Chapter 10: Islam in Indonesia by P. A. Hoesein Djajadiningrat

Islam -- The Straight Path: Islam Interpreted by Muslims
by Kenneth W. Morgan

Chapter 10: Islam in Indonesia by P. A. Hoesein Djajadiningrat

(P. A. Hoesein Djajadiningrat is Professor of Islam, Faculty of Literature, University of Indonesia, Djakarta, Indonesia)

Before the coming of Islam to Indonesia the culture of the islands had been greatly influenced by many centuries of acceptance of Hindu and Buddhist culture. Today, Indonesia has one of the largest Islamic populations in the world, more than seventy million Muslims.

The earliest reliable information concerning Islam in Indonesia is found in Marco Polo’s report that, when returning to Venice in 692 (A.D. 1292) after his years in the service of Kublai Khan in China, he stopped at Perlak on the north coast of Sumatra and found that the people of that city had been converted to Islam by "Saracene" merchants. In the neighboring principalities, according to his account, the population was made up of wild heathens. At Samara, where Marco Polo waited five months for favorable winds, he had to protect himself and his traveling companions against the cannibal peoples of the area by building a fortified stockade. The Samara of Marco Polo’s account, and the nearby Basma to which he refers, have been identified as Samudra and Pasé, two towns separated by the Pasé River, a short distance above Perlak.

The grave of the first king of Samudra- Pasé has been discovered in a burial place near the village of Samudra. The epitaph tells us that the king, al-Mulakkab Sultan Malik al-Salih, "the upright king," died in 696 (A.D. 1297). There is also a Malay tradition which relates that the first king of Samudra was a heathen who adopted the Islamic faith between 669 and 674 (A.D. 1270-75) and assumed the title of Malik al-Salih. If the identification of Samara with Samudra is correct, then this must have been the first Muslim kingdom in Indonesia when Marco Polo visited it at the end of the seventh century (thirteenth century A.D.). The influence of the little kingdom of Samudra ultimately gave the name Sumatra to the whole island.

The famous Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta (died 779; A.D. 1377) visited Samudra on his way to China in 746 (A.D. 1345) during the reign of Sultan Malik al-Zahir, who was the grandson of the Sultan of Marco Polo’s time. Ibn Battuta says that Islam had been established there for almost a century and tells of the piety, humility, and religious zeal of the king who, like his people, was a follower of the Shafi’i school of jurisprudence. Malik al-Zahir held meetings with theologians for discussion of religious matters and the recital of the Qur’an, went to Friday public worship on foot, and from time to time went to war against the unbelievers in the interior regions. Ibn Battuta’s description of the wedding of one of the king’s sons gives details concerning the ceremonies and public worship which give an impression of considerable pomp and splendor at the royal court of Samudra.

In a village near Gersik, northwest of Surabaya on the island of Java, a loose headstone from a grave has been found which bears an Arabic epitaph in Kufic script saying that the grave held the remains of a woman who died in 475 or 495 (A.D. 1082 or 1102) -- the uncertainty is due to the difficulty in deciphering one word which may be either seventy or ninety. This would be the earliest date for a Muslim in Indonesia but doubt has been expressed, supported by very strong arguments, as to whether or not this headstone actually belonged there. There is, however, in Gersik the grave of one Malik Ibrahim who probably hailed from Iran -- the epitaph does not make this clear -- and who died in 822 (A.D. 1419). A marble mausoleum found in a graveyard near Pasé is, according to the complete genealogy given in the epitaph, the resting place of a descendant of the Abbasid Caliph al-Mustansir, who was Caliph from 623 to 640 (A.D. 1226-42). The epitaph says that the man buried in the mausoleum, who died in 810 (A.D. 1407), was the great-grandson of one of the princes who managed to escape the slaughter when the Mongols under Hulagu destroyed Baghdad in 656 (A.D. 1258).

Ma Huan, a Chinese Muslim traveler who accompanied a high dignitary from China on an official journey, visited Tuban, Gersik, and Surabaya -- all on the north coast of Java -- in the ninth century, at the earliest in 855 (A.D. 1451). He describes the population as made up of Muslims who had immigrated from the west, of Chinese -- many of whom had embraced Islam -- and of natives who were still heathen and believers in demons. Other than the epitaphs mentioned above, and the brief report by Ma Huan, there is no existing information about earlier Islamic settlements on the island of Java.

The Sultanate of Samudra-Pasé, probably weakened by the rising rival sultanates in northern Sumatra, fell to the Portuguese in 928 (A.D. 1521). After the city had been conquered by the Portuguese, a resident of Pasé -- called Falatehan by Portuguese historians -- went to Mecca where he studied for two or three years. When he returned to Pasé and found that the presence of the Portuguese did not make the territory favorable for further spreading of Islam, he left for Demak on the north coast of Java. Demak was the capital city of the first Islamic kingdom on the island of Java, founded by Raden Patah (died 924; A.D. 1518).

When Falatehan arrived in Demak it was ruled by the third Sultan of Demak, Pangeran Trenggana, who reigned from 928 to 953 (A.D. 1521-46). He was well received, not only as a scholar who had studied in Mecca but also because he was, according to tradition, a Sharif -- a descendant of the Prophet. He was even given a sister of the sultan in marriage. From Demak he proceeded to propagate Islam westward. With troops mustered from Demak he took possession of Banten and then in 933 (toward the end of A.D. 1526 or beginning of 1527), conquered Sunda Kalapa, the port of western Java, which he rechristened Djayakarta -- now Djakarta -- which is probably a Javanese translation of the first word in the phrase in the Qur’an, fathan mubinan, which means "obvious victory."

Contemporary historians identify Falatehan with Sunan Gunung Djati, "the saint buried on the hill of Djati," who is known traditionally as one of the nine saints who converted Java to Islam. Most of the nine saints are known either by the name of the place where they lived or the place where they were buried, to which is added a title such as Susuhunan -- abbreviated to Sunan -- meaning "the worshiped," or Maulana, "our Lord," or similar titles expressing the high regard in which they were held. The existing traditions about these saints, together with some established historical data, give an idea of the Islamic doctrines which were taught in Indonesia in the early days of Islam.

