With a massive floor area of over 75,000 square meters spread over four interconnected buildings, the Terengganu State Museum or Muzium Negeri Terengganu at Kampung Losong, Kuala Terengganu is the largest museum complex in Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia. The architecture is inspired by traditional stilted houses one finds in kampungs (villages) across the Malaysian countryside.
There are nine galleries housing thousands of artifacts and cultural relics, but the most significant artifact on display can be found at the first floor upon entering the main hall of the museum. The Terengganu Inscription Stone or Batu Bersurat Terengganu is the oldest artifact with ancient Jawi script.
The stone has traveled a lot since its discovery. It was discovered in 1887 by villagers along a steep riverbank at Tersat River in Hulu Terengganu district, and brought to a surau (Muslim prayer room). It was moved to another surau in Kampung Buluh, where it was used as pedestal for worshippers to step on upon entering the prayer hall. A nobleman and his tin-prospector friend visiting the surau in 1902 noticed the inscriptions on the stone and asked the village leader to bring the stone to capital, where it was presented to the sultan who ordered to have it placed on a hill near the royal palace. The stone remained on the hill for 20 years until 1922 when a British adviser requested that the artifact be photographed and analyzed.
From 1923 to 1960, the stone was housed at the Raffles Museum in Singapore, and then moved to the National Museum of Malaysia. The stone finally returned home in 1991 and later housed in the Terengganu State Museum, which was built in 1996. The state of Terengganu is so proud of this historical artifact that a replica stands as commemorative memorial at a roundabout in Kuala Terengganu.
Believed to be 700 years old (AD 1303), the granite stele announces Islam as the state religion of Terengganu, proving that the faith arrived in the region 80 years earlier than first thought. The stone is 89 cm in height, 53 cm in width at the top, and weighs 214.8 kilograms. All of its four facades have inscriptions written from right to left. The front side reads:
Behold the Prophet of God and his apostles.
Praise the God Almighty for giving us Islam.
With Islam, truth revealed to all Thy creatures
On this land the religion of the Holy Prophet shall prevail.
The Holy Prophet, the upholder of truth in Thy kingdom.
Hear ye kings, these messages.
Messages from the Almighty, ye doubt not.
Goodwill, with thee fellow men, saith the Almighty.
Be it known, the land of Terengganu, the first to receive message of Islam.
On the noon on Friday in the month of Rajab whilst the sun was in the north by religious reckoning.
Seven hundred and two years after the demise of the Holy Prophet.
This blog post was made possible through the Terengganu International Squid Jigging Festival 2015, a media trip held last June 2 to 7, 2015 in Terengganu, Malaysia. The event was organized by Tourism Terengganu and media coordinator, Gaya Travel Magazine.