zondag 15 oktober 2017

The Burda of the Prophet and the Kaftan of the Caliph

Worldwide, also in indonesia, one of the most popular stories of the prophet Muhammad is the Qasidatu'l Burda of Al-Busiri. Prof. Drewes once published a Malay translation from the 16th century, with a Dutch translation (1955). Burda means mantle and the word most often applies to the mantle of the Prophet. According to the tradition this mantle was given to a strong opponent of Muhammad. Ka'b ibn Zuhair, who finally surrendered and accepted Islam in front of Muhammad, while reciting a poem of submission to Allah and his Prophet. Thereupon Muhammad gave him his mantle as a petious gift, for this poem and his faith. After the death of Ka'b ibn Zuhair the mantle was bought by the Ummayad rulers, and finally during a period in poesession of the Abbasid Caliphs and finally in the palace of the Ottoman Caliphs. It is in the palace of Istanbul and yearly honured in the second half of Ramadan.
Al-Busiri, living in Egypt, where he died in 1295, once was very ill and dreamt that the Prophet visited him, touched his hand and gave him his mantle. the following morning al-Burisir was healthy again. At this moment al-Busiri already had planned to write a poem to praise Muhammad. After finishing this poem, at soon became famous, also through propaganda by the Mamluk Sultan Mali az-Zahir Baibar. Soon it was accepted that touching a manuscript of the poem would heal all kind of diseases.
Another mantle, a sacred robe, played an important role in a strange movie: Vatan, on the coup of 15 July 2016 in Turkey. The movie shows in the beginning a man, Turkish speaking Dave, who brings the sacred robe of Sultan Selim, Yavuz, to Fethullah Gülen, who just told that he last night has a dream where the Prophet Muhammad appeared. Dave is perhaps a CIA-man, in fact a conspirator against President Erdogan, tells Gülen 'You will wear the Kaftan of Sultan Yavuz in Istanbul soon'. This is the introduction to a conspiration where also George Soros is involved: the bad person is orchstrating the whole endeavour. Nearly 80% of the movie is filled  with fighting of brave Turkey citizens against an army that wants to take over the state. Soros is sometimes shown as waiting, calm, without a strong personality. Gülen flies to Istanbul but hears just before arrval that Erdogan is on the airport and that the coup has failed. Thereupon Gülen returns to America: without drama, without further explanation.
 This is the hand of Dave who promises that he will divide Turkey in parts, with a good share for Gülen and a big piece also for Soros. The text says: 'Long live chaos' because the chaotic fight should lead towards the annihilation of present Turkey. But it is a failure.
The real conspirator Dave,  goes swimming in the Miterranean, is picked out of the sea (first swimming like another James Bond, relaxed)  by an helicopter and later drowned. A strange movie, but apparently for Turkish citizens clear enough to strengthen their feeling that Fethullah Gülen is a bad guy who joined a complot against their president. May God forgive them.

maandag 9 oktober 2017

Iswanto Hartono fights against Dutch Colonialism and finds a way to annihilate JP Coen

Europalia is a programme of the European Union to pay attention to 'the other' (alium), in case another big coutry. For 2017 the EU has planned a programme on Indonesian culture, society and history. There is a big exhibition in Brussels, encounters in many places in Frans, Belgium and the Netherlands with intellectuals and artists. Ayu Utami will also come, next November.
For Amsterdam there is an exhibition by the artist Iswanto Hartono.
The Oude Kerk or Old Church in Amsterdam was built for mediaeval Catholic liturgy: a central hall or choir for the clergy (seven times per day prayers were said) and a nave for the common lay people. Some chapels, for societies of workers (guild) and for rich families to bury their beloved. A chapel of Mary. But after reformation the church was only used for Sunday service and now this giant building is only used for some 100 churchgoers  on Sunday morning. They use only a small part of the nave, from 10:30 tot 13:00. Outside these hours tourists may look at the building, there are some concerts (Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck played the organ outside the service: it was in early Calvinism not allowed to use the organ!), and exhibitions. For Europalia 2017 Iswanto Hartono made some works of art, in critical memory of Dutch colonialism.

He brought an image of the great Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen: the lower part is plaster, the upper section is wax with the idea that it burns like a candle and after the six weeks of the exhibition the wax has disappeared and so the (bad) memory of Coen disappears day after day. We were only three days after the opening of the exhibition, but the image was unpacked, the wick of the candle had burnt for some time and now the inner side of the head was empty, but the outside soemwhat damaged but still standing.
Coen stand here in a side chapel, in the back of the church (West-side). On the northern side in some chapels Hartono had made images of the murder of the population of the Banda Islands, some 2000 people. The great castel, Benteng Belgica stand also with burning candels, waiting to be destroyed.

