The most recent edition of Indonesia Expat is history-themed, and it comes with an eclectic array of articles on all sorts of intriguing subjects – from the lives of expat wives in centuries past to the influence of Javanese traditional music on the development of jazz (the former piece is by Rosie Milne of the Asian Books Blog, while the latter is by the ever-entertaining Terry Collins). Also included is a piece by myself, on the early spread of Islam in Indonesia. Here’s the introduction; for the full article follow the link at the bottom:
Settlers, Saints, Kings and Conversions: The Dawn of Indonesian Islam
The hamlet of Leran lies amidst the low fields north of Gresik in East Java, a few kilometres inland from the muddy shores of the Madura Strait. On a December day in the year 1082 a funeral party gathered there beneath leaden monsoon skies.
Leran lay within the kingdom of Kediri, a realm ruled by a raja who claimed to be an incarnation of the god Vishnu, and in the surrounding countryside there were temples where shaven-headed priests oversaw Hindu worship. But there was no such priest amongst the members of the funeral party, and there was no pyre of scented timber. Instead there was a hole dug into the damp soil and aligned so that the corpse, bound in pale cloth and laid on its side, would face towards the northwest. When the mourners gathered at the graveside they cupped their hands and whispered words of Arabic prayer. They were burying a Muslim. Her name, marked later in Kufic calligraphy on a carven headstone, was Fatimah binti Maimun, Fatimah daughter of Maimun.
We know nothing about her – her age, her race, her place or birth or cause of death. But amongst the various flotsam and jetsam of history, cast up along Indonesia’s shores, hers is the oldest identified Muslim tomb, dating back almost a thousand years, fully two centuries before the rise of the Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit kingdom…
© Tim Hannigan 2016