Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hang Tuah and the Prophet Khidr - some miles out from Mecca, a long, long time ago

My very own copy, almost 50 years old.
A gift from Heche...

Hikayat Hang Tuah (The Tale of Hang Tuah) is an ancient manuscript of old Malay literature. It has been approached more for its literary style and depth, rather than as a historical document, as 'fables' and 'tales' often are, such as the tale of King Arthur and his Excalibur.

When I mentioned to a dear friend recently, that I am currently reading this opus, he wryly commented, "Well, you know... its all tahyul (superstition and fantasy)." I kept my peace but I thought (silently to myself), "But isn't God the biggest 'tahyul' of them all? Tahyul in the context of something that cannot be seen and verified by the human eye? Him and His angels and the droves of Djinn that as Muslims, we are still bound to believe in?" But I felt it best to leave the metaphysical debates aside (for now), and we chatted on to other matters.

Well, to begin with, Hang Tuah is the hero, the Malay arch-type of virtue, courage and loyalty in the Malay consciousness, myth and history. Myth because some of the events which he took part in are of true supernatural nature, but historical because he was referenced by chroniclers of the old Melaka Sultanate. He was a warrior, palace captain, statesman and admiral of the Sultan. And he was also very much a human being, as is depicted in the narrative of the Hikayat. The Hikayat itself is not very descriptive and is told more as a narration as you will see in the excerpt below. I do not guarantee the accuracy of some of the old malay words, but I think I managed to get the gist of the meaning.

I find this particular story interesting because it involved Hang Tuah (known here as the Laksamana, meaning an Admiral or Commodore) on a very long journey from Melaka to Constantinople (Istanbul) as the head delegate of the Sultan of Melaka to the Caliph. Along the way however, the Laksamana and the Maharaja Setia (I think he's a courtier and ambassador of the Sultan) along with their delegation and crew of a few hundred men landed in 'Judah' which is in fact present day Jeddah, the port city that serves the holy city of Mecca and Medina. From there they decided to visit Mecca. It was so hot, the Hikayat recalled, that the caravan only traveled at night and it was in this journey, still some way from Mecca that this excerpt continues. Where the Laksamana Hang Tuah found himself in the presence of the Prophet Khidr -

"Thereupon, the Laksamana walked towards a secluded place to relieve himself. And along the way he saw an old man sitting upon a white rock ( that is as white) like washed cotton. And when the old man saw the Laksamana coming near, immediately the old man came down and walked towards the Laksamana, with greetings of salam (peace) upon the Laksamana. And verily did the Laksamana return the courteous salutations of the old man. "O' Laksamana (said the old man), please lend me a silver tale, for I am a hungry poor dervish (darwish) unable to buy even bread.

Looking at the old man closer, the Laksamana felt, "This is no dervish, to my mind, this is either a Prophet or a Saint of God." The Laksamana then took two to three silver riyal from his pocket and offered them to the old man. But the old man only took one riyal and thereafter he embraced the Laksamana and kissed his head while saying, "My son Laksamana, please take this chembul (a pot or small receptacle to keep liquid) and when you are unable to speak the language of the people (that you will meet), pour out some of the water in this chembul and wipe it on your lips and your ears, that you may converse with them. I am the Prophet Khidr.

Whereupon the old man vanished into thin air..."

Did you say Khi.... *poof*
Khidr is an ancient Prophet of old. There is some tale of him that I am aware of, and most famous is his encounter with the red-haired, red-bearded and fiery Prophet Moses. That's what I mean, he's been around for ages. And according to my friends, Khidr is with us still... doing all sorts of stuff for God and Prophet(pbuh), tweaking events and people on earth as per Divine Orders. Fascinating stuff.

I really must disappear now (like Khidr). Thanks for dropping in, sunshine.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

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