INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON ISLAMIC CIVILISATION IN THE MALAY WORLD, 1989

International Seminar on Islamic Civilisation in the Malay World, organised by the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Brunei Darussalam and IRCICA, Bandar Seri Begawan, 1-5 June 1989


IRCICA is pleased to present the highlights of the International Seminar on Islamic Civilisation in the Malay World (INTERSEM) held on 1-5 June 1989 in Bandar Seri Begawan, capital city of Negara Brunei Darussalam. The Seminar was organised jointly by IRCICA and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Brunei Darussalam as the host country, under the high patronage of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan, Negara Brunei Darussalam. The presence of H.E. Dr. Hamid Algabid, Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference gave added impulse and effect to the event.

The seminar took place in the Conference Hall of Pusat Dakwah Islamiyah (Islamic Dawa Centre) in Bandar Seri Begawan. 31 papers were presented by scholars and researchers from around the world. The Seminar was attended by about 300 participants.

An important document was issued by the seminar, containing suggestions and recommendations concerning research activities. The warm hospitality extended by the host country and the audience granted by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan, Negara Brunei Darussalam to a group of participants on the last day, were among the unforgettable memories of the seminar.

The Inaugural Ceremony on 1st June 1989 started with the recitation of the Holy Quran. Dato Abdul Saman bin Kahar, Chairman of the National Organising Committee and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Religious Affairs gave the welcome address. IRCICA Director General in his speech underlined that the seminar was a manifestation of the will and support towards scholarly and intellectual development in the Muslim world; he explained the policy of the OIC and IRCICA, giving emphasis to studies about different regions of the Islamic world.

H.E. Dr. Hamid Algabid, Secretary General of the OIC thanked His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan, Negara Brunei Darussalam for having graciously agreed to patron the seminar. The Secretary General of the OIC emphasized and expressed appreciation of the exemplary cooperation established between Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Indonesia, OIC Member States in the Malay region, and IRCICA, which led to an important research project and to the organisation of this seminar. Giving an overview of the OIC's activities in various fields and the institutions it established, the Secretary General expressed appreciation of the role played by IRCICA in the field of culture and praised the initiative taken in convening the seminar.

The official opening speech by The Honourable Pehin Dato Dr. Haji Mohd. Zain bin Haji Serudin, Minister of Religious Affairs, Negara Brunei Darussalam, highlighted the theme of the seminar.

Then, H.E. the Minister gave the Inaugural Lecture, which was a general survey of the history of Islamic civilisation in the Malay world. The lecture emphasized the following points:

The Jawi script [Arabic alphabet used in writing the Malay language] introduced in the Malay language with the coming of Islam and its role in the spread of Islamic faith and civilisation;

The role played by the Holy Quran and the Hadith in the expansion of Islam and the civilisation of the Malay World;

Islam as the basis of national administration, judicial community and social cultures;

The role played by the religious education centres;

The role of Heads of State in the expansion of Islam and the establishment of harmony and strength among Muslims;

The influence of Islam in the politics, Sultanate, administration, culture, traditions, guidelines, morals, literature and philosophy;

Avoidance of attempts to weaken unity and harmony among Muslims by making use of Islamic teachings.


Working Sessions of the seminar started in the afternoon of 1st June and ended with the morning session on 4th June. The topics of the sessions were: Coming and Spread of Islam in the Malay World; The Arts;

Economic Life; Religious Life; Social Life; Architecture; Intellectual Life; State and Administration. The following papers were presented under the above themes:


1st June
Session I: "Coming and Spread of Islam in the Malay World"


Uka Tjandrasasmita, "Reflection on the Process of Islamisation in the Malay World"

H.A. Mattulada, "The Coming and Spread of Islam in Sulawesi, Indonesia"

Siti Baroroh Baried, "The Coming and Spread of Islam in Indonesia observed through Malay manuscripts"

Abdul Rahman Al-Ahmadi, "The Coming and Spread of Islam: A case study of Kelantan and Patani"

Caesar Adib Majul, "Islam's Advent and Spread in the Philippines"

