Pearl of Faith

Malaysian Nasheed - Raihan

Raihan’s first and most successful album [tooltip text=”Praise” trigger=”hover”]Puji-pujian[/tooltip] released in 1997. It could have been a phenomenon all by itself, but in fact it appeared simultaneously with two other amazing albums of original Malaysian nasheed, [tooltip text=”Divine Light” trigger=”hover”]Cahaya Ilahi[/tooltip] by Hijjaz and a self-titled album by Rabbani. Together the three albums transformed Malaysian pop music, becoming the top-sellingest local records before or since.  The music industry rushed to create a category for them just to give them a music award, and proceeded to produce increasingly plastic imitation bands in their wake.  It is hard to believe nearly 20 years have passed. The Malaysian nasyid moment appears to be gone; the most popular religious music artist in Malaysia now is Maher Zain, a foreigner.  As their international presence has faded, websites that once existed just to translate the lyrics of Hijaz, Raihan and Rabbani have vanished from the internet. Bin Gregory Productions is left to fill the gap.

[two_first]Pearl of Faith
Iman Mutiara

[two_first]Faith is a pearl
In the hearts of humanity
Who of Allah have certainty 
Most Holy, Most Powerful
Iman adalah mutiara
Di dalam hati manusia
Yang menyakini Allah
Maha Esa Maha Kuasa

How can you, without faith
Feel your servanthood to Him
How can you, without faith 
Become a righteous servant of the Lord
Tanpamu iman bagaimanalah
Merasa diri hamba padaNya
Tanpamu iman bagimanalah
Menjadi hamba Allah yang bertaqwa

Faith cannot be inherited
From a righteous father
It cannot be bought or sold
Nor found washed upon the shore
Iman tak dapat diwarisi
Dari seorang ayah yang bertaqwa
Ia tak dapat dijual beli
Ia tiada di tepian pantai

By any means whatsoever
Though you may climb the highest mountain
Though you may cross an ocean of fire
Still it cannot be possessed

If you do not return unto the Lord (x 5)
Walau apapun caranya jua
Engkau mendaki gunung yang tinggi
Engkau merentas lautan api
Namun tak dapat jua dimiliki

Jika tidak kembali pada Allah (x 5)



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Original Malay Lyrics found at Lirik Lagu

English Translation (c) Bin Gregory Productions

Raihan’s Sesungguhnya, in English

Malaysian Nasheed - Raihan

A translation of the classic nasheed Sesungguhnya by Raihan into English.

In truth this heart longs for You
In truth this being longs for You
Yet I cannot understand
Why love still has not appeared
Yet I cannot understand
Why longing has not yet blossomed
Sebenarnya hati ini cinta kepada Mu
Sebenarnya diri ini rindu kepada Mu
Tapi aku tidak mengerti
Mengapa cinta masih tak hadir
Tapi aku tidak mengerti
Mengapa rindu belum berbunga

Verily though I may gather
Every jewel from the ocean floor
Verily though I may pour
Rainwater from Your seven heavens
Yet love will not appear
Yet longing will not blossom
Sesungguhnya walau ku kutip
Semua permata di dasar lautan
Sesungguhnya walau ku siram
Dengan air hujan dari tujuh langit Mu
Namun cinta takkan hadir
Namun rindu takkan berbunga

I try to offer
A gift to You
But maybe because it’s contents
Are imperfect, it fails to shine
Ku cuba menghulurkan
Sebuah hadiah kepada Mu
Tapi mungkin kerana isinya
Tidak sempurna tiada seri

I try to water it
That it may grow and blossom
But maybe because the water
Is not as fresh as the fount of Kauthar
Ku cuba menyiramnya
Agar tumbuh dan berbunga
Tapi mungkin kerana airnya
Tidak sesegar telaga kauthar

Verily though I may gather
Every jewel from the ocean floor
Verily though I may pour
Rainwater from Your seven heavens
Yet love will not appear
Yet longing will not blossom
If not for hope of Your mercy
If not craving for sympathy
From You, O Allah

