donderdag 18 augustus 2016

The Jesus of Bambang Subandrijo

On 19 December 2007 Bambang Subadrijo, lecturer in New Testament Studies at the Theological Aschool of Jalan Proklamasi 27 defended his doctoral dissertation in Amsterdam. This week I received the Indonesian translation of this dissertation, published by STT Proklamasi in cooperation with BPK Gunung Mulia, the best known mainstream Protestant publishing house of Jakarta. Subandrijo had his masters´ thesis in the doctrines of Saint Paul, where he defended the position that the doctrine of Trinity cannot be found in Paul who remained close to Jewish monotheism, although he gives high titles to Jesus. He was since then a debated personality in Indonesian Protestant churches. For some time he was teaching mathemetics, because he had studies mathematics besides theology.
His English title of the dissertation was Eikon and Ayat: Points of Encounter between Indonesian Christian and Muslim Perspectives on Jesus. As you may see below he removed to Greek word and made it a title of encounter and debate. The drawing is quite funny: Jesus is a Mediterranean figure with a beard) while few Indonesian have a beard, in fact only people of Arab or Papua descent. The hat is purely Javanese, but not a traditional blankon. There are two krisses in front of his body: Javanese mystical and magical weapon, qlso two hands crossed. the krisses perhaps signify the double status of Jesus: human and divine. The two hands crossed may signify Muslims and Christians, both honouring Jesus. The clouds (mountains?) surrounding Jesus are in typical Javanese style.
At the occasion of the defence of the dissertation in 2007 I wrote the following short speech:

I have read your biography with much interest for your career in theology, but also for the things you have left out there. You also took a degree in mathematics and for many years was a teacher of that discipline, besides teaching religion. That is perhaps a golden line in your life, living between religion and mathematics, between Yogyakarta and Jakarta, between Islam and also a little bit of Christianity, minister of the word but also minister for financial affairs of theological schools. Or, perhaps I may express it here in Indonesian as well

Doktor Bambang ini sudah suka dua lambang
Agama dan ilmu pasti baiklah seimbang
Antara Yogya dan Jakarta sering dia terbang
Tetapi dalam bidang isteri hanya satuyang  terbilang!

Islam dan Kristen bagi dia gaya bayi kembar
Sumbernya sama, kemudian tersebar
Mau kelahi dan berbeda, sering kesasar.
Sebaiknya bersatu lagi, jangan yang satu terlalu besar.

We met for the first time in mid 2004, as far as I can remember, by writing and then later in person. I still remember how we were sitting together for the first time in the great open hall of the Guesthouse of the Council of Church, Jalan Teuku Umar in Jakarta, where we read this text from Sura 19 on Mary and Jesus. This was the first time your read this text truly in its own context. You were and are a devout Christian, but you have also a very open mind and was touched by the setting and wording of this other story of Jesus and wanted to go the way of the experience. How is it when not the differences between the Christian and Muslim stories and doctrines are pointed, but when we see the two as members of one hermeneutical family.

You have made good inventories of the creeds of the Indonesian churches, of past polemics between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia and you have reached conclusions that may cause quite a few problems in your church. You are a true teacher, but not a full minister of your church. In this sense you have some independence and this may make your suggestions for bridging the interpretations of Christians and Muslims very valuable.

Theology is not only the analysis of past doctrines and texts. It is also criticism of these doctrines. You have written in your mild style a very sharp verdict about the creeds of your church and even about the basic councils of Christianity like the doctrines of Nicea and Chalcedon. Well, you would not call it criticism, but just the need for another interpretation of trinity, statements about the divine character of Jesus. That is your Javanese style of saying things in a mild way! I do hope that your contributions to Christian and Muslim theology, or to religious thinking in general will be taken up in a positive way in you country.

Or to conclude in Indonesian:

Doktor Bambang mengakui Trinitas
Tetapi mohon juga kata lain atau alias
Mohon rumusan modern yang berkualitas
Sehingga orang yang beriman tidak lagi waswas. 

