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  • Author or Editor: Ismail Fajrie Alatas x
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In: Sufi Institutions


This paper examines the Bā' Alawī—a group of Hadramī diaspora acknowledged as the descendants of Prophet Muhammad—in post-colonial Indonesia. In particular, it observes the Bā 'Alawī scholars' creative adaptation and manipulation of their Sufi path, tarīqa 'alawiyya, in their attempt to secure their place within the wider imagination of Indonesian nationhood while protecting their distinctive genealogical eminence. In the twentieth century the tarīqa, which had long functioned to secure their identity, differentiate them from others and nurture their diasporic consciousness, proved incompatible with the assimilationist discourse of the nation. Further challenges came from Islamic reformism, preaching egalitarianism increasingly defined public articulation of Islam, confronting the Bā 'Alawī's notion of Islamic authority. The Bā 'Alawī scholars adapted by reshaping of the tarīqa rituals, shifting emphasis on Prophetic piety, expanding the Bā 'Alawī textual community to include local scholars, and the projecting of a new form of Prophetic authority in a framework of hadīth studies. Such shifts were sustained by the construction of a new Bā 'Alawī center in Kwitang, Jakarta, and the cultivation of scholarly networks connecting the Bā 'Alawī and local kyais (Indonesian Islamic scholars). More specifically, this paper observes the career of three Bā 'Alawī scholars and their efforts to reconfigure the discursive practice of the tarīqa in the early decades of the Indonesian republic. By presenting practices recognizable to the dominant modes of Islamic reformism in the country, the Bā 'Alawī succeeded in maintaining their visibility in Sukarno's Indonesia.

In: Die Welt des Islams


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.

In: Islamic Law and Society


This article calls for a rethinking of the concept of diasporic return in light of contemporary religious and political developments in Indonesia. It does so by exploring two modalities of diasporic returns, namely, re-embedding and re-encountering, neither of which necessarily involve transnational travel or any notion of an ancestral homeland, but both of which are nevertheless important to the process of diasporization. Based on ethnographic observation among the Ḥaḍramī diaspora in Indonesia, the article follows the biographical becoming of two nationally prominent figures who had been estranged from their diasporic community. The article traces how these two figures have returned, whether inadvertently or by choice, to the Ḥaḍramī diasporic identity and community. The two cases point to the porosity and contingency of diaspora as both a subjective position and a social formation that enables its members to exit and enter in various ways. They also exemplify forms of diasporic return that unfold in and through, but are not reducible to, national politics. Comparing the two cases and tracing their connections reveal the possible entanglements between diasporic and national politics in Indonesia’s religio-political field that have hardly been recognized by observers of Indonesian politics and religion. By developing the notion of diasporic re-embedding and re-encountering to complicate diasporic return, the article unravels the more complex, politically grounded and ambivalent relations that dynamically form and transform an Indian Ocean diaspora and its relationship to the Indonesian nation.

Open Access