Syair (Jawi: شعير) is a form of traditional Malay poetry that made up of four-line stanzas or quatrains. The syair can be a narrative poem, a didactic poem, or a poem used to convey ideas on religion or philosophy, or even one to describe historical event.

In contrast to pantun form, the syair conveys a continuous idea from one stanza to the next, maintains a unity of idea from the first line to the last line in each stanza, and each stanza is rhymed a-a-a-a-a. Syair is sung in set rhythms that differs from syair to syair. The recitation of syair can be accompanied by music or not.


The word Syair is derived from the Arabic word shi’r, a term that covers all genres of Arabic/Islamic poetry. However, the Malay form which goes by the name syair is somewhat different and not modelled on Arabic poetry or on any of the genres of Arabo-Persian poetry.[1]


The earliest known record of syair was from the work of Hamzah Fansuri, a famous Malay poet in the 17th century.

The most famous syair is a 1847 poem by Raja Pengiran Indera Mahkota Shahbandar: Syair Rakis. It is considered to be the passage to modern malaysian literature and mourns for the loss of Labuan.


  1. Stefan Sperl & C. Shackle (1996). Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa: Classical Traditions and Modern Meanings (Studies in Arabic Literature). Brill. p. 363. ISBN 978-90-04-10452-5.
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