Raja Haji Ahmad: A Celebrated Malay Literature and Historian

Saurav Singh
3 Min Read
Raja Haji Ahmad

Raja Haji Ahmad (1808–1873), also known as Raja Ali Haji bin Raja Ahmad, was a prominent Malay historian, poet, scholar, and literary figure. He made significant contributions to the world of Malay literature and history. He was born in 1808 and left a lasting legacy through his intellectual work and cultural contributions.

Life & Career

Raja Haji Ahmad was born in 1808 with Bugis ancestry. He was the son of Raja Ahmad, who was titled Engku Haji Tua after accomplishing various feats. This early exposure to his father’s accomplishments likely influenced his own pursuits in academia and literature. Raja Haji Ahmad is best known for his contributions to Malay literature and history. He authored the famous work “Tuhfat al-Nafis” (The Precious Gift), which is considered one of the most significant literary achievements in Malay history. This historical text provides valuable insights into the Malay world and culture during his time. His expertise extended beyond literature, as he also had a deep understanding of Malay history and culture. His works served as references for scholars and researchers interested in the history of the Malay Archipelago.

Raja Haji Ahmad passed away, but his intellectual legacy continues to be celebrated by those who appreciate Malay literature and history. In recognition of his contributions, his name is commemorated, and he is honored as a significant cultural figure in the Malay world.

Legacy and Awards

While specific awards may not be readily available in the search results, it is evident that Raja Haji Ahmad’s contributions to Malay literature and history have earned him a place of high esteem in academic and cultural circles. His “Tuhfat al-Nafis” remains a vital work in the field of Malay studies.


Raja Haji Ahmad’s most notable work, “Tuhfat al-Nafis,” is a comprehensive and insightful historical text. It provides a window into the culture, traditions, and history of the Malay world during his era. This work has been invaluable to researchers, historians, and scholars interested in the rich heritage of the Malay Archipelago. Raja Ali, a man of affairs, was also a religious and literary scholar and did much to establish Riau as the intellectual centre of the Malay world in the mid-19th century. His own writings include several didactic texts, such as Muqaddimah fi intizām (1857; “Introduction to Order”) on the duties of kings, a Johnsonian dictionary of Malay usage, Kitab Pengetahuan Bahasa (c. 1869; “Book of Linguistic Knowledge”), and the historical work of Silsilah Melayu dan Bugis (1865; “Malay and Bugis Genealogy”).

On 5 November 2022, a Google Doodle was created to celebrate Celebrating Raja Haji Ahmad.

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