zaterdag 2 juni 2018

Arab sources of Ramon Marti, Christian anti-Muslim author of Spain, saved by the learned and pious Egyptian scholar al-Tufi

A few weeks ago I received a small book of 156 pages, considering itself no 4 in a series of transmissions.
1) It starts with an anonymous Coptic Christian in Egypt, writing against Islam, about 1260, when Mongol leader Hulagu had conquered and promised freedom of religion to Christians. But after the battle of  'Ain Jalut, where the Mamluks of Egypt had beaten the Mongols, religious tolerance ended. This first book was entitled Al-saif al-murhaf fi al-radd ala al-Mushaf or 'the whetted sword in refutation of the written word (of the Qur'an)'. No manuscript of it has survived the long history of debates between Muslims and Christians.
2) Book no 1 was used about 1270 by the Spanish Christian scholar of Catalonia, Ramon Marti (died after 1284) in his anti-Muslim apologetic book De seta Machometi (written in Latin)
3) The Hanbalite scholar ibn al-Tufi (died 1316), wrote a book Al-Intisarat al-Islamiyya fi kashf shuban al-nasraniyya, where he discusses book no 1 and includes numerous lengthy quotes in Arabic.
4) To continue the isnad on this polemic, Sjoerd van Koningsveld, Professor emeritus of Leiden University, has published 117 quotes from author no 1 from the writings of al-Tufi, with references to Ramon Marti (who used the same texts for his polemic book against Islam).
Many authors of books and articles do not claim originality, but are only transmitters, sometimes also commentators. In this case we even may say: haddathana P.S. van Koningsveld, 'an al-Tufi, 'an Ramon Marti, 'an nasara min al Misr. The major issue for this book is the idea of Muhammad as a prophet. The polemical author here (and Ramon Marti) formulated four criteria for prophets: he must speak the truth, embody personal holiness, perform miracles, his teaching and practice must be in harmony with the natural law. Most of the text is written here to 'prove' that Muhammad does not respond to any of these four criteria.
In this way the polemic continues and it is for the history of the polemic often interesting to see how scholars are repeating arguments against Islam, not from direct contacts with Muslims, but rather through chains from their own tradition.
In his book about the period 1945-1970 (The Struggle of Islam in Modern Indonesia, 225-230) Ben Boland gave an analysis of Muslim apologetics. He ended with quotes from Mukti Ali, who concluded that 'Apologetics only formulates things that are already known ... its character is therefore negative and conservative, ... it may arouse emotions and give self-satisfaction, but they cannot produce true conviction and discernment.' Like here it is often not exciting, but rather again a sad expericnece of reading.
At the same time I was finishing an historic novel written by a Dutch-Spanish author, Reconquista, about the political process. It is a book full of fighting between Christian and Muslim rulers, much violence, adventure, much change of position: Muslims had a higher culture, Christian were stronger fighters. The latter were often hired by Muslims to fight against other Muslims and also against Christians. In the social and political reality of that period, the theological arguments were not really important or relevant, although the distinction between the two communities was rigorous. In combination one may doubt about the relevance of the usual list of religious and theological differences for the real life of Christians and Muslims living together.