Doktor Bambang sudah doctor fi’din

Dia telah pergi ke negeri yang dingin

Berulangkali dari isteri dia dapat izin

Asal dia tetapi minal mu’minin. Amin!

maandag 15 augustus 2016

Phantoms of a colonial past

On a prominent place in The Hague a monument is placed to commemorate the victims of the Pacific War: Dutch colonial soldiers, officials, Eurasian, Indonesians. The yearly ceremony is today, 15 August. It is not a celebration of Indonesian Independence (17 August), not the end of colonialism. It is still a quite multifaceted memory: for quite a few older Dutch people it is still a commemoration of the end of the war, where 4-5 May is dedicated to the European/German enemy and 15 August to the Japanese enemy. Yasuko Kobayashi qwrote me that she in Japan now remembers the end of a 'crazy period' a period dominated by demons, zaman edan.
Many Dutch still think that the Indonesian were a divided and very diverse people, who followed just a few radical nationalist leaders, Sukarno, Hatta, Sjahrir and some Communists like Tan Malaka. Better informed people realize that the Dutch were wrong in keeping so long to colonial dreams (or was colonialism, even as international trade inevitably wrong?)
The actual celebration, including the speeches by the prime minister Mark Rutte, are all compromises. But Robert Cribb has been accepted by the Dutch government to do research about war crimes committed by the Dutch in the period 1945-1949. This will concentrate on the cruel killings of Westerling in South Sulawesi. But many people in the netherlands still have more interest in the bersiap-killings, Dutch people killed by nationalists in the period September 1945-early 1946. Still much past mistakes are not healed and the way the Dutch celebrate 15 August (with former colonial soldiers wearing their old fashioned costumes) is not really helpful for this.

zondag 14 augustus 2016

Abdurrahman Wahid and conversions

Elga Sarapung of Interfidei was here for a day and a night, in company of two members of other NGOs: discussion of a programme on freedom of religion. She told one story, which she had heared from Djohan Effendi. Abdurrahman Wahid once visited a kiai who complained about his youngest child. The man had six children. Five were married with a good Muslim partner. But the youngest child, a bright daughter who studied medicine at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta had fell in love with a Christian boy and now was planning to convert to Christianity in order to be able to marry this boy. The kiai was angry and sad, because people would blame him as a famuos Muslim leader who could not retain his daughter for the right belief.
Abdurrahman Wahid commented: "well, he should not mounr too much about this. Imagine what God, the Father had to experience. He had only one son and this one guy converted fromthe Jewish religion to Christianity!"

donderdag 11 augustus 2016

Norman Daniel as an early post-colonial author

While working on the history of Muslim-Christian Relations, two western scholars were pioneers before the great project of David Thomas began. Jean-Marie Gaudeul published in 1984 two very rich volumes. But the first to write a comprehensive book was Norman Daniel, Islam and the West. The Making of an Image (1960). Norman Daniel was not someone in an academic position: he was for a long period, (since 1947) involved in the management of the British Council, basically a fine library and institute for cultural exchange (exhibitions, lectures for well-educated people) in various places in the Middle East: beginning in basra, Baghdad, Beirut, Khartoum and finally in Cairo where was was also Cultural Attaché, part of the British Embassy. He died in 1992 and George Anawati,m Dominican priest and scholar wrote an In memoriam for him in MIDEO (1993), where he 'forgot' or anyway did not include his year of birth.
Kristin Skottki did some work on him for her 2011 dissertation on the first crusade and praised him for his great knowledge of sources and his restrained criticism of mediaeval theologians who often knew  enough about Islam ('well-informed') but nevertheless fabricated theological condemnations because they thought they had to do so ('willingly distorted it').

Daniel wrote in the opening lines of the Foreword for the 1960 edition of his great book (a best-sellers. I found even more different editions and covers for this book): 'I hope that Muslim readers will not be scandalised by some of the things in this book'.
That was the same feeling I had when I read the Indonesian translation of my Kawan dalam pertikaian: Kaum Kolonial Belanda dan Islam di Indonesia!
Daniel wrote lengthy books with many footnotes. After this first book, he published in 1966 a book Islam, Europe and Empire mostly on 19th century colonialism which was much more cultural (superiority) than theological, related to the Western domination of the period. In 1975 appeared Heroes and Saracens about the chanson de Roland, as well as The Arab impact on Sicily and Southern Italy in the Middle Ages. 
In 1979 Edward Said  published his book Orientalism, followed in 1981 by Covering Islam. Said praises Norman Daniel for his subtitle: 'the making of an image' which is 'a phantasy, a phantom' not reality. In 1985 I was in Yogyakarta where Covering Islam was presented in the Indonesian translation. Amien Rais was there too and saw all Western Orientalism as an attack on Islam. Mukti Ali at the time pleaded for Occidentalism: easterners should study the West in a modern open way. I pleaded for an open attitude as well: many Muslims also have used the books by Said and Norman Daniel only to play the victim. That is an unproductive reading of excellent texts.

