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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Science and Islam: Feb 8 2010

By al-Din on February 9, 2010 1:28 AM

Yang terhormat Tun.

Behind science and discoveries: End of a Malay kingdom

The Melaka kingdom or sultanate lasted just slightly over a century (1402-1511). At its establishment period (by Parameswara), world events elsewhere were already in a state of flux with wars and conquests, coronations, explorations and discoveries, inventions, advances in sciences and humanities.

At the onset of the Malay kingdom, Western Europe was undergoing the Renaissance period when arts and architecture flourished at its centre, Venice. The Ming Dynasty was at its zenith especially in sea power. The Ottomans (Turkish) empire was expanding with a great victory at Kosovo in 1389 which gave them control of the Balkans for the next 500 years. The Tartars under Timur, however curbed the Ottomans by conquering Central Asia beginning in 1395.

The look-East policy by a western nation was first initiated when Portuguese navigators, geographers and seamen were encouraged to make expeditions to the East by Prince Henry ‘The Navigator’. By 1488 Bartholomew Diaz had rounded the southern tip of Africa and named it as the Cape of Good Hope. Their goal to the East was now wide open.

Duarte Barbosa wrote about Melaka as a great centre of eastern trade “Whoever is Lord in Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice”. Melaka had become a trading centre where exotic goods and products from the East were reaching Europe. So much so that the King of Portugal, King Manuel in 1509 dispatched a fleet under Lopez de Sequeira to request for permission from the Sultan to trade.

Melaka was under the reign of Sultan Mahmud Shah (1488-1511), the sixth Sultan of Melaka. The Bendahara was Tun Mutahir, the uncle of the Sultan. Using kris and spears Tun Hasan Temenggong and his warriors managed to repel de Sequiera and his men armed with matchlocks.

World events in science and discoveries 20 years before the fall of Melaka:

1488 - Portugal’s Bartolomeu Dias rounds Cape of Good Hope, opening a new route to India.

1490-2 - German geographer and navigator Martin Behaim (1440-1507) constructs the oldest globe.

1492 -1502 - Voyages by Columbus, the Genoese-born explorer reach Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti), Trinidad and Panama.

1495- Aldine Press in Venice prints the Greek Classics, spreading rebirth of Greek learning.

1495 - First known muzzle-loading rifles made for Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor.

1497 - John Cabot, an Italian navigator employed by Henry VII of England, lands in Newfoundland, which he mistakes for China.

1497 - Italian artist and inventor, Leonardo da Vinci paints Last Supper, Mona Lisa in 1502.

1497-8 - Genoese-born explorer makes two voyages in search of a North-West Passage to China and discovers Newfoundland.

1498 - Vasco da Gama of Portugal reaches west coast of India at Calicut after rounding southern Africa.

1499 - Switzerland gains independence from the German Empire.

1499-1501 - Florentine navigator Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) explores coast of South America, and gives his name to the continent.

1500 - Portuguese navigator, Pedro Cabral lands on the coast of Brazil and claims it for the Portuguese Crown.

1501 - In Venice, Ottaviano dei Petrucci publishes first printed music.

1506 - St. Peter’s, Rome began to be built.

1509 - Earliest known pocket watch made at Nuremberg, Germany.

1509 - Dutch humanist and scholar Erasmus, the most influential man of letters in northern Europe writes Encomium Moriae (‘In Praise of Folly’).

1509 - Portuguese flotilla under de Sequeira’s arrives in Melaka.

1510 - Venetian Renaissance at its peak.

1511 - de Albuquerque conquest of Malacca and end of the Melaka Sultanate.


In hindsight, we could deduce plausible explanations as to the success and longevity, or failure of a kingdom. External factors as well as internal strength or problems affect the stability and sovereignity of any nation. For the case of Melaka, it was the total lack of science and discoveries that led to its downfall.

Leonardo da Vinci's last words at his death ‘I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.’

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