Tradition speaks of one of them, Sunan Kali Djaga, as a saint who concealed his devoutness by making it appear as if he were not leading a pious life. In order to spread Islam he made use of the wayang, the shadow play performed with leather puppets representing figures from the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Performances were accompanied by the gamelan, an orchestra of copper and wooden percussion instruments, drums, a flute, and a two-stringed instrument. Sunan Kali Djaga was an excellent performer of these plays based on the Hindu epics, and as a reward for a performance he did not ask for anything but that the audience should repeat after him the Islamic creed. Thus he easily led many along the road to Islam, according to the traditional account.

It is said that when the mosque in Demak was being built the saints were supposed to contribute their manual labor and Sunan Kali Djaga was delegated to provide one of the lofty main wooden columns. He produced it at the last moment by tying together some chips of wood to piece it out. This column can still be seen in the mosque -- at the top where one of the four planks spanning it does not extend to the end one can see something resembling chips of wood. This mosque was later regarded as so sacred that participation seven times there in the ritual worship of the Id al-Qurban, the festival associated with the annual pilgrimage, was believed to be equal to one pilgrimage to Mecca. This belief is probably connected with the extraordinary holiness ascribed to the nine saints of Java. It is an indication of the degree of holiness assigned to these saints that their miracles are described by the Arabic word which in Muslim dogmatics is used only for miracles performed by God’s messengers, rather than by the word customarily used to refer to the miracles of saints.

Two Javanese Islamic documents which give some idea of the Muslim thought of the tenth century (sixteenth century A.D.) have been preserved. One was the work of Sunan Bonang whose period of activity may be assigned to the years between 880 and 932 (A.D. 1475-1525). His document was written in opposition to heretical mystical doctrines such as the assertion that what is, is God, and what is not, is God; that the not-being of God is not-creating, and this explains the high purity of the Lord, for God is alone and lonely and can be known only by the not-being which surrounds Him. Sunan Bonang argues in opposition that God is above all such talk. He is the Most High, the Immaterial, the High, who is neither preceded by not-being nor accompanied by not-being, nor even surrounded by not-being. This brief reference should suffice to show that from the very beginning of Islam on Java mystic contemplation existed in both its orthodox and its heretical, pantheistic forms.

The other tenth-century Islamic document in Javanese is from an unknown author -- unknown because a number of pages are missing at the beginning and the end of the manuscript. It is the kind of document later called primbon in Javanese, that is, a heterogeneous collection of notes on religion, prayers, exorcisms, physiognomy, interpretation of dreams, prophesying from symbols, and the like. This tenth century manuscript contains mostly religious notes, except for one page at the end on ominous body vibrations. The religious notes are chiefly ethical in nature; for instance, they place special emphasis on the intention before performing the ritual purification or the salat, the ritual worship. In its comments on mysticism, the orthodox character of its ethical comments and the orthodox interpretation of innovations -- and warnings against them -- create the impression of a document written to oppose pantheistic mysticism in the community. This document also mentions a Shaikh Ibrahim Maulana and his exhortations. This is probably the Malik Ibrahim who died in 822 (A.D. 1419) and whose grave was found at Gersik.

There is a well-known tradition, which is appropriate to the mystical atmosphere of these two tenth-century documents, that the founding saints of Java unanimously condemned one of their number, Seh Siti Djenar, who taught the hidden knowledge and neglected the performance of the Friday public worship, and also asserted that he and God were identical. This doctrine of Seh Siti Djenar reminds one of the claim of the famous Sufi of Baghdad, al-Hallaj, who said, "I am Reality," that is, Allah. AI-Hallaj was executed in Baghdad in 310 (A.D. 922), but the mysticism which he taught was carried on by many of his followers, especially in Iran where their mysticism flowered in Persian poetry.

The striking similarity between the Sufism of Seh Siti Djenar and the Iranian al-Hallaj could probably not be accepted in itself as convincing evidence that Islam came to Java by way of Iran, but it is a significant part of the evidence for believing that Islam as it was known in Java came through Iran and from there through western India and Sumatra.

For instance, on the tenth of the month Muharram -- the day the Shi’as remember the martyrdom of Husain -- many families prepare a special dish which they call bubur sura from the Iranian word Asbura, which means the tenth of Muharram. The month Muharram is also called Sura in Javanese. Reminiscences of Shi’a influences are also found in Atjeh, north Sumatra, where the month Muharram is called "the month Hasan-Husain." In Minangkabau, on the west coast of central Sumatra, Muharram is called "coffin-month," a reference to the Shi’a custom of commemorating Husain’s death by carrying a symbolic coffin through the streets and throwing it into a river or other body of water. According to tradition, Islam was first introduced to Minangkabau by a Sufi who belonged to the Shattari order, which is still found in India and Indonesia. Another convincing clue to the conclusion that Islam came to Indonesia by way of Iran is the practice of using Iranian -- not Arabic -- names to designate the vowel signals of the Arabic script when learning the proper way to recite the Qur’an. There are other easily recognizable evidences of Iranian influence in the written language used in Islamic studies.

Relations with the west coast of India are indicated by the tombstones found in north Sumatra, and the tombstone of Malik Ibrahim in Gersik, which came from Cambay m Gujerat, where they made tombstones to order with any inscription desired. Another strong indication of relations with western India is the acceptance by Indonesian Muslims of the Shafi’i school of the law, which was the dominant school in Malabar. The evidences cited here are typical of the clues which have led historians to accept the theory that Islam came to Indonesia through Iran and the west coast of India.

Once Islam had arrived in Indonesia the further dissemination of the faith took place chiefly through the activities of Muslim merchants who married women from the places where they settled either temporarily or permanently. Before marriage the women had been converted to Islam, and such a marriage often led to the adoption of Islam by members of the woman’s family. This is a process which can be found even now in many parts of the world not yet completely Islamized. The forming of new Islamic families naturally gave rise to the need for religious instruction for the children, and for adults as well. Traditional religious instruction which originated in the early days still exists today in a form which has been little altered through the years. It is this system of education, combined with intermarriage, which accounts for the peaceful spread of Islam throughout the islands of Indonesia.

