Royal call to uphold Islamic literature
By Amie PDH Ishak and Malek Hashim

By command of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, and based upon the recommendations from the Appraisal Panel for the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Islamic Literature Award, His Majesty has consented for Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam, to be recognised as the "Tokoh Sasterawan Islam Brunei" (Eminent Islamic Scholar of Brunei) and Al-Marhum Pengiran Shahbandar Mohd Salleh ibnu Pengiran Sharmayuda as the "Pelopor Kesusasteraan Moden Brunei" (Pioneer of Modern Literature of Brunei).

His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, announced this in a sabda yesterday during the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Islamic Literary Award Ceremony at the Plenary Hall of the International Convention Centre in Berakas. Also in attendance was His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Malik.

The Crown Prince congratulated the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation for its initiative in organising the Islamic Literature Award ceremony as a manifestation and reverence of Islam civilisation.

"Islamic literature represents the literary works that support the co-existence between mankind, the universe and The Creator. For that reason, Islamic literature and art is not only beautiful to hear and behold, but more so, its intricate artwork has the ability to capture the heart whilst also bringing enlightenments or 'hidayah'," said HRH the Crown Prince.

"Lately, there have been differences between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds, where Islam has been linked to sinister elements.

"There has been literature by Western authors who have attributed this to there being clashes of civilisations. The truth in this analysis has yet to be ascertained, however what has occurred is that these differences have brought about tensions particularly where non-Muslim authors have published literature on Islam, without the benefit of a true understanding of Islam.

"In this respect, the effect and initiative of the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation to perpetuate Islamic civilisation by encouraging the creation of Islamic literature is indeed very relevant. We hope that the creation of Islamic literature in this country will help to disseminate and consolidate the decent cultural values of a community that adheres staunchly to the religion of Islam and the concept of the Malay Islamic Monarchy," HRH added.

From a historical point, Brunei Darussalam has its own literary history. The creation of modern literary works in the country is rooted in 1845 with the creation of 'Syair Rakis', composed by Pengiran Shahbandar Mohd Salleh, which brought about new and critical thinking.

"The writing of Islamic literature began in the early 19th century. We are very proud of the works of my late grandfather Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, under the pen name of 'Muda Omar 'Ali Saifuddien', who actively published literary works in the form of Syair or poems.

"His Majesty was not only able to document the socio-economic and political history at that time, but also brought about more insightful thinking and valuable advice for the nation. The message contained in his thinking and advice remains significant and relevant to this day.

"Obviously these early literary works have inspired and encouraged the current generation of writers to continue to be active in writing and publishing their own works. This has been illustrated by the regional recognition accorded to our local writers through awards such as the Southeast Asian Writers Awards in Thailand, and the MASTERA Literary Prize, Malaysia," the Crown Prince said.

His Royal Highness expressed his appreciation to Brunei local writers, particularly the writers of Islamic literature, for being able to carry on this treasured heritage whilst at the same time working hard to raise the quality of Islamic literature in the country to a level on par with neighbouring countries in the region.

"Also in this regard, the involvement of our local Muslim women writers is also greatly welcomed towards achieving this praiseworthy goal.

"I believe this Islamic Literary Award will be able to provide encouragement and motivation towards efforts to uphold the prestigious status of literature as well as sustain its development and progress within the country.

"At the same time, enthusiasts or Islamic authors can also contribute towards the propagation of Islamic dakwah and strengthening the unity of the Ummah as well as enriching the local treasure of Islamic literature.

"In this context, the recognition of the achievements of an individual also represents a benchmark in the appraisal of literary works in the history of the development of literature of a nation," said HRH.

Later, the Crown Prince presented the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Islamic Literary Award to Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Awang Haji Yahya bin Hj Ibrahim (pen name Yahya M.S.) who won for his poem collection entitled 'Perjalan Terakhir Anakku Yang Hilang'. - Borneo Bulletin (6th Nov 2008)