Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Medical Inscription Bowls

Bowls inscribed with different Jawi scripts were used to treat diseases, disorders and problems in the Malay society. They are still being used today.

There are stone or porcelain bowls with reddish Jawi scripts, presumably written with the red ink of the za'faran stamens (saffron).

Water is poured into the inscribed bowls and verses read. The water is then poured from the inscribed bowls into cups or bottles for patients to take home for consumption.

This water from the inscribed bowls is used for many reasons which are worth studying.

Batu Bersurat Terengganu


The Terengganu Inscription Stone is a wonderful archaeological find. It provides evidence that Islam reached Terengganu very early in Malay History - some 700 years ago. Who brought Islam to Terengganu? He was known as Sharif Muhammad al-Baghdadi.


I happened to pass by Hulu Terengganu where the Terengganu Inscription Stone was initially discovered and unearthed from the river. The area is a flood plain and low-lying.

Hulu Terengganu where the Terengganu Inscription Stone was discovered. This view was taken from my car (while in motion) while crossing the bridge. The river can be seen beneath the signboard.

The area surrounding the river and flood plain is built-up and much higher. There is dual carriage-way on the bridge that stretches over the river. It is hard to stop on the bridge to get a good photograph of the river and flood plain. There is a road-sign that gives the direction to the location of the Terengganu Inscription Stone. But I did not go down that path as the tiny road led farther away from the highway and I was on my way to Kuantan for a function. I thought of visiting the Terengganu Inscription Stone site on the way back but I had taken another route home and therefore did not have the chance to visit the place to find out more. I have planned to return some other time, insya Allah.


Stone inscription is common everywhere in this region - the Malay World. However, in Malaysia, there is one inscription stone that stands out above the rest which we have seen so far. This is the Terengganu Inscription Stone. It is charcoal black with white Jawi inscriptions, much like using white chalk to write on a blackboard.

It was discovered in Hulu Terengganu in the 14th Century, in 1303, as stated by Prof. Syed Naguib Al-Attas as cited in The Genius of Malay Civilisation (Asmah Haji Omar 2003:50).

The stone tells of Islamic regulations and provides an early evidence of Islam in Terengganu and the vicinity. Many have not seen the Stone but have heard about it. I saw the replica Stone for the first time at Muzium Islam in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. The real stone is at Muzium Negeri Terengganu.

This is a black stone cut into an irregular pedestal with 4 flat surfaces. It has an unusual geometry - much like a tall columnar headgear. There is Jawi writing on each rough cut surface. Since this is a replica stone, the Jawi inscription appears 'pasted' on the surface and not cut into the stone surface. The real stone has Jawi inscriptions inscribed into the stone surface (dipahat) and the stone has the original granite surface, like that of the usual batu tumbuk and batu giling. It is also known as Batu Berukir Terengganu as the Jawi inscriptions are inscribed or carved onto the stone surface.

Asmah Haji Omar (ed.). 2003. The Genius of Malay Civilisation. A publication of the Institute of Malay Civilisation, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Tanjong Malim, Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia.


The following are photographs of the replica Terengganu Inscription Stone, which I took when I visited Muzium Islam in Kota Bharu, Kelantan.

Surface 1
Surface 2
Surface 3
Surface 4

Update from Anonymous:
This is a replica of the real stone. The real stone is in the Muzium Negeri Terengganu. Here's the link to the museum


The Terengganu Inscription Stone was written by a clergy known as Sharif Muhammad al-Baghdadi, whose real name is Muhammad bin Abdullah. His grave is located in Kg Jenagor in Kuala Brang, Ulu Terengganu.

He is descended from Nabi Muhammad SAW from his father via Saidina Hasan and from his mother via Saidina Husin. He is therefore, an Ahlul Bait.

He was said to have abdicated the throne in Baghdad and went to Makkah, then Hadramaut in Yemen, before coming to Ulu Terengganu.

In Ulu Terengganu, he preached Islam and established an Islamic Government, which replaced the existing Hindu Government. Many Hindus converted to Islam under his guidance. He established an administrative centre named Kota Tamir on a 300-acre plot.
  • Sharif Muhammad al-Baghdadi was succeeded by his son Syarif Abdul Qahar bin Syarif Muhammad (Tok Paloh).
  • Tok Paloh in turn was succeeded by his son Syarif Abdullah bin Syarif Abdul Qahar (Tok Pauh).
  • Tok Pauh was in turn succeeded by his son Syarif Abdul Malik @ Syeikh Abdul Malik (Tok Pulau Manis).
All three men who were descended from Sharif Muhammad al-Baghdadi were regarded as Wali Allah and have their respective karomah.

Tok Pulau Manis was the most outstanding of the descendants of Sharif Muhammad al-Baghdadi. He established Kota Pulau Manis and an Islamic institution of learning, which was famous in the Malay World at the time.


Tok Pulau Manis's daughter, Siti Zubaidah bt Abdul Malik, married to Tun Zainal @ Tun Jenal, who later became the ruler of Tanjung Baru in Ulu Terengganu, and became known as Sultan Zainal Abidin I. This started the Terengganu Sultanate.

Sultan Zainal Abidin I was the first ruler of Terengganu, who ruled from 1725 to 1733. He was succeeded by Sultan Mansur Shah I (1733-1793).
  • 1725–1733: Zainal Abidin I
  • 1733–1793: Mansur Shah I
  • 1793–1808: Zainal Abidin II

Pokok Bunga Emas

The pokok bunga emas is an artificial ornamental tree made with gold or golden leaves, trunk, branches and flowers. Either all the parts are made of gold or are painted golden. The golden ornamental tree was used by the Kelantan to pay to the Siamese Kingdom in return for protection from warring Malay states or quarters.

Kelantan was a rich gold producer that once supplied gold to other neighbouring states. Kelantan started paying gold to Siam since 1817, for 92 years, every 3 years, and 30 times. That enslavement ended with the signing of the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 (Bangkok Treaty of 1909), following which Kelantan was handed over to British Malaya. Siam and Britain have been allies.

Pokok bunga emas


The Malay children's play term for 'money grows on trees' is pokok duit when they play beli-beli (buy and sell) or masak-masak (children's cooking) in the backyard.

Kelantan used its own metal coins called pitis. These coins were round with either a round hole in the centre or without a hole. They were made with a hole in the centre so they that they could be stringed together. They were made to resemble a money tree, pokok duit.

Pokok duit and pitis may not be of any significance today, but if we look around, we will see that many people take this concept into consideration when they deal with money, be it a bank, design for a bank, or other.

What role did the pitis play? What does pitis look like? What does pokok duit look like?

Kelantan's pokok duit and loose pitis coins