Sesungguhnya walau ku kutip
Semua permata di dasar lautan
Sesungguhnya walau ku siram
Dengan air hujan dari tujuh langit Mu
Namun cinta tak kan hadir
Namun rindu tak akan berbunga
Jika tidak mengharap rahmat Mu
Jika tidak menagih simpati
Pada Mu ya Allah

Lord bestow upon me Your love
Lord grant me longing for You
That I may know
My gratitude belongs only to You
Tuhan hadiahkanlah kasih Mu kepadaku
Tuhan kurniakanlah rinduku kepada Mu
Moga ku tahu
Syukur ku hanyalah milik Mu

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Hard to believe it has been nearly 18 years since this first came out.  It is merely old now, but in another ten years it will be a classic. In the meantime I preserve it here.

Original Malay lyrics sourced from, compiled by Mastura AR

Inggeris translation mine.

Menjelang 1 Mei

Approach to Mukah

A rousing poem in Bahasa Malaysia from student of agriculture Chairil Aswad, on twitter as @schwarzenmann.  First published in E-Sastera Sajak Facebook group, 30 April 2015. Translation into Inggeris mine.  Views expressed are not etc etc.

Celebrating May 1


(For Lia)

The city is no longer the place
for me to record my poems of struggle
slogans, banners or observations
and it is not the place
for a degree in agriculture
stuffed and mounted like a corpse
on a mahogany cabinet
in an air-conditioned office

the city is no longer my home
long have I left the air-conditioned office

in front of me today
farm-folk and fisher-people
awaiting their stories
to be scrawled upon pages and pages
to become a single poem of advocacy

this far corner of the world is my home now
a banana packing shed for an office building

I have left the city
to liberate farm folk
from the control of the greedy
who freeze their subsidies
and replace them with GST


(untuk Lia)

Kota itu bukan lagi tempatnya
untuk aku merakamkan puisi perlawanan
slogan-slogan, sepanduk serta tangkapan
seperti juga bukan tempatnya
sekeping ijazah pertanian
dibingkaikan dan dipamer
atas kabinet mahogani
bilik pejabat berhawa dingin

kota itu tidak lagi menjadi rumahku
bilik pejabat sudah lama aku tinggalkan

di hadapanku hari ini
kaum tani dan nelayan
menantikan cerita mereka
dicoret pada helaian-helaian
menjadi sebuah puisi pembelaan

ceruk perdesaan ini adalah rumahku kini
pondok pisang sesikat sebagai bangunan pejabat
aku tinggalkan kota
untuk memandiri kaum tani
ketika penguasa rakus
menghentikan subsidi
diganti dengan GST


MRE: Botok and Pulut Udang

Mengkudu, Morinda citrafolia

As Ramadan winds down, I race to give credit to local foods that got me through the month. These MREs, Malaysia Ramadan Essentials, are practically complete meals in one package. Add rice as needed.

Pulut Panggang Udang

Pulut Udang
Pulut Udang


Wrapped in banana leaves held in place by bamboo pins, pulut panggang udang is beras pulut, sticky or glutinous rice, cooked with a bit of santan, stuffed with a spicy shredded coconut filling cooked with tiny dried shrimp.  The whole package is grilled on a skillet to impart the banana leaf flavor to the rice.  The size of a large cigar and selling for a ringgit a piece, one unit is equivalent to a light meal.




Botok tenggiri
Botok tenggiri


Botok is a huge favorite of the adults of the household.  It is a Sarawakian favorite not well known in other parts of the country, and it is basically unavailable outside of bulan puasa, the month of fasting. The package looks fairly unappealing: a moist black leafy lump of organic matter.


Botok dissected
Botok dissected


Open it up though, and you find a piece of tenggiri fish surrounded by a shredded coconut preparation.  It is said the best botok is made with fish past their expiration date.  The fish has absorbed the nutty oils, the coconut is pungent and fishy and the whole shebang is given a fresh, bitter taste by the leaf it is wrapped in, something akin to mustard greens or collards.


