In his upcoming book, Monsters, Dragons and Fairies: Myths and Legends from Borneo and Brunei, Hj Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos talks about the mythicism surrounding some of Borneo’s landmarks.
Does Borneo have its own ‘Bermuda Triangle’? Is there a dragon on Mount Kinabalu? We’ll find out this Sunday when his much anticipated book is released.
A casual archivist and keeper of history, Hj Mohd Rozan is well known for his easily accessible Bruneiresources website. The site has become a valuable point of reference for students and researchers who appreciate its well-catalogued information on Brunei’s past as well as its government.
Now retired, the former think-tank executive director, tells The Scoop about his book projects and what we can expect from them.
Congratulations, we heard the news about your upcoming books. When can we expect to get our hands on them and what are their titles?
Hj Mohd Rozan: Actually, there will be three books being published, I have posted only two on my Instagram but a third is also being prepared.
The first book is Monsters, Dragons and Fairies: Myths and Legends from Borneo and Brunei which will be published by myself. The second book is Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah: Fulfilling the Maqasid Al-Shariah which will be published by a finance institution, whom at the moment I cannot reveal. The third book is The Golden Islamic Heritage of Brunei Darussalam which will be published by UNISSA Press.
The first book will be out very soon. I have negotiated with a printing company and as soon as the cover is ready, it will go to print.
The second book will be used by a finance institution as a gift for an upcoming event, which I cannot go into detail at the moment. Whether this book will be made available to the public later on, that will be up to that finance institution.
The third book has already gone into proof reading stage but some corrections have to be made, probably that will be available by the end of the year.
It’s an interesting topic — Monsters, Dragons and Fairies. Why did you decide to write about this?
Hj Mohd Rozan: This book is similar with my other books, it is a collection of articles which I have written for The Brunei Times. But, for this one, I have added a few more articles which have not been published.
I realised that with more than 300 articles I have written over the years, I found that I have written a number of topics which included the legends and myths of Brunei and Borneo. So I thought to myself, why not do a specialised book which focused on the legends and myths?
I found about 12 articles which I have written for The Brunei Times and I had a few more in mind which never got to print because the paper closed down in November 2016.
So, I wrote them up and I had five more articles — alogether there will be 17 articles. I was pleasantly surprised when you compile all these, the subject matter suddenly popped out and I thought why not just name the book from all the subject matters that came up.
So, in the book, all these are in there – monsters, dragons and fairies plus more, like an invisible city in Borneo; Borneo’s own Loch Ness monster; and the origins of the pontianak.
What sort of research was involved and how long did it take you to write the books?
Hj Mohd Rozan: The first book obviously was easier, as two thirds of the book was already published. I edited them and added more information, and then I added the other one third.
The research for Monsters, Dragons and Fairies was not too bad as most of the content is actually available online through newspaper clippings, blogs etc. So it took me about four or five months.
The second one — Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah: Fulfilling the Maqasid Al-Shariah — took me more than a year.
The research was not too hard as most of the government’s efforts and achievements are recorded. The hard work was paring it down so that the chapters are just the right length, and putting it in context.
The third book, which I have not talked about yet, is similar to the Monsters book. The book will contain articles about Islam in Brunei and the region which I have published in The Brunei Times. This one is a compilation and did not take long to prepare.
Although your book, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah: Fulfilling Maqasid Al-Shariah, may not be made available to the public, can you tell us a little about it? What is meant by ‘Maqasid Al-Shariah’?
Hj Mohd Rozan: Maqasid al-Shariah translates to the Objectives of the Shariah. Islamic jurists have over the last 1,500 years looked at Islam and asked the question what is it that we want to achieve in Islam beyond the prayers and the actions that are required out of us as Muslims.
They have simplified it to the five objectives or the five maqasids (objectives) which are:
1. To preserve the faith or the religion (this is the main goal).
2. To preserve the lives of people (this is another main goal).
3. To preserve the intellect.
4. To preserve the progeny, and
5. To preserve the wealth (because with wealth you can help other people as in Islam you are not forbidden to collect wealth but you have to pay zakat and give charity).
Despite its simplicity, not many countries have achieved this.
You look at how many nations are at war, or in conflict, or just poor, unable to even ensure that the people’s lives can be looked after or that they are able to live in peace.
In this book, which is to celebrate His Majesty’s 50th anniversary ascending the throne, I thought instead of doing the normal of writing of His Majesty’s achievements, why not look at those achievements and place them in the context of fulfilling the Maqasid Al-Shariah.
In the book, for every single maqasids, there will be several articles articulating how His Majesty has been able to achieve those through His Majesty’s own personal interaction with the people as well as through His Majesty’s government.
We have thoroughly enjoyed your articles, and other nuggets of information either posted on your blog site, Instagram, and those previously published in The Brunei Times. Will there be more books to look forward to in the future?
Hj Mohd Rozan: I actually have one book which is supposed to be printed and published in Malaysia, that is currently on hold.
The book is ready but I need to get all the technical details — the agreement and such. This book, entitled Our Brunei and Borneo Heritage, covers all the articles I wrote for The Brunei Times for the year 2010.
So that leaves 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
I have on my hard disk two more books, Our Brunei History and Our Brunei Culture, which covers another two of these years. I have also done a lot of papers and articles which are either published in various other books or presented during seminars and conferences, which also need to be properly documented.
I guess the answer to that question would be a resounding Yes. Too many in fact.
‘Monsters, Dragons and Fairies: Myth and legends from Brunei and Borneo’ will be available at Fanboys Infinite Collectors in Gadong from Sunday, October 1.