From ʿAlid Treatise to anti-Shiʿi Text: the Riṣāla fī ibṭāl bidaʿ munkarāt of ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUmar Bin Yaḥyā (d. 1265/1849) and its Afterlife in Indonesia

In: Islamic Law and Society
Ismail Fajrie Alatas, Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University, New York, NY, USA,

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This article examines a little-known treatise on the commemoration of ʿĀshūrāʾ (the martyrdom of al-Ḥusayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muḥammad) written by a scholar from the Ḥaḍramawt, ʿAbdallāh b. ʿUmar Bin Yaḥyā (d. 1265/1849). Entitled Risāla fī ibṭāl bidaʿ munkarāt (Treatise on Nullifying Reprehensible Innovations), the text was composed in response to the ʿĀshūrāʾ commemorative processions introduced by South Asian Muslims in early nineteenth century Malay-Indonesian Archipelago and witnessed by the author during his travel there (1832-1835). In this treatise, Ibn Yaḥyā de fines a lawful, regulated, and emotionally restrained way of commemorating al-Ḥusayn’s martyrdom while stressing the imperative of ʿAlid leadership of the umma. I then discuss the recent resurfacing of a redacted summary of the Risāla in Indonesia. I show that in the context of an increasingly intense Sunni-Shiʿi sectarian contestation that characterized contemporary Indonesia, the redacted version of this ʿAlid treatise circulates as an anti-Shiʿi text.

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