by W MUKHERJEE · 2005 · Cited by 14 — House comprised of Ali, Fatimah and their two sons, the ahl al-bayt, are the Fatimah bears the honorific title al-Zahra, ‘The Radiant’, after the halo of.
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137Fatimah in NusantaraSari 23 (2005) 137 – 152Fatimah in NusantaraWENDY MUKHERJEEABSTRAKTokoh Fatimah, anak Nabi Muhammad, isteri kepada Ali bin Abi Talib dan ibuHasan dan Husain adalah contoh unggul tradisional bagi wanita Muslim. Dari segi politik, Fatimah adalah anak keturunan Nabi dan ibu kepada imam-imam mazhab Shi™ah. Beliau juga disanjung sebagai contoh kerohanian kerana sifat penyayang dan belas kasihan kepada orang di sekitarnya. Sehubungan itu, banyak teks manuskrip Melayu dan Indonesia mempunyai cerita tentangnya. Teks-teks itu ditulis semasa Islam disebarkan ke Kepulauan Melayu sehingga bermulanya tradisi cetak pada sekitar tahun 1920. Rencana ini akan menceritakan perkembangan teks-teks mengenai Fatimah di Nusantara.Kata kunci: Fatimah, etika wanita, sastera manuskrip, Shisme, IslamABSTRACTFatimah, the daughter of the Prophet, wife of Ali and mother of Hasan andHusain presents the perfect traditional model of a Muslim woman. Politically, she continued the Prophet™s blood line and is the mother of the imams of Shi™ism. She is also held up as a spiritual example for her virtues of patience and compassion to those around her. Most Islamic manuscript literatures of Malaysia and Indonesia contain texts which tell of these virtues. The texts entered the archipelago with Islam itself and were preserved up to the beginning of print culture around 1920. This article describes the history of texts dealing with Fatimah in Nusantara.Key words: Fatimah, women™s ethics, manuscript literature, Shi™ism, Islam The traditional ideal of the virtuous woman is a broad cultural discourse in the Malay-Indonesian archipelago which has been identified but not yet explored for its own sake (Andaya 1993: 24-29). I am interested in the Islamic variant of this discourse and in particular, in that associated with Fatimah, the Prophet Muhammad™s daughter. I believe that the figure of Fatimah formed the earliest and chief focus of women™s ethics in the manuscript literatures of the major Muslim populations of the area. If this is so, one is struck by Fatimah™s relative loss of significance today. Now, she is not singled out as special; her story appears as only one among many of the righteous Muslim women fit forCOREMetadata, citation and similar papers at core.ac.ukProvided by UKM Journal Article Repository
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138Sari 23emulation in the many printed pamphlets now available in bookshops in Malaysiaand Indonesia. In this article, I shall outline of the appearance, distribution and disappearance of certain texts concerning Fatimah in the manuscript traditions of Nusantara.ORIGINSOFTEXTSABOUTFATIMAH THE FATIMAH OF EARLY ISLAMThe portrayal of Fatimah begins with references to her in Arabic records at thetime of the founding of Islam. These are not too numerous, and for my purposes, secondary Western scholarship based on them and summarised in TheEncylopaedia of Islam (1965) has been sufficient to develop a conception ofher life. Three themes are salient to the discussion:1.Fatimah™s human existence as daughter, wife and mother 2.Fatimah™s exemplary actions and her spiritual qualities 3.the division between Sunna and Shi™ah in Islam. I shall return to them in the course of this article. The Fatimah of earlyIslam recreated by Western scholarship is not an engaging personality, for hers was not a happy life. The picture painted is of a timid, retiring woman, painfully thin and physically ailing, modest in habit and comportment and easily moved to tears. Fatimah lived in privation, ﬁon the fringe of the great events of the early years of Islamﬂ and was often a drudge for her husband and her father. According to eye witness accounts, she frequently bewailed her fate (EI 1965: 841).A year after the migration from Mecca to Medina in 622, the Prophet gaveFatimah in marriage to his cousin, Ali bin Abi Talib. Fatimah is reported to have been distressed on receiving the news of the impending marriage, either because of her deep attachment to her father and her reluctance to leave his side, or because of Ali™s poverty and gruff manners. The match did indeed prove to be incompatible, which caused the Prophet grief, yet the union lasted until Fatimah™s death in the year 633 and produced two sons, Hasan (b. 624) and Husain (b. 625) and two daughters. Ali was an often indifferent husband. He sought to exercise the option of polygymny, which the Prophet checked, so that he did not take another official wife during Fatimah™s lifetime (EI 1965: 842-3).Of the recorded events in Fatimah™s life, the most significant was hermarriage to Ali. She is the link between the Prophet, who had no surviving male child, and lines of later descent, through Hasan and Husain, of the Shi™i Imams and the Sunni sayyids. Emphasis is placed on Ali, Hasan and Husein asthe political founders of the Shi™ah branch of Islam, while the Prophet and his
