vrijdag 22 december 2017

Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2018!

At Christmas 1970 (now already 47 years ago!) Karel was in Gontor for his PhD research. Living in the the pesantren, the boarding school with 1200 students. Life went on as usual. Students even did not realize that it was Christmas, because Ramadan had just finished three weeks before and they lived in the Muslim calendar. Nowadays things have changed: public life, also in Indonesia if full with Santa Claus, Christmas carols and more shopping. However, I saw in the university library here in Utrecht that the 'special opening schedule' for 25 and 26 December is from 10:00 until 18:00. Also the big supermarkets have open doors on these days. In the Netherlands intellectual and economic life goes on also during Christmas! There is no longer a dominating Gesamtkunstwerk or an all-encompassing cultural and religious idea. Christmas is celebrated, but it is not the only idea. Is this what the Indonesian want with Islam Nusantara, a fragmented, inculturated, and not a totalitarian idea.
I remembered the special ceremonies we had in Yogyakarta with the Wayang Natalan, written in 1985: in a mixed setting of the old story, the traditional style of the wayang and the mixed audience, from the expat community and the staff of the Islamic University.  Below is the craddle of the baby Jesus, in leather, made at suggestions of Abdurrahman 'Wiyakusuma'.

But at this moment Paule and Karel, we enjoy our good health, of ourselves and the children and grandchildren. The latter grow fast and turn into individual personalities. Only Mette, now 3 years old, is still coming once a week. The others are Sophie already 8 years old, Diemer and Maud 5 years. Mette accompanied us today to the Christmas market, a gardening centre, now dominated by all kind of snow, Santa Claus, this year even a chapel-like structure, including a place for confessions.
Karel wrote many daily impressions and thoughts on his two blogs: one in Dutch http://karelsteenbrink.blogspot.nl and http://relindonesia.blogspot.nl, the English language one. So we leave it with this: a merry Christmas and a blessed 2018 for you!

maandag 18 december 2017

Indonesian Ahmadiyah defended by Catholic Priest

This morning there was the defence of a doctoral dissertation at Tilburg University. The dissertation  by Maksimus Regus, a priest of the diocese of Ruteng, was on Understanding Human Rights Culture in Indonesia. A Case study of the Ahmadiyya Minority Group. Someone remarked that it was not only 'understanding' but also 'defending' the Ahmadiyyah. The idea of Human Rights Culture should make this defence better.
Regus did not concentrate on theology or doctrine. This is understandable, because it has been studied often enough how the dfifference between Sunni and Ahmadi Islam concentrates on the two issues of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed as prophet/nabi and as the Messiah.

 Prof. Tom Zwart of the Utrecht Institute of Human Rights said that Regus had much criticism on the Indonesian government, especially since the MUI in 2005 had repeated that Ahmadi are no Muslims followed in 2008 when the President SBY and the Minister of Religion had taken over this idea and suggested that Ahmadi member should 'return' to true Islam. But on the other side Regus had great hopes on political solutions and the power of KOMHAMNAS, the National Committee for Human Rights. He hopes that religions should be more active. But Zwart stated: 'Law is not the real solution and should not be the first concern. Other vehicles should be implemented.' Especially in Africa,where governments are authorian and/or weak, religions are the backbone for NGOs in the field of human rights. But, of course, the problem with religions in Indonesia is, that the larger part of Muslims under the banner of MUI have given a very severe condemnation of the Ahmadi.
Right here Prof. Tom Zwart, followed by someone who read the questions of Prof. Kees van Dijk (Leiden, recovering from a heart surgery), and Dr. Jans, lecturer ethics in Tilburg.
I had formulated myself a question on the narrow versus broad definition of religions and faith/belief in Indonesia. Also Van Dijk had a question in this direction. The amendments of 1977 on article 28 of the Indonesian Constitution give less protection to kepercayaan (faith/belief) than to agama (religion, often restricted to the big five or six only). Already in the marriage law of 1974 it is only allowed to marry 'according to religion' while the broader concept of faith/belief (aliran kepercayaan) is not included. The recent verdict of the Constitutional Court Mahkamah Konstitusi) wants here a repair. This would perhaps be helpful in the legal sense.
I further wondered why the Ahmadi people are here only seen as victims. In fact there are some very creative and stimulating Ahmadi people, with Bahrum Rangkuti and Djohan Effendi (perhaps also Dawam Rahardjo) as the leading people. But much of Ahmadi ideas and publications is just a repetition of the doctrines that were already formulated more than one century ago. I have to confess myself that I do not really feel stimulated by their rather dull and very strict way of following the Muslim tradition.
Why was Din Syamsuddin nominated by Jokowi to be his advisor in religious harmony? Was it to put him in a position where must be mild and even 'tame', no longer using strong and exaggerated opinions?
I heard more details of the plan for '5000 Ph.D in five years' of the Ministry of Religion. Each year 1.000 new students should enter a Ph.D. programme, and 30 of these should study in the Netherlands. I heard the idea earlier also in Nijmegen: they are not able to give tutoring to so many students. Also in Tilburg they only can accept a restricted number of Ph.D. students. One will be ready next April 2018: Budi Rahman Hakim (utmost right here), who is now finishing his dissertation on the pesantren of Suryalaya.

