A Preliminary Study Of Khamr Drinking In The Malaysian Malay Societies
The practice of
Khamr is an Arabic term which refers to any liquid that comes from any source of ingredients that contains ethanol and is able to cause intoxication. It is an intoxicating alcoholic beverage which can be of any type and any brand. Khamr drinking is a part of social tradition all over the world included in the Malay societies. Traditionally, the drinkers among the Malays can be divided into the royal class and the citizens (rakyat). The drinking culture among the royal class, which included the related ruling class that was closed to the royal families, was traced in several Malay classical literatures.
In Sulalatus Salatin, the author illustrated that khamr drinking was part of the tradition for people in the palace who were either kings themselves or the ruling classes who were closely related to royal families. For example, Seri Rama was served with khamr in a copper bronze cup as asked by Sultan because Seri Rama was well known as a drinker (Ahmat, 2016). Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa illustrates the drinking culture of Raja Phra Ong Mahawangsa who usually drank after waking up in early morning before he converted into Islam through Syeikh Abdullah Yamani (Siti Hawa, 1998). In Hikayat Raja Pasai, the word ‘arak api’ was used as an elephant name. At that time, elephants were recognized as a symbol of eminence for a country (Russell, 1999). The naming of such a good property as ‘arak api’ represented arak as something special to them and reflected certain meaning (Russell, 1999).
The Malays as Austronesian speakers in the earlier ages, engaged with Indians who closely follow the doctrine of Buddhism and Hinduism. Indian emergence into the Malay world had indeed became integrated with the concept of ‘being Malay’ culturally and commercially through trading. Then, the coming of Islam brought dramatic changes into the Malays life that contradicted with the Indian culture (Andaya & Andaya, 2017; Milner, 2011). Therefore, drinking khamr is considered as deviating not only from the Islamic teaching but also from the norms as Malays since Islam prohibited the khamr. Those changes involved daily diet in which they are prohibited from drinking khamr and eating pork that was gradually adopted for over five or six centuries (Milner, 2011).
The arrival of the colonial in the peninsular changed the value of khamr drinking. Drinking was seen as a practice for civilized people. Drinking khamr became a symbol of civilization and modernization. It was seen as a noble drink in the society and those that did not drink it would be scorned (Ali Surjani, 1954). Andaya and Andaya (2017) revealed that Tengku Kudin (Kelang) pursued the civilized reputation by adopting the English way of life by drinking sherry (strong wine) even though it deviated from the Islamic teaching. For some of the Malay rulers, civilized people were the ones who adapted to, and accepted as a role model, the English law, English government and English lifestyle. This was what civilization meant for them. The western culture was considered the superior culture in the Malay society during the era of colonization particularly during the British time. Mohammad Redzuan (2018) stated that even though colonisation causes the Malay to lose their political power, they did not lose their faith. However, that faith is seen clashed with the real practice (shari‘ah) aspect for some of the Malays who involving in khamr drinking practices. Based on that situation, how is the reality of khamr drinking phenomena involving the Malays in Malaysia?
Swettenham (1895) wrote that the real Malays ‘never drinks intoxicant’ (p. 3) and ‘there is no drunken husband’ (p. 9) in the Malay families. Syed Hussein (2010) also mentioned that one of the good sides of a Malay is ‘never a drunkard’ (p. 74). Likewise, Mahathir (2000) in his speech remarked that
However, Nordin (1975), claimed that
In Malaysia, there is no specific organization or institution that provides in-depth data specifically on
Jabatan Agama Islam Malaysia (JAKIM), in coordination with the law department, reported that s
The statement above strongly indicated the uncertain and limited data about the Malay drinkers. Therefore, a need to identify and understand the scenario and phenomenon of drinking culture among the Malay in Malaysia. Such understanding is important before studying any issues related to the behaviours of drinkers.
