The Malays had prepared their attack on the Siamese with great care, timing and secrecy. They had over months gathered over 2,000 fighting men and over forty war boats at Batu Putih, near Acheh on the Sumatran coast. Arms, ammunition and other stores were smuggled to them by British merchants in Penang sympathetic to the Kedah Sultan's cause. When British warships blockading the Kedah coast were diverted to engage Lanun ships reported off Trengganu in July 1838, the Malays swept across the unguarded Straits and rejoined other smaller fleets secretly gathering in the dozens of mangrove-shrouded river estuaries they had stockaded along the Kedah coast. By the time, British warships had arrived on the scene, the Malays had concentrated their forces in the Merbok estuary and swooped on the fort at the mouth of the Kedah river. The small Siamese garrison there was massacred. Once again, the old red flag of Kedah flew over its homeland.
The Malays fortified their position in Kuala Kedah while the main force drove the Siamese out of Kedah and rapidly captured Perlis, Setul (Satun)a nd Trang. Osborn noted that the Malay fleet gathered at Trang consisted of over 50 boats, each carrying light artillery and swivel guns.
The Malays were now flushed with victory and marched north to take the war to Siam. Four of the seven Patani states joined the rebellion and the Patani Malays swelled its ranks until their numbers were by now estimated at some 10,000 men. Sweeping ever northwards, they managed to cut off Singora (Songkhla) on the other side of the Peninsula, besieging the garrison of 2000 Siamese and 500 Chinese. The aim was to keep the Siamese on the defensive until the arrival of the monsoons, after which Kedah would have been more stoutly fortified and strengthened by reinforcements and supplies.
By December 1838, the British flotilla had arrived and proceeded to disrupt any Malay supplies or movement of troops along the Kedah coast. This 18-gun warship Hyacinth anchored off Kuala Kedah, just out of cannon shot, and blockaded the fort. Three decked gunboats - "Diamond", "Pearl" and "Emerald" - patrolled the coast from Kuala Kedah to Pulau Bunting. These were manned by Malay crews - released convicts from the Straits Settlements, imprisoned as pirates and experienced seafarers. The Royal Navy's first steam-driven gunship in the East Indies - the Diana - was held in reserve in Singapore.
They were soon joined by a Siamese warship but the vessel took great care to anchor much further away from the coast to avoid Malay cannon fire. When the British invited the captain to join their blockading line much closer to the ramparts, he would just shake his head and mutter "Tidak bagus! Tidak bagus!" (No, that's not good, not good!"). He refused the offer so many times that the British - who were not told what the name of the formidable vessel was - from then on referred to His Majesty of Siam's ship as the "Tidak Bagus"!
After the string of early Malay successes, the tide turned when a force of 10,000 Siamese suddenly thrust southwards across the Kedah frontier, cutting off the Malay forces besieging Singora. Its communications and supply lines severed, the Malays were attacked on its flanks and by frontal assaults from the Singora defenders and the force disintegrated - its remnants desperately trying to slip between the Siamese lines to rejoin their comrades in Kuala Kedah.
Panic and terror immediately struck the whole of Kedah. Similar counter-attacks by the Siamese army had shown that its policy in such cases was one of terror and extermination and the Malays knew that torture and atrocity would be the order of the day. Osborn described various acts of cruelty invading Siamese armies were prone to, including cooking human beings alive. Prisoners were stripped naked and, with their hands tied behind their backs and large piece of fat lashed to their heads, put into hollow tree trunks. "Then a slow steady fire was maintained round it, the unfortunate victim's sufferings by these means terribly prolonged, his shrieks and exclamations being responded to by the exultant shouts of his executioners."
Another torture involved building a wooden platform around a young 'nipah' palm and tying the victim to it in a sitting position over the young tree, so that the sharp spear-like point of its shoot would eventually enter the body. As the plant grew at a fairly rapid rate - several inches in twenty four hours - this would result in unspeakable pain and eventual death by piercing the intestines. "In short, a slow mode of impaling," Osborn noted.
The climax of horror for Osborn was the gambling that took place whenever a pregnant Malay woman would have the misfortune to be captured - the stakes depending upon whether the unborn child was a boy or girl. The game would be concluded with the woman being gutted open to decide who were the winners.
As the weeks wore on and the Siamese army rapidly closed in on Kuala Kedah, the countryside around the fort was choked with the flames and smoke of burning villages and rice fields. Thousands of terrified refugees converged upon the fort and boats of all shapes and sizes - from 'prahus' to simple bamboo rafts - laden to overflowing with human beings streamed endlessly out of the Kedah river estuary the fort guarded. Most of the vessels were too small to make the long journey to the relative safety of Penang or Prai and they anchored at the only refuge they could find - under the guns of their tormentor's allies, the British warships. " We lay at anchor with a black mass of native vessels of every size and shape," Osborn wrote. "Many of the canoes threatening to sink alongside, we were forced to take the unfortunates upon our decks, adding still more to the scene of confusion. "
"On counting the fugitive vessels, we found one junk, one tope, five large 'prahus', and one hundred and fifteen smaller craft, the whole of them probably containing three thousand souls., of which two-thirds were women and the remainder made up of children, old decrepit men and a few adult Malays to navigate the vessels. Two births took place during this sad night of confusion."
