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Parameswara, Ancient Melaka, And The Satanic Verses – OpEd


Some thirty years ago I saw a bumper sticker on a Harley Davidson in Columbus, Ohio which read: “IF YOU CAN’T IMPRESS THEM WITH BRILLIANCE, DAZZLE THEM WITH YOUR BULLSHIT!”

I thought that was cute, and I am still trying to figure out in what context this might be true.Then I thought of Parameswara, whom the paid scribe of the Malacca Kingdom (Tun Sri Lanang) called the founder of Malacca. Param-Eswara (or was it another self-proclaimed Maharajah?) was said to have converted to Islam after he dreamt of meeting Prophet Muhammad; a dream which led him to take the shahada or to declare himself a believer in the oneness of Allah and the teachings of Muhammad.

He was, according to the Islamic cultural rite borrowed from Jewish practice, already circumcised when he woke up one morning. He was a Muslim and a convert from his syncretist Palembang Hindu-Buddhist ‘religion’ and he ‘reverted’ to Islam in preparation to become the founder and first ruler of Malacca.

I am still trying to figure out if I should be thinking if that story is brilliant and dazzling or a piece of bullshit and stinking. I don’t know.

I was often told that anyone who claimed to have met the prophet of Islam must most definitely either be hallucinating in a dream or simply having a bad dream – because the Devil or Shaytan (Mr Satan) is surely the one playing the role of the imposter. In other words, was Parameswara of assassin-on-the-run-hunted-by-the-Siamese founder of Malacca whispered the Satanic verses?

So – Parameswara could have lied big time. And his merry well-paid writer of the Sejarah Melayu also inscribed that big of a lie. How could Parameswara (or again, his successor) cook up the story of meeting the prophet and next, without a sign of minor surgery on his private part claimed that he is already circumcised and now ready to rule Malacca? Or again, was it a story of his son, I was not sure. Anyways can anyone be sure of these myths and glorified lies?

This is the problem of confusing fact and fiction, myth, and realism, crafting a bad version of verisimilitude, and finding consolation in lying in the process of writing history.

The lies in the phantasmagoric story in the Malay Annals or Sejarah Melayu were then made into a body of literature to be marveled at and revered by the generations to come and till today, the Sejarah Melayu as a document of lies is also considered a great work of history of a nation or a people, specifically of the Malays.

This might be the case: as with historical accounts, there are various interpretations of the story of the ‘founding’ of Malacca. Each has its own claim to truth. It all depends on the ‘bricolage’ of ideas as well as the genealogy of the events and who narrated them to be compiled into a story. That’s why history is also called fiction of varying truth-ness and falsity and plausibility (said Michel Montesquieu).

The lineage of the Malacca kings was claimed right up to Alexander of Macedonia and his countless concubines that may have produced one Raja Chola of India. If you do more research, the claim goes further beyond Alexander, said to be a ‘Muslim king’, it goes right up to Superman, Kal El, Darth Vader, and perhaps Pokemon. That’s how kings claim greatness – to paint a picture larger than their insecurities within.

Today’s monarchs the world over are losing that ability to have others write about how great they are – only hegemony, the instilling of fear, and the abuse of the ideological state apparatuses, hideous display of wealth and how they worked hard to make sure the poor are happy being poor. These are some of the strategies to keep the postmodern Master-Slave Narrative alive. But the poor and those philosophically-impoverished, too, seem happy worshipping human idols.

Ahhh -such consoling of theology we need to make today and the debunking of ancient texts so that life can be more real and those in power and money are not elevated to demi-gods.

I don’t know – as I echo Socrates, Seneca, Montaigne, Voltaire, and those who spoke of deconstructing our beliefs.

The Parameswara story smells like the story of Malaysia’s 1MDB. Of cooking up the books – of ancient stories.

Hang Tuah the fool

There was also a claim the Italian Renaissance painter and ambidextrous genius Leonardo Da Vinci once met the Malacca warrior Hang Tuah. I am not sure what is the relationship between a real person meeting a fictitious figure. I doubt the fool of the Malacca Kingdom had the rendezvous, else some of Da Vinci’s intelligence would have rubbed off on the moronism of the mythical Malacca warrior and Tuah would have a bit of a brain to think.

Tuah would not have been Hang Ketuat (one with a calloused brain and lowly mental capacity) by following the order of the sleazy sultan of Malacca who is not worth being remembered as a Malay ruler. How else can our children explain that a sultan can do no wrong by ordering his Lakshmana to abduct Tun Teja in Pahang so that the ruler can satisfy his lust – just because he has the power to order his fools around?

We must teach our children to thrash these glorified tyrants and his band of brainless warriors.

I’d say we must stop trying to even prove that the useless ancient Malay sultans were descendants of Alexander of Macedonia. Focus on the now-ness of our existence and the realism that goes with it, rather than glorify foolish warriors and schizophrenic sultans of Malacca who use women as sexual objects, enslave human beings, murder their own people, and wear that strange-looking headgear to claim legitimacy and to fool the subjects into subjugation.

That’s Malacca history we need to get right and teach to children – once and for all.

Herein lies the need to give out children in school the tools to interrogate history and to craft their own understanding of what happened in history, who wrote the narratives, and how we should craft our own heroes. We should teach them to the ugliness of the feudal culture and the immoral inner-workings of the Malacca Sultanate.

We are living in a world of the CI3 – of consciousness, individuals, institutions, ideology that dominates the human psyche.

We live in a world that is demanding our understanding of the semiotics and cybernetics of the self; to understand how to read ourselves and the world within and outside of us; to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct our inner and outer world views; to see life as a complex process of authoring of the self and re-authoring our world that is constantly shifting; to have a sense of what the ‘core’ is if there is indeed one; to see linearity and multi-dimensionality of our invented realities as one; to see ourselves as an organic mechanism of a grand narrative with multiple subplots with no narrative structure and as a complex novel with no plot but a story begging to be told – of joys and suffering and meaning and meaninglessness; to see chaos as a beautiful pattern of randomness; to master the art of being a metaphysical anarchist that will use the sense of being to resist the hegemonising power individuals, institutions, and ideology to dominate and destroy the self; … and much more … essentially: … live free – or die happy in the hands of the State and religious, cultural, or any ideology … to live, love, liberate, and die laughing at tyrants, totalitarian regimes, and theocracies. 

We must teach our children to rewrite history, to question claims of vainglory, feudal ideology, and next, to have them write their own history closest to their own family pride and memory. Why force them to memorize other people’s glory? Of the stories of the ancient sultans’ lust for sex, power, and money? And today – haven’t we seen enough of the hypocrisy of the rulers of the so-called Islamic countries?

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Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

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