In the centre we see the great castle of Banda of wax waiting to disappear, while in the back the church of Batavia is shown: is this the Emmanuel Church? Top and below are images of animals that were shot by the Dutch who loved the hunt and finally killed all wild animals in the Banda islands, while the original population only had killed the animals in so far as they needed meat for eating.
Spice harvesters are depicted here with the horns of deer.
Colonialism is ere never seen as an encounter of different nations and cultures, not as an opportunity for international trade and promotion of some agriculture, but quite simply and only as oppression and exploitation. Or should we consider the image of the Batavia Church as something different from the rest: probably not, because it is also temporary, made of wax.

For Hartono the personality of Coen is equal to corruption, to the oppression of the Chinese, to Soeharto's New Order. Does he work in the line of Mangunwijaya, who wrote a book  on early colonialism under the title Ikan-ikan Hiu, Ido, Homa [Sharks, tuna and sprat, after the big fishes who eat the smaller ones, who again live from the smallest]. The novel depicts the period of Western expansion in the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Dutch tried to take over the Portuguese spice trade in the Moluccan archipelago. Both parties had to win the support of the Muslim Sultanates of Ternate and Tidore. In this novel the arrival of the colonizing powers is not depicted as a conflict between West and East or between Christians and Muslims, but as just another stage in the history of the rich and powerful who manipulate and exploit the poor. Sharks eat the tuna fish or middle class and they eat the sprat.

donderdag 28 september 2017

The rupture between Fethullah Gülen and Tayyip Erdogan: in 2010?

Prof. Simon Robinson is an Anglican priest, professor of spirituality and ethics in Leeds. He teaches mostly in business schools about management, leadership and qualities or even virtues like sincerity, responsibility, transparancy, and fight against corruption. He was in Amsterdam at the invitation of Dutch Gülen people to present his new book:The Spirituality of Responsibility: Fethullah Gülen and Islamic Thought. At some moment I had the impression that he is close the the Indonesian/Dutch Jesuit priest Paul de Blot de Chauvigny who also teaches ´business spirituality´ at a business school (in his case Nyeveldt Unjiversity).
Robinson's key concept are Responsibility, integrity, truthfullness (when seeking in the Aristotelian code of ethicsal conduct for the right virtue). He is more in dialogue with Aristotle, and Ricoeur than with Gülen, but applies his theoretical tools also to an interpretation of this Muslim scholar.
Gülen had summoned his followers to vote in favour for the Turkish Constitutional Referendum of 12 September 2010 (exactly 30 years after the coup of 1980 which resulted in a very undemocratic constitution). This support was given notwithstanding Gülen's disapproval of the way (other) Turkish humanitarian organizations had tried to bring aid to Gaza. Thieir six ships with more than 600 people supporting the action was attacked by the Gaza flotilla raid on 31 May 2010, causing nine people dead. The dispproval by Gülen of this Turkish action was, that it was against the strategy and rulings of the Israeli government. Robinson's conclusion: Gülen does not want to shock any government also not the present Israeli government.
Although Robinson is already since about ten years an active person in contacts with Gülen people, attends conferences, and now writes a book on him, I found it not a strong thesis. I still see the Gezi Park protests rather as the beginning of the estrangement between the two figures.

Above Simon Robinson and below Shanti, who was the leader of discussion during this evening. Shanti is of Surinam/Indian (Hindustani) origin. Platform INS likes also the have paid staff on non-Turkish origin. Their major goal is the promotion of a harmonious soecity with the slogan: kuns van het samenleven, or 'The Art of Living Together'.
We had a major discussant from Baltimore, Prof. William (Pim) Valkenberg who has published 'his book' on Gülen in 2015: Renewing Islam by Service, it has more precise historical and theological methodology.

 In the discussion some 50 people were present, a good mixture of Turkish and Dutch origins. In the business school terminology the idea of 'leadership' is quite important. There were many references to Shakespeare and British/Danish kings (Hamlet, William V), but I wanted also to know how it is with individual choices, while Fethullah Gülen in his four-volume book on Sufism again and again stresses that for the spiritual path the student should decide about a teacher and be obedient to this person. How is this in the Gülen Movement? Who was the teacher of Gülen himself?

donderdag 31 augustus 2017

Mutaqabilin: face to face!

