by Raja Mariam Raja Mohamed Iskandar
We were late. About three months late. An elder of Batak Rabit passed away three months ago and lay buried, could have probably been an oral history of the early life of Almarhum Sultan Abdullah Muhammad Shah II.
Two cousins, one a great-granddaughter of the late Sultan and the other, his great-grandniece, set out to Batik Rabit on a quest to trace the early history of Sultan Abdullah. All was not lost as we were fortunate enough to meet another elder of the village who is the great-grandson of Almarhum’s staunch aide. With the help of the village’s imam and muezzin, we met Mohd Hussein Haji Yahya, 76.
Pak Hussein was unable to offer much information about the late Sultan but we were delighted to learn about someone who had a direct and close link with him. His great grandfather, Ibrahim bin Taha, was a loyal supporter and a close friend of the Sultan. To quote Pak Hussein, “Dia damping dengan Mohom Serotan Abdullah.” He fought alongside the Sultan during the uprising against the British or more precisely, against Perak’s first British Resident, J.W.W. Birch, in 1875.
According to Pak Hussein, his great-grandfather, out of his own volition, was among those who were exiled to the Seychelles along with the Sultan in 1877. After 14 years of life in banishment and after many appeals, the Sultan was finally allowed to leave the Seychelles but still bound by several strict conditions, one of which was to not set foot to his homeland of Perak again. In 1894, the Sultan and his entourage, which included Ibrahim Taha, set sail for Singapore. Eventually, Pak Hussein’s great-grandfather did return to Perak because it was at Durian Sebatang, Perak that he breathed his last breath and interred.
Another of Pak Hussein’s ancestors, Laksamana Mohd Amin, however was not as fortunate as Ibrahim Taha. He was not permitted to leave Singapore and there he remained until his death. It was interesting to discover that Pak Hussein was among those given the honour to receive Laksamana Mohd Amin’s remains which was later interred at the Al-Ghufran Royal Mausoleum in Bukit Chandan. His grave lays near that of Almarhum Sultan Abdullah’s, his comrade and Sultan. In life and in death, they were never far apart.
Through Pak Hussein, we also learned about another of Sultan Abdullah’s closest aide, Laksamana Tok Tambah. Although the Laksamana was spared from exile, he had fought fiercely against the British together with Ibrahim Taha. A man of immense wealth, Tok Tambah had built an impregnable fort of which very faint traces are now left to be seen.
Although no dates were given, it was reported that Batak Rabit was previously known as Kampung Laksamana, to denote the influence of Laksamana Tok Tambah. Recorded history shows that during the time of Sultan Abdullah, it was already known as Batak Rabit. Laksamana Tok Tambah had built a wooden mosque near his fort. And when he acquired more wealth, he replaced the original wooden mosque with a brick one in 1885.
The mosque is still in good repair and is simply called Masjid Kampung Batak Rabit. On the grounds is where Tok Tambah and his lineage are buried. And for these two descendants of Almarhum Sultan Abdullah, it was a privilege to have stepped foot on and to offer the ‘Asar prayers in the mosque built by his close ally.
Photographs (apart from the photo of the fort at Bandar Bahru) courtesy of Raja Mariam Raja Mohd Iskandar and Raja Nur Jannah Raja Hirdan.
Raja Mariam Raja Mohamed Iskandar lives in Rapat Setia, Ipoh.