donderdag 4 augustus 2016

The friendly advice of Sultan Agung about cooperation with Dutch people

The great project CMR, a Bibliographical History of Christian-Muslim Relations is now working on the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the possible entries is about the Court Chronicle of the Javanese Sultans, Babad Tanah Jawi, composed in various stages, but some redactions finishing in the 1770s, others probably in the 1830s. A first view of this extremely interesting text is that it has not the cruel and harsh words about the Dutch as found in the Makassar Chronicle or the Syair Perang Mengkasar about the defeat of the ruler of Makassar in the 1660s. Also not the bitter words by Ridjali in the Hikayat Tanah Hitu, of the 1640s. Let alone the dogmatical curses as uttered by Ahmad Ripangi of Pekalongan, north coast of Java, in the 1840s and 1850s.
While skimming through the Dutch translation of the easiest version of the Babad Tanah Jawi, the so-called Meinsma prose redaction, a striking comment was given related to the siege of Batavia/Jakatra by the army in the sultan in the javanese year 1571 (in the common era 1649, but it should actually be 1628-1629; for a debate about the date see Merle Ricklefs, Modern Javanese Historical Tradition (London, SOAS, 1978, 250-254).
There are two quite different styles of leaders in the Mataram attack on Batavia. The Uncle of Sultan Agung, Prince or Pangeran Purbaya, uses his magical power and flies over the town under siege. The bullets of the Dutch cannot wound him. He laughs at the Dutch and cries: "Heh, you stupid Dutch people, why are you shooting at me. Do you still trust the strength of your fortification?" Immediately he makes a hole as big as the size of an adult person in one of the walls and disappears with his magical power to his boat. On the other side of the town under siege the Javanese artillery is shooting in a more conventional way with canons. The Dutch shoot back, but they are short of bullets and therefore they use excrements. They not only smell very bad, but they are also impure (najis) and therefore the Javanese soldeirs retire to their capital of Mataram. The two army generals Mandureja and Baureksa are killed by order of Sultan Agung (because they failed to conquer the town? In order to rescue the name of Sultan Agung?)
After pangeran Purbaya returned in Mataram, he commented to the Sultan: "My Lord, as to the war in Jakatra, it would be best to stop it, because the Dutch only came here for trade." The Sultan was happy to hear this and quietly said: "Uncle, you are right. Anyway, it is God's decision, that in the future the Dutch will be helpers to my offspring who will become sultan. When in the future one of my offspring will be defeated in the war, the Dutch certainly will come to help him. The only reason why I started this war, was that I wanted to give an example, in order to make them somewhat afraid." (Dutch translation 143: the Javanese text is from page 139,  here included, accomodated to modern spelling): Kacariyos konduripun panembahan Purbaya sampun dumugi ing Matawis, lajeng sowan ing sang prabu, ngaturaken wiwitan dumugi wekasan, sarta aturipun panembahan: "Prekawis prang ing Jakarta prayogi dipunkèndeli, sabab tiyang Welandi nggènipun dateng wonten ingriku amung sumeja grami kémawon. Kanjeng Sultan kapanujon galihipun, alon nggènipun ngandika: "Uwa, inggih leres sampéyan. Kalih déné sampun pinesti karsa Allah, tiyang Welandi ing mbéndjing badé mitulungi dateng turun-kula, kang sami jumeneng nata. Menawi turun-kula ing mbénjing wonten kang kawon perangipun, mesti badé dipun-pitulungi dateng tiyang Welandi. Milanipun kula adamel perang punika, amung kula-damel lelabet kémawon, supados ajriha kang wingking-winking.
Is this the Realpolitik of the sultans, who had become wise after many defeats in the 17th and early 18th century? Is this the language of someone who had close contacts with Dutch officials learning Javanese from this text? Also in his book Jogjakarta under Sultan Mangkubumi1749-1792 (London, Soas, 1974:356-7), Merle Ricklefs has discussed this story and mentions that the various sources he knows are more or less identical. Also the broader representation of these texts in H.J. de Graaf, De regering van Sultan Agung (The Hague, 1958) has this representations of the siege of Batavia.
Is this all relevant for Muslim-Christian Relations? We might say that the negative stereotypes dominate in the many books produces by the project and that the Realpolitiker who are able to diminish the destructive character of religion therefore are less visible in the project. In the Festschrift for David Thomas there was one very interesting contribution by the Polish scholar Stan Grodz who argued that we should not take the Polish-Ottoman talks of the 15th-17th century as 'interreligious dialogues' or even as events that are important for interreligious relations. There were and are stereotypes. They do seldom represent the true meaning of the religion of the other. In this way 'interreligious contacts' (if they could be called as such) were very superficial. From both sides it may be important to see that religion was not always present, at least not in its best reality. But is not this the everyday way or religious communities?
In our own time there is now the debate about IS, Islamic State. Quite a few people were involved in a violent terrorist attack, but had little knowledge of Islam, were not active in Muslim obligations ike praying or fasting. But still were seen by themselves and others as representing 'Islam' or the new 'Islamic State' of Iraq and Syria.

