In this rich account of a Muslim society in highland Sumatra, Indonesia, John Bowen describes how men and women debate among themselves ideas of what Islam is and should be--as it pertains to all areas of their lives, from work to worship. Whereas many previous anthropological studies have concentrated on the purely local aspects of culture, this book captures and analyzes the tension between the local and universal in everyday life. Current religious differences among the Gayo stem from debates between "traditionalist" and "modernist" scholars that began in the 1930s, and reveal themselves in the ways Gayo discuss and perform worship, sacrifice, healing, and rites of birth and death, all within an Islamic framework. Bowen considers the power these debates accord to language, especially in arguments over spells, rites of farming, hunting, and healing. Moreover, he traces in these debates a general conception of transacting with spirits that has shaped Gayo practices of sacrifice, worship, and aiding the dead.
Bowen concludes by examining the development of competing religious ideas in the highlands, the alternative ritual forms and ideas they have pro-mulgated, and the implications of this phenomenon for the emergence of an Islamic public sphere.
John R. Bowen is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Washington University. He is author of Sumatran Politics and Poetics: Gayo History, 1900-1989 (Yale).
List of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsNote on TranscriptionPt. 1A Genealogy of Divergent UnderstandingsCh. 1Introduction3Ch. 2Religious Disputes in Takengen18On Modernists and Traditionalists21Social and Moral Contexts30Ch. 3Islamic Knowledge in the Highlands, 1900-199039Languages of Past Piety and Learning40The Development of Traditionalist Scholarship47Muhammadiyah: Social and Religious Innovation in the Highlands55Radical Reform through Islamic Education61Pt. 2Powerful Speech and Spirit TransactionsCh. 4Spells, Prayer, and the Power of Words77Distinctions among Doa82The Efficacy of Spells87Quranic Knowledge and Power94Acquiring Power and Expecting Results101Ch. 5The Source of Human Powers in History106The Creation of the World106The Human Embodiment of Creation115The Coming of Islam to Aceh124Ch. 6The Healer's Struggle129Healers and Knowledge131Finding the Jin135Restoring the Balance139Asking a Spirit to Depart145Ch. 7Exorcism and Accountability151Casting Out the Spirits152The Social Framework of Exorcism162Ch. 8Farming, Ancestors, and the Sacred Landscape173Speaking with the Ancestor174Protecting the Crops and the Community185Ancestors and Other Sacred Beings194Ch. 9Adam and Eve's Children202The Origins of Rice202Cain, Abel, and the Marriage of Twins209Hunting, Healing, and Spiritual Siblingship216Pt. 3Negotiating Public RitualsCh. 10Transacting through Food: The Kenduri and Its Critics229Prayers, Food, and Sacrifice230Celebrating the Prophet Muhammad's Birthday237The Child's Entry into the World240Ch. 11Speaking for the Dead251Speaking to the Dead at the Grave252Negotiating the Passage of the Dead259Chanting for the Deceased262Ch. 12Sacrifice, Merit, and Self-Interest273Generating Merit in Isak273"Selfless Sacrifice" in Takengen279Ch. 13Worship and Public Life289Form and Feeling in Worship290Worshiping Together296Disputations300Mosque Politics309Ch. 14The Social Forms of Religious Change315Creating Private and Public Spheres315Two Modes of Cultural Rationalization321Public Discourse and the State325Glossary of Gayo and Arabic Terms331Bibliography335Index353