Divided in barely seven chapters, this book by Francis D Bradley, one of the least known Western scholars in Southeast Asia to date, was able to cut fast—-and deep—not into one “subject” ie Shaykh Daud Bin Abdullah Fatani, a Thai Muslim.
Francis R Bradley was about to offer both the correct and inaccurate rendition of all the major works of Southeast Asia, by local and colonial scholars alike, indeed, almost from the word get-go (See Introduction and Chapter 1).
Huge efforts were not spared to rectify the penchant of other scholars to focus on the official hagiography of the Sultans and “Orang Kaya,” literally, the rich men.
The book, completed at the Pratt Institute in the United States, may yet become a Magnus Opus of Southeast Asian studies, given the scholar’s deep understanding of the works of Anthony Reid, Craigh Reynolds, AH Johns, William Roff, DGE Hall, Mohammad Naquib Al-Attas, even ex-colonial administrators such as Francis Light in Penang. He was able to discern there strengths and weaknesses well.
Together, Francis R Bradley successfully “unpacked” the myth of Southeast Asia that it was only a cockpit of colonial and petty local/regional rivalry, that comes only as far away from Europe, especially the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, for that matter, Thailand and Myanmar too.
More importantly, the author was also careful to speak of the cultural approach of Roy Mottahedeh, a Persian specialist at Harvard, who remains an expert on how knowledge was transferred from one scholar, or, network of institutional learnings to the other (pp 8-15).
But Francis R Bradley deployed the symbolic resources or structuralism of French scholar, Pierre Bourdieu, too to great effect.
The latter believes that “power” can emanate in a multitude of manners. A Pattani scholar such as Shaykh Daud who spends some time in Mecca or Medina can also interact with local scholars there, invariably, even avoid some of their polarizing debates, and still be partial to the earlier works of other Sufis and philosophical works of art, such as Hamzah Fansuri and Shaykh Nuruddin Al-Raniri in Aceh in the 16th century; although Shaykh Daud is said to have adopted a nephew but he didn’t produce any off-springs.
Shaykh Daud died in 1846 A.D. in Mecca but his remains were removed by his relatives in fear of being thrashed by the Wahabbis.
Through his pattani networks, he also produced a syllabus of Islamic scholarship based , which was further disseminated outward to areas other than Pattani. The latter significantly enhanced the power of one geographical locale over the other, such as Aech and Malacca, permeating across various interstices and spaces.
In this sense, the teachings of Syaykh Daud on various stages of Sufism (pp 88-89) are but a small but powerful tidbit of how one can understand his esoteric thinking. Towards the end, one cannot but be impressed by the encyclopedic resource of this superb book.
Although it stretches into more than seven chapters, the bibliography in Jawi, Arabic, Malay and other Continental languages were extremely elaborate and complete. In fact, Syaykh Daud emphasised the rigor of using Jawi or Arabic script to transliterate everything in Islam and the Quran to best capture the essence of the various forms of mystical Islamic philosophy.
Beyond that, this book has also done service in explaining the elan and historiography of the period, especially the wars, the battles, and the indentured labor, and their marginalization that led to the eruption of five social-political revolutions (See chapter 1, 2 and 3).
One of the reasons why the “deep South” in Thailand cannot be pacified by Malaysia nor Thailand is the complete lack of knowledge of this fascinating region north of Kedah and Kelantan.
Based on this work, unless the scholars and politicians sit down to understand the world of Francis R Bradley, they cannot understand the actual dynamics of the Thai Muslims’ identity politics.