Islamic Syncretism Examples

May 7th, 2008, in IM Posts, by

Sunan Bonang How many men taught the Javanese their Islam, how far they succeeded and whether the Javanese are really just heathens.

Wali Songo

The men who proselytised Islam to the Javanese, the "Wali Songo", or the "nine teachers", may have been more than nine, says History professor at UGM, Djoko Suryo. (Although there is an unofficial tenth - Siti Jenar.)

There is no clear explanation in Javanese literature as to why it later came to be thought that there were nine.

It was likely that the number nine was chosen because of its significance or sacredness in Javanese tradition, he said. [1]

Heathens

The Wali Songo were known for their pragmatic approach to converting the Javanese to Islam, and many pre-existing Javanese practises often derived from Hindu and Buddhist sources were Islamised and incorporated into the new faith, thereby being allowed to survive.

Some orthodox minded Muslims today regard these examples of syncretism as intolerable pagan rituals while Agus Sunyoto, another scholar, says one such practice, that of kenduri kematian, or marking the third, seventh, 40th, 100th, and 1000th days after a death by holding a ritual meal and family gathering has in fact nothing to do with Hinduism or Buddhism.

Agus says the kenduri kematian tradition likely came from the Campa/Champa people, Muslims in the Cham area of what is today southern Vietnam, and ultimately has its origins in Shia Islam. Similarly with other "peculiar" Javanese Muslim practises, such as the celebration of Muhammad's birthday, visiting relatives' graves, and others, also came from the Campa, and are basically Shia.

Sunan Ampel
Sunan Ampel, one of the Wali Songo

Other Champa influences on the Javanese could be seen linguistically - the Cham people called their mothers mak and in Surabaya, East Java, where Sunan Ampel was king, people also use the term mak today. Non-Muslim Majapahit people in Java instead used the terms ibu or ra-ina. [2]


30 Comments on “Islamic Syncretism Examples”

  1. avatar billitone says:
    May 7th, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    There have also been rituals of people visiting and praying by the thomb of Wali Songo.

    I wonder where this rituals are coming from?
    Can it be regarded as syncretism?

  2. avatar gigi says:
    May 7th, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    That ritual is part of a pagan ritual, and can be regarded as a small form of heresy. Muslims are not taught to visit tombs and pray there in their Holy Scriptures.

  3. avatar Rob says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 2:00 am

    Maybe this is right up PN’s alley…after the verbal lashing I took last time for commenting out of my depth perhaps it is time I deferred to others, then again maybe not! :)

    However, I am sure that if this were true in the sense that there was in fact some incorporation of local customs, belief, and mysticism into the Islam that came to Indonesia then there would be serious questions about the purity of that Islam and whether or not “Indonesian Islam” (if there is such a thing as Indonesian Islam) is the perfect and pure Islam that many claim the Qur’an to be?

  4. avatar timdog says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 6:52 am

    Actually this is nothing new – it has long been recognised (by historians) that the Wali Songo do not represent nine historic individuals but rather an amalgam of probably many more early Muslim emissaries and a number of pre-existing myths.
    The Wali Songo are first recorded in the collection of chronicles that form the Babad Tanah Jawi, but there is a great deal of inconsistency in these chronicles over who the nine actually are (and these babads date from a time long after the time of the Walis in question). There are also tales attached to individual Walis that span far longer periods than a conceivable human lifetime… Clearly there were more than nine of them.

    What I personally find interesting is the issue of the origins of the Walis – many are considered to have been Javanese; claims for others as Arabs are not uncommon. However, it is very likely that many were actually Chinese.
    The role of China as a Muslim country is little known, but Muslim communities were established in China at a very early stage in Islamic history. Even today Islam is reputedly the largest actively practiced religion in China.
    China’s role in Indonesian history and pre-history was huge. Many of our earliest manuscript references to places in Indonesia are in Chinese records and there was certainly active Chinese involvement in Indonesia long before there was contact with Europeans or Arabs… And of course, the “Malay races” originate in what is now southern China anyway.

    The long-standing historical role and connection with China has been effectively eliminated from the constructed national mythology of modern Indonesia, replaced with an over-emphasised concept of an “Indianised” golden age…

    The Chinese role in the arrival of Islam is equally downplayed, despite the fact that the earliest Islamic grave sites in the archipelago are mostly of Chinese Muslims…

    There is strong evidence, for example, that Sunan Ngampel-Denta (otherwise known as Sunan Ampel – case of the confusion about the Walis: sometimes Ngampel-Denta and Ampel are regarded as two separate individuals) was Chinese. This does not go down very well with many Javanese Muslims… Around the mosque and grave of Ampel (which also happens to be at the heart of Surabaya’s Arab quarter) you will be told that he was a Hadraumi Arab… The idea of all the Walis as Javanese and Arabs is another aspect of the air-brushing out of China in Indonesian history.

    ***

    With regards the posited Champa origins of kenduri kematian and grave veneration, I think that this is highly unlikely. These things more likely represent vestiges of indigenous belief systems.
    Traditional belief in Indonesia is typified by deification of ancestors, elaborate funerals with sacrifice, and a fetishing of graves. Although the local elements were elaborate and unique it seems that there was a remarkable uniformity in the basic tenets of indigenous religion across the archipelago (see extant local religion in Toraja and NTT, and the obvious traces thereof in NTT Christianity, and to a lesser extent in Balinese religion).

