Summary: The anomalous idea of boundary or territory among Muslims in Southeast Asia seems to be related to an emphasis on vagueness and ambiguity. The absence of categorical limitation and specification in this respect, as found in many polities in the region, implicitly shows eindependencef and eambition.f Thus, without emphasizing the limits of its power and territories, a Malay polity keeps itself great inwardly and looks for any opportunity to pursue its territorial ambition. Ambiguity thus implies wait-and-see, or perhaps ambition, for opportunity, including diplomatic ties, cooperation and not rarely expansion.

    The general idea of umma went through the local matrix of territory and polity led by local raja (rulers). Since the raja were particularly interested in an added value in such Islamic concepts as khalifat Allah, zill Allah fi al-`ard, and insan kamil, their Islamization was closely associated with political expedience and maintenance of power.

    The ability of most Malay rulers to claim the role of ulu al-amr and thus the highest religious authority as evidenced by their appointment of religious functionaries who were subordinate to them enabled these rulers to maintain their exalted position vis-a-vis the religious experts (`ulamaf). The fact that Islamic polities in Southeast Asia continued to be fragmented, locally or regionally oriented, despite their unified allegiance to particular interpretation of Islam may have been influenced, besides geographical, cultural and economic condition, by the effectiveness of such smaller political entity in taking advantage of Islamic symbol and at the same time preventing the state from being precluded from its most inherent symbol, the ruler. Political fragmentation in the Malay world resulted from interdependency between the pursuance of the idea of paramountcy and the symbolic adherence to Islamic political concept. The latter, indeed, struck a responsive chord among local leaders while adhering to universal concept of Islamic brotherhood and unity.

    The hybridity of the code of law or legal digest in the traditional Malay states shows clearly the dominance of ruler despite the claim of adherence to the shari`a. The adoption of Islamic legal concept was pursued as far as it did not contradict the status quo nor undermine the centrality of raja in the realm.




    By the mid-18th century when mainland Southeast Asia experienced centralization and solidification of state, maritime Southeast Asia, including the Malay world, became even more fragmented. Yet, the idea of exemplary center as represented by Melaka, Aceh, Brunei, Bugis and Demak remained strong and pervasive.

    The formation of modern nation-states in Southeast Asia did bring many benefits besides disadvantages. On the negative sides, the superficial imposition of alien, read European, concept in the form of superficial boundaries led to destructuralization of many communities. Indeed, modern wars were fought in response to it, free movements between communities came to an end, including human and goods, as well as separation of vital economic and cultural unit and structure.


    The undertaking of campaigns to expand power is unworthy. Yet, the implementation of novel and foreign ideas about boundaries, concomitant with the formation of nation-state, also resulted in the marginalization of certain groups and even absorption or extinction of others. Perhaps the open idea of boundaries as endorsed by Islam and also developed in Southeast Asia is more relevant to our present global world. The formation of EC, ASEAN, APEC, to mention only a few only accentuates the relevance of the idea of an open world.






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