The instruction in its elementary form is instruction in Qur’an recital, given today on the basis of a booklet in which the Arabic characters are printed with and without vowel and other symbols; it customarily includes the first Surah of the Qur’an and the last section, which includes Surahs LXXVIII through CXIV, arranged in reverse order, from short to long. Instruction is given to children of distinguished families by a teacher -- called a guru -- who visits them at their home; children from ordinary families of the common people go to the guru’s home or to a place of worship. The place of worship is called a langgar in the Javanese language of central Java; a tadjug in the Sundanese language of western Java; a surau in Malay, the language nearest to Indonesian which is used throughout the islands; and a mcunasah -- from the Arabic madrasa -- in the language of Atjeh in western Sumatra. It is used only for the communal performance of the five daily salats, for religious meetings, and for religious instruction, but not for the Friday public worship since it does not meet the requirements for a mosque.

After the student has mastered the introductory studies he goes on to learn the rest of the Qur’an and finally demonstrates his competence in reciting the Qur’an at a festive gathering of his parents and friends, followed by a special meal -- called a slametan -- which is considered to have some religious significance. The basic religious instruction also includes instruction in ritual purification and in performance of the salat, the daily ritual prayers, and in the proper way to formulate the intention to fast the following day, an intention which should be expressed every evening during the month of Ramadan. For such instruction there are booklets, often illustrated, to clarify the actions which must be carried out in performing the rituals of purification and daily worship. Such booklets are usually called a "collection of the pillars," or essential constituents of Islam, and are published in inexpensive format in Malay with Arabic characters, or in Indonesian in Latin script, with translation of the Arabic formulas. Instruction in the principles and essentials of Islam is also given to men and women who have had little or no opportunity for it in childhood or who have forgotten much of what they once learned. Such instruction is available for women in the morning, given by a woman, and for men in the evening after work.

Those who want to penetrate deeper into the study of Islam go to a pesantren, a residential school for Islamic studies. Such institutions can be very large, and the subjects they offer may include all branches of Islamic theology from elementary Qur’an recital up to the three constituents of Islamic science -- law, creed, and Sufism -- as well as the accessory sciences such as instruction in the correct way to recite the Qur’an, Arabic grammar, exegesis of the Qur’an, and the study of the Hadith. Some students go from one pesantren to another to hear famous teachers, and some are able to continue their studies in Mecca or Cairo. In Sumatra the pesantren is called a madrasah, the Malay name which comes from the Arabic, while on Java that name is used to designate a religious school where the subjects are taught according to modern methods along with instruction in secular subjects.

Among the books used in these studies, the most widely used in the field of shari‘a is The Ship of Salvation by Salim b. Sumair al-Hadrami, who died in Djakarta in 1271 (A.D. 1854). This book gives a concise survey of the five fundamentals, or pillars, of Islam. There are four editions of this booklet, one in Arabic only and three with interlinear translations in Malay, Javanese, and Sundanese. More detailed studies of the Traditions, Arabic works of law, and the regulations of the shari‘a concerning problems usually submitted to Islamic courts of justice -- such as appointing the time for the beginning and end of the fast, matrimonial law, hereditary law -- are available in Malay for students in the pesantrens. For the study of theologv and jurisprudence the classical work by al-Sanusi is available, with interlinear translation in Malay, and other works which follow the Shafi’i school of law chiefly, although the Hanafi school is also represented in some writings. For the study of mysticism al-Ghazali is available in a Malay translation.

In recent years there has been a considerable increase in the number of religious schools, religious instruction has been introduced in public elementary schools, and modern madrasas have been founded. These new developments have encouraged the publication of many books in the field of Islam in Indonesian in Latin script, with or without Arabic texts. New Indonesian translations of the Qur’an have been published, and new editions of the Qur’an have been printed with -- and this is very useful -- a supplement covering the major rules governing the right way to recite the Qur’an. It is remarkable to note that during this generation there have been books published on Islam in the Sundanese language, sometimes with Arabic text and interlinear translations. Instruction in the Sundanese pesantrens has traditionally been given in Javanese because the teacher had received his instruction in that language, but evidently it is now more effective to use the mother tongue. The extensive work of Indonesian theologians as translators and writers of textbooks has had great influence in the dissemination of Islam throughout the islands.

The Shari‘a

In judging the religion of a people one should consider not only their knowledge of their religion and their practices in living up to it, but also their disposition, their sentiments toward their religion. The Javanese speak of the "white people," those who live religiously, and the "red people," or those who do not live religiously but nevertheless are Muslims. The number of white people, or those who have knowledge of Islam and are living up to Islamic principles, is increasing through the expansion of religious instruction, the activity of Islamic political parties, and the increasing significance of Islam in international affairs. Intellectuals especially are attracted to Islam through its political significance.

The shari‘ was made clear in earlier chapters in this book, stresses the five basic principles of Islam: the acceptance of the Word of Witness -- that is, the confession that there is One God and Muhammad is His Messenger -- and the four obligations of prayer, zakat, fasting, and pilgrimage. In Indonesia, ritual prayer, salat, is probably given most consideration. Throughout Indonesia at any of the five times appointed for the daily prayers believers can be seen in any mosque or langgar performing the salat together. The compulsory Friday public worship in the mosque is observed by a far larger number of people, so many that the mosques are usually overcrowded and often have more worshipers than can get into the building. The special services at the time of the fast at the end of Ramadan are even more crowded. It is further evidence of the concern of the people of Indonesia for salat that as the population increases new mosques are built to accommodate them.

The traditional mosque in Indonesia has as its characteristic style what is known as a broken roof, consisting of two or three layers with an independent, curved roof line. If there is a minaret it is a tower which stands apart from the mosque. In the new mosques a new architectural style is being introduced, influenced somewhat by the mosques of western Islamic countries. In Indonesian mosques the time for prayer is announced by powerful beating on a great drum made of a thick, hollow tree trunk covered with buffalo skin; then the call to prayer is usually chanted either from the mosque itself or from the roof of the mosque.