woensdag 3 augustus 2016

Shattariyah in Southeast Asia

Mrs. Prof. Yumi Sugihara sent recently two books to Utrecht. One is the fine translations of the Ghatotkacasraya, the story of Gatotkaca in Old javanese, translated by Stuart Robson. I will reflect later about this book.
First a little about the book by Oman Fahurrahman (born Kuningan 1969, studied in Jakarta, UIN, did research in Aceh, Germany and Tokyo) on the chain of transmitters of the Shattariya brotherhood on Southeast Asia. In description about him he is qualified as someone 'crazy about manuscripts'.
In the book Shattariyah Silsilah in Aceh, Java and the Lanao area of Mindanao, (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies; 2016) he shows himself to be addicted to manuscripts and especially to the chain of transmitters of the tariqa. Not the content of doctrine or practices, but the chain of leaders is always given attention to here.
This reminded me of the former Utrecht Professor of Islam, Fred de jong, who studied brotherhoods in Egypt in the late 19th century: it was always about leaders, silsilah, chains of authority.
This reminded me of the difference in study of shari'a by Muslim and Western scholars. Hadith, the basis of many shari'a rulings, is divided in two aspects: the matn or centre, body, content of the rulins and the isnad or chain of transmitters. While many western scholars (from Goldziher to Schacht) do not give much attention to isnad, the Muslim scholars put the isnad on the first place.
There is a naughty story in the Kitab al-aghani, the classic Arab collection of poetry, songs and short stories. A group enters a boat for a trip from Baghdad to Basra. A Jew has taken his bag for wine and before sunset he takes the bag, fills a glass and says to the public: 'This morning I sent my most trusted slave to a wineshop and he brought me again of the fines wine in Baghdad. Hé, Muslim, would you like to taste my wine?' The Muslim answers: 'Well, let me try your drink.' The Jew repeats: 'You are a Muslim. How can you drink from my wine?' 'Well, is the Muslim's answer: how assures me that this is wine? I hear it from a Jew, who sent his slave to a wine-seller. Well, nice stuff you gave me here!'
Is the emphasis of Oman Fathurrahman on the silsilah also similar to the general tradition of giving attention to isnad and not to matn? I found a well written and good book, but resented that there is no development in social status of adherents, not development of doctrine and practices here: just the chains of leadership.

Critical Spiritualism in Context: Ayu Utami and Erik Prasetya

Mangunwijaya did not like to write about Theology of Liberation, but rather about Theology of Development. Also in his criticism of institutional religion he was not so hard and wrote with new terminology like religiositas about religious feelings and practices that were not bound to one well organised, defined and closed religion.
Ayu Utami gave in Tilburg a talk in early June where she also went on the soft vocabulary. She is no longer attacking the three M: Modernity, Military and Monotheism, (like in the book Bilangan Fu), but now she tries to define Critical Spiritualism. In February 2015 she published together with her husband Erik Prasetya a small bilangual book (Indonesian and English) under the title Banal Aesthetics & Critical Spiritualism (Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedi).
Erik writes about the art of taking pictures while considering Sebastiao Salgado is his example for Street Photography. As far as I can understand it, he wants to take pictures not of artificial and  planned or even 'orchestrated' picture, but  it is only poccible if you have a knowledge and vision of society yourself. Salgado was a student of economy byt the found that he could better show his vision of the world through pictures than through learned articles (and so contribute to a more prosperous and more human society).
In her own contribution Ayu Utami puts some quite general question like: Apa itu keindahan? What is beauty? When is a photograph or a writing a piece of art? When is it more than just a nice picture, a nice story, or even a philosophical consideration? Ayu turns to the biblical stories. First to Adam and Eve, compared to the story of Rama and Sinta. Second comes the story of babel, language multiplied and a cause of trouble among people. The sumpah pemuda of 1928, when Indonesian youth promoted an independent and unified Indonesia with one Indonesian language is put forward as an ideal.
In her conclusion she remains rather vague: Criticial spirituality is openness to the spiritual without betraying critical rational thought. Like for Erik the pictures are more powerful than theoretical writings, Ayu is better in the narrative than the abstract theory. Quite good that she put some storytelling here as well, although the theory remained somewhat meagre.