Tag Archives: Islam

Short Story: The Sufi Teacher Passed By…

By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

One ordinary sleepy day a Sufi teacher landed in Jakarta on his magic carpet at the gates of the toll road leading from Jakarta to Cengkareng International Airport. He hopped down and strolled into Jakarta as his magic carpet flew off again back up into the heavens.

It happened to be a Friday and at midday, the Sufi teacher went looking for the nearest place to perform his Friday prayers. He went into the office block he was passing and on the ground floor found a small prayer room. The usual plastic prayer mats were laid out ready for Friday prayers but the room was still empty. A man who seemed to be the prayer room attendant was getting ready to perform his prayers, so the Sufi teacher asked, “Prayer room attendant, isn’t it Friday today and shouldn’t everyone be here performing their prayers?”

kebenaran

“True. Usually, there are lots of people here on Fridays to pray. The office workers in this building prefer to pray here on the ground floor rather than go out and look for a mosque.”

“But prayer room attendant, why isn’t anyone at all here today even though it’s time for prayer?”

“Ah, they’re all praying on the ninth floor.”

“And why is that?”

“Because.., it’s air-conditioned. They say the atmosphere there is more conducive to prayer, and it’s nice and cool on the ninth floor, while down here it’s hot and sticky.”

“Ah, I see,” replied the Sufi teacher in English, nodding.

And so he and the attendant performed their prayers together by themselves with the attendant leading the devotions.

When they had finished, the Sufi teacher continued on his way looking for Gus Dur, the director of the Islamic community organization called Nahdlatul Ulama. He wanted to ask whether Americans could use the English phrase ‘good morning’ instead of the Arabic greeting ‘Assalamu alaikum’.

A month later the Sufi teacher was again going past the same building and as it happened to be right on time for midday prayer he once again entered the building.

It turned out that this time there were dozens of people preparing to pray in the small prayer room. There were so many in fact that they were spilling out of the prayer room into the lobby as the fiery sermon lambasted the spread of worldly greed.

The Sufi teacher again asked the attendant, “Prayer room attendant, why are there now so many people praying here, so many that they are overflowing into the lobby? What has become of the air-conditioned prayer room on the ninth floor?”

“Sojourner, the office workers have come back here to pray because the air conditioning is out of order, and the room which used to be so nice and cool is now unbearably hot. Because of the humidity on the ninth floor, they now want to pray here; if they are lucky they might catch a passing breeze.”

The Sufi teacher again nodded, saying in English, “I see. I see.” Then he continued, “Well then, take note prayer room attendant. Reflect on this question: Is there any difference between those who pray in an air-conditioned room and those who do not?”

The prayer room attendant was silent, and, after midday prayers were over, forever more followed the Sufi teacher wherever he went.

One day on their travels they arrived at the edge of a river somewhere in Central Java where there was no bridge. To cross to the other side it was necessary to use a small bamboo raft. The raft landing on the other side was not directly opposite and had to be reached by using a punt some way along the bank before crossing over.

Punting along the edge of the river the Sufi teacher noticed a man fishing at the edge of the river who didn’t seem to be using any bait. But even though the fisherman wasn’t using any bait, the fish were just jumping from the water by themselves and landing in the man’s basket, filling it to overflowing. As the basket filled, the local people emptied fish into their own baskets and carried them away to their homes. The villagers flocked to the fisherman’s basket.

Amazed at this sight, the Sufi teacher asked the raft keeper, “Raft keeper, who is that man by the river fishing without any bait?”

“That’s Saint Jagakali.”

“Who’s he?”

And so the raft keeper told the Sufi teacher the story of the fisherman. It was said that long ago in that village there had lived a fisherman who lived solely from the fish he caught. Every day he would take his catch, return home and cook and eat it. One day one of the fish he caught was flapping gasping on the ground near him when it had begun speaking to him.

Mesjid Cikini Raden Saleh Jakarta 1947
Mesjid Cikini Raden Saleh Jakarta 1947

“Fisherman, please let me go. Grant me a great blessing and throw me back into the river. What good can I be to you? The small amount of flesh on my tiny bones will hardly fill you.”

The fisherman was astonished, but replied, “Talking fish, why do you speak to me this way? Does a fisherman not have the right to eat a fish he catches? This is the way it has always been, and the way it always shall be.”

“But life is like a wheel,” replied the fish. “What would happen if you should die and be reborn as a fish?”

The fisherman laughed aloud and threw the speaking fish into his basket.

Finally, after the fisherman had died he was indeed reborn as a fish. On the other hand, after passing away the talking fish was also reborn, but as a fisherman.

One day the fisherman who had once been a fish caught the fish who had at one time been a fisherman. The fish who had been a fisherman was also able to speak.

“Good fisherman, I beg you to let me go because I am just a small fish and life means so much to me. My small body will hardly provide you with enough. Please throw me back into the river and set me free.”

The fisherman who had once been a fish happened to recognize that the fish he had caught was the fisherman who had once caught him.

The fisherman said, “Talking fish, do you not remember that once you were a fisherman and that once you refused to grant the request of a small fish. I am that very fish, and now you must experience what I felt that day.”

“No! Please! Haven’t you thought that one day you might be reborn yet again as a fish and I as a fisherman who might catch you? Remember that life is like a wheel, spinning around and around and around.”

“I don’t care; I desire vengeance. Aha ha ha ha ha!” responded the fisherman as he threw the fish into his basket. The fish flip-flopped backwards and forwards with slowly weakening flicks until it was finished.

In its next life, the fish did return as a man and the fisherman too returned, this time as a fish. The man who had once been a fish who had once been a fisherman did indeed become a fisherman who loved fishing more than anything in the world. But he did not forget that once he had killed a fish and had finally as a fish himself been killed by a fisherman despite his pleas for mercy. Full of reverence, he resolved to return the fish he had caught to the river.

Henceforth the fisherman fished without using any bait. The strange thing was that ever since he had decided not to use bait the fish had just leaped from the water by themselves into his basket. Even then he couldn’t bring himself to eat the fish so he allowed the local villagers to take them. As there were more fish than a fish factory the local villagers took them gratefully.

The fisherman would sit by the river day and night fishing, refusing to use any bait. He did not want to eat any of the fish and he lived solely from the dew that formed on his lips in the morning, chanting the mantras of the poet Sutardji Calzoum Bachri:

How many centuries must pass,
How many watches must stop,
How many signs must appear,
How many steps must I take,
Before I am able to reach You?

Over time, the fisherman had been given the name Saint Jagakali after the great Muslim mystic of Central Java, even though the fisherman himself had acknowledged no creed.

When the Sufi teacher and the prayer room attendant arrived at the other side of the river, the Sufi teacher thanked the raft keeper and together he and the prayer room attendant continued on their journey to East Java.

The Sufi teacher wanted to meet the chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Kiai Ahmad Shiddiq, to ask the venerable teacher what he would think if Michael Jackson and Jean-Michel Jarre were to record Arabic devotional songs.

After that, the Sufi teacher wanted to summon his flying carpet and return to Isfahan. He was planning to drop into Qom and let Khomeini know that wisdom had spread to every corner of the earth. But then he remembered, the Great Teacher was already dead, so he changed his mind.

The Sufi teacher next planned to fly from East Java to Japan, but first, he wanted to take the prayer room attendant to the modern Islamic boarding school at Gontor in East Java so he could learn English. After all, a prayer room attendant in an office block in Jakarta’s ‘golden triangle’ central business district crowded with the offices of foreign investors needs to know English.

When he arrived in Japan the Sufi teacher planned to go straight to Kyoto, find a Buddhist priest, and find out how he practiced Zen.

(Jakarta, February 1990)


The Sufi Teacher Passed By… (Guru Sufi Lewat…) was published in Kompas Daily in May 1990. It also appears in Ajidarma, Seno G. Dilarang Menyanyi Di Kamar Mandi: Kumpulan Cerita Pendek. Jakarta: Subentra Citra Pustaka, 1995. Print.  Kesadaran Mitis Seno by Aprinus Salam, Humaniora No. 10 Jan-Apr 1999, p. 91.

Dilarang Menyanyi Di Kamar Mandi
Dilarang Menyanyi Di Kamar Mandi

The Syair Tabut of Encik Ali, Indonesia and the Malay World

“This is an annotated transcription and translation of the Syair Tabut (Poem of the Tomb Effigies) of Encik Ali, a Malay-language, Jawi-script syair account of the Muharram commemorations of 1864 at Singapore. The only known part lithograph and part manuscript of this text, on which this edition is based, is held in the library of Leiden University, shelfmark Kl. 191. For a full discussion of this Syair, see the accompanying article by Lunn and Byl (2017).”

Julia Byl, Raja Iskandar bin Raja Halid, David Lunn & Jenny McCallum (2017) The Syair Tabut of Encik Ali, Indonesia and the Malay World, 45:133, 421-438, DOI: 10.1080/13639811.2017.1374012 from https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cimw20/current

Source: Twitter account of David Lunn

Julia Byl, Raja Iskandar bin Raja Halid, David Lunn & Jenny McCallum (2017) The Syair Tabut of Encik Ali, Indonesia and the Malay World, 45:133, 421-438, DOI: 10.1080/13639811.2017.1374012

Op-Ed: The Armed Forces, Capital, and Politics

Kompas Daily Op-Ed: The Armed Forces, Capital, and Politics

By Danang Widoyoko, October 11, 2017

KOMPAS – Many observers believe Indonesian National Armed Forces Commander General Gatot Nurmantyo has started campaigning for election. Some believe specifically that Gatot has started mobilizing support from political parties and Islamic organizations. Some think that flaming fears of a revival of the Indonesian Communist Party, and mobilizing the public to watch the film “G30S/PKI”, are part of efforts to build support for boosting his popularity and electability. There have even been many calls for him to resign as commander of the armed forces.
Gatot’s maneuvering has been seen by many observers as in reality representing not just his own ambition. Gatot’s action is viewed as representing the disappointment and frustration of the Indonesian Armed Forces and, in particular, the Indonesian Army which has lost both its role and access to material resources. In the context of an understanding of the history of capital formation in Indonesia it is very important to develop a policy for creating a professional armed force and its financial implications.

Domestic Capital

In his classic study Indonesia: The Rise of Capital (1986), Richard Robison demonstrated how the New Order regime generated domestic capital. He described four major sectors of domestic capital formation: Chinese conglomerates, indigenous conglomerates, state capital and state-owned enterprises (BUMN) and military businesses.
With support, facilities, and protection, these four sectors of domestic capital grew large and produced conglomerates in various parts of the economy. However, the 1997 economic crisis and the subsequent topping from power of the New Order meant that domestic capital faced a difficult situation. Reforms by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut all the facilities and protection for domestic capital.
Since then, policies of privatization and liberalization opened the door to international capital which has come to compete with domestic capital. In practice, that period represented a difficult time for domestic capital.
In their book Reorganizing Power in Indonesia (2004), Robison and Vedi Hadiz described the rise of an oligarchy. Rather than being sidelined, political and economic elites in fact grew stronger in the wake of the reforms.
Then, what about the development of domestic capital? According to Christian Chua in his book Chinese Big Business in Indonesia (2009), democracy and decentralization, in fact, facilitated the expansion of the Chinese conglomerates. With the large financial resources they possessed, the role of these conglomerates became important in the political system which has come to be characterized by the practice of money politics.
The second sector of capital, indigenous capital, was also able to prosper, not only in the economy but also in politics. In 2007, Forbes magazine crowned Aburizal Bakrie the richest person in Indonesia. Having once led the Golkar Party, Bakrie is possibly presently having difficulty with the burden of debt in his business group. Even so, he continues to rank among Indonesia’s richest people and is an influential figure inside the Golkar Party. Another example is the businessman Jusuf Kalla, current Indonesia’s Vice President.
The third sector of capital, state-owned enterprises, is presently rising to dominance again in a variety of sectors of the economy. President Joko Widodo’s focus on infrastructure development has positioned state-owned enterprises as important players. Capital injection and infrastructure development have made the state-owned enterprises increasingly large. Previously, the program of reform of state-owned enterprises that was supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) succeeded in restructuring the state-owned enterprises. In semester I 2017, the total assets of state-owned enterprises reached Rp 6,694 trillion (US$498 mil) (Kompas.com 30/8/2017) or almost 50 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Then what about the fourth sector of domestic capital, military businesses? In contrast to the other three areas of domestic capital, military businesses are currently in a slump. Public Law 34/2004 concerning the Indonesian National Armed Forces strongly prohibited the military from operating businesses and instructed the Armed Forces to surrender business entities to the state. To date, it is not clear what progress has been made in the process of surrendering these military businesses. However, I suspect the majority of these businesses either operate at a loss or have been taken over by their business partners.
Another factor that has caused the decline in military businesses is the firm separation of the function of defense from that of security. The military has not only withdrawn from business, but also in relation to security which has now become the task of the police. The withdrawal of the Armed Forces from the task of security has closed off access for the military to informal and illegal sources of funds connected to protection and security.
Aside from the decline of the military businesses, the military has now also lost access to material resources through political positions. The generation of General Gatot Nurmantyo is the generation that prior to joining the Armed Forces expected that on retiring they would occupy important positions within the bureaucracy, parliament or regional government.
In a democratic political landscape, these positions are only obtained through stiff competition among politicians. The military, of course, has had difficulty competing with these politicians who have been developing capabilities and networks developed in fact during their days as university students.

Professional Military

In relation to the maneuver of General Gatot currently under scrutiny, there are two important points for discussion. Firstly, with the withdrawal of the Armed Forces from parliament and the closing of military businesses, the military has generally returned to barracks. However, it is now, in fact, civilian politicians who have been “inviting” the Armed Forces to jump the fence out of the barracks and to back into politics.
Secondly, returning to barracks and becoming a professional military requires funds. Without calculating this cost, the invitation from politicians who are inviting General Gatot, and later also other generals, will continue to be repeated. For this reason, the formulation of what kind of professional military is needed, and how much is needed to fund it, is a pressing issue.
Making the Armed Forces into a professional military requires a significant amount of money, however, it is very important for the future of politics and democracy in Indonesia.


Source: Artikel Opini: Tentara, Modal, dan Politik, Kompas Daily 11 October 2017 with an English version published as Soldiers, Capital, and Politics. Tempo reporting on the issue. j danang widoyoko celoteh di awan blog


Two Poems For B. Resobowo

By Chairil Anwar

I

Is this journey far?
Just the twinkle of an eye! – How could it be any longer!
Then what?
Of the falling leaves, you ask for yourself,
And of the soft sound which becomes a melody!

Does it remain only as a memento?
Look at the woman no longer gazing upward
Nor wistful, the stars have vanished!

So how long is this journey?
Could be a century… oh, just the blink of an eye!
A journey for what?
Ask my childhood home which is mute!
My ancestors frozen there!

Is someone touching me to follow?
Is someone lost?
Ah, answer for yourself! – I am still
Homeless and forlorn………

II

Heaven

By Chairil Anwar

Just as my mother and my grandmother too
And as seven generations before
I too ask to be allowed into heaven
which say Masyumi and Muhammadiyah flows with rivers of milk
and is full of beautiful maidens
But there’s a voice inside me weighing this up,
which dares to scoff: Can heaven really be
barren of the waters of the blue oceans,
of the soft touch of every harbor how come?
And also who can say for sure
there definitely awaits beautiful maidens
sounds like they have trouble swallowing like Nina, have Jati’s wry glance?

Malang, 28/2-’47


Published in Pantja Raja, p. 338.

25 February 1947 PM Sutan Sjahrir Malang KNIP Session

Photo: From the Dutch National Archives’ Elsevier Photo Collection this image by an unknown Dutch National News Agency (ANP) photographer is described as “The provisional [Indonesian] Republican Parliament (Komite National Indonesia Pusat or KNIP) met in Malang from 25 February to 5 March 1947. Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir is seen here outlining government policy.” 25 February 1947.

Source: Dutch National Archives

Indian Troops in Bekasi 1945

Photo: Indian troops with four armed Indonesians captured at Bekassi before the village was burnt as a reprisal for the murder of five members of the Royal Air Force and twenty Maharatta riflemen whose Dakota transport aircraft crash landed near the village.

Imperial War Museums (IWM SE 6054)


Interesting background wiki article on Basuki Resobowo.

Featured Image: [DLC] Soerabaja; de opmars naar Malang Beschrijving Nederlandse universal carrier (bren-carrier) met op de voorkant een affiche met de afbeelding van Soekarno Datum 24 juli 1947 Locatie Indonesië, Malang, Nederlands-Indië

Malay Concordance Project

Malay Concordance Project

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Its main feature is a growing corpus of classical Malay texts, now comprising 165 texts and 5.8 million words, including 140,000 verses.  These texts can be searched on-line to provide useful information about:
•   contxts in which words are used,
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•   patterns of morphology and syntax.

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First page of Hikayat Parang Puting. British Library, MSS Malay D.3, f. 1r
The first page of Hikayat Parang Puting. British Library, MSS Malay D.3, f. 1r