vrijdag 26 juni 2015

In Memory of Prof. Dr. Simuh, 1933- 27 May 2015

Simuh (just one name, not a family name, just one personal name) was perhaps the most soft-spoken person I ever met. In Yogyakarta at the IAIN, State Academy for Islamic Studies, he was the specialist  in Javanese texts. In the early 1980s he wrote his PhD on Ronggowarsito's Serat Wirid Hidayat Jati (published in 1988).
I wondered often how he could give classes. We taught in the same building between 1984-1988. It had no Airconditiong, but open windows. The Usuluddin Building was located at a crossing of two roads with traffic lights. Buses and trucks started their engine and made much noise. I had much difficulties in reaching the 60-80 students in the classroom, but how could Simuh send his message with his soft voice?
In 1984 I met an official of the Toyota foundation who asked my opinion about the possibility for IAIN to receive subsidies for a research project. Then I suggested a project on Suluk, translation and publication. I brought microfilms from Leiden with texts. They were transcribed, translated. The results were spread in stencilled copies, but the poet Emha Ainun Najib made a 'repuitisasi' of then of these poems. The project should be concluded with a theatre play: the trial of Siti Jenar, the mystic who claimed to be one with God. The Yogyakarta police did not give the required permit for the play, afraid that hardline Muslims would protest.
Javenese Muslim texts were not interesting for the small department of Javanese studies at Gadjah Mada University, where most interest was on Old-Javanese texts from the Hindu-Buddhist period, or wayang stories and court chronicles of a later period. The IAIN found these texts often too syncretic, too Indonesian, too far away from the Arab roots of Islam. Simuh saw it as his special mission to save these Javanese interpretations and accomodations of Islam.

Between 1992 and 1996 Simuh was the chosen rector of the IAIN. It shows the sympathy he had from many of his colleagues (although as a representative of the Faculty of Usuluddin or philosophical view on Islam, he was not always respected by the members of the Faculty of Shari'a or Islamic Law). But I wondered how he could live as a manager, rather than a scholar and writer.
He wrote not much, but always in a consistent style and quality.
I met him for the last time with Abdurahman (Widyakusuma) in 2009. He suffered at that time already from Alzheimer, could no longer follow a true conversation. This fragile man neverthelees reach the age of 82 years. He will be remembered as a fighter for the respect for a distinct Indonesian/Javanese interpretation of Islam. He recognised the Arab and Persian roots of much of Indonesian  mysticism, wanted also honour its differences. Inna lillahi wa inna 'alaini raji'un.

donderdag 18 juni 2015

The War of the Wilder's Cartoons

The Dutch politican, member of parliament, Geert Wilders, wanted to show anti-Muslim cartoons in parliament, but was not allowed to do this. He has decided to use the short (4-5 minutes) Television programmes for his party in order to show anti-Muhammad cartoons.
The national Dutch Union of Moroccan Muslims has made a cartoon of Wilders himself.

The yellow 'egg' is the well-known whitewashed hair of the politician who likes strong words. Minder-minder means 'less-less': he said in a political speech that he wanted less Moroccans in the Netherlands. Below him we see Dutch people of Moroccan descent calmly walking with the Dutch flag in the car of the baby. Moskeeën brengen cartoon over Wilders uit

Selfies in Italian Style

Inevitable, to make selfies now while on a tourist trip, like we were in the second half of May 2015.
Driving to Italy we passed Swiss and the great mountain throug the Gotthard tunnel. This is Paule and Karel Steenbrink against the background of the southern Alpes mountains of southern Switserland.
 This is in Milano in the great shopping gallery, close to the Piazza del Duomo.

 This is not a selfie at all. But I found it a nice photograph. At lunch time in Florence we were sitting outside under a good cover and it started raining very heavily. Some tourists found shelter against the rain with their bag.

In Pisa so many people tried to make picture about the same subject: pushing the curbing tower. These were quite successful, not for the contrsuction but for the suggestion

Muslims and Muslim dress in Renaissance Italy

In the second half of May 2015 we were in Italy. Especially in Tuscany we saw many richly dressed people with turbans: the most clear sign of Muslim dress. Here is show some of the most conspicuous examples.
This is a great ceremony for the pope. When I remember well, this was for the special room in the Duomo of Siena where the library of the later Pope Pius II was kept. Beautiful paintings on the wall here (see also below) and right below a turban (I suppose) and therefore a Muslim?

