Culturing Maritime Elements in Malay Proverbs: A Preliminary Observation

Ismail Ali


ABSTRACT: Traditionally, the sea and ocean are the source of inspiration for new ideas, aspirations, language, ethnic dignity, and truth. By understanding and acknowledging the roles and functions of these two, i.e. the sea and ocean, in all aspects of life, the ancient Malays have employed maritime elements in their daily life and this has enriched their traditional intellectuality. This article attempts to illustrate the culturing of maritime elements in the Malay proverbs that show the personality, intellectuality, and understanding of the Malay people on the maritime aspects, which at the end enhances the Malay civilization. This preliminary observation also found that the existence and culturing of the maritime-based-proverbs illustrate the close relationship between the traditional Malays and oceans as well as lands. Besides that, the importance of the oceans to the development of Malay civilization in the 18th and 19th centuries has also influenced them in making these proverbs at that time. Finally, the use of proverbs in conversation by the Malay community can avoid misunderstandings and strengthen the bond among them.

KEY WORDS: Maritime culture, Malay proverbs, history of maritime, Malay language, and dignity of nation.

About the Author: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ismail Ali is a Senior Lecturer at the History Program, School of Social Sciences UMS (Malaysia University of Sabah), Beg Berkunci 2073, 88999 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. He can be reached at:

How to cite this article? Ali, Ismail. (2012). “Culturing Maritime Elements in Malay Proverbs: A Preliminary Observation” in TAWARIKH: International Journal for Historical Studies, Vol.4(1) October, pp.21-36. Bandung, Indonesia: ASPENSI [Asosiasi Sarjana Pendidikan Sejarah Indonesia] and UVRI [Universitas Veteran Republik Indonesia], ISSN 2085-0980.

Chronicle of the article: Accepted (August 4, 2012); Revised (September 7, 2012); and Published (October 28, 2012).

Full Text:



Alfizah et al. (2003). “Kepelbagaian dalam Peribahasa Melayu” in Jurnal AKTIVIS, Jil.III. Townsville: NIE [National Institute of Education], pp.21-23.

Aughton, Peter. (2007). Voyages that Changed the World. London: Quercus Publishing Plc.

Awang, Hashim. (2003). “Hubungan Kesusasteraan dengan Alam Sekitar”. Paper presented in the Conference on Literature and Environment, organized by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 23-24 June.

Djamil, Agus S. (2004). Al-Quran dan Lautan. Bandung: PT Mizan Pustaka.

Effendy, Tenas. (2003). “Peribahasa dalam Kehidupan Orang Melayu” in [accessed in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: 31 August 2012].

Ghani Ahmad, Mohd. (2002). Peribahasa Menjana Minda. Singapura: Pustaka Nasional Zuriat.

Hall, Kenneth R. (1985). Maritime Trade and State Development in Early Southeast Asia. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.

Hassan, Zurinah. (1999). “Alam sebagai Perlambangan Puisi” in magazine of Dewan Sastera. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

Lapian, Adrian B. (1987). “Kebudayaan Bahari di Kawasan Laut Sulawesi”. Paper presented in the Seminar on Kebaharian ASEAN, organized by LIPI, at Museum Nasional, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Lapian, Adrian B. (1991). “Sejarah Nusantara, Sejarah Bahari”. Paper presented in an Inauguration Ceremony as Professor at the Faculty of Letters UI (University of Indonesia) in Jakarta.

Lapian, Adrian B. (2008). Pelayaran dan Perniagaan Nusantara Abad ke-16 dan 17. Jakarta: Komunitas Bambu.

Lapian, Adrian B. (2009). Orang Laut, Bajak Laut, Raja Laut. Jakarta: Komunitas Bambu.

Mahan, Alfred T. (1965). The Influence of Sea Power upon History 1660-1783. London: Methuen University Paperbacks.

Menzies, Gavin. (2002). The Year China Discovered the World. Jakarta: Bantam Press.

Nontji, Anugerah. (1987). Laut Nusantara. Jakarta: Penerbit Djambatan.

Omar, Asmah. (1986). Bahasa dan Alam Pemikiran Melayu. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

Pelras, Christian. (2006). Manusia Bugis. Jakarta: Penerbit Nalar, translation.

Reid, Anthony. (1988). Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450-1680. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Warren, James F. (1985). The Sulu Zone, 1768-1898: The Dynamics of External Trade, Slavery, and Ethnicity in the Transformation of a Southeast Asian Maritime State. Singapore: Singapore University Press.