The refugees brought with them horror stories of the cruelties perpetrated by the Siamese army in the surrounding countryside and this precipitated an atrocity by the Malays themselves. Three hundred Siamese prisoners captured by the Malays in the early victories of the war were marched to the margins of a small empty reservoir nearby. They were then each stabbed with krises by the guards and the bodies thrown into the reservoir. The location of the massacre was no accident - it lay beside the road along which the Siamese troops had to advance.
By the time the main Siamese force reached Kuala Kedah, reinforcements had swelled its numbers to 15,000, nearly 10,000 of whom were well-equipped with the latest Tower flint muskets. They also had with them many war elephants, some equipped with small swivel guns in their 'howdahs', and batteries of light artillery - some of which were captured from the besieging Malay forces at Singora. The Siamese proceeded to shell the fort to submission, while their infantry unleashed a storm of musket balls onto the defenders from the cover of the jungles surrounding the fort.
Siamese fire was so intense that the British warships had to cast sail and move away as cannon balls from their Siamese allies flew over the top of the fort's parapets and splashed perilously close to their bows. The landward-facing cannon of the fort boomed in reply, though the seaward facing cannons of the Malays still remained silent - not a single shot in anger had been fired between the fort defenders and the British warships since the blockade started.
Across the river, the nearby town of Kuala Kedah had by now been occupied by the Siamese and snipers occupied the houses and started picking off the defenders in their parapets. Numbering less than two hundred by now, the defenders - mostly Malay irregulars and some Rajput Sepoy mercenaries, launched a desperate sortie into the town on the night of March 19th 1839 to clear it of snipers and silence some of the Siamese guns. Caught in open ground, the Malays were cut down in a murderous crossfire and scattered.
The defenders knew that the fort would fall to the Siamese before dawn. The survivors of the night attack were ordered to save themselves - some slipping by the naval blockade on boats, others swimming across the river and taking their chances along the coast. Fifteen sepoys were left to provide covering fire for the escape and holding out for at least two hours, after which they fired one last salvo of artillery fire at the Siamese and attempted to swim to the British warships. "Not being as amphibious as the Malays, they had been swept down by the tide upon the stockade, and the majority were drowned, or killed by alligators," Osborn noted.
By daybreak, the Siamese had already occupied the fort in force. Kedah's war of independence was over.
Osborn reflected on the conflict he had seen over the year and questioned which side he had to fight for. "Nothing but a sense of duty could prevent one from sympathizing in the efforts made by these gallant sea-rovers to regain their own."
"Like spaniels, the natives of the whole sea-board of the Indian peninsula lick the hand that chastises them: not so the Orang Melayu; and we Englishmen should be the first to honour a race who will not basely submit to abuse or tyranny."
Osborn later served in the Crimean War and Britain's wars in China. He ended his naval career with the rank of rear admiral and also served as an admiral in the Chinese navy from 1862-63. He eventually became one of Britain's leading Arctic explorers.
The Blockade of Kedah in 1838: A Midshipman's Exploits in Malayan Waters' by Sherard Osborn (1857), reprinted by Oxford University Press (1987) (ISBN 0 19 588860 X). Price RM 52.80
Burmese And British Prisoners
John Turnbull Thomson was a young surveyor when he first arrived in the Malay Peninsula in 1838. Only 17 years of age, he started work in Penang and arrived in time to witness first-hand the events surrounding Kedah's last war of independence from Siam. He took an interest in the Malays and soon learned to speak Malay fluently, quickly gaining a reputation as having closer contact with the Malays than any of his fellow countrymen. He frequently wrote of the grievances of the Malays and his description of the Kedah war below highlighted not only the miseries suffered by ordinary Malays at the hands of the Siamese army but also the unease of many Englishmen at Britain's support for Siam in the conflict.
Kedah was a weak Eastern state, situated at the f@g end of two powerful ones, viz., the Siamese and Burmese. It was expected to serve both these masters ; consequently it hated one and despised the other, and got into bad odour with both. When Burmah was stronger than. Siam, it acknowlegded its superiority; when Siam was stronger, it paid obeisance in that direction. The exactions, whether of men, money, tokens or symbols, that Kedah had to bear, were at the caprice of the monarchs of these countries. Kedah would have gladly propitiated either for the sake of peace ; but this was not to be. Siam claimed a token - the Bunga Mas (golden flower) -while Burmah claimed assistance in men. What was to be done? The English were powerful; -might not Kedah rest quiet under her wings ?
Such might have been the thought when Kedah offered Penang to Captain Light. Captain Light, on behalf of' the East India Company, bought the island for a consideration; but he did not engage to protect Kedah from its political enemies - the real of object of the Malay Rajah.
Captain Light took possession of the purchased island of Penang, on the l7th July, 1786. If it belonged to Siam, Siam should have protested against the transfer. This Siam did not do. Sir George Leith again, on behalf of the East India Company, bought Province Wellesley from Kedah for the sum of two thousand Spanish dollars. This happened on the 15th July, 18OO, nor was this transfer opposed by action or protest on the part of Siam. If Kedah had been a province of Siam, and the Rajah of' Kedah a mere vassal, these cessions of territory at distinct dates must have either been silently approved of by Slam, if not, those were the times to protest.