Most Indonesians -- not only those who have made a special study of religion -- are aware of the significance of the intention at the beginning of the ritual worship as well as during its performance. They recognize the significance of humility toward God, of devotion in all worship, an attitude which is almost inevitably developed by the positions of the body, the bending, kneeling, and prostration which are a part of salat. The sense of humility and devotion is especially strong when the ritual prayer is repeated in a congregation.

It is interesting to note that among the people of Lombok, the island Just beyond Bali, there is a sect which teaches that the ritual prayers are to be performed only three times a day. This sect is known as the "people of the three times" in contrast with the "people of the five times," or the orthodox Muslims. They are also notable as a sect which holds to many of the traditional customs, known as adat, together with the religious law of Islam. Their adat, customary law, holds that no woman can inherit a rice field, for instance, while Islamic law does not exclude women from such inheritance.

Concerning zakat, the fundamental principle of almsgiving, in Indonesia most consideration is given to the obligation to give to the poor at the time of the festival at the end of Ramadan. The gift, in accordance with the shari‘a.should consist of rice but in practice is also given in the form of money. The donor buys the amount of "wheat of the country" -- rice, in this case -- which is determined for each person and presents it as zakat to a religious teacher, usually the teacher of his children. In the big cities today committees are organized which send circulars to heads of families requesting them to send their zakat in money to these committees which take responsibility for its distribution in gifts to the poor. The regulations in the shari‘a concerning the categories of people among whom the zakat should be distributed are, however, only applied to the collectors of zakat, and to the poor and destitute, among whom are also included religious teachers because their activity is not considered to be a means of living. The other categories of people having a right to a share of zakat do not exist in Indonesia.

The fast during the month of Ramadan is only observed by devout people. Others may begin the fast, but give up after a few days either because they are physically or mentally unable to live up to the heavy strain of the fasting obligation, or simply because they are not able to generate the will power required for the fast. Some deliberately fast only on the first day -- the Javanese mockingly call this "fasting like the bedug," which is a drum covered only on one side. Others fast on only the first and the last day -- mockingly referred to as "fasting the way a kendang is covered," that is, a drum with skins on both sides. Some fast on the first, the middle, and the last day; and some do not fast at all. During Ramadan religious meetings are held every night in the mosque, the langgar, or private homes for the performance of communal ritual prayers and for reciting the Qur’an, or listening to the recital of the Qur’an. Such meetings are attended also by people who are not fasting.

According to Shafi’i teaching, the descent of the Qur’an took place on one of the uneven dates of the last ten days of Ramadan; therefore, the nights of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, and 29th of Ramadan have a special holiness. Those nights are usually spent in performing acts of devotion such as salats, dhikrs, Qur’an recital, and the distribution of alms in order to make sure that they will be done on the correct night which commemorates the descent of the Qur’an. People living near a mosque or langgar send food to it as a contribution for a slametan, a meal of well-being, a ceremonial meal which seeks a blessing either for the participants or for other specified persons. In former times there was an adat celebration on those nights with fireworks and Chinese lanterns.

At the end of the fast, after the final ritual of prayers has been performed, people dressed in their new clothes go to visit relatives and acquaintances. This is a general festival day throughout Indonesia. In some parts of the country the people visit the graves of their relatives on this day.

The number of Indonesians who make the pilgrimage to Mecca is some indication of the vitality of Islam among the people of the islands. In 1349 (A.D. 1930) thirty-three thousand pilgrims went from Indonesia in a year when the total number of pilgrims from overseas was eighty-five thousand; the next year the figures were seventeen thousand and forty thousand respectively. The ordinary citizen has to save for years in order to carry out this religious obligation, so the determination to make the pilgrimage must be very strong. Sometimes it happens that when a deceased relative could have made the pilgrimage but did not, another is asked to go as his representative and is given a reward in money for making the trip. Under the present government the Ministry of Religious Affairs supervises the travel of the pilgrims to Mecca. It receives from the government an allocation of foreign exchange which allows some ten to twelve thousand pilgrims to make the journey and then allocates quotas to different parts of the country and supervises the selection of those who will be permitted to go, for from two to ten times as many apply as can be cared for. The government charters ships and supervises the journey to Saudi Arabia.

The shari‘a is concerned not only with the regulations governing the four basic requirements -- salat, zakat, fasting, and pilgrimage -- but also with matrimonial law, family law, inheritance, business, and political activities. In these fields an important role is played by adat, that is, the pre-Islamic conceptions, customs, and habits which have persisted even though they have not always been reconciled with religious law.

The recommendation given in the law books in favor of sanctioning the marriage in the mosque is not generally followed. In distinguished families the marriage is usually contracted at the home of the parents or relatives of the bride; among ordinary folk the marriage is contracted at the office of the official in charge of overseeing contracts of marriage. After contracting the marriage, it is adat -- all over Java and in a number of the other islands -- that the groom make a conditional declaration of divorce, that is, a declaration of divorce which becomes effective if certain conditions are met. All kinds of conditions may be included, provided, of course, they do not contravene Islamic prescriptions. In Djakarta, the usual conditions are: if the husband deserts his wife for six months in succession, or does not provide sustenance for her for three months, or does her bodily harm, or ignores her for six months -- then the divorce takes effect. To prevent automatic divorce every time these conditions are met, another condition is added -- that the wife must be unwilling to put up with the situation and brings the matter before the appropriate authorities, and her complaint is considered justified.

According to Javanese tradition the conditional declaration of divorce was introduced by a sultan when several of his soldiers returned from an expedition after a long absence and found that their wives had married other men. Religious judges had dissolved their marriages on the grounds that their husbands had deserted them without any provision for sustenance. That led to the additional condition that the divorce does not occur if the absence is caused by the command of the ruler.

The well-known modernist Rashid Rida, a pupil of Muhammad Abduh who became a leader of modernism in Egypt after his master’s death, declared in a fatwa, a religious edict, that the conditional declaration of divorce is an unjustified innovation. However, legal authorities who are familiar with circumstances in Java have supported this adat as a means of preventing legal insecurity.