I am in correspondance with Jyoti Sahi in Bangalore about Massignon, the significance of Abraham in interreligious contacts, not only between Muslim, Jews and Christians, but also related to Hindus. Jyoti quoted Massignon that satya the truth-word of Gandhi can be compared to al-haq in the Arab mysticism.
We turned to another word of Massignon muttaqâbilîn, sitting face-to-face, in contrast to 'seeing through a mirror'.
Muttaqâbilîn is four times in the Qur'an. It is always in an idyllic situation: paradise, holiday or sometimes like it, people sitting face to face, having meals and conversation, sitting with nicely and richly covered pillows, talking, exchanging ideas.
It is quite different from the sometimes rather boring idea of heaven which looked in moy youth more like a permanent adoration of the host, the visio beata, looking at God. But not the lively exchange of the four verses:
15:47 [talks about an event in a Garden, water springs. We are invited to be there in peace, perfectly secure] We [God] strip away whatevern there is in their bosoms of rancor and jealousy. As people face to faceon couches raised.
What strikes me here is that initially it is not yet perfect: some remnants of conflicts must be removed.
37:44 Sitting on thrones, face to face
44:52-3  Amidst gardens and springs. Dressed in fine silk and sil brocade, seated face to face.
56:16 [Sitting on lined thrones], reclining upon them, facing one another.

As a boy I found the image of heaven, eternel, just looking to the Allmighty, not really attractive. Is that the promise? For this world or/and the hereafter? This image looks definitely more attractive, loving and peaceful!

maandag 28 augustus 2017


Chrstian Lange, Professor of Islam at Utrecht University recently wrote a general article on the status of Islamic Studies in the broader field of religious studies (in NTT, Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion). Lange resented that in the tradition of 'comparative religion' Muslim rituals and practices are generally overlooked. Mircea Eliade, Joachim Wach, barely mention Islam at all. Is the classical tradition of Islam too much to linguistic studies, to the standards texts, to the 'dry monotheism' sometimes connected to Islam?
There is also the other tradition in Islamic Studies, sometimes called Popsipedso: not the normative Islam of shari'a and fiqh, but political science, psychology, pedagogy and sociology, the actual practices of Muslims rather than old writings, philology and history.
Christian Lange does not make a choice between these two possibilities, although his training and many projects are concentrated more on classical texts than on modern practices. Instead, he puts the more important question  of the character of Islam as a religion. For this purpose he refers to the book by Dhahab Ahmad, What is Islam?The Importance of Being islamic (Princeton 2016).  the definition of religion varies from religion to  region and also from time to time. Protestant Christianity has the most narrow definition of a religion, whil in India the term of Hinduism was never properly defined by 'Hindus' but was a 19th century Western invention. There is not an unambigous normative definition of what proper Islam is: 'the notions of ambiguity and contradictoriness as constitutive for Islam (as also for other religion).
Already in the 1980s there was a serious debates among Muslim scholars in Indopnesia about the 'notmative' and real' Islam. Some of my students in this period asked me also why orientalists have so much interest in aliran sempalan or deviations, heresies, strange figures. I wanted to publish my book on 19t5h century Islam in Indonesia under the title: Paderi, penghulu dan penjual jimat. It was forbidden by my Jakarta publisher Bulan Bintang, on suggestion by Professor Rasjidi: th penjual jimat or amulet sellers are not part of 'proper Islam'.
It is quite interesting to see how the Leiden collection of Arabic manuscripts was bought in the 17th century by Levinus Warner in Aleppo, Damascus, Smyrna and Istanbul: not only the 'theological manuscripts', but also biology, history, geography were important for the beginning Leiden University!

