Thursday, April 7, 2011

Muhammadiyah, Kraton Yogyakarta, Garebeg Mulud, and Sekaten

Quoted from: Woodward, Mark R. 2011. Java, Indonesia and Islam. Dordrecht: Springer.

Yogya nationalism transcends religion. Even Christians and many members of the modernist Islamic organization Muhammadiyah, which has strong fundamentalist tendencies, are devoted subjects.30 So much so that Muhammadiyah members from other parts of Indonesia often say things like: “Muhammadiyah can never really be Muhammadiyah until it stops being part of Yogyakarta” (p. 11).

Muhammadiyah tolerates the Yogyakarta Malud and justifies it continued performance by defining it as kebudayaan instead of agama. An elderly Muhammadiyah woman who ran a food stand at the 2009 Malud explained that: “Agama descends from God, and so of course we can not change it. But this is kebudayaan and it is not perfect like Islam and we change it every year to make it better”... In Yogyakarta it is impossible for Muhammadiyah to condemn the Malud, because the Grand Mosque of the Sultanate is also the “Mother Mosque” of Muhammadiyah. In 2009, Dr. Din Syamsul Din, the General Chairman of Muhammadiyah and other of the organizations’ leaders, endorsed it as a means of uniting the Indonesian Muslim community and as an opportunity for Muhammadiyah Muslims to demonstrate their love and respect for the Prophet Muhammad (p. 170-1).

Perhaps the most significant change is that the slametan for nobles and officials has been moved from the mosque to the palace. It is now held on the day of the Garebeg after the distribution of the gunungan. A high ranking official explained that this change was necessary because the Penghulu does not approve of slametan and would be unhappy if pusaka to be brought into the mosque because he is a Muhammadiyah member, He continued that the purpose of the Sultan’s visit to the mosque was to honor the Prophet, the Penghulu and the santri community and that the ritual must, therefore, fit with the spirit of the times. This theme was echoed in a sermon delivered at Sekaten in 1979. The speaker was a prominent Muhammadiyah theologian. He explained that gamelan, the Javanese shadow theater, and the Garebeg Malud are permissible because they are expressions of Javanese culture (kebudayaan) and that they heighten awareness of an important Muslim holiday, but that unspecified non-Islamic customs should be eliminated. The speaker took great pains to emphasize both the purity of the reformist community and the religious acceptability of customs many consider to be bid’ah (p. 189).

Muhammadiyah interpretations of the changes vary but fall into two basic categories. Some see them as signs that the Sultan supports the movement. Others see them as an attempt to circumvent the reformist program by employing a simpler, though still unacceptable, Javanese ritual performance. Despite these uncertainties, Muhammadiyah have attached indexical symbols of its own to the Sekaten fair. Qur’an recitations and sermons are broadcast over loudspeakers. There are also banners and information booths describing the social, educational, and religious programs of Muhammadiyah and other Muslim organizations (p. 189-90).

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