    The Javanese veneration for the graves of one’s own family members, and the traditional mourning cycle almost certainly spring from this rather than representing some other foreign import mixed with Islam.

    ***

    As for the veneration of saint’s tombs, and the idea of pilgrimage to these places, this is hardly unique to Indonesia. Islam as practiced by the Barlevi majority in Pakistan is typified by veneration of saints (pirs) and the most significant local religious festivals are the “urs” or commemoration of the deaths of these saints, held – surprise surprise! – at their tombs, which are invariably important pilgrimage sites.

    This also applies in Morocco where the “marabouts” (tombs) of Siddis are places of veneration and pilgrimage.

    The genesis of this trend towards veneration of tombs is unlikely to be a connected pan-Islamic thread; rather they are movements that grew spontaneously and independently and were later given a veil of dubious, grudging legitimacy owing to their existence in all corners of the Islamic world.

    There is a good deal in common with the way that Islam arrived in Pakistan, Morocco and Indonesia – that is, spread slowly by wandering missionaries, who could, for want of a better word be labelled with the slightly misleading term “Sufi”. Their tombs often disguise earlier places of pilgrimage and worship, and the semi-deification of the saints is the price paid for relatively peaceful and slow spread of Islam among people with their own complex pre-existing belief systems…

    Ahem… I apologise for blethering on in this fashion…. ;-)

  5. avatar Janma says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Thanks Timdog, I enjoyed reading that.

  6. avatar jaka says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Despite there was a chinese report about chinese muslims lived in Majapahit ports, I have a suspect, that javanese had and have problem in differentiating chinese and chamese (esp. women). What used to be called chinese muslims might actually be chamese (King Brawijaya’s wife was called “Putri Cempa”). This article indicates it.

  7. avatar Cukurungan says:
    May 9th, 2008 at 8:16 am

    There are also tales attached to individual Walis that span far longer periods than a conceivable human lifetime… Clearly there were more than nine of them.

    Even now some Javanese muslim believe that the Living Wali still exist and one of them is young Kyai the founder of Padepokan Soerjo Alam as below:

    http://www.indopos.co.id/index.php?act=detail_radar&id=208985&c=88

    http://jelajahbudaya.com/2008/03/08/gus-sopan-yang-menyesatkan-itu-akan-dimaafkan-oleh-allah/

  8. avatar Andrew says:
    May 10th, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Sometimes just I don’t understand why some people (I don’t necessarily mean you who posted comments on this thread) find it hard to swallow the possibility that some of the Walis are Chinese.

  9. avatar timdog says:
    May 10th, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Andrew:

    Sometimes just I don’t understand why some people (I don’t necessarily mean you who posted comments on this thread) find it hard to swallow the possibility that some of the Walis are Chinese.

    There are various reasons for this. One is probably the old “Javanisation” of the new arrivee religion of Islam. This is nothing specific to Java or to Islam: when a new culture or religion enters a society, that society tends to consume the new religion, rather than the other way around (especially if the new religion arrives slowly). The “host” society modifies and moulds the arrivee faith to create comprehensible reference points specific to their own ideas and identities. A very good example of this is the remodelling, relocating of the Indian sacred landscape into pre-Islam Java, and into Bali, removing the Gods from the summit of Kailash, to Merapi and Agung (and for Lombok Balinese, to Rinjani).
    Likewise, the Christians of South India place at the very heart of their religious identity the idea that Christianity was brought to Kerala by the apostle St Thomas… There is no concrete evidence for this, but the idea places a foreign religion, the sacred landscape of which lies thousands of miles away, into a rooted system of local reference…

    Thus, as the Javanese first rationalised, consumed and came to terms with Islam, it was natural for them to caste Javanese in key Islamic roles. This may have been through “Islamising” pre-existing mythological or historic figures, or through “Javanising” early foreign Muslims – all crystallised in the persons of the Walis.

    At the same time, you must factor in the special status of the Arab as representative of an Islamic heartland in remote and nascent Islamic communities. An Arab arrivee in the dawn of Indonesian Islam would have carried an aura of extra-special religious authority (pre-Islam this idea would have applied equally to wandering Indians in SE Asia). This concept of “Arab” as somehow intrinsically, especially Muslim lingers in Indonesia today: the Arab neighbourhoods of Javanese cities often function as religious emporiums, the place to go to buy your dates, Koran, peci, jilbab or any other Islamic paraphernalia. There is a sense that buy buying these things from an authentic Semite with a big beaky nose somehow imparts them with an extra dose of “Islam” (despite the fact that the Arab salesman in question is probably the descendent of chancing charlatans who arrived in Indonesia centuries ago).

    So, where the memory of a Wali as “foreign” survived the myth-making process, it was only natural to caste them as Arab – rather than Chinese or Indian (which is what they actually probably were).

