Alhamdulillahi rabbil `alamin, washshalatu wassalamu `ala Asyrafil Anbiya wal mursalin, wa ba`du,

Islam in Indonesia

I’m an Indonesian, I grew up and live in Jakarta until now. I love Indonesia, and alhamdulillah, Indonesia even though it’s not a Muslim country, Islam is Indonesia’s dominant religion with approximately 88%, over 200 million (wikipedia), of its population identifying as Muslims, making it the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world.

The Pancasila [Five Principles] has been Indonesia’s state ideology since independence in 1945. The first principle of the Pancasila promotes belief in the one and unique God, but does not endorse any particular religion.

Islam came to Indonesia through Muslims merchants from Gujarat and Persia in the 13th Century. The merchants established trade links between Indonesia and India and Persia. Along with the trade, they propagated Islam among the people.

Before Islam came, Indonesians were Hindus, Buddhists, and a variety of other spiritual practices that are not recognized as religion but as faith. One of these faiths, Kejawen [literally, “Javaneseness”], is widely practiced. Kejawen refers to the principles for the conduct of life in harmony with society and nature, and is rooted in the pre-Islamic culture of South Central Java. (Mulder 1998)

Black magic and superstition

Indonesians, not all, but many, from modern businessmen to traditional farmers, are very superstitious. Here are some of the local “superstitions” in Indonesia regarding everyday life and the meanings of the omens of Nature:

  • Avoid sweeping the house at night as this would make it difficult to attract luck.
  • If you have a bad feeling when you are about to leave the house–then don’t! As this is a sign that something disastrous might occur while out.
  • Avoid disliking someone intensely while pregnant as this would cause your child to adopt the features of the disliked person.
  • Avoid opening umbrellas in the home as this would result in difficulties in life.
  • Avoid wearing red or green swimwear at beaches as this would result in the wearer becoming a bride or bridegroom to spirit entities (incubus, succubus).
  • It is advisable to keep sacred objects in the home to protect one’s family.

Those mentioned are only a few of them. To add more regarding superstition and black magic. Many Indonesians:

  • Believe in praying to the grave of a certain person to get what he or she wants in life. (i.e. money, love, power, etc.)
  • Believe in sacred objects can give good luck, charm, protection, and wealth.
  • Believe in black magic or “santet” in Indonesian.
  • Go to a “dukun” or medicine man for various purposes, from treating illness, hurting a business rival (voodoo style), or even for duplicating money (of course this doesn’t work, not even with strong suggestion and belief but strangely enough today some people still try it.)

Very superstitious, that when the Asian tsunami and Java tsunami strikes Indonesia in 2004, it was interpreted as evidence that the Gods are not happy with the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Islam, Superstition And Black Magic

Yes we learn about ghaib (the unseen) in Islam, but not in a science fictional sense. Many Indonesian horror movies, or any movie that contain a monster, depicts an Islamic cleric who can fly and throws fireballs at the villain. I know how it sounds, but it happens even today. There’s also a reality show here about an Islamic ghost busters, showing a group of people wearing Islamic attributes like turbans performing martial arts moves to cast away the ghosts. How could all those things be on national television? simply because people buy them. There are also magazines and other prints that put news about how the clerics kill a zombie. And since the media plays a very important role in educating the people, it all adds up to the superstitious-ism.

Qur’anic verses are sacred, yes of course, they are the words of God. But many Muslims here treat them as if they are some kind of magic mantra to cast spells like Harry Potter’s “wingardium leviosa.”

In one of the majlis ta’lim (learning house) I studied, the ustadz (teachers) use some kind of inscents for praying, until the room is full of fragrant smoke. They say it’s a means to make the room aromatic and so the angels will come and stay while we’re praying. The majlis also recommends people to take some rocks from the majlis and spread it around their homes, because the rocks in the majlis area is full of prayers and that it will give protection. I studied many great things in that majlis, and I love my guru there (rest in peace), but if using inscents is good for praying and using rocks as some kind of sacred object, surely our prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would’ve promoted them in the Hadiths.

The good stuff is in the basics

There is a big Islamic association here in Indonesia that focus on the preventing of further accretion and superstition of Islam, but we would touch a political discussion if I write about that.

I hope that in this information era, and that the internet has reached most of the people here or at least the leaders, people will stop exposing Islam in a superstitious perspective, and stop thinking that Islam came from Javanese faiths. And people will learn about Islam in the global view. Because really, Islam is a world religion.

For everyone learning about Islam, every scholars would agree, let’s use the Qur’an and Hadith as our foundation, if anything you learn about is not in there, that’s a big question mark.