From Inderapura to Darul Makmur: A Deconstructive History of Pahang is a modest attempt by Farish A. Noor to provide another alternative to the history writing of Pahang, compare to existing literature based on many colonial sources. To write a history of a state like Pahang today requires us to go back to the history of the land and its peoples before the emergence of a political entity that would be named Pahang. While doing so, the historian cannot neglect the fact that before the Malay polities that emerged from the 15th century onwards, there were other sociopolitical systems present in the peninsula, including the indigenous peoples known as the Orang Asli.
Writing the history of the Orang Asli of the Malaysian peninsula is a task fraught with discursive and political complications. For a start, the term ‘the Malay Peninsula’ is itself troublesome because it came into use only during the colonial era and has since become an ideologically loaded signifier, bringing with it a host of essentialist assumptions and primordial historical claims. It has to be emphasised that a history of the Malaysian peninsula has to begin with the recognition that it has always been a fluid, open territory inhabited by a myriad people, with a complexity that resists any attempt at closure and compartmentalisation.
Our contention is that Pahang’s story resulted from a host of variable factors that worked with, and sometimes against each other, pushing along with it a tide of humanity whose collective burdens shifted from one generation to the next. Again, we emphasise the contingency of Pahang’s genesis and the multiplicity of identities in the present and the future.
Writing a book on the history of a state—understood as both a place or locality and an identity affixed to its people—can only be such a contingent enterprise, reflecting the arbitrary nature of the object under discussion. This, however, does not mean that one cannot write the history of a state, for it is undeniable that Pahang exists and simply is; what it was and is and shall become, is something that cannot be taken for granted.
Therefore, we need to begin at the origins, in the hazy times when identities were not as fixed as they are today, and when the word ‘Pahang’ had yet been uttered. We shall begin with a look at the landmass that would one day be eyed as a prize by colonialists and nationalists, a vast expanse of dirt, the interior of which was the home to many communities, and a coastline exposed to the tradewinds of the world.