Koran of Bayang

Koran of Bayang
Koran of Bayang | @museumxstOries

Qu’ran/Koran of Bayang

Muslim have a deep reverence for the Koran, the sacred book of Islam. Containing the messages and teachings of Allah, it serves as divine guidance in living according to the Islamic faith and principles. With the spread of Islam, copies of the Koran were inevitably made and distributed across the world. The process of producing manuscript copies is treated with utmost respect and veneration, as it is done during handling and use.

The Koran of Bayang, Lanao del Sur is one of the earliest manuscript copies in Lanao. According to oral history, the Koran was copied by Saidna, one of the earliest hajj/ haji –a Muslim who successfully completed the pilgrimage in Mecca-. The manuscript was named ‘Maradika’. Similar to Merdeka in Malay and Indonesian, meaning ‘freedom’, following the practice of bestowing a specific name to each existing copy of the Koran, because of the limited copies available to Muslims in Lanao during the early years of Islam. The Maradika was believed to have been passed on to Saidna’s descendants and thus regarded as a family heirloom. It is also considered a sacred object by the community, assigning important social and ritual roles, including its significant use when taking oaths relating to governance and in settling disputes between and among the members of the community.

Despite being an heirloom, it was not spared from displacement. Between the 3rd and 5th day of May in 1902, it was one of the sequestered items during the Padang Karbala, the strongest defense of Bayang, which was controlled by the Americans under Colonel Frank D. Baldwin during the American operation in Bayang, brought an old manuscript of Qu’ran to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where it was stored in the Department of Archives until 1966 and later turned over to the museum’s library. This is believed to be the Maradika, the Koran of Bayang, because of a handwritten note on a triangular piece of paper attached at the back of its cover which states Handmade copy of the Koran belonged to the Sultan of Bayang and captured with his fort by the 27th Inf. May 2-1902.

A good collaborative working relationship between the Field Museum and the National Museum of the Philippines helped facilitate the return of the Koran of Bayang to the country. The Field Museum approved the transfer of the Koran to the Philippine Government in January 1979, and in March 1980, it was presented to the National Museum before its planned final repository to the Aga Khan Museum of Mindanao State University in Marawi City.

Its scheduled return was canceled when the plane bound for Cagayan de Oro, the nearest airport to Marawi City was forced to return to Manila due to a strong typhoon. Then First Lady, Imelda Marcos, requested its transfer from the National Museum to Malacañang Palace. After the People Power Revolution in February 1986, the Koran was reported missing. A photocopy however has been made of the whole volume by NM Anthropology Division Curator Dr. Jesus Peralta before its transfer to the Malacañan, it has since been deposited at the NM’s library.

Its importance extends beyond the Philippines as it is one of the few copies of the Qur’an translated into a non-Arabic language using Malay-related language, and handwritten in Arabic calligraphy. Malay was extensively used as the written and spoken language for trade, diplomacy, and Islam throughout Southeast Asia for centuries. Travelers from Patani, Sumatra, and Sulawesi conversed/ negotiated with the inhabitants of the Southern Philippines in this language. Royal letters of the sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao in the 18th century were written in Malay.

Sources: Gallop 2011; Midori 2011
National Museum of Anthropology

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