The Jawi Script



What makes Jawi different from Arabic are these five letters.

The Jawi script was adapted from the Arabic script which came with Islam in the 14th century. In the early 15th century, the Jawi script was widely used during the Malacca Sultanate: it became the primary medium for cultural, religious, and intellectual exchange. Because of this, the Jawi script eventually replaced the Pallava script that was used before and Malay became the lingua franca ̶ a bridge language, common language, or trade language ̶ of the region.

In a way, the introduction of this script eventually lead to the enculturation of a Malay identity, the Malayisation of the region and the subsequent formation of Alam Melayu. Although the Rumi script has replaced the use of Jawi as a primary script, it is not entirely forgotten as it still taught in schools, used in billboards in some parts of Malaysia, and can also be seen on Malaysian ringgit banknotes.

Below is an example of a poem written in Jawi, then in Rumi, and then its English translation:


کيلاون اينتن برکليڤ-کليڤ دلاڠيت تيڠڬي،

دان چهاي مناري-ناري دلاڠيت بيرو،

تيدقله داڤت مننڠکن ڤراساءنکو،

يڠ ريندوکن کحاضيرن کاسيه.

ڬمرسيق ايراما مردو بولوه ڤريندو،

دان ڽاڽين ڤاري-ڤاري دري کايڠن،

تيدقله داڤت تنترمکن سانوباري،

يڠ مندمباکن کڤستين کاسيهمو.‎


Kilauan intan berkelip-kelip di langit tinggi,

Dan cahaya menari-nari di langit biru,

Tidaklah dapat menenangkan perasaanku,

Yang rindukan kehadiran kasih.

Gemersik irama merdu buluh perindu,

Dan nyanyian pari-pari dari kayangan,

Tidaklah dapat tenteramkan sanubari,

Yang mendambakan kepastian kasihmu.


The glimmering of gems waltzing across the aloft sky,

And auroras ablaze a ballet upon the azure sky,

None are able to soothe my heart,

That pines for the presence of the beloved.

The melodious rhythm of the yearning bamboos,

And the ballad of nymphs from the eden,

None are able to calm the soul,

That craves for your word of honour.

Special thanks to my friend Amir for the beautiful calligraphy of the letters.



One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s