Saturday, October 01, 2005

In the milieu of the Riaulingga Sultanate.

"... now ... we are hostile to each other, destroying unity ..

and what we rightly owned is devoured by foreigners ..."

Imam al-shaykh Haji Abu Bakar Ash'ari

Riau was the cradle of Malay literati Raja Ali Haji and his father Raja Haji Ahmad, co-authors of "The Precious Gift", Tuhfat-al-Nafis. Riau, The main island in the old kingdom of Riau-:Lingga, is just forty miles from Singapore. Centuries earlier, the Johor-Riau kingdom had been the most powerful state in the archipelago. In the 18th century, Riau was the principal entrepot on the sea route from India to China. However, an unsuccessful attack on Dutch-controlled Melaka in 1784 brought Riau's eventual decline and absorption by the Dutch. Following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, the Malay World was partitioned through the Melaka Strait, irrevocably dividing the Johor-Riau kingdom and severing the cultural unity of east coast Sumatra and the Peninsula. 'Brother was parted from brother and friend from friend'. Dutch 'protection' was formalised over the Sultanate of Riau-Lingga in 1830, and British Singaproe was rapidly to eclipse Riau asa regional trading centre.

As a result of the intervention of a Bugis froce on behalf of Johor against Minangkabau invaders in 1722, the Bugis leader had been recognised as Yamtuan Muda, Deputy Ruler or 'under-king', and this position descended to his progeny. While the Malay Sultan and court resided in Lingga, the Bugis Yamtuan Muda family and those closely associated with it lived on the island of Penyengat. And it was Penyengat, rather than Lingga, which was the real heart of the kingdom: the Bugis providing Riau with both its secular and religious leadership. It was here in 1866 that the religious scholar cum moralising historian, Raja Ali Haji ibni Raja Ahmad (c. 1809 - 70) finalised Tuhfat al-nafis (The Precious Gift), and epic of his Bugis ancestors' involvement in the Malay World, particularly Johor, which his father, Raja Ahmad 9b. 1773) had begun. It adresses the reasons for past contradictions between Malays and Bugis and identifies the 'fire of envy' manifested in the many incidents of fitna as causing these conflicts. "Perpetrated by man because of his inbron failings, fitna can bring about incalculable damage.' Yamtuan Muda Raja Ja'far (r. 1805 - 31), on the contrary, is put forward as worthy of emulation since he sought advice on matters of government and never attempted to 'membesarkan diri,' to aggrandise himself, but in humility atethe rice his slaves had left.

By 1899, intermarriage between the Malay and Bugis aristocracies ahd been such that the Dutch could rationalise not appointing a new Yamtuan Muda on the death of Raja Muhammad Yusuf, who had held the position for some 40 years. Coincidentally, his son, the designated successor - Raja Ali Kelana ibni Raja Muhammad Yusuf al-Ahmadi was reluctant to succeed. Nevertheless, the September 1900 diktat that no other Yamtuan Muda would be appointed struck at the heart of Bugis power.

The Bugis princes dominated the religious leadership of Riau. They were known for their patgronage of visiting 'ulama and promotion of reformist ideas. In 1857 - 8, Yamtuan Muda Raja Haji Abdullah was murshid (spiritual guide) of the Naqshabandiya Tariqa (Sufi mystic order), which was strongly linked to Turkey. According to Tuhfat-al-nafis, all the Penyengat princes belonged to that tariqa. The Naqshabandiya (Khalidi branch) became a socio-religious force in theArchipelago with the return of Shaykh Isma'il Minagkabawi from Makka in the early 1850s. He began teaching the tariqa in Singapore, and when he expressed a desire to visiti Riau, the Yamtuan Muda, Raja Ali sent his own boat to fetch him to Penyengat. Raja Ali himself, and his relatives, became Shaykh Ismail murids (novices) and twice weekly practised the dhikr ('remembrance' of Allah, primarily by reciting the Names/Atributes of Allah in order toattain an ecstatic or mystic experience). Raja Ali's younger brother, Raja Abdullah was later made Shaykh Ismail's khalifa on the island. Although the Shaykh returned to Singapore, he several times revisited Riau

On the death of Raja Abdullah in 1858, he was succeeded by Raja Muhammad Yusuf, who visited Makka and sought initiation in the order with Mazhari Shaykh, Syed Muhammad Salih al-Zawawi (who was later to spend his last years in Riau) "The Khalidiyya and especially the Mazhariyya as taught by the az-Zawaei were more Shari'a minded" than earlier orders present in Indonesia and opposed the wahdat al-wujud (unity of being) doctrine which in Indonesia was easily assimilated with pre-Islamic monistic mystical beliefs. (to be continued).

Apabila Buta Mata, Kita Hanya Tidak Melihat Dunia.

Apabila Buta Hati Kita Tidak Dapat Melihat Kebenaran !

There are those who give over their lives to conviction and struggle and there are those who stand as critics on the sidelines; they could always do better, but they do nothing.

It is to the strugglers fi sabil Allah that this site is dedicated: to the "berani mati" and to the multitude who would seek to lift up the coconut shell that the sun might shine in !