Culture & Religion

The meaning behind Malaysian state honorifics

Anyone who has grown up in Malaysia will have, at one point in their life, heard the full name of a state. For example, the state of Selangor is formally known as Selangor Darul Ehsan. Darul Ehsan is an Arabic honorific – something that most states in Malaysia have.

What many people, Malaysians included, do not know is the meaning of these honorifics. Coming from a Malaysian public school, I confess that I’ve always wondered what these words meant but I had never researched it until now.

Apparently, the Arabic honorifics date back to the Kedah sultanate. Kedah, the oldest sultanate in the country, was given the honorific by Syeikh Abdullah Al-Qumairi who was a significant figure in the Islamisation of the Kedah sultanate in the 1100s. As other sultanates around the peninsula started to embrace Islam, they too adopted Arabic honorifics.

State honorifics

These honorifics all contain the word darul which simply means ‘abode’. Let’s take a look at the meaning of these honorifics in each state:

StateArabic honorificMeaning of honorific
Kedah Darul AmanAbode of Peace
Negeri SembilanDarul KhususThe Special Abode
PahangDarul MakmurAbode of Tranquility
KelantanDarul NaimThe Blissful abode
JohorDarul TakzimAbode of Dignity
PerakDarul RidzuanAbode of Grace
SelangorDarul EhsanAbode of Sincerity
TerengganuDarul ImanAbode of Faith

Other states also have honorifics, just not Arabic ones:

StateHonorificMeaning of honorific
SarawakBumi KenyalangLand of the Hornbills
Pulau PinangPulau MutiaraIsland of Pearls
SabahNegeri Di Bawah BayuLand Below the Wind
MelakaBandar BersejarahThe Historic City

The only state that doesn’t have an honorific is Perlis. Perlis used to be Perlis Indera Kayangan which is a reference to Hinduism – a major religion in the state before Islam made it way there.

However, in 2015, the Raja of Perlis decreed that Perlis shall henceforth be known only as Perlis, according to its official designation as laid out in the Perlis state constitution.

So there you have it, a little nugget of information that might come in handy during your next pub quiz.

Also, do check out our English to BM phrasebook series where we try out best to help you unravel the mysteries of BM:


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