When the husband and wife practice a profession together, as is the case in some parts of Java, there is the adat that when the marriage is dissolved the jointly acquired goods are distributed between them either equally or in a proportion of two parts for the husband and one for the wife -- this provision varies in different parts of the country. The goods brought into marriage remain the property of their respective owners. In the case of death of either husband or wife, ownership naturally falls to the heirs of the deceased. Sayyid Uthman, a great scholar who had an open eye for what is good and lust in adat, brought this adat into line with the religious law -- which knows no community of goods through marriage -- by tacitly assuming existence of partnership between husband and wife.

In the field of hereditary law there is the adat, deviating from religious law, that daughters and sons of the testator receive equal shares of the inheritance. If harmony prevails between them, they first inquire from a religious judge how the inheritance should be divided according to religious law -- the sons should receive twice as much as the daughters -- and afterwards the sons give their sisters enough of their inheritance to make the shares equal. In this way both the customary law and the religious law are satisfied. In order to prevent a dispute among the heirs and at the same time to satisfy ones own sense of justice, sometimes the property is distributed among the future heirs as gifts. Another device is to make a donation in the form of a trust which becomes irrevocable only in case of the death of the donor; in this case the parties concerned are made to sign a written document as proof of their consent. These methods are used to satisfy the adat sense of justice without coming into conflict with the shari‘a.

There are, however, adat conceptions which are definitely contrary to shari‘a.such as the adat, mentioned above, that among the "people of the three times" of the island of Loinbok women are not allowed to inherit rice fields even though there is no such restriction in shari‘a . Among some fishermen the son inherits the boat and the daughter the house. In other places the inheritance is not distributed as long as the widow is still alive, and she may go on living in the house. In Minangkabau the shari‘a hereditary law is not followed; there, since their laws governing kinship are matriarchal, the privately acquired property of the individual goes after death to his relatives on the mother’s side as family property

Among the Javanese the auspicious month, day, and hour for a wedding ceremony are of primary importance. The auspicious times must be found both for the actual contract of the marriage and for the ceremonial encounter, which may take place some hours after the making of the contract. The chronology followed by the Javanese, introduced by Sultan Agung when he became sultan in 1043 (A.D. 1633), was based on the usual Hindu-Javanese Saka era. On this basis the Hijrah Era year 1377 (beginning in July, A.D. 1957) corresponds to the Javanese-Islamic year 1889. It is a complicated system based on a period of eight years which includes three leap years, with the total number of days divisible by both seven and five. With this system, each year starts with the same day of both the seven-day and the five-day week. Since this chronology runs ahead of the actual lunar year, it must be corrected once every one hundred and twenty years. Certain months are considered to be positively unfavorable for initiating activities, and others are generally regarded as favorable. The month Shawwal, recommended in the Islamic law books as favorable for weddings, is regarded under the Javanese chronology as not very favorable. Nowadays more and more deviation from these conceptions concerning favorable and unfavorable times is evident.

Religious Doctrine -- The Fundamentals

The six fundamentals of Islam -- belief in God, in Angels, in the scriptures, in the messengers of God, in the Day of Resurrection, and in God’s disposition for good and evil -- are taught to all Muslims, but those who receive only simple religious instruction have only superficial knowledge of religious doctrine.

Concerning the first fundamental, belief in God, only the twenty attributes are taught -- God exists, He is without beginning, infinite, unique, and so on -- and possibly the ninety-nine beautiful names of God. Later, some of the twenty attributes may be remembered and some of His ninety-nine beautiful names, such as the Merciful (al-Rahman). These names of God are remembered as part of proper names, preceded by Abd (meaning the slave, or servant, of), but often their full meaning as names of God is not recognized. Non-Islamic sources often give a one-sided picture of the Islamic conception of God as a potentate who is far-distant from man and does what He pleases to do. Indeed, it is written in the Qur’an more than once that God forgives whom He pleases, and punishes whom He pleases. But it is also written in the Qur’an that God forgives readily, accepts repentance readily, is full of grace and mercy, and is charitable. The Indonesian Muslims, including those who do not adhere to any mystic doctrine, are well aware of these aspects of the Islamic conception of God.

The belief in Angels, in the Devil (Iblis), and Jinn (Djin in Indonesian) understandably gives pre-Islamic belief in invisible beings, in good or evil spirits or powers, the opportunity to continue in existence among the people. Among the Javanese there is, for instance, belief in the guardian spirit of the village who dwells in a tree. Among the Sundanese there is a belief in Lady Sri, the personification of the rice kernel, for whom all kinds of things are done or avoided in order to insure a rich harvest. Among both the Javanese and Sundanese there is belief in the good or evil power residing in an ancient kris, sword, or pike.

The third fundamental belief of Islam, belief in the Scriptures revealed by God, holds significance for the ordinary believer only insofar as it concerns the Qur’an. He knows at least that the Qur’an consists of Surahs and verses and is divided into thirty similar parts. In Atjeh it is also known exactly where the midpoint in the Qur’an is because when during instruction in Qur’an recital a child has progressed to the midpoint it is adat that the parents send a dish of yellow rice with certain side-dishes as a gift to the teacher. In the Qur’an editions used -- originally printed in India, now from Pakistan or published in Indonesia -- the middle word of the Qur’an, found in Surah XVIII, 19, is printed in large or red letters.

The central point in the fourth fundamental belief of Islam, the belief in God’s messengers, is, of course, belief in the Messenger of God, Muhammad. The ordinary believer is also familiar with several of the names of the twenty-five prophets mentioned in the Qur’an, not only because almost all of these names are used as proper names, but also because there are more or less complete descriptions of the lives of the prophets written in Malay, in Arabic script, and now also available in Indonesian in Latin characters, and in Javanese in Javanese script. The deep reverence of the Indonesian Muslim for his own Prophet is evident from the way in which the Prophet’s birth is commemorated. This commemoration, which is celebrated on the twelfth of the month Rabi Awwal and every day after that for the rest of the month, is so important that the whole month is given the name for the festival, Mulud, and generally throughout Indonesia the months before and after are given special names such as "the brother of Mulud" for the preceding month and "the younger brother of Mulud" for the succeeding month.

