Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Islam and traweh prayers in Java: Unity, diversity, and cultural smoothness

Moller, Andre. 2005. "Islam and traweh prayers in Java: Unity, diversity, and cultural smoothness". Indonesia and the Malay World. 33 (95): 37-52.
Author: Andreacute Moumlllera
Affiliation: a Department of History and Anthropology of Religions, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Modernist attitudes and practices in relation to the traweh prayers are fairly homogenous. The description below of my local mosque Masjid An-Nur can be considered as typical of modernist mosques in Java.
As the muezzin announces the call to prayer for the obligatory isya (evening prayers performed around 7 pm), people in the neighborhood begin to get ready. They are in no hurry as they know the imam (I., prayer leader, A. imamacrm) and the muezzin will allow a longer than usual time to lapse between the adzan (I., call to prayer, A. adhamacrn) and the actual prayer session. The muezzin or a mosque official may recite - or rather, sing - some salawat (I., praise of Muhammad, A. salawamacrt) to fill the time.16 At the start of Ramadan the mosque is crowded and additional straw mats are needed in the car park to provide space for all worshippers. By the middle to the end of the month the mosque is half full at best. A one-metre wide green cloth separates the mosque into two almost equal parts: one at the front and the other at the back. The front, the male domain, is generally slightly larger but the area is adjustable should circumstances require it. The back is for women. The cloth is only a symbolic barrier as it does not prevent one group from viewing the other. But it is regarded as necessary by both men and women to maintain the two spheres during traweh prayers. This token cloth barrier is only used during Ramadan.
As the local Muslims drop in, they generally perform two raka'at (I., prayer cycles) of sholat tahiyatul masjid (I., A. a./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math008.gif -./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math009.gif alamacrtu ta./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math010.gif īyamacrtu l-masjid), the non-obligatory but highly recommended prayers to be performed as one enters a mosque. This done, everyone sits down and either engages in some small talk with whoever they are next to or recite quietly parts of the Koran. This is also a time that may be used for private supplications, or declarations of thanksgiving (I. syukur) for being able to fast for the entire day that has just ended. When the muezzin feels that he has waited sufficiently he announces through the microphone a sort of condensed adzan, the iqomah (I., A. iqamacrmah), that the isya (evening) prayers are to begin. The isya prayers during Ramadan are no different from the rest of the year as they consist of four raka'at. Each raka'at, as always, consists of the recital of Al Fatihah (the first chapter of the Koran), the bending of the upper part of the body (I. ruku', A. rukumacr'), the complete prostration (I. sujud, A. sujumacrd), and a variety of more subtle practices, which can be studied in any regular sholat manual.17 Added to this is the niat (I., A. nīyah), the intent, which precedes the prayer. As the salam (I., greeting in Arabic) concludes the isya prayers, the congregation may rest for a while before a kultum (short Islamic lecture) is presented.18 Some may use this time to perform two additional and individual raka'at.
When the kultum ends the muezzin raises his voice again to say a./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math011.gif -./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math012.gif alamacrta sunnata t-taramacr./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math013.gif i jamacrmi'atan ra./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math014.gif imakumullamacrh (A.), which means approximately 'Let us perform the non-obligatory traweh prayers in congregation, in hope that God will extend His Grace on you all.' Some, but not all, reply by saying lamacr ilamacrha illamacr llamacrh mu./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math015.gif ammadun rasumacrlu llamacrh (A., there is no god but God, Muhammad is the Prophet of God). This is the sign that the traweh prayers are about to begin and the entire congregation rises and starts to murmur individually the prescribed intent for this: u./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math016.gif allī sunnata t-taramacr./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math017.gif i lilamacrhi ta'amacrlamacr (A.), i.e., 'I intend to perform the non-obligatory traweh prayers for God, the Exalted.'21 Most Javanese can say this in Arabic, but some state theirs in Javanese. This done, the imam raises his two hands and utters Allamacrhu akbar (A., God is greater), and commences the first raka'at by reading aloud Al Fatihah and an additional Koranic chapter. The difference between these traweh prayers from their obligatory equivalent is that there is no break between the second and the third raka'at as the imam and the congregation immediately proceed to the third and the fourth prayer cycles. As the fourth raka'at is over and the salam-greeting uttered, the congregation may again rest for a short while. (The word taramacr./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math018.gif is linked grammatically to istiramacr./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math019.gif ah, which means 'relaxation' or 'rest.')
The break ends when the muezzin repeats the words a./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math025.gif -./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math026.gif alamacrta sunnata t-taramacr./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math027.gif i jamacrmi'atan ra./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math028.gif imakumu llamacrh (see above). The congregation then rises again and performs four more cycles of traweh prayers, following the imam. The subsequent rest follows the above-mentioned procedure and then the traweh prayers are over. Before dispersing the congregation, the imam performs three additional raka'at of witir (I., A. witr) prayers. The performance of sholat witir has the status of sunnah within Islamic law, but many ulama regard it as close to an obligatory ritual act (Al Sawwaf, 1999: 199). Before the muezzin declares the commencement of these prayers (A. a./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math029.gif -./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math030.gif alamacrta sunnata l-witri jamacrmi'atan ra./CIMW0037_images/CIMW0037math031.gif imakumu llamacrh), some members of the congregation leave the mosque. There are two possible explanations for this exit depending on whether they are traditionalists or modernists. The traditionalists who feel that the traweh prayers have yet to end since there should be 20 cycles (see below) intend to perform an additional 12 at home before concluding with the witir. And the modernists who agree with the imam that the Ramadan prayers should only consist of eight raka'at return home for more supererogatory but non-traweh prayers before they conclude that day's prayers with the witir.
This is taken from pp 42-5 of the article.

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