Malay styles and titles
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The Malay language has a complex system of titles and honorifics, which are still used extensively in Malaysia and Brunei. Singapore, whose Malay royalty was abolished by the British colonial government in 1891, has adopted civic titles for its leaders. The Philippines historically used Malay titles during its pre-Hispanic period, as evidenced by the titles of historical figures such as Rajah Sulayman, Lakandula and Dayang Kalangitan. Malay titles are still used by the royal houses of Sulu, Maguindanao, Maranao and Iranun on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, but these are retained on a traditional basis as the 1987 Constitution explicitly reaffirms the abolition of royal and noble titles in the republic.
Indonesia, meanwhile, as a Republic, does not recognize hereditary rulers and aristocratic systems. Nevertheless, their royal titles and honours are still used as courtesy titles.
Today, Malaysia, Brunei and several provinces in Indonesia still regularly award honorary and life titles. What follows is specific to the Malaysian system. References to Brunei and Indonesia are given when pertinent.
In Malaysia, all non-hereditary titles can be granted to both men and women. Every title has a form which can be used by the wife of the title holder. This form is not used by the husband of a titled woman; such a woman will bear a title which is the same as a titled man.
The sequence that should be used when formally writing or addressing a person's name is as follows:
Honorary Style, Professional Rank, Royal Hereditary Title, Federal Title, State Title, Non-royal Hereditary Title, Doctor (of medicine or philosophy), Haji/Hajjah (for Muslim men and women who have performed the Hajj), Name.
A "style" carried by virtue of royal title always trumps those carried by non-royal titles. Male royals may choose to append "al-Haj" to their name instead of using "Haji". The following example is correct:
- Yang Amat Mulia Jeneral Tengku Dato' (Name) al-Haj
- 1 Malay royalty
- 2 Federal titles
- 3 State titles
- 4 Honorary styles
- 5 Other Malay titles by inheritance
- 6 Other salutations
- 7 Sabah
- 8 Related Issues
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 External links
- Yang di-Pertuan Agong (literally, "He who is made Supreme Lord" but usually "Supreme Head" or "Paramount Ruler") is the official title of the ruler of all Malaysia, elected from among the nine heads of the royal families. The title is often glossed King in English.
- Yang di-Pertuan Besar (literally "He who is made Great Lord", but often "Great Lord") is the official title of the Ruler of Negeri Sembilan. All other Rulers are Sultans except the Raja of Perlis.
- Yang di-Pertua Negeri is not a royal title, but the title of "The Head of the State" (the "The Supreme Head") for the state of Penang, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak which does not have a hereditary ruler. Yang di-Pertua Negeri is installed by His Majesty Yang di-Pertuan Agong. It was always mistakenly used the word "Governor" which was only suitable to use during the British time.
- Tuanku is both a title when used before a name and form of address when used alone, and is reserved for the Malay Rulers. It literally means "My Lord", and as a form of address can be glossed as "Your Majesty" or "Your Highness", but is left untranslated when used as a title. In Sarawak, "Tuanku" is the prefix used by certain noble families. In Aceh, a province of Indonesia, "Tuanku" is given to children and grandchildren of a ruling monarch.
- Tengku (also spelled Tunku in Johor, Negeri Sembilan and Kedah, and Ungku or Engku to denote particular lineages, and Raja in Perak and certain Selangor lineages, and Syed/Sharifah in Perlis if suffixed by the royal clan name "Jamalullail") is roughly equivalent to Prince or Princess. Tengku is also a royal hereditary Malay title in eastern Sumatra, which is part of Alam Melayu (Malay world). East Sumatra has several Malay sultanates, such as the Sultanate of Langkat, the Sultanate of Serdang, the Sultanate of Deli, the Sultanate of Asahan, and the Sultanate of Siak Sri Indrapura, as well as Tengku Besar of Pelalawan and the Sultanate of Riau-Lingga.
- 'Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan' is the official title of the Sultan of Brunei. The present Sultan's official name (with full title) is "Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan dan Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam"
- The Crown Prince has the title "Pengiran Muda Mahkota".
- The Sultan's sons would have the title "Pengiran Muda" while his daughters would have the title "Pengiran Anak Puteri"
- Pengiran is a hereditary honorific prefix for people who have blood ties with the royal family.
- Pengiran Isteri is the honorific prefix for the wife of the Prince, usually with royal heritage. (In English, Princess Consort).
- Pengiran Bini is the honorific prefix for the wife of the Prince, usually with non royal heritage. (In English, Royal Consort).
- Pengiran Anak is the honorific prefix for the child of the Prince (Pengiran Muda) and Princess (Pengiran Anak Puteri).
