Islamizing the ‘Lands below the Winds’: The ‘Ulama and Kerajaan Politics

Written By Dinda Revolusi on Sabtu, 19 Februari 2011 | 17.47

… the Cady, or Great Bishop, by his Authority and Remonstrance, persuaded them [the orang kayas, i.e. the economic elites] to listen to an expedient that would remove all their jealousies; namely, to put the Crown upon the Head of a certain Orangkaya, who in all these divisions had not stirred or affected anything for himself or his Family, but had lived in the Reputation of a Wise, experienced Man, being seventy years of Age, and descended of one of the noblest Families in Acheen (Beaulieu 1744: I, 747).
In pre-colonial times of the Indonesian archipelago—which was traditionally referred to as “the lands below the wind”—a close relationship between the ‘ulama and the rajas (rulers) was common, and even emerged as a salient characteristic of the period.
The quoted depiction of the Acehnese kingdom by Commodore Beaulieu, who visited the kingdom in 1621, is only one example. In Samudra Pasai, the first Islamic kingdom of the archipelago in the thirteenth century, such a close ‘ulama-raja relationship was firmly established.

Ibn Batūta, the great Arab traveller who visited Samudra Pasai in 1345/6, reported that the ruler, Sultan Malik al-Zahir, was very fond of studying Islam with the ‘ulama. He further mentioned that a learning circle was established in the court, in which the ‘ulama and the royal elites were involved in a discussion on Islam (Gibb 1994: 876). The same could be said for the kingdom of Malacca from the early fifteenth century. The Sejarah Melayu, the Malay source of the history of Malacca, provides a detailed description of the important roles of ‘ulama within the kerajaan. The Sejarah Melayu remarks that the ‘ulama had a respected position within the court, as advisors to the rulers and court officials (Winstedt 1938: 129).

The important role of the ‘ulama can be traced back to the mode of Islamization in the archipelago during the thirteenth century, which proceeded alongside the formation of Islamic kingdoms and economic development. Located in strategic places in long distance trade between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea (Chaudhuri 1985), some areas of the archipelago grew as trade centres. International Muslims, who formed an important exponent in long distance trade, came and formed communities in the coastal areas. It was through these coastal settlements that Islam was introduced to the communities. And this process had its high momentum at the time when the trade centres transformed into Islamic states. In such developments, Islam became part and parcel of state formation.

The ‘ulama, with their knowledge of Islam, held important posts in these Islamic states. Besides the economic “middle class”, the orang kaya (Kathirithamby-Wells 1986: 256-267), the ‘ulama formed a class of “urban notables”, to quote Lapidus (1967: 110-2), which greatly contributed to Islamizing the kerajaan and in turn the local people of the archipelago. I will therefore begin this discussion with the formation of Islamic kingdoms.

0 komentar:

Posting Komentar