Kedah sent admissions of superiority to Siam, but so does Siam to China. Reasoning on the basis of these admissions, how is it that, in after years, Siam claimed more to do with Penang than did China? Kedah had her native line of princes, son succeeding father for generations, as Siam has nephew succeeding uncle. Kedah had her written laws as Siam has. What difference was there between these two kingdoms ? -Merely this, Siam was strong, Kedah weak. The claims of Siam were the claims of might, not of right. Siam was jealous that Kedah had obtained an European friend and neighbour, so she determined to vex her. First she coerced Kedah to make war on Perak : this was in 1813. The object was to weaken both, preparatory to their being overrun. In 1821 Siam overran Kedah, and its native princes fled. She would have done the same to Perak, but for the fear of the English and the Dutch. Kedah was devastated, and many of her inhabitants carried off to slavery. Thousands fled into Penang and Province Wellesley. This suited the purposes of the English land proprietors ; it cleared their jungles, and gave them a settled population. In 1822 the Burmese war was looming in the distance; so it was found to be English policy to propitiate Siam. Kedah relations were consequently sacrificed, and the grant of Penang and Province Wellesley was sought to be confirmed by Siam. This object was attained in 1826, under Colonel Burney's treaty with Siam.
In 1831 Tuanku Kudin, a chief of Malay royal blood, headed an insurrection against his Siamese conquerors. He was successful at first, and regained temporary possession of his native country. But England's assistance was now given to Siam, and he was reduced. He remained by a remnant of his adherents, fifty or sixty in number, and died a hero's death in defending Kedah fort. He was overpowered by numbers, and nearly all died with him. As in the case of Sir William Wallace, the patriot's head was sent to the (Siamese) capital. Kedah was again devastated, and Province Wellesley replenished with settlers; lands rose in value, and rents ruled high. It was at this time that the East India Company's chief official took up extensive land claims.
But the value of his land acquisitions met another check ; for, in 1838, a man called Tuanku Mohamed Saad, a prince of royal blood, raised another insurrection against the Siamese, and carried many people away with him from Penang and Province Wellesley. Rents fell, and the value of land in the English settlements again became nominal. Tuanku Mahomed Saad drove the Siamese out of Kedah beyond Sangora; but the English and the Siamese were now allies. He was consequently beaten back, escaping only to be laid hold of by the East India Company 's Government as a pirate, and to be dealt with as such.
Kedah this time was utterly destroyed; its fertile plains wasted ; the herds were driven off the fields, and the fruit groves were cut down ; the mother fled with the infant at her breast, and the father crept through the jungle with his little ones in his arms. Province Wellesley was again replenished with settlers, and Englishmen speculated and grew rich on the troubles of their neighbours. More eyes than mine have witnessed these scenes, so I dare not exaggerate. In 1786 the English settled down on a desert island near flourishing Kedah. In I838 Kedah is itself a desert, the island Penang a very garden full of life and prosperity. I have seen the poor Kedahan come to the sheds and outhouses to lie down and die. Others more fortunate in preserving life, were glad to labour for their bare rice only. The actual strife of warfare is not the worst.
Oamut used frequently to exclaim, "Kalau raja berkelahi, orang kecil binasa" ("When princes fall out, the destruction comes on the lowly"). An appropriate illustration for the tirnes. And shall we ascribe all these miseries to the English ? Certainly not. They must lie in the first place at the door of the Raja of Kedah, who sold Penang for a good price. He did not fully explain his connection with Siam; and, by this want of frankness, brought his country into great danger. Had he not counted on the assistance of the English (which he had no right to expect) hr would have been more complacent to Slam, and averted her vengeance. Kedah would have done as she did heretofore, and submitted to exactions for the sake of peace.
But the after part that England played in assisting Siam against Kedah, was abhorrent to generosity, not to speak of gratitude. Such a course would never have been sanctioned by the home authorities, however expedient or proper it might have appeared to the East India Company's Government in India, if they had been fully aware of the facts of the case.
Source : Thomson, John Turnbull, "Glimpses Into Malayan Lands", Oxford University Press 1984 (first published by Richardson and Company, 1864). RM 22.00
Since before the days of the Melaka Sultanate, the Malay States of the northern peninsula - Patani, Kedah, Kelantan, Trengganu and Perak - had always been considered by Siam as its tributaries. However, for centuries the Siamese had been too busy fighting invaders - especially the Burmese - to press its claims on the Malay states and had to be satisfied with only periodically receiving "Bunga Mas" or "Golden Flowers" from the rulers of these states as a symbolic admission of Siamese suzerainty.
However, continual Burmese invasions progressively weakened the Siamese, culminating in the sacking and destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767. The Malay States began to exert their independence and now considered their sending of ornamental plants with leaves and flowers of gold merely as a token of long-standing friendship and respect. It was this independent streak, for instance, that persuaded Sultan Abdullah of Kedah to lease Penang to another foreign power - an act that would have no doubt caused some anger in the Siamese court. He may have expected that conceding such a great prize to the British might induce them - as a matter of honour - to offer some protection from his former master in Bangkok. A global power such as Britain would be a formidable deterrent for a weak Siam.