Styles on formal Malaysian notices
- Ke Bawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia (literally "The Dust Under The Feet of His Exalted Highness") is used for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and state Rulers alike. However, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong also uses the prefix "Seri Paduka Baginda" (literally, "Conqueror Majesty") and in English, his title is often translated as "His Majesty". A state Ruler is "His Royal Highness" (before 1971, "His Highness"). Since 1984, the ruler of Johor has used the title "Baginda" as well, but he is still referred to in English as "His Royal Highness". The ruler of Perak also uses the prefix "Paduka Seri" which is derived from the archaic formula "Paduka Seri Maulana". The ruler of Negeri Sembilan also used the prefix "Paduka Seri" between 1993 and 2004 (this has since been dropped). These titles are not used as a form of address - instead Tuanku is used.
- Yang Teramat Mulia is used by the children of reigning Sultans (except in Negeri Sembilan) and by the Dato' Kelana, the Undang of Sungai Ujong in Negeri Sembilan
- Yang Amat Mulia translates to His/ Her Royal Highness,is used by the children of the ruler of Negeri Sembilan and Johor, the Undang of Jelebu, Johol and Rembau and the Tunku Besar of Tampin in Negeri Sembilan
- Yang Mulia translates to His/ Her Highness, used for heirs and heiresses, descendants of royal families, Sultan's/ Raja's.
In Malaysia, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong grants federal title awards. Some may carry the following federal titles. Such titles are honorary and non-hereditary. Federal title may be revoked by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and may be returned by the individual.
The Tun title has existed in the Malaysian society for hundreds of years. In ancient times, Tun was an honorific title used by noble people of royal lineage. Tun is a title inherited by the male descendants.
Over time, the Tun title has become a title conferred by the Yang Di Pertuan Agong to the most deserving recipient who has highly contributed to the nation. The highest federal award granted by the Malaysian government is the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SPGP).
Tun is the most senior federal title awarded to recipients of either the SMN (Seri Maharaja Mangku Negara) or SSM (Seri Setia Mahkota). However, the SMN and SSM are not the highest federal awards. The SMN ranks fourth in order of Federal Awards and the SSM ranks fifth.
There may not be more than 35 local living holders of each of these awards at any one time, and at least two-thirds of them must be musicians or able to play a musical instrument. The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may receive the award in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.
The title for the wife of a Tun is Toh Puan.
Tan Sri is the second most senior federal title and an honorific used to denote recipients of the Panglima Mangku Negara (PMN) and the Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM). The PMN and PSM rank seventh and eighth respectively in the order of Malaysian Federal Awards. The wife of a Tan Sri is called Puan Sri.
There may be at any time up to a maximum of 75 living PMN holders, and a maximum of 250 living PSM holders. The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may be awarded such titles in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and may use the title locally.
The current Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia has the title Tan Sri, and is known as Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Datuk is a federal title that has been conferred since 1965. It is limited to recipients of Panglima Jasa Negara (PJN), of which there may be up to 200 living at any one time, and Panglima Setia Diraja (PSD), of which there may be up to 200 living at any one time. The PJN and PSD rank 9th and 10th respectively in the rank of federal awards.
The wife of a federal Datuk is a Datin.
A female conferred the title in her own right is formally known as "Datin Paduka"; the prefix "Datuk" is more commonly used for women as well as men.
The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects. Foreigners may receive the award in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.
Individual states that have a head of state nominated by the respective state's legislature may confer the title of 'Datuk' to individuals. However, this is different from the title "Dato'". The latter is awarded by individual states headed by a Sultan, and not a head of state nominated by the state legislature. For example, the Yang Dipertua Negeri Melaka is the non-hereditary head of state nominated by the Melaka state legislature. He may confer the title of 'Datuk'. The Sultan of Pahang is the hereditary ruler of the state and may confer the title of "Dato'". Individual rulers (and their staff) determine the award of these titles.
In Malaysia, the Ruler and Governor grants state title awards. Some may carry the following state titles. Such titles are honorary and non-hereditary. State title may be revoked by the Ruler or Governor, and may be returned by the individual.
Dato' Sri or Dato' Seri is the highest state title conferred by the Ruler on the most deserving recipients who have contributed greatly to the nation or state. It ranks below the federal title Tun and is an honor equivalent to Tan Sri. The wife of a recipient is Datin Sri.
