This small book is the first attempt ever made to set forth coherently a theory of the origin of the Malay sha’ir, a verse-form composed of four lines to a verse having the same end-rhyme. This work will contribute to knowledge not only of Malay literature but more importantly, to the comparatively little knowledge we have of Malay history with particular reference to the history of Islam in the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago. The author himself has drawn our attention to his idea that the theory of the origin of the Malay sha’ir here presented is but one of many important aspects of a larger theory which he is now writing, namely a theory of the Islamization of the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago, in which Muslim mysticism and Muslim mystics played the all-important role of inner intensification of Muslim religious belief.
In the concluding chapter of this book, the author has indefinite terms asserted that Ḥamzah Fanṣūrī was the originator of the Malay sha’ir. The brief discussion on the Malay sha’ir is almost incidental and does not occupy a prominent position therein since the book itself deals more with a detailed and comprehensive account of Ḥamzah’s religious and metaphysical ideas. Nevertheless, enough is stated in the process of commentary on Ḥamzah’s prose and verse to urge the author to conclude positively that he was indeed the originator of the Malay sha’ir. The author had then thought of elaborating on this subject—in which it seemed to him, he had made an important discovery—later, in due course as it were; and now this ‘due course’ has come, for in January 1967 the author came across an article by Professor A. Teeuw of Leiden entitled The Malay Sha’ir, problems of origin and tradition. Teeuw’s important paper in which, after an extensive examination of the relevant available literary source material’s, both internal and external to Malay literature, he put forward his idea that Ḥamzah’s sha’ir is possibly the origin of the Malay sha’ir, has spurred the author to re-examine his own conclusion on the same topic.
Having re-examined the validity of the critical analytical method of approach by which the author has arrived at such a conclusion, he has been able to satisfy himself in re-affirming it now. It is worthwhile and timely to re-write here some of his arguments on Ḥamzah being the originator of the Malay sha’ir based upon his conclusion as set forth in the concluding chapter of his book. The author, however, put forward further arguments not mentioned therein as they and this paper have a direct bearing on the subject of the Malay sha’ir exclusively and on the author’s refutation of some of the theoretical considerations, hypotheses, assertions and doubts Teeuw has set forth in his paper, as well as correction of some errors, both trivial and grave, found therein. The present paper, therefore, must not be regarded as merely a reproduction of relevant ideas and statements in the author’s book, for although it is based on those ideas and statements it is nonetheless a separate and full treatment of the subject considered in its own right.