Saturday, 12 November 2011

Mid Term Break: Sightseeing in Acheen and Armenian Streets

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

Colonial style houses at the row of Yap Temple

Thursday, 14 Zulhijjah 1432 H (10 Nov 2011) 10:00 am

We came to some heritage trail because Georgetown of Penang Island is recognized as a heritage site by UNESCO and this institution I am studying in is in Penang Island, hehehe. I went back to Bukit Gambir but I didn't return to my hostel. I just wait for the bus to Georgetown. Feel bored and empty but I bring some books with me so I read them while waiting for bus. I went off from the bus at Little India. I had visited the area and I feel not interested to be there anymore. I just walked my way to the side of Yap Temple which is a Chinese clan temple.   

Yap Temple

Yap Temple 

 Another angle of Yap Temple

I walked into the temple... The environment around is heavy with jossticks smokes and they had arranged some offerings for ancestors with fruits and some candles in the shape of lotus. I didn't take pictures to respect the temple because it seems that they are having an occasion though they didn't prevent me from snapping pictures as long as it is not in flash mode. Few Chinese nationals or perhaps Taiwanese are also looking around the temple. Penang Chinese community is still maintaining pre-Cultural Revolution cultural traits of Chinese community because they were not involved in Cultural Revolution event in China. To describe the internal part of the temple, it's just an ancestral temple with ancestral name plaques and some idols of god at the altar. They also provide jossticks and offering stuffs like papers to be burn with some charge or donation. Just walking around in the temple for about 10 minutes because nothing much to see except in the other building at the side they sell porcelains and pictures.

Islamic Museum

Penang Islamic Museum 

Penang Islamic Museum was actually the residence of Syed Ahmad al-Attas. He is an Arab merchant from Acheh of Indonesia today. He became a leader for the community in Acheen street mosque during the Penang Riot of 1867. I read the Chinese character at the street sign, it is written as 打石街 Tashi Jie. It was restored around 1993-1994 in a pilot restoration spearheaded by state government through municipal council implementation. Federal government also helped with technical assistance by French government.

 90 years old handwritten Quran

Naqshabandi credential letter to Sheikh Omar Basheer the mufti of Pulau Pinang by Arabian government before the order was banned by Pulau Pinang government
Hajji Fatheel Basheer collection of artifacts, he's a "Malay" figure who had been given the task to develop Malay village in Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang since 1931. These artifacts was exhibited in Penang State Museum in 1964. The long one is walking stick of 1922 belongs to Zechariah Basheer, Palestine Spoon a Saucer brought home from Palestine by Sheikh Omar Basheer in 1310 H, and incense container of 1908.

Sheikh Omar Basheer diary written in Arabic which is a surviving document about Penang Riot of 1867
Traditional circumcision set. Muslim boys are usually circumcized when they reach 13 years old which is the tradition of patriarchs Abraham and Ishmael a.s

Wooden boxes with Quranic verses carved on them and wooden door

Terengganu inscription replica in Malay written with Arabic script about the introduction of Islam in the state

Stuffs involved in traditional medication production used by Syed Ahmad al-Attas family such as pots, grinders and trays

Ceramics where some of them were produced in Iran around the late of 17th C

Crafts made from leaves and metal

Incense pots which is apart of Arabian culture and the lowest part of the rack is betel leaves' set which represents Malay culture

The above part of the rack are Jambiah which is Arabian tribal weapon and it is a kind of knife. Lowest part are Malay daggers or keris and parangs for self defence

Wood carvings with Quranic verses usually being decorations in masjids and holy places

 Musical instruments like arbab, gambus, and flute. Arbab is also used as Thai and Lao musical instruments while gambus is Arabian style musical instrument. The flute is used in Northern Malaysian Peninsula as well. This is some differences between Northern and Southern Malaysian states in term of cultural traits.

Penang Prominent Peranakan Arab Figures

From this museum walk, I get to know few prominent figures of Arab descent. Not all of them are with the title syed (lord) but some are with the title sheikh or have no title at all.

Sheikh Omar Basheer

This guy is a Muslim scholar with his clan name Basheer. An Arab descent, I guess his mother or grandmother is a native. He is from Khalidy Naqshabandi order and this order is classified as illegal by religious authority. I am not really sure about the reasons because sometimes religious authority could also be influenced by politics. There are politics in every place. Khalid was a teacher of the Naqshabandi tariqa in Mecca. Sheikh Omar Basheer had propagate the tariqa and suluk form of retreat in Penang. This order is also popular in Indonesia, Johore, and Kedah. This figure had issued a legal ruling to stop Muslims from joining secret societies in Penang. British administration also referred to him in matters of Islam and Malays affair. He was an imam in Acheen street masjid and a teacher in Ayer Itam masjid. Before that he was a Qadhi (Jurist) in Demak, Java Island and he returned to Penang because of his wife and two children death. He passed away in 1881 and was buried in Ayer Itam, Penang.  