donderdag 31 mei 2018

Rahima Allahu anhu: Mas Dawan Rahardjo, rest in peace

Today, 31 May 2018. just mid-Ramadan, we received the message that one of the most energetic, renovating and inspriing Muslim intellectual of Indonesia, Dawam Rahardjo died at the age of 76 years. He was born 12 April 1972, only three months younger than I myself.
Dawam studied economy and always remained inspired by the theories and views of the science of economy. But he was also a concerned Muslim: close to the young, progressive group of Masyumi thinkers asnd later the best of the Suharto/Habibie order. He adored Harun Nasdution, but also had his silly moments with Harun Nasution.
In the period 1981-3 I was a lecturer at the IAIN (now UIN) of Ciputat/Jakarta. Many young students like Din Syamsuddin, Azyumardi Azra, and many others, were close to LP3ES and its mixture of traditional pesantren background and modern social (rather than religious) science in the West. They supported development programmes and liked to receive money from the European and American development foundations. Peter Berger was mor important than forml Christian theologians in their quest for tools to modrnize Islamic thinking.
Once in 1982 he called for a meeting with Harun Nasution, but also the Catholic philosopher Dr. Kees Bertens, myself as a visiting professor ath the IAIN,  as well as a small number of his Muslim friends. Dawam proposed in a long expose that he wanted to develop some kind of Islamic Applied Theology. This should not be about the doctrine of God, which is the subject of Usuluddin and kalam, but a study of how to live religiously in society. His formula was 'applied theologye'. However, this should not be based upon the traditional rules of shari’a. In fact this is what he later did with his magazine Ulumul Qur’an and his book Ensiklopedi al-Qur’an. Immediately after Dawam stopped with his exposition of the ideas, Harun Nasution gave a short but harsh answer: ‘this is the field of shari’a and I am no specialist in shari’a and therefore will not join the programme.’ Bertens and I explained that in Christianity there is a philosophical approach to ethics and also that social science should be taken more seriously in religious studies, especially for social ethics. But in some way Harun Nasution did not like to become involved in a program like this. Maybe he knew already better than I did that there was a suspicion of Communism connected to Theology of Liberation. Somewhat later there was a priest in Singapore taken to prison for subversive activities under the label of Theology of Liberation and there were some problems in Indonesia as well. 
Recently I sent most of the more than 3000 books, I once bought in Indonesia, back to the Theologicalo School, next to the UIN of Banjarmasin. But I kept the book by Dawan: Ensiklopdi al Qur'an, one of his major works, besides the still important  academic journal Ulumul Qur'an. I read again his debate about banking as a gift for a good and socially balanced economy. The banks do not seek money from the poor, but are a meansd to facilitate a just and equal society, at leasst in their better appearances.
We must feel grateful to such a wise and open man, with the abilities of good writing, even more of organizing big projects and defending poor people like the humiliated and condemned Ahmadi people.
God be praised for a gift like Dawam Rahardjo, may his illuminating idea of a modern and just Islamic thinking be continued.

woensdag 30 mei 2018

Garuda in Spain

The Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu, is part of the image representing the Republic of Indonesia and its iedology of Pancasila. It has already often been stated that it is not really an Indonesian or  Indian magical bird, but rather a European eagly in the way it is represented in the Russian and German nationalist symbolism.
Last I visited the central region of Spain. Most impressing was the visit to the Valle de los caidos, the valley of those 40,000 who died in the civil war between 1936-1939. In a high uninhabited valley, with much forest, the General Fancisco Franco ordered to build a military looking square and the entrance to a 250m long basilica in the mountain itself. No natural light, ony dark granite stone and the usual furniture of a church: images, great carpets hanging on the wall, representing the biblical book of Apocalyps, the war against the army of the Anti-Christ, Dajjal in the Muslim terminology, the devilish enemy of God, fighting against angels.
The entrance the entrance is dominated by Mary sitting as pietà, the mother mourning over her dead son Jesus. The whole atmosphere here is super-Catholic (including a large monastery with a good group of monks who daily pray for the souls of the dead), although the civil war was between Nationalist Catholics and Leftist, Communist-dominated Republicans. Left of the entrance a symbol of the Spanish nation (or the house of the king?) is represented by the shield, protected or even defended by the mighty aegle.

The cross (only partly visible above) is 150m high. The mourning lady Mary, motyher of Jesus represents also a Christian symbol for mourning the dead.
This imaginery is very strongly connected to Chriistian symbolism only. It reminded me of the lack of awareness of the 'leftist' victims of the political struggle in Indonesia: the six generals have received names of streets, monuments and movies, while so many people connected with the 'losers', the Communist Party, sympathizers,  people active in trade unions and women's organizations cannot be mentioned and their stories are often still neglected. Also in modern Spain it is still quite sensitive to start the debate about this one-sided image of the past.

dinsdag 15 mei 2018

MUI and MORA: Sorcerer's apprentices?

After retiring from Utrecht University Martien van Bruinessen was for one year a research fellow at NUS, working (also) on an inventory of activities of Gülen people in East and Southeast Asia. We are still waiting for the result of this research. Later he was for some time a fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies. From this period we have now a fascinating comparison of government and Islam in Turkey (Diyanet) and Indonesia (Ministry of Religion, MORA or Depag) and the Council of Muslim Clerics (MUI).
It starts with a striking subtitle: a budget for an army, summarising the great budget for Diyanet in Turkey, in euro: €  3.2 billion per  year (for mosques, mosques personnel and the secondary Imam-Hatip schools;) while Indonesia has €3.85 billion per year for MORA, even more than the Ministry of Education. Compared to two 'full Islamic States' like Pakistan and Egypt, the two countries spend much more budget from the central government to religion.
The purpose in the two countries was to educate, and build 'enlightened' personnel. But in both cases the effect was also the social mobility of marginalised conservative groups which received much more access in many layers of the national government and other sectors of society. Even terminology like the 'Trojan horse' is here used.