Mengkudu, Morinda citrafolia
The botok wrapper: Mengkudu, Morinda citrafolia


That leaf comes from the Mengkudu tree, Morinda citrafolia.  Westerners may recall it as the source for Tahitian Noni Juice, an MLM miracle food craze big around the turn of the century.  Mengkudu is a weedy tree in the mulberry family, popping up in cracks in the pavement just like mulberries do back home.  The fruit gives a hint of the relationship, but mengkudu fruit tastes utterly vile and smells nearly as bad as it rots on the ground.  The juice is strictly for medicinal purposes, whatever those may be.  Consult your bomoh.  But in our house, we eat the leaf wrapper along with the fish, just the sort of veggie dish to keep you regular through the fasting month.

Morinda growing beside the river
Fruits ruined by a fox in hunger
Wait til I collapse in death my lover
Fallen into the hands of another
Batang mengkudu di tepi sungai
Putiknya musnah dimakan musang
Abang menunggu mati terkulai
Adik lah pindah ke tangan orang

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Malay pantun sourced from Malay Civilization.  Translation mine.

America Bombs Indonesia over Drug Deal Gone Bad … in 1832

American troops attacking Kota Batu, Aceh

American troops bombed and invaded Aceh in 1832, becoming the USA’s first military intervention in Asia.  The affair began with the Friendship, a trading vessel flying American colors, coming to port in Kuala Batu, Aceh on the 7th of February 1831.  This was not unusual as American merchant ships had been trading regularly on the western shore of Sumatra since the beginning of the 19th century.  For the crew of the Friendship, however, what should have been a routine transaction ended in disaster.

The Friendship had set voyage from Salem, Massachusetts, a major port of trade for the USA in those days.  The Friendship was led by Captain Charles M. Endicott on a mission to buy pepper, opium and sundry other goods from the Far East.  When the Friendship dropped anchor at Kuala Batu, Endicott and a number of his crew went ashore to conduct negotiations on the price and quantity of goods to be bought.  Things took a sudden turn when three wooden boats – perahus – pulled alongside the Friendship.  They were full of locals armed to the teeth who proceeded to board.

In the struggle that followed, the crew of the Friendship was defeated, with three American lives lost.  The Friendship was captured.  Seeing the attack unfold from the shore, Endicott and his small delegation fled in their dinghy to the neighbouring town of Muki to seek aid from captains of three Salem ships there in recovering the Friendship.  

The Friendship was recovered, absent its cargo of pepper and opium valued at US$50,000.  Strong protests were lodged with the local rulers, the uleebalang, but to no avail.  The plunder of the Friendship became a sensation in America.  Andrew Jackson, the American president at the time, responded by sending a punitive military expedition against the people of Kuala Batu, or “Quallah Battoo” as it was spelled in the American press. On the 28th of August 1831, Commodore John Downes set off in the frigate Potomac with more than 300 soldiers, in what became the first military intervention in Asia in American history.

Kuala Batu, in the Southwest Aceh Regency
Kuala Batu, in the Southwest Aceh Regency

The Potomac arrived in Kuala Batu on the 5th of February 1832 disguised as a Danish merchant ship.  The people of Kuala Batu were unaware of the deception.  Downes and 282 of his soldiers attacked without warning.  After sinking the boats at anchor in the bay and destroying the seaside forts with cannon fire, the shore was taken in fierce fighting that included hand to hand combat.  Despite stiff resistance from the people of Kuala Batu, their matchlock rifles were no match against superior American military technology.  The remaining Acehnese soldiers fell back to a fort further inland.

Rather than take the inland fort, Downes instructed his men to loot and pillage the town instead.  Only after the town was thoroughly plundered did Downes shell the town and inland fort with heavier cannonades from the Potomac.   By the time the uleebalang surrendered, more than 450 residents of Kuala Batu had perished, including women and children, and Kuala Batu was in flames. The Americans suffered two dead and eleven wounded.

