Undang-undang ke-99: The 99 laws of Perak

The 99th law of Undang-Undang 99 Perak appears to be concerned with what good governance is about, where a Raja has the ability to express his concerns for matters of the state and her people, as well as for the Raja to listen to his subjects. The 99th law reads:

Undang2 ke99

which is translated as, following J. Rigby’s appraisal of the subject:

99th Law

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“This little pamphlet on an old Perak Code is being published to illustrate the working of the adat temenggong or “autocratic custom” of the ancient river States. The “Ninety-nine Laws” (as this code is called) were not altogether what they profess to be. They had never been enacted by any legislative authority and were always liable to be overridden at the arbitrary will of the king. They were a compromise between the law of the Prophet and the ancient adat of the country. In some respects they bear the impress of fraud, whether intentional or otherwise, for they explicitly claim to be the work of Nushirwan and Buzurjmihr, who certainly had nothing whatever to do with their compilation.”

– R.J. Wilkinson’s preface. In LAW. PART II. THE NINETY-NINE LAWS OF PERAK. Edited and translated by J. Rigby

Just who is Nushirwan? Also known as Nushirwan (or Anushiravan) the Just, he was the son of King Kobat (or Kavadh I) who ruled Persia from 531 to 579AD. He introduced rationalisation of taxes, by reorganising the wealth of the upper classes, the results of which lasted into Islamic times. He even submitted himself for review and drew the regulation “pay like all the rest”. Relevant to the 99 laws of Perak, Nushirwan reorganised the laws of the land into four main areas.

Prophet Muhammad SAW was also said to have handed down four classifications of laws to his close sahabats – Abu Bakar (law of equity), Umar ibn Khattab (law of unbending severity), Usman ibn Affan (compromise of between equity and severity) and to Ali (law of charity).

These four elements were said to be incorporated into Undang-Undang 99 Perak (the 99 laws of Perak). It is interesting to note that all ninety-nine laws were written in the form of questions and answers, which bears a semblance to Persian laws of old. However, Rigby postulated that the link of Persia to the 99 laws of Perak may well be added grandeur to the story of how these laws came into being.

According to Rigby, the 99 laws were believed to have been brought to the Perak by Saiyid* Hassan (?Raja S’ari). During the reign of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, Saiyid Abdul Majid was said to be his Orang Kaya Menteri, and the law was handed down to Saiyid Jalaluddin (To’ Tambak of Pulau Pisang), and subsequently the other Saiyids, who were elected as Menteris in the Sultan’s court. The Saiyids ranked the 99 laws in importance as second only to the laws of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, and they used the laws as reference whenever the Sultan consulted them on matters of the state, especially those pertaining to Islam and welfare of the people. The Saiyids then became very influential in the istana. The first prominent Saiyid in the court of the Sultan of Perak was Saiyid Abu Bakar bin Saiyid Jalaluddin during the reign of Sultan Iskandar Dzulkarnain (Marhum Kaharullah).

Rigby divided the 99 laws of Perak into four categories:

1. Public law
2. Proprietary rights and duties
3. Slavery, sorcery and miscellaneous
4. Relations of the sexes

As each section contains laws that were not written in a strict numerical order, the 99 laws can also be categorised as such:

1. Duties and responsibilities of a Raja
2. Laws pertaining to adat
3. Criminal law
4. Family law

The 99th law described above would fall under the duties and responsibilities of a Raja. Sembangkuala have briefly posted excerpts of some of these laws, and you may find them by using the search box in the top right corner of the blog, or look under the category for Publications.

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[*] The saiyids are said to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, by way of his daughter, Fatimah Az-zahra. For the genealogy of the Jamalullail family of Perak, as drafted by R.O. Winstedt, click here.

Reference:
1. Papers on Malay Subjects. Law: Part II, The 99 laws of Perak. ed. Rigby J. FMS Government Press, Kuala Lumpur. 1908
2. Wikipedia

One thought on “Undang-undang ke-99: The 99 laws of Perak

  1. Pingback: 28th Sultan of Perak: Sultan Idris Murshidul Azzam Shah ibni Almarhum Raja Bendahara Alang Iskandar (1887-1916) « SembangKuala BLOG

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