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.

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