Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tuhfat al-Nafis (The Precious Gift)

Winstedt had described the Tuhfat al-Nafis as the most important work of Malay historical literature after the Sejarah Melayu. Tuhfat-an-Nafis is indeed a ‘precious gift’ not only to Malay history but also, even more importantly, to Malay historiography.

The book provide us with genealogies of Malay, Buginese, Siak and Johor kings down to the founding of modern Singapore by Raffles. The book offers a realistic and accurate narrative of events and personalities of the Malay archipelago - in particular of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and West Kalimantan - from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century.

Specifically, it detailed the fortunes of the Johor-Riau Empire during the 18th century vis-a-vis the various participants in the Malay Archipelago – Malay, Bugis, Minangkabau, Dutch and English. The events narrated are given exact dates.

Details about the expansionist deigns of the Dutch, another major player in the Malay Archipelago, are featured including Anglo-Dutch relations to the mid-nineteenth century.

The authorship of the Tuhfat is clear and undisputed: Raja Ali Haji Ibn Raja Ahmad (1809-1869). Raja Ali Haji himself wrote theological and didactic prose and poetry, A ‘linguistic’ study of Malay also stands to his credit. However, his most famous work, the Tuhfat-al-Nafis, is the first historical work in Malay which not only sets out its sources with previously unknown precision but also covers a world much larger than the one known form most Malay historical texts.
Tuhfat al-Nafis (The Precious Gift)

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