Early Dutch Encounters with Islamic Law: The Text and Translation of Mogharaer Code or Semarang Compendium

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This paper introduces, translates, and reproduces the original text of the Mogharaer Code, also called the Semarang Compendium, originally compiled by Dutch officials in Java between 1743 and 1746. For colonizers, the rule of law was one of the most significant tools to subjugate, subject, and suppress new lands and people. The existing laws of the colonized lands became a starting point for several empires, and Islamic law was one of the most crucial points of contention. Although the officials of the Dutch East India Company had dealt with local legal traditions in the Malay Archipelago since the seventeenth century, it took more than a century for them to deal directly with Islamic law. The result was the Mogharaer Code. The Dutch invested responsibilities and duties in Java’s establishment—such as by appointing a governor and constituting a landraad (court for the indigenous population; this was in addition to the Council of Justice that was founded to adjudicate between Europeans and Javanese or Javanese and foreigners). The landraad aimed at dealing with cases among the Javanese, and the Mogharaer Code was compiled to serve this purpose exclusively. The landraad in Semarang was mainly concerned with criminal cases, so most laws in the code are criminal laws. Even so, it includes a few civil situations, including laws for marriage, inheritance, and commerce. The code also deals with procedural laws for the landraad itself, instructing landraad members how they should handle different cases and execute their prescribed responsibilities. It addresses the duties and procedures of its president, public prosecutor, secretaries, and jaksas (local tribunals). It also provides detailed oaths to be undertaken by individuals for those positions when taking up office.

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Vol. 106
Page range: 53-87
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Cornell University Southeast Asia Program
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