W

With final preparations underway for the installation of His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim as the 17th King of Malaysia on July 20, every effort is being made to ensure that the war persilaan or instrument of invitation is presented to the Malay rulers in a befitting and royal manner.

The tradition of inviting the rulers, governors and Yang di-Pertua Negeri to the installation ceremony dates back to 1957, when Tuanku Abdul Rahman Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Muhammad was installed as the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

PRESENTED WITH DECORUM

Grand Chamberlain of Istana Negara (Datuk Paduka Maharaja Lela) Datuk Azuan Effendy Zairakithnaini said each invitation – with the text in Bahasa Melayu, handwritten in calligraphic Jawi script – is rolled up and placed in a cylindrical box.

The delegation responsible for delivering the royal invitations includes: Minister of Communications Fahmi Fadzil, who is also the chairman of the Special Committee for Events Related to the King’s Inauguration; Azuan Effendy as representative of Istana Negara; Keeper of the Seal of the Rulers Tan Sri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad; Senior Deputy Secretary-General in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Awang Alik Jeman; and Chief Protocol Officer of the Malaysian Government Datuk Rozainor Ramli.

“We endeavor to present ourselves before the rulers in the best possible manner with all decorum and respect and to hand over the instrument of invitation to them with all due ceremonial customs,” Azuan Effendy told Bernama.

Grand Chamberlain of Istana Negara (Datuk Paduka Maharaja Lela) Datuk Azuan Effendy Zairakithnaini.

He said that the suitcases containing the invitations for the Malay rulers are gold in colour, while the suitcases for the governors and Yang di-Pertua Negeri are silver in colour.

The message on the invitation is written in the refined court language of the royal family. It emphasizes respect for sultans older than the king and uses honorific titles for younger rulers.

A total of 16 invitation letters were handed over, the last of which was handed over to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on July 5. The invitations were also handed over to the Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and the King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Meanwhile, Abdul Baki Abu Bakar, 50, one of the two calligraphers involved in creating the calligraphic texts for the invitations, said different types of calligraphic script, including Nasakh, Thuluth and Muhaqqaq, were used to produce a neat, balanced and easy-to-read text in Jawi.

“Before we started the writing process, we discussed with the palace representatives what types of calligraphy we would use. I also talked about the calligraphy commonly used by calligraphers in Malaysia,” he said.

Elaborating on the calligraphy for the invitations for the installation ceremony of Malaysia’s 17th King, Abdul Baki told Bernama that the verse from the Quran that appears at the top of each invitation is written in the Thuluth script, with a slight flourish.

“For the main text, we leaned more towards Nasakh, the script commonly used by calligraphers in this country, because it is simpler and easier to read,” he said, adding that for an invitation instrument like this, “we usually start with the Basmala and a verse from the Quran, followed by the main text of the invitation inviting the sultan or ruler to the installation ceremony of Sultan Ibrahim.”

Abdul Baki, who hails from Sik, Kedah, said although he has over 30 years of experience in calligraphy, producing the calligraphic text for the invitations was not a piece of cake for him.

Not only was the process time-consuming, but he also had to ensure that the pen and ink were appropriate for the particular type of calligraphic script he was using. He also had to determine a nib size that was appropriate for the length of the text and the space allotted to it.

“We were given special paper from Istana Negara (for the invitations). Although this is the fourth time I have been tasked with writing the calligraphic text on the invitations for the installation ceremony of Yang di-Pertuan Agong, I still had to find the right rhythm to finish them.

Abdul Baki Abu Bakar, 50, and Khairi Izat Amir Mohd Izam, 31, were involved in creating the calligraphic text for the invitation.

“It took me more than a day to finish just one (invitation). The challenge was that the text had to fit in the given space. For example, writing the titles for a sultan or ruler requires a lot of space because of the many titles and honors they have received, including from foreign countries. That is why we need a large space to be able to put all these titles,” he said, adding that he used the ancient Jawi script for the calligraphic text.

Interestingly, Abdul Baki also managed to translate the royal decorations in English into Jawi calligraphy.

