More Nasyid Translations

Continuing on with translations from Hijjaz’s wonderful Pelita Hidup album, here is the next in the series, Kala Subuh:

Hijjaz – Kala Subuh

Kala subuh telah bersinar
Daku datang untuk berdoa
Kala sang suria bersinar memancar
Daku datang sujud dan memuja

When dawn has begun to gleam
I come to supplicate
When the sun is pouring out its radiance
I come to worship and prostrate

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Mata Hati

Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani

Hijjaz – Mata Hati

Pandangan mata selalu menipu
Pandangan akal selalu tersalah
Pandangan nafsu selalu melulu
Pandangan hati itu yang hakiki
Kalau hati itu bersih

The vision of the eye always lies
The vision of the intellect always errs
The vision of the ego always strays
The vision of the heart will be true
If that heart is pure

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Pelita Hidup


One of my favorite Nasheed albums is called Pelita Hidup, by the Malaysian group Hijjaz. It is filled with beautiful duas, zikr, and nasheeds, very much a meditative album. Many of the songs deal with the certainty of death and the life of the grave. I’ve translated them and passed them on to Nasheed World. I will reproduce them here as well.

Hijjaz – Pelita Hidup

Hidup ini bagai lampu dinding
Yang dinyalakan dimalam hari
Apabila minyak sudah kering
Ia kan pasti padam sendiri

This life is like the lantern
That burns through the night
When the oil has dried out
It must surely extinguish itself

Demikian juga hidup manusia
Selama hidup di dunia ini
Bila dah cukup umur usia
Putuslah hubungan disana sini

So also the life of Man
As long as he lives in this world
When enough of his lifetime has passed
Every relationship is severed

Setelah kita tinggalkan dunia
Alam yang lain pula menanti
Apakah kita dapat kurnia
Itu melihat amal danbakti

After we leave this world
Lo! Another world awaits us
What will get us good favor
That we show our good work and devotion

Di sana insan cemas dan bimbang
Tak dapat lagi buat alasan
Buruk dan baik akan ditimbang
Kedua-duanya dapat balasan

There Man is fearful and nervous
No more excuses can be made
The bad and the good will be weighed
Together they give the answer

Puteri Santubong

Mount Santubong seen from Bako National Park

Mount Santubong is the subject of a local legend that was put to song. Brother Affendi kindly chased down the lyrics. I’ve supplied a translation for your reading pleasure.

Puteri Santubong, Puteri Sejinjang,
Penjaga gunung negeri Sarawak,
Manis sik ada dapat dilawan,
Anak dak dewa turun kayangan.

Princess Santubong, Princess Sejinjang,
Spirits of the mountain in the land of Sarawak,
So sweet, you could find no comparison
Children like goddesses descended from heaven.

Ooo..Puteri Santubong,
Menenun kain…siang,
Ooo…Puteri Sejinjang,
Menumbuk padi…malam.

Ooo..Princess Santubong,
Weaving clothes…by day,
Ooo..Princess Sejinjang,
Threshing rice…by night.

Satu harinya duak kelayi,
Beranok-anok sik renti-renti,
Sorang madah diri bagus agik,
Sorang sik ngalah sampei ke mati,

One day, the two fight,
Mad quarrel without ceasing,
One says she is the fairest
One won’t back down even unto death

Yalah kisah duak ‘rang puteri,
Suka kelayi setiap hari,
Lalu disumpah raja kayangan,
Menjadi gunung negeri Sarawak.

Here, the story of two princesses
Who liked to fight every day
Till a curse from the lord of the fairies came to pass
And they became the mountain in the land of Sarawak


Jean-Luc Nassy-LeMac

Tracking down new and exciting foods and eating them has been my principle preoccupation since arriving in Malaysia almost six months ago. But I’ve also been happy to find old comfort food from my childhood that was tough to get back in the States. I lived in India for four years as a kid, and my favorite food while I was there was Dosa. Dosa is a thin, soft crepe-like food made from a sour rice flour batter. You can eat them stuffed with spicy potatos or plain dipped in dahl or sambar. It’s a lot like the sour flatbread that is common in Ethiopian and Somali cuisine. In Michigan there are many Indian restaurants, but they serve almost exclusively North Indian food. To my knowledge there is only one South Indian restaurant in the Metro Detroit area where you can get a dosa. That is Udipi’s, on Orchard Lake Road just south of 13 Mile. O Muslims! The restaurant is completely vegetarian, so have no fear.

In any case, when I first visited Malaysia, I asked around for dosa. Since there are many Tamils in Malaysia, I was sure it was available. But you see, dosa in Bahasa Malaysia means sin, so I didn’t get very far asking for it… Maybe for this reason as much as for any other, dosa is transliterated in Malaysia as thosai or tosai. Since I got that straightened out, I’ve been happy as can be. Many Indian restaurants here in Kuching sell them. You can get a tosai twice the size of your plate with sambar and dahl for one ringgit!

