Saturday, January 06, 2007

Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World

I bought this book from Wardah 2 weeks ago.
It was written by Peter Riddell in 2001.
It provides a useful outline of the major history of the advent of Islam in the Malay world, the doctrinal evolutions that took place, as well as the major personalities involved up to the present day.
The first half of the book was a comprehensive attempt to try to explain Islamic concepts such as Quranic exegesis, which I thought was unnecessarily long. However, it must be born in mind that this book will also be read by historians and anthropologists who would not have an understanding of the technicalities concerning Islam.
Riddell made it a point to delve into explanations of certain fields of Islamic knowledge such as Quranic exegesis (tafsir) as he points out later in the book that it is one of the favourite areas of expertise and study as well as da'wah of the Malay-Indonesian ulama.
He covers a diverse list of personalities from Hamzah Fansuri to Abdurrahman Wahid to Anwar Ibrahim .
He also observes that, unique to this part of the Muslim world, the Muslim scholars often employed the machinery of the narrative, such as novels or storytelling side by side with scholarly writings, which meant that their influences tended to be able to reach both the educated elite as well as the masses.
He placed HAMKA as one of the greatest scholars of this part of the Muslim world, and in fact, one of the greatest scholars of the Muslim world of the modern era.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knowing a little bit about how the Malay people became Muslim, and why our ideologies are the way they are today. It is, in my view, important today as at any time in the past, as it has often been said, they who forget history is bound to repeat its mistakes.
Read a review by another guy here.
Some short factbites about Hamzah alFansuri here. He was a big figure in bringing Islam to the Malay world, especially to Aceh, but unfortunately was also one of its most controversial characters due to his open belief and preaching of wahdatul wujud (oneness of existence between creation and Creator).

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