Pehin Haji Mohd. Jamil al-Sufri, "The Coming and Spread of Islam in Brunei Darussalam"


2nd June
Session I: "The Arts"


Mohd. Taib Osman, "Traditional Arts of the Malay World"

Edi Sedyawati, "Muslim Da'wah in Indonesian Dances"

Yusof Talib, " Jawi Script: its contribution and significance to the Malay world"

Matussin Omar, "The Islamic Influence on the Material Culture of the Brunei Malays"


Session II: "Economic Life"

Djoko Suryo, "Commercialisation in Pasisir Culture"

Dennys Lombard's paper on "Economic Life in the Malay World" could not be presented.


Session III: "Religious Life"

T. Ibrahim Alfian, "Religious Life: the Reaction of the Malay World towards Western Penetration in the 19th Century"

Pehin Dato Haji Yahya bin Haji Ibrahim, "Pehin Manteris as an 'Institution' and Their Roles in the Administration and Government of Brunei Darussalam"

Hamdan Hassan, "Effects of Theologians and Mystics Thoughts in the Field of Writing in the Malay World"

Othman Haji Ishak, "The Influence of Mazhab Shafii in the Islamic Civilisation in the Administration of Islamic Law in the Malay World, Malaysia Case"

Abd. Latif bin Hj. Ibrahim, "The Preception of Brunei's Malays"


3rd June
Session I: "Social Life"


Syed Hussein Al-Attas, "Social Life in the Malay World"

Zainal Kling, "The Socio-Religious Life of a Malay Community in Sarawak"

Nakamura Mitsuo, "Kraton and Social life in Jogjakarta"


Session II: "Architecture"

Hasan Muarif Ambary, "Islamic City in Indonesia: a case study on Banten"

Kamaruddin bin Mohd. Ali, "Islamic Architecture in the Malay world: the Mosque and Other Religious Buildings"

Farid Wardi Sudin's paper on "The Malay House as a Manifestation of Islamic Principles" could not be presented.


Session III: "Intellectual Life"

Mohd. Kamal Hassan, "Intellectual Life in the Malay world"

A. H. Johns, "Nawawi al-Banteni: A Case Study in the Transmission of Muslim Learning"

Mohd. Nor bin Ngah, "World Views of the Kitab Literature"

Zamakhsyari Dhofier, "Traditional Islamic Education, its Contribution to the Integration of the Malay World"

Yusof Abdul Rauf Shelebi, "Al-Azhar's Contribution to the Islamic Civilisation in the Malay World"


4th June
Session I: "State and Administration"


Taufik Abdullah, "State and Islam in Pre-Colonial South East Asia"

Anthony Reid, "Islam and the State in 17th century South East Asia"

Ahmad Ibrahim, "The Role of the Sultan in Government and Administration in the Malay World"

Zainal Abidin bin Abdul Wahid, "The Malacca Sultanate"

Mukhlis, "To Manurong, the Structure of State in the Buginese World".


The papers presented at the seminar were published as a book under the title Proceedings of the International Seminar on Islamic Civilisation in the Malay World.

The final Plenary Session of the Seminar took place in the afternoon of 4 June 1989. After discussions, and a recapitulation of the seminar proceedings, the participants adopted the following suggestions and recommendations:

1. The Seminar is of the view that the convening of the Seminar had given scholars and participants the unique opportunity to deliberate on the subject and scope relating to Islamic Civilisation in the Malay world. At the same time it created interest and opened a new dimension in the study of the subject matter.

2. The Seminar thus wishes to record its deep appreciation and gratitude to the Government of His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan, Negara Brunei Darussalam and for the initiative taken by the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), the Istanbul based research centre of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in convening this international Seminar. The Seminar further requests The Minister of Religious Affairs, Brunei Darussalam, to convey its highest respects and most sincere thanks to His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan, Negara Brunei Darussalam for the patronage extended to this unique scholarly event taking place for the first time in the Malay world.

