A Peribahasa Revisited

M.Nasir uses alot of peribahasa ( proverb ) in his songs, and his songs have always been a tool for me to remember them and their meanings. Peribahasa, I find is a literary heritage and it is sad that not many Malays use them in their conversations and writing in our present time. But then again, these days, not many Malays even use the Malay Language to begin with.

Of late I have been quite abreast ( because he talks about it ) with the husband’s research on Islam and the Nusantara and on how Islam came to spread to the Nusantara, especially the Tanah Melayu area and the Sufistic/Traditional Islamic influences that came along with it. And the Jawi scripts as well.

Hence, from there, I started thinking of peribahasa, because well, I listen to M. Nasir’s songs almost daily. I began to see that since the sufis were very instrumental in the spread of Islam in Nusantara, many peribahasa has Tasawuf ( Islamic Mysticism/Spirituality ) as their roots. That factor reflects the worldview of the Malay society back then.

Peribahasa is always laden with elements of nature e.g Ikutlah rasmi padi, makin berisi makin tunduk… or Melentur buluh biar dari rebungnya.. and there are many. Even if they are not using nature elements, the peribahasa reflects the Malay society back then as one that is very reflective and contemplative and had a very soft skill of giving advice i.e by using metaphors. A society yang beradab, if I may put it that way.

Want to advise a lazy person to be more hardworking and to make efforts? There is the peribahasa ‘nasi di pinggan tidak ke mulut kalau tak disuap’. Or to teach a child about good behaviour and taking care of family’s honour, there is ‘ Jangan kerana nila setitik, rosak susu sebelanga’ or that hardwork pays off, there are ‘ sikit sedikit lama-lama jadi bukit‘ and/or ‘ belakang parang kalau di asah pasti tajam’

However, I used to have an issue with one peribahasa–‘ Secupak takkan jadi segantang’ which literally translated to be ‘the contents of a bowl will never become the contents of say, a gunny sack’ (? ) Basically, you have what you have and it can never be more.

I used to find that peribahasa very fatalistic. I used to credit it to why the Malays had this problem of not going out there to strive for more success and why they were always, back then, ( at least where I came from), was always on the lower rung of the society, plagued withe financial/social problems. In the 80s and early 90s, the word Malay was always synonymous with low income groups, needed welfare etc etc. I blamed that peribahasa for shaping the worldview of the Malays then, mostly due to my lack of understanding of what that peribahasa really meant.

I am in the process of editing a book-to-be, which is a compilation of lectures given by ‘Dr K’ on the meaning of the 99 Names of our Creator, the tasawwuf approach to it and the in depth meaning of each of HIS name. Last week I was editing on the name AL WAHHAB and suddenly, it daunted upon me that now I know what the old Malays meant by secupak tak kan jadi segantang.

AL WAHHAB means THE GIVER OF ALL. So, if HE is the giver of all, then as humans, we just have to work for it and HE will give us, right? But then, why the discrepancies in the peribahasa? If at one moment, it propels society to work hard bagaikan mengasah parang hingga tajam, why on the next level it says secupak tak kan jadi segantang, as if saying that your wealth can never grow any more than what you have, even if you work hard for it ?

I found my answer while editing that chapter. It says that our rezeki i.e our sustainance has been fixed by HIM when we were born into this world. That each person has been determined his own rezeki. And our rezeki is what that is only used by each individual ourselves.

For example, if let’s say I have $ 1000. Not all of that is my rezeki. I may use about $100 to buy food for the family, from which I eat from let’s say $20 worth. That $20 worth that has gone into my body is my rezeki while the rest of $80 worth of food is the rezeki of my family members, not mine. And the remainder of the money, say I use to pay bills, water, rent or other household needs– that is the rezeki of everyone in the household whose rezeki has been written to be part of the original $1000 that I had. Hence from the original $1000 which on face value is wholesomely mine, in reality, only a fraction of it is mine, which HE has written for me while the rest of the portion is for others whose rezeki has been written based on what I have.

So now I understand why the peribahasa says secupak takkan jadi segantang. I guess the Malays back then understood this concept where we can earn as much money as we want, but not all of that would be for us and our own use, because what is for us has been written and what is for others have also been written. A rich man can afford to buy the most expensive meal on earth, but if he is ill and is not able to eat it, that too, is not his rezeki. Or a person may have a bankful of money for himself, however, if he dies before he could finish spending that money for himself, the money is not his rezeki, but the rezeki of his children who inherit it..


Anyway, I like this peribahasa best. The one that says Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit ku junjung. It kind of made my life easier wherever we landed ourselves in.


13 thoughts on “A Peribahasa Revisited

  1. I think the peribahasa that you described last, ‘Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit ku junjung’, would also describe me the best…I had lived a nomadic life since I was born, and only just relatively recently, (being married, having a kid, and getting a stable job) would I consider myself as actually having settled down… Back to what I was saying, it’s a different feeling when you feel that you belong everywhere, but at the same time, belong nowhere… So holding on to this peribahasa really made my life easier…

  2. Mr Lobo,
    I also like that peribahasa because it’s in one of my favourite M. Nasir’s song Mantera Semerah Padi..
    ‘Di mana, bumi ku pijak.. di situ, langit ku junjung.. Alang-alang menyeluk pekasam…biar sampai ke pangkal lengan ohhh..’


  3. Not a bad article for a closet philosopher 😀 hahaha …
    Anyway, sadly like any other form of traditions, peribahasa has lost their place in the younger generation in my country. Phrases like the f words and all the ghetto slangs is in rage.

    We used to have this very interesting class where we exchange ‘pantun’, ‘gurindam’ and other sort. It was a fun class.

    I don’t know what they’re teaching now in Bahasa Indonesia study.

    There is this peribahasa (is it ‘saying’ in English?) we know pretty well here:

    “Lain Ladang Lain Belalang, Lain Lubuk Lain Ikannya” … basically it goes to say that different people in different place act differently haha,

    Hence the need to, “Di mana bumi ku pijak, di situ langit ku junjung”.

  4. Heru,
    I think u meant toilet seat philosopher? ;p
    Peribahasa is proverb in English if I am not mistaken….
    Eh I know about the lain ladang, lain belalang peribahasa.. in English its Different folks different strokes…

    Back in my country, the Malay Language started out as a 2nd Language. Hence we call the subject ML2 ( Malay as 2nd Language ) and now they call it Mother Tongue language. But really, kids these days study it just for the sake of passing exams. Hardly as a communication lingo amongst themselves… BUT, thanks to sinetron and Indonesian domestic workers, the kids in my country are quite apt in speaking BI though… ironic huh?

    I’m not quite sure about Malaysia… so far the kids I am teaching tuition to all go to private schools using the syllabus of my country. I have yet to really know personally a kid from a sekolah kebangsaan here…

  5. Oh iya, toilet seat hahaha …
    Ngomong-ngomong… itu di pojok kanan atas ada smilies kecil … 😀 iseng amat.

  6. Hehheh Mr Lobo, that’s corny.
    Bring it on.. but be warned that I am no tasawuf scholar, just a freelance editor 😛

  7. Mr Mudpie,
    Is that you being a lawyer buruk? 😛
    hehe but yeah it’s true … jodoh dikejar takkan lari. Tapi kan, I know some people kejar their supposedly jodoh till it scares the latter off to the point they ran. As in Run Forest RUNNNNNNNNN!
    That kind.
    So how?

  8. I learnt the peribahasa ‘Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit ku junjung’ when i was in secondary school… Hahaa!!

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