    That was all in place before the concept of Indonesia was invented. Later, the nationalist mythology utterly eliminated China’s role in Indonesia’s historical and cultural development, replacing it with a constructed, simplified, and overplayed Indian-sourced past.
    Chinese in Indonesia were cast in a very specific role – that of the “other”; foreigners within, irredeemably exotic, colonial collaborators, exploiters, and quite categorically not “Indonesian”. The forging of the national identity of Indonesia was crude but effective; creating a Chinese “other” was a way to distract the rest into believing that they were “Indonesian”, a concept which, arguably, did not exist…

    Previously, the idea that a Wali could have been Chinese rather than Arab or Javanese would simply have been odd and rather hard to accept; once modern Indonesia was cast it became anathema…

    Clinging to the idea that all those foreign Walis could have been Cham rather than Chinese falls into this too – and is in any case largely irrelevant. Cham was, in origins, thoroughly Sinisised, and fell deeper within the historic Chinese sphere of influence than Indonesia. It was Islamised in the same period as the rest of SE Asia (including Indonesia, obviously), and many of its own early Muslim emissaries were probably Chinese…

    ***

    I do apologise, once again for my wild departure into tangent territory – I can’t help myself! Hopefully someone will enjoy it! ;-)

  10. avatar Kangaris says:
    May 10th, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Ok Andrew, we are in the same boat. Many-many peoples looking for the weakness of Islam. But however, all of them find that Islam is the highest ism in the world. The difficulty, not all of them can speek truely.

  11. avatar Dykarg says:
    May 11th, 2008 at 2:46 am

    Once more, thanks timdog.

  12. avatar Freefaller says:
    May 11th, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    @Timdog, Cham was never Sinisised!, their kingdom just like any Nusantara kindom at that time which heavily indianised using Sanskrit and all which were at odd with their surronding, until today the remaining Cham people in cambodia, or Southern Vietnam speak a variant form of Malay.
    There are misconceptions on the article as well on the comments about Cham. Indonesian (Javanese, Sundanese, Malays) are not related Ethno-linguistically to Thai, Cambodians, Vietnamese. But we are related to one particular ethnic called Cham. When the great migration of Malay-Polinesian people finally had settled in these Indonesian island, somewhere in early 200-100 bc there was particular group that migrated back to Indo-China, which eventually became Champa. Their natural homeland for about 1600 years is Southern part of Vietnam today, and most part of Cambodia.
    The Vietanamese started pushing southward in 16th century after tremendous pressure from Qing Dynasty, thus Vietnamisation of Southern Vietnam began. Many theories out there trying to resolve what causes the downfall of Cham Kingdoms?, one of the answer is the spread of Islam, which made endless of strifes among them.
    Cham people first and foremost is maritime people, sea-farer like, that’s why they never left Huge monumental temples or palaces like the Khmer people, and also Malaysian Government granted Bumiputera status to them because their malayness.

  13. avatar dewaratugedeanom says:
    May 13th, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    @timdog

    Notwithstanding the quality of your postings and the research that went into it, I cannot get rid of the impression that you systematically try to downplay India’s and Hindu-Buddhist civilisation’s place and influence in world history. Like in this statement:

    Later, the nationalist mythology utterly eliminated China’s role in Indonesia’s historical and cultural development, replacing it with a constructed, simplified, and overplayed Indian-sourced past.

    Actually statements like these are merely gratuitous and rely solely on your private perception of history. In the absence of provable facts and strictly positive rules and standards, when it comes to measure historical influences things may get colored according to the observer’s preferences and sym- or antipathies, maybe even personal experiences.
    Sorry if I’m wrong but somehow it strikes as obvious.

  14. avatar timdog says:
    May 13th, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I am happy to state that my knowledge of Champa and of mainland SE Asian history beyond those aspects which affect the whole region is not particularly comprehensive, but I do know this:

    Champa first appears – like so many places and societies in Southeast Asia – in Chinese records prior to the large-scale commencement of “Indianisation”. In later part of the First Millenium and the early part of the Second, China considered virtually all political entities of the region as vassal states, part of a “Greater China”. Srivijaya was considered – by the Chinese – a vassal state, and it sent annual tribute to the Chinese court in recognition of its suzerainty.
    The area that now comprises Vietnam however was actually under direct Chinese rule, and therefore quite obviously Sinisised. As I said, the Cham first appear as vassals and later as a restive insurgent state in Chinese records.

    The Cham do indeed belong to the Austro-Malay language group, but talking of an Austro-Malay “race” is a little dubious. There were successive movements of migration into Southeast Asia at various points in the past (the very earliest being some 50 000 years ago). Successive migrations tended to move less far to the east, thus we see Melanesian characteristics towards the east of the archipelago, “Malay” types further west, and then speakers of Thai-family languages on the mainland.

    ALL the modern peoples of SE Asia originated in South China and began their migrations into the area between 7000 and 5000 years ago. The earlier migrations spoke Austro-Malay languages (we can see the imprint of their first stepping stone on the journey south in the indigenous people of Taiwan, who speak Austro-Malay languages).
    Later migrations, who did not really stray beyond the SE Asian mainland, spoke Thai-family languages, but originated in the same geographical area… Essential all Southeast Asians, with the exception of Melanesians in the east and “aborigines” in Malaysia, are of South Chinese origin and though linguistically divided do not really represent separate “races”.

    I’m afraid I don’t know what the thinking on the origins of the Cham is (whether they represent a vestige of the Austro-Malay speakers left on the mainland, or whether they were a later re-settlement).

    The fact that the Cham are labeled “bumiputra” by Malaysia only highlights the dubious, and often obnoxious, way that “ethnicity” is co-opted into reactionary politics… I’d be inclined to say to people who carp on about bumiputra/pribumi, “You’re all of Chinese origin if you go back far enough, so stop all this nonsense and get on with life!”… then they’d probably try to kill me… ;-)

  15. avatar timdog says:
    May 13th, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    @ dewa - sorry, I think we were typing at the same time and I didn’t see your post…

    Absolutely fair comment on your part, but…

    All history is subjective and biased, no matter how honourable the intentions. For example, if I present a conventional narrative of 19th Century “Indonesian” history, chances are I will talk mainly about Java, therefore it could be concluded that I am attempting to dismiss, to erase, the history of, say, Sumatra, Sulawesi, or for that matter Pulau Adonara from the wider scene. Equally, and more perniciously, I could be accused of attempting to propagate the equation Java=Indonesia… chances are that all I am consciously doing is echoing the existing received histories, and trying to forge a comprehensible narrative out of the chaos of events that is “history”…

    Traditionally there is a conception that “history” should always strive to be impartial, “balanced” and even “truthful”, despite the basic impossibility of such aims (as illustrated above). However, there is a certain trend in the modern field to conclude – given the impossibility of impartiality – that history as “opinion” is entirely acceptable, and perhaps even more valid, so long as the historian’s methods are sound…
    Personally I am a bit dubious about this. If you attempt to produce a world history from, say, a socialist, or feminist point of “opinion”, you will inevitably end up shoehorning in elements that don’t really fit, no matter how impeccable your methods… and further down the same road you reach the territory of “bad history”: where you take a premise (usually a leftfield or controversial premise), for example, the idea that in the early 15th Century Chinese adventurers went to every corner of the world, and create your narrative, justification, and “evidence” post hoc… that way lies bad history indeed – in my opinion.

    However, I do strongly believe in the need for revisionist approaches to history, in all areas, given the tendency for historical “truth” to crystallise into particular narratives that then become the received version…
    For example, the received versions of Indonesian history place heavy emphasis on the role of the “Indianised” kingdoms. I might choose a revisionist approach that places the Chinese as the focus of the narrative, not as a negation of the “standard” history, but as a way of highlighting the multifaceted reality of “history”.
    You could use anything as the focus of your narrative of Indonesian history – women’s experience, perhaps, or one particular city, prostitution, metalwork, or, for that matter, Pulau Adonara…
    The problem is of course an absence of source material for many of these examples….

    ***

    OK – that’s my philosophical justification; now a few points of order… ;-)

    The role of “Indianisation” in SE Asian history has been gradually downplayed by historians over the course of the last two centuries. Borobudur, Angkor Wat etc were initially thought to represent the mighty swathe of a vast Indian empire; this was later revised to the idea of a network of cultural influence without a centralised military, political or immigrant facet. Now there is an increasing argument that “Indianisation” was significant in many cases only to a very small urban elite…

    The histories of “classical”, “Indianised” Indonesia are “rescued”, revived histories, recovered and returned to the wider consciousness only in the 19th and early 20th centuries (it was the British, in their brief Javanese interregnum, who kick-started the process).

    All nations have their own identity myths; large, post-colonial states need them more than most, instituting mythologised historical foundations and national totems (the frontiersman and the pilgrim father in the USA for example).
    Indonesia, watery and indistinct, has a particularly acute need for these myths of identity. The constructed “national history” based on “Indianised” Srivijaya and Majapahit represents history as a crude political, nationalistic tool at the expense of all those other tangled narratives, for example, that of Pulau Adonara ;-)

    I don’t – at least I very much hope that I don’t – have any personal antipathy towards India as a cultural wellspring, though I entirely appreciate why you might have got that impression (nationalist myths and modern Hindu Chauvinists are both pet hates of mine).
    India has long been a hub, a fulcrum, of east and south Asian history and culture. One only has to look at the widespread use of Sanskrit-derived scripts, architectural styles, or the wealth of Sanskrit-origin words in the modern Indonesian language to see that. Equally, the impact of Buddhism – which took a missionary form, probably after the Second Buddhist Council in the time of Ashoka – on north and east Asia has been enormous…

    However, the politicised idea that India once represented the focus of a vast “golden age” “Hindu cradle” does not stand up to much scrutiny, so I will rail against it… and the crude nationalist “history” of an “Indianised” Indonesian golden age needs revisionist approaches….

    @everyone… once more, my humble apologies, I believe I really have gone too far this time – I will go and find another thread and discuss dangdut, sexy Indonesian ladies, bule English teachers and Jalan Jaksa…
    ;-)

  16. avatar dewaratugedeanom says:
    May 14th, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    @timdog

    Before you escape to other more down-to-earth and frivolous threads, I would like to ask for one more clarification.

    I don’t have a formal training as a historian, and my sources are somewhat limited. But when you pretend that Borobodur, Angkor Wat etc. were initially thought to represent the mighty swathe of a vast Indian empire, but later revised to the idea of a network of cultural influence without a centralized military, political or immigrant facet, significant only to a very small urban elite, I cannot refrain from raising a skeptical eyebrow.

    The magnitude and complexity of these monuments must have needed vast resources of labour and wealth which could only have been provided by regimes with the necessarily stable political, military and economic infrastructure to bridge the gap between design and completion of these construction projects.