However, things were to change dramatically for Siam - and the Malay states. The Siamese general Phraya Taksin led a war of independence that drove the Burmese out of Siam and his successor Rama I established the Chakri dynasty, which was to rule Siam to this day. After throwing back another massive Burmese invasion in 1785, a resurgent Siam turned its attention to its increasingly insubordinate southern subjects.
When Patani's Sultan Muhammad was reluctant to send troops to aid Siam face a Burmese invasion, Rama I's son, Prince Surasi, attacked Patani. Sultan Muhammad was slain in battle and 4,000 Patani Malays were brought in chains to Bangkok as slaves.
Further rebellions erupted in Patani in 1791 and 1808, following which Patani was split into seven provinces and ruled directly under the Raja of Ligor (Songkhla). The Malay state that had begun its life as that ancient kingdom of myth and legend, Langkasuka, was no more.
The subjugation of Patani was an object lesson to Siam's other Malay vassal sates, especially Kedah. In the years 1813, 1816 and 1818, Kedah was forced to supply thousands of soldiers, hundreds of boats and many tons of rice to Siam to help drive away the remaining Burmese in Siamese territory. In 1818, Rama II went as far as ordering Kedah to attack Perak because its Sultan had foolishly not sent "Bunga Mas" to the Siamese court for several years. Kedah's Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah, however, knew the real reason for the order - to weaken both Kedah and Perak so that they could succumb to invasion and direct rule. In the war which ensued, Kedah succeeded in defeating Perak, and the Sultan of Perak was forced to send "Bunga Mas" to the King of Siam.
In 1821, the King of Siam invited the Sultan of Kedah to Bangkok to pay homage to him. But the shrewd Sultan refused, fearing assassination. To punish the Sultan for this personal affront, a large Siamese fleet sailed into Kuala Kedah, massacred the garrison there and sailed on to Kuala Merbok looking for the Sultan. The Sultan fled to Seberang Prai, scattering coins from his elephant to delay his pursuers, and sailed to Penang, where the Governor allowed him to take refuge - much to the annoyance of the Siamese. As it did with Patani, Siam partitioned Kedah into four separate territories - Kedah, Perlis, Setul (Satun) and Kubang Pasu, each under a raja chosen by Siam and subject to Siam. Kubang Pasu was returned to Kedah decades later but, to this day, Perlis remains an independent state and Setul remains in Thai territory.
After occupying Kedah, the Siamese hoped to extend its conquests further south and attacked Perak. However, the Siamese were defeated by the Perak Malays, with the help of Malay and Bugis reinforcements rushed from Selangor.
The Sultan of Kedah, in exile in his other lost possession Penang, demanded the British help put him back on his throne. There were many in the British administration and business community in Penang who were sympathetic to the Sultan's cause - both as a matter of honour and because of fear of further Siamese encroachment on the peninsula and in trade. But the Governor-General in India continued Britain's policy of not engaging in expensive little wars on the Peninsula and refused to do anything about the fate of the wronged Sultan.
When war broke out between the British and the Burmese in 1824, this policy shifted dramatically - though not in the Sultan's favour. Britain now saw Siam as a possible ally in their war. By 1826, Captain Henry Burney concluded a treaty with the Siamese government where the British promised not to interfere in the affairs of Kedah under the Siamese. To allay the fears of Penang, the Siamese on their part promised not to attack Perak and Selangor.
Despite the Burney Treaty, Penang became a hotbed of Malay resistance to the Siamese. The chiefs of Kedah and the relatives of the Sultan gathered there planning their war of liberation, while British merchants and private citizens in Penang eagerly (but covertly) provided them with guns, ammunition, boats and other supplies, in exchange for rice. In 1831, the Sultan's son Tunku Kudin led 3000 Malays out of Prai and drove the Siamese from Kedah. The Siamese declared the rebels as bandits, hunting, torturing and executing them accordingly. Siam's newly-found friends the British declared them pirates and, in the words of the British historian RO Winstedt, "to Britain's shame, British gunboats blockaded the Kedah coast". Facing a Siamese army of 7,500 men and 3,000 elephants, Ku Din was driven back and cornered in Kuala Kedah fort. After a bloody siege lasting three months, the fort was stormed and Ku Din's head was sent to Bangkok. Over 16,000 men, women and children fled from the avenging Siamese army into Prai and Penang.
Another Malay attack in 1838 not only won them their homeland again but even managed to take the war to Siamese territory, allowing them to liberate Patani and besiege Singora (Songkhla). But as before, heavy reinforcements arrived from Bangkok and the Kedah Malays made one final last stand at Kota Kuala Kedah. Two hundred men held out to the end, surrounded on land by 15,000 Siamese infantry equipped with modern muskets, artillery and elephants. At sea, the British 18-gun warship 'Hyacinth' and three gunboats blockaded the fort. After terrible massacres and atrocities on both sides, the defenders were overwhelmed and the red flag of Kedah was finally lowered over the old fort on the morning of March 20th.
