via New Straits Times, 16 October 2018: A feature on lesser known Malay manuscripts of Southeast Asia.
THE lack of study on written manuscripts from the Malay Archipelago has led some of us to believe that the ancestral people of this region had either very limited knowledge and/or they weren’t literate enough to put things into written text.
This isn’t true and there are plenty of records and manuscripts. These aren’t limited to subjects like royal genealogy, literature or religious matters but also on healing, disease prevention and medical treatment. And many of these texts have survived the ravages of time and colonisation.
The collection of Malay medical manuscripts is loosely called Kitab Tib — or medical books in Arabic. According to Dr Mohd Affendi Mohd Shafri, from the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences of International Islamic University Malaysia, the earliest surviving text that’s considered Kitab Tib is Sia-sia Berguna from the 1400s by Safiyyudin Abbasi.
He recently organised the International Conference on Malay Medical Manuscripts (ICOMM) 2018 at the International Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur. In the programme forward he says: “In the Malay Archipelago, medical manuscripts number in the hundreds. Many are disintegrating and threatened by natural disasters.
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