How is the scenario of
Purpose of the Study
To illustrate the scenario of
Data was collected through library study, direct observation and interviews. It was analysed according to qualitative narrative designs. The library study included document analysis which inspected printed and electronic written data as well as video and audio data that consist of information about drinking practices in the Malay society in the Malaysian context. Some of the documents are primary documents which contain written statements about individuals and society who experienced the phenomenon (drinking) by themselves. The rest of the documents are secondary documents that contain significant information from other individuals or society who had experienced and witnessed the phenomenon. Examples of these primary documents are the writings of biography and autobiography, historical manuscripts and true short stories. Secondary data such as statistics and findings from relevant institutions and organizations included reports, letters, meeting minutes and newspapers. The researcher also referred to thesis, journal articles and academic books as well as popular books, magazines and newspapers for related information that is useful. For direct observation, the researcher investigated the drinking scenario as a member in the society. The researcher went to several clubs and places that served
Syed Hussein (2008) categorized the Malays as Muslims who can be divided into three categories. The first are those that have a strong belief in and practice the Islamic teachings. The second are those that do not practice Islam and just understand Islam at the surface level even though they were born as Muslims, and they get emotionally disturbed when Islam is criticised. The third are those who claimed that they are Muslims but do not understand Islam at all. He added that the practice of Islamic teachings has become a culture in the form of rituals and ceremonies rather than philosophy and doctrine. The influence of the western system affects the values and lifestyle of individuals and groups in the upper and middle classes, especially those in the urban area. He argued that urbanization impacts on the lifestyle of the minority group of Malays who do not strongly obey religious values. This group of Malays can be seen drinking
Nordin (1975) claimed that the Malay elite class who was culturally westernised by colonials recognized drinkers as ‘civilized’ and ‘respected’ people. Drinking was their hobby during leisure time in night clubs and bars. In addition, during special events or ‘drinking ceremonial’ that took longer in which wine was specifically served, they offered
Tunku Abdul Rahman (the first Prime Minister of Malaysia), was one example that represented the upper class as a royal family and politician. Abdullah (2017) in his book ‘Conversation with Tunku Abdul Rahman’ wrote and described Tunku as an open-minded person who openly admitted that he enjoyed drinking khamr like liquor and wine during and after meals. Tunku even classified those Muslims who do not drink
Jeshurun (2007) recorded in his writing that Tunku Abdul Rahman solved a diplomacy issue by offering drinks and giving presents at a party at the residency. Tunku even ignored the issue raised by the late speaker of parliament, Mohamed Asri, who revealed that
Alattas (1990) mentioned that he witnessed the royal families enjoying their drinks in Pub Brass Grill, which was nearby his office. He also stated that during that time, the Malays made drinking as an alternative way to unwind and relax. Pub Brass Grill was owned by a Malay in the area of Medan Tuanku. It was a favourite place for the royal families and their friends. The other nightclubs that were owned by the Malays were Greenmaids and Tropikana.
Alattas (1990) also shared the story written by Akhdiat Mirhaja on ‘
Almarhum Sultan, who was the leader of Islam in Perak at that time, made a self-reflection after returning from umrah in Mecca. As a leader of Islam in his state, he felt extremely guilty for being a hypocrite Sultan. However, before he died, he had stopped drinking
Akhdiat Mirhaja himself witnessed that the Sultan had stopped drinking
During the two confessions made by the Sultan as quoted above, in the palace at the ground floor level, there was a party and all his royal servants enjoyed drinking and dancing during the ceremony held for the Sultan who just got back from Mecca. The Sultan forbade everyone from entering his room and he just wanted to stay with Akhdiat Mirhaja who he considered an
In addition to the royal families,
In 1991, INTAN published a book on glossary of terms for public executives which contained cocktail etiquette. In that book, cocktail is defined as ‘a type of reception in which only drinks and snacks are served, and the guests normally only stand’. A cocktail party is an effective time for public executives to get along or mingle with others in the form of business, entertainment and meetings. In cocktail parties,
Nordin (1975) added that to be close with the public, they were trained with Islamic teaching such as praying, reciting the
The formal dining etiquettes were divided into four levels that begin with a pre-dinner drink. In the pre-dinner drink, they learned about appetisers and aperitif. The aperitif consisted of a variety of
During a formal dinner, they were advised to order
Nordin (1975) who specifically studied the lifestyle of MCS, also recorded that some of the MCS served
Another government organization that has been found to practice
In addition, the opening of Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) in Singapore had facilitated the supply of
Habib also shared that those who were from English schools were exposed to drinking and English culture. He even shared his experience of being indoctrinated by the British culture and thinking like a British. In addition, as stated by Andaya and Andaya (2017) the Malay Administrative Service co-opted into the British system and emulated the British lifestyle. The British education system through the establishment of English schools acted as a doctrine to uphold the colony’s ideology (gold, gospel and glory). Ali Surjani (1954) criticised and expressed his disappointment regarding the drinking practices. He was concerned about the people during his time who were acknowledged and respected for their knowledge about Islam and had been called as religious teacher but did not want to miss drinking
The practice of
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