    In the case of Borobudur, which according to classic theory was constructed between about AD 778 and 850 under the Shailendra dynasty, little is known indeed of its rulers except that it was marked by a great cultural renaissance associated with the introduction of Mahayana Buddhism, and it attained a high level of artistic expression in the many temples and monuments built under its rule. Borobudur’s style was in its turn heavily influenced by the culture of the Indian Gupta dynasty who maintained an empire over northern and parts of central and western India from the early 4th to the late 6th century AD. Besides great Sanskrit Hindu epics and art the Gupta era also produced the decimal system of notation.

    So if you hold on to the opinion that India as a focus of Indonesia’s (and the whole of Southeast Asia) heritage doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, there must have been another body of power that has provided the impetus for the realization of these monuments that are designated by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. According to our co-forumer Achmad Sudarsono such a power does indeed exist, albeit not on our own planet. After thorough comparative investigation he came to the conclusion that Borobudur and Prambanan must have been built by extra-terrestrials to serve as communication posts and launching sites for UFO’s while the temples dotted around central Java were monitoring posts. He even corroborated that the ultimate factor in determining the choice of the sites must have been the grade of civilization and work ethics attained by the local inhabitants, bangsa Indonesia.

    My question now is, do you also consider rekan’s Achmad thesis as a revisionist approach to Indonesia’s history or would you just repel it as utter bullsh*t?

    Thank you for reading this to the end.

  17. avatar timdog says:
    May 15th, 2008 at 5:13 am

    Dewa – I think I need to clarify – the myth of a Hindu “golden age” which I rail against is that propagated by hyper-nationalist Hindu-nutcases in India today: the idea that once upon a time, before the filthy Muslims and the bastard British turned up and ruined everything (importing with them such horrors as love marriages and homosexuality), India was the centre of a mighty, unified Hindu realm that took in not only all of east Asia, but also west Asia, encompassing Iran, the modern Turkic states, and much of China… this train of thought also throws up such patent absurdities as the claim that the Taj Mahal is in fact a bowlderised Hindu temple…
    This is all quite frankly nonsense, and dangerous, politicised nonsense at that…

    On the other hand, if you re-read my above post you’ll notice that I have absolutely no qualms with the idea that India was, during the First Millennium, and into the second, a hugely important cultural influence on Southeast Asia – given the abundance of linguistic, artistic and architectural relics of this period it would be impossible to deny…

    During the early stages of “modern” historical study of SE Asia, the “Indianised” past was thought to represent a period of direct Indian conquest. It was the British during their brief rule of Java who initiated extensive study of the classical past of the region, and who initially posited the concept of historical Indian conquest…
    Interestingly, the myth of a Hindu “golden age” in India was at least in part initiated by early British scholars, partly through straightforward orientalist romanticism, but also as a way to counter a much more recent, much more palpable Muslim “golden age” under the Mughals – a period that was more politically challenging a concept for the British to deal with in their Indian ascendancy.
    Likewise, during their brief rule in Java they focussed almost entirely on the classical Hindu/Buddhist past and made very little study of more recent Islamic experience in Southeast Asia…

    Few people would now attempt to suggest that there ever was a period of active political conquest by India of SE Asia… you could try to claim it; you could perhaps find “evidence” to prove it; but that would be a classic example of “bad history”.

    The generally accepted theory is of India as a cultural wellspring for what is now Indonesia, with language, religion etc spread by individuals rather than by political units.
    There would have been an awareness in the kingdoms of the region of India as a massive cultural force, one to which they leaned for inspiration. Crucially though, while India passively exerted a cultural effect on SE Asia, the kingdoms of the region were equally aware of an opposite political force in the shape of China. Srivijaya sent tribute to China, not to India.

    It is now sometimes suggested that the effect of “Indianisation” was actually quite limited. The evidence to support this is in the transient nature of the various “Indianised” kingdoms: few lasted much more than a century or two; none have continuity to the present day. Also, archipelagic SE Asia has never been a truly urban society (even today Indonesia’s major cities are arguably creations of colonialists and immigrants; the only true “pribumi” cities being extended courts rather than real urban centres). In rural, agricultural societies there is generally a far wider dichotomy between the culture of the elite and that of the masses than there is in an urban society. Given the brief, transient nature of the “Indianised” kingdoms the argument is that there would have been little “trickle-down” to the “common man”. Personally I have not read enough or seen enough evidence to have my own position on this, but my gut instinct is to go with it, largely because the “syncretic” elements of Javanese culture even today seem to me to represent remnants of purely indigenous belief rather than a classic “Indiansied” past…

    That’s all an entirely different issue aside from the obvious indisputability of the idea that a political entity secure and powerful enough to create something like Borobudur must have been pretty impressive!

    As for Mas Achmad’s theory about extra-terrestrial involvement in the architectural splendours of Java, I’d be inclined to dismiss it as perhaps the very worst example of “bad history” that I have ever seen – worse than “1421 – China discovered everything”, worse even than the “Taj Mahal, the Ka’aba, Stonehenge and the Statue of Liberty were all originally Hindu temples” theory…
    However, I will always defer to Achmad’s ukulele-toting wisdom… everything I have previously written here is hereby negated: Borobudur is obviously a UFO landing pad… ;-)

  18. avatar Hari says:
    May 15th, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Kudos to timdog, thanks for the extensive explanation, really helpful.