donderdag 14 december 2017

CMR 10: Christians in the 17th century Ottoman and Safavid Empire

Yesterday I received volume 10 of CMR, the great project on Christian Muslim Relations. A bibliographical history, published by Brill in Leiden, but in fact a programme under David Thomas, John Chesworth and their team in Birmingham.
Again many pages: 715 pages in print with much new and often fascinating information for so many outsiders. It proves here agin that the format for the series is very strong: concentration on biographies of one person and discussion of concrete texts. Christians were old minorities in these regions: Armenians, Syrians, georgians, Greeks and also traders and missionaries, ambassadors, adventurers. The nice format of this great work is that it has a focus on individual persons and their biographies. The great development are shortly sketched in introductory essays, not more than 50 pages.
 I give here summaries of only two examples. Pages 319-328 are about an Ottoman scholar, Nuh ibn Mustafa who died in Cairo in 1660. He was a mufti in Konya but then joined a man from his Amasya region to Egypt, where he was teaching, writing and advising until the end of his life. He wrote an fatwa on an ahl al-dhimma or non-Muslim, living in the Ottoman empire who converts to Islam. Is it enough if this persons just recites the confession about the One God and Muhammad as Prophet or should he/she also renounce the Christian faith? He states that Egyptian Christian call Muhammad a Prophet, but add 'he is your prophet, not ours'. So they should renounce also Christianity. But the Zoroastrians (Majusi) of Iraq can recite the shahada and this is enough. He mentions also earlier scholars who  in general accept that recitation of the shahada is sufficient.
He has also a statement about praying: 'If an infidel prays salat in a Muslim congregation, the agreement is that he be considered a Muslim, for this kind of worship is exclusive to the umma of Islam.' This was my practice in the pesantren of Gonto in 1970-1 with a permit of Kiai Imam Zarkasji and so we debated whether I was legally a Muslim or not?  Fortunately later Nurcholis Madjid came with a distinction of Muslim as 'someone who surrenders to God' and muslim (no capital!) as member of a spcific community/congregation. Wa'llahu a'lam bissawab!
From the Persion Empire of Safavids there is an entry about Baha' al-Din al-'Amili (1547-1621). He was from an Arab family of South Lebanon. His father became a scholar in Herat, while he himself became the most important religious scholar in Isfahan. he discusses  the question whether Muslims may eat the meat slaughtered by Christians. Although Qur'an 6:118 allows this, the answer is negative, because 'Christians utter the name of God with reference to Christ or to the 'father of Christ' while Jews will refer to the father of 'Uzayr/Ezra'.  (511). Like in the Indonesian interpretation of a Muslim man marrying a Christian wife, also here the fear of the 'other' is stronger than an explicit text of the Qur'an: human fear stronger than the Word of God.

dinsdag 12 december 2017

Vroklage and his kitab jenggot

A kitab jenggot is a book written in Arabic with Malay of Javanese translations under each single word. In this way the text may look like many bearded faces. It was used in pesantren or rather in circles where older people wanted to use Arab books. Now it has become popular with copies of the Qur'an: Arab script, Latin transliteration and Indonesian translation in one package for those who want to read or recite the texts.

Something similar has beendone by the missionary scholar, Bernard Vroklage in the period January-July 1937 when he did his fieldwork in the Belu region of West Timor.