According to tradition the Prophet was born on a Monday. When the Javanese-Islamic calendar was introduced, the twelfth day of the month Rabi Awwal fell on a Monday in the fifth year of the eight-year cycle; when the correction is made in the one hundred twenty-year cycle it is always done in such a way that the twelfth of Rabi Awwal in the fifth year of the eight-year cycle will be a Monday -- and that particular day is a great ceremonial occasion. Even in the other years the commemoration of the Prophet’s birth is ranked equal to the two major festivals of Islam in importance. In Surakarta and Jogjakarta on Java it starts on the sixth of the month with the opening of a fair which is announced by the playing of the holy gamelan in the yard of the mosque. The religious part of the commemoration of the Prophet’s birth is a recital by the leader from one of the well-known biographies of the Prophet -- written either in verse or in rhythmic prose -- interspersed with songs of praise sung by the leader or by the leader and congregation together.

There are certain practices associated with the commemoration which give evidence of the belief that special blessings are conferred by the celebration of the Prophet’s birth. In Atjeh, during the singing of the songs of praise, the singers tie knots in pieces of black thread which are then given to the children to wear around their necks as amulets. In West Java, the tying of knots in threads to be worn as amulets is done during prayer after the recital. There is also a practice in West Java associated with the final prayer which is associated with the passage "and receive it [that is, our recital] from us . . . m good . . . acceptance." When the word "acceptance" is pronounced the participants take a handful of rice which has been served at the ceremony and this "acceptance-rice" is then dried in the sun and stored away to be used when a special blessing is needed, such as when a long journey is to be undertaken. Because of the Prophet’s blessing associated with the commemoration ceremonies, people in West Java used to start important work during the recital, such as making the first knots in a fishing net.

Commemoration recitals take place not only on the birthday of the Prophet but also on other occasions such as the annual commemoration of the death of one’s parents, or at the time of the hair-sacrifice of one’s child, or on the night before a boy’s circumcision, or the night before a marriage ceremony. Sometimes only the prayers for well-being suffice, for in Central Java at the feast for well-being -- the slametan -- the kind of food served is of greater importance than anything else.

In Tjirebon, during the season of commemoration of the birth of the Prophet, the people come from near and far to visit the grave of Sunan Gunung Djati, one of the nine saints of Java. The grave, which is on top of the hill, is accessible only to the sultans of Tjirebon. Ordinary visitors can go only so far as the first terrace. At the time of these celebrations the dishes which, according to legend, were used by the nine saints when they held a meeting on Mount Tjereme are exhibited at the residence of the oldest branch of the descendants of Sunan Gunung Djati, and the public can deposit money near them, for a blessing.

In a mosque in the village of Kasunjatan, near ancient Banten, where the old mosque of the sultans of Banten still stands, some hair of the Prophet’s head is kept in a little box which is placed on a small bedstead which in turn rests on a larger bedstead. According to legend the Prophet left the hair in Banten during a visit, to mark it as a good Islamic country for the future.

The fifth fundamental belief in Islam is belief in the Day of Resurrection. Associated with this belief there is in Indonesia widespread belief that on the "plain of gathering" one is given as a mount the animal one has offered as sacrifice at the Great Festival, Id al-Qurban. The dead are commemorated on the third, seventh, fortieth, hundredth, and the thousandth day as well as annually on the day of death. The month Sha’ban is known as the month for commemoration of all souls, during which it is customary to have a meal for well-being in commemoration of the dead -- sometimes held in the graveyard -- and to visit the graveyard and clean the graves.

The belief in the disposition of God for good and for bad -- the sixth fundamental belief of Islam -- finds expression especially in the night in the middle of the month Sha‘ban which in the law books is counted among the six most important nights of the year. As elsewhere in the Islamic world, people in Indonesia believe that during that night God determines human fate for the year to come, or -- according to popular conceptions, at least among the Sundanese -- that God looks into the good and bad deeds of the people, which have been recorded in their books. Devout people perform a special kind of salat that night, the salat of praise, and say prayers in which they beg God for forgiveness and protection from disaster. The ordinary believer also speaks of fate, using it in the sense of recorded predestination, when he has in mind an unfavorable lot accorded to a person.

Deviations from the fundamentals of Islam and from the required consequences, which are ordinarily the basis for the formation of sects, practically do not exist in Indonesia. Sectarian differences have not arisen. The only Indonesian sect of Islam is the minor group on Lombok who believe in prayer three times a day instead of five. Not native, but originating in India, is the Ahmadiyyah sect which had a representative in Indonesia before the second World War and acquired some followers among the intellectuals. In general it was met with reserve because a doctrine which recognizes Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet after Muhammad, the Messenger of God, was regarded as being contrary to Islam.


Sufism, or mysticism, and particularly pantheistic mysticism, found fertile soil in Indonesian spiritual and emotional life from the very beginning because of the nature of the Indonesian mind and because of the age-old influence of Hinduism and Buddhism. Moreover, Islam was introduced in Indonesia by Indians. Mention has already been made of the influence of Sufism at the time of the introduction of Islam when Sunan Bonang opposed heterodox Sufism, and the nine saints of Java were involved in a controversy concerning the identity of God and man.