  19. avatar Toro Kambali says:
    June 24th, 2008 at 6:16 am

    Sunan Ampel was the architect of Demak Kingdom reign. With his political ties with Chinese Muslims admirals, that he was a Chinese descendant, he saw the falling of Majapahit was an inevitable act to take-over the power by supporting his grandson, Raden Patah.

    Majapahit was in turbulence of internal power struggle. Some were more toward Portuguese of Malacca for support and interest and some were more toward China. During this period, Sunan Ampel was urging the King Brawijaya V to put-down all Portuguese and all dissident parties and to reaffirm Majapahit ties with China. The King, however, failed to do so.

    It was with little reluctance that Raden Patah with Sunan Ampel supervision to take-over (coup d’etat) Majapahit. The King himself (Brawajaya V) was under house arrest. The capital was moved to Demak.

    So, syncretism is not relevant with the history of Islam in Java. Sunan Ampel and his followers’ struggle was how to give new “blood” the dying body of Majapahit which based on Hindu-Buddhism “syncretism”. Economically and politically, Sunan Ampel was in the right track. China, Ottoman, Mughal were superpower while Europeans were sniffing opportunity. It was the only solution to save the legitimacy of Java into Islamic ties. It was a matter of converting Javanese Hindu-Buddhism “syncretism” into Islamic belief that becomes a continuous history of Islam in Java religiously and culturally.

    Toro Kambali
    San Jose, California

  20. avatar Shloka says:
    August 26th, 2008 at 1:51 am

    I’d read in Nobel Prize winner Naipaul’s books that Islam requires people to forget, denigrate and deny their past. I guess it has the same effect on Islamophiles. ;-)

    Anyway, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Had Indian Hindus been so full of hate to the British, they’d have been the ones behind 7\7 bombings, after all the Hindus in timdog’s country are far wealthier than the Muslim immigrants, so it wasn’t a question of lacking resources.

  21. avatar Shloka says:
    August 26th, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Sir Naipaul, in the unlikely instance of your dropping by on this thread, I suggest you write a new book with the title, “Among the Islamophiles…” which will analyze the relation of Islamophiles to the pre Islamic pasts of Islamic lands, there seems to be the same effect of both Islamic conversion and Islamophilia in the way people analyze the pre Islamic pasts. ;-)

    Anyways, it would make little difference to Indian Hindus whether the pre Islamic pasts of South East Asia is emphasised or downplayed, they’re busy working hard which is why Hindus are the most well educated community in U.S.A. They learn aeronotical engineering to be sure, but to improve their lives, not to fly them into American buildings.

    While the world is very worried, and rightly so over the fact that an overwhelming majority of Muslims seem to believe that 9\11 was a Jewish plot, while the minority who accept Al Queda did it celebrate in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and everywhere over a job well done, some timdogs and their ilk sniff around for a far less dangerous bone to gnash their teeth on… :-)

    It certainly doen’t fill me with alarm to see the timdogs of U.K., au contraire I’m filled with “schnefreude” though this is wicked of me to feel this way, this means they’ll encourage the Government to bring in more Pakis and Bangladeshis, so the millions of illegal immigrants who come to India, will hopefully prefer to settle and bomb U.K.

    This will undoubtedly lead to an increase of welfare costs, but hey, look at the brighter side- loads of people will get employment in foiling anti terror plots! :-)

    Sir Naipaul, art thou listening?

  22. avatar Purba Negoro says:
    August 26th, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Perhaps because Muslims aren’t stupified by the brain-dissolving caterwauling, ubiquitous spacticised dance movement and lurid fashon faux pas of affected machismo decades of Bollywood, Lollywood, Mollywood et al entitae vulgarum.

    Indian art-film is nearly peerless- the Apu trilogy was brilliant- the high tide mark of a vibrant mdoern India.

    But sadly, poor brother has fallen very far behind since the days of Nehru, the nouveau riche and their affected English Victorian accents and archaic lexicon have bred out of control and so has hagiography, pathetic derivative academia, historical revisionism and the beloved pastime of the vulgar nouveau riche: ultural aggrandizement and religious bigotry.

    We Muslims don’t poke fun of Hinduism so blatantly cooked up by some chronic ganja smoking IT postgrads in a call centre including:
    man in dreads and dirty orange undies
    “holy” men who hang weights from their wedding apparatus, washing in raw human sewerage (Ganges)
    grey-skin man
    man with 8 arms
    elephant head teacher
    and lady-snake (admittedly she’s sexy- its’ the tongue….)-

    Or maybe visit Bali- I’ll show you a very famous Courthouse ruin in Kareng Asem detailing 300 prescribed Hindu punishments for crimes- including:
    boiling alive for adultery
    eyes poked out for cheating
    death by red-hot anal poker for sodomy
    cutting off hands for theft
    cut out tongue for slander/libel/perjury
    all imported directly from India

    So Shloka- how about some reciprocal courtesy, hmm?

    How’s that HINDU female infanticide epidemic?

    I notice it is not a Muslim-world problem. Just Hindustan

  23. avatar Toro Kambali says:
    August 27th, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Well, well, well … This is a better typo …

    Well-spoken Generalisimo Negoro. “Hormat senjata …. Grak !!!”

    The fact there is NO “Hindu” any more in the GREAT MOHANDAS KARAMCHAN GANDHI’s country any more. What left is HINDUISM which is go back to the root of power struggle of THESIS AND ANTI-THESIS OF ABSU AND TIAMAT, resulting to SINTHESIS of PARJABAT. Which is ??? SOCIALISM !!! Voila !!!