He added that to perfect the Jawi calligraphy for the invitations, he first sketched the text with a pencil before rewriting it with a calligraphy pen.

CALLIGRAPHIC ART

For Khairi Izat Amir Mohd Izam, 31, chief coordinator of the Pahang Calligraphy Academy in Yayasan Pahang, it was a whole new experience. It was the first time he was involved in producing the calligraphic text for the invitation to the installation ceremony of the king.

He described the task entrusted to him as a huge responsibility and admitted that he was “a little slow” as he had to ensure that the right amount of ink was used and that it did not spill onto the paper.

He said he couldn’t afford to make any mistakes because the paper used was of high quality and specific designs were printed on it.

According to Khairi Izat Amir, the characteristics of the paper posed a challenge for him.

“Some types of paper are suitable for printing but may not be ideal for handwriting,” he said, adding: “(In the case of the paper used for the invitations for the installation ceremony of the 17th King of Malaysia) the surface was not smooth, making it more difficult to write the text by hand.”

He also said that the content of the invitations to the rulers also varied, especially in terms of titles and honorifics.

“For example, if the invitation was for a sultan who was younger than Sultan Ibrahim, we would use ‘Paduka Adinda’; if he was older, ‘Paduka Kekanda’ would be used. So we had to be aware of all these details and write carefully to avoid mistakes,” he said.

The chests containing the invitations for the Malay rulers are gilded, while the chests for the governors and Yang di-Pertua Negeri are silver-plated. (Photo: Istana Negara)

He also said he referred to the work of calligraphy experts, including Abdul Baki, in using the Jawi script to write the titles and tributes of the sultans.

Khairi Izat Amir also stressed the importance of preparing a draft of the invitation first.

“Even the smallest mistake would force us to rewrite the invitation. It took me more than two days to finish an invitation.

“Since the work had to be done accurately and I had to be concentrated, I chose to do the writing at night, when it was quieter,” he said, adding that he created the calligraphic text for eight invitations and the remaining eight were completed by Abdul Baki.

CALLIGRAPHY TOOLS

Khairi Izat Amir also said that besides the knowledge, experience and skills related to calligraphy, the tools used to create calligraphic works are also crucial to determine their neatness and beauty. Using the right technique also plays an important role.

“When we talk about Jawi calligraphy, everyone can do it… but not everyone knows the correct techniques and basic methods of writing. These techniques must be understood and it takes years to learn them.

“In addition to the writing style, the tools we use also play an important role in calligraphy. It depends on the type of pen we use, that is, whether it is made of bamboo, wood or metal, and also on the size of the nib and the ink used,” he said.

Khairi Izat Amir indicated that he prefers to use a metal pen as an invitation tool. He finds that this pen is easier to use, less likely to dull and produces neater handwriting.

He said that some calligraphers, especially writers of Al-Quran, prefer to use the stem of the resam plant – a common species of fern – as a pen.

“For resam “With pens with a stem, the nib needs to be sharpened to the desired shape or the desired point size. As for the metal nib I use, I cut the point with a special cutter to get the width I want,” he said.

Besides knowledge, skills and experience, calligraphy also depends on what a person is comfortable with, including the tools he or she uses.

He added that he used a pen tip about 0.8 millimeters wide to write the text for the king’s installation ceremony.

“If we had used a larger nib, we would have gotten bigger and bolder letters,” he said.

Regarding the ink used, he said that most calligraphers prefer ink imported from countries like Japan or Germany as it is considered more suitable and of higher quality.

“Calligraphers have their own identity. In addition to knowledge, skills and experience, the calligraphy they create also depends on what they feel comfortable with, including the tools they use,” he said.

He added: “…and if you look closely, there are differences in the style or the decorations (of the calligraphic text) on the invitations (for the installation ceremony of the 17th King of Malaysia) made by me and Abdul Baki, even though we used the same techniques and basic writing methods.”

Translated by Rema Nambiar

NMR NM MMA REMA REMA