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Special Panel on History

  Special Panel on History


   
Andrew Peacock

1.  Aceh and Indian Ocean Networks in the Seventeenth Century
Andrew Peacock
Lecturer in Middle Eastern History
University of St Andrews, UK
Abstract

This paper presents evidence for Aceh’s place in links across the Indian Ocean from an underutilised and unusual source, HasanTaj al-Din’s Arabic chronicle of Maldives. This work sheds important light from a non-European perspective on religious and commercial links stretching from the Ottoman lands to Aceh. Of particular interest is the chronicles description of the arrival of a descendant of the famous Sufi ‘Abd al-Qadir Jilani in Aceh. He shows how this Sufi from Ottoman Syria, Muhammad Shams al-Din, spread the Qadiriyyah to India, Aceh and the Maldives and offers valuable evidence for the political and social role of the Qadiriyyah. This offers a new perspective on the religious networks of the seventeenth century, and confirms the crucial role of the Ottoman lands in religious developments in Southeast Asia and Aceh in particular. While the role of Kurdish and Hijaziulema in this respective has long been acknowledged, this influence was generally thought to be indirect, mediated through scholarly networks in Mecca and Medina. HasanTaj al-Din’s evidence shows that in fact there were Ottoman men of religion who came in person to Southeast Asia to spread their tariqas.

 

Annabel Teh Gallop

2.  The Great Seal of Aceh
Annabel Teh Gallop
The British Library, UK
Abstract

For 250 years, the design of the great ‘ninefold’ seal of Aceh was essentially unchanged: a central circle containing the name of the reigning sultan of Aceh, surrounded by eight smaller circles containing the names of their predecessors.  Fourteen seals of nine rulers of Aceh have been documented, from the mid-seventeenth century until the formal end of the sultanate in 1903.
In 1906, the Dutch scholar Rouffaer was the first to deduce that the great seal of Aceh was modelled on the genealogical seal of the Mughal emperors of India.  What was not fully appreciated, though, was the degree of ‘local genius’ involved, for the Acehnese had simply taken the design principle of the Mughal seal and adapted it to their own needs, and there are fundamental differences between the two sovereign seals.  The earliest known ninefold seal is that of Sultanah Tajul Alam Safiatuddin Syah (r.1641-1675), daughter of Iskandar Muda, and present evidence suggests that the innovative design was introduced during her reign and not, as has been assumed, during that of her father.  
In all the Acehnese ninefold seals, the great surprise is that all the names of the early rulers derive from Iskandar Muda’s maternal line, who ruled in the Dar al-Kamal region of Aceh.  Iskandar Muda’s paternal heritage, the dynasty of Makota Alam, is completely unrepresented.  There is no mention on any seal of some of the most renowned names in Acehnese history, such as Sultan Ali Mughayat Syah (d.1530), the first sultan of Aceh, or his son Alauddin Riayat Syah al-Kahar, responsible for a great expansion of empire and for establishing direct ties with the Ottoman empire.  The consistent emphasis instead on the lineage of the Dar al-Kamal dynasty has important implications for our understanding of the Acehnese view of the history and nature of the sultanate of Aceh through three centuries.

 

Anthony Reid

3.  Tectonic disaster and the refashioning of North Sumatra
Anthony Reid
Australian National University
Abstract

The appallingly destructive earthquake and tsunami in Aceh and around the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 has, among its many results, prompted much-needed scientific attention to the past record of this dangerous section of the ‘Ring of Fire’.  The geologists have found evidence in sand deposits and coral uplift of past tears along the subduction zone of a force equal to that of 2004.  Every several centuries there must be such a release of pressure, and the last one on a scale equivalent to 2004 appears to have been in the 14th Century. No doubt there were earlier ones at regular intervals, some of which probably sparked the tsunamis (reported as inexplicable coastal floods) found in Indian and Sri Lankan traditions in the first centuries BCE.
Historians of the region have done much less so far to contribute to this growing understanding.  This paper will bring together such evidence as we do have on North Sumatran mega-events of the past, and discuss what they may have meant for the history of Sumatra and its built heritage.


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