This was still the time when the Muslims were respected as source of learning, as the keepers of a refined style of life. An amazing place this library in Siena (used in the style of a museum with an honest ticket to be bought before you could enter).

Besides Catherine of Siena there is one Bernardinus of Siena, a famous preacher in Central Italy, about 1380-1444, a Franciscan Friar. Quite interesting to see how women and men are separated during his sermons by a curtain, more or less as now also happens at Muslim meetings.
The last in this short series is a great statue for the most influential of all Medici in Firenze, Cosimo di Medici. He also has a Muslim (at least a turban) in his entourage. This is on the Piazza Lorenzo, next to the church where the graves of the Medici are to be found (but Paule find these marble statues by Michelangelo too grotesk, too macho and did not want to enter to see them again).

Cosimo de Medici is sitting below far right. In front of him a Muslim showing his respect to the great ruler of Florence.

Saint Catherine of Siena

We had parked our car near the great football stadium of Siena and the first church we saw was the giant Dome on top of a hill, but the first we entered was Santo Dominguo, on the other side of the deep valley. In this church most attention was for nearby born Catharina of Siena (1347-1380). She must be distinguished from the martyr of Alexandria in Egypt, St Catherine who had to marry a pagan officer and rejected the proposal and therefore was killed.

Above the Duomo from the San Domingo. Below here the founder of the Dominican order and Saint Catherine.
Catharina of Siena must have been a very keen young girl. She was one of the 25 children in her house, but had as a young child already religious visions. In the Church of Saint Dominicus her head has been preserved, but we were not allowed to make pictures inside. Loads of buses entered, probably on their first stop to Siena. But also quite a few people looking like more or serious pilgrims. Close to the great church is a compound with the 'original house' of Catherine and some six chapels, where people could have conferences, private meditations. I saw a lady talking to a nun in one of the chapels in a very serious manner.

Above Santo Domingo from a distance. Below one of the visions of the young girl Catherine.
In a side room of the great Duomo of Siena the library of the learned  Enea Silvia Piccolomini, the learned citizen of Siena who became Pope Pius II and declared Catherine a saint.
Some 375 letters of Catherine and at least one major mystical is preserved. She has been declared Doctor Ecclesiae (quite recently). She is known for her action to suggests the popes to return to Rome from Avignon. She was less a warrior than Jeanne d'Arc, but must have been a remarkable woman.
Below the scene from the library in the Duomo of Siena where Pius II declared her a saint.

Public Religion or Religion in the Public Space

During our two weeks of holiday in Italy and Germany we saw many more public manifestations of religion than can be seen in modern Netherlands.
The first is the front of the Jesuit Church in majority Protestant/Lutheran Heidelberg. This image of feeding Mary with child is more or less an invitation to enter. Or it is the basic statue to be used at any time, outside the 'office hours' of the official church.
This is the entrance to the old town hall of Florence. There is quite a 'syncretic' collection of religious images here, as renaissance was a mixture of Jewish, Christian and Greek/Roman religious traditions. On the left is David, ready to throw a stone to Goliath. On the right is Hercules, the Greek divine figure who carries out the heavy jobs and as such is an example for the ruling class. In the centre is the radiant sun, symbol of Christ with the letters IHS: In hoc signo vinces, in this sign you will gain the victory. Next to this great entrance was a statue of Theseus killing the monster of the Creta, the Minotaurus. Initially we thought that this was the statue of David with the head of Goliath. These nythological stories are all very close.

We stayed in an 'Agriturismo' a classical farm close to an old castle. It is now turned into a tourist place. It had a romantic name: Monte Olivo, because half of its 43 hectare was with grapes, the other half with olive trees. Our apartment was closest to the small outdoor chapel with a ceramic image of Mary and Jesus. Therefore our apartment was called Madonnina and we had a nice small statue of Mary and Jesus in our bedroom.
In Milan we saw the sign for a short square, that was not on our map. Apparently the founder of the Catholic Movement Opus Dei has received also public recognition here, very close to the great church/basilica of Saint Ambrosius and the Catholic University of Milan.
On our way from Tuscany to Milan we made a short stop in Parma. Here again a very big Roman church with a magnificant baptisterium. In a square near the major churches we came across a statue for the modern but very popuar saint of Italy, Father Pio, who had faked his stigmata, is not known for deep spiritual doctrines or statements, but very loved by many. Here again in the public space.