In both countries popular religion and Islamic streams that are under attack by orthodox Muslims became victims of this policy. In Turkey it were the mystical groups, tariqa, but even more Alevi Muslim groups which are sometimes labelled as 'Islam without sharia' who were under attack. Alevi Islam is not accepted as Islam (in Albania they are accepted as a religious identity of their own, but not in Turkey). Sunni mosques are now often built in fully Alevi villages. Religious education is orthodox sunni Islam, both in Turkey and Indonesia. In the latter country the abangan identity as well as new movements labelled as aliran kepercayaan are reduced to cultural expressions, but not as serious religious alternatives. The Indonesian MUI, in the Suharto perio quite strictly under government control, has become independent (also financially: certification for halal food proved to be a gold mine!) and sides now more and more with conservative Islam, banning pluralism, Indonesian-style Islam and liberal Islam.
In Indonesia this development culminated under SDA (´saman dengan yang diatas´, who entered prison like some ministers before him), Suryadharma Ali, close to SBY, who received a much higher budget than his predecessors and could without problem exclude Ahmadiyyah Muslims from any protection by the state. On his suggestion Yudhoyono even signed a call to Ahmadiyah people to 'return to true Islam'.

Goethe wrote a poem on a young man who learned with a sorcerer, but could not manage the mess had made. Famous is the saying Die Geister, die ich rief ("The spirits that I called, I could no longer control"), a garbled version of one of Goethe's lines (Die ich rief, die Geister, / Werd' ich nun nicht los), which is often used to describe a situation where somebody summons help or uses allies that he or she cannot control any longer, especially in politics. Bruinessen praises the critical studies of UIN, the Islamic Universities, built under the programme of MORA, but also describes some of the dangers of this kind of religious support.
It reminded me of the first paragraph of a text book I used in the last years of academic teaching, 2004-2006.  It began with the American attack on Saddam Hussein  of Iraq. After he was deposed, the Americans hoped that the Shi'a Muslims would be active in preparing the free elections for democratic institutions. They were surprised to see that the first important popular organization was for the pilgrimage to Kerbela, banned for so long by Saddam Hussein!

Families as terrorist units: Surabaya

The 'Islamic State' is defeated in Iraq and Syria. About 500 of its fighters have returned to Indonesia. Their major leader is Aman Abdurrahman (now in prison as head of JAD, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah). Last week activists of JAD killed in a Densus 88 (special police) prison in Jakarta five police officers (cutting throats) in an effort to have a personal meeting with Abdurrahman.
Last Sunday, 13 May, a family with four children carried out a brutal attack on three churches in Subaraya: the Catholic Church in Ngagel (Santa Maria tak Bernoda), a GKI and a Pentecostal Church. The father, Dota Upriarto brough his wife and two daughters to the GKI church, his two boys of 16 and 18 went to the Catholic church. He went himself to the Pentecostal church. All bombs exploded and the six members of the family died in the attacks. The mother and daughters arrived in burka at the church, but their bombs exploded before they could be stopped by the security officers.

 This picture was sent to me by Lies Marcoes Mustafsira, feminist Muslim theologian but not happy with this kind of 'emancipation'!

That same day a bomb exploded in an apartment in Sidoardjo, a small town close to Surabaya, killing husband, wife and a son of 17, busy preparing a bomb. Or was it their strategy to become 'marturs' on the spot? Three other children in another room survived the explosion. The following day, 14 May, a family of five arrived at the police station of Surabaya and their bombs exploded: only a girl of 8 years survived.
Newspapers speculate about the strategy: sleaping cells of IS, activated throug telephone calls from the Middle East  with this new 'family strategy' of making/becoming martyrs?
Lambertus Hurek, a retired journalist and active blogger in Surabaya went to the Catholic church and asked the priest whether he had already forgiven the terrorists? 'They are all victims as well', was the answer of the priest. They leave us in disarray. (see: