Dispersing God's shadows

Reflections on the translation of Arabic political concepts into Malay and Indonesian

a paper written for the project "History of translations into Indonesian and Malaysian languages"
led by Henri Chambert-Loir & Monique Zaini-Lajoubert
Michael Laffan
Research Fellow
The Dissemination of Religious Authority in 20th Century Indonesia
IIAS, Universiteit Leiden


  1   From God-King to God's shadow
  1.1   The Sultan as Raja
  1.2   The Abode of Peace: Dar al-Salam
  1.3   Ruler and ruled
  2   Words of community and patriotism: Islam and the public sphere
  3   New words of politics or old words given a retrospective meaning?

tarjuma: menterjemahkan

----, fasarra wa sharraha: mentafsirkan, menjelaskan, mengertikan

K.H. Ali Ma'shum and K.H. Zainal Abidin Munawwir, 1984, al-Munawwir: Qamus `Arabi-Indunisi: Ta'lif Ahmad Warsun Munawwir. p.141.


Here I discuss the changing nature of the translation of key Arabic political terms in Island Southeast Asia, though with primary reference to the polities of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula in the first instance, and occasional discussion of the Javanese context for comparison. Afterwards I move to discuss arguments about politics in the nascent state of Indonesia which, despite its overwhelming majority of Muslims, has not seen the creation of an Islamic state.

I wish to show that, in general, the 'translation' of these terms should be understood in the simple sense of horizontal movement in a plane. For the sake of this contribution, that plane is the Islamic World at large. Herein similar terms may be found, from West Africa to Eastern Indonesia, though with often divergent meanings. And whilst such terms were transplanted to new contexts as Islam spread, they did not necessarily replace existing words, nor did they necessarily force speakers of languages other than Arabic to create new ones. Sometimes they were not embraced at all. For the case of Island Southeast Asia, I will start by suggesting that they initially served to provide greater nuance to indigenous concepts, whether of rulership, of state, or of sovereignty.

In a recent essay, Azyumardi Azra (1999:75-85) provided some useful observations on this Easterly translation of Islamic political terms, modelling his discussion on Bernard Lewis' The Political Language of Islam (Chicago, 1988); indeed his article was written for a discussion of Lewis' book held in Jakarta in 1994. However, in following Lewis, Azra did not devote much space to the changing contexts at either end of the process, largely concentrating, like Lewis, on a selection of classical texts and usages. In both cases we are left with a view of a classical Islamic political 'culture'—either Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian—defined largely prior to the direct intrusion of Western power, although it should be said that, unlike Lewis, Azra makes a case for a nuanced regional understanding of Islam in his work.

One critic of Lewis has rightly cautioned observers not to equate Islam, and thus Islamic culture, with the Middle East and Arabic norms, or indeed to rely entirely on texts to generate an understanding of Muslim societies (Asad 1986). Still there are few alternate sources for the history of Malay political culture. Many Malay texts—most often preserved by various court libraries—have absorbed a wide range of Arabic words. In some cases these are in connection with ideas of religion and the divine, but of course Arabic need not be religious, and thus there are numerous secular words of Arabic derivation in Malay. These include such common-place words as makna (ma`na, meaning), niat (niyya, intention), lahir (zahir, outward), paham (faham, understand), zaman and waktu (zaman, waqt; period of time), and kuat (quwwa, force). Nevertheless, the very use of Arabic terminology or even script in Southeast Asia can be a method for legitimizing claims to an Islamic identity, or of ascribing a religious meaning to something. If a kitab in Arabic is a simply a book, the sort of kitabs employed in a Malay setting—the kitab kuning—were often avowedly religious in nature. Still, the nature of translation is not just the mindless appropriation of an Islam. In many cases the physical translation of an Arabic term in Malay has allowed for a wider repertoire of meaning. Malays could indeed choose between many sorts of literary genres, most of which had, like the kitab, an Arabic nomenclature. Once again, and like the vocabulary from which they were drawn, not all were religious. These included the hikayat (hikaya, tale), syair (shi`r, poetry) or kisah (qissa, story). In all cases the choice of vocabulary for that repertoire had an original context and one which was often changing.

In the following discussion I shall focus mainly on key periods of translation of Arabic political language. The first, and longest, is that of the coming of Islam and the Islamization of Malay political culture. For the purposes of this section, I have made use of the concordance of Malay Manuscripts developed by Ian Proudfoot at the Australian National University. Of course we must approach this corpus with caution. There is a diverse range of material covered therein, much of which is literary or relates to epistolary practice. Furthermore it represents many forms of Malay language across time and space. There is little avowedly religious material either. Still, whereas the majority of texts which constitute this concordance are not specifically religious, the significance of any Arabic terminology within it may be taken as an indication of how Arabic has percolated into the wider Malay lexicon, or, in this case, the language of politics.

The second period under discussion the late colonial period, when the vocabulary of revivalist Islam was adapted to support patriotism, anti-colonialism, and to a degree anti-monarchism. I shall then make some brief observations about the post-colonial era, when sections of that Islamic vocabulary appear to have been used at different times to either bolster the national project or invoke a rejection of the nation-state.

1   From God-King to God's shadow

Lewis (1988:43) commences his discussion of the place of the ruler in Muslim society with an apocryphal hadith declaring that the leadership of the community would undergo a number of transitions toward corruption: from caliphs to amirs, from amirs to kings, and from kings to tyrants. In the following pages he also devotes attention to another key title, that of sultan. Of these, it is this last term which gained the greatest currency in the Muslim World, and Southeast Asia was no exception. But before turning to the world of the sultans, it is worth beginning, as Lewis did, with the idea of caliphate.

Derived from the root kh.l.f, the concept of Caliphate (khilafa) encompasses meanings of being 'behind' or 'after'. The first Caliph (khalifa), Abu Bakr (r.632-34), was the 'successor' to Muhammad as leader of the Muslim community in a temporal sense. This was not, however, the first idea of caliphate with which Muslims were familiar. In the Qur'an there is a greater emphasis on the vicegerency of God on Earth, as effectuated by the Prophets Adam and David. By implication Muhammad was also a khalifa of God, but as the last Prophet, any khalifa after him could only be his temporal successor; or so it was felt until the reign of the third of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, `Uthman bin `Affan (r.644-56), who declared himself to be the Caliph of God (khalifat Allah).

It is primarily the Qur'anic, rather than the imperial, sense of khalifa that appears in Proudfoot's concordance of Malay texts. Of 66 instances, eight are glosses of the verse referring to the installation of Adam as God's vicegerent. Still, none make as explicit a connection between God and ruler as the famous interpretation of a verse in the Undang-Undang Pahang where `Abd al-Ghafur Muhayy al-Din Shah (r.1592-1614) was, like `Uthman, accorded the contentious title Khalifat Allah. And whereas some Southeast Asian rulers like `Abd al-Ghafur did arrogate the rank of khalifa to themselves, their usage nonetheless reflects a straightforward appropriation of a designation that had long lost its force in the Muslim world as a whole. Following the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258, and prior to the fictitious assertion by the late Ottoman state of a transferral of the office to Sultan Selim in 1517, the ideal of all Muslims united under a single ruler was a chimera cast back on a pristine early Islam. The best of caliphs remain the first 'Rightly Guided' Caliphs of Medina (632-61), a view still affirmed by the Islamist literature of the twentieth century, such as Rashid Rida's al-Khilafa aw al-imamat al-`uzma (The Caliphate or the Great Imamate, Cairo, 1923).

Of course the Ottoman state was regarded as the major player in the Muslim World in the 16th century, and was thus felt deserving of at least some caliphal prerogatives. Three of Aceh's rulers—Ala al-Din Riayat Shah al-Qahhar (r.1537–71), Mansur Shah (r.1577–88) and Ala al-Din Riayat Shah (r.1588–1604)—even paid the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman (r.1520–65) the compliment of naming him as Caliph in official correspondence (Azra 1992:110–115). Still, such courtesy in addressing the Ottoman ruler as Caliph should, I believe, be seen as an example consistent with the epistolary style employed by their contemporary rulers, such as the Moghuls (c.f. Farooqi 1986:267). Arguments that the Acehnese conceived of themselves as vassals to an Ottoman caliph are informed by 19th century Ottoman doctrine of pan-Islam. At that time the Acehnese were hoping desperately for aid against the Dutch from a tottering Empire that equally hoped its recent claims to a form of papal influence abroad would bolster its own chances of survival. Indeed the idea of the caliphate has long been a debased currency employed by many of the rulers of states that made up the Muslim World.

As noted above, most Muslim rulers preferred to employ the even more ubiquitous title of sultan. Originally the abstract noun for 'power', the term sultan had become synonymous with that of the ruler by the time the Saljuk dynasty (11th-12th centuries) had risen to dominate the emasculated Caliphs of Baghdad. It became further magnified under the Mamluks in Egypt (1250-1517) before reaching its apex in the successor Ottoman dynasty (EI2 9:849).

Current scholarship indicates that Malay kingdoms began transforming into sultanates perhaps as early as the late 12th century. Some of the earliest evidence for the Islamization of Southeast Asia is the adoption of the rank of sultan by rulers of polities along the Straits of Malacca. Montana (1997) even claims that the first was Sultan Sulaiman bin Abdullah al-Basir, whose tombstone, seemingly inscribed with the Hijri equivalent of 1211CE, is found at Lamuri on the Northern tip of Sumatra. Of greater certainty is the stone of Sultan Malik al-Salih of Samudra (Pasai), dated 1297 (Schrieke 1957:233–34; Drewes 1968:436–50). This figure is to be identified with Merah Silu of the Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai, who is said to encounter Muhammad in a dream, to awake circumcised, make a version of the declaration of faith and be able to recite the Qur'an in its entirety. Afterwards Merah Silu took the very Ayyubid name of Malik al-Salih, which the Prophet had called him in his dream, and had his conversion witnessed by the visiting Shaykh Isma`il, an emissary from the Sharif of Mecca (Hill 1960:57-58, 118-19).

According to the 15th century observer Tomé Pires, the major Muslim rulers of the archipelago all adopted the title of sultan, whilst smaller kings were content with the Indic title of raja (Cortesão 1944:214). With reference to the Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai, Azra (1999:78) claims that there were few political impediments to Merah Silu's transformation of his kingdom, with its entire population, into a sultanate. However this view rests on little evidence other than the court text written to justify his decision retrospectively, and which places the ruler at the centre of the process of Islamization while bringing in the probable agent of conversion as a mere witness after the fact. Similar king-centric features may be found in several of the conversion legends of Southeast Asia (see Jones 1979; Ricklefs 1979). The voice of opposition, and the agency of others is usually lacking in any texts written to support the legitimacy of God's caliph and his descendants.

In effect the long (politically) fractured Muslim world had become a patchwork of sultanates, from West Africa to Southeast Asia, wherein each sultan claimed to be God's local caliph. Often their use of the title Sultan and the classifier of Caliph was often accompanied by another phrase symbolizing a connection with divine power. This was the idea of the ruler being fractionally humbler than the Caliph of God, but nonetheless His 'shadow on Earth', a concept apparently of Babylonian origin employed by the rulers of Persia (Milner 1981:53). According to Kathirithamby-Wells (1986: 342), in the case of Southeast Asia, 'any decline in the cosmic role of the ruler was adequately compensated by his increased practical function as local head of the ummat, and beyond it a broader commitment to the Islamic world at large.' Certainly this was but a minor step down from the old position of God-King, or it may well have been an easier step up for estuarine chieftains whose divinity had never been established, and who could see the benefits of plugging in to a global network of trade.

Milner suggests that the Indo-Persian model of kingship was deemed compatible with existing Malay ideas about rulership and accounts in part for the Islamization of those rulers. Whetever its precise origins, the usage of Arabic titulature in the Malay context is more an aspect of the harmonization of the Islamic regal tradition than the translation of its forms and erasure of existing local structures. All such titles were most likely adopted by Southeast Asian rulers as a part of the continuing process of adhesion to Islam (c.f. Levtzion 1979). Over time the titles of sultan served to denote connection with a far larger world – a world in which each claimed to be God's local representative, either with or without the support of the `ulama.

If anything the role of the ruler as first among equals was in some cases strengthened with the advent of more direct colonial rule. The direct linkage between rulership and religion is also shown in a number of (much later) European dictionaries of Malay, although the English came to accord more respect to state claims to primacy in the field of religion than their Dutch counterparts. Von de Wall and van der Tuuk (1877, II:82), as well as Klinkert (1930:435), list the term khalifa in their respective dictionaries and give the standard Arabic definitions of 'caliph', 'ruler' or 'successor to the Prophet' – von de Wall even included the broken plurals. On the other hand Wilkinson (1903) makes no mention of the term, although by the time Winstedt compiled his lexicon in 1914, he could declare that the term meant: 'caliph, religious head of state', while adding in parentheses: 'as every Malay ruler is' (see Winstedt 1952:97).

1.1   The Sultan as Raja

In Southeast Asia then, the title of sultan had long been the one that really mattered. All other epithets, whether 'caliph of the believers', 'commander of the faithful', or 'God's shadow', were apparently subsidiary embellishments that came with the repertoire of Islamic rule. Still, whilst it obviously mattered that the ruler was a Sultan, Arabic titulatare did not efface the older Indic of Malay heritage of the region overnight. This is borne out in both Proudfoot's concordance and on the many Malay seals recently analysed by Gallop, who has pointed out the persistence of Sanskrit or Javanese elements in non-sovereign titles, and the prevalence of the Malay sovereign title of Yang Dipertuan ('he who is made lord', see Gallop 2002:94 and 75). And whilst Tomé Pires differentiated between major sultans and minor rajas, in their own realms the Malay-speaking Sultans acted as rajas just as the masters of central Java, such as the famous Sultan Agung (r.1613–46), preferred to be addressed by their local titles and continued ruling as their ancestors had done.

What makes an even greater argument for the pre-eminence of the term raja in the local context is that this word is far more visible in Malay texts; even those with reference to Sultans in their titles, such as the Taj al-Salatin, Bustan al-Salatin, and the Sulalat al-Salatin, retitled by Raffles as the Sejarah Melayu. Furthermore, unlike the word raja, the word sultan almost never takes on such verbal forms as merajakan or diraja, remaining a title above all else. In short it had not been 'vernacularized', to use the terminology of Hunter (this volume). So whereas the term sultan appears in the concordance to denote the ruler, it is primarily as his title. In practical terms then such rulers remained very much rajas, and went on doing raja-like things. This suggests again that the title of Sultan remained a signpost for outsiders to Southeast Asia or an affirmation of Islamic juridical theory manifested at the diplomatic level.

Finally, whilst the idea of kingdom is expressed purely as being 'the state of having a raja' (kerajaan) again and again, the absence of an Arabo-Islamic cognate kesultanan (sultanate) is most pointed in the concordance. This was perhaps a development more truly belonging to the late 19th century, when the morbid kerajaans under British control had to bolster their Islamic credentials yet again, but this time for the external audience that would disdainfully allow them to maintain their imagined hold over 'native custom and religion'. The Dutch meanwhile were less conciliatory with the dynasties outside Java.

This dichotomy is backed up by the dictionaries of the day. For whereas the Arab-centric glossaries of Klinkert (p.580) and Von der Wall (II, p.265) make short references to sultans being 'power', or 'kings', Wilkinson (p.396) declares—and not without irony—that a sultan is:

Arab. Sovereign, Sultan, Emperor; (properly) an independent sovereign recognizing no suzerein or paramount power; a title assumed by several native princes and recognized by Great Britain without regard to its meaning.

Of course the British pretence of recognition could take very solemn forms, as when Abu Bakar of Johore returned home in 1886 having been recognized as a sultan by Queen Victoria (Milner 1995:212). Still, at least according to classical juridical theory, there had once been a very different procedure to follow in order to be confirmed as a sultan. Prior to the collapse of the Abbasid state, the various sultans of the (admittedly less extensive) Muslim world had pledged themselves in a contract of political allegiance (bay`a) to act in the name of the Caliph of the day. Not surprisingly, with the absence of any effective caliphal authority during the period in which the Malay courts adopted Islam, and given that all sultans were caliphs themselves, the term bay`a does not appear at all in the concordance or in the dictionaries I have consulted. Of course this does not mean that Malay rulers did not seek to validate their claims to Islamic legitimacy. Many did by interleaving the stories of the prophets into their own family trees, as we have seen with the story of Merah Silu above, or by inverting the relationship between Mecca and Melaka, and thus place the agency in a Southeast Asian context. Nonetheless the realpolitik of the situation demanded that political legitimacy would be sought—again through genealogical means—with the local powers like Melaka, Johore or Aceh.

But while some Malay Sultans had been, over the centuries, happy to add the title of sultan to their curicula vitae without any process of formal connection to a higher power in the Middle East (or Europe), whether political or spiritual, the situation appears to have been different in Java. For example, both Abd al-Qadir of Banten (r.1626–51) and Agung of Mataram sent emissaries to Mecca, in 1638 and 1639 respectively, to gain the approval of the Sharif (see Azra 1992:116; Ricklefs 1993:47). These missions appear to follow a precedent set by Sunan Gunung Jati, one of the famous Wali Songo who is said to have carried a letter from the Sharif of Mecca for Sultan Trenggana of Banten (r.1504–46) c.1525 (Reid 1993:146, 175). By contrast we may recall that the conversion of Merah Silu was said to have been inspired by the mission of Shaykh Isma`il as an emissary of the khalifah sharif of Mecca. And while the Sharif may not have been the Caliph, his impeccable bloodline tied him to the rightly-guided caliphs, and more importantly the Prophet himself.

1.2   The Abode of Peace: Dar al-Salam

It is clear then that whilst Malay Rajas could be Sultans, the idea of the Sultanate was locally subservient to the kerajaan ideal where the ruler tied his lineage and authority to the mantle of prophecy. And whilst the rajas could badge themselves as sultans in the mould of those above the winds—whether by taking Ayyubid names or by modelling their governmental structures on external models—their commitment to Islam was, according to Azra (1999), equally marked by conceiving of their individual polities (negeri) as Islamic territory (dar al-islam). But whilst the actual phrase dar al-islam appears in the edition of the Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai edited by Hill (1960:58, 61-62, 64), this is apparently a misreading of the less embracing term dar al-salam (the abode of peace). The first phrase does not appear in Proudfoot's concordance, and neither does its antithesis, dar al-harb (lit. the abode of war; the non-Muslim lands). This indicates that, like the Acehnese calls to an Ottoman caliph in the 16th and 19th centuries, the usage of dar al-islam was related directly to the presence of that antithesis in the form of the hostile Christian powers. Still, Malay kingdoms were systems of Islamic rule over Islamic territory and thus implicity dar al-islam. And, as noted above, the variant dar al-salam was used to describe them. Here, Gallop has demonstrated that this variant concept can be tied back to Aceh at the height of its power under the active Iskandar Muda.

A perusal of Proudfoot's concordance furthermore reveals some 337 references to compounds involving the word dar, all of which seem to antedate or emulate the Acehnese pattern. At various time Brunei, Pahang, Samudra and Kedah, have been nominated as dar al-salam, though the latter is sometimes called the dar al-aman (the abode of safety). Perak, meanwhile, is usually dar al-ridwan (the abode of grace), and Johor dar al-`alam (the abode of the world) or dar al-`izam (abode of the great ones). Still, such compounds are not exclusively religious. Batavia (Betawi) is referred to in the non-hikayat writings of Raja Ali Haji of Riau as [al-]dar al-mashhur (the famous abode).

In the vast majority of cases the compounds refer to discrete entities, being the negeris of rajas, past and present, real and imagined. However, and like the titulature discussed above, it is once more the sanskritic term for territory, nagaram, that appears far more frequently in the concordance. There was of course no question that these various negeris were Muslim and the Arabic terms serve as additional markers, of name and fame, for polities that were Malay above all else. In the majority of cases they were intimately linked to the name of their respective raja, who had probably commissioned the hikayat or syair in question, and who became in them the embodiment of the Islamic qualities of justice (Ar. `adl, Mal. adil) and mercy (Ar. `afw, Mal. afwah) and the defender of the Shari`a. Batavia under the Dutch is an obvious exception.

1.3   Ruler and ruled

The indication from this simple exercise thus far is that some key Arabic terms were embraced by Malay political culture and placed beside existing concepts to lend legitimacy to them. Both raja and negeri were thus expressions of Islamic rulership when paired with the terms sultan and dar; and indeed they retained their prominence in the local environment. Naturally a raja did not rule an empty negeri. One familiar concept from the lands above the winds was the idea that the ruler represented not only the shadow of God on Earth, but the protector of the people as the shepherd (al-ra`i) who cares for his flock (Ar. ra`iyya, Mal. Rakyat). In this case it is interesting to see that the collective term rakyat does not sit beside an indigenous term to describe the subjects of the ruler. Rather it serves as the primary noun for all of them, whether free or slaves.

The foregrounding of the Arabic term is reversed, however, when the duty of the rakyat to the raja is considered; at least from the perspective of kerajaan texts like the Sejarah Melayu. In this work, Demang Lebar Daun makes his famous pledge to Sri Tri Buana of Pelambang to serve him and his descendants loyally provided that, however grave their offence, and whatever the (Islamic) punishment they receive, they should not have their names abused by the Raja. In his turn Tri Sri Buana gives his undertaking to do so, provided that the descendants of Demang Lebar Daun promise never to commit treason (derhaka); even if his own descendants would oppress them or behave evily (Brown 1953:26-27).

Here then it is the Malay concept of derhaka—from the Sanskritic droha or drohaka—which underpins the demand to loyalty, whether the loyalty of wife to husband, or of the rakyat to the raja. By comparison, the Arabic word for treachery (khiyana, Mal. khianat), is more generally found in the context of the betrayal of one's self, one's fellows or even the negeri. And although it can be used in the sense of the betrayal of a raja, it is not so intimately connected to the idea of treason; at least in most of the texts of the concordance. This does not mean though that the kerajaan was the only site for the articulation of a vocabulary of loyalty or ideed the principle of leadership.

In 1603, the scholar Bukhari al-Jauhari composed a text that is far closer to the ideal Islamic norms in the lands above the winds. His Taj al-Salatin sets the parameters for good Islamic governance embodied in the conduct on that of the Prophet, or those pious rulers who came after him. Here there is little emphasis on the sins of derhaka or khianat. Both words make the briefest appearances in the text, and then it is khianat that outnumbers derhaka. Rather the ruler must be just: he must care for the prosperity and livelihood of his people. For example, the story of the second caliph `Umar ends with the lesson that 'all the Prophets and Saints and Pious Forebears' had worked with patience and had not sought to deprive their people of anything. Indeed:

they loved all their rakyat as though they were their own children and laboured for the benefit of all God's servants under their rule. [This they did] in fear of the afterlife, so that they could die in faith and peace, not to be afflicted on the day of judgement, but rather to obtain endless happiness in heaven. (Buchari 1866:31)

Whilst some would argue that there was tension between a kerajaan elite and a supposedly more egalitarian Islam from below, the raja-centric deal struck between Demang Lebar Daun and Tri Sri Buana, at least as recorded for the benefit of the rulers of Johore, is still consistant with the practical state of play in the lands above the winds. God's shadows had little need to yield to the demands of the `ulama with their idealizations of Islamic rule. If they were cruel, then only God had the right to punish them. The message was thus that obedience was paramount.

Order was thus affirmed as of greater importance than justice. Certainly the idea of chaos or disorder is well-known and abhorred in Muslim political culture. In some instances Muslims have been advised by some teachers or (ruler-centric) hadith to obey unjust Muslim rule in the interest of the common good (Ar. maslaha) or in the hope that the ruler might yet repent. Meanwhile the term most often used to describe disorder is fitna, which implies being put to the test by God (see Lewis 1988:95-6; EI2 2:930). This term appears in the concordance on some 137 instances. However in Malay it has the far more localised sense of slander, and more especially of one's all-important reputation (nama). This thus ties fitna in with the sort of offence that a raja—even a cruel and viscious one—was not to perpetrate on his rakyat.

Whereas the Malays are urged to remain loyal at all times, the raja relied on his innate prowess or sacral force as an expression of his right to that loyalty. This force is the quality of daulat. According to Wilkinson (1903:304), daulat or dolat is:

Majesty; the peculiar sanctity which invests the office of a king and carries with it responsibilities as well as privileges; the mysterious kingly power which is believed by Malays not to die with a king but to endure for the protection of a noble successor or for the punishment of an unworthy one.

Klinkert (1930:469) suggests that the function of post-mortem daulat appears to be connected to what he says is another Arabic term, toewalat (tuwallat?). Klinkert states that this is: 'bad fortune (onheil), by which one is struck as a result of the curse of elevated persons, and especially those who have died'.

Whilst the word is most likely of Arabic origin (from dawla), we are dealing here with a concept that is foreign to the Islam of the `ulama', but very much a part of the Islam of the sultans. The idea of dawla in Arabic is that of turning, or alternation, and ultimately the changing of a state (c.f. Lane 1956, II:934-35). Not surprisingly, Von der Wall and van der Tuuk (1877, II:126) give such a definition. The first political usage in the Middle East appears to have been for the newly-installed Abbasid regime (al-dawla al-`abbasiyya) in 750, an event whose culmination is often referred to as the Abassid 'revolution', although such an interpretation is not without its critics (Humphreys 1999:118-19). Lewis (1988:36) dryly notes that revolutions often have a habit of becoming permanent fixtures rather than historical instants, with the Abbasid dawla persisting formally until 1258. Over this period of time the meaning of dawla slowly merged with the idea of the individual ruler, or his power (see EI2 II:177ff). Hence, at the time when the Malay rajas were annexing the titles of Sultan, they adopted this concept of personalised dynastic power—Abbasid or otherwise—as the embodiment of their divine kingship.

I would also speculate that in the shift from Indic- to Islamic-oriented conceptions of kingship, the concept of daulat was not only introduced, but actually displaced a pre-existing term. I suspect at present that the term unseated, or at least redefined, was that of sakti. This derives from the Sanskrit term śakti, which Gonda (1952:134) defines as 'the energy or active power of a deity represented as a divine person'. As we have seen though, in the political language of Islam, the ruler is not the embodiment of divinity but rather its representative, either as Caliph or Sultan. Symbolically kings continued to act in similar ways, but the question of agency was different. In his dictionary Wilkinson (1959 [1903]:261) connected sakti with the cognate terms afuah ('supernatural power'; the ruler's right to grant pardon [Ar. `afw]); and the indigenous tuah (fortune). Of course the concept of sakti remained connected to rulers generally, though now it stood for something connected to the ruler rather than divinity. If a Malay ruler was blessed by God, then the quality engendered was the Arabic-derived baraka. Hence in the Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai the sakti of a Hindu King is set against the Muslim ruler possessed of keramat (Ar. karama) (see Wilkinson 1959:1004).

Ideas about regal power connected in some way to the godly also bring forward the concept of divine inspiration (wahy). In Arabic though this is usually the prerogative of Prophets and not Kings, and despite the fact that Malay rulers often stressed their connections with the Prophet or his family, it is curious to note its absence in Proudfoot's concordance. This is made all the more noteworthy by the fact that it does feature prominently in the Javanese Islamic tradition. And although Von de Wall (III:224) records its existence, as does Klinkert (p.1017), its absence is telling in Wilkinson's dictionary, and points yet again to a likelihood that Wilkinson was addressing himself more directly to Malay texts, whilst his Dutch counterparts made extensive use of Arabic dictionaries. In any case, the concept of divine power, as it related to the ruler, needed to be Islamized in Southeast Asian contexts, if only in name, and the underlying emphasis on magical prowess needed to be reshaped. And although magic is acknowledged in Muslim societies—and sakti may well have been identified as sorcery (Ar. sihr)—it is accorded no power with the acceptance of Islam.

On the whole my point, however muddled, has been that older Indic concepts of the ruler embodying divine power were wedded to the contemporary ideal of kingly conduct found (or perceived to exist) in the lands above the winds. And whilst they connected their lands to those of the wider Muslim world with Arabic terms, and in some cases by the propagation and defence of Islamic mores and custom, or by acting as paragons of mystical virtue, they remained first and foremost rajas, and rajas of their own negeris. Rather than any process of translation then, the use of the political language of Islam represented the harmonization of a foreign tradition for local imperatives. Any offence against the person of the Raja/Sultan became now treason against God-above rather than the person of the God-king. Quite possibly they would have ascribed the same way of thinking to the rajas above the winds, remaining confident in their place in the kingdom, and in the longevity of their version of the Islamic system.

In the long run though all such rulers would be made accountable, by the colonial states that weakened their claims to legitimacy, and by the `ulama' whom they had once patronized, but who cultivated their own corpus of texts made available to a far wider audience, some of which, like the Taj al-salatin, dealt with the proper forms of Islamic government. With the continuing trend towards Islamization, this growing body of scholars, who concentrated their endeavours on mediating between the Islamic sciences and the raja-centric world, and who scorned temporal office, would have argued afresh that sovereignty belonged to God alone and that good government should deliver a measure of justice to the believers.

2   Words of community and patriotism: Islam and the public sphere


In the section above I have dealt with the notions of the raja-centric world, revolving around concepts of rulership and loyalty. However, the deeper inroads made by European expansion throughout the nineteenth century, and in most parts of the Muslim World, undermined the position of sultans everywhere. This was either directly, as with the kerajaan of East Sumatra, where the Dutch left the sultans their titles without real power, or indirectly, where even the Sultan of Turkey was forced to deal with internal forces demanding change in his shrinking empire.

But whilst the European powers gnawed at the frayed edges of Ottoman Dar al-Islam, or devoured it entirely in India, the nineteenth century also heralded a new engagement with the West in the urban centres of the Ottoman lands, and an intellectual engagement with France in particular. In the Ottoman Empire, reformers like Namik Kemal (1840-88) began to articulate calls for new frameworks of government, whilst in the nominally Ottoman domain of Egypt, men such as Rifa`a Rafi`i al-Tahtawi (1801-1873) and `Ali Mubarak Pasha (1823-93)—who had both experienced life in France—spoke of new ways of identifying their homelands and fellow countrymen. Of particular interest to them was the new understanding of the term watan—an old word signifying one's place of birth—now used to convey the sense of the homeland much in the sense of the French patrie (see Hourani 1983:79). These men were also advocates of new print technologies to spread their messages, whether through modern books, or the increasingly-present newspapers. These, along with the expanding educational system (see Mitchell 1988), were crucial to the dissemination of such modern ideas.

By the late 1870s, as Egypt was about to come under direct European occupation, such understandings were also debated and questioned in religious circles as the borders between al-Azhar and modern government institutes like Dar al-`Ulum were highly porous. In 1881, a lecturer at both al-Azhar and Dar al-`Ulum, Husayn al-Marsafi, even devoted a book to explaining a host of terms 'current on the tongues of men'. Herein he described both the watan and the umma. For him, the latter could be wider than communities bound by religion, language or place, although 'the umma created by language best deserved the name, because unity of language best fulfil[led] the purpose of society (Hourani 1983:194).

Furthermore, with the subsequent development in Cairo of the reformist movement first led by Muhammad `Abduh, these terms were among many appropriated and given an Islamized sense. In so doing he was building on the articles he had written for Jamal al-Din al-Afghani in Paris in 1883. Therein he had advanced the ideal of the one religious umma whilst paradoxically speaking of the many ummas beset by British colonialism (see al-Bustani 1957). Salvatore (2001) has recently pointed out how, in Egypt, it was actually the religious reformers who dominated the creation of the public sphere, and they are thus the agents of social change in the sense described by Habermas. `Abduh and his followers—and most especially Rashid Rida—tried to defend the integrity of a past ideal whilst trying to ascribe to it both an eternal truth and an ability to adapt to modern conditions. The old sultanic prerogatives of dealing in justice (`adl) and consultation (shura) were to be transferred to the body of believers, whom they argued had actively participated in the choice of their rulers in the first years of Islam. In so doing, new ideas about parliaments and democracy were similarly cast in the language of Islam reworked over the idealized image of the first Muslim community in Medina.

Habermas' ideas of the creation of a bourgeois public sphere also influenced Milner's (1995) more recent discussion of the 'invention' of politics in colonial Malaya (see especially chapters 4 and 5). However Milner, like Benedict Anderson (1991), absorbed Habermas' insistence on the decline of religion in the modern world, and portrayed the reformist activities undertaken by the Singaporean reformers aligned with `Abduh as being irrevocably opposed to this public sphere on religious grounds. Such a view obscures the very fact that the editors of the pioneering Malay journal al-Imam (Singapore, 1906-08) were as deeply involved in the creation of a public sphere as their more secularist counterparts of the Utusan Melayu. Both were written in Malay, but in very different styles. The first was heavily influenced by Arabic and was naturally written in jawi script. The second was in roman script and relied on Western vocabulary. Still each tried to describe the same elements of the public sphere. Whilst the editor of Utusan Melayu, Mohamad Eunos Abdullah, propagated the idea of affection for the abstract notions of one's own people (bangsa) and homeland (tanah air)—much as had already been done in the Netherlands Indies in the Bintang Hindia (see Adam 1995 and Poeze 1989)—the editors of al-Imam, such as Syed Shaykh al-Hadi, also the Singapore agent for Bintang Hindia, promoted articles on the importance of the watan (glossed as the tanah air) and the urgency for its defence. Indeed they began their first issue reference to the watan, declaring that:

Indeed we are not of the same lineage as the people of this place, nonetheless as those who are locally born we have become attached to their country as our watan for we have drunk its milk, grown up on its flesh and blood and enjoyed all its benefits. Should we not therefore feel indebted to its country and people? (al-Imam, vol.1 no.1, 23 July 1906)

For Malay-speakers the idea of the watan or tanah air as a distinct 'homeland' was somewhat new, even if both were known terms. It appears that the latter had been in use since at least the 1840s, as when the anglophile Munshi Abdullah wrote about journeys to other tanah airs (see Abdullah 1997:251). A cursory inspection of Abdullah's works shows that he employed the term in his travel accounts, such as the Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah ke Kelantan dan ke Judah (An Account of Abdullah's Voyages to Kelantan and Jeddah; see Kassim Ahmad 1981:28, 96). The watan, by comparison, was much scarcer. It appears only once in Proudfoot's concordance, and then only as a part of a tautological compound for Islamic territory when Sultan Omar of Trengganu refers to his dependencies as dar al-watan (The abode of the homeland?). In this sense, and assuming some wider usage, the watan was tied to a religious sense of place, and this sense was readily exploited by the editors of al-Imam who honed it in their discussion of patriotism as an Islamic virtue.

For the reformists of Cairo and Singapore involved in the creation of the public sphere, affection for the watan could coexist with Islamic fellowship, unlike the idea of nationalism (jinsiyya) based on chauvinistic ideas of race (jins). Of course, their idol Muhammad `Abduh was by no means an activist exclusively focussed on the watan, or its associated sense of 'patriotic affection' (wataniyya). Indeed he represented many such new terminologies as being 'empty affectations' (khali al-dhihn). They were nonetheless embraced by his disciples as part of the emergent public sphere. After his death, Rashid Rida could even cast his late master as 'the father of wataniyya' (Haim 1962:75).

Despite Rida's recasting of `Abduh as a patriot, much of the political language of al-Imam is more readily traceable, if not directly then indirectly, to a contemporary rival of `Abduh, the ardent Egyptian nationalist Mustafa Kamil. From the late 1890s Mustafa Kamil (1874–1908), the leader of the Egyptian Patriotic Party (al-Hizb al-Watani), promoted the ideal of wataniyya whilst urging that Egyptians preserve links with the caliphate in Constantinople. Like al-Tahtawi and `Ali Mubarak before him, Kamil had assimilated the ideals of the patrie during his years of study in French and in France. However, Meiji Japan had eclipsed his old idol by 1904, when he released his book on that country as the modern state most fully imbued with wataniyya (al-Shams al-mushriqa, [The Rising Sun], see Laffan 1996, 1999). It is therefore no surprise that one of the first books whose publication was facilitated by al-Imam was a Malay translation of al-Shams al-mushriqa. But whilst the idea of the watan was readily communicated, wataniyya proved, momentarily, to be more problematic an idea: it required an actual effort at translation proper, but with mixed success. Hence the translator, Abdul Rahman of Muar, compromised, and instead of appealing to love for a tanah air he described feelings of affection for ones fellow people—the members of the same polity (anak negeri). This hicough was later rectified in the pages of al-Imam, with long features by Muhammad Murtaji explaining the meaning of such Arabic concepts as 'patriotism, government, and freedom' (Ma`na al-umma wa al-watan wa al-hukuma wa al-hurriyya).

The case for the watan had thus been made with quasi-religious justification for support for notions of love for one's tanah air. The only remaining question was as to its precise location, for there were indeed competing visions of watan abroad in Southeast Asia. Over the following decade, the sizeable communities of Arabs in Southeast Asia became active in advocating the cause of their own distant watan of Hadramaut (see Mobini-Kesheh 1999). Furthermore the language of Islamic patriotism pervaded such organizations as Sarekat Islam and Muhammadiyah. The latter had its own scouting movement called the Hizbul Wathon (Ar. hizb al-watan), some Sarekat Islam schools took on names like 'the school for the elevation of the watan' (Ar. Madrasa li i`ala' al-watan; see Oetoesan Hindia, 17 January 1919, Extra/IPO 3:1919), and one of the future founders of the traditionalist Nahdatoel Oelama, Wahab Chasbullah, founded a movement called the Nahdat al-Watan (see Fealy 1996). Others were apt to paraphrase the nationalist struggle as one of Islam against colonialism, citing the popular (but not Prophetic) tradition that 'love of the homeland is a part of belief' (hubb al-watan min al-iman). Still, by comparison with the Cairene milieu, the concept of the watan and wataniyya, whilst understood, retained a religious sense for Malays and Indonesians. In the following decades of the twentieth century, the Malay formulation of homeland as tanah air would gain much greater credence, whilst the people on either side of the Anglo-Dutch divide would sort out what form their respective tanah air would take.

Today the word watan is barely used in Malay and Indonesian. It rather seems to have served its purpose for the relatively narrow audience of Malay-speakers active in the field of religious reform at the beginning of the 20th century. It appears to have been propagated, then translated, and finally dropped altogether. Indeed the insistence of some of those reformers on tying their religious language back to the Qur'an rather than Arabic in general would have hastened its demise. It does not occur in the Qur'an at all, and the idealization of homeland rang increasingly hollow for many Muslims alienated by the territorial nationalisms of the 20th century. As we have seen above, another idea rapidly gaining prominence in the Malay and Indonesian public sphere(s) was that of the importance of ones community, one's bangsa.

Certainly al-Imam also developed this line, phrasing it at times in the modern Arabic usage of umma once described by al-Marsafi. Malays, al-Imam argued, were to be made aware of their community as an umma (Mal. umat), spread across the various kerajaan now subsumed under Dutch and British rule. Al-Imam also emphasised the importance of the wider concept of a single Muslim umma, much as `Abduh had claimed to reject any sort of Islamic community narrower than the classical Medinese concept. Nonetheless, and like Mustafa Kamil, they still wrote about Egypt as an umma, and one among many. As time went on, the reformists of al-Munir in Padang (1911-1919) would echo the arguments of al-Imam, whilst suggesting that Malays look towards study in Cairo as an investment in the future of their particular Malay umat (see Laffan 2002). Of course the idea of the overarching umma of Islam was important to Malay-speaking Muslims, but it is still an overstatement to attribute to reformers this sense to the exclusion of all other possibilities of umma.

To step back in time, it is noteworthy that the term umat only appears in Proudfoot's concordance 22 times, and then mostly in the same sense that it is used in the Qur'an. That is, the umat can be the community of believers, the umat of Muhammad. But there are a multiplicity of ummas on the Earth and in time. Many have been sent their messengers in the past, though only one will gain salvation. Still, when Muhammad Murtaji, who was familiar with the traditional hikayat, devoted his article in 1907 to 'the meaning of nation, homeland, government and freedom' he was reacting to the same reconfigurations in Arabic—and their presence in the speech community—that had spurred al-Marsafi to write his book in 1881. Indeed, having glossed his Arabic title with the Malay imperative 'Unite in brotherhood, the place of residence, the power of government, and freedom!' (Himpun persaudaraan dan tempat kediaman dan kuat kerajaan dan kebebasan), Murtaji commenced his exposition by declaring that such words as watan, hukuma (government), `adl (justice), siyasa (politics), and hurriyya (freedom) were 'upon the tongues of the Islamic community, presently afflicted by despondency'.

Such focussing on the importance of an Arabic vocabulary as a means of adding a religious character to the national movements of Java and the Malay World should also be seen in the context of the radical realignment of the concept of loyalty. It is notable that Murtaji wished to supply Arabic—and thus quasi-religious—glosses for the concept of government and politics carried out by the rakyat and not the raja alone. Ariffin Omar (1993) has discussed how the Malays of both sides of the Straits of Malacca had redirected their loyalties from the rajas to the bangsa, whether bangsa Malayu or bangsa Indonesia. As part of that process it became possible to commit derhaka against the bangsa, and the rajas had to now line up as a part of the rakyat or face the consequences. With the return of the British to the Peninsula, the rajas were able to maintain their hold, for the interim, on the realm of religion. As a part of this they clung more staunchly to the title of Sultan over that of Raja. Their confreres in Sumatra were not so lucky, and with little claim to local loyalty in their multi-ethnic states, they were soon erased by the nascent Indonesian state.

Whilst Ariffin advances our understanding of the royal predicament in the Malay world, he devotes little time to telling us why it was that the membership of such Islamic organizations as Muhammadiyah were so actively involved in the expulsion of the rajas of Sumatra. In general Ariffin describes the climate of anti-feudalism, but neglects to mention that this was also embedded in the reformist discourse of islah and nahda (reform and renaissance). It is also interesting to note that the advocates of this ideology were connected to another avowedly political doctrine—even if it was deprived of the last of its rotten teeth in the 1920s—that of the khilafa, which brings us back to the term with which the discussion began.

Whereas the editors of al-Imam had tried to inculcate in the peoples of Southeast Asia some regard for the Ottoman Sultan as the khalifa of Islam, primarily by presenting him as the enlightened ruler of a modern-day power, it was not until the 1920s, when Atatürk was on the verge of scrapping the whole idea, that people in Southeast Asia became concerned about their caliph (see van Bruinessen 1995). Nonetheless, even such events as the multi-lateral al-Islam congresses, which briefly united both traditionalists and modernists in Indonesia, were as much about configuring Islam on a national level and expressing Indonesian desires for independence as about resolving the crisis of religious authority in the Middle East. Within some twenty years they would face a different crisis, namely: in what way shall Islam be expressed as the faith of the Indonesian state?


3   New words of politics or old words given a retrospective meaning?


In the 1930s and 40s, the radical Ahmad Hassan of Bandung expressed his misgivings about the rise of a nationalism that overwhelmed the commitment to Islam and the one true umma (see Federspiel 1977). Perhaps this was a natural reaction for an Indian Muslim living and working in Indonesia. Such would also have been felt by the Indonesians and Malays living and working in the Middle East. Still, few Indonesian Muslims ever tried to subvert the nationalist movement, focussing on the issue of homeland tied to Islam (rather than race), and believing that just as other Muslim peoples were moving towards independence, their future state would naturally be a state dominated by Islam, or perhaps one in which Islamic law would be implemented (see Laffan 2002). In this regard Atatürk's Turkey was a disappointment and Saudi Arabia an inspiration.

The ultimate clash between the aspirations of some Muslim leaders and the more pluralist nationalists occurred in the last weeks of the Japanese occupation. During this time a series of meetings held to determine the nature of the future nation of Indonesia, and chaired by an impatient Soekarno, saw the triumph of the very doctrine that would be used to signify the unitary, and according to van Nieuwenhuijze (1958) 'deconfessionalized', nature of Indonesia, Pancasila. It is the intersection and then divergence of the political languages of Islam and secularism that is of interest here.

In a speech to the first session of the committee on 29 May 1945, Muhammad Yamin outlined a set of five principles for the future state. These were Peri Kebangsaan; Peri Kemanusiaan; Peri Ketuhanan; Peri Kerakyatan (to be achieved through permusyawaratan by the perwakilan of the people); and Kesejahteraan Rakyat/Keadilan Sosial. On 1 June 1945 Soekarno launched Pancasila, comprising of Kebangsaan, Kemanusiaan, Permusyawaratan through perwakilan and mufakat, Kesejahteraan, and lastly Ketuhanan. These are conventionally translated as Nationalism, Internationalism, Representation through mutual consultation and consensus, Social justice, and Belief in the One God.

The priorities may have been different, but the parallels are obvious. And despite the difference in terminology, there is the congruence in terms of the ideas of justice and consultation that strike a chord for our purposes, for here may be found a connection to the modernist Islamic discourse of the public sphere, now vernacularized in terms of keadilan and permusyawaratan. Indeed Kumar (1997b:255) points out how Soekarno had already canvassed his ideas of Islamic consultation as a part of a national tradition in the magazine Pandji Islam, wherein he invoked the Qur'anic phrases: Wa amruhum shura baynahum and Wa shawirhum fi al-amr! ('Their matter is for consultation among them' and 'Consult with them on the matter'; see Qur'an 42:36 and 3:159).

The very fact that Soekarno—who often acknowledged his lack of religiosity—could invoke the authority of the Qur'an, and in a newspaper, is symbolic of the great shift that had taken place in his society over the previous four decades. During this time, Muslim papers of a variety of persuasions had mushroomed. Some quickly faded. Indeed it is to a degree ironic that the religious papers produced in Arabic script were all but gone by 1920. Nonetheless it was becoming accepted facet of the public sphere that a Muslim could communicate with his or her fellows through print-capitalism, and could invoke the authority of the Qur'an therein. Labouring to prepare one's own homeland and people for future self-rule was furthermore presented as the task of every good Muslim.

As Agoes Salim and Hatta had argued, either drawing on or paralleling the ideas of Muhammad `Abduh, democracy was a concept entirely consistent with the workings of the first Muslim community in Medina, and thus with Islam in its perfected incarnation. For this reason, daulat was to devolve onto the people, and justice (`adl) was to be dispensed by them after due consultation (shura) with their representatives (wukala') leading to general agreement (muwafaqa). We have encountered `adl above already in Proudfoot's concordance, but it, like wakil and its forms, is primarily used in connection with the justice of the raja, or of being his representatives, much as was the case in Java. In the concordance too, we see that shura appears in its Malay form musyawarah/mesyuarat from the Arabic derivative mushawara; as does mufakat, from the Arabic muwafaqa. In the case of these last terms though, consultation and consensus are carried out between rulers and men of state. The language of Pancasila was radically different, asserting a consultative relationship between the inhabitants of the (Muslim-dominated) state and their representatives.

