donderdag 10 augustus 2017

A 'Fatwa' on/against Muslim Mysticism by L.W.C. van den Berg

I am still working on writings of Lodewijk van den Berg (1845-1927)  the first academic Dutch scholar who did field work about Islam in Indonesia and wrote quite many books and articles, still before Snouck Hurgronje (only 11 years younger) arrived in the field. Snouck did not like Van den Berg, wrote in a strong way against him, more or less as a 'charlatan' and therefore Van den Berg is not really well known in the academic world.
Van den Berg was in the Indies between 1869-1887, leaving the colony two years before Snouck arrived. He was legal advisor on things Arab and Islamic. He translated a major fiqh book and was a consultant for the way how to deal as the ruler of the country with Muslim citizens who enjoyed freedom of religion and were allowed to apply several sections of shari'a law.
Perhaps his best known work is the monography on the Arabs of Hadramaut and the migrants from that region to the Malay Archipelago (where they were business people, active in money lending, small trade and sometimes also in religious business).

Arab people usually do not like the mystical brotherhoods, tariqa, but the more pious Indonesians are fond of the societies.  In 1886 another Arab in Batavia, Sayyid Uthman published a panphlet against tariqa and it caused some debate. The Resident of Bandung even wanted to ban the pamphlet because it could cause unrest. After the advice of L.W. C. van den Berg, there was some kind of a religious decision or fatwa: 'We must agree that Sayyid Uthman attacks the brotherhoods in his pamphlet, but this council does not join the opinion that it is a writing that creates unrest and hatred. Just the opposite: this writing must be taken as a useful publication, because it forbids practices which are not in line with the Qur'an. Also many other scholars forbid these practices as dangerous'.  (Here quoted after my introduction to the translation of the Hadramaut book by Van den Berg in the series of INIS Publications.

woensdag 2 augustus 2017

More 'deviations' as selected by L.W.C.

L.W.C. van den Berg has a series of writings on 'deviations of Indonesian Muslims from standard Islamic Law'. One interesting piece is his article on the Muhammedan Rulers and their neglect of the good Muslim shari'a rules. See his ‘De Mohammedaansche vorsten in Nederlandsch-IndiĆ«’, BKI, Bijdragen tot de taal-, land-, en volkenkunde 53 (1901), 1-80.

According to Shari'a the ruler is a common human being but in Javanese culture he is superhuman. His clothes are considered as sacred and used as ammulet, he may do with his people what he want 'like a puppet player or dalang with his puppets'.  He wears yellow dress, not the green colour of true Muslims but yellow probably after the imperial traditions of China. Seven Sultans are of Arabic descent and they use Arab titles, but the Javanese have other names like panembahan, susuhunan. There is no line of inheritance in proper Muslim law, but most rulers in Indonesia  follow the lines of offspring. There are many female rulers in Indonesian Islamic states, most of all in South Celebes.
The ruler of Surakarta, Pakubuwana X
The  real Muslim ruler, according to shari'a and L.W.C. van den Berg, has absolute power: no patih or governor who have power of their own and even a line of succession. There is only shura, only advisors.  The pusaka or sword, clothes and other royal objects have magic power, which is also contradictory to Islam.
It is now really funny to read how severe Van den Berg is about 'his' Indonesian Muslims: as if he works and writes as a Majelis Ulama who condems many heretical deviations in the country. But Van den Berg was a good traditional Christian, member of parliament for conservative Christians later in Delft. His position as 'advisor in Arab and Muslim Affairs' made him somewhat schizophrenic!
To conclude a funny picture I found on the internet from the same period, but not related to the topic of today! But it is all about mixture of cultre: Buddhist, of course, western and Javanese dress a modern umbrella and the traditional yellow payung.