Churches as museums

From 15 until 29 May 2015 we made a trip to Italy (Tuscany and Milan) and the region Schwarzwald in South Germany. In Tuscany we visited the major towns of Florence, Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and Volterra. All different, but important representatives of the early renaissance and still in splendid condition. Churches and palaces for local rulers were and are the most important buildings.
I write under this title because recently I wrote an article for the Indonesian cultural magazine Basis about the hype in western countries to build museums. In the medieval and renaissance period many towns were in competition to build more beautiful, richer and larger churches. Now this has changed into the fever to build museums that attract tourists and are more or less the label for a town and society.
Churches are usually free of entrance fee, but in various places this is now changing: in Pisa and Siena a fee is charged for visits. In London a fee of 20 pound is asked to visit Saint Paul's Cathedral. About € 12.50 is charged for the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. (E-ticket for € 15.00 'save two hours waiting!). Not only for entrance fee the great churches of Italy (and elsewhere in Europe) resemble museums. In these places many more people come for the sight-seeing than for the church services. In our town of Utrecht every Saturday afternoon a concert is given, either by a solo organ player or a full choir sometimes with orchestra. The conductor of the choir quite often complains that the audience for the concerts is larger than for the church service, where also a good choir sings the music and an extra sermon is given.

All three images are about Mary who is by far the most popular in the museum-churches of Italy. A rough guess places her even much more present in the paintings than Jesus or any other saint. The first above is a painting, fresco, in Santa Maria Novella, Florence. The Annunciation again is probably the most often item about Mary. In small chapels in the countryside there are also many more images of Mary than Jesus on the cross or just a simple cross. Does it mean that the incarnation is a more important idea about the salvation of mankind? More important than redemption on the cross that is less often represented?
In the centre we see here the presentation of Mary in the temple. It is not from biblical stories, but from apocryphal tradition. So it has also become an important part of the life of Mary according the the Qur'an.
Its is here from the duomo of Volterra, the small town that was the major place for Etruskian archeology. Below is a quite realistic painting from the same church. Above we find Mary who crushes the head of satan, here represented as the snake of paradise, but with a human head. Adam and Eve are not represented here as the modest or even shy figures as we often find them in late medieval paintings, but as quite happy models for perfect human beings, although the leaves of the fig are here present as well.
I still remember how Muslim students were shocked to see the naked statues adorning the graves in Westminster Abbey in London.. In this rather small church this very big painting is rather attracting attention as well. There were many visitors in the church-museum (also with a modest entrance fee!).
 In Milan we were on the Sunday of Pentecost and quite many people attended Mass. The choir needed loudspeakers to reach the congregation, because of the huge size of the cathedral. The organ was very powerful and easily could fill all coins of the giant building. This is a church for big manifestations: many altar boys or men, several priests, the incense mixing with the beams of the sun. A wonderful event, when for just a few hours the church was not a museum but tried to function as a place for prayer and meditation.
We made a long walk to see remnants of the Roman period (Ambrosius, Augustine) that Sunday and were in the much smaller Santo Lorenzo, where a vivid parish attended Mass and small children were receiving their first communion. Here we had the feeling of the true building for religious ceremonies and not for museum guests.

dinsdag 16 juni 2015

Fethullah Gülen in Europe

Since the 1970s quite a few Muslims have arrived in our country, The Netherlands, most of them from Morocco and Turkey. The lesser known Turkish Muslims are from the Hizmet (=dedication, voluntary work) movement. They follow the doctrines, admonitions and example of Fethullah Gülen (b 1938 or 1941, now living in a Muslim 'monastery' in Pennsylvania).
Gülen preaches in the tradition of Said Nursi who sought a harmony between modern science and Islamic mystical philosophy. Gülen is much more practical than Said Nursi (died 1960, never met Gülen). He was born in the traditional and conservative Eastern Anatolia, but since early twenties lived in the West, mostly in Izmir. Here he saw that many people arriving from the poor eastern provinces could not find their way in this modern society. Similar experiences were in Europe. During a visit to Germany in 1978 Gülen discovered that Turkish migrant workers did not learn German, did not adjust to modern European society, because theu thought that in a few years they would return to Anatolia. He suggested them to seek better schooling for themselves and their cildren and to try to establish them as good new citizens in Europe.