Still, such partial harmonization of Islamic vocabulary by no means went far enough for the Islam-oriented members of the steering committee. On 22 June the insertion of the famous Piagam Jakarta (The Jakarta Charter), or more specifically the preamble to the Indonesian constitution specifying that Muslims would be subject to the Shari`a, led to intense disagreement in the following meetings. Certainly the Christian members of the wider committee must not have felt comfortable about the idea of the implementation of the Shari`a. Shari`a is not merely a system of law for Muslims, but a guiding nomos for society as a whole. This nomos takes into account the presence of non-Muslims in society—just as there were Jews and Christians in Medina—and also seeks to regulate their conduct. Perhaps this was why the Muhammadiyah leader K. Bagus H. Hadikusumo wanted to scrap any reference to the Shari`a applying only to Muslims, and why he argued that it was unworkable to have two forms of legislation, one for Muslims, and another for others (Boland 1982:31). The Nahdlatul Ulama leader Wahid Hasjim was also extremely uncomfortable with a dualist system of law, having earlier argued that compulsion would not be an issue given the availability of mutual deliberation (Boland 1982:29).

The Piagam Jakarta was not the only cause of discord between the secularists and Islamist members of the committee. Debate became further bogged down over the issue of whether the President should be a Muslim, and a furious Kahar Muzakkir, speaking for the Muslim faction, urged that all references to God's name or Islam should be struck from the document. The shaky compromise of language continued until, in the rush of August the 18th, and after informal talks led by Hatta, the problematic clause was removed. 'Belief in God' (Ketuhanan) was strengthened to 'belief in the one and only God' (Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa). In-text reference to God was changed from Allah to Tuhan, and even the apparently innocuous Arabic word for 'introduction' (muqadimma) was shunted aside for the Malay pembukaan.

Muslim president or not, the compromise (or lack of compromise) reached in Jakarta would fester in the minds of many, even of the very nomenclature of the bicameral sytstem of government is sourced directly from Arabic idea of representation and consultation; the lower house is the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR) and the upper house is the Majlis Permusyawaratan Rakyat. Still, the outbreak of the Darul Islam movements in West Java in 1948 and in Sulawesi in the 1960s maintained in their very names an implication that Indonesia was Dar al-Harb.


Ann Kumar (1997b:272) observes that:

Somewhere between the time of Yasadipura II and 1945, Islam has helped to bring about a revolution in Indonesian social and political thought, introducing a whole swathe of new concepts. These concepts relate to the collegial and the procedural, rather than to the hierarchical, personal, and patrimonial. Also, these new concepts flowed from Islam into the mainstream of political thinking at a time that is rightly regarded as the darkest part of the colonial night for Islam, a time of political impotence.

In the section above, I have hoped to show that the writings of the Egypt-oriented reformers served as the nexus for the translation of an Islamic language that was just as new in its original setting. And whilst they were passed on during the colonial night, independence did not bring the bright dawn anticipated for political Islam, but rather an endless series of overcast days.

The struggle for political Islam in Indonesia is still symbolized by the issue of the Piagam Jakarta. Whereas the creation of the new state of Indonesia had seen the effective transferral of the concept of daulat as divine power to kedaulatan rakyat (popular sovereignty) embodied in the the DPR, the Islamic state anticipated by men like Ahmad Hassan and Kahar Muzakkir did not eventuate. This was particularly difficult for some Islamists to swallow, for whilst the Sultans of old were regarded as God's shadows, their enacting of Shari`a was thus the effectuation of divine rather than human sovereignty. Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), a major ideologue of the Muslim Brothers (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun), enunciated this view in his widely translated Ma`alim fi al-tariq (Signposts on the Way) wherein he constantly emphasised that hakimiyya (sovereignty or dominion) belonged to God alone and that the acceptance of man-made laws thus ran counter to Islam.

Another area of contention has been the very notion and terminology of the state's alter-ego, civil society. Whereas in the Arab world proponents of a discourse of civil society (al-mujtama` al-madani) are opposed by Islamists with their vision of a Medinese paradigm they refer to as al-mujtama` al-ahli (people's society), Indonesian Islamists ironically invoke an etymological connection between the place-name Madina and madani, with the result that their Islamic society is represented by the phrase masyarakat madani. On the other hand their secularist opponents, and indeed pluralist segments of Muslim organizations like Nahdlatul Ulama, invoke the Western-derived formulation of masyarakat sipil. Such an apparent inversion of nomenclature, with the Arabic term madani becoming the more theologically-laden in the Indonesian context, points yet again to the need to consider the weight of Arabic terms in relation to the discourse in which they are presented. What might well be secular or civil at one end of the spectrum can easily merge with the divine at the other.

As Platzdach (2001) points out, the issue of the Piagam Jakarta has resurfaced afresh in the chaos of post-New Order Indonesia. Some fringe groups, such as the Forum Komunikasi Ahlusunnah Wal Jamaah and the Hizbut Tahrir, which have direct links with similar organizations in the Middle East, are united in the calls for its revival. Furthermore they are even committed to the revival of the caliphate. Ironically though some seek to gain a popular following by seeking election in the DPR. Others, like the secretive Tarbiyah movement model their strategies and conduct on the Muslim Brothers, stressing that Islam is 'a complete system' (nizam kamil, the terminology is again Qutbian, but derives from the ideas of Maulana Maududi and Hasan al-Banna). Through this all-encompassing system they aim to create 'total' or 'complete' Muslims (Muslim kafah) (Fealy 2001). Such groupings constantly echo the Islamist line that there is but one Muslim umma. Nonetheless, in times of crisis they rush to defend the watan of Indonesia from Balkanization, although it should be said that some are as committed to joining the fight in Afghanistan. As `Abduh (1981:IV, 1527–1530) once wrote:

The watan of the Muslim in the Muslim lands is the place in which he intends to stay and to make his living, and in which he makes his home with his family if he has one. His place of birth and upbringing are irrelevant for this homeland, as are the former traditional practices of his people and what they know of laws and social intercourse.

And whilst few of the aspirant mujahidun would be fans of the works of Muhammad `Abduh, they would doubtless agree that any Muslim land could be their watan, whose defence constituted an Islamic duty. It would be interesting in a future study to see what repertoire of Arabic terms that these groups employ, whether these terms enter the wider lexicon of Modern Indonesian and Malay, and whether in fact they retain a foreign character. We might well wonder if, like the ideas of perwakilan and permusyawaratan, they become wholly incorporated into a local context in which Islam is at times the unstated, but understood, framework of social interaction.


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