The current Prime Minister of Malaysia's title is Dato' Sri Najib Tun Razak. Both former Prime Ministers Mahathir bin Mohamad and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also held the title Dato' Sri during their administrations. After retirement, both received Malaysia's most senior federal title Tun, conferred by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Since Dato' Sri is the most senior state title, there is a limited quota that can be awarded in each state. The Ruler only confers such an honorary title to a very few recipients during the Ruler's royal birthday celebration every year. In Selangor, a maximum of 2 Dato' Sri (SPMS) state awards can be conferred each year, up to a maximum of 40 living Dato' Sri (SPMS) holders at any one time. The numerical limits apply only to Malaysian subjects.
Some rulers grant awards which carry highest titles unique to that state, such as Dato' Sri Utama of the state of Negeri Sembilan.
Datuk Seri is the most senior state title conferred only by the governor to the most deserving recipient who has highly contributed to the nation or state.
A governor who is appointed by the Yang Di Pertuan Agong, namely the Governor of Melaka, Penang, Sabah except Sarawak, can award the Datuk Seri title and such honorary title is equivalent with Datuk. "Dato Sri" awarded from Sarawak is equivalent to the Federal "Tan Sri".
However, both titles Dato' Sri and Datuk Seri may cause confusion since Malaysia media and press may address Dato' Sri title holders as Datuk Seri.
Dato' is the most common title awarded in Malaysia. The wife of a Dato' is a Datin, except in Terengganu where they are known as To' Puan (not to be confused with Toh Puan, the wife of a non-hereditary Tun).
The Dato' (pronounced in similar manner to Datuk) may only be conferred by a hereditary royal ruler of one of the nine Malay states.
There are also hereditary Dato's from Negeri Sembilan, where titles are held for life by heads of certain families and passed on to their heirs. These are not conferred by the ruler, but passed on through the customary native laws. The wife of a hereditary Dato' is addressed by courtesy as To' Puan.
In other states, certain noble families also have hereditary titles and are addressed as Dato'. For example, the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Sri Najib Tun Razak, is hereditary Orang Kaya Indera Shahbandar of Pahang. He would have been addressed as Dato' even if he had not been conferred a Dato' Sri (SSAP) state award of Pahang.
Foreigners may be awarded such titles in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.
Some state governors grant awards which carry titles unique to that state, such as Datuk Wira of the state of Melaka, and Datuk Amar and Datuk Patinggi of the state of Sarawak. Foreigners may be awarded such titles in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.
This title is mainly used in Brunei and Sarawak. An example of the title in Brunei would be Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Di-Raja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Isa, the former Minister of Home Affairs. In Sarawak, it would be Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib, the current Chief Minister of Sarawak.
JP or Justice of Peace rank below all Dato' or Datuk. In Malaysia, Justices of the Peace have largely been replaced in magistrates' courts by legally-qualified (first-class) stipendiary magistrates.
However, state governments continue to appoint Justices of the Peace as honours. In 2004, some associations of Justices of the Peace pressed the federal government to allow Justices of the Peace to sit as second-class magistrates in order to reduce the backlog of cases in the courts. Foreigners may be awarded such titles in a supernumerary and honorary capacity and use the title locally.
Dato Paduka is the most common title awarded in Brunei, of which it is a class of the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia (The Most Honourable Order of Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei). The wife of a Dato Paduka is a Datin, except when the recipient is a female, whereby she would be addressed as Datin Paduka. Other versions of Dato Paduka includes Dato Seri Paduka, Dato Paduka Seri, Dato Laila Utama, Dato Paduka Seri Laila Jasa and others. These title awards are granted by His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei, and the titles are non-hereditary.
The following are both used as styles, before a person's title, and (by themselves) as forms of address:
- Tuan Yang Terutama (T.Y.T.) (literally "The Most Eminent Master") is the style of a state Governor, equivalent to "Your/His Excellency" and also as a title for serving Ambassadors to Malaysia, e.g. T.Y.T. Tuan Christopher J. LaFleur.
- Yang Amat Berhormat (Y.A.B.) (literally "The Most Honourable") is the style of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chief Ministers of the states and Tuns who are Members of Parliament.
- Yang Berhormat (Y.B.) (literally "The Honourable") is the style of Members of Parliament and state Legislative Assemblymen. A prince who is a Member of Parliament is "Yang Berhormat Mulia" e.g. Yang Berhormat Mulia Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah, the MP for Gua Musang. "Yang Berhormat" is also used for recipients of the First Class Order of the Crown of Johor (S.P.M.J.) regardless whether he is a Member of Parliament or not.
- Yang Amat Arif (Y.A.A.) (literally "The Most Learned") is the style of the Chief Justice of Malaysia, the President of the Malaysian Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the High Court of Malaya and the Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak.