The Potomac returned home after delivering a stern warning to the leadership of Kuala Batu never to attack American vessels again.  In the end, although there was some degree of criticism from the general public of the harsh measures taken, President Jackson himself [heartless genocidal murderer that he was] felt Downes took appropriate action.

The Salem Seal
The Salem Seal

Why did the people of Kuala Batu attack the Friendship?

One reason for the attack was that the locals were fed up with American traders, who were felt to cheat and tamper with the scales.  Endicott spoke at length with Po Adam, a friendly uleebalang who had enabled Endicott’s escape from Kuala Batu.  According to Po Adam, the local royalty were upset with the drop in the price of pepper and the arrogance of the American merchant captains who often did not pay in full.

Following the incident, trade between Salem and Aceh intensified.  In 1839, the rulers of Salem resolved to fashion a city seal bearing an image of an Acehnese in formal attire with the Latin motto,  “Divitis Indiae usque ad ultimum sinum“, or “To the rich East Indies until the last lap.”

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The article above is a more or less a direct translation of an article in Bahasa Indonesia written by Rahadian Rundjan for the magazine Historia.  Rahadian Rundjan’s article includes direct quotes from Gold Braid and Foreign Relations: Diplomatic Activities of U.S. Naval Officers 1798-1883 by David Foster Long, Death of an Empire: The Rise and Murderous Fall of Salem, America’s Richest City by Robert Booth, and Global Trade and Visual Arts in Federal New England edited by Patricia Johnston and Caroline Rank, which are unmarked here.  A small amount of supporting material has been added from the Wikipedia entries on the First Sumatran Expedition and the town of Salem.

The original article by Rahadian Rundjan: Ketika Amerika Menginvasi Aceh

Nothing Left to Say – Blues Gang

coconut masjid


Nothing Left to Say

Translation by Bin Gregory Productions

Riding my bike down to the store
Middle of the day, in the middle of the heat
Who’s got the strength to tap rubber
Nothing left to say
If I could, I’d be a school teacher
Down in Kuala Pilah

Apo Nak Dikato

by Blues Gang

Poi pokan naik basika
Tongah haghi tongah paneh
Apo dayo motong gotah
Apo nak dikato
Kalau boleh nak jadi cikgu sekolah
Kek Kolo Pilah

Fields of paddy, buffalos all over
Water from the well is so darn cold
Quiet as can be, not a soul around
Nothing left to say
If I could, I’d have some commotion
Like in Tampin town

Sawah leba kobau banyak
Air pigi sojuk sekali
Sunyi sopi takdo oghang
Apo nak dikato
Kalau boleh nak bising-bising
Macam pokan Tampin


Cooking up dinner. Village rice
Coconut milk and chili peppers
Don’t have a rice thresher no more
Nothing left to say
Lots of folks got factory jobs
Down Seremban way

Tanak nasik bogheh kampong
Masak lomak cili (lado) api
Mesen padi takdo lai
Apo nak dikato
Ramai oghang dah kojo kilang
Kek pokan Seghomban


Kemang Bay, Four Mile road
Where everybody splashes and plays
Come the weekend sure is packed
Nothing left to say
The sea just keeps getting saltier
Down in Port Dickson town

Verse 1 repeats.


Batu Ompek Toluk Komang
Tompek oghang mandi mando
Aghi minggu ponoh sosak
Apo nak dikato
Air laut bertambah masin
Kek pokan Port Dickson

Ulang 1.

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1. Another pop song in the dialect of Negeri Sembilan
2. Originally published as “What’s left to say”, I couldn’t live with it after FB fren AA suggested a far better translation.