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139Fatimah in NusantaraHouse comprised of Ali, Fatimah and their two sons, the ahl al-bayt, are the central characters of devotional Shi™ism (EI 1965: 844).THE FATIMAH OF LEGENDFor all Muslims, Fatimah is regarded as the perfect daughter, wife and mother.These roles have been compounded to create the ideal Muslim woman. Fatimah™s unhappiness in her life at Ali™s side has been transmuted by believers into the virtues of wifely fidelity and an unshakeable fortitude in the face of hardship. Such ideals are to be found in the summaries of texts given in the Appendix.Fatimah bears the honorific title al-Zahra, ‚The Radiant™, after the halo oflight which is said to have enveloped her while reciting the Al-Qu™ran and at prayer (EI 1965: 841). She was also known also to be steadfast in praying for the souls of martyrs fallen in battle for the cause of Islam, a practice she took up after the defeat of the Muslims at the Battle of Uhud in 625, caring for her father™s wounds and being charged to clean his and Ali™s bloodstained swords (EI 1965: 843). All of these attributes are known and represented in the Muslimmanuscript traditions of Nusantara.Both major branches of Islam, the Sunni and the Shi™iah, respect Fatimah,but the Shi™ah venerate her especially and developed a hagiography of her, employing the motifs of her radiance and her virtue. Fatimah™s marriage to Ali has given rise to the genre of ﬁbride lessonsﬂ or admonitions to young wives in the archipelago. Their wedding, which according to the classical sources was an exercise in material humility, celebrated in a most modest fashion, has become the stuff of religious legend. So, in contrast to the original historical facts, in legend it is told how the marriage was also contracted in heaven, with the attendance of angels and houris, and a bride-price which included half the earth, with heaven and hell added as well. Fatimah™s trousseau included costly, rare clothes and the wedding feast included fruits from the garden of Eden. Precious gems were scattered before the bride in her honour (EI 1965: 846). There are Malay accounts of the wedding of Fatimah and Ali in this legendary style; for example, there is a Hikayat Ali Kawin in which ‚archipelagaic™ conventions ofsumptuous celebration replace the Middle Eastern characteristics (Brakel 1975:84).FATIMAHINNUSANTARA FATIMAH ADMONITIONSWe can find images of both the Fatimah of classical Islam and the Fatimah oflegend in our region. Examples of a Fatimah hagiography appear as short accounts, or as references embedded in larger narrative texts. However, in this article I am interested in the homilies which go under the rubric ﬁThe Prophet
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140Sari 23Muhammad instructs his daughter, Fatimahﬂ, or the ﬁFatimah Admonitions.ﬂThe instructions are concerned with the duties of a good wife towards her husband; they are purportedly set in the time of the Prophet and it is Muhammad himself who delivers the teachings. They are expository texts, cast in direct speech and their ethical message is addressed to all Muslim women. They present a man™s view of a totally dependent woman for whom he is materially and morally responsible under his religion. The duties of women as wives are described. If these are properly carried out, heaven is the woman™s reward; if they are not, then most horrible punishments will be meted out in hell. The awful images presented are, however, in keeping with other eschatological texts of the time and similar punishments await Muslim men who neglect their duties in life.The Fatimah Admonitions are short texts, usually only several pages ofhand-written Jawi script. I shall not address the many Malay examples of these texts here because of constraints of space, and because they are quite well known. Instead, I have consulted three more distant examples which demonstrate the wide spread of this textual tradition: two hand-written Romanised versions from West Java (Kern Sundanese Collection MS 1673, Nos. 106 and 119) and a longer printed version from Aceh (Harun 1985). These are all summarised in the Appendix.THE ARRIVAL OF FATIMAH TEXTS IN