The old Sultan was not about to give up - what he could not win by force of arms, he now tried with shrewd Malay diplomacy. Three years later, Raja Zainal Rashid or Tengku Dai, the Sultan's eldest son, went to Bangkok to have frank discussions with the King, Rama III. Tengku Dai offered him acceptance of Siamese suzerainty - if they restored the throne of Kedah to the Sultan. Rama III consented - with growing pressures from British and French 'farang' in other parts of his kingdom, Siam desperately needed to put a stop to these constant Malay rebellions.
In 1843, after 21 years in exile fighting a war of liberation, the Sultan returned to Kedah to re-assume his position as Sultan of Kedah. He had lost Perlis and Setul - but he had freed his kingdom from direct Siamese rule. Kedah was saved from suffering the same fate as Patani and was to remain a Malay Sultanate to this day.
As for the British, they'd had their first taste of military intervention on the Peninsula - and it had not been a wholly unpleasant outcome for British interests in the region. They were not to be too reticent when, thirty years later, it became necessary to send the gunboats in again.
Sources : http://www.sabrizain.demon.co.uk/malaya/kedah.htm
Deep Tunku Muhammad Saad campaign war of liberation Kedah certainly could never in give up his story.
In narrate him already go to travel almost to the whole malay archipelago including Sumatra and Jawa to find persons top-notch to help drive siam from the earth Kedah.1828 Angkatan Tunku Mat Saad have successfully captured Kota Kuala Kedah.July 1828 force he already successfully fight against siam until to Kota Haadyai.In Haad yai Kedah Force too far entering to the region siam has been battling great with additional force siam.jumlah force siam that more many cause Tunku Mat Saad's force have to retreat.story this has happened before Tunku Kudin's story and Wan Mat Ali
Paduka's Campaign Vase King Or TUNKU ANUM make that the most successful.With ploy and trick Kedah get in liberate from Siamese colony.Majesty has in awarded province Kubang Pasu state as who are free from Kedah by the Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin.
Among involved Panglima (Commander) in War Kedah - Siamese
TUNKU KUDIN'S (in believe as pirate Melayu prominent by the British. (Royal Pirate)
TUNKU SULAIMAN (assistance force in English gun dlm travel to Kuala Kedah.
MUHAMMAD TAIB'S COMMANDER.
DATO WAN MUHAMMAD ALI (child dato kerma success during Peristiwa his mahsuri still small and stay in Penang.
TUNKU MUHAMMAD SAAD (prove persons Malay Nusantara can close ranks)
TUNKU ANUM (-Top-notch in self-defence and wise in trick helah. person become captive king ligor to study strength Angkatan Ligor make major instigator to Siamese king so that attack Kedah.)
Sources : http://forum.cari.com.my
The story of the Sultan takes us back to the closing years of the 19th century. Kedah was already a vassal state of Siam and the British had a foothold on Penang and parts of the adjacent mainland. As such, when the young (he was 19) Sultan took over the reign at the death of his brother Zainul Rashid in 1882, he was in the unenviable position of having to deal with two foreign powers, each with designs of it's own.
The ascension was confirmed by King Chulalongkorn, as Overlord on January 21st, 1882. The Sultan enjoyed very cordial relationship with the King and one is tempted to believe that there was a deeper personal friendship between the two. Be that as it may, one is quickly reminded of the harsh reality of international politics - something the Sultan would soon discover.
In 1895 the King decorated the Sultan with the Order of the White Elephant First Class and bestowed the title Chao Phya Saiburi and later the additional title of Phya Riddisongkran Bhakti. He also sent two of the Sultan's sons to Europe for education. Tunku Yusuf in fact served the King upon return and Tunku Badlishah made a brief stay in Siam after graduating in economics in Oxford.
Good relations were maintained between the two states with Kedah sending the "Bunga Emas dan Perak" triennially to the Siamese Court in Bangkok as a token of Siam's suzerainty. Till his death in 1910, King Chulalongkorn extended great affection and held the Sultan in high esteem.
On record the Sultan made four visits to Siam - in 1890, 1892, 1895 and 1903. King Chulalongkorn, on the other hand, visited Kedah in 1874, 1890, 1896 and 1904.
According to the collection of letters of the Sultan, King Chulalongkorn made one visit to Kedah in 1890.
" On Friday, 9th of March, 1890 at about 9 pm, the Sultan left the Istana Kota Setar for Pulau Langkawi . On Saturday, the 10th of March at 10 am the Siamese King arrived at Kuah. At 1 pm the Sultan, the Siamese King's Representative in Kedah, Tunku Bahadur, Tunku Mahmud and Wan Muhammad Saman (the Prime Minister) met the Siamese King on his boat. In the afternoon, the Siamese King and consort travelled to Dondong (Kuah) on a buffalo cart to hunt. The King managed to capture seven mousedeers. On Sunday, the 11th of March at 10 am, the Siamese King proceeded to Burau and Telaga Tujuh, returning at 9 pm. On Monday, the 12th of March, in the evening the Sultan left Langkawi for Kedah in a ship and reached Kota Setar at 7 am the following day. On the same day the King of Siam reached the Istana Anak Bukit and was welcomed with a 21 gun salute and the raising of the Siamese flag. When the King later proceeded to Kota Setar, he was welcomed with the Nobat...."
