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.
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:
|State||Arabic honorific||Meaning of honorific|
|Kedah||Darul Aman||Abode of Peace|
|Negeri Sembilan||Darul Khusus||The Special Abode|
|Pahang||Darul Makmur||Abode of Tranquility|
|Kelantan||Darul Naim||The Blissful abode|
|Johor||Darul Takzim||Abode of Dignity|
|Perak||Darul Ridzuan||Abode of Grace|
|Selangor||Darul Ehsan||Abode of Sincerity|
|Terengganu||Darul Iman||Abode of Faith|
Other states also have honorifics, just not Arabic ones:
|State||Honorific||Meaning of honorific|
|Sarawak||Bumi Kenyalang||Land of the Hornbills|
|Pulau Pinang||Pulau Mutiara||Island of Pearls|
|Sabah||Negeri Di Bawah Bayu||Land Below the Wind|
|Melaka||Bandar Bersejarah||The 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: