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Signs of the Wali

Signs of the Wali: Narratives at the Sacred Sites in Pamijahan, West Java

Tommy Christomy
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
  • Book Info
    Signs of the Wali
    Book Description:

    In Signs of the Wali, Dr Tommy Christomy focuses on the one of the early founders of Islam on Java, Shakyh Abdul Muhyi, whose burial site at Pamijahan in Tasikmalaya is a place of contemporary ziarah. This study initially conceived of as a philological exploration of historical manuscripts has been transformed into a study of 'living manuscripts' - the contemporary narratives of the custodians at Pamijahan. As elsewhere in the Islamic world, tarekat and ziarah intersect in popular practice at Pamijahan. Dr Christomy explores this intersecting world, explaining the steps of his own research investigations that enfold as a journey of discovery as he proceeds. This investigation involves the search for traces of Tarekat Shattiriyyah in Pamijahan, given the pervasive presence of Tarekat Qadirriyah-Nashabandiyyah throughout Tasikmalaya. That Tarekat Shattiriyyah survives to this day is itself evidence of the tenacity that its historical roots have established in a particular place.  

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-70-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    James J. Fox

    Signs of the Wali is a remarkable study. It focuses on a place of pilgrimage (ziarah) — Pamijahan in Tasikmalaya — that is of great historical significance for the foundations of Islam on Java. Pamijahan is the burial site of Shakyh Abdul Muhyi, the prominent exponent and noted teacher of Sufi Order, Shattiriyyah. Through its custodians, who oversee the places of visitation for an ever increasing number of pious visitors, Pamijahan retains its links to the past while endeavouring to propagate the message of Islam in a changing contemporary context.

    In Signs of the Wali, Dr Tommy Christomy charts his personal intellectual...

  4. Chapter 1: Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    On a Thursday evening in mid-July 1972, close to the time of the maghrib or sunset prayers, my grandmother ordered me to go and pick seven different kinds of flower buds from the gardens in people’s backyards in our village. She also told me to go to the small shop on the edge of the village to buy a fine cigar, or surutu. When I returned with the flower buds and the cigar she led me to a room located in the farthermost back part of our house where our paddy was stored between seasons. She asked me to put...

  5. Chapter 2: Signs in the Valley
    (pp. 19-24)

    In the Pamijahanese view, various signs significantly ‘tow’ the past into contemporary Pamijahan culture. Both verbal and non-verbal signs emerge as a configuration of propositions regarding ritual practice, ancestors and identities. They create cultural arguments subscribed to by the villagers. An example is given by the quotation above, made by an ordinary man as he chatted with pilgrims in a cafe stall outside the sacred space in the centre of Pamijahan. In the view of the people of Pamijahan, this space which was initially empty, was then crisscrossed by, borrowing Pannel’s term (Pannell 1997:165) “various collective ordered representations”.

    All Pamijahanese...

  6. Chapter 3: Manuscripts in Pamijahan: Kakantun Karuhun
    (pp. 25-38)

    Kakantun, in Sundanese, is a polite word to specify something that is left by someone who has special position in the speaker’s perceptions. It may be used to signify action or culture from the past. Karuhun is a kinship term referring to predecessors at least two or three generations back and is often used in ritualised language. The Pamijahanese understand the meaning of kakantun karuhun as a reference for tali paranti, or custom, as well.

    The manuscripts, or naskah kuno, in Pamijahan are mostly written in Sundanese and Javanese using pegon¹ script. This is clear evidence of a Javanese scholarly...

  7. Chapter 4: The Babad Pamijahan: Sunda, Java and the Identity of the Pamijahanese
    (pp. 39-64)

    The babad, or historical chronicle, is widely known as a genre of traditional Javanese literature. The genre came to Sunda in the 18th century through the Javanese administrators who occupied certain territories of Sunda. In Javanese, it is a narrative of past events telling, for example, about the founding of a new settlement or insurrection against an older power. The Javanese chronicle is a literary work written in a poetic metrical form which is intended to be sung. From the perspective of narrative, the babad to some extent is similar to the hikayat or sejarah in traditional Malay terms such...