THE ARCHIPELAGOI believe that representations of Fatimah in the manuscript traditions of the Malay-Indonesian archipelago are as old as Islam itself there. The evidence for this is both broadly historical and philological, in a narrower sense. For the sake of my argument in this article, I shall work from the most obvious hypothesis, that the representation of Fatimah originated among adherents to Shi™ism who venerated her, and reached Southeast Asia via Persian transmission.First, some brief historical background. If a Fatimah discourse was presentat the earliest stage of Islamization of Nusantara, then it came late in the Islamic world, appearing some seven hundred years after the events at Medinah. Fatimah had died in 633. Ali bin Abi Talib had become the fourth Caliph of Islam in 656, though not without opposition, which led to his murder in 661 in the Iraqi city of Kufa. The Caliphate returned to Sunni hands under Mu™awiyah. Hasan withdrew from political life and died, possibly poisoned, in 669. In 680, Husain, refusing to recognise Mu™awiyah™s successor, Yazid, sought refuge in Kufa, where he could still count on a number of supporters. He set out from Medinah, travelling north-east, to meet his famous death as a martyr at the Battle of Kerbala on October 10. His surviving son, Ali Asgar Zain al-Abidin was taken captive by Yazid™s forces and thus the hopes of the Shi™ah, the ‚party™ of Ali, on central power in Islam were extinguished (Brakel 1975: 1-2).The links between the Shi™ah and Iran, where Shi™ism became the religionof the state, were forged early and remained strong. Ctesiphon, the capital of
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141Fatimah in Nusantarathe Sasanids, fell to Islam in 638. Husain is believed to have married Shahrbanun,the daughter of the last Persian Sasanid King Yazdgerd III. The geographical proximity of Kerbala to Iran was also an important factor and Persian elements became absorbed into the observance of the first ten days of the Muslim calendar as the days of the martyrs Hasan and Husain (Brakel 1975: 4).Back in Medinah, Ali had been survived by a son, Muhammad bin al-Hanafiyyah, born to a woman of uncertain status, probably a slave. Though not a descendant of the Prophet™s line, al-Hanafiyyah was proclaimed Mahdi, formed a rallying point for the Shi™ah, and came to assume cultic status among the Shi™is of Iraq. He played no actual active political role, yet his cult, resting on tales of victories in putative battles to avenge the tragedy of Kerbala, developed in Persia after his death in 700 and eventually passed into the Indonesian archipelago in the form of the well-known heroic romance, the HikayatMuhammad Hanafiyyah (HMH) (Brakel 1975: 3, 6). Lode Brakel (1975: 56),who prepared a critical edition of this text, believes the story was composedunder Shi™ah cultists in North-Eastern Iran and quickly travelled to the archipelago:The HMH can be assumed to have originated in Persia in the middle of the fourteenth century and to have been translated into Malay in one of the coastal centres of NorthSumatra not very much later.The story also spread into India, where the Shi™ah were well integratedunder the Sunni Moghuls, Persian becoming the learned language of most of North India and the Moghul territories. The scholar of Indian Islam, Anne- Marie Schimmel (1980: 125) makes this significant observation about its distribution:Stories of Islamic origin were told and retold Œ the impressive pictures painted underAkbar for the tellers of the Hamzanama, the story of the Prophet™s heroic uncle, show how popular these tales were in all strata of society. And not only Hamza, but alsoMuhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, a son of Ali by a wife other than Fatima– who plays aprominent role in early Islamic sectarian discussions, became the hero of stories thatwere told in Urdu and the regional languages of Indo-Pakistan.In the Malay-Indonesian archipelago, a Persian influence can be foundduring what Reid terms the ﬁAge of Commerceﬂ from the 15th through the 17th centuries. There were Persian ulama in the archipelago and direct tradelinks with Persia; for example, quantities of benzoin were exported there in 1630. Persian Shi™is came to dominate trade offices in Thailand. Shahr-i-Naw (in Persian, the ‚New City™) the name by which Ayuthia, the ancient capital of Siam was known among foreigners, was under Shi™i rule in 1540 (Reid 1993: 33, 134, 190). It is also well known that the great North Sumatran mystic and poet of the late sixteenth century, Hamzah Fansuri, attained enlightenment through the Wujudiyyah tarekat in that city (Drewes and Brakel 1986: 4).
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142Sari 23Accounts of the earliest Islamic presence in the archipelago by Johns (1980)also convey the picture of a ﬁquarantineﬂ stage during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when communities of foreign Muslims were ﬁtolerated as a commercial minority, but with little expectation that they should either convert or be converted by the host populationﬂ (Johns 1980: 163-165). Reid describes the Islamic cities of the region as a collection of rich houses and compounds around the Sultan™s square with his palace, the market, mosque and alun-alun(1993: 85-89). From such houses, our two hikayats were read, recited, copied and finally, when the conversion to Islam of the archipelago™s harbour states gained pace from the sixteenth century, disseminated into the wider community. Persian influences on the repertoire of stories in classical Malay are also well acknowledged.DATING FATIMAH TEXTS IN THE ARCHIPELAGOAround the time referred to in Schimmel™s observations above on the narratives in popular use in Moghul India, we find the Malay Hikayats of Amir Hamzahand Muhammad Hanafiyyah mentioned Œ both in the same breath Œ in Nusantara as well. I am referring to the famous incident in the Malay Annals when, in1511, on the night before battle, while the Portuguese lay at anchor off Malacca, the heroes of the Malay court approached Sultan Ahmad to request a reading of the Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiyyah to stiffen their valour for the following day. Copies of both the great heroic epics were brought out and recited. This scene is accepted as the earliest record of the presence of the two epics (Winstedt 1969: 86-7; Brakel 1975: 9-10). Recently, the Sundanese literary critic, Ajip Rosidi has re-read the Hikayat Amir Hamzah as a conversion text, both in thecontent of its heroic stories and in the social purpose to which the text was put. Rosidi believes it was recited in communities newly converted to Islam as a celebration of the new profession of faith, the text thus passing, historically, from the ﬁquarantineﬂ to an active proselytizing phase in its use (1995: 339- 44).But, what have these two heroic epics, which deal with the exploits of menwarriors in battle, to do with Muslim women™s ethics? For this, we must turn to the second set of evidence for the origins of Fatimah texts in the archipelago, the philological question of manuscript collocation. Since the Fatimah Admonitions are short texts, they are normally grouped with others in folder bundles or in codices (manuscript books) in the libraries. These groupings of manuscripts may faithfully reflect scribal provenance and can be crucial to the interpretation of texts. Campbell Macknight has drawn our attention to the fact that the folder or codex environment is often ﬁnot random. It is usually possibleto perceive some common interestﬂ (1984: 105-6). Similarly, Ding Choo Ming argues that a codex-based approach to manuscript bibliography must be adopted, or important connections between texts will be overlooked (1987: 438).