Bup Kudus


A religious controversy came and went here in Sarawak before I even heard about it. The Bup Kudus, the translation of the Holy Bible into the Iban language, was banned two weeks ago, and dis-banned today. The Sarawak Tribune I picked up was so information-poor, I could not discern from the article why they banned it, when they banned it, or why they had lifted the ban. I found a partial explanation here:

The secretary-general of the Malaysia National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, the Rev. Wong Kim Kong, said from Kuala Lumpur there had for some time been difficulties over the fact that some words used in Islam were also used in Christian publications.

Some Muslim leaders thought this could perplex Muslims who picked up such books.

Among the words that cause concern is “Allah.” It’s the word Muslims use for the deity they worship, but the Arabic word pre-dated Islam and is also used by Christian Arabs when referring to God – despite the considerable differences in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic conceptions of God.

The Iban translation of the Bible uses the term “Allah Taala” for God, while the other banned Christian books, in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia, also use “Allah” for God.

This is thought likely to be one of the problem areas for the Home Ministry.

I think the Home Ministry made the right move by lifting the ban. But the language issue is an interesting one. Allah is used interchangeably with Tuhan to mean God in Bahasa Malaysia, but Tuhan is the original Malay word. When my son learns the meaning of an Arabic dua in school, Allahumma (Oh God) is still translated as Ya Tuhan. I don’t speak any Iban at all, but I would be very surprised if Allah is the original or preferred word for God, what to speak of Allah Taala (Almighty God), which is rarely heard even among Malays outside of Islamic religious sermons. So why would the Bup Kudus translators go with that translation? It is reminiscent, as Anak_Alam pointed out, of the uproar over Arabic Bibles that began with the Bismillah (that’s it at the top of the page), a distinctly Islamic invocation whether it has an intelligible meaning to non-muslim Arabs or not. Well, now that it is lawful again, I’ll have to go pick up my own copy of the Bup. I’ve still got my childhood copy of the Bible (KJV), so I should be able to learn a bit of Iban with them side by side.

[Update: The first thing that popped into my head when I saw the words Bup Kudus was the Holy Piby, the “Black Man’s Bible” that Rastafarianism is built on. Rather a tangent, I know, but that’s what the web does best. ]


Abang Chu

Girls have cooties. Every young boy can tell you this. Girls may claim that it is in fact boys who have cooties, but that is preposterous. I spent much of second, third and fourth grade avoiding cooties. I also had a number of hand-made cootie catchers, but for some reason, they did not catch or prevent cooties, rather they told fortunes and made predictions, like “You Suck.” But! What is a cootie? My friends, a cootie is a body louse, and it is our fourth Malay contribution to English. It comes from the word kutu which means the exact same thing, lice. Don’t believe me? You may say to yourself, this is a contribution the Malays can keep! But it is too late. Our nation’s youngsters are already infected. All I can offer you is this treatment for head lice that my doctor gave me:

Stand in front of your bathroom mirror. Shave all the hair off the left side of your head. Then, set fire to the hair on the right side. As the lice scurry onto the left side, stab them with an ice pick. There! Head lice will now be the least of your worries.

Malay Contributions to English, pt. 3


Recently, the Congress of the United States of America preserved the pride and culture of our great land by passing a resolution renaming French Fries “Freedom Fries”. Yes, they did. This of course was due to France’s unwillingness to support the war on Iraq. But members of the Coalition of the Unwilling are still at large, infiltrating our national foods and imperiling the purity of the language we use to describe them. Yes, my fellow Americans, I’m talking about that most American of condiments, that most suitable companion to our cherished Freedom Fries, Ketchup! Ketchup, red as the stripes on our flag, is taken from a Malaysian word; Malaysia, a country steadfast in opposition to our nice little war.

After the initial shock fades, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the word for a condiment should come from Malaysia. Europeans went to all corners of the Earth, circumnavigated the globe, just to get spices from the Malay archipelago to put a little flavor into their bland, tasteless cuisine. Pepper, clove, cinnamon, star anise; empires rose and fell in pursuit of these. Why, after all that effort, now that all these wondrous spices are available cheap and in abundance, is American food so dull? I can’t answer that.

But back to Ketchup! Ketchup comes from the Malay word kicap, pronounced kee-chap. It means a soy-based sauce, some sweet, some salty, some with oyster or anchovy extract, all usually with MSG these days unfortunately, and none with tomatoes. I’ll let Bartleby take it from there:

Sailors seem to have brought the sauce to Europe, where it was made with locally available ingredients such as the juice of mushrooms or walnuts. At some unknown point, when the juice of tomatoes was first used, ketchup as we know it was born. But it is important to realize that in the 18th and 19th centuries ketchup was a generic term for sauces whose only common ingredient was vinegar. The word is first recorded in English in 1690 in the form catchup, in 1711 in the form ketchup, and in 1730 in the form catsup. All three spelling variants of this foreign borrowing remain current.

I have learned to listen closely to distinguish the two words, since my two-year old will sometimes take ketchup on her scrambled eggs, and will sometimes take kicap, and woe unto he who is betwixt the two confused. Woe, I say.

[Image: GorillaAttack/Shutterstock]