Seals as Sources for the History of Negeri Sembilan


Malay seals are in general extremely reliable historical witnesses, with care and consistency in the use of names and titles, pedigrees, toponyms and dates. A very different seal culture flourished in the Minangkabau highlands of west Sumatra. Minangkabau kings had seals of office which did not designate a particular ruler, but rather the institution of kingship itself, represented by the symbolic regnal name of Sultan Maharaja Diraja ibn Sultan Abdul Jalil Muazzam Syah, and also dispensed seals of patronage in the name of Sultan Abdul Jalil. Minangkabau influence is strongly felt in Negeri Sembilan, and many Negeri Sembilan seals cite as their font of authority Sultan Abdul Jalil Muazzam Syah (Rembau, Ulu Muar, Seri Menanti, Tampin), Sultan Muhammad Jalil (Sungai Ujung) or Sultan Muazzam Syah (Jelebu). All these variants can now be interpreted as deriving from the symbolic Minangkabau regnal title of 'Sultan Abdul Jalil Muazzam Syah' rather than from a sultan of Johor, as had long been thought. This recognition has important implications for the historiography of Negeri Sembilan.