Tapai ubi, tapai nasi

Tapai ubi


Fold the corners of the tapai leaf

that you may fill it with stale rice

If you want your knowledge to last

Don’t ignore your teacher’s advice


Lipat berbucu si daun tapai

Hendak diisi beras sekal

Pesan guru jangan diabai

Jika hendak ilmunya kekal



A banana leaf wrapped and held with [tooltip text=”coconut rachis” trigger=”hover”]lidis[/tooltip] could hold just about anything.  In this case, it holds tapioca root, ubi kayu, that has … crossed over.  Normally a dense, bland, starchy tuber considered poverty food or at best home cooking, it is transformed into a pillowy soft sweetness soaking in a fiery liqueur: tapai ubi.


tapai ubi flesh



The sweetness of tapai comes from the yeast

Honey from the bee is sweeter by far

Without faith a man is at loss

Like standing deadwood waiting to fall


Manis tapai kerana ragi

Lebih manis madu lebah

Tanpa iman manusia rugi

Bak kayu buruk menunggu rebah



Tapai refers to anything fermented with yeast.  Cooked rice can become tapai nasi, popular in Sarawak.  Glutinous rice, uncooked, becomes tapai pulut, the first step in the production of tuak or rice liquor. Muslims needn’t worry: although C2H6O is chemically present in the tapai, it does not intoxicate even in massive amounts and therefore is not khamr.  Discerning the halal and eating it is not something our forefathers needed a chem lab for.

The first pantun suggests the tapai is cooked in the leaf, and I assumed it was, till early one morning at Satok market I found my dealer taking tapai ubi from a large plastic tub under the table.  The banana leaf was just marketing!  You gotta admit though, a banana leaf is classy packaging.  Better that than a little plastic baggie, certainly, and environmentally friendly besides.  Sanitary?  Well I’m still standing here, ain’t I?  Other leaves are also used, like young coconut leaves[1] for tapai nasi, or less commonly, the unidentified swamp leaf below.



Tapai won’t cook without the yeast, or ragi, a dry crumbly substance sprinkled on top.  I’m unsure what species of creature it is or where it comes from and I decline to enquire further.  The last pantun suggests mysterious and distant origins and I’ll leave it at that.



The Javanese fellow is a maker of tapai

The yeast arrives from the shore over yonder

As long as my dreams remain unfulfilled

Let me die among strangers a trav’ler[2]


Orang Jawa membuat tapai

Raginya datang dari seberang

Selagi cita-cita tidak tercapai

Biar mati di rantau orang




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1. Also used for ketupat, previously on BGP.

2. Pantuns sourced from Malay Civilization, English translation mine.

Gurindam 12 Fasal 6

old house

by Raja Ali Haji (1808-1873)
English translation © Bin Gregory Productions

This is the gurindam of the sixth issue:

Seek you a companion
Who can be for you a medicine.

Seek you a guru
Who can teach every enemy to you.

Seek you a wife
Who can devote to you her life.

Seek you a friend.
Choose one loyal to the end.

Seek you a servant
Whose manners are decent.[/two_first][two_second]

Ini gurindam pasal yang keenam:

Cahari olehmu akan sahabat,
yang boleh dijadikan obat.

Cahari olehmu akan guru,
yang boleh tahukan tiap seteru.

Cahari olehmu akan isteri,
yang boleh menyerahkan diri.

Cahari olehmu akan kawan,
pilih segala orang yang setiawan.

Cahari olehmu akan abdi,
yang ada baik sedikit budi.[/two_second]

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Raja_Ali_HajiGurindam Dua Belas is a 19th century Malay poem written in rhyming couplets with free meter. It has 12 parts, each dealing with a different pasal, or issue. It was composed by Raja Ali Haji (1808-1873), an intellectual of the Riau-Lingga court best known for his history Tuhfat al-Nafis (the Precious Gift). I’ll be posting my translations pasal by pasal.

Gurindam of the First Issue

Gurindam of the Second Issue

Gurindam of the Third Issue

Gurindam of the Fourth Issue

Gurindam of the Fifth Issue