  8. Chapter 5: Karuhun, Space, Place and Narratives
    (pp. 65-90)

    As mentioned in Chapters 2 and 3, the major meaning of the ancestor narratives is to signify a transformation given to the land: the space of the wild forest transformed into ‘hindu land’, and later into ‘muslim land’. Written narratives in the form of the babad have preserved the villagers’ imagination of the past. There is a clear indication that the babad functions to freeze the genealogy of the ancestors, the karuhun genealogy. However, we see a different focus in narratives of the oral tradition. The Babad does not recite clearly how the protagonist, Shaykh Abdul Muhyi, found a cave,...

  9. Chapter 6: Linking to the Wider Worlds of Sufism
    (pp. 91-110)

    Sufism, or tasawwuf prescribes not only ascetic rituals but also provides a model of social practice. As a social practice, it is in intensive contact with other branches of Sufism and with local traditions which impact upon its articulation. This can be seen in the development of various Sufi orders, or tarekat, in which divergent paths of development become salient features. Some Sufi orders, for example, have had to modify their teaching and organisation in order to be able to attract new followers and to gain political support from local authorities (Muhaimin 1995: 231; Zulkifli 1994: 232) while others have...

  10. Chapter 7: Grasping the Wali’s Teaching
    (pp. 111-128)

    In the previous chapters, three different types of narratives functioning in the village have been identified: the narrative of the ancestors, the narratives of space, and the body of narratives relating to Sufi silsilah. While the previous chapter discussed the tradition behind the silsilah of the Shattariyyah order, this chapter will discuss the teaching of the Wali, Shaykh Abdul Muhyi.

    In the village, what it is called the ‘teaching’ of the Wali is not as clear as we might imagine. Various spiritual teachings in the village are often ascribed to Shaykh Abdul Muhyi. These are scattered and may range from...

  11. Chapter 8: Tapping A Blessing in The House of A Young Sufi
    (pp. 129-156)

    Anthropologists, who have studied the concept of ‘precedence’ in Austronesia argue that the appearance of genealogies among common descent groups can be traced to particular ‘cognate’ metaphors that rely on ‘botanic’ icons and spatial arrangements. (Bellwod 1996; Fox 1997:8) Along the same lines, Parmentier (1987), who uses Peircean semiotics, illustrates the ‘schematic’ features of similar metaphoric icons in the Belauan Islands. Canberran anthropologists, as well as Pelras and Parmentier, draw attention to the function of metaphors in social action. Various ‘iconic metaphors’ linked to the concept of ‘precedence’ and to the implication of spatial arrangements and other materialised symbols, were...

  12. Chapter 9: Pilgrimage at Pamijahan: Practice and Narrative
    (pp. 157-192)

    Ziarah, or pilgrimage, is the most sublime and intense symbolic interaction in the valley of Safarwadi or Pamijahan. Both the ‘signs of the past’ and the ‘signs in the past’ are mixed, modified, and ‘broadcast’. In previous chapters, I draw attention to the significance of ancestral signs in the lives of the villagers. Now, I will look at these representations from the perspective of outsiders, as well as villagers, as they make devotional visits to the shrine of the wali.

    Pilgrimage in the Muslim world appears in two significant modes. The first is the sacred journey to Mecca in the...

  13. Chapter 10: Conclusion
    (pp. 193-194)

    Throughout the discussion presented in this volume I have attempted to demonstrate the nature and function of narrative in the context of the sacred site of Pamijahan.

    I found that even though within the faculty of our minds there resides the possibility to produce an unending chain of ‘semiosis’, in fact a ‘limit to interpretation’ is present in ‘the signifying order’. Culture regiments our interpretation of particular signs. To see this in the context of Pamijahan means to reveal the ‘signs’, the ‘references’ and the ‘interpretant’ or the possibilities of interpretation and negotiation related to the ancestral narratives performed by...

  14. Glossary
    (pp. 195-202)
  15. Illustrations
    (pp. 203-210)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-218)
  17. Original Acknowledgments for the Thesis
    (pp. 219-222)