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.

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