Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Brunei Town

Keeping a noble heritage alive

Azlan Othman

The history of Jawi writing, the efforts of the government of Brunei Darussalam to defend Jawi writing, the role of Jawi writing and its importance as the treasure and identity of the Sultanate were among the topics discussed at the virtual International Malay Language, Literature and Culture Congress Series (KABSBM).

Recently held in conjunction with the Language Month, organised by the Language and Literature Bureau (DBP), the congress aimed to bring together language, literature and cultural experts to share ideas through the dynamics of knowledge and experience.

Speaking at the event, Deputy Director of the Jawi Studies and Kitab Turath Research Centre at Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) Dr Haji Mohd Shahrol Azmi bin Haji Abdul Muluk said, based on historical records, the challenges to uphold Jawi writing as a national treasure and identity have evolved with time, beginning with colonisation and education, followed by the era of globalisation, which is dominated by Rumi writing.

But with the encouragement from His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Jawi writing has continued to be incorporated into the school system.

According to the monarch, Jawi is as a noble heritage worth celebrating. What is left is the awareness from all levels of society that Jawi writing has a rightful place in the modern world.

The use of Jawi in Brunei Darussalam dates back some 600 years ago when it was widely used in manuscripts, tombs, apparels, coins and bank notes. PHOTO: AFP

Dr Haji Mohd Shahrol Azmi said the use of Jawi in the Sultanate dates back some 600 years ago, when it was widely used in manuscripts, tombs, apparels, coins and bank notes. He said these days, Jawi identity can be seen everywhere, be it at buildings or road signs, identity card, driving licence, national flag, and government letters and circulars.

According to late literature expert, Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Dr Ustaz Haji Yahya bin Haji Ibrahim, Jawi was used in official correspondence in the country during the Sung Dynasty, from 960 to 1279 AD.

Dr Haji Mohd Shahrol Azmi added that Jawi was widely used during the reign of Sultan Hassan in 1590-1625, and was used to build international relations, based on excerpts from scripts of Al-Malik Al-Adil Sultan Hassan to Don Francisco Tello in 1599 and in agreement letters from Brunei to East India Company in Balambangan in 1774.

Jawi was also found at Batu Tarsilah of Brunei rulers in 1807, Brunei rulers’ lineage of descendents written by Datu Imam Ya’akub during the reign of Sultan Alauddin and completed by Khatib Haji Abdullah Latif in 1807, as well as the content of a letter from Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien II to Captain Rodney Mundey in 1844, Syair Rakis 12 poetry written by Pengiran Shahbandar Muhammad Salleh in 1845, the letter of agreement of Sultan Abdul Momin in 1884 and the letter of agreement from Charles Brooke to Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja in 1886.

Dr Haji Mohd Shahrol Azmi said that according to a historian, the late Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama (Dr) Haji Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri bin Begawan Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Seri Paduka Haji Awang Umar, the arrival of the British residential system and modernisation process introduced in the country back in 1906 had diminished the use of Jawi writing. During the period, Rumi writing came to prominence replacing Jawi in the country’s administration.

Jawi writing only flourished when schools were introduced in the country in 1915, when it was taught as a subject; and religious knowledge subject in 1936.

It enabled the people to acquire Islamic religious knowledge while learning to write in Jawi. However, seven years into the Japanese occupation, Jawi writing was eliminated.

Thankfully, when Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam ascended to the throne in 1950, the use of Jawi writing was revived and strengthened.

The sovereignty of Jawi writing was evident in the original script of Brunei Constitution 1959, which was penned in Jawi.

Now, Jawi writing is used in official functions. As a matter of fact, the Compulsory Religious Education Act 2012 makes it mandatory for Muslim children to receive religious education.

Dr Haji Mohd Shahrol Azmi highlighted a special dialogue held at KUPU SB in February to discuss the development of Jawi writing in the country.