Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Pursuit of the Perak Regalia: Islam, Law, and the Politics of Authority in the Colonial State

  • Iza Hussin


Islamic law changed radically in the last century and a half. It was codified and limited to the domain of personal and family law in almost all majority and minority Muslim states. The argument of this article is that this remarkable change in Islamic law began in the colonial state. Islamic law, as it functions within postcolonial Muslim states, is a product of negotiations between colonial and local elites over law, religion, culture, ethnicity, and the identity of the Muslim subject. In the case of colonial Malaya, this resulted in a codified, institutionalized legal system within a colonial state, which was critical in constructing Malay ethnic and religious identities and interpretations of Islam that prevail today.



Hide All
Abdul Kadir, Abdullah bin. 1834. Hikayat Abdullah [The Chronicle of Abdullah]. Trans. Hill, A. H. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1970.
Abou Fadl, Khaled. 2001. Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women. Oxford: Oneworld.
Ali Haji ibn Raja Ahmad, R. 1847. Hikayat Sultan Abdul Muluk [The Chronicle of Sultan Abdul Muluk]. Batavia: Peterteraan Masyarakat Alam Hikmat.
Shamsul, Amri B. 1998. Debating about Identity in Malaysia: A Discourse Analysis. In Cultural Contestations. Mediating Identities in a Changing Malaysian Society, ed. Ibrahim, Zawawi. London: ASEAN Academic Press.
Asad, Talal. 1993. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Asad, Talal. 2003. Boundaries and Rights in Islamic Law: Introduction. Social Research, 70 (3): 683–88.
Anderson, J. N. D., ed. 1967. Family Law in Asia and Africa. New York: Praeger.
Barlow, H. S. 1995. Swettenham. Kuala Lumpur: Southdene.
Brown, Nathan J. 1997. Shari'a and State in the Modern Muslim Middle East. International Journal of Middle East Studies 29:359–76.
Charrad, Mounira. 2001. States and Women's Rights: The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Comaroff, Jean, and Comaroff, John. 1991. Of Revelation and Revolution: Christianity, Colonialism, and Consciousness in South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Cowan, C. D. 1961. Nineteenth Century Malaya: The Origins of British Political Control. London: Oxford University Press.
Fitzpatrick, Peter. 1994. The Mythology of Modern Law. London: Routledge.
Freitag, U., and Clarence-Smith, W. G. 1997. Hadhrami Traders, Scholars and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s–1960s. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
Galanter, Marc. 1974. Why the Haves Come Out Ahead: Speculations on the Limits of Legal Change. Law & Society Review 9:95160.
Gullick, J. M. 1992. Rulers and Residents: Influence and Power in the Malay States, 1870–1920. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hallaq, Wael B. 2002. The Quest for Origins or Doctrine? Islamic Legal Studies as Colonialist Discourse. UCLA Journal of Islamic & Near Eastern Law 2:131.
Hallaq, Wael B. 2005. The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Harding, Andrew. 1996. Law, Government and the Constitution in Malaysia. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.
Hirschman, Charles. 1986. The Making of Race in Colonial Malaya. Sociological Forum 1 (2): 330–61.
Hooker, M. B. 1975. Legal Pluralism: An Introduction to Colonial and Neo-Colonial Laws. London: Clarendon.
Hooker, M. B. 1984. Islamic Law in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Jalal, Ayesha. 2000. Self and Sovereignty: Self and Community in South Asian Islam since 1850. New York: Routledge.
Jusoh, Hamid. 1991. The Position of Islamic Law in the Malaysian Constitution. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
Keith, A. Berriedale, ed. 1922. Edmund Burke on the Impeachment of Warren Hastings, 15–19 February 1788. In Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy, 1750–1921, 1:114–55. London: Oxford University Press.
Laffan, Michael. Dispersing God's Shadows: Reflections on the Translation of Arabic Political Concepts into Malay and Indonesian. Unpublished Paper: (accessed March 8, 2007).
Lazarus-Black, Mindie, and Hirsch, Susan, eds. 1994. Contested States: Law, Hegemony and Resistance. New York: Routledge.
Lev, Daniel S. 1972. Islamic Courts in Indonesia: A Study in the Political Bases of Legal Institutions. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Lim Teck Ghee. 1976. Origins of a Colonial Economy. Penang: Universiti Sains Malaya.
Mamdani, Mahmoud. 1996. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Mamdani, Mahmoud. 1999. Historicizing Power and Responses to Power: Indirect Rule and Its Reform. Social Research 66 (3): 859–87.
Mather, Lynn, and Yngvesson, Barbara. 1980. Language, Audience and the Transformation of Disputes. Law & Society Review 15:774821.
