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Goriaeva L.V. On the Image of Calif Ali in Malay Narrative Tradition. Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 1, pp. 58–67. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-1-58-67

Author: Liubov V. Goriaeva
Information about the author:

Liubov V. Goriaeva, PhD in Philology, Leading Research Fellow, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Rozhdestvenka 12, 107031 Moscow, Russia.

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Received: November 10, 2017
Published: March 25, 2018
Issue: 2018 Vol. 3, №1
Department: World Literature
Pages: 58-67

UDK: 82(091)
BBK: 83.3(0)4
Keywords: Ali, Muhammad, early Islam wars, Malay literature, oral tradition. Information about the author: Liubov V. Goriaeva, PhD in Philology, Leading Research Fellow, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Rozhdestvenka 12, 107031 Moscow, Russia.


With the advent of Islam in the region of maritime Southeast Asia, stories about Prophet Muhammad and his closest companions began to spread there. The most important ones among them are Malay stories about early Islam wars, featuring the fourth of the “righteous” caliphs — Ali ibn Abu Talib — as their character (“The Tale of Rajah Handak”, “The Tale of Raja Lahad”, “The Tale of Abu Bakr”). In these stories, Ali is represented as both a great warrior and a saint, the most enlightened of Muhammad’s companions. Like the prophet Sulaiman, Ali has power over jinnies and animals and is endowed with supernatural capacities. At close examination, it becomes clear that in the Malay stories, the image of Ali and the stories about the early Islam wars are intertwined with local legends and archaic beliefs according to which the well-being of a person depends on his or her relations with the spirits inhabiting the world, and with mountains, hills and forests. Their Middle Eastern roots notwithstanding, Malay stories of this series reveal many similarities to the pre-Islamic literature and to the theatrical tradition of maritime Southeast Asia. Transformation and adaptation of the image of Ali by Malay tradition are associated primarily with the transition of this character into the realm of oral tradition due to the widespread practice of reading books aloud. Obviously, as we move eastwards, stories about Ali and other characters of the sacred Muslim history undergo serious generic changes. This process is accompanied by continuous interaction of oral and written traditions, gradually merging the boundary between legend and history.


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