    India, oh my Ganges, oh my my Brahmaputra, oh Rashii Kapoor, oh my Hema Malini, oh my Sanji Varedi, oh my Indira the princess of of the father Nehru, oh my ….

    My HINDUSTAN, oh my SOCIALISM. Trading with EURO …. “Fellow Traveler” of SATAN in battle with another SATAN across Atlantic, fighting for SATANIC VERSES …

    Let’s see how it goes … BAPU SHLOKA ???

    Cheers,
    Al Toro ‘tukang sate’
    California

  24. avatar Purba Negoro says:
    August 27th, 2008 at 1:25 am

    There’s a cure for being tukang sate.
    You must let me know your weton.

  25. avatar Toro Kambali says:
    August 27th, 2008 at 2:19 am

    SIAP !!! PAK GENERALIMO !!! SIAP !!!
    SIR, YES SIR !!!

    The ‘tukang sate’ has been BERKELANA RHOMA IRAMA di rantau since Masehi Year 1993.
    He was jebolan Ganesha angkatan 1985. Having learning some … from the current, that times, and the past about negeri kita tercinta Ibu Pertiwi Indonesia Raya, he cried, ‘marah’, and sedih … He promised to himself that he DO NOT WANT any single cent taken from Ibu Pertiwi. He, right the way in 1993, ‘BERKELANA’. To prove that with his Indonesian education, he CAN SURVIVE to the MAIN STREAM of the so called THE STANDARD CARRIER OF SILLY CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY … Bih !!!

    SIR, YES SIR !!!

    Al Toro ‘tukang sate’
    California

  26. avatar Toro Kambali says:
    August 27th, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Indonesia Refreshing …

    Well, here we go … Never learn from our own history. Nusantara, Al-Indie, has bloody from the cradle. Oh … Nusantara Al-Indie … Tengku Minang versus Teuku Aceh, charged each other with their stupid horns, fighting for market, human and natural resources. Alas, Tanah Batak fell as ignorant victim. The Ompu, The Toothless Lion, Singamangaraja, in essence was “stupido”, was cornered by sword of Tengku Ni Pidari. Mouth-less finally, because the head was stranded in the north and the body awas in the South. Poor Ompu …. Rakyat, people, was enslaved, slaves as Romusha in Burma. As horse and dog fighter of Tingki Ni Pidari against the Teuku. Alas, the Belanda Kafir, was sniffing and smiling with Iblis libido, “C’mon boys, “bagongs”, keep fighting … here are some muskets …”.

    The Sultan of Ternate exercised swords against Sultan Tidore . Whose sharper!!! Who got the monopoly for Pala, Nutmeg, and other spices. Rempah-rempah. Monopoly as privileges from the Big Boss Sultana in Cairo, Cordoba, and Granada. The Sultan of Harem. Meanwhile Portuguese Iblis, Spain “Pain in the Neck”, Belanda Kafir were smart enough to out-maneuvered the Sultans Armada, sniffing the source of billion-dinars business. Found out the parties were in party of swords …, “C’mon boys, “bagongs”, keep fighting … here are some muskets …”.

    The Sunan Amangkurat Keparat, alias the Kanjeng Penjilat were in high gear of choking his political rivals. Hiring the “War Lord” Arja Trunojoyo (great, great, great grandfather of the ‘tukang sate’ anyway) for the ‘service’. It didn’t take a long time for the Arja to shut the mouths of dissidents. While all princes of dissidents were in the high-speed exercising ‘boning love’ to the selir-selir, mistress, the Arja and his squads suddenly burst into the room and snapped the princes’ ‘boning love’ from their ‘a… hole’ and set fire the lovely bungalows. The Arja smiled while washing his bloody hands. Triumphantly full of machismo came to the palace to pay a visit the Kanjeng Penjilat asking ‘fee’ for the ‘service’. The Kanjeng Penjilat were welcoming the Arja, “Well done … my friend … come on in …”. Voila !!! All the Pigs Bala Kurawa of the Kanjeng Penjilat showed up from the darkness. The Arja was pale in his face …. His legs were shaking … Oh my God … All the Keris of Kanjeng Penjilat and his Pigs were in action, back-and-forth in-and-out as ‘boning love’ to the Arja’s chest and stomach. Blood and ‘usus mbrodol’ were just little to say … Tragic …

    The Amangkurat Keparat alias Kanjeng Penjilat with all his Pigs Bala Kuwara and the Belanda Kafir Supervisors stood in the palace’s balcony, “Oh .. all rakyat, my people, the TERRORIST was captured and JUSTLY had been punished …”.

