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Becoming Sacred: Humanity and Divinity in East Java, Indonesia

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Part of the Muslims in Global Societies Series book series (MGSS,volume 6)

Abstract

Retsikas’ study focuses on Muslims in East Java, Indonesia and is primarily concerned with the ways in which local Sufi healers have acquired the capacity to heal. This leads him into an investigation of the connections people seek to forge with spirits, saints, and Allah Himself through the undertaking of ascetic practices under the guidance of the notion of ‘self-annihilation’. Retsikas is also interested in emphasising the kinds of bodies – open, yet powerful composites of detachable human and non-human parts- healers’ acquire in such process and the conceptual challenges their practices presents us with in terms of understanding the relation between the human and the divine.

Keywords

  • Islamic World
  • Koranic School
  • Religious Devotion
  • Religious Piety
  • Dead Relative

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Writing with respect to Javanese conceptions of power, Anderson argues that power is ‘an existential reality […], that intangible, mysterious, and divine energy which animates the universe’ (1990: 22). As an invisible substance, power (wahyu, Jav.) can be looked for, absorbed, and accumulated through a variety of mystical practices, the performance of specific rituals, and accumulation of sacred objects ( see also Keeler 1987).

  2. 2.

    The composite nature of human beings is manifested in many ways. Humans are said to consist of a jasmani, the corporate body, and a rohani, the immaterial, eternal soul. The jasmani is held as made of clay, itself consisting of four different elements (anasir), that is, soil, water, fire and air. While the jasmani and the rohani are tied to each other during life, they become separated upon death. A further component, the nafsu, variously understood as both vital energy and earthly desires play a key role in connecting the jasmani and the rohani. The nafsu are in turn four: nafsu aluamah, nafsu amarah, nafsu mutma’inah, and nafsu sufyah.

  3. 3.

    Modernists object to the zuhud complex on two counts; firstly, because in their opinion, it is supported by ‘weak’ Hadith, and secondly, because it detracts attention from one’s duties to this life as it is overly pre-occupied with blessings (barakah) and the afterlife.

  4. 4.

    Prominent among the objects decorating his living room were portraits of religious figures arranged in two separate lines, one related to the pesantren of Sidogiri (Pasuruan), and the other to the tarekat. Such portraits functioned as the always necessary ‘proof’ of his spiritual genealogy (silsilah), authorising the authenticity of his religious knowledge via the establishment of legitimate links of transmission. For more details of Qadiriyah wa Naqsyabandiyah’s presence in East Java see van Bruinessen (1995).

  5. 5.

    More recently, Harraway (2003, 2008) has applied much of the same line of thinking to human-animal relations, challenging conventional biological wisdom and demonstrating that the human and canine are companion species having emerged and co-evolved along each other in the transversal domain of ‘natureculture’. The becomings companion species are involved in do not cancel their contingent differences out but rather amplify them through the various claims humans and dogs make on each other. She is quite critical of a conception of animal rights as the generous extension of human rights to non-human animals, asserting that ‘in a relationship, dog and human construct ‘rights’ in each other … Possession – property – is about reciprocity and rights of access. If I have a dog, my dog has a human’ (2003: 53–54).

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Retsikas, K. (2012). Becoming Sacred: Humanity and Divinity in East Java, Indonesia. In: Marsden, M., Retsikas, K. (eds) Articulating Islam: Anthropological Approaches to Muslim Worlds. Muslims in Global Societies Series, vol 6. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4267-3_6

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