vrijdag 25 augustus 2017

Sexual liberty? Margareth Mead on Samoa and LWC van den Berg on Aceh and Serpong

In 1928 the young anthropologist Margareth Mead defended her PhD dissertation on Growing up in Samoa, telling about free sexual relations before marriage among Samoa youngsters. This was still in the time of Victorian restrictions in Western countries. The book tells about lack of inhibition, absence of guilt related to sex. Only in 1983 it was proven that Margareth Mead was absolutely wrong in her belief of strong and spicy stories by Samoa youngsters and that the island, like all human cultures knows rules about sexual behaviour, also in that period and that they were generally followed by the younger generation.
I remembered this case while reading the article of 1883 written by colonial consultant on Islamic Affairs, Lodewijk (L.W.C.) van den Berg, writing on the Naqshbandi sessions in Aceh (and elsewhere in the archipelago). Van den Berg describes first a session he attended himself in 1881 in Lambaru, in 'Great Aceh', capital of 22 mukim, where the Dutch official, controleur, had invited a group of people to sing zikr accompanied by two young boys who from time to time as sedati were performing dances amidst a larger group of chanting men who sung sections from the Qur'an and short lines like la ilaha illah Allah, while vehemently moving with the upper parts of their body. Van den Berg made comparisons to Javanese dancers, women, who performed the dances 'more elegant' than their Acehnese male counterparts. Van den Berg describes it as partly religious in content, but partly entertainment. He does not elaborate the idea that religion can be entertaining at the same time! In fact, many religious talks by  Javanese popular preachers contain jokes, popular songs and in this way preachers can entertain large audiences for two hours or even longer. Pak A.R. Fachruddin, the Muhammadiyah leader, was famous in this double role. Even the Dutch born Jesuit priest Tom Jacobs was known for his entertaining sections during sermons in the church of Kota Baru, Yogyakarta.

The session, described by Van den Berg, started at 19.00 and at 23.00 the controleur (who had given drinks, lemonade, during the hefty performance) ordered that it shoud stop 'because they can go on chanting and dancing until sunrise'.
Van den Berg suggest that the sedati boys offer sexual services, but this is not elaborated in his article in the Journal of the Batavia Society of Science and Arts (TBG). He mentions also that respected religious leaders are outspoken opponents of this popular religious practice.
At the end of his article he moves to Serpong, near Batavia, where he heard from an esteemed landlord that the sessions of the Naqshbandi brotherhood are also held in his region with a mixed group of men and women in a mosque and here the lights are put off during the zikir, with people sitting not in rows but in a square formation 'while all touching the pudenda (kemaluan, sexual parts) of their neighbour'. Van den Berg asserts that the standing of his informant assured him that this was the truth. He added that we find here 'how the Polynesian phallus-cult continues appearing in the midst of Muslim practices. You may chase nature away with a pitch-fork, but it will always return!' [hoe de Polynesische phallus-dienst telkens tusschen de vormen van den Islām voor den dag komt. Naturam furca expellas, tamen usque recurret.]
Van den Berg is an early supporter of Islam Nusantara, of a local appearance of Islam, but he always likes to give foreign labels to local traditions: either Chinese, Hindu or even Polynesian. Or is this originating from a naive or even a dirty mind of a landlord without personal connections to the Muslim practice?
Martin Van Bruinessen, Tarekat Naqsyabandiyah di Indonesia, Bandung, Mizan: 1992,32-3 has already some comments on this remarks by Lodewijk van den berg

dinsdag 22 augustus 2017

Prof. Dr. Yunan Yusuf and family in Utrecht

Yunan Yusuf was among the first group of students at the Islamic Academy IAIN Syarif Hidayatullah (now UIN, Islamic State University) in Jakarta, 1982-3. He studied the Dutch language with my wife and followed the course I gave that year in the sources for the history of Indonesian Islam, especially 19th century (I have now plans to rewrite the book in English. It was my first book written in Indonesian: the original title I gave was Paderi, Penghulu dan Penjual Jimat: Muslims in 19th century Indonesia, but the publisher did not like the amulet sellers and the book received the rather dull title Beberapa Aspek Islam di Indonesia, abad ke-19. It was mostly advisor Prof Rasjidi of Bulan Bintang Publishers who rejected the inclusion of the popular religion in Islam).
Notwithstanding his study of Dutch, Yunan Yusuf did not make it to Leiden and the Netherlands. He received his Ph.D. in Jakarta on a dissertation about the Qur'an interpretation by Hamka.
Three children of Yunan Yusuf study abroad. One in Australia, two in Germany. Therefore he managed to be accepted as a researcher in Berlin for three months, on the impact of Indonesian Muslim in Germany on the dakwa in Germany. But he came also to Utrecht.

So the Keluarga Besar Yunan Yusuf (now at the age of 69) is here standing in our garden after dinner and in between talks about the development of Islamic Studies in the last 40 years. Yunan's youngest daughter studies in Mainz, MA in international economic affairs (most right). his son, left, studies in technology in Berlin, for a PhD degree. It was already predicted by Ben Boland and Mukti Ali in the late 1960s and early 1970s: pesantren leaders send their children to the IAIN, the State Academies of Islamic Studies. The professors of IAIN send their children to secular universities abroad.