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Rituals of Islamic Spirituality

Rituals of Islamic Spirituality: A Study of Majlis Dhikr Groups in East Java

Arif Zamhari
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
  • Book Info
    Rituals of Islamic Spirituality
    Book Description:

    This study examines the emergence of new forms of Islamic spirituality in Indonesia identified as Majlis Dhikr. These Majlis Dhikr groups have proliferated on Java in the last two decades, both in urban and rural areas, and have attracted followers from a wide social background. The diverse aspects of these Majlis Dhikr groups - their rituals, teachings and strategies of dissemination as well as the popular understanding of these rituals and their contestation by critics and opponents - are examined in detail and illustrated by reference to three particular groups - Salawat Wahidiyat, Istighathat Ihsaniyyat and Dhikr al-Ghafilin each of which has its own distinctive features and notable religious leadership. These Majlis Dhikr groups regard their activities as legitimate ritual practices that are in accordance with the legacy of Islamic Sufism based on the interpretation of the Qur'anic and Prophetic tradition.  

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-25-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    This beautiful study by Arif Zamhari offers a rare glimpse into the practices of Islamic spirituality in contemporary Java. Dr Zamhari focuses on three distinct groups in East Java who gather under the inspired religious leadership of a notable kyai to invoke the Divine Names in the remembrance of God (Dhikr Allah). Each of the groups is remarkably different yet they adhere to a common tradition that has deep historical roots. At present, these groups are the popular manifestation of a resurgent devotional Islam – an open, active, and engaging form of Sufi worship.

    Dr Zamhari’s study also provides remarkable...

  4. Dedications
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Abstract
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. Abbreviations and glossary
    (pp. xxiii-xxx)
  8. Transliteration
    (pp. xxxi-xxxii)
  9. Maps
    (pp. xxxiii-xxxiv)
  10. Chapter I
    (pp. 1-24)

    This is a study of developments in Islamic spiritual practice in East Java. It focuses on groups organized with the specific purpose of chanting of various Islamic litanies. The study of these groups, designated by the name, Majlis Dhikr, is a neglected area of research within the study of Islamic ritual groups in Indonesia. In contrast to the abundance of studies of Sufi groups (I., tarekat), such as Tijaniyah, Qadiriyah, Naqshabandiyah, Qadiriyah wa Naqshabandiyah, and Shatariah, there has not yet been any comprehensive study devoted to examining the development of Majlis Dhikr in the Indonesian Islamic context. This lack of...

  11. Chapter II: Innovation or Aberration: Majlis Dhikr in Contemporary Indonesian Islamic Discourse
    (pp. 25-48)

    Some Indonesianists have predicted that the practice of tarekat prevalent in the rural areas would disappear following the proliferation of Islamic modernist movements in Indonesia. This prediction, however, proved to be unfounded. Surprisingly, not only has there been an increase and expansion of Sufi orders in Indonesia, there is also currently a rise of other Islamic spiritual groups, such as Majlis Dhikr groups together with various Islamic spiritual courses. These groups have also undergone an increase in membership. Besides those categorized as peasants who have increased their interest in these groups, the urban middle class, together with many educated Muslims,...

  12. Chapter III: The Intellectual Response of Indonesian Majlis Dhikr Groups to Some Aspects of Their Ritual Practices
    (pp. 49-94)

    Although the Majlis Dhikr groups that I have studied cannot be categorised as recognized tarekat (tarekat mu’tabarah), their ritual practices have been strongly influenced by tasawuf teachings. For example, the dhikr ritual practised by these groups is similar to the ritual that has long been practised by other tarekat groups. It is important to note that the members and the leaders of these Majlis Dhikr groups claim that although the dhikr that they recite do not posses a chain of transmitters (A., sanad) like the dhikr ritual in other Sufi groups (I., tarekat), their aim is similar, namely, to attain...

  13. Chapter IV: ‘Turn to God and His Prophet’: The Spiritual Path of the Ṣalawāt Wāḥidiyat Group
    (pp. 95-164)

    This chapter examines a Majlis Dhikr group that defines itself not only as an alternative mystical path among other recognised Sufi orders but also as part of legitimate ritual practice in Islam. An assessment of how this MajlisDhikr group known as Wāḥidiyat does this requires assessment of its history and the sources and the arguments from which the doctrine and the ritual practices of this group are taken, as well as the way this group disseminates its teachings to others. What I hope to show here is that although this Majlis Dhikr group is not regarded as a tarekat mu’tabarah...

  14. Chapter V: The Veneration of Wali and Holy Persons: The Case of Istighāthat Iḥsāniyyat
    (pp. 165-206)

    This chapter highlights another Majlis Dhikr group that has creatively developed its own practices and formulae to obtain spiritual experiences and religious knowledge absent in conventional Islamic proselytization (dakwah). In this chapter, I will show how this group defines itself as an alternative mystical path among other established Sufi orders while retaining legitimate Sufi practices and how it plays an important role in the dakwah project of Islam. In this chapter I will describe the foundation of Iḥsāniyyat, examine challenges and rivalries involving this group, describe the ritual of Iḥsāniyyat, discuss the structure of Iḥsāniyyat, and analyse the strategy of...

  15. Chapter VI: The Awakening of the Negligent: The Dhikr al- Ghāfil $ \bar{i} $ n Group
    (pp. 207-244)

    Chapter V highlighted the important role of the Iḥsāniyyat group in developing and spreading Islam among nominal Muslims (abangan) by means of cultural approaches. In doing so, the group has adopted the ideas of Sufi dakwah and Sufi tolerance, which have been practised since the introduction of Islam to the Indonesian Archipelago. This chapter will look at the role played by another group in developing and spreading Islamic values among Muslims, the Dhikr al-Ghāfil $ \bar{i} $ n. In contrast to the previous chapter, this chapter will focus on the leader of the Majlis Dhikr al-Ghāfil $ \bar{i} $ n, Gus Mik, whose reputation and charisma...

  16. Chapter VII Conclusion
    (pp. 245-250)

    The main object of this study has been to examine the emergence of forms of Islamic spirituality in Indonesia identified as Majlis Dhikr. Various Majlis Dhikr offer similar Islamic ritual practices to those of the increasing popular tarekat in Indonesia. I have argued in this study that despite criticism from other Indonesian Muslims, the ritual practices of Majlis Dhikr can be legitimately accepted as proper Islamic ritual since the aim of these practices is to attain closeness to God and His Prophet. Throughout this work, I have presented a wide-ranging discussion of Majlis Dhikr groups. Most of their rituals are...

  17. Appendix
    (pp. 251-252)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-268)