Syed Ahmad al-Attas

The mansion which is now the museum is his residence. He was an Arab spice trader from Acheh and Acheh is an Indonesian province in Sumatera Island. The mansion was build around 1860s. Mr. al-Attas has two wives. His first wife is a Malay noble woman of royal court. His second wife is a Chinese woman, the daughter of a Strait Chinese black pepper merchant whose name is Khoo Teang Poh (Qiu Tianpao). So, some Arab descents had also been classified as Chinese or associated with Chinese face, lol. I don't know what happened to this guy's children but I know many prominent leaders with this clan name such as the founding member of Malaysian People's Movement party (GERAKAN), Mr. Syed Hussein al-Attas. He formed the party around 1968 as an offshoot of Labor party and nowadays the party is the party with majority Chinese members working with the National Front parties while the founder of this party is a Hadrami Arab.

In 1870s, this Syed Ahmad guy became a staunch supporter of Achehnese movements to expel Dutch imperial power from Northern Sumatera. He sponsored weapons and guns to those people, perhaps his mother is Achehnese so those people are technically his maternal brothers. The residence was not only a mansion but also a place of secret meeting among Achehnese leaders.

In 1930s until 1960s, the mansion had became a place of recycle by Chettiars (Indian). In 1995, the mansion became a place to enhance the love toward art and history through its architecture. It was used as a heritage center. Now, this guy's house became Islamic museum and I walked inside the house.

Place Name: Muzium Islam Pulau Pinang
Address: No. 128 Lebuh Armenian 10200, Penang
Contact: (phone) 604-2620172/2503021 (fax) 604-2644692
Visiting Hours: Everyday 9:00-17:30
Closed: Tuesdays
Ticket: Adult, RM3, Kids, RM1, the uncle gave me discount as I am a student, RM2 yaye! 

Closing The Post

Finished the visit... The upper part of this museum is still in renovation so I have no chance to visit it. Anyone having some free time come to visit this museum and show us what's new up there, haha

Through His will I wish to have some trips to Alor Setar to get some more information. After I've finished this degree I would also like to plan a travel to Gujarat in India as well as Yemen. For now, I have no political and economic interests like others because I live like other non-Bumis. So, I don't care about Malay rights or identification in my documents because I didn't get any benefit from that. I have to work hard to survive like others and only believe the God as my Protector and Friend.

My experience, when I was in Sekolah Agama Rakyat (State Religious School) after mum brought me home from Perlis (I had already been tied with Buddhist sacred thread but I didn't consider the proclamation of refuge to Buddhism teachings yet until I reached 15 years old), those Selangor Javanese officers in religious department also had treated us like foreigners. It was because we are not natives in Selangor state although if we checked back the Javanese officers background, perhaps they're also of immigrants from Indonesia of 1970s. We didn't get textbooks assistance too and we have to buy everything. We weren't rich people with many siblings but nobody believes us or perhaps playing do not understand. Nowadays, we don't believe any free thing. We have to pay and work for everything and thank You dear the God because You made me return to our path because it is not the fault of the path but fault of human-being with negative thoughts : )

Last time I didn't even put "Malay" in my documents though my late grandpa had registered my dad as a "Malay." If he is still alive today perhaps I would ask him why we have to be registered with our mothers identity like Jews? We are not Jews and I don't want to be one because we indeed are not Jews though some of them in the East are our cousins. I just ticked "others" and I hate the question for racial background in documents and forms. I don't know what is the benefit of checking people's racial background when we are the citizen of the same country???! Those of non-Malay background could not get any help or assistance? Any difference in treatments?

There are many kind of non-Malay natives who had been here since few hundred of years before independence like the Siamese, the half native Portuguese speaking Luso Christians of Malacca whom are Catholics, the Baba and Nyonya of Chinese descent, the Ibanese, the Dusun-Kadazan of Borneo, Orang Asli Semenanjung and many others. They were all recognized according to their ethnicity but Peranakan Arab were not recognized while being forced to have hidden identity (including lying on their obvious background to get business tender). 

I had also snapped some pictures of Acheen Street Masjid but I don't know what's wrong with the system. It doesn't want to accept the picture. I had long tried to access the masjid and recording it into documents. It is known as Malay Masjid but the founder of the masjid is Mr. al-Attas. Never mind, nations are all brothers and sisters. But we should not lie to others. That's what I am trying to say. Just tell the truth, it is difficult but at least it makes us feel better.

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace, and love, amin!

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