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  • Shaṭṭārīyah Silsilah in Aceh, Java, and the Lanao Area of Mindanao by Oman Fathurahman
  • Hendrik Niemeijer
Shaṭṭārīyah Silsilah in Aceh, Java, and the Lanao Area of Mindanao
Oman Fathurahman
Javanese Studies. Contributions to the Study of Javanese Literature, Culture and History 4. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 2016. 139pp. index.
ISBN 978-4-86337-225-2

The Shaṭṭārīyah is the earliest known Sufi (Muslim mystic) order, which gained influence in island Southeast Asian in the mid-seventeenth century. According to the short description by the Encyclopaedia Britannica it derives its name from either a fifteenth-century Indian mystic called Shaṭṭārī or the Arabic word shāṭir (‘breaker’), referring to one who has broken with the world. Oman Fathurahman is of a different opinion and makes clear that the Shaṭṭārīyah did not come from its centre in India but from Haramayn (the two holy cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina), where the Acehnese scholar ‘Abd al-Ra’uf al-Singkili (d. 1693) studied for decades, before working under the protection of the Acehnese court, which was at the time ruled by a Sultana. In his Mir’at al-tullah he made a Shari’a-based argument for the legitimacy of a woman to be a Sultana or ruler, which was extraordinary at that time.

This book is a compilation of silsilah left by prominent members of the Sufi order in the most Islamized parts of island Southeast Asia. ‘Silsilah represents the close spiritual relationship between a murshid (Sufi master) and murid (follower, an initiated member of an order who holds the spiritual authority to practice all the Sufi teachings and rituals’ (p. 1). In this book Dr Fathurahman publishes transcriptions of these silsilah and analyses the lineages and names in them in order to reconstruct the chains of Sufi masters or lineages (in fact, spiritual genealogies) which date back to Prophet Mohammad. Keeping record of the teachers and disciples (who received special ijâza or permission to pass on the knowledge) was a special characteristic of the Sufi order at a time when there were no schools for formal education. Through this chain the Sufi networks extended over the centuries and it was a custom to keep careful track of all of the names, whether in Arabic, Malay, Javanese or Sundanese.

Oman Fathurahman has collected the digitized silsilah from a selection of Shaṭṭārīyah-related manuscripts from several libraries and private collections in Aceh, Java, and the Lanao area of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Several manuscripts were also selected from the British Library and the Leiden University Library. After going through almost 1,000 manuscripts, Dr Fathurahman ended up with 33 manuscripts with silsilah: 17 in Malay, 8 in Javanese, 7 in Arabic and 1 in Sundanese. Chapter Two (pages 9–104) is the main part of the book. Each selected manuscript is codicologically examined in this chapter. Each silsilah text is carefully [End Page 150] transcribed, published and analysed in detail. Dr Fathurahman also examines the most recent name in each silsilah, as the last mentioned person is regarded as the ‘owner of the silsilah’. The result is that researchers now have a systematic overview of all silsilah available.

In Chapter Three Dr Fathurahman offers some conclusions on the lines and genealogies in the silsilah. The many details in the analyses are, however, for the real connoisseurs of Sufi history. The merit of his book is that it offers more detailed information on the silsilah than the more general works such as those by Azyumardi Azra1 and Peter Riddell2 and that it nicely complements the studies on the Sufi order in Aceh by Werner Kraus.3

It is interesting to see the names of a few local elite woman appear in the silsilah. We can identify the names of female Shaṭṭārīyah followers in the silsilah of Nyimas Ayu Alimah (dating from the first half of the nineteenth century) in the circle of Kraton Cirebon, for instance. There are the female Sufis Nyiamas Ayu Alimah and Ratu Raja Fatimah, a murid of Kyai...


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