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144Sari 23Admonitions appear in clusters with these four stories of the Prophet. To citeonly a couple of examples, in the National Library of Malaysia, MS 681 contains The Prophet Admonishes his Daughter Fatimah, The Story of the Prophet™sDeath and The Story of the Splitting of the Moon, while MS 1420 contains versions of The Marriage of Fatimah and Ali, The Prophet Admonishes his Daughterand The Mystic Light of Muhammad (Katalog Induk 1993: 64, 104).GEOGRAPHICALDISTRIBUTIONANDVARIATIONINTHE FATIMAHADMONITIONSINNUSANTARA REGIONAL VARIATIONMost major Islamic Malay and Indonesian manuscript collections contain texts of the Fatimah Admonitions. Malay is by far the best represented, and it can generally be assumed that texts in other languages are translations of Malay originals. Acehnese and Sundanese are well represented, with Javanese less so, according to Pigeaud™s catalogue (1970: 341-2). A Buginese version has been noted (van Ronkel 1895: 248). The contents of the texts are not by any means immutable, in fact there is a high degree of variation. I cannot say at this stage, however, whether differences have emerged under regional conditions over time, or if the Malay originals themselves varied. Variety within a corpus usually indicates a tradition of long standing.THE CORE OF THE ADMONITIONSThe common ‚core™ of the Fatimah Admonitions is the affirmation that a woman must be faithful to her husband in all things and always considerate of his comfort. This fidelity is both a virtue and a duty which will be rewarded in the hereafter. Dereliction of the duty by women is described as a sin as grave as the neglect of the ibadat, the duties to God (prayer, fasting, the giving of alms, thepilgrimage to Mecca and a striving for right in religion). The texts also describe, in varying degrees of horrifying detail, the torments of hell which await the impious woman (see Appendix).FATIMAH IN ACEHThe Acehnese text which I consulted with the help of a native speaker (Aslam 1996) seems to have connections with militant Islam and its resistance to Dutch colonial control. Millenarian revivalist tracts were a feature of late nineteenth century Islam and were a manifestation of anti-imperialist sentiment in the Malay-Indonesian archipelago. Known as wasiat Nabi, or ﬁadmonitions of theProphetﬂ among the people, they were watched carefully by officials of the Netherlands East Indies government and were collected to be used in evidence
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145Fatimah in Nusantarain the court prosecution of Islamic insurgents. The long war between Aceh andBatavia (1873-1908) was such an occasion for their use. As documents, wasiatusually recited a dream vision in which the Prophet appeared to a believer, enjoining his community to adhere more closely to the laws of Islam and to avoid the company of the ungodly and non-believers. Such wasiat have alsobeen reported in circulation among other Muslim communities under colonial rule (Snouck Hurgronje 1906: 182-183).Certain texts of the Prophet™s Admonitions to Fatimah may have beenamong the wasiat Nabi in circulation, since an Acehnese manuscript, undated but recently romanised and printed, goes under precisely this title (Harun 1985). It is attached to a retelling of the story of Nabi Ibrahim. The text was copied in Pidie, Aceh in 1962 and was acquired for publication in 1983 from a scribe, Ishak Peuteua Gam, who at the time was still able to earn his living from copying manuscripts and composing works in a traditional style (Harun 1985: 5). The Wasiet Nabi is in verse and 18 pages long in its transliteration.ZULFAKAR, THE SPEAKING SWORDIn this Acehnese version, the Admonitions are linked to the incident of theProphet™s battle sword, Zulfakar, which was inherited by Ali and to which legend has accorded the miraculous power of speech. The incident occurs at some time in the marriage. Fatimah is overheard by Ali in conversation with Zulfakar inside her appartment. She asks the sword how many souls of the enemies of Islam it has claimed and the sword replies that they are countless. Ali wrongly suspects Fatimah of adultery, thinking she is entertaining a man within, and takes his complaint to the Prophet. On investigation, Fatimah is vindicated as blameless and Ali is rebuked. Even so, she is then reminded about her duties to her husband. The Wasiet Nabi corresponds closely to Snouck Hurgronje™s summary of the Hikayat Peudeueng, the ‚Story of the Sword™ presented in hisfamous study, The Achehnese (1906: 176) and recalls the Cambridge manuscript mentioned above. Judging by its contents, this version is quite old, with its emphasis on the depiction of the torments of hell. Its spirit is certainly worthy of a wasiat. The latter part, however, becomes pleasant and encouraging to thebeliever, and specific to Nusantara in its imagery. It offers a scene of heaven of unbounded rice-fields and streams flowing with milk and red palm sugar (refer to Appendix).FATIMAH IN SUNDAIn West Java, the Fatimah Admonitions appear to have been put to more staid social purposes. There, they are courtesy books for the families of the aristocracy and priyayis in the native ranks of the colonial civil service. The texts which Iconsulted were copied and transliterated into Roman script in 1925 and 1926 from the collection of Sundanese manuscripts of the Batavia Society for Arts
