A 'titah' holds much reverence for Malays, especially those of conservative outlook and even those of the younger set who advocate ethno-nationalism in preference to multiculturalism and liberalism, perhaps out of fear, hatred or whatever emotional reason.
To ignore a 'titah' in Peninsula Malaysia including Penang and Malacca states invites not just criticisms but also much outrage and in some isolated incidents, even possibly violence.
Okay, there's no denying that the politically opportunistic had and still have ridden on the back of such a characteristic allegiance to a ruler, of course for their own political interests rather than that of the liege lord.
Today, in our nation which was borned out of social consensus, federalism, Westminster democracy, secularism (but uniquely recognizing Islam as the nation's official religion), and constitutional monarchy, the power of 'titah' still remains steadfastly strong amongst the Malays.
Even Malays who support the democratic system in a constitutional monarchy feel awkwardly uncomfy when a 'titah' clashes with constitutional limits of a monarch, effectively a clash between cultural affiliation and democratic process, such is the deep set devoted allegiance of Malays to their liege lord.
Such allegiance is not unique among the Malays. For example, the Chinese were also similarly loyal to their emperors.
However, with the Chinese there was one difference, call it an 'escape clause' if you like. They have what was termed the 'Mandate of Heaven'. An emperor ruled only by virtue of the Mandate of Heaven he had received or was blessed with. When he lost the Mandate, he was emperor no more [or when he was emperor no more, he had lost the Mandate], and a new emperor (who had since been blessed or received the Mandate) reigned.
Thus if a Chinese emperor was cruel, tyrannical and an unmitigated despot, and needed to be deposed, exiled or even killed, the perpetrators would pass the word that His Imperial Majesty had lost the Mandate, usually indicated by some signs of suffering among the people, preferably from natural disasters like flooding, drought, locust devastation of crops, earthquake, eclipse (but must still be associated with national massive suffering), or even man-made disasters such as famine, etc.
The seditious words then passed around to remove the tyrannical ruler was not unlike modern political (negative) campaigning
On second thoughts, it would seem the Malays once (perhaps twice, wakakaka) might have shared such a similar belief, and was even expressed poetically, though not a la the Chinese's Mandate of Heaven.
When one of Malay-dom's greatest warriors laid dying in his Best Friend's arms, he gave it straight right to the very guts of Best Friend with his dying breath, and in words that rhymed too: "Raja adil raja disembah, raja zalim raja disanggah".
Warrior's philosophy about royalty was totally at odds with his Best Friend, who was completely loyal to this ruler. One today wonders whether those last words to Best Friend were advice, criticism or bitter sarcasm?
Why bitter sarcasm? Please read on.
Best Friend was ordered by the ruler to be summarily executed on the basis of mere salacious gossip, that Best Friend was bonking Ruler's fave concubine.
But he was not executed because the Bendahara Paduka Raja (PM) knew the gossip was bullsh*t and a rather sinister celaka fabrication. So PM secretly removed Best Friend and hid him safely away - no, no, no, the PM was not Ah Jib Gor but someone in the 15th Century. Please pay close attention - we are talking about events 500 years ago, wakakaka.
Not realizing his absent Best Friend was still alive, Warrior sought justice for Best Friend in revenge and created havoc and chaos for the ruler, who he considered an unjust tyrant for executing Best Friend on the basis of gossip.
Warrior ignored every 'titah' to cease and desist. But no one had the fighting skills to match or overcome Warrior so he continued f**king around unfettered (in some instances, literally). Ruler panicked, asked PM for help a.s.a.p.
Abracadabra, Best Friend was then brought out to defend the ruler and he immediately obeyed the 'titah' and succeeded in killing Warrior, BUT ONLY after some sly dishonest cheating in getting a magic keris back from Warrior's possession. Hmmm, would the moral of this particular section of the story be that cheating succeeds?
Yessir, Best Friend killed the very person who had defended his honour against injustice.
The irony of Best Friend killing his buddy Warrior in compliance with a 'titah' was because Best Friend was completely devoted and loyal to his ruler, so much so that he ignored their friendship and the fact that the man he killed for the ruler was the very man who defended his name against the ruler's injustice.
Can you think of a person today who would be that loyal to a ruler, even against the imperatives of democracy, personal honour and friendship?
But let's move on as I don't want you readers to waste your time mulling over the intriguing dilemma of a 15th Century story, wakakaka.
By the by, just a puzzling question on 'titah' then - remember that Bendahara who hid Best Friend away when the ruler wanted him executed? How come the Bendahara was able to get away unscathed from ignoring a 'titah'?
To summarize, such seditious behaviour as those of Warrior, notwithstanding he would today be deemed a Just & Brave Fighter, are considered rare and traitorous in the Malay World, and had happened only twice.
The first significant anti-'titah' episode was in the 15th Century, which we have just discussed in the preceding paragraphs in the Tale of a just Warrior, his so-called Best Friend, a tyrannical Ruler and a disloyal Bendahara.
Wait, why have I considered the Bendahara Paduka Raja disloyal?
Well, didn't he biadap-ishly and seditiously ignored the ruler's 'titah' to execute Best Friend?
Incidentally the disloyalty of the Bendahara Paduka Raja proves that (i) some people could ignore a 'titah' and still emerge spelling like roses and, (ii) some people could belakang pusing by ordering the execution of someone but subsequently feting and honouring that same someone, wakakaka.
The second significant virtual anti-'titah' episode occurred 500 years later, wakakaka, and like the 15th Century Bendahara Paduka Raja, all emerged spelling like roses, wakakaka again.
So, today how does one reconcile a 'titah' which is against the limits of a constitutional monarch?
If one ignores a 'titah' will one be like:
- the just Warrior who ended up killed, or
- the disloyal Bendahara but who ended being praised and rewarded?
Share with me your thoughts, wakakaka, and me being a member of the hoi polloi, it's NOT a 'titah' ;-).