Maxwell, W. E. 1894. Memorandum on the Introduction of a Land Code in the Native States in the Malay Peninsula. Singapore: Government Printers.
Mayer, Ann. 1990. The Shari'ah: A Methodology or a Body of Substantive Rules? In Heer, Nicholas and Ziadeh, Farhat, eds. Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, 177–98. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Merry, Sally. 1988. Legal Pluralism. Law & Society Review 22:869–96.
Merry, Sally. 2000. Colonizing Hawai'i: The Cultural Power of Law. Princeton, NJ: University Press.
Messick, Brinckley. 1993. The Calligraphic State. Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Migdal, Joel. 2001. State in Society: Studying How States and Societies Constitute and Transform One Another. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Milner, A. C. 1982. Kerajaan: Malay Political Culture on the Eve of Colonial Rule. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Milner, A. C. 1987. Colonial Records History: British Malaya. Modern Asian Studies 21 (4): 773–92.
Milner, A. C. 1991. Inventing Politics: The Case of Malaysia. Past and Present, Aug. (132): 104–29.
Mitchell, Timothy. 1988. Colonising Egypt. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Mitchell, Timothy. 1991. The Limits of the State: Beyond Statist Approaches and their Critics. American Political Science Review 85 (1): 7796.
Moore, Sally Falk. 1978. Law as Process. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Parkinson, C. N. 1960. British Intervention in Malaya 1867–1877. Singapore: University of Malaya Press.
Peletz, Michael. 2002. Islamic Modern: Religious Courts and Cultural Politics in Malaysia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Rahman, M. J. 1986. The Undang-undang: A Mid-Eighteenth Century Malay Text. Occasional Paper no. 6. University of Kent at Canterbury, Centre for Southeast Asian Studies.
Reid, Anthony. 1967. Nineteenth Century Pan-Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia. Journal of Asian Studies 26 (2): 267–83.
Riddell, Peter. 2001. Arab Migrants and Islamization in the Malay World during the Colonial Period. Indonesia and the Malay World, 29 (84): 113–28.
Robinson, Ronald. 1972. Non European Foundations of European Imperialism: Sketch for a Theory of Collaboration. In Studies in the Theory of Imperialism, ed. Owen, Roger and Sutcliffe, Bob, 117–41. London: Longman.
Roff, William R. 1967. The Origins of Malay Nationalism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Roff, William R. 1985. Islam Obscured? Reflections on Studies of Islam and Society in Southeast Asia. Archipel 29:734.
Roff, William R. 1987. Islam and the Political Economy of Meaning: Comparative Studies of Muslim Discourse. London: Croom Helm.
Rosen, Lawrence. 1989. The Anthropology of Justice: Law as Culture in Islamic Society. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Rosen, Lawrence. 2000. The Justice of Islam: Comparative Perspectives on Islamic Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sadka, Emily. 1962. The State Councils in Perak and Selangor, 1877–1895. In Papers on Malayan History, ed. Tregonning, K. G., 89119. Singapore: Journal of South-East Asian History.
Scott, James. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Scott, James. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Skeat, W. 1953. The Cambridge Expedition to the North-Eastern Malay States, and to Upper Perak 1899–1900. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 26 (4): 8283.
Strawson, John. 1999. Islamic Law and English Texts. In Laws of the Postcolonial, ed. Fitzpatrick, Peter and Darian-Smith, Eve. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Sullivan, Patrick. 1987. Social Relations of Dependence in a Malay State: Nineteenth Century Perak. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Monograph 10.
Swettenham, Frank. 1906. British Malaya; An Account of the Origin and Progress of British Influence in Malaya. London: J. Lane.
Unger, Roberto. 1976. Law in Modern Society: A Critique of Social Theory. New York: Free Press.
Van Bruinessen, Martin. 1990. Kitab Kuning: Books in Arabic Script Used in the Pesantren Milieu. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-en Volkenkunde 146:226–69.
Vincent, Joan. 1994. On Law and Hegemonic Moments: Looking Behind the Law in Early Modern Uganda. In Contested States: Law, Hegemony and Resistance, ed. Lazarus-Black, Mindie and Hirsch, Susan. New York: Routledge.
Wilkinson, R. J. 1908. Papers on Malay Subjects: History, Part 1–5. Kuala Lumpur: F.M.S. Government Press.
Winstedt, R. 1953. An Old Minangkabau Digest from Perak. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 26 (1): 114.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The Pursuit of the Perak Regalia: Islam, Law, and the Politics of Authority in the Colonial State

  • Iza Hussin


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.