 Vroklage spoke Dutch but had three Timorese men who asisted him. The first was A.A. Bere Tallo, who had followed the three years of primary education, and attended five years seminary in Todabelu (West Flores). This man later would become raja (nowadays camat) in Kewar. He had a Belu mother, while his father came from the Marae region. As a youth he grew up in the Belu area and so he could speak this language in the right way. The second was D.K. Faru who had a teachers' training of two years after the primary school and later became fettor of Lssiolat. The third informant/assistant was Petrus Bau. All three could speak Dutch with Vroklage. They listened to ritual texts in Tetum, in the 'priestly' language of special ceremonies. They typed the texts on paper and provided Dutch translations. For interpretations Vroklage also made use of the older missionaries who knew the region since decades. In this way he gathered texts and interpretations of pre-Christian social and religious life in this region, all written down and interpreted by 'outsiders': full outsiders like the Dutch and relative outsiders as the direct interpreters already had become Catholic and educated in the Catholic tradition.
The text first was printed as it was spoken, with translations word by word. Then Vroklage wrote a more understandable text interpreting the meaning of what the ritual leader or traditional priest had said. Besides two volumes with nearly 900 pages of these stories and texts, Vroklage also published nearly 450 pictures in a photographic album of 104 pages. Neatly printed and published by Brill in Leiden. And he became professor of anthropology in Nijmegen. In October 1951 he wrote in this quiet town in the Netherlands on his bicycle and was hit by a car and died, 54 years old (born in 1897). He has saved some aspect of Tetum language and Belu culture. Nowadays we of course question his way of research, working not himself in the culture and language of the people he researched. The data were neatly put into a western anthropological framework. But Vroklage stayed close to facts, gave no strange theories like Margaret Mead in Samoa or Bali. Vroklage had no negative idea about traditional religion, although he wanted it 'supplemented' by the modern Catholic doctrines and practice.
The picture above has been taken from volume II:78-79 and is part of a burial ceremony for a raja:
The  honoured and allmighty God
called and summoned
the Raja, our Ruler.
Thou who created and made him
closed his eyes and silenced his mouth.
We now want to show the way 
his soul must go,
our Lord and Ruler 
the soul of the Raja,
she may go the way that runs along
Kuda Hali and Ai Knoru
and further along
Lakirin and Au Feto,
that leads
to Nokar Inan and Taha Dekor .. (etc.) 
According to Vroklage  the purpose of this and followign songs is to speed the soul to leave the region, because it is a danger for the living people.

maandag 4 december 2017

Modest Muslims of NTT

NTT, Nusa Tenggara Timur, the Southeastern Islands of Indonesia, is probably the only  province with a Christian majority. 89% of its 4,7 million citizens (figures of 1991) are Catholic or protestant and 8,6% Muslim. The first Muslims arrived somewhat later than in the Moluccas (centre of the spice trade) in this centre for the trade of sandal wood: the island of Solor was the oldest trading centre and here we find the five petty kingdoms (lima kerajaan Islam kecil)  of Lamakera, Lohajanag, Lamahala, Terong and Labala, much more modest than its northern counterparts of Tenate, Tirode, Bacan and Jailolo. Everything here is in a smaller scale! On these modest Muslims a team of Catholcis, Protestants and Muslims have published  in 2015 a very interesting book. Because connections with the region and with Penerbit Ledalero in Maumere are not always eaqsy, I only could read it last week.
The first 109 of its 380 pages are filled by Philipus Tule who concentrates on the debate between santri and 'abangan' or adat-honouring Islam. He rejects qualifications as 'popular Islam' versus official Islam or imperfect, defective versus true Islam. For the small region he studied (the coastal villages, east of Ende in Flores) he defines that the pesisir Muslims and the inland Catholics still share much of a cultural identity, in rituals at birth, marriage and social life, honouring the same ancestors. Tule compares this to the Javanese distinction between santri, abangan and priyayi (because it is also found in the concept of elite) and the Minangkabau distnction between Shari'a and Adat.(page 11). He even has a quite daring theory about all of Indonesia for 'orthodox Islam' as a coastal culture, concentrated on purity, ablution, because of the abundance of water, while the house of culture or dar al-thaqafa can be found in all inland cultures, as an abode where formal or global religion is integrated in a broader cultural tradition.
The study of Tule is also interesting for the history of Islamization: how did Islam spread to this remote area? From Java, from the various tribes/cultures of Sout celebes, from the Moluccan kingdoms, from Arabs (the al-Qadri family is prominent in the chapter on Sumba, Waingapu!)
Fredrik Doeka wrote on the spread of Islam in Alor, dominant and sometimes even aggressive in the coastal regions. He mentions that in 1522 Antonio Pigaffeta was in the island of Pantar and already found the Muslim village of Moluccan people here. He has also the story of the thread of  gunting Turkii in the 1930s when his mother was compelled to embrace Islam.
There are two articles on the Pesantren Wali Sanga in the town of Ende, seen as a great example of interreligious harmony, where Catholic students for priesthood are teaching English and mathemetics since several decades. Another institution is the Muhammadiyah University of Kupang where the majority of students is Protestant or Catholic (contribution by Ahmad Atang). The Catholic Carmelite priest Bertholomeus Bolong (with a Doctoral Degree of the Islamic University of Yogyakarta!) give a short history of Muslim in or around Kupang: they concentrated initially on fishing and transport by ship, because they were seafaring Buginese and lived in a kampung or their own. Bolong minimalizes the impact of the inter-religious conflicts of 1998 (page 241) but criticizes the FKUB, Forum Kerukunan Umat Beragama as an initiative of government officials, not really integrated in the communities (page 243: 'of there is no government money, no activity will take place, jika tidak ada anggaran maka tidak ada dialog. In contrast on page 304 FKUB in Waingapu is praised).
The 14 authors have made a balanced, informative and rich book for a modest corner in the variety of Muslims of Indoensia.