Wali Songo and The Spread of Islam in Nusantara


spread of Islam.jpg

Recent scholarship has proven that this Council of Nine Saints, which changes after one Saint passes then another one comes takes the place, that they were selected by Sultan Mehmet Fatih Khan, the conqueror of Istanbul, and he collected people from Samarkand, he collected people from Iraq, he collected people not only scholars but they are also Awliyas in their own rights and he sent them. Which is why the Islam that is sent to Indonesia that what we call the Nusantara, the Malay Archipelago, it came with Tasawwuf, it came with Sufism. They are trying to teach us differently in history books to say Islam is spread by traders. They are trying to put the idea that Muslims are very business minded, money minded and they just happened to trade and spread Islam. It is not like that. There are even Sahabis, Sahabat Nabi, that is buried in Indonesia, in Malaysia and in China, during that time. Otherwise it is impossible for Islam to spread.

Of course the first, the head, as it is known, the Wali Songo, Sayidinna Ibrahim from Samarkand, that is his title that he married the Princess of Kemboja, Cambodia. Cambodia it was supposed to be Muslim, but it didn’t happen that way. Allah wills, he took his offspring then he went to the Island of Java and he started spreading Islam. We didn’t even enter into the Sultanate of Demak, whatever happened then. So, there are differences in practices. But  majority in the whole area is Shafie. I was raised a Shafie. But when I took beyat with my Sheykh who took his beyat with Sultanul Awliya Sheykh Maulana Nazim,  they are Hanafi mazhab, so now I go according to the Hanafi Mazhab of Imam ul Azam Imam Abu Hanifa, but there are certain things that I’m still mixing up a little bit also with Shafie mazhab, but it’s okay. Alhamdulillah. This is our tradition.

So, what I’m trying to explain to the majority and everyone here,  their background is actually Malay, from Sumatera. We are not Javanese. Very different quality, very different people. Insya’Allah, we’ll see. I plan to go back there this year, make ziyaret to the maqam of Wali Songo. Of course I’m not dismissing what the Muslims from Hadhramaut they brought, of course not. Everybody knows the Bal’awie and every royal family that is in the Malay Archipelago, whether it is Indonesia or Brunei, they are all connected to the Bal’awie family definitely. But so many things that are also cultural in Indonesia, it is also filled with Islam, through these nine Saints, through the Wali Songo, that today people say that this is distinctly Indonesia. You know the Shadow puppets?  The storyline is still from Indonesia, still from Ramayana, but this is the genius of Indonesia also, they make everything to become Muslim. So although they tell story from the Hindu epic, but they make it to become Islamic.

I remember particularly one story where Hanuman was sent to take Sita Dewi, you see they teach us all these things, and he met the old Rawana, and you know what he said? He said, ‘didn’t you swear in front of Nabi Adam that you are not going to cause any damage, any confusion?’ So they make it to become Muslim like that. But there are so many secrets also, that the shadow puppets for instance, it is teaching Islam, It is teaching Tasawwuf, and it is very rich, that tradition, showing ultimately the Dalang, the shadow puppeteers sitting, he is the one that is giving people the idea that there is only one Allah. He says, the world of shadows, Alam Maya, in the world of shadows, we don’t really exist. But it is Allah who made us to exist. He is sitting behind, manipulating. One person controlling the audience and having so many different voices through the story and everything from Maghrib time  all the way to up till Fajar time.

I remember one story, what the Wali Songo did to attract people to come to Islam and they are using shadow puppeteer, wayang kulit, and they said everyone at that time they were Hindu Buddhist, the biggest Buddhist complex that is found in Indonesia Jogjakarta, Borobudur. And he said, ‘Come, everybody come to watch this but before you can watch this, just bath in this pond, in this river.’  The meaning of that is what? Ghusl. To make the ghusl. Then come and go through the gates of Gapura, of Ghaffar, to be forgiven. They said in just some one word Kalimasodo, the Shahadat, and then, they say, ‘now watch.’ They didn’t force.  They just let the people slowly to warm their hearts with Islam and organically to break it into to their lives. Even the story of the Mahabhrata, the five brothers Pandavas, they put Islamic understanding in there too.  The five brothers of Islam they represent the five pillars of Islam. And they said the oldest one, and this is not in the Hindu text, but they just make it to be. The oldest one, they said, he survived, he didn’t die. Because somebody gave him an amulet to wear. And it is called the Kalimasodo, and it is in strange language, he didn’t know what it was. And he will never die until somebody came to him. Thousands of years passed, he was walking in the forest and saw one man wearing a white turban, white jubbah, shining with light, and the man looked and said, “repeat after me: ‘Ashadu an-la ilaha…'” He repeated it, he became Muslim, he passed, he died.

wayang kulit1

Wayang Kulit (shadow puppets)


So this is the genius of the people in Java too. They take everything and they become Muslim. Completely different from the people in Sumatera. I mean I come from Sumatera. My grandfather come from, a different people, the Bugis people, they are noted to be very fierce, they are great seafarers. In fact my grandmother she came and her brother, they came to Singapore, they were rulers and there were fighting, they cut everything and they leave the country. This is interesting to understand how, through the wisdom of the old people, how Islam was spread. It is important. It is not just interesting, it is also important. Because if we are trying to understand, now to bring the light of the Prophet (asws) to where we are here, it is important to understand the people. During the Ottoman time, to be an Imam of a jamaat, of a masjid, not just you have to go to the madrasah, just in terms of language alone, you have to speak at least five languages. At least five. What are the languages? Not only they have to know Arabic and Persian, the Parsi, you are living in the Ottoman land, who else is there? you have to know Greek, you have to know Latin, you have to at least know one Slavic language. Not only the languages that you have to learn, but you have to learn the Sciences, you have to learn the History and if they sent someone, an alim to a different country to become a mubaligh to spread Islam, he said that one that we are sending, you have to know their language.

So he sent, for example, one to Indonesia, that mubaligh, that Awliya that scholar has to understand and speak either Malay or Javanese, he has to understand and study their history, their literature, and philosophy so that when he goes, he speaks their language both literally and also figuratively. He’s not coming just to impose and say, ‘this is halal, haram.’ Same thing with Africa. Otherwise it is not only against to Islam to force that one to become Muslim. Allah swt is saying ‘there is no compulsion in religion,’ but even if it’s forced, how long is that going to last? If it is against the will of the people, within one generation, two generation, third generation, they say, ‘forget about this. This is not our reality, ‘ if we are to believe in what is written in the Book that they say Islam is spread by the sword. So that is very interesting. It’s been a long time since I sat down with my brothers from the Nusantara also. I’m stuck there upstate mountain, but Alhamdulillah, syukur.

May Allah bless the food that we ate to grant us more Iman may Allah bless all those ones who prepare the food, to cook the food, transport it and to produce them for them and their families in the present and the past. May Allah swt give us blessing, insya’Allah. For the whole ummat. Wa minAllahu Taufiq. Al-Fatiha.

stock-vector-vector-vintage-borders-54193183 (2)Sheykh Lokman Efendi Hz,
Khalifah of SahibulSaif Shaykh Abdulkerim el Kibrisi (qs),
San Diego California
16 Jamada al-Awwal 1437
February 25, 2016.stock-vector-vector-vintage-borders-54193183 (2)


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