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146Sari 23and Sciences under the orders of R. A. Kern, Advisor on Mohammedan Affairsto the colonial government. They are now held in the collection which carries his name, the Kern Collection, MS 1673 of the National Library of Australia inCanberra. In these texts, the framing event is not the story of the sword, but the wedding of Fatimah and Ali instead. In MS 106 (three pages in length), it is stated that the Prophet delivers the Admonitions before the ceremony, when Fatimah is still under his roof; while MS 119 (seven pages in length) has it that Fatimah, newly married, is refusing to join her new husband in the marital bed. This is called pista in Sundanese, which is behaviour typical of virgin brides.Fatimah™s reluctance also recalls the classical Arabic account of her behaviour on her marriage to Ali. So, even within these two very closely associated texts, some variation can be observed with regards to the narrated circumstances of the delivery of the Prophet™s advice.Certain changes around the structural ‚core™ are also found. Both theSundanese Admonitions of MS 1673 present wifely faithfulness as ibadat. But,while MS 106 stresses the punishments awaiting immorality, as in the Acehnese admonitions, MS 119 has a benign tenor and is extended by a section on social etiquette and good housekeeping, a dimension of mu™amalat , or good works. Ihave summarised all three texts to demonstrate their similarities and differences in the Appendix.THEPRESERVATIONANDENDOFTHEFATIMAHADMONITIONS Today, Malaysia and Indonesia adhere universally to the Sunni laws of Shafi™ijurisprudence. It is generally understood by scholars that a long process of ‚de-Shi™itization™ over three centuries, through the sixteenth to the nineteenth, worked to expunge traces of Shi™ism from social and ritual practice in the archipelago (Brakel 1975: 58-63). The orthodox zeal of Arab immigrants from the Hadhramaut in the nineteenth century and reformist, or Kaum Muda ideas from the Egypt were most effective in completing this process. What then are we to make of the continuing evidence of early Shi™i texts? Literature appears to have escaped censorship to a certain extent, because it is precisely during the last phase of manuscript production, namely the nineteenth century, that the Fatimah Admonitions have been collected. We are moved to ask how the Admonitions, indeed the Shi™i repertoire itself, have been preserved. Could it be by the sheer weight of the antiquity of the literature and the value traditionally given to texts as cultural artifacts? In India, as a comparison, the fundamental religious lessons of the period of conversion were quickly set and fixedly retained thereafter. Anne-Marie Schimmel (1980: 106) again tells us:The customs, rites and rituals that crystallized in the first centuries of Islamic rule inIndia were to remain more or less unchanged for the centuries to come–on the whole the life of Indian Muslims–
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147Fatimah in NusantaraBut, is this paradigm strong enough to account for so many texts featuringFatimah in so many language traditions? One might equally argue in favour of the proposition that a text had to demonstrate its social usefulness to survive. The great popularity of the epics, the Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiyyah in Malay and the Hikayat Amir Hamzah, which go under the title of the Menak stories inJavanese and Sundanese, may have carried the Fatimah Admonitions along with them in popular appeal. What is more, as the Islamic communities of the archipelago grew in number, so did the libraries of texts governing the life of Muslims and within it, the regulation of marriage was especially pertinent (Johns 1980: 166). We can assume that women were in the audience listening to the texts being recited or sung, or that young women studied the texts within some form of a girls™ curriculum of Islamic instruction. It is also likely that they were performed during the celebration of weddings.It seems, however, that Fatimah Admonitions did not survive as a productivegenre much beyond the end of the manuscript tradition and the rise of print literacy in both Indonesia and Malaysia, around 1920. I have not been able to find printed versions of them on the shelves of the new bookstores today in Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur. What is, perhaps, most interesting in this respect is the fact that the works to which I have had access, living in Canberra and using only the libraries there, do not represent the chief tradition of Fatimah Admonitions, which is in Malay. They are peripheral examples and yet, in one way or another, they have proved to be surprisingly resilient and adaptable, and they attest to a fascinating tradition.
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