    Well, my friends … The Amangkurat Keparat was a brilliant man … sophisticated. Maybe, Uncle George across the ocean learned from him a lot …

    Later … The Bung Karno was thundering the ocean of folks, “JASMERAH !!!!”. Jangan Sekali-kali Melupakan Sejarah. Nerver ever ignore History!!!. Alright Bung … And then what??? Playing the country like toys??? Just surfing the wind where it’s gonna blow??? Ala Che Guevara??? Folks are hungry … Poor … Nothing …. Well, here you go SOCIALISM!!! O la la … Well, that’s OK … Young Nation … What you can expect …

    Later came the successor of Amangkurat Keparat. Now he was wearing stars on is shoulder. S O E H A R T O. With supervision of America “Kita Seterika”, right the way, borrowing expertise of Arja Trunojoyo, bloodshed … bloody everywhere … And, the smiling general with his boldly hands said, “You all folks just be quite … “adem-ayem”, “tata-tenteram”, “kerta-raharja” …. Whoever “buka bacot”, “kena bacok” … OK … take all the natural resources as he will with his SUPER-DUPER scientist “Mafia Berkley”. Of course also with his pals, konco-konco kong-kali-kong BABA LIONGs for “dirty business and money laundering”. The sons-of-bi..ch and the b..ch, ‘anak-anak ingusan’ also involved in the lucrative business. Oh Dios Mio …. The whole country turned to be a PRIVATE PROPERTY AND BUSINESS!!!

    Later came the Sok Bule, the Bule Pretender. All in his his head was FLYING HIGH full of NARCOTIC SMOKE of Germany and Amsterdam goody. All natural resources was for cheap sale just to finance the PROJECT FLYING HIGH. Alas, it was a dream of German Mushroom. PROJECT FLIES. PROJECT LALER. Bule Pretender!!! Sok Bule Kampungan!!!

    Later came the GUS. The ILLEGITIMATE BOY of America COMBERAN CLASS. Mixing ayat-ayat Qur’an like a KAREDOK as if satisfy his stomach and for saliva of ISLAMism. The whole country was like a little toy and all the resources were as bargaining chips in gambling table with the Uncle George who was in BED with the KING ABDU who???
    Oh … ABDU Iblis who put all Saudi OIL as ‘SECURITY’ for Dollar Notes!!! Oh Little GUS just want some ‘younger chicks’ on side for his ecstasy for loosing the chips.

    Later came the NYONYA, La Madame, who just know how to put her Daddy’s name, the Bung, in her last name. Took all ESCARGO snails of France and European ‘gays’ full of fools. This time was a low class stupid Socialism mixed with the un-liberal Zionist Liberalism. Chaos … Stupido … Fool … And her ‘goat’ so called husband was just grassing all un-green GRASS. CORRUPTION again !!!

    Now come the IMPOTENT “ES BE YE” … copy-cat of Mr. ADEM-AYEM SELF PROCLAIMED BAPAK PEMBANGUNAN. Silly … Poor, poor thing … Who’s kopiah is bigger than his brain … Always don’t what to do … Trying to play with EURO also. While begging the DOLLAR … Of course the owner of DOLLAR is playing him like a PINOKIO. REFORMS???? Well, “REFORMASI CAP TEMULAWAK KAMPAK ANAK KUNTIL-ANAK”. A REFORMS WHICH ONLY BEGET ILLEGIITIMATE CHILDREN. “BAGONGS”. “BAGONGISM”!!!

    Who’s next???

    Indonesia Matters. What’s the matter with my Indonesia, my Ibu Pertiwi???

    Let’s keep talking about stupid syncretism.

    Salam
    Al Toro ‘tukang sate’
    California

  27. avatar Purba Negoro says:
    September 2nd, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Told you we need another Semar

  28. avatar Toro Kambali says:
    September 3rd, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Generalisimo Negoro “Kertogomo” the “Red Beret”,

    Semar???

    “Semar Mendhem, bole pethek klelerean” …

    Ibu Pertiwi, my lovely country Indonesia Raya has been hurt her heart by those ‘dogol-dogol’ who know nothing but their stomach, ‘dengkul’, and in between.

    And, another Red Beret “ingusan” (who’s his name? The son of economis ‘ayatullah’ of socialism “mendhem”, the so called husband of the ‘bi…cth’) is also trying show off. Oh … poor … poor … my Ibu Pertiwi … get another ‘bastard’ who doesn’t know how to take himself …

    “Ibu Pertiwi … sedang berduka lara … air matanya berlinang merintih … hutan, sawah, lautan … emas, intan”have been robbed by “cecunguk-cecunguk tak tahu diri.”

    Fools !!!

    Salam
    Al Toro ‘tukang sate’
    California

  29. avatar ki sunu says:
    June 17th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Tuhan memangku sisi jahat dan sisi baik …. bagaimana ngejelasinnya ya ??? …di negeri wali sudah tidak ada hitam dan putih ….. jadi bagaimana menjelaskannya ??? …

    sudah ndak soal lagi di jajah apa menjajah …. sudah ndak soal lagi menang apa kalah … “dunia itu ibarat bangkai yang diperebutkan oleh anjing2 liar” ….

    jadi masih laku kah ajaran wali ????? ….. masih relevankah ngomongin agama ???? …masih perlukah semar ngejawantah lagi ?????

    hanya yang berpengetahuan sejati yang mengerti ..seperti masakan …hanyalah juru masak yang mengerti tentang masakan !!!!!

  30. avatar Toro Kambali says:
    June 22nd, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Read …. Read … Read … Read what happened, what’s happening, what could happen with the Hemisphere you live on … It’s FABRIC (baca: tenunan) of life itself …

    History is NOT about the past. Futurology is NOT about the Future, neither …
    Read … Read … Read … Who is the master of the TENUNAN HIDUP ????

    Semar would be ONLY “KETENGAN KELAS KAMBING” … who can only MENDHEM and DRUNK !!!

    Salam,
    Al Toro ‘tukang sate’



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