In 2010 a conference in Amsterdam addressed the issue of Gülen in Europe. This has turned into a book to be published later this year under the title of Gülen-Inspired Hizmet in Europe. The Western Journey of the Turlkish Muslim Movement. The first section of the book has chapters on the mystical and activist doctrines of Gülen. The second section has presentations on Belgium, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany and Albania.
For the first section I wrote a bibliographical essay. It turned out that Indonesians are not so eager to follow the Turkish teachers of Gülen. They did not learn Indonesian, their English was quite poor and they were not really liberal and open Muslims. Earlier this year I wrote about them from the information we received from a son of Syafaatun alMirzanah. Anyway, I enjoyed the whole project and suggest that you buy the book which will be publieshed at Peter Lang in August this year.
We (=I) asked our artist Frans Kalb to make a cartoon about Gülen and the Turkish people who came to Europe and want to be integrated in European society, thanks to better education and dialogue with 'white' Europeans. Unfortunately, our publisher Peter Lang did not allow us to put a picture on the cover of the book, because the series in general has no such drawings. Therefore I present it here as an idea of the general values and concerns of Hizmet or the people of the Gülen Movement.

Javanese Jewels from Japan

Earlier this month I received from SUGAHARA Yumi, Sophia University in Tokyo the SIAS Working Paper no 23: Comparative Study of Southeast Asian Kitabs. The booklet has three studies on texts about the Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad, Isra' Mi'raj. The longest is about Indonesian  texts, from traditional kitab Kuning to modern comic books for children. KAWASHIMA Midori has a text from Mindanao Kabarol Akirat .. which describes the great Day of Judgment but also the Ascension Tale with special attention for the tortures for women in hell and also quite long about the big tree between this world and the hereafter, the Sajaratul Yakin. Most interesting for me was a short text from Ahmad Ripangi about the Ascension Theme. This contribution was written by SUGAHARA. In eight pages she gives a short general image of the independent preacher, also a popular poet and good singer and story-teller who created single handed a distinctive tradition of Javanese Islam on the North-coast. His texts of Tarajumah in the form of a syair, in a mixture of Malay-Javanese, four lines in a strophe, but often quite long lines, are meant to be sung by musical instruments, drums, flutes. I wrote a whole chapter about him in my book on the 19th century ( Beberapa Aspek tentang Islam di Indonesia, abad ke-19, 101-116) and this chapter was published by the group as a small booklet. In early 1988 I was invited to come to their place in the southern suburbs of Pekalongan. At that time they could openly express their sympathy for the 19th century saint who was sent into exile in 1859 (partly because the Dutch colonials were afraid that something like the Indian mutiny could happen in their territory as well). Ahmad Djamil wrote his dissertation about this person. I wrote a short article in the 3d edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam but now I feel that much more research on him has to be done and this small article is one such contribution.
Shortly after I received the small Working Paper, another gift arrived min Utrecht, sent from Tokyo by Yumi SUGAHARA. It was the new translation of the Old Javanese Ramayana, by Stuart Robson (on the new transliteration by Willem van der Molen). In great format, good and solid binding and 812 pages it is a pleasure to have it as a real book: in this format books will survive!
The story of Rama, Laksmana, Ravana and Sinta is still very popular in Indonesia, in wayang kulit also in the dance of life persons at Prambanan. Above I put a picture from 1981 where our oldest son Floris in the garden of our house in Jakarta-Ciputat (at the IAIN premises) plays a Rama. His younger brother Stijn took the role of Laksmana and together they were fighting against Ravana who had taken away Sinta and killed Jatayu the great and wise bird.
Our boys were at that time resp. 4 and 7 years old and had visited the Ramayana plays in Yogyakarta once, but were very impressed about the story. In those years I read some of the Old Javanese epic stories like the Siwaratrikalpa. I discussed it with Hans Teeuw, later also about the Bhomantaka and the Kunjarakarna. I found the very long episodes about fighting here boring and very cruel. Ramayana is different. It is not so much about the gods, the divine figures. It is nearly a humanistic statement. Canto 12 (now it is called Sarga 12) is much debated because it was considered as 'erotic' even somewhat pornographic by earlier generations. Now I found it a wonderful description of the condition humaine, of the basic and universal human attraction between male and female, but also the usual play of being attracted and playing indifference. It has been written in a style where one recognizes the creed of Jan van Baal: we, humans, are not different in all these cultures, whether we call them primitive, classical, mediaeval or modern. Thank you, Willem van der Molen for the transcription, Stuart Robson for the translation and Yumi for sending it from Tokyo to Utrecht!