Similar Sufi doctrines were taught in northern Sumatra m the tenth and first half of the eleventh century (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries A.D.) by Hamza Fansuri and Shams aldin al-Samatra’i (died 1040; A.D. 1630), followers of the famous pantheistic Sufi, Ibn Arabi. Hamza, who was a member of the Qadiri order of Sufis even though he emphatically counted himself a follower of Ibn Arabi, traveled widely throughout Java and Sumatra expounding his mystical conceptions in symbolic and esoteric poetry. Shams al-din enjoyed the patronage of Atjeh’s greatest monarch of all time. Shortly after his time, Nur al-din al-Raniri, a scholar from Gujarat in India, succeeded in persuading the following sultan to consent to the persecution of teachers of heretical mysticism. There were other famous Sufis of that period who had great influence in Indonesia, some of whom had studied in Arabia. The Sufi orders which found acceptance were the Qadiri, Rifa‘i, Naqshbandi, Sammani, Qushashi, Shattari, Shazili, Khalwati, and Tijani. The Qadiri order of Sufis did not have many followers but its founder must have enjoyed deep reverence, for in the opening lines of the document for recognition of the most important holders of hereditary offices and titles when blessings are invoked from God, the Prophet, and the saints, express mention is made of the founder of the Qadiri order, Abdul Qadir Jilani. The Rifa‘i order of Sufis was known for the self-castigating performances connected with their activities. In the Indonesian language they are referred to by the word for iron dagger because members of this order, after having reached a state of ecstacy by reciting dhikrs and making all kinds of bodily movements under the leadership of their teacher, tried to stab themselves in the chest or shoulder with the iron dagger. If a wound were inflicted the teacher used to heal it with a little saliva, while invoking the name of the founder of the order. In the area of ancient Banten such instruments for self-injury are still kept in the outer buildings of the mosque, and are used, in sport, during celebrations such as circumcision celebrations. Such a game of self-injury, using a big kris, exists also among the non-Islamic Balinese.

The Sammani order is distinguished by the loud clamor with which the dhikrs, the praises of God, are shouted by the participants in its meetings. In Djakarta the life history of the founder of the Sammani order of Sufis, Shaikh Muhammad Samman, is popular. It has been edited by Hadji (Hajji) Muhammad Nasir in the form of the story of the saint’s miraculous qualities and the miracles performed by him, followed by a prayer. It is concise enough to be read aloud during small feasts of well -- being (slametans). The recital of the life history of the founder of a Sufi order, or just listening to such a recitation, is considered to be a good work in religion, and it actually does have an edifying effect on the believer. There are also similar booklets concerning the lives of other founders of Sufi orders, particularly one on the founder of the Qadiri order, which is available both in Malay and Javanese.

The Shattari order, which is considered to be the first Sufi order introduced on Java, believes in the Javanese doctrine of the seven stages of God’s being, the science of true reality. In the first stage only the being of God existed and nothing had been created; the seventh and last stage is the sphere of man, or the sphere of the perfect man. Joined with this is the conception in which the Messenger of God is allegorized as the perfect man, who reflects divine powers as a mirror reflects light, and the belief that the souls of other human beings possess those divine powers as copies. The Javanese mystics started their contemplations from the belief that every human being carries within hini the seeds of the perfect man and must therefore try to live up to that ideal. Connected with such ideas are speculations concerning man’s relation to God as similar to that of a servant to his master.

Heterodox mystical ideas continued to exist in certain circles in Indonesia in spite of the influence of the many orthodox Sufi orders and in spite of the influence of orthodox Sufi writers such as al-Ghazali, who introduced a synthesis of the fundamental doctrines, the law, and Sufism. The pervasive influence of Sufism in Indonesia is shown by the frequency with which the names of the founders of the orders, and of famous mystics like Ghazali, are used as proper names for the sake of the blessing ascribed to them. In the Indonesian language, Ghazali becomes Gadjali or Godjali, and similar modifications may be made of other Sufi names.

Al-Ghazali’s works have been known in Indonesia for almost two centuries in Malay translations and are now available in modern Indonesian. His mysticism has strong ethical tendencies which are evident in Islam in Indonesia. Through the study of al-Ghazali in the religious schools, several Arabic terms from his ethics have become common property, such as the words for self-love, hypocrisy, pride, patience, and gratitude toward God. Also commonly known is his concept that a Muslim should abstain from anything doubtful, even though it may be permissible. These Arabic terms have been adopted in several Indonesian languages, sometimes changed in form and somewhat altered in meaning. In Javanese, for instance, udjub (self-love) and riya (hypocrisy) were combined and shortened to djubria, meaning overestimation of oneself, especially in relation to God.

Reformist Tendencies

Indonesia was naturally not left untouched by the influence of the Islamic revival and reforms in Egypt. Young Indonesians studied at the Azhar in Cairo and learned there of the teachings of Muhammad Abduh and his students, especially Rashid Rida. They returned to their own country more or less influenced by the modern ideas acquired during their years of study in Egypt. The Arabs who had settled in Indonesia were also influenced by the reformist currents from Egypt, especially through the paper of the Egyptian reformists which became known in Indonesia. To these tendencies from Egypt were added the general modern conceptions of the period. The Islamic revival in India, which occurred earlier than in Egypt, became known in the intellectual circles of Indonesia later than the revival in Egypt because it used the medium of the English language.

In Djakarta in 1323 (A.D. 1905) Indonesian Arabs founded the Organization for the Good which aimed at establishing Islamic schools which used modern methods of instruction and taught general as well as religious subjects. The work of the Organization for the Good was open to Indonesians and their children as well as to the Arabs. It brought from Mecca a Sudanese scholar, Ahmad b. Muhammad Surkati al-Ansari (died 1363; A.D. 1943), who, it turned out, held very radical ideas. Among other things, he opposed in a pamphlet the idea that marriage between a non-Sayyid man and a Sayyid’s daughter should be forbidden; he opposed the custom of regarding Sayyid as a hereditary title, like Sharif, for descendants of the Prophet, for the word does not mean anything more than gentleman, or the title Mr. Of course such a pamphlet caused a break with the Organization for the Good, for it included several Sayyids. With supporters from among the non-Sayyid Arabs he founded another organization called Guidance and Improvement, which founded schools for Arab and Indonesian children in several parts of Java.

In Jogjakarta in 1331 (A.D. 1912), Kiai Hadji Ahmad DahIan (died 1342; A.D. 1923), founded a social and religious organization called the Muhamadiah (Muhammadiya) on religious principles similar to those of the reformist movement in Egypt. They held that the basic authority of Islam is the Qur’an, together with the Hadith -- both interpreted in a modern manner. The acceptance of the pronouncements or actions of another as authoritative was rejected. With the activities of the Catholic and Protestant missions in mind, the Muhamadiah founded schools based on Islamic principles but similar to the public schools of the Dutch-Indonesian government, and the schools were granted a government subsidy when they could satisfy the subsidy regulations. Like the Catholic and Protestant missions, Muhamadiah also founded orphanages, homes for the poor, clinics, and a hospital in Jog-jakarta. In the religious field Muhamadiah trained propagandists, both men and women. It also founded a special department for women, called Aisjiah after the wife of the Prophet. Through the activities of this organization special mosques for women were built in Jogjakarta and Garut, and in another mosque a small part was partitioned especially for women. Thanks to the activities of the Aisjiah even at mosques which did not have a special compartment for women the Friday public worship was attended more and more by women.

In the field of religious ceremonies the new ideas of the reformists were opposed to what they regarded as objectionable novelties. The followers of Ahmad Surkati said that it was an objectionable novelty to prompt the deceased person, after the grave had been closed, by telling him the answers he should give in reply to the questions asked by the Angels of Death. They also considered it an objectionable novelty to rise when the birth of the Prophet is mentioned in the recital commemorating his birth. The Muhamadiah disapproved of all burial practices other than those made compulsory by religion on the ground that they were superfluous and expensive -- such as the slametan on certain days after a person’s death.

As a reaction against reformist tendencies an organization known as the Rising of the Ulama (Nahdlatul-Ulama, abbreviated to N.U.) was founded in Surabaya in 1345 (A.D. 1926). This organization sought to encourage the following of one of the four schools of law. It recognized as the authority for Islam the Qur’an, the Hadith, consensus (which included the clothing with authority in matters of religion), and reasoning from analogy. When it met in 1372 (A.D. 1952) it seceded from the Masjumi, the largest Muslim political party in Indonesia, and founded a political party based on Islamic principles called the Partai Nahdlatul Ulama. It seeks to preserve shari‘a in accordance with one of the four schools of law and to promote the observance of Islamic law in society.

Several of the political parties which are represented in Parliament have basic aims and principles which characterize them as Islamic parties, even though their political programs also include many points which have no specific Islamic connotations. The Masjumi party, whose name is a contraction of the Arabic words meaning Council of Indonesian Muslims, was founded in Jogjakarta in 1364 (A.D. 1945). The Masjumi includes individual members, and organizations, such as the Muhamadiah, which are nonpolitical Islamic groups. Masjumi has made its objective the preservation of the sovereignty of the state and of the Islamic religion, and the actualization of Islamic principles in state affairs.

The oldest Islamic political party is the Partai Sarikat Islam Indonesia (P.S.I.I.). In 1329 (A.D. 1911) Hadji Samanhudi, a batik merchant of Solo who died in 1376 (A.D. 1956), founded the Islamic Trading Organization as a social and economic organization of Muslims. A year later this became a political organization known as Sarikat Islam. The organization, which quickly became popular and expanded throughout the country, had only local organizations at first, but later they were united into a single political party. The P.S.I.I. seeks to bring unity among Muslims and to encourage friendly relations between Muslims and other groups in Indonesia.

In Minangkabau in 1348 (A.D. 1930), the religious leaders founded the Islamic League Organization for Islamic Education. Its original objectives were to improve education and religious instruction and to aid the poor. Fifteen years later it was changed to a political party called Partai Islam PERTI. (PERTI stands for the three Indonesian and Arabic words meaning Organization for Islamic Education). The basic aim of the party is to establish the religion of Islam according to the Shafi’i school of law as it applies to the ordinances for worship and the shari‘a and to establish the interpretation of the fundamentals according to the teaching of al-Ash‘ari and al-Maturidi -- whose teachings form the basis for the theology of the Sunnis.

Similar aims are expressed in the statement of aims of the Partai Politik Tharikat Islam (P.P.T.I.), which was also founded in Minangkabau in 1366 (A.D. 1945). It seeks to establish the observance of the Shafi’i school of law and the interpretations of al-Ash‘ari and al-Maturidi, and also the observance of Sufism through one of the Sufi orders. Its Islamic character is affirmed in its expressed aim to make the laws of God the laws of the Republic of Indonesia and in its basic principle, which is "Fear, Love, Hope, and Shame toward God." It is interesting to note that in the field of international politics the P.P.T.I. seeks to obtain peace for humanity by preparing itself for the coming of the Imam Mahdi, the Expected One, whose coming is near.

The Union of Ulama of Atjeh (P.U.S.A.) is not represented in Parliament but is active in politics. It was founded in 1358 (A.D. 1939) as an orthodox counterbalance against the reformist teachings of the Muhamadiah. The members of the P.U.S.A. joined in the fight for independence, but when the fight was won they turned against the Indonesian Republic and tried to secede from it.

Darul Islam, the Abode of Islam, is another party with almost the same history as the Union of Ulama of Atjeh. It aims at making Indonesia the domain of Islam in an orthodox sense. Its leader and his closest associates were originally members of the Sarikat Islam and joined in the fight for independence, but when independence was won they turned against the Indonesian Republic.

Characteristics of Islam in Indonesia

From this survey of Islam in Indonesia it is evident that from the beginning mysticism, both orthodox and heretical, appealed most to the Indonesian mind. This was due to a variety of factors, but the primary reason for the preference for Sufism is the innate disposition of the Indonesian toward mysticism. Heretical, pantheistic mysticism continued to exist even though orthodox Sufism became more widely known through the Sufi orders. Nowadays even a political party is based on mystical principles. Even the people who do not belong to any Sufi order, chiefly the intellectuals, busy themselves with the study and practice of the science and disciplines of the inner life, of mysticism.

It is also interesting to note that where customary law -- adat -- deviates from religious law and cannot be reconciled to it even in a formal way, it is often customary law which is observed, and such observation is not derogatory to religious sentiment nor to the conscientious observance of the religious obligations and practices of Islam. In Indonesia, customary law has been able to hold its ground with religious law.

Reformist tendencies in Indonesia, as has been noted, are fanned by influences not only from Egypt, but also -- through the intellectuals -- from India, Pakistan, and other Islamic states. In addition, there are local institutions for religious instruction which breathe a modern atmosphere.

However, the reformist tendencies will always be counterbalanced by orthodoxy in Islam, an orthodoxy which is kept alive by influences from Mecca, by pilgrimages, and by local educational institutions.