The Diary also mentioned the visit of the King to Istana Kota Setar and to the Royal Mausoleum at Langgar using a horse drawn carriage. The King offered to restore the tomb of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Mukarram Shah. From Kedah, the King proceeded to Penang and other Malay Kingdoms on the west and east cost including Pattani and Singgora.
From his ascension to the throne in 1882 till 1905, the Sultan was pretty well left alone and Siam did not interfere in the internal administration of the State. However in 1905 the State underwent a financial crisis and was forced to ask Siam for a $2,500,000 loan. The loan was extended with the proviso that a Financial Advisor from the court of Siam be accepted and a State Council be created to assist the Sultan in the administration of all public affairs. This resulted in the promulgation of a new constitution on July 29th, 1905. In the ensuing years the administration of the state was effectively ran by the State Council which was headed first by the Sultan's younger brother, the Regent Tunku Abdul Aziz (1905-1907), and then by another brother, Tunku Mahmud (1907-1914), and followed by his sons Tunku Ibrahim (1914-1934) and Tunku Badlishah (1937-1943). The formation of the State Council meant the curbing of the Sultan's power.
In 1909, in a strategic move to safeguard Siam's independence of foreign super powers (Britain and France), King Chulalongkorn signed the Anglo- Siam Treaty which transferred Siam's right of suzerainty over the four northern Malay states- Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu- to Britain. This was done without a hint of consent of the Malay rulers and must have hurt the Sultan deeply when he lamented that " I can forgive the Buyer but I cannot forgive the Seller".
A rare glimpse into the Sultan's personal life was recounted by Datuk James F. Augustine in his book "Bygone Kedah" :
Although he was a recluse in the evening of his life, Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah (1882-1943) knew what was going on and never lost an iota of his dignity.
He was first and foremost a man of prayer. Anyone who happened to pass by the Istana Kampung Bahru of a morning would see him stroll in the vicinity of the Istana or ride in his ricsha which was drawn by a Malay attendant. He sometimes walked ahead of the ricsha with the puller and the vehicle behind him. All the while he fingered his prayer beads ("tasbeh") in prayer.
His Private Secretary for many years, the late Encik Mohammed Zain Ariffin, an oxenian, at times spoke of how the Sultan dressed for dinner. It was prepared by a Chinese cook named Ah Phum. The Sultan ate sparingly and in solitary state. At billiards he excelled and played almost daily in his private billiard room.
Except when he went to the mosque for Friday prayers or for a drive in his Victoria which in course of time gave way to his canary coloured Rolls Royce, he seldom appeared in public.
On Hari Raya it was customary for members of the ruling house and Senior Government Officers to pay their respects to him at the Istana Kampung Bahru. Visitors were ushered up to the drawing room upstairs where they sat in rows facing the chair prepared for the Sultan. Cigars were handed out and perfume sprinkled on handkerchiefs while the assembly waited for the Sultan.
When he entered the room everybody stood up and bowed. Hardly a word were spoken on such occasions. After a short time the Sultan would rise and retire. In the evening of his birthday a garden party was usually held in the grounds of the Istana. The Sultan would grace the function with his presence and stroll about with yellow umbrella held over him.
This insignia of royalty gave rise to an incident when the Kedah Gymkhana Club held its first meet in Alor Star. Sultan Iskandar of Perak was strolling on the lawn with his royal umbrella borne over him when Sultan Abdul Hamid unexpectedly appeared. He had come down from the royal box to walk about and his umbrella-bearer held his umbrella over him. Sultan Iskandar promptly ordered his umbrella-bearer to fold up his umbrella. It was a striking example of courtesy and protocol.
Datuk James F.Augustin’s foregoing narration casts some very interesting points and I would like to pick on these in my attempt to shed some light on the spiritual proclivities of our Sultan. Mention has been made of the popular belief among some people that the Sultan was indeed a spiritual person given to seclusion and meditation. And the various supernatural acts that have been attributed to him might have been a logical extension of such belief. However there is no extant record that can explain in any detail the actual circumstances that lead people to such a belief. As such we need to do some conjecture based on the little material that we have and try to piece together a wholesome credible theory. And in this regards, I don’t think that this has been done before.
The Datuk was born in 1898 in Penang. In 1917 he moved over to Alor Setar to become a Teacher at the Government English School, which was later renamed as the Sultan Abdul Hamid College. He remained in the school till 1941 when the second World War broke out. He was therefore in Kedah during much of the reign of the Sultan and one would naturally expect that he was an eye witness to many events affecting the Sultan. The detailed nature of the many essays that he wrote suggest that the information obtained was first hand. And even if the information was borrowed from some other source, I would expect that due to the closeness of time and space, such information would have a quality of freshness that would make it credible. For a school teacher I would expect no less than due scrutiny.
As such when the Datuk mentioned about the Sultan being a “recluse in the evening of his life” and that he was “first and foremost a man of prayer” who “all the while fingered his prayer-beads in prayer”, I would propose that this was a first hand personal observation. This is interesting because many writers on Kedah history tend to scoff the idea of the Sultan being a very religious person and would prefer to mention Tunku Mahmud, the brother of the Sultan, instead of having such a quality. Citing that the Sultan did not make any outward presentation, these writers point to Tunku Mahmud’s work with the Sheikhul Islam, Wan Sulaiman bin Wan Sidek in setting up the two religious schools, Madrasah Al Hamidiah and the Al-Mahaadil Mahmud. Not discounting Tunku Mahmud’s own religious bent, for indeed he was, I would propose that the writers failed to consider the probability that the Sultan could have been practicing a form of “Inner Islam” – that of Tasawwuf or Sufism.
