Beliefs in Spirits & Demons

Aug 17th, 2009, in News, by

Fatwa on superstitious beliefs in arts and pop culture television.

The all-Java and Lampung branches of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) held a conference over 12-13th August 2009 and resolved on a number of fatwas, directed against superstitious beliefs and behavior.


A fatwa against the traditional art form of debus, – a kind of martial art typically involving ‘superhuman’ acts like the piercing of the body with sharp instruments, pulling vehicles, or fire and glass shard eating, – when the practise involves or invokes

  • spirits
  • demons
  • mantras

Debus is most associated with the more strictly Islamic areas of the country, above all Banten in western Java, where the art form developed not long after the arrival of Islam, and also Aceh.

Aminuddin of the Banten branch of the MUI said his organisation did not want to see the elimination of traditional and popular arts like debus but that the MUI had a responsibility to guide Muslims away from superstition.

He said that forms of debus that did not rely on mantras or calls to spirits, but were based on physical strength or practice, were still permitted. antara

Hypnotism, Magic

Another fatwa along similar lines was issued against hypnotism that, again, employed calls to spirits and such like. ‘Scientific’ hypnotism, when used for proper purposes, was permitted but the MUI felt that in general hypnotism of almost any kind tended to be used for criminal purposes and should be avoided.

The MUI made a specific plea for the banning of the various “Master” reality television shows on RCTI, usually featuring famous magician Deddy Corbuzier, which the clerics say rely on superstitious belief in magic and the use of hypnotism, such as antara

  • “The Master”
  • “Master Mentalist”
  • “Master Hipnotis”

“The Master” is a vastly popular talent show for amateur magicians who compete for viewers’ SMS votes, now in its third series.

14 Comments on “Beliefs in Spirits & Demons”

  1. Odinius says:

    My reaction to this, like to every other “MUI fatwa against ______” thread, is:

    Don’t they have more important things to worry about?

  2. diego says:

    Wow, great, some people who believe in superstitions (abrahamic mumbo-jumbos) are now calling other people superstitious?

  3. Ross says:

    Wasn’t it Gus Dur, a leading light of NU, the largest Muslim orgaisation in this country, who said a few years ago that some meeting would be guarded by hordes of djinns?
    And are the MUi now going after all those Jogja people who rever Nyai Loro Kidul? Or boycott the hotel in Pelbuahn Ratu which has a room reserved for admirers of that pre-Islamic deity?

  4. madrotter says:

    still waiting for a fatwa against corruption, still waiting for a fatwa against what’s happening in sidoarjo but looking at these idiotic imbeciles that are the mui i think i got a long wait ahead of me…

  5. Oigal says:

    the MUI had a responsibility to guide Muslims away from superstition.

    Ok thats funny on so many levels..

  6. Mike Oxblack says:

    Actually I remember Gus Dur inviting a rain maker up to the palace. Unusual move for the big fella that one.

  7. soap maker says:

    It’s a grave discussion.haree gene masih percaya.what do you think all people…a 3 years old baby.
    there are 4 kinds of superstition,the 4th is IMPROPER WORSHIP OF THE TRUE GOD.

  8. Alice says:

    Got some questions for MUI: What about them is bothering you? Indonesia is not an Islam country though it has more than 50% muslims. It’s understandable that people want to put faith in these superstitious ideas. Just keep your hands off Indonesian pre-Islamic cultures.

  9. Odinius says:

    What’s funny is that MUI could issue 100 fatwas, and Indonesian Muslims (like other Indonesians) will still believe in ghosts and other spirits.

  10. Bas says:

    I am waiting for a fatwa against MUI fatwas…

  11. rima says:

    Ghosts and spirits do exist.
    I remember the many times I come home from club hopping in Jakarta and seeing various ghosts such as kuntilanak, pocong, tuyul etc at the wee hours.

    I don’t think there are any ghosts in Europe because my sightings stopped when I moved here. But then again, I stopped club hopping and don’t drink anymore since I lived here. Now I’m confused, was it really ghosts or was it mbak mbak pelacur, perempuan berjilbab putih, bocah botak pengemis that I mistakenly took as ghosts while I was wearing my beer goggles?

    In any case, you guys can bet on MUI NEVER issuing a fatwa against something they should (like corruption, intolerance against people of different beliefs, degradation of women, discrimination against homosexuals, stealing, cheating etc) and instead they will continue the long held tradition of focusing on superstition, sekitar selangkangan (crotch area) which they will eventually blame on women. Why? because we are LOS DIABLOS yet they’d like to have as many of us as possible. Very confusing and pathetic, methinks.

  12. diego says:

    Seriously, all these events that took place in indonesia make we wonder:

    What is so difficult about making more people stop believing in religions, and start questioning / being skeptics? I don’t remember it took me anything special to become skeptic, so I guess this should happen to anyone without any difficulties. So why are we still in this situation?

  13. Janma says:

    What is so difficult about making more people stop believing in religions, and start questioning / being skeptics?

    I used to think about that all the time too Diego…. but now I just think, let ’em believe what they want to believe.
    Easy. I’m at peace.

  14. rustyprince says:

    Truth confession Time now!
    I’ve had a twilight encounter here.

    Back in 98 in Mataram Lombok, as My good self, my young bro – now employed in a reputable legal firm – two Kiwi pcyscohatric nurses – very delightful – and two clever Irish lassie’s working as accountants in London made our way back to our lodgings we noticed a group of men chatting at the narrow, archway, entrance to our hotel. What drew our attention was that upon seeing us they dispersed in a manner that would give suspicion to any cop. That is except for one figure who took position to the right entrance of the garden accomodation with his last movement to place a cigarette to his lips.

    Just to recap a bit now, I can’t speak for the others but I, at least, had earlier admired the demonic statues standing guard to the complex entrance. And it was with this in mind I joined the chorus of my companions “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”.
    We were less than 30 meters from the ‘demon’ at this stage on a well lit street and had only consumed two Bintang each.

    So as we gathered around the statue, looking for evidence to restore our rational senses. The ‘demon’. seemed to be mocking us with his piercing eyes and the cig continuing to glow brightly on his lips as if being vigorously inhaled. But alas after a few more mins there was nothing else weird to report and there were some utterances made that its only a statue.
    Then a little into the hotel we found the three men, presumably the same from outside. All were in great distress with one crying uncontrolably. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a balefully emotional man ever. These men were in their 30s and 40s and completely oblivious to our presence, as we lingered rather long observing this ‘humiliating’ display.

    The funny thing was, as we gathered in the garden, that the previous inexplicable scenes didn’t dominate the flow of discourse and as the beer flowed we’d moved well off on different tangents. It was almost like such encounters were natural in this humid, exotic land.
    But after midnight, and we were very boisterous, a head popped up on the perimeter wall and, as our jaws dropped in shock, with perfect english this man with the same demonic features as the hotel ‘guardian’ at the front entrance informed us forcefully to ‘shut up’.

    Well that’s all folks. Aneh aneh sekali. But a few years later reading the old very informative Yahoo News aggregator for Indonesia, I came upon a report of disturbances in Mataram. In the report the journalist asked the local Iman why they’d attacked the Balienese community, did they have a problem with Hinduism? On the contrary the Iman responded, we have no problem with the Balinese Hindu’s, we razed those particular properties because they were centers of devil-worship!

    Ps I am non religious, believe in science, think I’m rational and Christopher Hitchens is my hero. Also no weird encounters to report since. Plus I’m not condoning any attack on harmless demons.

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