The Sejarah Melayu or the Malay Annals are unique in that they constitute the only available account of the history of the Malay Sultanate in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century. They are in the nature of what may be termed as historical literature conveying a historical narration on the origins, evolution and demise of a great Malay maritime empire, with its unique system of government, administration and politics.
The Annals have universal appeal as they relate to a major transformation in the lives of the people of the Malay Archipelago from a Hindu-Malay matrix to Islamic–Malay culture. Being an entrepot port, Melaka made rapid progress on account of its cosmopolitan population comprising merchants from India, China, Arabia, Portugal and various other nations of the world. They contributed to the social, economic and political evolution of the Malay Kingdom.
The Annals are therefore a vital source of information for scholars in various fields including sociology, anthropology, economics, politics, international relations, linguistics and literature.
The Annals presents a romanticised the history of the Malay Sultanate in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century. It is regarded as the finest historical literary work in the Malay language written in the 15th century. The Annals are prefaced by a celebration of the greatness of Allah, the Prophet and His Companions. It begins with a genealogical account of the first Sultan of Melaka who is said to be descended from Raja Iskandar Zulkarnain (Alexander the Great).
The Annals dwell at large on the founding of Melaka and its rise to power; its relationship with neighbouring kingdoms and distant countries; the advent of Islam and its spread in Melaka and the region as a whole; the origin of the Cham community in Melaka; the history of the royalty in the region including that of battles both lost and won, marriage ties and diplomatic relationships; the administrative hierarchy that ruled Melaka, the greatness of its Rulers and administrators, including Tun Mutahir the great Prime Minister of Melaka, and the Admiral Hang Tuah, a great Malay legendary hero.
The Annals conclude with the account of Melaka’s defeat by the Portuguese forces, resulting not only in the downfall of Melaka, but also in the eventual emergence of Malay Sultanate in the other parts of the country, including Johor and Pahang.