For a start let’s look back and ponder on the point about the Sultan being a recluse. Some relate this cloistered existence to the bouts of illness that the Sultan experienced which rendered him incapable of running the daily affairs of government. There is some element of truth in this and the Sultan did in fact fell ill in the early years of his reign and again in 1915. However, temporary withdrawal from outer activity in order to concentrate on spiritual exertions is also a hallmark of Sufism. It is highly probable that the Sultan was a recluse for this purpose at other times when he was not ill, particularly “in the evening of his life”. This assertion is supported by claims made by some members of his family but much ignored by the Historians. This writer visited the Istana Pelamin in 2002 and among the many interesting discoveries made was a small room that was the private prayer chamber of Sultan Abdul Hamid. It was a most befitting room for a solitary withdrawal for prayer.
The Sultan’s penchant for telling his beads (the “Tasbeh”) must have left quite an impression on Datuk James F. Augustin for him to state boldly that the Sultan was “first and foremost a man of prayer”. The use of beads for the purpose of recollection (Arabic “Zikr”) was of course a common practice among the Malays of yore (and even today) and one need not be a practicing Sufi of a particular school to be doing so. However, the fervor shown by the Sultan leaves me with little doubt that the Sultan was under some kind of spiritual discipline. Anyone familiar with Islamic Sufism would know that the repetition of certain formulae is central to Sufi practices.
Next, let’s look at the religious atmosphere of the period for some other clues to prove that Sultan Abdul Hamid did practice Sufism, perhaps of a particular school, or at the very least that he was influenced by it.
Kedah of the late 19th century saw the emergence of many religious centers, arranged in the form of communes. This “Pondok" style centers survive till today. According to one study, there were as many as 60 such centers in the 1850s and that almost all districts in Kedah had its own Pondok. Another interesting aspect was the close link between Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Acheh, Java, parts of Sumatera and Mecca in the development of these schools. It was common to find religious figures of one state to spend time and teach in the schools of other states before or after the completion of their studies in Mecca. One suspects that such dissemination was not altogether haphazard and that perhaps Mecca had a say in it. By this I mean the group of Teachers in Mecca at that time. This is an interesting possibility that merits further study.
Inter-wined with these developments was the diffusion of Sufism, the inner dimension of Islam and its related discipline called Tariqa (Arabic for “Path”, “Method”, “Way”). This dimension is very much wedded with the outer aspect of the religion, called Sharia (“Law”) and as such its diffusion in 19th century Kedah together with the already mentioned religious centers was seen as something natural and mainstream. In stark contrast, Sufism today is seen as an aberration and viewed with a lot of suspicion by the religious authorities.
In 1906, a young man returned to Kedah from a 17 years sojourn in Mecca. This man, Wan Sulaiman bin Wan Sidek, was related to Sultan Abdul Hamid on his mother’s side. In Mecca Wan Sulaiman studied under various Teachers, the Arabic language, Quran, Hadiths (Sayings and Acts of the Prophet ; their transmission), Usuluddin (Fundamentals of the way of life) and Fiqh (Jurisprudence) in addition to Astronomy. In Astronomy he studied under a famous Teacher, Sheikh Muhammad Khayat. In the last 3 years of his stay in Mecca, Wan Sulaiman engaged in Sufi spiritual discipline under Sheikh Fakir Muhammad Al-Bukhari and received the Bai’ah (pledge) into the Naqshabandiyah Mujaddiyah Ahmadiyah Sufi Order. He was also appointed by the said Teacher as the 34th Khalifah (Representative) of the Order. This information is relevant for our discussion. Being a Khalifah, Wan Sulaiman bin Wan Sidek was authorised to teach and guide students in Sufism. I would like to propose that the source of the Sultan’s Sufi influence was derived from this man.
During his study in Mecca, Wan Sulaiman bin Wan Sidek was in the same study circle of Sheikh Abdullah Fahim (the Mufti of Penang), Haji Yusuf Awang (Tok Kenali) and Sheikh Muhammad Said (Linggi, Negri Sembilan) and according to one source befriended Tuan Hussain Nasir Ibni Muhammad Taib Al-Masudi Al-Banjari, with whom a controversy arose in 1929. These individuals were also known to be Sufis.
On his return to Kedah, Wan Sulaiman was appointed by the State Council as Qadi. In 1910 he was promoted to the position of Grand Qadi and in due course the position of Sheikhul Islam. In this capacity he was responsible for the administration of religious laws in the state. In addition Wan Sulaiman taught in the Zahir mosque and in the Madrasah at Limbong Kapal. It was said that he taught Sufism quite openly and conducted night vigils (Arabic “Tawajjuh”) in the Zahir mosque. This openness was criticized by Tuan Hussain Nasir who was of the opinion that Sufism should only be taught to persons with the capacity to understand. Wan Sulaiman wrote many books including on the Naqshabandi Order. At least one book on the Order was written at the request of Tunku Mahmud.