3. The Seminar acknowledges and takes note of the inaugural address of H.E. the Minister of Religious Affairs of Brunei Darussalam and the ideas proposed. Recognising the importance of the matters raised, the Seminar urges that appropriate measures be adopted accordingly.

4. The Seminar concurs with the findings of the deliberations and wishes to emphasise the importance of the subject of Islamic civilisation in the Malay world. It recognises that there is an urgent need for further research in this field. In this respect, it suggests that special attention be given to the following issues, namely,

a. The need to re-evaluate and reinterpret existing materials.

b. To encourage an inter-disciplinary and inter-cultural approach to the study of Islamisation.

c. To promote information exchanges.

5. Recognising the success of this Seminar and the opportunity it provided for the inter-action and mutual exchange of ideas and experiences, on one hand, between the scholars, and on the other hand, among the participants, it is perceived that much benefit could be derived from future discourses of this nature.

6. As a long term measure, the Seminar proposes that in view of the cooperation and coordination that exists between the Government of Brunei Darussalam and IRCICA, this relationship be further manifested and strengthened towards the development of a tangible programme to realise the objectives of establishing a serious research programme for the study of Islamic civilisation in the Malay world, and to explore the feasibility of institutionalising the cooperation.

7. In terms of the overall objective for a joint Islamic action, more cooperation should be explored to assist in enhancing Islamic solidarity. It would also fulfill the aim of promoting a better understanding of the Malay world within and outside of the Islamic world.


On the basis of these suggestions and recommendations, the Seminar issued the following resolutions

1. Research and Methodology

Recognising that further research in Islamic civilisation in the Malay world is of urgent need, the Seminar recommends that facilities and assistance should be provided to facilitate the planning and implementation of programmes and activities to realise this objective. Specifically, the Seminar proposes the creation of research grants, fellowship and scholarship to assist scholars and researchers in pursuit of this study.

2. Publication

Recognising that there is a scarcity of documents and materials on Islamic civilisation in the Malay world, the Seminar recommends the publication of bibliographies, on works of Islamic civilisation in the Malay world, be compiled and published. It also proposed the preparation of a directory of institutions and list of scholars and research undertaken in this field, with a view to facilitate the availability of data and information on the subject. It also recommended the reprinting and translation of major scholarly works previously undertaken.

3. External Relations and Network

Recognising that there is a need to develop a close co-operation and co-ordination amongst scholars in the region and abroad, the Seminar recommends that measures to step up and strengthen the existing relations between institutions, scholars, researchers and relevant bodies and authorities, governmental and nongovernmental, be explored and developed. Specifically, it proposes regular discourses and periodic meetings such as the holding of seminars, workshops and exchange programmes. The scholars of the Malay world should also aim at the creation of a body similar to other international congresses.

4. Organisation

Recognising that the study of Islamic civilisation in the Malay world needs to be developed in the region, efforts towards institutionalising a base for the development of a research programme should be made and initiated by IRCICA in cooperation with the Government of Negara Brunei Darussalam. Towards this end, a structural framework and organisation for the planning and implementation of this program should be envisaged.

5. The Jawi Script

Recognising the importance and significance of the Jawi script as a manifestation of the Islamisation process, as an instrument of recording Malay literature and as an expression of artistic creation, the Seminar recommends the study of its history, to undertake a comparative study of its development drawing upon the experiences of other Muslim nations who have adopted the Arabic script, and to endeavour to standardise it methodically.


The Closing Ceremony of the Seminar in the afternoon of 5 June 1989 was officiated by Pehin Dato Haji Yahya bin Haji Ibrahim, Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, with The Honourable Pehin Dato Dr. Haji Mohd. Zain bin Haji Serudin, Minister of Religious Affairs as the Guest of Honour. Certificates were presented to the participants who presented papers.

Cultural Activities organised during the seminar period included an exhibition of books published in Brunei, next to the Conference Hall at the Islamic Dawa Centre. Participants and guests at the meeting could also see a display of IRCICA's publications near the same hall.