- Yang Arif (Y.A.) (literally "The Learned") is the style of a judge.
- Yang Berbahagia (Y.Bhg.) (literally "The Felicitous") (and variants thereof) are the styles of persons with a chivalrous title.
The English versions of these styles follow British usage. Thus the Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers, Senators, state Executive Councillors and judges of the High Court and above are styled the Honourable. It is a solecism to style the Prime Minister or a Minister Right Honourable as they are not members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
Other Malay titles by inheritance
- Pengiran, equivalent to Tengku or Prince'
- Raja, varies depends the lineage of heretary.
- Ungku, equivalent to Tengku or Prince. A hereditary (paternal) title from one of the lineages of the Royal Family of Johor.
- Raden, a royal family name used in the several Malay Sultanates in Kalimantan, used extensively by the Pontianak Malays.
- Abang is a title that is particularly found in Sarawak. Its origin rooted from the appointments of Datuk Patinggi, Datuk Temenggung, Datuk Bandar and Datuk Imam for centuries, long before the British colonization. The children of these state dignitaries carry the title Abang (male) and Dayang (female). When an Abang marries a Dayang or a commoner, the issue will get to keep the title. The issue of a Dayang does not carry a title if he/she has a non-Abang father. However, if a Dayang marries a male aristocrat bearing a different title than hers, her issue will be named according to the husband's given title.
- Awang is the term used for addressing men in Brunei and it is equivalent to Mr. However, Awangku are hereditary, of which they may later claim the title Pengiran since they are also related to the Brunei Sultanate. This, however can only be done after he gets the approval of the elders and is considered as matured enough to carry the title, or after which he has married. The change is only eligible for those who inherit the name Awang from their family line. As for the rule of inheritance of the name, it is the same as Abang
- Dayang is the term used for addressing women in Brunei and it is equivalent to Ms. Dayang is also the female issue of an Abang and an Awang (see Abang and Awang).
- Syed is a title inherited by male descendants, through the male line, from the Prophet Muhammad via his grandsons Hassan and Hussein. Female descendants are known as Syarifah or Sharifah.
- Megat is a title inherited by the male descendant of a Megat. A Megat is a descendant of the Pagaruyung Prince, Megat Terawis who was also the first bendahara of Perak. Megats along with Puteris and Tuns are typically found in Perak."Megat" is also styled by a half blood royal male descendant of a female royal of Pahang.
- Puteri is a title inherited by the female descendant of a Megat.
- Tun is a title inherited by the issue of a Puteri, the female descendant of a Megat and a commoner father, in turn inheritable through the male line. In Pahang it is the title of a male or female descendant of a Sultan through the distaff line. In upper part of Terengganu, Tun is a title inherited by descendant of now abolished Bendahara of Terengganu,
- Meor is a title inherited by the male issue of a Syarifah and non-Syed father and for female the first letter of the name comes with 'Ma' as in "Ma Mastura". Typically used in Perak and few other states such as Terengganu and Kelantan.
- Wan is a title inherited by the issue of a male Wan. Typically found in Pahang, Kelantan, Kedah, Terengganu and Natuna-Anambas. In Kedah, Wan is the title used by descendants of certain former chief ministers of the state, e.g. the descendants of Wan Mohd Saman. Wan can also be used as the title for a girl's name, but this is uncommon, e.g. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Wan can also be found in Sarawak, and is somehow related to the state's Syed lineage. A female issue of Wan carries the title Sharifah. A Wan may later claim the title Tuanku. This, however can only be done after he gets the approval of the elders and is considered as matured enough to carry the title. The change is only eligible for those who inherit the name Wan from their family line. The issue of a Sharifah does not carry a title if he/she has a non-Wan father.
- Nik is a title inherited by the issue of a male Nik. It is typically found in Kelantan and Terengganu.
- Che is a title inherited by the issue of a male Che descendants and were also used by some Malay nobles in ancient time. Certain lineage of Raja Jembal descendants also uses the Che title. However the Che title can also be passed down from a descendant of a female Nik and non-Nik male. The Che title is commonly found in Pattani,Kedah,Kelantan and Terengganu.
- Haji (or Hajjah for female) can be used by people who have completed the Hajj. This title is abbreviated as "Hj." or "Hjh.".
- Tuan is equivalent to Master. Due to its colonial overtones, this term is mostly obsolete, although the title can still be prepended to Syed and Haji. It is used for non-titled Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen. In some states like Kelantan, it could also denote one of the royal family.
- Encik (abbreviated "En.") is equivalent to Mr and can be used by all men.