Sufism then, was very much alive in Kedah, propagated at the highest religious position and supported openly by Tunku Mahmud and the Sultan. It would seem highly improbable that the Sultan was altogether impervious to this development and not affected by it given his inclination for Zikr.
Wan Sulaiman was refered in passing by many a writer as the “Teacher” of Sultan Abdul Hamid on account of the fact that he was appointed as the religious Teacher to the royal household. I propose that this relationship was more than ordinary. It was a Master-Disciple relationship in the highest Sufi tradition.
Wan Sulaiman passed away in 1935 and was interred at the Langgar Royal mausoleum. Eight years later, his pupil, the Sultan followed suit and was buried besides his Teacher.
Sources : http://www.geocities.com/kedah_pages/saintlyking.html
Can't you make it simple and informative at the same time?
helped win Kedah's independence from Siam
Story by Elizabeth John
ABOUT eight kilometres from Kubang Pasu's present administrative centre of Jitra lies the rustic Kampung Pulau Pisang where clusters of rambutan hang red and tantalising from tall trees and feisty cockerels rule the narrow lanes that wind and find their way between old wooden houses.
Given this scene it might be almost unbelievable that this village was once the capital of a State called Negeri Kubang Pasu Darul Qiyam whose ruler is credited with winning Kedah's freedom from the Siamese.
The story goes that when the Ligor (now Nakhorn Sri Tammarat) army of Siam attacked and took over Kedah in 1821, the Sultan of Kedah Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II (1804-1845) was forced to flee first to Penang and then to Malacca. Several unsuccessful rebellions later, there did not seem much hope to wrestthe State from the Siamese until Tunku Anom hatched a clever plan.
Tunku Anom Tunku Abdul Rahman, the grandson of Tunku Ibrahim, Regent of Limbang and the nephew of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin became well known after being selected as the chief of the delegation that sent tributes of Bunga Mas. In trying to recapture Kedah, the first step Tunku Anom took was to win the friendship of Phya Sina Nunchit who was the Siamese administrator of Kedah and the Ligor ruler's son. This Tunku Anom achieved by pretending to support Siam and Tunku Anom even gained a letter from the unsuspecting administrator recommending him to the ruler of Ligor.
While he was gaining the trust of Phya Sina Nunchit, Tunku Anom was also training Malay fighters in Gua Kerbau, Bukit Keplu which is located in present day Kodiang. Then, leaving his fighters to prepare for an assault on the Siamese in Kedah, Tunku Anom, armed with his recommendation letter, presented himself at the Ligor Court. Proving a loyal servant to the Ligor ruler and impressing with his skills, Tunku Anom also won the trust and admiration of the ruler.
While he was in Ligor, the Malay fighters launched their attack against the Siamese who were based in Alor Ganu, near Anak Bukit in Kedah. A struggling Nunchit despatched a letter to his father in Ligor seeking his assistance to put down the uprising. While support was sent to the aid of his son, the Ligor ruler offered to make Tunku Anom his representative in Kedah in the hopes of quelling the unrest there.
However Tunku Anom refused the offer, afraid that if he accepted the position, Kedah would forever be under the control of Siam. As the fighting continued, the Siamese army in Kedah again requested help but due to the rising cost of the war, the loss of lives and the onset of disease in the Siamese camp, the Ligor ruler finally relented and gave Kedah its freedom.
The tradition of sending Bunga Mas and Bunga Perak however continued but only as a sign of friendship.
Tunku Anom returned to Kedah a hero and for his bravery, was given control of 24 districts in the State, in an area called Kubang Pasu. He named it Negeri Kubang Pasu Darul Qiyam and Pulau Pisang the administrative capital.
Over the years, Tunku Anom developed a reputation for being a just and kind leader and Pulau Pisang flourished as a centre of trade and the padi industry. Unfortunately little remains to remind us of the old Negeri Kubang Pasu Darul Qiyam. Research papers in the State Library and Museum speak of a textile manufacturing centre that was set up near Pulau Pisang. Now this area is called Pulau Kain but there are no traces of the centre.
While Tunku Anom's tomb is well marked, Kampung Pulau Pisang has not been given the honour of a signboard telling of its part in the State's history. The Sungai Tunku Anom which was widened during Tunku Anom's reign also does not have a special signboard or markings to indicate that it is part of this fascinating story. Fortunately we still have some reminders in the form of old land grants issued during the existence of the State.
Tunku Anom ruled Kubang Pasu for 17 years and died in 1853. He was buried in Pulau Pisang, where his tomb can be seen to this day. It is said that Tunku Anom's grief over the death of his son, who had died before him, hastened the death of the ruler of Negeri Kubang Pasu Darul Qiyam.
A Hero's Resting Place -- Tunku Anom's tomb at the edge of Kampung Pulau Pisang
Upon his death, Tunku Anom's grandson Tunku Ishak was installed as the new ruler of Kubang Pasu. However Tunku Ishak turned out to be cruel and refused to listen to his advisers. As support from the people waned, Tunku Ishak was forced to return Kubang Pasu to Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Mukarram Shah III, Kedah's 23rd Sultan.