An important event on the occasion of INTERSEM was the "Exhibition of Textiles, Calligraphy and Islamic Books" organised in the halls and galleries of Brunei Museum, by the courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and under the Direction of Awang Haji Matussin bin Omar, Director of Brunei Museum. The exhibition was inaugurated in the morning of 5th June, for a period of two weeks. In the large hall on the ground floor of the Museum building, there was an exhibition of Islamic books by publishers of the region, coordinated by the "Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka" (Language and Literature Bureau); hundreds of books, handbooks and brochures were displayed while one stand was devoted to IRCICA's publications. On the first floor, an exhibition of traditional textiles and calligraphies by artists in the region was organised by the Brunei Museum. IRCICA Director General opened the exhibition which included outstanding works representing the centuries-long art and craft heritage of the Malay world. After the visit to the exhibition at the Museum, the seminar participants enjoyed a programme of visit to the Brunei Arts and Handicrafts Training Centre, organised by the Head of the Centre Awang Haji Mustafa bin Haji Ahmad.

Observations of seminar participants

"INTERSEM was a significant event in that it brought together scholars from the Malay world, from which emerged Sultanates, States and systems of government, literature, culture and the arts in its widest sense incorporating architecture, music and the decorative arts, Islamic in character. From these, we can see how through the teachings of Islam there evolved a new culture in the Malay world... As for the Malay language, the advent of Islam introduced a new dimension of its usage. The Malay language was used to acquire and disseminate knowledge and religious teachings and became the factor uniting the peoples of the Malay Archipelago. Malay no longer remained solely the language of commerce. And, in the decorative arts, Islam brought forth an invigorating aesthetic tradition. Whilst in the past, creative expressions emphasised the depiction of fauna, in its place, the flora of the region became symbolicly the impetus around which emerged not only new creative expressions and interpretations but also, through it, a philosophy of life."(Original: Malay)
Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Ahmadi
Cultural Division, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Malaysia

"The conference provided a forum for scholars of diverse backgrounds and in different disciplines to pool their knowledge and understanding of Islam in Southeast Asia. It was an opportunity to meet old friends in the region, often not seen for a number of years, and to make new ones. It showed a warmth and openess towards a variety of views. By bringing together Southeast Asians and non-Southeast Asians, Muslims and non-Muslims it contributed to the recognition of Islam in Southeast Asia (and one in five Muslims is a Southeast Asian) as a valid, rich, and viable field of study in its own right, a recognition long overdue. Personally speaking, it provided an ideal forum to present some of the results of my own research on the participation of Southeast Asians in the development of the Islamic disciplines in the Middle East, and the use of Arabic as a language of intellectual discourse in Southeast Asia."
Prof. A.H. Johns
Dean, Faculty of Asian Studies
Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

"I am certainly most impressed with the Seminar on Islamic Civilisation in the Malay World, held in Brunei Darussalam, 1-5 June 1989. Indeed, the Brunei Government and IRCICA had successfully brought together scholars from the Southeast Asian region, other parts of the Islamic world and beyond in Bandar Seri Begawan to present and discuss papers on the entire range of Islamic civilisation in the Malay world. It is by and large the biggest and most comprehensive meeting of experts in the field ever held in the region.
The seminar placed special scholarly emphasis on the fact that studies on Islamic civilisation in the Malay world can no longer be relegated to a marginal position and are now an essential part of efforts to present inter-related studies on salient aspects of the Islamic cultural heritage. This can be given concrete form in the initial publication of selected seminar papers preferably to be undertaken by IRCICA, and to be followed up with the establishment of a co-ordinating body or a research institute in Brunei".
Assoc. Prof. Yusof A. Talib
Head, Department of Malay Studies
National University of Singapore, Singapore

"Getting a comprehensive picture of aspects of Islam in the region in a conference which had as its orbit a diverse coverage, was difficult, compared to a seminar discussing a specific topic. This can perhaps be done when the papers are edited for publication in order to draw up a picture of Islamic civilisation in the Malay world".
Prof. Mohd. Taib Osman
Head, Department of Malay Studies
University of Malaya, Malaysia