- Puan (abbreviated "Pn.") can be used by all married women. It is equivalent to 'Mdm./Madam' not 'Mrs', as in the Malay language, married women do not use the names and/or surnames of their husbands. Married Chinese-Malaysian women are also addressed as "Puan (name)" in Malay and "Mdm. (name)" in English, since they do not change their surnames on marriage.
- Cik is equivalent to Miss and can be used by all unmarried women.
Honours and awards for Sabah
The State of Sabah by Act of Parliament established an Order of Chivalry styled Darjah Yang Mulia Kinabalu (The Illustrious Order of Kinabalu). The relevant legislation governing Honours and Awards in Sabah is the State Honours Enactment, 1963 (Sabah No.33 of 1963)(as amended). The Enactment deals with all aspects including process of nomination, conferral, wearing of medals, promotion in the Order and quotas. Appointments to the Order are made to persons who have rendered 'meritorious service to the State'. Appointment to the Order is submitted to the Yang di-Pertua Negeri (the Governor) by the Chief Minister; every appointment to the Order is by Warrant under the hand of the Yang di-Pertua Negeri.
Non-citizens may be appointed as honorary members of the Order. An example of an honorary award is The Honourable Shane Leslie Stone AC PGDK QC former Chief Minister of Australia's Northern Territory, conferred the Pangalima Gemilang Darjah Kinabalu in 1998.
Order of Kinabalu
The motto of the Order is 'Sabah Maju Jaya'. The Yang di-Pertua Negeri (the Governor of Sabah) is the Patron of the Order - Darjah Yang Amat Mulia Kinabalu (The Most Illustrious Order of Kinabalu) - and is deemed a member of the First Grade. A Chancellor is selected by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri from amongst the members of the First Grade.
Grades of the Order
There are four Grades of the Order
- First Grade - Sri Panglima Darjah Kinabalu (post nominal SPDK)(Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Kinabalu). Recipients may use the appellation and style before their names of Datuk Seri Panglima and wives Datin Seri Panglima. There is a quota of 150 members excluding honorary members.
- Second Grade - Panglima Gemilang Darjah Kinabalu (post nominal PGDK)(Knight Commander of the Order of Kinabalu). Recipients may use the appellation and style before their names of Datuk and wives Datin. There is a quota of 950 members excluding honorary members.
- Third Grade - Ahli Setia Darjah Kinabalu (post nominal ASDK)
- Fourth Grade - Ahli Darjah Kinabalu (post nominal ADK)
Medals of the Order
- Bintang Setia Kinabalu (First Class)
- Bintang Kinabalu (Second Class)
- Certificate of Honour (CH)
The Yang di-Pertua Negeri may on the recommendation of the Chief Minister cancel and annul the appointment of any person to any of the Grades of the Order.
It was recently brought to attention that not all Datuks have lived exemplary lives and some have even been convicted of crimes. The various sultans have taken steps to ensure the integrity of the institution by means of consultation as well as the revoking of the given titles.
Tun Dr Mahathir mentioned that one of the problems with titles in Malaysia is the numbers given out. He stated in an interview "Personally, I feel if you want to give value to anything, it must be limited...if you produce a million Ferrari cars, nobody will care about buying a Ferrari."
The Raja Muda (Crown Prince) of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah stated "That is my view. You degrade the award and the Ruler has the right to revoke it. In my opinion, it should be taken away." He also stated that "Sometimes, I think we give away too many datukships...it dilutes and devalues the award."
In the first government following the independence of Malaya in 1957, five of 15 cabinet Ministers were Datuks. The finance minister at the time, Tan Siew Sin, held the title Justice of Peace. Later he was granted a Federal award which carried the title Tun. The father of Malayan independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, received no awards and carried the title "Tunku", which he inherited as the prince of the state of Kedah. He was honorarily referred to as "Yang Teramat Mulia". The senate held only 14 datuks and parliament held only seven.
The conferral of "Datuk" by the Penang government to 25-year-old squash world champion Nicol David and Olympic silver medalist Lee Chong Wei sparked controversy[who?] that they are too young to receive the title. The Melaka government also was criticized for awarding the Datuk title to a non-Malaysian Indian actor, Shahrukh Khan, for making movies in the state.
Issues in Selangor
- The Dato's of Selangor attempted to set up an association of Selangor Dato's. It received approval from the registrar of societies but was shelved when the Sultan forbade any Dato' from joining or risk losing the title.
- Four datuks were removed in 2003 by the Sultan of Selangor.
- The Sultan of Pahang revoked the titles of two dato's in 2004.
- Datu - Philippine equivalent of Malay term Dato
- Datuk (Minangkabau) - traditional title in Minangkabau community
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